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Legislators Focus on Higher Ed; Obama's Community College Proposal; Adjunct Dignity Day

Legislators Take Aim at Higher Ed

It has been only two weeks into the legislative session, but members of the Ohio General Assembly have wasted no time putting forth bills that would impact higher education.

Here are the ones on our radar along with a short description:

HB 1 (Schuring, Manning): The bill would establish the Workforce Grant Program, under which students who choose degree programs in "in-demand" fields could be awarded a grant of up to $5,000 per year. Upon graduating and finding employment in their field, the students could claim an income tax credit equal to 25% of the student loan payments they make each year.

HB 27 (Ramos): The bill would create the Finish Fund and the Finish Reserve Fund to provide grants to students who are nearing completion of their associate or bachelor's degrees and display financial need or hardship.

HB 48 (Maag): The bill would extend to handguns affirmative defenses to a charge of carrying a concealed weapon or having or transporting a firearm in a motor vehicle, and would modify the prohibition against carrying a concealed handgun onto institutions of higher education, places of worship, day-care facilities, aircraft, certain government facilities, public areas of airport terminals and police stations, and school safety zones.

HB 64 (Smith): This is the biennial budget bill. It contains all of the pieces of Gov. Kasich's executive budget, including the higher education ones mentioned in our last communication.

SB 4 (Faber): The bill would require each state institution of higher education to develop a plan to reduce in-state student cost of attendance by five per cent for the 2016-2017 academic year.

SB 6 (Jones, Eklund): The bill would increase the maximum income tax deduction for college savings contributions to $10,000 annually for each beneficiary and create the Joint Committee on Ohio College Affordability.

SB 12 (Hottinger): The bill would grant an income tax credit to individuals who earn degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math-based fields of study.

SB 19 (Sawyer): The bill would make changes to the Ohio College Opportunity Grant and limit state university over load fees.

SB 24 (Williams): The bill would qualify students in noncredit community college programs for Ohio College Opportunity Grants and require the awarding of academic credit for community colleges' career certification programs.

You can find more information about these bills
on the Ohio General Assembly's website. We will keep you posted on developments as they unfold.

  

Guest Column by Marty Kich:
Early Thoughts on President Obama's Proposal for Free Education at U.S. Community Colleges
  

I should begin by stating that I am in favor of any proposal that provides free higher education at public colleges and universities. In fact, I am in favor of any proposal that reduces the cost to students without compromising the students' learning environment.

I think that the president's proposal will help community colleges because their funding has generally been hurt in two waves: first by the loss of federal stimulus dollars in 2011 and then by the introduction of performance-based funding in many states.

Completion rates for associates degrees are generally lower than those for baccalaureate degrees, and that reality should not surprise anyone who gives it any thought. Many students enrolling at community colleges are seeking technical training due to volatility in the job market, and so their reason for enrolling may disappear with some change in the job market. Moreover, many of those students have issues with academic preparedness for any level of postsecondary education.

Most performance funding also does not take into account many of the types of education that community colleges provide-various types of training that do not lead to associate degrees or even certificates.

So, on the whole, I think that both students and community colleges will largely benefit from the President's proposal because it does link the maintenance of a decent GPA to the federal funding.

My major concern about the proposal is that it does not seem to make a distinction between technical and pre-baccalaureate programs. In effect, I have the same concerns here as I do with proposals for allowing community colleges to offer baccalaureate programs.

 

A quarter of a century ago, when I was entering the academic job market, we were advised to consider full-time positions at community colleges because of the contraction in the number of positions available at universities. But that boom in full-time hiring at community colleges was very short-lived. Today, the proportion of full-time to part-time or adjunct faculty at most community colleges is very lopsided to the part-time side. On average in my state, full-time faculty account for 15% to 25% of the total faculty at community colleges. In addition to teaching more courses and courses with higher class sizes than full-time faculty at universities, those full-time faculty are typically responsible for directing or coordinating programs-that is, for supervising all of the adjunct faculty teaching in those programs.

In short, they are already grossly over-worked, and I don't see how adding many more pre-baccalaureate courses and sections of courses, never mind two full years of baccalaureate courses, is tenable.

 

So, to be very clear, I am not saying that most community-college faculty or adjunct faculty are not qualified to teach pre-baccalaureate or baccalaureate-level courses. In fact, I know that many community-college faculty and many adjunct faculty have Ph.D.'s, have substantial professional experience inside and outside of academia, and are excellent teachers.

What I am saying is that I don't see how substantially increasing the enrollment of pre-baccalaureate students at community colleges will do anything but increase the demands on those faculty who are already the most over-extended, the most over-worked, and the least compensated for their work. I worry that the enrollment increases that will almost certainly result from the President's proposal will simply amplify the exploitation of faculty who deserve full-time positions or who deserve full-time positions with much more reasonable workloads.

So, unless there are financial incentives or requirements for community colleges to hire many more full-time faculty, I don't see how the quality of instruction for pre-baccalaureate students is not going to suffer and then be reflected in lower completion rates as those students transfer into universities.

There is, after all, truth in the axiom that faculty working conditions are student learning conditions.

 

As I have argued in other posts to the Academe Blog, increased completion rates are meaningful only if the same standards and the same quality of student learning environments are maintained.

I suspect that what may work better for students in technical programs may turn out to be inadequate for pre-baccalaureate students.

 

And since this proposal from the President is an almost singular effort against the long, ongoing trend of making students bear more and more of the cost of post-secondary education, I think that it is extremely important that it succeed-that it be thought out carefully so that some successes are not lost in the inevitable, politicized attention to some salient failures.

 

And if baccalaureate completion rates fall, those numbers will almost certainly outweigh any increases in the numbers of associates degrees being awarded.

 

  February 25 is "Adjunct Dignity Day"
  
Wednesday, February 25 in Ohio is "Adjunct Dignity Day," during which OCAAUP and the Ohio Higher Education Coalition (OHEC) are raising awareness of adjunct issues and promoting the AAUP's One Faculty Campaign.

You may have heard that adjunct groups are planning a "National Walkout Day" on February 25, and in the spirit of supporting all part-time and non-tenure eligible faculty, we are asking our Ohio members and chapters to take action on your campuses in some way.

National AAUP has One Faculty tabling materials here on their website. Please consider setting up an information table on your campus or participating in another way.

  AAUP / AAUP-CBC Announce
2015 Summer Institute Details
  
The AAUP and AAUP-CBC have announced that this year's Summer Institute will be held at the University of Denver from July 23 to 26.

The Summer Institute is a four-day series of workshops and seminars designed to train and educate AAUP members on a wide range of topics such as organizing, advocacy, and academic freedom.

More information about this event can be found by clicking here.

Each year the Ohio Conference offers scholarships to Ohio members who want to build a new chapter, strengthen an existing one, or simply learn how to be a more effective advocate of AAUP principles. Be on the lookout for more information about scholarship availability in the coming months.