Category Archives: Higher Education

How to Win a Contract in a Pandemic

Source: Audrey Massmann, Sam Klug, and Dennis M. Hogan, The Forge, October 5, 2020

…This past summer, The Forge’s Lindsay Zafir sat down with Sam Klug, an organizer with the Harvard Graduate Students Union (HGSU), and Dennis Hogan and Audrey Massmann, organizers with the Brown Graduate Labor Organization, to talk about the road to winning a union for graduate workers, how they waged a contract campaign during the pandemic, and their vision for building power across the ranks of the academic labor movement. This interview has been edited and condensed. …

The COVID crisis in community colleges — what does the data say?

Source: Kent Phillippe, Community College Daily, September 7, 2020

The novel coronavirus has affected all aspects of society and the economy. But what do the data say about the impact of the pandemic on community colleges?

Getting timely and reliable data on two-year colleges is challenging. Many of the key metrics are not systematically collected nor reported nationally. This article will look at some of the available data to get a sense of the effects of COVID-19 on this sector of higher education.

A century of educational inequality in the United States

Source: Michelle Jackson and Brian Holzman, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Vol. 117, no. 32, August 11, 2020

From the abstract:
The “income inequality hypothesis” holds that rising income inequality affects the distribution of a wide range of social and economic outcomes. Although it is often alleged that rising income inequality will increase the advantages of the well-off in the competition for college, some researchers have provided descriptive evidence at odds with the income inequality hypothesis. In this paper, we track long-term trends in family income inequalities in college enrollment and completion (“collegiate inequalities”) using all available nationally representative datasets for cohorts born between 1908 and 1995. We show that the trends in collegiate inequalities moved in lockstep with the trend in income inequality over the past century. There is one exception to this general finding: For cohorts at risk for serving in the Vietnam War, collegiate inequalities were high, while income inequality was low. During this period, inequality in college enrollment and completion was significantly higher for men than for women, suggesting a bona fide “Vietnam War” effect. Aside from this singular confounding event, a century of evidence establishes a strong association between income and collegiate inequality, providing support for the view that rising income inequality is fundamentally changing the distribution of life chances.

“They’re Not Alone”: An Oral History of the Pennsylvania Faculty Strike of 2016

Source: Gordon Mantler, Rachel Riedner, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History, Volume 17, Issue 3, September 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In 2016, more than five thousand faculty members and coaches in the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties successfully struck in the union’s first ever such action in thirty-five years as an official bargaining agent. Two faculty members active in the union reflect on their experience in a wide-ranging interview about how years of careful, often painstaking organizing made such a success possible. The strike was the product of both ten years of increasingly acrimonious negotiations and considerable tactical work by a new generation of union members who learned a number of lessons from the process, including the necessary work of persuading faculty members that they, too, were workers.

COVID-19 and the Higher Education Quandary

Source: Dante DeAntonio, Regional Financial Review, August 2020
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COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across nearly every part of the U.S. and global economy. While higher education has typically been insulated from the business cycle—and sometimes has even been the beneficiary of economic downturns—the current pandemic-induced recession has hit the sector head on.

Education Finance Reform and the Great Recession: Did State Policy and Fiscal Federalism Improve Education Spending, School Resources, and Student Achievement in Pennsylvania?

Source: Matthew P. Steinberg, Rand Quinn, J. Cameron Anglum, Journal of Education Finance, Volume 45, Number 4, Spring 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We estimate the impact of school finance reform on adequate and equitable district spending, school resources and student achievement in Pennsylvania. From the 2008-09 to the 2010-11 school years, amid the Great Recession, Pennsylvania’s Act 61 increased aid to school districts spending below state-determined adequacy targets (“shortfall districts”). We find that the gap in adequate spending between shortfall and no-shortfall districts narrowed by the final year of Act 61 when increases in education aid were provided through both federal stimulus and state funds. Effects on adequate spending were concentrated among districts with the greatest spending shortfalls and who served more economically disadvantaged communities and academically struggling students. However, few improvements in school resources and no effect on academic achievement were found. Our results suggest that federal aid can support adequate district spending during recessionary periods when state education budgets are constrained. However, if aid is modest, adequacy and equity improvements may not improve resources or achievement.

The Effect of Higher Education Performance Funding on Graduation Rates

Source: Roger Larocca, Douglas Carr, Journal of Education Finance, Volume 45, Number 4, Spring 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Since 1979 more than thirty states have adopted “performance funding” for public institutions of higher education. Under performance funding, a portion of the state appropriations for each institution is determined by the institution’s achievement of performance goals on such metrics as retention and graduation. We argue that several characteristics of higher education institutions are likely to weaken the effect of performance incentives on graduation rates. To test these expectations, we develop a comprehensive database that identifies the institutions subject to graduation performance metrics. While most previous researchers have coded each state with a simple binary measure, indicating whether performance funding exists or does not exist in each year, we have determined for which exact institutions and in which years graduation metrics have been used to allocate state appropriations. We combine this detailed performance-funding data with institution-level data on graduation rates and other important factors from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System from 1997-98 through 2015-16. We estimate a difference-in-differences model that reveals no significant impact of performance funding on the graduation rates at 4-year institutions, but we find that performance funding is associated with a significant increase in graduation rates at 2-year institutions under certain conditions.

US academic libraries’ staffing and expenditure trends (1996–2016)

Source: Starr Hoffman, Samantha Godbey, Library Management, Vol. 41 No. 4/5, 2020
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From the abstract:
This paper explores trends over time in library staffing and staffing expenditures among two- and four-year colleges and universities in the United States.

Researchers merged and analyzed data from 1996 to 2016 from the National Center for Education Statistics for over 3,500 libraries at postsecondary institutions. This study is primarily descriptive in nature and addresses the research questions: How do staffing trends in academic libraries over this period of time relate to Carnegie classification and institution size? How do trends in library staffing expenditures over this period of time correspond to these same variables?

Across all institutions, on average, total library staff decreased from 1998 to 2012. Numbers of librarians declined at master’s and doctoral institutions between 1998 and 2016. Numbers of students per librarian increased over time in each Carnegie and size category. Average inflation-adjusted staffing expenditures have remained steady for master’s, baccalaureate and associate’s institutions. Salaries as a percent of library budget decreased only among doctoral institutions and institutions with 20,000 or more students.

This is a valuable study of trends over time, which has been difficult without downloading and merging separate data sets from multiple government sources. As a result, few studies have taken such an approach to this data. Consequently, institutions and libraries are making decisions about resource allocation based on only a fraction of the available data. Academic libraries can use this study and the resulting data set to benchmark key staffing characteristics.

Promotion: An Intractable Management Problem for Academic and Public Libraries

Source: Robert P. Holley, Journal of Library Administration, Vol. 60 no. 5, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The lack of opportunities for promotion within libraries may be an important reason for job dissatisfaction and lowered morale. This column examines reasons why librarians wish to be promoted, the two paths for promotion, a short history of promotion since 1945, how promotions occur, why promotion is a challenge for management, and some suggestions to alleviate the problem. The corporate promotion model requires moving into a position with increased responsibilities and is often the only model in public libraries. The academic promotion model also offers the possibility of promotion for increased performance of the same duties, usually according to more formal rules. A blocked path for promotion can lead to leaving the library for opportunities elsewhere or create morale problems. Library managers can take some steps to increase promotion opportunities and sustain morale. The concluding section briefly argues the opposing viewpoint that the current state of promotion may benefit the profession as a whole if not some individual librarians.

Working from Home: How We Managed Our Team Remotely with Technology

Source: Monica D. T. Rysavy & Russell Michalak, Journal of Library Administration, Vol. 60 no. 5, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the College’s library and the office of institutional research & training (OIRT), along with all departments of our college, shifted to working from home (WFH) overnight. This column shares examples from the literature regarding experiences and lessons learned from both the corporate world and academic libraries’ experiences managing teams remotely with technology. Finally, we share how the College’s academic library and OIRT transitioned to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic with the variety of online tools we already used, but further enhanced during this experience, to communicate and collaborate effectively with our team members.