Spring 2003 Journal: Trends & Indicators 2003

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Spring 2003
For more information, contact:
John O. Harney, Executive Editor, Connection
email: connection@nebhe.org

New England Board of Higher Education Journal Connection Explores Trends & Indicators in New England Higher Education, 2003

More than 80 charts and tables detail trends in demography, college admissions and enrollment, higher education financing, degrees granted

Connection’s featured authors explore the college ratings game, New England’s health care worker shortage, the problem of low expectations among minority students, and more

BOSTON — After declining through the mid-1990s, New England’s total college enrollment has nearly recovered to its 1992 peak of more than 825,000, according to the Spring 2003 “Trends & Indicators” issue of Connection: The Journal of the New England Board of Higher Education.

The Spring 2003 Connection features more than 80 charts and tables exploring eight broad areas: demography, admissions & enrollment, degrees & educational attainment, student migration, retention & graduation, financing higher education, university research and faculty profiles. Among other findings:

  • More than 46,000 foreign students are studying on New England’s college campuses. But just 11 of New England’s 270-plus colleges account for half of the region’s foreign enrollment.
  • Women now earn more college degrees than men at all levels except the doctorate.
  • Foreign students earn more college degrees in New England than native-born minority students.
  • The combined endowments of Harvard, Yale and MIT are worth approximately twice as much as the next 50 largest New England endowments combined.
  • Despite efforts to diversify the professoriat, New England’s college faculties remain 83 percent white.

Connection is the journal of the nonprofit New England Board of Higher Education — and America’s only regional journal on higher education and the economy.

Among Spring 2003 Connection features, national higher education analyst Thomas G. Mortenson links New England’s economic fortunes to college-going rates; former University of Maine System Chancellor Robert L. Woodbury exposes the perverse incentives in the college ratings game; Northeastern University President Richard M. Freeland and Northeastern economist Paul E. Harrington offer a cure for New England’s health care workforce crisis; and Nellie Mae Education Foundation President Blenda J. Wilson and colleague Jay Sherwin outline best practices in raising minority student expectations.

Following is a summary of articles that appear in the Spring 2003 Connection:

Leading Indicator: New England’s Higher Education Opportunity in New England — Nearly one-third of New England adults age 25 or over have bachelor’s degrees — the highest share of any U.S. region. New England’s college-educated workforce has driven New England’s economic prosperity over the past three decades, leading directly to the fastest-growing personal income levels in the country, according to an analysis by national higher education commentator Thomas G. Mortenson. But with large numbers of lower-income students headed toward college age, and college prices rising, Mortenson says an infusion of need-based student financial aid will be needed to maintain New England’s success in the Human Capital Economy.

How to Make Your College No. 1 in U.S. News & World Report and Lose Your Integrity in the Process — Former University of Maine System Chancellor Robert L. Woodbury explains how U.S. News & World Report’s popular college ratings issue encourages colleges to produce an application deluge, reject as many students as possible, avoid nontraditional students and favor quick fixes over long-term improvement. The newsmagazine’s equivalent of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue also denigrates “lesser colleges” that make a big difference in students’ lives, according to Woodbury, while gushing about wealthier institutions that have only a marginal impact on already privileged students.

The Changing Shape of Learning — School designer Prakash Nair explains how technology and tight budgets are forcing a fundamental rethinking of the higher education enterprise. Among other things, Nair contends that “as technology transforms so-called ‘formal’ learning functions, campuses will be valued more and more as centers of social interaction and other forms of ‘informal’ learning opportunities.”

Half-Full or Half-Empty? — Demographic forecasts suggest that colleges and universities will soon face an unprecedented wave of faculty retirements — claiming as many as 50 percent of profs in some fields. Meanwhile, tight budgets mean academic departments will be hard-pressed to hire new faculty. Lorna M. Peterson, executive director of the Five Colleges consortium in western Massachusetts, explains how inter-institutional cooperation could turn the wave of retirements into an opportunity. The consortium of Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst have received a $600,000 foundation grant to address the problem partly with joint faculty appointments and coordinated efforts to recruit academic dual-career couples. The joint appointments, writes Peterson, will “encourage development of complementary curriculum with greater depth and range than even a large university might afford in the best of times.”

A Critical Condition — New England’s health care organizations are unable to fill about 11 percent of their nursing positions each year — and the shortage is deepening as health care professionals leave health occupations to pursue alternative careers, and enrollment in New England’s college nursing programs plunges. Northeastern University President Richard M. Freeland and Northeastern economist Paul E. Harrington offer new remedies to solve the workforce crisis.

Beyond High Standards and High Stakes, We Need Higher Expectations — In Massachusetts, 30 percent of Latino students and 25 percent of African-American students in the high school Class of 2003 will not have passed the high-stakes MCAS exam in time to graduate with their classmates. Blenda J. Wilson, president of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and Jay Sherwin, who heads the foundation’s Minority High Achievement Initiative, say the problem is not only insufficient resources, but also mediocre expectations among teachers and parents of minority students — and among the students themselves. The authors outline some New England initiatives that are making a real difference in raising expectations for minority students.

Community Repositories of Knowledge — University expertise could help communities solve a range of problems from poor health care to urban sprawl. But too often, the results of university-community research partnerships wind up gathering dust in academic offices instead of informing community action. Linda Silka, co-director of the UMass Lowell Center for Family, Work and Community, explains how a new a new brand of community repositories can help ensure that research pays off the communities.

Higher Education Reorganization: To Move a Pachyderm — nebhe President Robert A. Weygand examines the growing rift between Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and University of Massachusetts system President William Bulger over the governor’s plan to restructure higher education. Weygand’s prescription: 1) keep the powerful personalities out of the debate and 2) use incentives, rather than radical restructuring, to change higher education. “If you want to move a large animal — or a higher education system — a well thought-out set of incentives and disincentives is far more effective and efficient than pushing and prodding,” writes Weygand.

Books — Former Massachusetts Secretary of Education and Bentley College President Joseph M. Cronin reviews Provoking Thought — the observations of Leland Miles, who survived the strife-torn 1960s and 70s as president of Alfred University in New York, then of the University of Bridgeport. Freelance writer Alan R. Earls reviews four new books on the history of New England’s economy, including the story of the Greater Boston company that put the United States in the spy satellite business.


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