California Academic & Research Libraries
Fifth Annual Conference - Breakout Session 2, September 19, 1997

Trends in Higher Education

Program Summary

"The Forces Around Us: How Accreditation Focuses Attention on Issues of Mission, Resources, and Student Centered Learning"
(Stephanie Bangert, Dean for Academic Resources, St. Mary's College, Moraga)

Bangert began her presentation by making reference to observations from the field that are forcing institutions of higher education to reexamine institutional purpose and effective. Referring first to a 1990 article by Jim Honan and Kent Chabotar published in Change in Higher Education. They stated that higher education in the United States is under scrutiny and that most institutions will fail. Bangert was particularly struck by another assertion they made which was that the redefinition of institutional mission is the primary and most critical significant factor in adjusting effectively to changing environments. She went on to cite Allen Veaner's classic text, Academic Librarianship in a Transformational Age, where he declared it essential that colleges and universities look closely at their missions and articulate very clearly what was distinctly unique about what they were prepared to offer as compared to the competition.

It was at an intersection of time when doing research related to mission statements and becoming more involved in accreditation visits that she began noting the predicament of higher education and became increasingly aware of what was lacking in institutional self studies and program assessments. She thought that remarks she was going to make might be of interest to librarians who are in the process of planning, restructuring for the future, building physical and electronic spaces, and examining the library's role in the academy.

Focusing her presentation around WASC, The Western Association Schools and Colleges, accrediting agency; she found it significant that in 1995 WASC defined for itself four basic functions of accreditation:

  • provide assurance to the public that an accredited institution meets or exceeds basic standards of quality and that it has a purpose appropriate to higher education
  • promote effectiveness and improvement in the quality of higher education
  • establish standards of quality, and
  • promote exchange of ideas and activities
  • Bangert stated that an institution that meets accreditation says to other institutions and the public that it meets established educational criteria and enables educational institutions to say that we our meeting our goals and objectives within the context of educational mission. Bangert reminded us that the way libraries are valued is often related to perception and that the perceptions of our constituents in higher education can make or break our effectiveness in providing quality library programming.

    A description of the two basic components of the accreditation processes came next. The first part is an institutional self study in which a college or university documents and describes its programs, policies, and resources. The institution's task is to analyze the effectiveness of these three areas, make recommendations to itself, and define appropriate actions to improve institutional quality.

    In her experience most sites only do good jobs on those areas that are quantitatively descriptive. She says that institutions have a long way to go in analyzing, evaluating, assessing and making critical recommendations for improvement. She noted a current trend in accreditation site visits. Reviewing officers and evaluators often look at some issues that are not part of the published standards. She mentioned three WASC documents that she described as extremely useful for library and information personnel to take a look. These are documents that are not currently part of WASC standards but speak directly to language of assessment and best practices. While not embedded in the current standards they are often rolled into site visits. The documents are:

    Within the last two years WASC has created the Off Campus and Substantive Change Committee to address the new areas of distance learning, and off campus programs offered in new modalities. Its charge is to review and consider degree level programs in light of institutional mission. To date the committee has denied or deferred more programs than; it has accepted. Libraries or the lack of linkage to libraries has been one of the main reasons programs are denied. The top three reasons why off campus programs have been denied are (1) Lack of planning tied to institutional strategic plan, institutional or academic (2) Lack of analytical detail related to assessment (3) Little or no explanation of the proposed program's impact on an institution's priorities. A major question that institutions are rarely able to adequately answer is "In what way does the off campus student connect with the unique, culture and tradition of your institution?." It's her experience that if they can't address the question it usually indicates that they haven't thought about it.

    The good news is that many libraries have moved very quickly to adopt new language to describe their missions. Librarians are looking at the broader context of our institutions and developing mission statements linked to the big picture. We are describing how we support the institution, how we support programs, and defining ourselves as intellectual and knowledge centers. She announced that the Information Literacy Task Force has published a first draft of "Principles for Information Literacy Criteria" which she calls extremely valuable work that will for the most part go into revisions of WASC standards.

    Wrapping up her presentation Bangert asserted that libraries have social; political and economic incentives for assessing the quality of their educational programs, working to prove their effectiveness, engaging in regular conversation and activities to evaluate student learning within the context of the mission and a commitment to appropriate resource allocation. Based on her experience and research she believes the accreditation process is sound and an excellent venue for a collaborative role in improving institutional support for libraries. She suggested that perhaps a new task force should be created to help design good practices models for assessment of libraries and offered that she would be happy to work with a group on this.

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    "Higher Education Driving Trends and Changing Expectations"
    (VirginiaAnn Shadwick, Reference Librarian and Liaison for the College of Ethnic Studies, San Francisco State University)

    Ann Shadwick, whom most know for her efforts to unionize and advocate faculty status for librarians in the California State University, began her presentation with remarks related to the results of state and national polls conducted over the last four years. The polls were designed to learn how the public and state legislators are beginning to look at issues related to higher education.

    A 1993 poll by the Public Agenda Foundation for The California Higher Education Policy Center found that most Californians were convinced that higher education was the key to a good job and a secure economic life. In fact, 84 % felt that no qualified and motivated student should be prevented from attending college. They were also convinced that the opportunity to go to college had decreased in the previous decade. However, the public was more willing to consider looking for changes in how education was delivered than to provide funding or restrict access. The polls also found that 82% of Californians felt that students had to contribute to their own educations either by working or by taking out loans. The great concern was expressed among seniors and is reflected in fact that 65% of citizens over 65 felt that college education was really not necessary and that too many people were going to college.

    National trends support the California results. Pollsters find that most people feel that college education is essential and that society should not allow lack of money to be a barrier to access. On the other hand, 77% of those surveyed felt that many young people were wasting time and money going to college The bottom line is, if it means taxes, the public are not prepared to pay. Not surprisingly the polls also indicate that the public feels that higher education must make major changes internally to control costs and protect quality.

    In 1995, the National Education Association conducted a poll of state legislators to discover some national political trends. They found that over 79% of Republican leaders versus 40 % of Democratic leaders felt that within the next three to five years their state had to take action to directly link education funding with state identified priorities. They felt more emphasis had to be placed on undergraduate education as the core mission, more emphasis on making critical connections with elementary and secondary education, and more emphasis on the preparation of teachers.

    These legislators saw community colleges as the critical point of access to higher education. About 71 % felt that students should be routed through community colleges for the first two years. In general they felt that lower division education should be moved down and were very frustrated by the reluctance of four year institutions and research institutions to recognize the critical role played by community colleges

    The message to institutions of higher education nationally, and California institutions in particular, is that that we need to manage and use existing facilities more effectively, look at different ways for students and families to pay for their higher education, use new technology to increase productivity, and focus on the high quality graduate and professional programs and not on all the others that are "taking resources and not producing quality graduates." There was also interest in reviewing teaching loads particularly in the U.C. It's important to note that several legislators indicated support for differential tuition for differing types of programs and types of institutions, more alternatives to higher education, greater reliance on private colleges, and renovation and expansion of existing facilities.. Building new campuses was seen as the last option.

    A new NEA poll that was just completed focuses on technology related to education. The poll targeted twenty-one key state legislators and revealed increasing awareness among legislators of the need for technology and also the need for a plan within a state's priorities for technology in K-12 and higher education. The feeling is that technology moneys should be tied to priorities such as improving access through distance learning, improving learning productivity, integrating technology into the total educational process, and requiring collaboration among sectors including higher education with secondary and elementary sectors

    The legislators now recognize that it cannot be done on the cheap. However, they want some guarantees built into money they spend. The good news is that at least they have recognized that early notions that technology could be used to replace faculty, libraries, and facilities may not work, but it may avoid the need for more. A number of states are now looking to have all of their libraries in a compatible network to share but not duplicate resources and provide widely available access.

    She focused next on what's know as Tidal Wave II: projections related to expected enrollment growth in institutions of higher education in California. Current projections say in the next decade, by between 2005 and 2006, enrollment is expected to increase by about 28%, or by somewhere between 370,000 and over 450,000 students. This range has been confirmed by a number of studies and the reality is that thousands more students are going to be demanding the right to come into our institutions, without available slots. One projection says that if we spend a billion dollars a year for next 20 years and build 20 campuses we could just keep up. Demographic projections are that by the year 2000, there will be no single ethnic group that represents the majority in California and that Asian and Latino communities will be the fastest growing group.

    Shadwick also noted that more and more of our students will be older working adults needing retraining because people are projected to be changing careers two and three times in a lifetime which means a constant process of education. Tidal Wave II will occur in a context of an increasing decline of disposable income among the middle class and an increasing division between the rich, and rest of Californians. We'll also see extreme growth in the very elderly and the very young which also will impact state budgets.

    She shared another interesting projection that states that by 2005, half of the students entering our campuses will come from dual language families. She found this very interesting in the context of a current thrust by some to put an English-only initiative on the ballot that if passed will undercut bilingual education in an era where we're talking about how California is going to compete in a global economy. Shadwick stated that frankly in her opinion, California does a lousy job with foreign language teaching, in both K- 12 and higher education.

    In the context of acknowledging that California is experiencing steady growth, Shadwick pointed out the grim reality that 90% of California's budget is basically tied up into four categories, (1) Health and Welfare, (2) Corrections (with "3-Strikes you're out"), (3) education funding for K12 and community colleges (via Proposition 98), and (4) higher education. She noted that, a year ago, funding for corrections exceeded that for higher education. She reported a projection that if this trend in the need for corrections continues, in 2010, corrections will need the entire budget to keep everybody in jail. She says that's obviously not going to happen, but that in fact that's the direction in which a state that's run by initiative is going. She spoke next about new legislation for higher education in California that will guarantee a level of funding for higher education that is similar to the funding guarantees of Proposition 98 for K-12.

    Shadwick brought some encouraging words from a scenario study she worked on in 1992 for the California Faculty Association's Community Colleges Association which was looking at the future of funding for higher education in California. In one scenario that highlighted technology, librarians were the key people on campus. Shadwick quoted a projection that "Librarians will gain status and increased recognition for the importance of their role in mediating between those seeking information and the various sources they wish to find. Indeed the very idea of what it is to be a teacher will move away from the pedantic repository of fact towards a mediator or facilitator who knows how and where to find, how to interpret and skillfully apply information"

    She began winding down her presentation by turning again to political realities of California and the question of access. Noting that two years ago the California Post-Secondary Education Commission ago said that if this state­the public and the legislature­was not willing to give priority to funding access to higher education, that we must set priorities for who will be allowed in. She emphasized that this is absolutely contrary to her memory of what the California Master Plan has been all about which is that any student in this state who could benefit from higher education would have access. She warned "In the future when we think it's more accessible than before, it 's not gong be; higher education may be more needed, but it may not be accessible.

    She ended her remarks by sharing her vision of emerging trends. She said, " I think we will look at increased demands for productivity, increased focus on making higher education more relevant to market skills, increased questions of how we do our work, whether or our work is relevant, increased demand to set up partnerships with business. She cautioned that if we don't, business may set up privatized alternatives. She wonders if one of the trends we will see in the future is a decline in value of the traditional degree of higher education as we have known it. There may be an increase in the number of highly technological and very specifically focused certificates set up through private agencies that business will find far more attractive in terms of the young people they wish to hire.

    She told librarians that their skills are needed more than ever but what is going to happen to us is that, in the dollar crunches on our campuses, libraries will probably be more and more severely restricted and expected to handle more and more students with fewer dollars, because what dollars the campuses get will go to providing new classes. Remote access is going to demand new ways of thinking and responding, we may well see paraprofessionals moving into many of our traditional roles. We must move into much more creative roles of teaching and research and working with students on-line and in classrooms to help them be more successful. She concluded by saying that we could be optimistic and say that this will give us a chance to really create a California that's really going to be exciting but we have also have some awesome obstacles out there.

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    "Cornerstones: The CSU Approach to the Future"
    Dr. Brian Murphy, Executive Director, San Francisco Urban Institute, SF State University Senior Advisor to the Chancellor, CSU, on Cornerstones

    To begin his presentation Brian Murphy simply stated, "We keep thinking that next year is going to get better and I've grown either more cynical, tired, or anxious , or a combination of all of those [certainly grayer] with the successive iterations of master planning without the vote. Claiming for himself the old Joe Hill line, "Don't mourn, organize," Murphy stated that if we don't vote, we don't count in this particular economy. He believes that there is an enormous gap between "what the State needs, what could be generously called 'a sort of minimalist rational position'­i.e., more education and not less­, and what the state seems to be at this point competent politically to pay for".

    Alarming economic and student enrollment projections prompted a new initiative in the California State University called "Cornerstones." Cornerstones is an ambitious strategic planning effort that engages the major constituencies of the university in trying to address the fundamental question. "How can we as a public body address the simultaneity of enormous demand, on the one hand, and 'best case, worst case, moderate case' scenarios regarding resources, on the other?' This urgency was fueled by studies predicting enormous growth in student enrollment in higher education in California. Murphy stated a student wave of between 70,000 and 1000,000 students is expected over the next decade. At current projections there will be a huge capital gap. If the budget grows by 5 1/2 -6% over the decade, our gap in 2005 will be $58 million and it will climb to $520 million by the year 2010.

    Cornerstones followed the model of the Pew Charitable Trusts Sponsored Roundtables. It is the first national effort ever done on the Pew Model with Pew support. Twenty four people were brought together for the process: trustees, members of the administration, faculty and students to cooperatively form this task force. They have meet over the past two years in task forces to address questions of access and quality.

    Cornerstones began with four fundamental commitments. First, we must continue to provide educational excellence in a teaching-centered, collegiate institution. Fundamental to this issue is that we will not become a great big distance education center. We will stay what we believe we are, which is a teaching-centered institution. Second, we must provide access to the growing and ever more diverse population of Californians. Third, we must demonstrate our effectiveness to the people of California and to their elected leadership. We will make ourselves accountable in new ways. And fourth, we must design a more responsive post baccalaureate system to meet the demand in California for what we "liberally educated professionals", otherwise known as "coming back to school and already employed". These four commitments frame a fundamental dilemma. "How can you simultaneously tell the people of the state that you will remain accessible and do it maintaining quality and excellence on the dimes the state is likely to give us.

    Murphy discussed two new pieces of legislation related to funding of higher education in California: the Student Fee Bill and legislation known as Compact II. The Student Fee Bill rolls back tuition by 5% this year and promises no increases for the next five years. The Compact II bill, also known as "mini Proposition 98," guarantees a state appropriation for the non-community college segment of higher education. There are some, including the Governor, he fears, who don't think it's good government because it decreases the latitude of the legislature to do what it's elected to do­which is establish priorities and delegate funds. Considering the demographics of the state's voting electorate­which is about 80% white, is disproportionately older, and hugely disproportionately middle class, and no longer represents the demographics of the state, Murphy feels that Compact II is probably the best deal we are likely to get, given the unbelievable pressure from corrections

    He feels that broad needs of the people are not voted yet, not expressed yet. The polling is clear that, given the enormous attachment to education in the Latino community, there is a fertile bed for a new community of support for higher education. He noted that until the post Proposition 187 wave of registration, naturalization, citizenship, and then voter registration, works its way through, the Latino group, which is a hugely growing demographic, will not have representation. The Urban Institute has done projections of the potential voting impact of different ethnic and racial groups, at what trajectories, if in the decade between now and when those votes begin to count, we establish no track record of accessibility. If we fail to secure the embrace of newly empowered ethnic communities, then it is not clear that they will support us or should.

    What Cornerstones proposed in the end was a compact of sorts between the people of the state, the legislature, and the California State University, in which the CSU would do several new things. What Cornerstones says is that as a major centerpiece of the California State University's approach to education that we base the granting of the baccalaureate on demonstrated learning that includes instruction (not always in a classroom), that includes distance learning, and that includes other forms of accessing the learning that students bring to the classroom with them.

    Under the Cornerstones compact, it could be imagined that older students would not have to repeat a lot of what they had already learned from their places of work, or from other experiences, if we could devise responsible and successful ways for them to demonstrate what they know. This is single most controversial part of Cornerstones­the one which many good, decent , and progressive skeptics believe is hostile to the university as we know it. They see it as focused attack on the soul of teaching, on the soul of what they do best. A tension also exists around whether or not this is opening the door to distance learning and non-classroom learning, to such an extent that it begins to erode that which is Cornerstones' number one commitment: that we will retain our identity as a collegiate, experientially based teaching institution.

    Murphy says that there are no particular models for Cornerstones . No algorithm that tells you how much money you save, or imagine you save, by doing x, y, or z . What we are at least saying is that we are an institution that takes seriously its responsibility to maintain access to quality education in result; that it's not enough to just get into the university and then "God knows what happens." We want men and women to graduate and get a degree that means something substantial We've got to wrestle with what is the mix of experiences, what are the mixes of assessment, and what are classroom experiences that will create the new bachelor's degree.

    Murphy reported that a political analysis internal to the institution has begun with the question of who is likely to get to make those decisions. Murphy says that " If it's not people who care deeply about the classroom experience and the quality of learning then, as we use to say in the sixties the result would be 'objectively reactionary'." Murphy, as a teacher, finds himself faced with a real choice. If he chooses to maintain what he thinks is quality teaching (like what goes on in his 15-17 person seminar), because he believes this kind of quality must be maintained, while knowing that the institution cannot provide such an experience to every student, it will mean accepting the fact that tens of thousands Californians will not be getting "quality higher education," since they are not getting the kind of quality teaching he believes in.

    Murphy said we have to face this as a state and if that type of definition is the only definition of what should count then we should face it as a state and turn around and say if you don't pay for it, you don't get it. The difficulty is, politically, that unless we can be perceived as have taken seriously that exploration, then the perception on the part of the public and on the part of legislators is that we use quality as a defense for privilege. Cornerstones is trying to figure out a way to explore whether we can change institutions from the inside to provide more access and get every dollar we can get by demonstrating that we're taking seriously what change can mean.

    Cornerstones makes the somewhat interesting claim that the CSU should declare publicly that we expect our graduates to know and be able to do certain things, and that we are willing to test them to make sure that they do, and stand behind our "standards." At the same time, we are going to commit ourselves to several outcomes that we don't believe anyone can test. We expect graduates to write competently and elegantly, to really read critically, compute at a high level, attain fluency in a second language and read in it. We also expect to educate men and women to civic service, the meaning of ethical behavior, what it means to live in a multicultural democracy. Our hunch is that you can't test that part but we' re publicly saying that we're going to do it because if we only say were going to do the stuff that we can test, it's madness. It's not who we are , it is not what the university is about. But we can't use that fact to deny that those things we can test we've got to be willing to test. We can't hide around a position that "you can't test what I do best." You can, at least, check out whether they know how to write.

    Murphy then turned his attention to three other Cornerstones' principles that are controversial. The first is a declaration that graduate-level and continuing education are essential components of its the mission

    Cornerstones is also calling for a very significant increase in aggressive outreach and articulation with community colleges so that the idea of "diversion" would be attractive. He says that those of us in San Francisco would love to create what we call the City University of San Francisco for unification between City College and San Francisco State which would make it plausible for people to go to one place and automatically be accepted in the next.

    Another key principle calls for the most powerful and radical decentralization of mission and identity between campuses under the cover of a centralized education policy. We currently have a system born of regulatory fervor. What Cornerstones says is that "this is nuts," that systems should do what systems should do­which is set broad policies, like "make access available," or "serve your local community," or "work with K-12 ," or a number of other things. Then the fact that San Luis Obispo will look like a largely, suburban residential college and San Francisco State will look like a largely commuter, inter-city, urban, institution will really be OK. Cornerstones asserts you can have many campuses of different urban and/or racial and ethnic configurations. They don't all have to look alike or be funded alike, within broad parameters. Cornerstones is convinced that as a system the CSU has to address some of its macro problems through local or micro campuses.

    Cornerstones documents are available on all CSU campus and will discussed on all campuses before going to the Board of Trustees in January. Cornerstones is also available on the Web at

    Notes submitted by:
    Lorrita Ford
    Diablo Valley College Library

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