The System Connection - November 1, 2017

President's Column


I’ve decided that the column today is going to be the first of a two-parter. 

Let me say this on the front end of things: those who know me know that I’m a pretty rabid consumer of the higher education trade press, doing my best daily to follow as many of the ongoing national conversations in our industry as I can keep up with.

So as the Carbondale campus is now in the midst of debate and deliberation regarding a massive organizational change and restructuring plan that’s been proposed by SIUC Chancellor Montemagno, it seems I’ve been going back lately to articles and pieces which examine the myriad ways that HIED institutions are undergoing radical change…and how that change is being handled on the ground. 

Below are three examples of the kind of things I’m talking about:

  • Purdue University’s $1-acquisition earlier this year of Kaplan University, the for-profit online college, sent shock waves through the Academy. Some of Purdue’s faculty members weren’t too keen on it either. NewU is the name that Purdue is using (for now, anyway) for its recently acquired unit; pricing for an NU degree will be roughly $40,000, as compared to a little over $80,000 for four years at PU’s main campus, if you include room and board.  This summer, Purdue received approval on the deal from its state agency, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. The U.S. Department of Education and the Higher Learning Commission, the regional accrediting agency we in Illinois share with Indiana, are currently reviewing the arrangement. It remains to be seen whether the unique deal will be approved – let alone be operationally viable and financially successful once implemented – but Purdue’s president, former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, is clearly doubling down on a major strategic investment in nontraditional students…as one of the most traditional of public/residential/research institutions in the country. Not too many of the Purdues and their ilk across the country have worried a whole lot about that burgeoning population of college students. 
  • This summer, Rick Levin, previously president of Yale University, retired as chief executive officer of Coursera, the for-profit online education company, after three years in the role. As most of you likely know, Coursera’s business model depends on roughly 150 college partners – many of them highly selective institutions with the reputations to match – that create the courses and provide the profs. (Notably, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – with one of the top accounting programs in the country – recently put its Master’s in Accounting on the Coursera platform.) Coursera’s role, then, is to manage the technology and take care of the marketing. About the time of its leadership transition, too, Coursera raised around $64 million in venture capital (taking it to over $200 million in private capital raised) to focus more heavily on selling courses directly to businesses. Coursera was started just five years ago to bring inexpensive higher education to the masses, but it looks very different today; it has launched new offerings targeted to business, government, and nonprofit groups, and the new CEO comes from finance with no background in higher education, short of his Stanford MBA. The company’s valuation is in the $800 million range and the Coursera board is apparently debating whether it should go public with an Initial Public Offering at some point soon.
  • Small colleges are all over the place in terms of financial stability. Mills College in Oakland, CA, for example, enrolls just over 800 undergraduate women – and faces a $9.1 million deficit this year. It is trying to build ties with public institutions in the Bay Area for its survival. Opening the doors to men, however, remains off the table for discussion at this time…as Mills was forced to lay off more than 30 employees rather than admit males (though it does acknowledge admitting “gender non-binary” students). North Carolina’s Barber-Scotia College is up for sale, having lost accreditation. However, other small schools are pushing ways to be creative for better controlling their own destiny. Ohio Wesleyan has taken a deep data dive to make as close to real-time adjustments as possible to build student headcount without weakening its profile. For instance, the Washington Post reported that when OWU found male enrollment drastically falling off a number of years ago, they decided to start a competitive athletics program and are now a member of the NCAA as a Division III school (“Many small colleges face big enrollment drops. Here’s one survival strategy in Ohio,” June 29, 2017).  A study released in August by the Council for Independent Colleges looked at 14 years of financial data from its 559 private, nonprofit members…and found that 88% actually improved their financial standing in the aftermath of the Great Recession of a decade ago.  

As I keep reading more and learning lessons from the many and often-necessary disruptions taking place throughout higher education – at the level of what three professors writing in the Harvard Business Review call “coronary-inducing reorganization” (“Change for Change’s Sake,” June 2010) – I guess I’m forming some conclusions…more like values, really…that could be helpful to keep in mind in when a wholesale restructuring is proposed. With the SIU Carbondale campus figuring out how best to approach and undertake big change, maybe the time is right to share some of those thoughts. And since every other SIU location also knows full well that periodic change initiatives will continue to be part of our life and work in HIED, maybe it’s good that we all be willing to share what insights we have into the phenomenon.

That, however, will be left until next time. See you then.

Randy Dunn

Community College Task Force Formed


In Illinois, more than 1.2 million adults do not have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate. At the same time, a more demanding economy means that 70 percent of all jobs in Illinois will require some form of education and training beyond high school.

To confront these challenges, the Illinois Community College Board announced Friday the formation of its Statewide Task Force on the Future of Adult Education and Literacy to develop a strategic plan to guide adult education and literacy services over the next five years. The Task Force, authorized through Senate Joint Resolution 40, will focus on ensuring that adult learners have access to basic education and literacy activities, high-quality career pathways and post-secondary education, and training programs for high-demand occupations.

“Adult education isn’t about getting students a high school equivalency certificate anymore. It’s about preparing them for training programs that can get them good jobs,” Dr. Karen Hunter Anderson, executive director of ICCB and chair of the Task Force, said.

The 22 members of the Task Force held their first meeting on Oct. 23. The Task Force will submit its strategic plan to the Governor and General Assembly by Jan. 31, 2018. Jennifer Foster, of the Illinois Community College Board, is staffing the task force. 

It is unknown at this time whether the work of this group will tie back in some way to the push that community colleges made in last spring’s legislative session to seek first-time authority to award baccalaureate degrees, initially in nursing – a proposal which the ICCB continues to publicize on its website. 

While there is no representation from any Illinois public university on the Task Force, a staff member from the Illinois Board of Higher Education has been named as a member.

We’ll continue to follow developments and keep you updated as warranted.     

(Appreciation is extended to the Illinois Board of Higher Education for providing information for this story.)

APLU President Visits SIU

Paul McPherson and Randy Dunn

Accepting a standing invitation from President Dunn, the SIU System hosted a visit from Peter McPherson, the president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, on Thursday, Oct. 5.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is a higher education research, policy, and advocacy organization with a membership of 237 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated bodies. It plays a prominent role in the influential Washington Higher Education Secretariat, a consortium of approximately 50 higher education professional associations and organizations, each of which serves a significant sector in the national post-secondary ecosystem.

President McPherson spent the day particularly concentrating on how best to advance our system-wide research mission, with a special focus on future opportunities as he sees them for SIU in the fields of agriculture, engineering, and health care.  He commented repeatedly that SIU operates essentially as a land-grant university system…albeit without designation under the Morrill Act, and with no cooperative extension service (funding which places land-grant universities’ agents in virtually every county within a state). 

Dialogue with McPherson during his visit also centered on how SIU could best advocate for and support DACA students as well as those affected by the Trump Administration’s travel ban, as revised in September. The SIU campuses and system have signed onto a letter for congressional leadership which the APLU led in writing with the American Council on Education as part of the “Protect Dreamers Higher Education Coalition.”           

McPherson came to APLU in 2006, having served as president of Michigan State University for more than a decade.  His resume also includes senior leadership positions in government (with stints in the Ford and Reagan administrations, serving during the latter as deputy treasury secretary) and business, in addition to positions on the boards of a multitude of non-profit organizations.

(Pictured, APLU President Paul McPherson, right, with SIU President Randy Dunn. Photo provided.)

Chapman to Attend Delta Leadership Institute Training

Brian Chapman

Brian Chapman, the SIU System’s executive director of regional outreach and partnerships, has been selected by The Delta Leadership Institute to attend its premiere leadership development program, hosted next month by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. This training program, focusing on authentic leadership, is an exclusive, compressed, and intensive four days of lectures, workshops, and team-building exercises designed and led by Harvard faculty with a focus on cutting-edge leadership principles in large organizations.

This opportunity is available on a biennial basis to a very limited number of Delta Leadership Network (DLN) members. Chapman had previously participated in the Delta Regional Authority’s year-long executive training program to become part of the DLN.

Established by Congress in 2000, the Delta Regional Authority is comprised of 252 counties and parishes in eight states running from Southern Illinois on the northernmost end (SIUC sits within the boundaries of the Authority), southward through Louisiana to the Gulf of Mexico. This region, commonly known as the Mississippi Delta, makes up one of the most distressed regions of the country, facing profound economic, health, educational, and infrastructure challenges.

The Delta Regional Authority supports job creation, economic development, research, and education through innovative approaches to growing local and regional leadership, increasing access to quality healthcare and education, investing in infrastructure, and boosting opportunities to obtain affordable capital. The Delta Leadership Institute was created with The Kennedy School to empower a corps of multi-state leaders with the tools, experiences, and networks to address these local and regional challenges.

Free Speech Issues Continue to Dominate on Campuses

Debate regarding the issue of free speech on campuses across the nation – which we’ve previously discussed in the Connection – continued in Washington, D.C., last week when the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), which oversees national higher education policy, held a major hearing on the issue. The committee brought together individuals from colleges and universities, as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center, to discuss the rise of hate speech on campuses and the need for community and college leaders to address it.

Of note, besides the participation of University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer, was the appearance of Dr. Allison Stanger, a professor of international politics and economics at Middlebury College. Stanger was highlighted in news accounts during the spring when she was the moderator of an appearance by libertarian Charles Murray which created national news headlines.

(Murray, a libertarian who is associated with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, first came to national attention in 1984 with the publication of “Losing Ground,” which has been credited as the intellectual foundation for the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. He co-authored the 1994 New York Times bestseller “The Bell Curve,” which sparked heated controversy for its analysis of the role of IQ in shaping America’s class structure.)

While Stanger disagreed with Murray on a wide range of issues, Stanger wanted her students exposed to the thoughts of a conservative thinker. The speech was disrupted by protesters, who afterwards physically assaulted both Murray and Stanger. Unfortunately, Stanger was left with a concussion and whiplash. Despite that history, and her injures, she defended free speech before the committee last week.

A common theme of the hearing was the need to defend the First Amendment while at the same time protect individuals from the harm of hate speech. As often is the case, viewpoints from committee members were set by the committee’s leadership. The Senate HELP Committee is led by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander and Washington Senator Patty Murray, the Republican chairman and ranking Democrat, respectively. Both offered their thoughts on how higher education institutions can best uphold free speech.

Sen. Alexander highlighted that “universities should be the place where people of different views may speak, audiences can listen, and many contrasting viewpoints are encouraged.”

Sen. Murray then asked, “How can we protect this constitutional right while also making sure that our colleges and universities are places where everyone can feel safe, learn, and respectfully debate ideas?” Further, she went on to note that “We need to discuss how elected leaders, community members, and college and university administrators, can best exercise their First Amendment right to do everything in their power to push back against those driving an agenda of extremism, racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny.”

Other members of the committee offered important viewpoints as well. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine reminded those in attendance that “colleges should be a place of robust speech and disagreement. We don’t need to protect people from free speech; we need to expose them to different ideas and have them use their critical faculties to determine what is right and wrong.” Though Kaine then acknowledged that “we cannot use the banner of protecting free speech to allow people to terrorize folks.”

Discussion on this issue will continue and likely only increase in intensity, both at the federal level, and in Illinois where legislation has been introduced on the subject. In fact, the University of California recently announced the creation of the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement – housed at the University’s Washington, D.C., location, and chaired by UC President Janet Napolitano.

We’ll try to use The System Connection for important updates as this national conversation keeps unfolding. In the meantime, if you’re interested in viewing a video of the Senate’s HELP hearing, you can do so by clicking here.

Faces of SIU

Jeff and Dawn Hayes Regular readers of the System Connection know that occasionally, we use the “Faces” segment to highlight an SIU campus couple. It’s time to do so once again, as this week we introduce you to Jeff and Dawn Hayes.

On any given day you never know where you might find Jeff Hayes. As SIUC’s chief pilot for executive transportation, Hayes may be teaching a flight course, conducting check rides for flight program students or scheduling and conducting transportation flights for campus personnel to handle university business.

His day could begin with a 4 a.m. flight and end with another to a different locale that evening or he may be on campus throughout the day. He said his unusual schedule and the chance to meet different university personnel and work with students assures his career is both interesting and fulfilling.

Dawn, his wife of nearly two decades, is also a valued member of the Saluki family. A senior lecturer in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education and Human Services, Dawn is SIUC’s lead infant teacher/family educator for the Child Development Lab. She has always wanted to be a teacher, so she thoroughly enjoys helping children and their families and watching the kids reach their developmental milestones, while also providing a positive learning environment for SIU’s early childhood students.

Although Jeff and Dawn are both multiple-degree alumni of SIUC, they actually met during the winter of 1986-1987 when their parents were working for the federal government in Stuttgart, Germany. Dawn’s father served four years in the Coast Guard, served in Vietnam, and was then stationed on a lighthouse off the coast of Maine where he met Dawn’s mother. As a civilian, he later moved his family to Germany where Jeff’s family was also living because his father, a retired member of the United States Air Force, was working there as a civilian employee for the Army. Jeff and Dawn became fast friends and years later began dating.

Jeff initially came to Carbondale in 1985 and earned a bachelor’s degree in radio and television. As a student, he served as the Student Center board chairman and in a variety of Student Programming Council positions. His dream has always been to fly, though, so he joined the Army National Guard to make that happen, serving a number of years in the guard and then the Air National Guard. During his enlistment, he served several stints oversees in locations including Guam, Turkey and Spain. He said one of the highlights of his service came when he was a driver for the Tonga delegation during the NATO Summit in Chicago in May 2012.

With help from the GI Bill, Jeff was able to then complete an associate’s degree in aviation flight and a bachelor’s degree in aviation management at SIU. After a two-year long-distance romance, Dawn became a Saluki too, moving from Atlanta to SIU to finish her education. In 2001, she earned her bachelor’s degree at SIU in workforce education, with a focus on adult education and training, and a minor in early childhood. She added a master’s degree in education from SIUC last year.

After earning his wings, Jeff began working for the UPS Flight Training Center but says “I felt a draw to SIU,” so he was happy to obtain a job here as a full-time flight instructor about 18 years ago. He subsequently became assistant chief flight instructor and moved into the executive transportation office in 2008, earning a promotion to the chief pilot position in 2014.

“Through our program, advanced students have the opportunity to gain valuable experience as student pilots and we provide economical, timely and direct transportation to locations that our university workforce would not otherwise have access to,” Jeff said.

He also serves as the academic adviser for Alpha Eta Rho, a national aviation professional fraternity, and to the Aviation Ambassadors.

Dawn initially joined SIU’s Southern Regional Early Childhood program as a substitute teacher in 2008 and two years later, was hired full-time.

The couple resides in Murphysboro along with their daughter Madeline, a high school senior, and son Jett, a freshman, and their dog, Wrigley. Both of the teens play soccer for the high school team and Maddie is a clarinetist with the Crimson Express. So, it’s no surprise that Dawn is quite involved with the Murphysboro High School soccer program as well as Murphysboro Soccer Incorporated.

As military kids, Jeff and Dawn travelled the world. They still relish travelling and experiencing new places, Dawn said. Favorite locales include Hawaii, Key West, Maine and Garmisch, Germany. After 11 years in Germany, Dawn is fluent in the language, although Jeff counts just a few words to his credit. They also enjoy downhill skiing, camping and hiking as a family and with friends, including an annual camping and canoeing outing in the Missouri Ozarks.

But when all is said and done, they’re quite happy to call Southern Illinois “home.”

“I love the diversity that can be found in this small Southern Illinois community,” Dawn said.

Jeff and a few buddies have even formed an informal group that they call The Hill Gang. The friends cook out on the hill at Abe Martin Field for games and help organize donations to Saluki Baseball, contributing $1,750 to the team last year.

“SIU is a big part of my adult life,” Jeff said. “I am truly a Saluki for life.”

We’re happy you are both members of the SIU family, Dawn and Jeff, and appreciate all you do for our university!

Other Voices in HIED

Feds measure graduation rates of part-time and transfer students for the first time

Crain’s Chicago Business:
Chicago is now the nation’s best-educated big city

The Atlantic:
The Decline of the Midwest’s Public Universities Threatens to Wreck Its Most Vibrant Economies

The Washington Post:
‘Insanely worried’: Students and colleges urge Congress to protect ‘dreamers’

The New York Times:
America’s Best University President

Bloomberg Businessweek:
Op Ed: Demanding a Bachelor’s Degree for a Middle-Skill Job is Just Plain Dumb