Category Archives: Study in the US

Rich world attainment is rising fast but not for all

Rich world attainment is rising fast but not for all

Karen MacGregor
30 January 2015 University World News Global Edition Issue 352

There has been a sharp rise in education attainment across the world’s wealthy nations, driven by young adults studying longer. But at the same time, nearly one in six young adults in OECD nations does not have the skills essential to function in the modern world, according to an interim Education at a Glance report for the OECD. There has been a sharp rise in education attainment across the world’s wealthy nations, driven by young adults studying for longer. While at the turn of the century, tertiary qualifications were held by 26% of people aged 25-34 years living in OECD countries, the proportion had soared to 40% by 2013, according to an interimEducation at a Glance report.
For 55-64 year-olds, the share with higher education rose from 15% in 2000 to 24% in 2013.

But at the same time, nearly one in six young adults in OECD nations does not have the skills essential to function in the modern world. There are 13 OECD countries with 15% or more unqualified youth – including France, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand and Italy. And there has been little change in the past decade.

Andreas Schleicher, director for educational and skills at the OECD, believes a substantial proportion of under-educated young people poses a “major risk for labour markets and societies. Progress has to be achieved across the educational ladder, with priority given to diminishing the share of the least educated among the young.”

The publication, Education at a Glance Interim Report: Update of employment and educational attainment indicators, was one of two released simultaneously by the OECD late last month that touched on education and employment.

It is a successor to Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators released last September and presents updated data on three major topics – educational attainment, labour market outcomes, and the transition from school to work. The other publication was Education Policy Outlook 2015: Making reforms happen.

The report has data on education from the 34 OECD member countries, and partner countries Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Latvia, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

Educational attainment

In recent decades, almost all OECD countries have seen 'significant increases' in education attainment, and in most countries more than four out of five young adults have attained at least an upper secondary education, says the report.

On average across the OECD, 40% of younger adults have a tertiary qualification, but there are wide national differences.

“In Canada, Ireland, Japan and Korea, the majority of young adults hold a tertiary qualification, while it is the case for less than 30% in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Portugal and Turkey and the partner countries Brazil and Colombia.”

Austria, Czech Republic, Germany and Slovak Republic have extensive upper secondary vocational systems, the report notes, resulting in 60% or more of young adults attaining upper secondary education and low proportions – 11%, 6%, 13% and 6% respectively – with less than upper secondary.

“Therefore, these countries belong to the group with low proportions of young adults with low skills, while Italy, Mexico, Portugal and Turkey have some of the highest proportions of younger adults with low qualifications.”

Trends in educational attainment

“Between 2000 and 2013, upper secondary (or post-secondary non-tertiary) and tertiary qualifications gained more and more terrain across OECD countries which means that the proportion of the population with only a below upper secondary education is shrinking” – from 35% to 23% for all adults.

The proportion of people with tertiary education grew to 33% of all adults in 2013.

The rise in attainment is being driven largely by younger generations studying for longer. In 2000, tertiary qualifications were held by 26% of 25-34 year-olds and this proportion soared to 40% by 2013.

While progress has been made across all countries, says the report, the five countries with the highest proportion of older adults with low qualifications are also those with the highest share of younger adults with low qualifications – Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.

“In Portugal and Spain, the proportion of young adults with low qualifications is more than 30%, and in Mexico and Turkey more than half of younger adults have not attained an upper secondary qualification. Among these five OECD countries, only in Italy is the proportion of younger adults without an upper secondary qualification below 30%.”

Overall, the proportion of younger adults with low qualifications dropped from 25% in 2000 to 17% in 2013 – it was 18% for younger men and 15% for younger women.

“Despite this dominant trend, in some OECD and partner countries, namely in Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Norway, there was an increase in the share of younger adults with low qualifications,” the report says.

Participation in the labour market

Since 2000 there has been a contraction of labour markets across most OECD countries. Employment rates have been decreasing and jobless rates growing among people with all levels of education.

In all OECD countries, people with high qualifications have the highest employment rates and in most countries, they also have the lowest risk of being unemployed.

Employment rates are 83% for people with tertiary education, 73% for those with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education, and 55% among people with qualifications below upper secondary education.

“Unemployment rates are 5.3% for individuals with tertiary education, 8% for those with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education and 13.7% for those with qualifications below upper secondary education,” the report says.

For adults with tertiary qualifications, the highest unemployment rates are found in Greece and Spain – 15% or more.

Employment rates vary to a degree by age group, but are consistently lower for older adults. However, joblessness “hits younger generations the hardest” for all levels of education, the report continues.

On average across the OECD, about 10% of older adults who do not have upper secondary education are unemployed, compared with about 21% of younger adults, and 11% of younger adults with an upper secondary education are jobless compared to 7% of older adults.

“The gap between the two age groups is the smallest among tertiary-educated adults: about 8% of younger adults in this group are unemployed compared to about 4% of older adults.”

Unemployment rates can be quite high among younger adults with a tertiary qualification in some countries such as Greece (33.1%), Italy (16%), Portugal (18.4%), Slovenia (10.8%), Spain (20.8%) and Turkey (11.1%).

And in a few countries, unemployment rates are higher among tertiary educated adults than among those with education below upper secondary.

In Mexico unemployment rates increase as education levels increase. This is the case among all adults – 5.2% and 3.8%, respectively. “In Mexico, the highest unemployment rates across all levels of education are those for the tertiary educated 25-34 year-old men (7.9%).”

Marked gender differences

A far higher proportion of 25-34 year-old women have tertiary education than men – 46% and 35% respectively – while the opposite is true for 55-64 year-old women and men – 24% and 26% respectively.

“In Australia, Estonia, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, at least one in two young women (25-34 year-olds) has a tertiary education, and in Canada, Japan, Korea and the Russian Federation more than 60% have a tertiary education.”

“The picture is quite different among young men however: only in Japan and Korea have more than one in two men attained a tertiary education.”

Employment outcomes vary according to gender across all OECD countries and education levels, the reports find. “On average, only 66% of women are employed compared with 80% of men.” The gender gap is the biggest among adults with the lowest education levels.

“The gap between men’s and women’s employment rates narrows as educational attainment increases. Yet, employment rates among tertiary educated women across OECD countries are still considerably lower than those of men, even though a higher proportion of women hold tertiary education credentials."

On average, 8.3% of tertiary educated younger women are unemployed compared to 7.3% of younger men. “Gender differences in employment could be a result of more women being outside the labour force, probably due to traditional roles in regards to the family unit.”

Transitions from school to work

The ageing population in OECD countries should favour employment among young people, the report says. But during recessionary periods, people with more work experience are favoured over new labour market entrants, and most countries are adopting policies that raise the age of retirement, slowing job rotation.

In unfavourable market conditions, young people tend to stay in education longer. On average, since 2000 about one year had been added to the duration of formal education. “In the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Turkey and the Slovak Republic, two years and more have been added.”

“In 2013, a typical 15 year-old in an OECD country could expect to spend about seven additional years in formal education during the next 15 years,” says the report.

Almost eight years would be spent not in education, in which the typical student would be employed for around five-and-a-half years, be unemployed for just over one year, and be out of the labour force – neither in education nor seeking work – for just over one year.

The report says that varying levels of employment among students of 15-29 years old can be explained by cultural, economic or social differences across countries. OECD students spend on average nearly two out of seven years in education working while studying.

Studies have shown that a combination of work and study can enable students to try different jobs before fully entering the world of work, and can help them gain financial independence, develop a sense of responsibility, enhance self-accomplishment and social integration, and develop knowledge and skills that help them find work after their studies.

It has been demonstrated that students who work between 10 and 19 hours a week have a stronger academic performance than other students – working or not – “showing that an optimal work-study balance provides structure and discipline that are harder to acquire if working too few or too many hours”.

In Latvia, Poland and Turkey, more than 60% of students who were employed worked 35 hours a week or more.

Countries in which a large share of 15-29 year-olds were employed and studied at the same time usually showed low proportions of students working 35 hours or more per week, the report says. “More than 25% of students were working in Denmark, Iceland and the Netherlands, but less than 20% of them worked 35 or more hours per week.”

Austria and Germany are different because of the prevalence of work-study programmes, which involve about half of all working students. About one in five young adults was both studying and working in the two countries in 2013, and about half of them were working 35 hours a week or more.

In the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden about half or more of the 15-29 year-olds working during their studies in 2013 worked nine hours or less per week.

In Canada, Iceland and the United States, more than half of employed students worked between 10 to 34 hours per week, while in Greece, Hungary and Italy the proportion of young people who were in education and in employment was below 5%.

University World News

Stumbling Through School, a Lost “Luxury”

Stumbling Through School, a Lost "Luxury"
January 29, 2015 - 9:16pm

I do not remember my undergraduate modernist literature professor’s name, but I remember his elbow patches because I spent the limited number of class periods I attended critiquing them in my notes. I was criticizing my professor’s elbow patches and unlit pipe (not kidding) and other professorial affectations because the way he was talking about the things we were reading made me confused and angry and taking notes on the class discussion only intensified that anger.

Now a teacher, I often use myself as an object example of what not to do in college. My attendance was poor, my engagement sporadic. I was a drifter without direction or purpose. I tell my students that if I had college me in class, I would not like myself.

A lot of this was due to immaturity, laziness. I could work plenty hard at the things that were interesting to me, but if I decided it was difficult (economics) or boring (Russian history), I’d switch into maintenance mode, doing the bare minimum to get a B, which wasn’t all that hard.

I tell my students I don’t remember anything I learned in college, and how I regret this, that I wish I was more mature, more engaged. I’m trying to offer a warning not to do as I did.

But I had a student call me out recently. “You must’ve learned something,” she said. And furthermore, if I didn’t learn anything, why am I such a strong believer in the importance of higher education?

I’ve been asking myself what I learned, and I’m starting to see an answer in two courses I didn’t even like at the time, where even immediately after completing them, I couldn’t have demonstrated much learning.

Prior to that class in modernist literature, I had thought I loved The Great Gatsby, but the way this professor talked about it had me loathing it. Whatever emotional effect the novel might’ve had was suddenly irrelevant. Instead, we were asked to pull the text apart like so much taffy, seeking to articulate how the different strands came together.

Once I made it to graduate school I learned that this professor was an adherent to the New Criticism, and the close reading we were asked to do was simply the fundamental tool of the method. At the time, though, I thought my teacher was determined to kill literature. It was my only C in college[1].

A couple semesters later, I took a postmodern literature course. I was introduced to Barth and DeLillo and Coover and fell fast and hard. I was both captured and mystified by these fictions, so different from all the other literature I’d been exposed to previously[2].

At the same time, I’d started taking creative writing courses, the only classes I cared about. I was exploring the “hows” of writing, asking not what a story meant, but how it managed to affect me (and others) emotionally. After a lifetime of reading for pleasure, this other window had been opened, one that invited me to try my hand at making my own things of meaning.

I wasn’t very good at it. Despite putting more effort into my fiction writing classes than any other, I was a B student in those as well, at least at the outset.

So when the time came in my postmodern literature class to write a close analysis of the metafictional effects of a specific text, and how this tied into the larger postmodern tradition, I chose John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, and almost entirely ignored the assignment prompt, and instead argued how the novel – like a lot of Irving’s work – contains a kind of cri de cour defending the use of overt sentimentality as an aesthetic element, that is, the novel contains a defense of Irving’s approach to art, a “how to” embedded in the larger narrative.

It was the first literature paper, maybe the first college paper period I was genuinely proud of, where I was interested in my own thoughts. I think I went almost double the page limit.

I’ve treasured the professor’s one sentence comment at the end ever since: “Not remotely what the assignment asks for, but a very engaging read.”

I got a B+. I kept that paper for 20+ years. I may have lost it in our last move, but I’m still hoping that it’ll turn up in a forgotten box somewhere.

My student is right, I did learn something in college, I discovered my personal relationship to words and writing and that I am always going to be more interested in the “how its done,” rather than “what it means.”

It is what makes me more teacher than scholar, but also what makes me well-suited for that particular work.

As we enter the age of the New American University that prizes “job preparation” and efficiency, that asks us to interact with adaptive software and algorithms, and in doing so seeks to remove as much friction as possible from the student experience, so we can improve chances of completion, I can’t help but think about what is lost in the shift.

I understand the stakes are higher now, that we can’t let students cast about like I did. I was allowed slack we can’t seem to afford anymore. Those luxuries are gone.

I wonder what Purdue’s Course Signals or ASU eAdvisor would’ve told me after my B in introductory creative writing and C in modernist literature about my choice to major in creative writing. If the software had been checking my attendance, I might’ve been drummed out of the university altogether.

I certainly didn’t excel in either of those literature classes, but I now realize how important they were. I can’t really imagine a life without them.

They were career preparation and identity shaping all in one.

I hope we can somehow preserve an experience that allows students to stumble towards their destinations. I hope it isn’t an unaffordable luxury.

[1] Being a mediocre student and still getting B’s or better isn’t that hard if you make a practice of identifying the easiest courses and have a proficiency at the B.S.-laden essay that makes copious use of block quotes stitched together with the barest of connective tissue.

[2] I don’t think I even understood Coover’s stories in Pricksongs & Descants and yet I couldn’t shake free of it. Still can’t.

Sticking With Credit Hour

Sticking With Credit Hour

January 29, 2015

The credit hour is an inadequate unit for measuring student learning. Yet no better replacement for higher education’s gold standard has emerged, and getting rid of it right now would be risky.

That’s the central theme of a high-profile report from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In response to growing concerns about reliance on the credit hour, the foundation two years ago formed a 27-member committee to “consider how a revised unit, based on competency rather than time, could improve teaching and learning in high schools, colleges and universities.”

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The report, which the foundation released today, stops well short of calling for a competency-based standard. One key reason, it said, is the deeply ingrained role the time-based credit hour plays.

“The Carnegie Unit continues to play a vital administrative function in education,” the study said, “organizing the work of students and faculty in a vast array of schools or colleges.”

Loosely defined, a credit hour in higher education typically refers to an hour of faculty instruction and two hours of homework, on a weekly basis, over a 15-week semester.

This standard can be a barrier to more flexible forms of academic programs, many critics say, such as ones that award credits based on learning achievements rather than time in class. The report also cited criticism that the credit hour prevents transparency in higher education by masking the quality of student learning and discouraging educators from closely examining students’ strengths and weaknesses.

The study said those concerns are valid. The most notable example of a problematic use, it said, is how federal financial aid is doled out based on the credit hour as a proxy of student progress.

Yet these problems can be overcome, according to the report.

Colleges “already have considerable flexibility in the format and delivery of instruction,” it said. “Our research suggests that the Carnegie Unit is less of an obstacle to reform than it might seem.”

Just as importantly, it’s unclear which standard could replace the current one.

The report cites a few promising initiatives to measure and set standards for student learning. In particular, it applauds the Lumina Foundation’s Degree Qualifications Profile and the Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) campaign by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU). Both efforts seek to define what students should know and be able to do.

But alternatives to the credit hour remain experimental, according to the study, and began with institutions that serve fairly narrow groups of students. The report said more work is needed to see if those alternatives could work throughout K-12 and higher education.

“We don’t have the systems in place to identify quality in learning,” said Elena Silva, a senior associate at the foundation and one of the report’s three coauthors.

Wishing for More

Several experts praised the study for its broad look at the credit hour’s role and history. But some said they wished the foundation had pushed harder to find a way to move beyond the standard. After all, the foundation created the unit, and at times has been a driving force for change in higher education.

Amy Laitinen is one of those experts. Laitinen, the deputy director for higher education at New America, a liberal thinktank, wrote an influential 2012 report that said the credit hour is to blame for several of higher education’s root problems. She wrote that it contributes to colleges rejecting transfer credits, for example, which wastes students’ time and money.

Laitinen, who was on the study’s advisory committee, said the report does a good job of describing challenges around reliance on the credit hour. But she would have liked to see Carnegie use its clout to call for different learning standards.

“It’s an excellent diagnosis of the problem without any prescription for change,” she said.

Carol Geary Schneider, AACU’s president, was also on the committee. She said the time isn’t right to kill the credit hour, in part because competency measures are an inadequate replacement.

Even so, Schneider agreed with Laitinen that the report was too conservative in advancing the debate.

“It didn’t answer what could be added to the credit-hour ecology,” she said.

In response to those critiques, the foundation said it recognizes that “this is where the hardest work begins.” It stands by to help educators study how to innovate, revise policies and develop new standards.

“Ultimately, new measures of learning rest on our ability to test more effectively what students know,” said the foundation in a written statement. “The education field has just begun that work, and it needs to continue before we can craft a new common unit of student progress.”

Marc Singer, vice provost for Thomas Edison State College’s Center for the Assessment of Learning, was quoted in the foundation report. Like Schneider and Laitinen, he was let down by the study’s passive conclusion.

For one thing, Singer said, the credit hour increasingly fails to be tied to actual hours, which is what it is supposed to do. As evidence, he points to research finding that the amount of time students spend working on their classes has declined steadily over the past few decades.

Yet Singer also said he understands the need for caution in seeking a replacement to the ubiquitous credit-hour standard.

“It’s like taking away the framework of a building and expecting it to stay up,” he said.

A Day Without Adjuncts

A Day Without Adjuncts

January 27, 2015

Adjuncts sometimes say they make up higher education’s invisible class. So an idea pitched on social media a few months ago struck a chord: What would happen if adjuncts across the country turned that invisibility on its head by all walking out on the same day? National Adjunct Walkout Day, proposed for Feb. 25, immediately gained support, and adjuncts continue to use social media and other means of communication to plan what the protest will look like on their campuses. Some tenure-line faculty members also have begun to pledge support, and Canadian adjuncts recently signed on, as well.

At the same time, some unions have advised members not to participate due to no-strike clauses in contracts or state laws that prohibit striking among public employees. Others object philosophically to the idea and have proposed alternative methods of highlighting concerns about their conditions of employment. And some adjuncts worry about being the only one on their campus to participate, or not participate.

National Adjunct Walkout Day was proposed in October by an adjunct professor of writing at San Jose State University who wants to remain anonymous, citing concerns about job security and a desire for the protest not to have a designated leader. But she and others continue to help direct communication about the day. They’re in the midst of an online roll call to get a sense of how many adjuncts might be participating on how many campuses.

“The growth is amazing -- it's so exciting to see adjuncts on different campuses getting involved for [walkout day],” said the San Jose State adjunct. “It seems to have tapped into something that was already there and is hopefully reaching even the most isolated of adjuncts.”

It’s hard to estimate how many adjuncts might be participating based on social media activity alone, but there is a lot of enthusiasm. Adjuncts at Ohio State University, for example, created an informational video for students about adjunct faculty employment issues, encouraging them to write letters to the university president, post on social media, and participate in any actual walkout. “Ohio State is one of the biggest schools in the country, and if enough people speak up, the situation is bound to improve,” the video says.

Other adjuncts elsewhere have proposed teach-ins, meaning they won’t walk out but will use the day to talk to their students about adjunct faculty concerns, such as relatively low pay, little institutional support, and the impact of their teaching conditions on student success. Some also have proposed a “grade-in,” in which adjuncts meet in a central place on campus to do work, highlighting the fact that many adjuncts don’t have their own office spaces. Others still have proposed wearing T-shirts identifying themselves as adjuncts, akin to a kind of coming out, rather than a walkout.

“If every part-timer were distinct and visible all day, it would make quite a visual impression,” one adjunct wrote on the official walkout message board. “People simply don’t know that we are the majority of teachers. This is more ‘coming out’ than ‘walking out,’ but it is also far less dangerous. You can’t get fired for wearing a T-shirt -- that’s free speech.”

Beyond concerns about job security, some of these alternative proposals stem from the fact that many states prohibit public employees from striking, usually with fines. And lots of union contracts even in states without such laws have no-strike clauses. United University Professions, the American Federation of Teachers-affiliated faculty union for the State University of New York, last month advised members not to participate in walkout day, citing New York’s Taylor Law prohibiting strikes among public employees.

“While I support our adjunct brothers and sisters in their quest for a living wage and better working conditions, we cannot support, encourage, or condone this particular action,” Fred Kowal, union president, wrote in an e-mail to UUP members. “I am working with staff of the American Federation of Teachers to come up with alternative actions that will be meant to promote and pursue the goals we have established in UUP: bringing adjuncts into full-time status with job security and a living income.”

In an interview, Kowal said that “direct action has a place and always has had a place in the progressive movement, but in New York, we are absolutely restricted by the Taylor Law.” He said he’d also heard some opposition from members to the walkout, including one who said, “I don’t like the message it sends. It’s like we’re walking out on students, and we don’t want to do that.”

Kowal said he advocated other means of expression and that adjunct faculty concerns remained a major part of the union’s legislative agenda.

The Professional Staff Congress, the independent faculty union for the City University of New York, isn’t explicitly advising its members not to strike, but it’s not endorsing walkout day, either. Fran Clark, union spokesman, said adjunct faculty members working with the union will organize a petition drive to support the union’s contract campaign and a union membership drive to coincide with the week of Feb. 25. National Mobilization for Equity, a loose coalition of unions and other faculty advocates, is also advocating National Adjunct Action Week from Feb. 23-27. The coalition isendorsing walkout day in the middle of the week “with the proviso that [it] does not support, encourage or condone anyone violating state laws, e.g., the so-called Taylor Law in New York State.”

Service Employees International Union, which has adjunct faculty chapters at private institutions across the U.S., is leaving decisions about whether or not to participate, and how, up to individual unions.

California doesn’t prohibit strikes among most kinds of public employees. The California Part-Time Faculty Association, which is not technically a union but represents the interests of more than 40,000 adjunct community college instructors, is organizing a day for action in Sacramento. University Professional and Technical Employees, a Communication Workers of America-affiliated union representing adjuncts at three state colleges, is hiring a bus for the occasion. Community college adjuncts in the San Diego area are planning teach-ins. But these efforts are all distinct from strikes.

Adjuncts teaching in the California State University System, who are represented by the California Faculty Association, meanwhile, are prohibited from striking under most circumstances -- including a walkout day -- by their collective bargaining agreement. (The union is affiliated with SEIU, the American Association of University Professors, and the National Education Association.) Jonathan Karpf, a lecturer in anthropology at San Jose State University and an associate vice president of lecturers with the statewide union, said its Lecturer Council still plans to vote in early February on whether or not it will support walkout day. Karpf said expected it would vote to do so, and if it does, “solidary actions of various forms” will happen on most if not all 23 state university campuses on Feb. 25.

Keith Hoeller, an adjunct instructor of philosophy at Green River Community College in Washington and founder of the Washington Part-Time Faculty Association, which is not a union, said he supported walkout day in theory, but said it suffered from a lack of leadership from an activist group with a strong agenda -- including plans for what happens after walkout day.

“We want symbols, but we don’t want air symbols,” he said. “If people walk out, is it going to be a blip? Is it going to be an empty gesture? I’m hoping that lots of people walk out, but even if we do, what do we do after that?”

Hoeller -- who has in the past criticized general faculty unions for not doing more to push adjunct faculty interests -- said part of the problem lies with unions. He asked why they aren’t doing more to help adjuncts participate in walkout day, such as setting up funds for fines. He also noted that K-12 teachers seem to strike with some frequency, sometimes with union support, and don’t appear to suffer fines.

Joe Burns, a Minneapolis-based labor attorney and author ofReviving the Strike: How Working People Can Regain Power and Transform America, said the vast majority of states ban striking among public employees, but whether or not strikers get fined or otherwise suffer consequences usually depends on the “success” of the strike.

“The general rule has always been that the more successful the strike, the more protected participants are,” he said. “That means how many people participate but also how does the message resonate with the public -- all of this factors into determining the potential repercussions.” For example, Wisconsin teachers engaged in a sick-out across the state in 2011, he said, but drummed up enough public support that policy makers “looked the other way.”

Burns added, “It makes sense if you think about it. It would seem like if all adjuncts [on a given campus] struck, the employer would have to say widespread concern here is what we should be addressing, not punitive measures.”

The walkout day’s success also could ride on the support of tenured faculty members, which organizers say is growing. Jessica Rett, an associate professor of linguistics at the University of California at Los Angeles, has officially canceled her class on Feb. 25 in support of adjunct walkout day. Rett said she was happy to hear about walkout day because “universities' increasing reliance on and exploitation of adjunct professors is unsustainable, and there have been relatively few opportunities, until now, for faculty to protest.”

She continued via e-mail: “University education involves substantially more than the transmission of facts and is at its best when its faculty are engaged in active research, helping the students engage in active research, and afforded the same benefits and job security as workers in other sectors of the workforce. Universities that cut tenure-track research positions for adjunct positions are saving money at a significant cost to their own reputations and the quality of their students' education.”

Carol Tilley, associate professor of library and information science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has endorsed walkout day on social media. She said she hadn’t talked to other tenure-track faculty members on campus, but she guessed many were aware of adjunct faculty concerns due to recent unionized efforts among adjuncts on campus. She said she’ll participate in adjunct walkout day, but likely “symbolically,” since she doesn’t teach on Feb. 25.

Nancy Leong, associate professor of law at the University of Denver, who once taught as an adjunct, also has written about walkout day on her blog.

“Those of us who are tenured and tenure-track faculty should care in an even more immediate way, as the fate of the adjunct is intimately tied with the fate and shape of our own institutions,” she wrote, encouraging tenured faculty members to consider team teaching with nontenured faculty members. “For now, I hope everyone -- particularly my fellow tenured and tenure-track faculty -- will mark their calendars for Feb. 25.”

In an interview, Leong said she would participate in walkout day but planned to “take a lead” from adjuncts at Denver. She said adjunct faculty members at law schools don't share the exact same set of concerns as adjuncts elsewhere on campus, given that many of them have other jobs and are hired to teach based on their professional expertise. But she said it was important for faculty members across campus to show concern for contingent-faculty working conditions.

Despite all the enthusiasm, that could prove difficulty on some campuses, given the decentralized nature of the protest and adjuncts’ precarious status. As one adjunct posted to the walkout day message board: “How do you know if anyone else at your campus is participating? Adjuncts are notoriously isolated. We don’t have access to the e-mail lists of all contingent faculty. I want to put info about #NAWD [the protest’s Twitter hashtag] on my syllabus for the spring, but it would be really difficult if I was the only one walking out and didn’t know it. Likewise, it would be really difficult if I was the only one NOT walking out on my campus.”

Still, it appears some campuses are bracing for a big turnout.Campus Safety Magazine recently published “13 Steps Your Campus Should Take to Prepare for National Adjunct Faculty Walkout Day.” Pointers include “remind officers they can be recorded,” “prepare for traffic control issues,” and “provide officers with flex-cuffs so they don’t lose their issued cuffs if detainees are taken to jail.”

The article’s author, Lt. John Weinstein, commander of Northern Virginia Community College Public Safety District No. 3., did not immediately return a request for comment about what, if anything, had informed his advice. He finished his post by saying, “The adjunct day of protest may turn out to be benign and peaceful. Prudent planners will get out in front of the event by planning for all possible contingencies. Good luck.” Some adjuncts criticized the post on social media as advocating a militarized response to walkout day, but many more poked fun at it in tweets such as this one, from @AddieJunct: "Lol, it's back! Worried adjuncts will take over your campus? #NAWD-proof in 13 steps."

Some other quirky developments have sprung up around walkout day. PaperClip Communications is offering a $389 webinar on what to expect from the event. The webinar site says it will help participants “understand the motivation behind the upcoming National Adjunct Walkout Day and how events surrounding this movement may look on your campus.” A spokeswoman for the company said many of the registrants appear to be academic administrators.

Aaron Hughey, professor of counseling and student affairs at Western Kentucky University, is leading the webinar at PaperClip’s request, for a standard contract fee. He said it would be a “balanced and informative presentation, with time for questions at the end.” The San Jose State adjunct helping organize walkout day said she didn’t know what the webinar was.

Federal Promise Unveiled

Federal Promise Unveiled

January 12, 2015

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- President Obama traveled here Friday to make his first full-fledged pitch for tuition-free community college, as White House officials confirmed that the ambitious proposal would cost about $60 billion over the next decade.

Speaking to several hundred students and faculty at Pellissippi State Community College, Obama presented hisplan as an economic imperative. He also said it was based on responsibility -- of individual students, of colleges and of states in boosting their spending on higher education.

“This isn’t a blank check. It’s not a free lunch,” Obama said. “But for those who are willing to do the work, and states that want to be a part of this, it can be a game-changer.”

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Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College, and Robert Kelchen, an expert on higher education finance, will discuss President Obama's proposal Friday on "This Week,"Inside Higher Ed's free news podcast. Sign up here for notification of new "This Week" podcasts.

The most important player in the short run, though, will be Congress, which needs to approve the $6 billion-a-year proposal.

Obama’s trip to Pellissippi, which is on the western outskirts of Knoxville, comes as part of a several-state tour to preview the themes of his State of the Union address later this month. During the speech he will address a Congress controlled completely by Republicans for the first time in his presidency.

Some of Obama’s largest higher education accomplishments in his first term -- such as boosting spending on federal Pell Grants and switching to 100 percent direct lending, ending federal bank-based student loans -- were hard-fought but approved by a Congress that likely was far friendlier to the administration’s agenda than the current one, controlled completely by Republicans.

More on the Obama Plan

  • Two-year-college leaders like the plan, but some experts worryabout details and whether the money could be more targeted.
  • The president's free community college plan may change the balance between the federal government, states and colleges.

The president’s trip to Tennessee appeared to reflect the new political dynamics the administration faces as it begins its final two years in office. And his visit raised, to some extent, the prospect that college access and affordability is an area on which Obama may be able to work with Congressional Republicans.

The president chose to make his community college pitch in a state that is led by a Republican governor, Bill Haslam, who not only has been praised widely for his innovation in higher education but who has also played ball with the administration.

Haslam last year participated in the White House’s higher education summit. He has praised the U.S. Department of Education's controversial new teacher preparation regulations. And, separately, he is negotiating with the Obama administration on a compromise Medicaid expansion for his state.

Speaking before Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who also made remarks, Haslam alluded to that bipartisanship. He said while Democrats and Republicans may disagree on how to approach income inequality, they can agree that community colleges are vital to economic growth.

In an unusual display, the state’s two Republican senators, both of whom are assuming powerful roles as committee chairmen in the new Congress, traveled with the president to the event.

Obama spoke in a building named after Sen. Lamar Alexander, the former education secretary and governor, who has said he’s open to working with the administration on higher education issues. For his part, Obama said he would join Alexander in seeking to simplify the federal student aid application.

“It just shouldn’t be that hard to apply for aid for college,” Obama said. noting that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, includes more than 100 questions.

“That’s something we should be able to agree on,” he added. “Let’s get that done this year.”

Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker, who is now chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, were seated next to Ted Mitchell, the under secretary who oversees higher education policy at the Education Department.

Despite the bipartisan overtures on Friday, though, the administration’s’ community college plan will undoubtedly be a tough sell in Congress.

Alexander, who chairs the Senate education committee, told reporters after Obama’s speech that he was glad the president was promoting the Tennessee Promise but said he was pursuing the “wrong way” to expand it.

“That’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans,” Alexander said. “Republicans look at a good idea and want to expand it state-by-state. Democrats look at a good idea and want to make it a federal program operated from Washington.”

If states create their own version of the Tennessee program, he said, the boost in community college enrollment would mean the federal government would have to pay for more Pell Grants. Alexander said he would be willing to find the funding to support that increase.

House Republicans went further in criticizing Obama’s plan. Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman said that the idea “seems more like a talking point than a plan.”

Rep. John Kline, the Minnesota Republican who chairs the House education committee, said in a statement that the president was “proposing yet another multi-billion dollar federal program that will compete with existing programs for limited taxpayer dollars.”

Support from Senate Dems, Trouble for For-Profits?

Some Senate Democrats, meanwhile, rallied around the president’s proposal, which will be formally included as part of the administration’s budget request to Congress next month.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate’s education committee, said she backed the plan.

“Expanding access to college and making it more affordable is a ticket to the middle class for millions of students across the country," she said in a written statement. "I look forward to working with President Obama and my colleagues to make this goal a reality."

Sen. Dick Durbin, an outspoken critic of for-profit education, said he was pleased the president was promoting community colleges as “a more affordable, higher quality alternative to for-profit colleges.”

Many programs at for-profit colleges often compete directly with those at local community colleges. The Obama proposal is aimed both at two-year programs that are a stepping stone to bachelor’s degrees as well as at occupational training certificates.

For-profit analysts said the plan, which is aimed at expanding community college capacity nationwide, would be a negativefor the for-profit sector's revenues.

Community college advocates heaped praise on the Obama plan, which they said reflects the most dramatic action yet by this administration to boost their institutions. Some, however, remained concerned about the plan's details, many of which have yet to be released.

Even if the plan fails to attract enough support in Congress, its lasting effect might be in advancing the President’s message that some form of higher education is for everyone.

In Knoxville, community college officials said one success of their statewide tuition-free program and its county-run predecessor has been a shift in how the public approaches their institutions.

Pellissippi State President Anthony Wise said that before the programs, the majority of students registered for classes only shortly before they began.

“We’d have kids show up the day before classes,” he said. “It was like: ‘who decided to go to college today?’ ”

The scholarship programs, which require students to commit to attending college far earlier and do more serious planning, he said, have boosted completion rates.

David Key, who has been a professor of history at Pellissippi State for the past 12 years, looked on from the audience as many of his students stood behind the president during his announcement.

“I think this could become a cornerstone of higher education policy, much like what the Pell Grant was in the past,” he said of the Obama plan. “If our college and our county had a small part to play in that, we’re just proud.”