Who Will Teach Me at College?

College GuideIt doesn’t not occur to most college-bound students to ask the simple questions, “who will teach me at college?”

Nearly everyone assumes – certainly a reasonable assumption – the teachers at college will be fully tenured, college professors. Or, at least, graduate students on their way to becoming college professors.

But we can no longer make that assumption.

If you have read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get  a Job, you will know that one of the questions you should ask before you apply to any college or university is who teaches first year students.  Are the instructors full-time, tenured faculty, or are they adjunct teachers or graduate assistants?

According to a recent report, the majority of professors are now adjuncts, teaching part-time in several schools.  They are often given little advance notice of what course they will be teaching. They may not even have an office or office hours, making it difficult for a first year student to get advice outside of the classroom.

There are many excellent adjunct professors and graduate teaching assistants. But I do not believe that they are the best instructors for first-year students.

Schools that use adjuncts do so to save money. The interests of the students, in my opinion, are secondary to the monetary benefit of using part-time instructors.  Adjunct faculty cannot provide the same kind of educational experience and academic advising provided by a full-time professor.

I believe the classroom professor is the most important factor in student success, especially in the first year.

The best schools in the country put their best teachers in first-year classrooms.  Be certain you know who teaches first-year courses before turning in your application.

Reinventing Your University

university studentsReinventing your university may be the only way it can move forward in the 21st Century.

In the book, Reinventing the University – Managing and Financing Higher Educationeach of the 14 contributors emphasize that the successful university of the future will be the one which has the capacity to create new structural paradigms which will direct how it conducts business and how it delivers its educational product.

The newly structured enterprise will be both seamless and transparent in the systems and administrative structures used to deliver services to students.

This week’s message, similar to the one of last week, celebrates those innovative colleges and universities with dynamic leaders who are willing to initiate change in an attempt to make the college experience a better one for those who attend, who teach and who administer.

Over the course of my administrative career, I had the opportunity for a brief period of time, to manage both the enrollment management and alumni and fundraising departments for my university.

The reporting structure was unique and would not work in today’s environment but it did, for a time, reveal that hardened “functional silos” could become more flexible and transparent.

The lack of bureaucracy made it possible to respond quickly to enrollment demands and donor requests. There was a consistent and integrated marketing message from the time of a student’s application to the time after graduation. The internal and external messages were consistent, reinforcing the school’s image among its key constituencies. The systems from student enrollment to alumni involvement were both seamless and transparent.

Consider the similarities between the advancement and enrollment functions:

  • Both are labor intensive and customer service directed
  • Success for both functions is measured in concrete numbers.
  • The image of the institution heavily influences the work of both departments
  • Both are revenue driven
  • Both departments require staff with good analytical, organizational and people-oriented skills
  • Both are subject to the economic realities of the day.

I am not suggesting that this model would or could be adopted by other schools. But I am suggesting that changing administrative responsibilities and reporting structures should be considered.

In 1998, Spencer Johnson wrote, Who Moved My Cheese,The popular bestseller championed the need for change. The author stressed that change involves setting different rules, making the work environment uncertain and unpredictable. How much of what Mr. Johnson wrote 16 years ago would apply to many colleges and universities today?

Looking at the Obama College Rating System

College LibraryLet’s take a look, cut through to some facts, about the proposed Obama Administration college rating system.

Haley Sweetland Edwards, in the April 28 issue of Time magazine, presents the pros and cons of the proposed Department of Education’s new rating system to be rolled out later this year.

It should come as no surprise that the higher education community, which spends more than $1 billion dollars a year on lobbying and employs about 1,500 lobbyists, is opposed to the suggested guidelines. The rating system is based in part on accessibility, affordability and employment after graduation.

Critics maintain that the federal government has no business creating a measure of how well schools perform and they don’t have the necessary tools to accurately compare schools.

But the federal government is already in the higher education business. Every year Congress allocates about $150 billion in federal loans, grants and work-study programs to colleges and universities. That’s about four times more than it spends on K-12 education.

The majority of colleges in the U.S. rely on the federal government for about two-thirds of their revenue. It seems reasonable that with this much of a financial investment, the government should have some say in how their money is spent. Let’s consider a few facts:

  • From 2002 to 2012 college costs increased by 33%. In 2001 student debt was $56 billion
  • By 2011-12, the number was $117.9 billion. In 2001 the student default rate was 5.4%. By 2011, the rate increased to 10%.

These revealing statistics call for some measure of evaluation of the current system of federal allocation of funds.

This is all about change and evaluating a broken business model. The Department of Education will publish a draft version of their plan in the fall and the final version will be available for implementation for the 2015-16 school year. Change is coming.

Questions About College Admissions, Part 2

We began our post last week discussing some questions we wished we’d asked about college admissions.

I mentioned our friends, Sydney and Tom Hale. They just finished reading my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job.

The Hales expressed their disappointment they never thought to ask some of the questions listed in my book when they applied to college and when their children were applying to colleges.

Based on what I heard from them,  I will answer a few of those questions. Other questions and answers appear, as I mentioned, in the post published June 26.

Pre-registration and Registration Processes

  • Sydney was almost a senior in college before she finally felt comfortable navigating the pre-registration and registration processes.  As a result, she often did not get the classes she needed and wanted.

Takeaway:  After you read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, you will know, before enrolling, what you need to do to successfully register for all of your college courses.

Applying to College

  • Tom was an excellent student but did not really think about applying to college until late in his junior year.  He wished he had spent more time in high school preparing for college.

Takeaway:  Read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Joband you will learn exactly what you need to do to get into the best school for you and your family and when you need to begin the process.

Involvement in College Life

  • Sydney urges readers of my book to never follow one’s boyfriend/girlfriend or best friend to a particular school.  She also urges college students to get involved as early as possible in the life of the school and to think twice about living off-campus as that can be a very isolating experience.

Takeaway:  I think Sydney’s advice is valuable.  The experiences you have outside the classroom will affect your entire college life.

Questions we wished we asked about college admissions

College GuideWe all have questions we wished we’d asked about college admissions.

Not long ago I met with friends Sydney and Tom Hale. They had just finished reading my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job.

The Hales expressed their disappointment they never thought to ask some of the questions listed in my book when they applied to college and when their children were applying to colleges.

Based on what I heard,  I will answer in this space, over the next two blogs, the questions the Hales wished they had asked.

Transfer Credits

  • After Tom was awarded an associate’s degree, he applied to transfer to a four year college and assumed all of his credits would transfer.  No mention of transfer credits was included in his acceptance package.  After numerous phone calls, Tom learned only three courses would transfer.  He never enrolled in the four year college.

Takeaway:  Be sure you have a clear understanding of how many of your college credits will transfer before you send in a deposit.

Application Acceptance

  • Sydney was one of the few female pilots in her state at the age of 17.  Her high school guidance counselor never suggested her aviation skills, particularly at such a young age, could be a “hook” when applying to colleges.  Sydney did not enroll in her first choice school but transferred after six months.

Takeaway:  Be sure you and your guidance counselor agree on the best way to position your application for acceptance.

Financial Aid

  • When applying to college, Tom never applied for financial aid because he thought his family made too much money to qualify for assistance.

Takeaway:  Regardless of your family’s income, always apply for financial aid. You may qualify for institutional aid, not based on income.