Posts tagged ‘Scott Walker’

February 16, 2015

Scott Walker — destroyer or savior of higher education?

by Grace

In defending his proposal to cut Wisconsin’s higher education budget by $300 million over two years, Governor Scott Walker admonished professors to “work harder”.

“Maybe it’s time for faculty and staff to start thinking about teaching more classes and doing more work and this authority frees up the [University of Wisconsin] administration to make those sorts of requests,” …

Maybe he should have focused more on administrative costs, which have far outpaced instructional costs in American universities.

But now comes word from UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank that the cuts would come in the form of layoffs of administrative personnel”.

Deans, directors and department heads will be responsible for making decisions on how budget cuts are allocated, but administrative units will take will take larger cuts in an effort to preserve educational functions, she said.

It seems that common sense may prevail, but concern remains that the governor and possible presidential candidate may be trying to kill liberal arts education.

Walker proposed to rewrite the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement. He apparently wanted to strip out its frills (stuff like “extended training,” “public service,” improving “the human condition,” and “the search for truth”) and inject it with a more practical goal: meeting “the state’s workforce needs.”

Walker later backtracked and ‘blamed the changes on a last-minute “drafting error”‘.  But skeptics remain suspicious that liberal arts will increasingly take a back seat to vocational programs.

Liberal-arts and humanities programs at public universities are increasingly under siege as state legislatures cut the institutions’ funding, forcing school administrators to make tough decisions about what to eliminate. The obvious targets are the programs that yield a lower return on investment—at least in a concrete, monetary sense—and are more nebulous in their impact on the economy. What sounds like it has more dollar signs and productivity attached to it: philosophy or America’s favorite new acronym, STEM?

Maybe these critics should also focus on New York’s Democratic Governor Cuomo, who has pushed for increased funding of vocational programs in state colleges, and incentivized partnerships between business and schools that promote workforce training through his START-UP NY initiative.  Cuomo also established a STEM scholarship program last year.

I have not heard of any states pouring additional resources into liberal arts higher education.  Which may be a shame, but is understandable.

This workforce-centric approach “is designed for short-term learning and long-term disaster.”

The problem is that, unlike most STEM fields, universities have lowered standards for liberal arts education.

In theory, a college liberal arts degree is a valuable commodity in the job market. In reality, the way colleges have diluted the curriculum means a liberal arts degree offers little added value in qualifying workers for today’s job market.

So the question is, who is actually trying to kill liberal arts education?


Lucy McCalmont, “Scott Walker urges professors to work harder”, Politico, January 29, 2015.

Ann Althouse, “How will the University of Wisconsin—Madison absorb something like $90 million in cuts from Scott Walker’s new budget?”, Althouse, February 12, 2015.

Alia Wongfeb, “The Governor Who (Maybe) Tried to Kill Liberal-Arts Education”, Atlantic, February 11, 2015.

September 12, 2012

Quick Takes – States are graded on public education; college students voting in November

by Grace

—  The Center for Education Reform has an interactive map of the United States that “shows how the states are doing in providing the critical policy ingredients necessary for effective schools to serve all children”.

The CER supports charter schools, school choice, and performance pay.

…  Each state has been given a grade for each of several components, and those grades collectively factor into an overall grade and general education weather forecast for that state. As states adopt new policies and programs, the grades may change.

The overall grades are based on these components:
—  Governors
—  Media Reliability
—  Charter School Law
—  Teacher Quality
—  Digital Learning (Coming Soon)
—  Parent Power Index (Coming Soon)

In New York, the “forecast is cloudy”with the following grades:
—  Governors:  F
—  Media Reliability:  C+
—  Charter School Law:  B
—  Teacher Quality:  C

—  Will college students show up for this presidential election?

The question has ramifications for college campuses around the country in the two months that remain before Election Day: this year, will young people — especially college students, a group that backed Obama overwhelmingly in 2008 — show up?

Has enthusiasm for Obama among college students waned?

Della Volpe, who has polled young voters 22 times since 2000, said that Democrats shouldn’t count on college students to support them in such large numbers this year. Republicans have worked hard to win over disaffected 2008 Obama voters who, since graduating college, have struggled to find jobs and repay student loans. (Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican candidate for the vice presidency, made the pitch in one of the most memorable lines of his convention speech last week: “College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”)

But Della Volpe said his polling data suggest that Obama’s college student base from 2008, voters now in their early to mid-20s, still support him. It’s the younger voters — college students too young to vote the last time around — who should concern Democrats.

“It’s a myth that people turn 18 and automatically become Democrats,” Della Volpe said. In Wisconsin, Obama dominated among voters aged 18 to 24 in 2008. But last fall, in the election to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker, the governor won 18- to 24-year-olds by 3 points, helping him retain his post.

One college student I know tells me that while young people still overwhelmingly support Obama, their diminished fervor for his presidency may cause fewer of them to show up at the voting booth in November.

Here’s the “faded Obama poster” video.

June 20, 2012

University of Wisconsin announces new ‘competency-based degree model’

by Grace

In an announcement that could have implications for the affordability of education and professional development, and possibly help address the skills gap, Gov. Scott Walker, University of Wisconsin System President Kevin P. Reilly, and UW Colleges and UW-Extension Chancellor Ray Cross have announced a competency-based degree model that they claim will transform higher education in Wisconsin.  

Under the self-paced, competency-based model, students will be allowed to start classes anytime and earn credit for what they already know.  Students will be able to demonstrate college-level competencies based on material they already learned in school, on the job, or on their own.  

By taking advantage of this flexible model, and by using a variety of resources to help pay for their education, Walker said students will have new tools to accelerate their careers in a more accessible, affordable way.

The UW Flexible Degree will combine traditional face-to-face courses with online programs. 

One goal is to offer students smaller course segments or “modules.” Rather than molding coursework around a set timeframe, these modules can be designed to contain only the knowledge required within a specific competency. This could benefit working adults who need to start and pause their studies because of work and personal commitments. It could also benefit highly motivated students who are able to move through course materials at a faster pace.

Roll out of this new program is planned for as early as this fall.

The unique nature of the Flexible Degree will allow the UW to lower the net tuition cost to students in a number of ways.

Related:  MOOCs combined with prior learning assessment equals college credits

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