Monday, July 01, 2013


Fast, Furious, and Fenway

The MOOA meme (“massively open online administration”) has been making its way around the interwebs for a few days now.  It’s a hamfisted satire, basically saying that since college administrators all make the same decisions anyway, why not just replace them all with one?  

It’s a cute idea if you think that administration is mostly about making policy.  If you understand that it’s mostly about implementation in a complex and always changing environment, though, it’s just silly.  

Over the last week or so, the changes have been coming fast and furious.  It has been quite a week for external events.

Most notably for higher ed, the interest rate on new, subsidized student loans just doubled, from 3.4 to 6.8 percent.  That means that subsidized student loans are now more expensive than mortgages.  It also means that students starting in September -- not just freshman, actually -- will face notably higher borrowing costs than they did last month.  They may not feel it for a while, of course, but it’ll catch up eventually.

Student loans are a particularly nasty form of personal debt, since they come without collateral.  It’s impossible to short-sell a degree, so lenders have had the law changed several times to make payback essentially inescapable.  

How this will affect community colleges is hard to say.  Most of our students don’t borrow, since they’re either on full Pell or capable of just paying. (Many of the ones who “just pay” work an alarming number of hours per week outside of class to do it.  Some might be better off borrowing.)  Given the short time horizon that many students use when enrolling, the idea of higher payments years later may or may not pack the punch that it “should.”  Perversely, the change could actually benefit community colleges to the extent that they price more students out of more expensive places.  If more middle-class students use our lower tuition to manage their overall educational debt -- leaving more borrowing room for years three and four and maybe later -- we may be okay.  But if I were at a small, tuition-driven, expensive, non-elite private college, I’d be sweating bullets.

At the same time, the Supreme Court has made life easier for gay couples in the dozen or so states (hi!) that recognize same-sex marriage.  Put differently, it just made recruiting gay professionals easier in a dozen or so states, and harder in the other 37 or 38.  From a hiring perspective, this is great news for New England.  For North Carolina, not so much.  Of course, North Carolina is free to step up at any time.  In the meantime, I’ll happily hire the best of the best, and welcome them to a state that understands the concept of equal protection of the laws.  All-star candidates in, say, Tennessee may decide that Northampton is worth the winters.

It is.

Then I got word that Massachusetts has passed a budget that partially reverses the trend of state disinvestment in public higher education, making it possible for the state’s community colleges (hi!) to freeze tuition and fees for next year.  Yes, the interest rate for loans may be going up, but at least the principal isn’t.  Whether this is a welcome blip or the start of a very welcome trend remains to be seen, but after the last few years, I’ll happily take it.  Add frozen tuition and fees to the increased use of Open Educational Resources, and some students may actually see a drop in the total cost of attendance next year.  After years -- okay, decades -- of severe intergenerational injustice, it’s refreshing to see the young catch a break.  Here’s hoping it sets a new trend.

Finally, as a delayed Father’s Day gift, TW is taking the kids and me to Fenway on Wednesday to catch our first Red Sox game.  We may have to protect some tender young ears from some of the, uh, distinctive language for which Fenway is known, but it’ll be worth it.  (We deliberately avoided a Yankees game for that very reason.)  TB is beside himself with excitement.  TG is mostly looking forward to getting ice cream in a little batting helmet.  It’s all good.

Happy Fourth.  The blog will be back on Monday, July 8.

The fact that you can't understand why we laugh at the MOOA thing just tells me that you really don't get what's wrong in higher education today. You're evidently one of the bad ones, not one of the good ones.

Lest you think that I hate all administrators, a professor whom I deeply respect from my student days is now an administrator. Since I happen to hate his administrative counterpart at my institution, I want to enroll in his MOOA so that I can have him instead of his evil counterpart.
Wow, I'm shocked that you entirely missed the point of the MOOA satire.
One might say the same thing about the MOOC concept (See below) - though you seem to be onboard with this.

"It’s a cute idea if you think that TEACHING is mostly about DELIVERING INFORMATION. If you understand that it’s mostly about implementation in a complex and always changing environment, though, it’s just silly. "
Perhaps in the community college world, everyone is clear enough on the mission and vision, or too broke to worry about it. Elsewhere, though, there's too much fretting about mission and vision and branding and taglines and modernizing the trademark and perhaps coming up with a strategic plan that looks like everybody else's strategic plan. It provides emoluments for middle managers, and additional burdens for faculty who are already attempting to do everything with nothing.
Greeting DeanDad

Thank you for the postcard from the bubble.

Wish I had thought of MOOA myself, now I will never be rich.

Agree with Stephen Karlson. 80% of the ideas proposed by administrations is a reflection of their google inquiries.
"Pardon my French?" Just explain to the kids that Fenway is a temple devoted to the preservation of some of the most ancient words that found their way to the English isles.

Anon @5:25 said it better than I could, but I will add that I was driving past a college in a distant state that was using a "sense of place" display scheme identical to ours.

How much will the DOMA ruling help? I'm still unclear if someone married in Mass can file jointly when living in NC. Your offer of spousal health benefits has to be tested against lower state taxes and availability of national health insurance.
Hmmm...given Deandad's reaction to the satire of MOOA, and his clear interest in MOOC, I suppose I now know what's coming to our CC when he gives his speech at our all-campus meeting at the start of the fall semester. Definitely not looking forward to this.
Anonymous, I'd expect him to talk about revolutionizing the credit hour ;-) but would recommend just asking him to extemporize about the right way to run a meeting. Most (all?) colleges waste tons of resources in meetings, including a fall convocation that does not come with a clear agenda that is distributed in advance.

Update on loans:
Are you sure you know who takes out loans? I am visiting a state that isn't Mass or my home state and read an article that contained facts. Top Stafford loan was a very small private college, but the next two were the state flagships. Yes, there is a proprietary in there, but the "nothing special" privates borrow less than kids at Nothing Special State. Sadly, no data for CCs.
Most blogs eventually become about the blind spots of their owners. Good ones last a long time before becoming uninteresting; bad ones last five minutes (cf: Joe Klein).

Ok, the Joke Line blog was fun as a trainwreck.

Anyways, Baumol's cost disease, remove the credit hour, abolish tenure, notice a Class Warfare tree but steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that there is a forest, and there we go!

I'm sure DD is an excellent administrator, for the reason listed above -- you don't need a "vision" to put people on lifeboats as the boat is sinking. You just need to keep putting people on lifeboats. So if one has a silly vision, that's irrelevant if one is good at maintaining calm and setting up queues.

Really shocked at all the venomous comments here. Dean Dad is actually a very good administrator who actually listens (do any of you know that word? look it up) instead of trying to talk over others just to be heard. If you don't like it, move along, people. Move along.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?