When Northeastern University’s merger with Mills College in California takes full effect in July, the Boston institution will gain something that’s in short supply on its home campus: land.
Acreage-wise, Mills is about twice the size of Northeastern’s campus, an administrator noted last week when the Future U. podcast was in Boston to record an episode for the first top on our Campus Tour.
Land is a big get for Northeastern when every nearly attempt to build something new in Boston is met with neighborhood opposition. The latest flashpoint: a new 810-bed dorm.
While “meds and eds” helped cities and college towns like Boston become highly desirable places to live and work, town-gown relations are reaching a breaking point in some cities.
Case in point: the University of California, Berkeley. A neighborhood group successfully sued the university to stop enrollment growth and its effect on local housing and the environment. After the California State Supreme Court refused last week to reverse a lower-court ruling that capped enrollment at 2020-21 levels, the university said it would need to cut in-person enrollment by at least 2,500 students this fall, leading to more disappointed applicants than usual.
Frayed town-gown relations date back to the 14th Century, but the Berkeley case seems to be the opening of a new chapter in this long history. For one, the neighborhood group is led by a Berkeley alum. Apparently, what he had access to should be denied to a growing number of students who want to go to Berkeley (it set a record for applications this year). Second, as Alissa Walker wrote in Curbed, the Berkeley group isn’t fighting against “megadorms or sports stadiums but the very presence of students themselves.”
Think about this: almost every other business in a city can pick up and move when they don’t like regulations or when new opportunities or better deals arise elsewhere. Boeing moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago. The Super Bowl champion Rams moved from St. Louis to LA. Walmart, Macy’s, and Home Depot close and open stores all the time based on population growth and sales.
Colleges and universities are often described as anchor institutions because of the central role they play in their communities. But that anchor also forces them to remain in place even when they might want to leave. On this week’s episode of Future U., co-host Michael Horn recalled that in the early 1990s a Yale trustee wondered whether New Haven was the place to have a top university—at a time when both the city and university were struggling in their own ways.
Yale ended up thriving in spite of its location in the successive decades thanks in part to the presidency of Rick Levin, who led the institution from 1993 to 2013. Town-Gown relations improved and Yale expanded by adding two new colleges.
Levin was our guest this week on Future U. He continues to advocate for growth among top colleges, which in a few weeks will announce another minuscule acceptance rate amid a continued uptick in applications.
“I do think expansion would be the best answer for relieving the pressure,” Levin said.
Given that Levin was CEO of the online-course provider Coursera after he left Yale, I expected him to lean in on the greater use of technology and hybrid education as one approach to expansion. But he didn’t.
“I don’t see the model changing because the model is about more than just conveying content,” he said. “So while I’m a huge advocate for technology for its purposes, I’m also a huge advocate for the intimacy of the liberal-arts educational model for whom we can make it affordable and for those who are being educated—and I hate to say it because people don’t like elitism—for leadership in society”
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🚨 Join me this Tuesday for the Next Office Hour, where we’ll explore how campuses can remain innovative and flexible in the postpandemic world. I’ll be talking with:
Michelle Marks, chancellor of the University of Colorado at Denver
Viji Sathy, associate dean of evaluation and assessment and professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Kristen Eshleman, vice president for library and information technology services at Trinity College in Connecticut
Ryan Ruda, president of Garden City Community College in Kansas
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Another Decade, More Degrees
For all the handwringing about higher education, new data out from the U.S. Census Bureau found that the proportion of Americans with college degrees grew substantially last decade.
The big picture: The percentage of people age 25 and older who had completed a bachelor’s degree or higher increased by 7.5 percentage points from 30.4% to 37.9%.
Driving the news: As Sean Gallagher pointed out on a recent episode of Future U., the master’s degree was the big winner the last decade with the growth of professional programs in new fields and online degrees.
The number of people age 25 and over whose highest degree was a master’s degree jumped 50% over the last decade, to 24.1 million.
By the numbers: The gender divide in higher ed continues. In 2021, of adults age 25 and older who had completed a bachelor’s degree or more, 53.1% were women and 46.9% were men.
Students of color all saw gains in higher education attainment. The percentage of adults age 25 older with a bachelor’s degree rose 8 percentage points, to 28% among Blacks; up 7 percentage points among Hispanics, to 21%; and 11 percentage points for Asian-Americans, to 61%.
Among whites, degree attainment went up 8 percentage points to 42%.
College leaders might think the cloud merely optimizes IT or is simply about replacing on- premises applications with cloud-based ones.
But when you talk to institutions that have migrated to the cloud you discover that the value comes from modernizing the campus infrastructure and boosting innovation. Read the latest paper in a new series about digital transformation in higher ed.
The New March Madness
It’s March Madness, but not just the basketball kind. It’s admissions and financial aid season when colleges are sending out acceptances, denials, or spots on the wait list as well something that is just as important to families as the admissions offer itself: the financial aid offer.
What’s happening: For most of college search process, prospective students and their families focus on the academic and social fit of college, but too often ignore the financial fit until it’s too late.
Students shop for colleges and apply to college in the fall and winter of their senior year of high school. But they don’t find out about most of the dollars that will make higher education affordable until much later in the spring or summer, Salerno said.
Why it matters: Every year, students start college but end up leaving because they can no longer financially make it work.
Many of the students who don’t finish have debt. Nearly 40% of student loan borrowers have debt but no degree, according to U.S. Education Department data that Salerno studied.
By the numbers: One interesting stat is that among those who don’t complete their education, the more education their parents have, the more debt the student ends up leaving school with.
—One solution: A college’s financial aid office should be seen less as a utility that manages tasks and processes and more as a resource for students, Salerno said.
Financial aid offices are trusted by students, he said, but often they are closed when students need them the most—particularly for working students—or they rely too much on human interaction to answer basic questions, instead of using technology, like chatbots.
There’s been a lot of focus on student success in higher ed, but most of those efforts have focused on the academic front and not the financial front. “You’re never going to be able to enjoy those four years of college if you can’t figure out how to pay for it,” Salerno said.
What’s next: When families get their aid package from a college, head over to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has a helpful tool to understand the offer and make plans to cover the remaining costs.
Youth sports participation had been declining for years, but COVID seems to have created an opportunity: 30% of students said their interest in sports grew during the pandemic; just 16% said it decreased, according to a two-year study by the Aspen Institute. In the new report, “Reimagining Schools Sports,” the Institute lays out approaches to capture the 60% of students who don’t participate.
Gen Z is looking for jobs that allow them to work remotely, according to a recent trends report from Handshake, which works with college career centers to connect students to employers. Handshake found that remote jobs were 3X more popular than place-based options. Gen Z is also looking to locate in places where they can maximize their work-life benefits, with Miami and Washington, DC emerging as central hubs.
A new paper by a Columbia U. math professor made the rounds on social media this week because it makes a substantial claim backed up with real data: that Columbia has gamed the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Among other things, the paper claims the university has exaggerated the number of small classes (<20 students) and reported how much it spends on patient care as part of its student instructional spending.