URI general education requirements revamped – URI Today

KINGSTON, R.I.- March 24, 2017- The general education course requirements at the University of Rhode Island no longer vary across majors, and instead are based on learning outcomes that apply to all University programs.

On Wednesday, March 29 from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Rachel DiCiocco, the director of the new general education program, along with University College for Academic Success, will hold an event that will allow students to learn more about the new program and how it can benefit them. The event will be held in the Memorial Union.

In the fall, the new general education program was introduced to the incoming freshman class and will be used for all classes to follow. Current sophomores, juniors, and seniors have the option to switch from the old general education requirements to the new ones if it would benefit their academic track.

“The new program developed out of a need to revitalize general education and deliver a program that provides our students with a contemporary, engaging, and rigorous liberal learning experience” DiCiocco said. “The new program allows students to explore, challenge, and create through interdisciplinary inquiry and helps them develop the critical thinking and communication skills essential for student success at URI and beyond.”

The former guidelines for general education were set by the University, but could have been altered within different colleges as some colleges required more credits in certain areas than others. With the new general education requirements, students will complete a total of 40 credits that fulfill four key objectives through 12 measurable learning outcomes.

Learning outcomes, the base of the new program, include building knowledge of diverse peoples and cultures, intellectual and interdisciplinary competencies, exercising social responsibility, and the Grand Challenge overlay.

“Grand Challenge courses are designed to provide a stimulating and innovative course experience that addresses significant global challenges and broadens students’ understanding of the critical issues facing them in the 21st century” said DiCiocco. Some examples of topics that are covered under the Grand Challenge learning outcome are the history of marriage, topics in disability, race, gender, and sexual identity, Earth gone mad, immigrant voices, and financial literacy and conscious capitalism.

The event, coordinated by DiCiocco, is free and will provide ample incentive to students looking to learn more about URI’s new general education requirements. Students will have the opportunity to speak to faculty and staff who will be teaching courses that fulfill each of the required learning outcomes.

Students who participate will be entered into a drawing for such prizes as early registration for fall 2017, gift cards to local establishments, and iPads. While exploring the new requirements, set up at tables around the ballroom, students will also be able to enjoy snacks and sweets provided by URI Dining Services, free Kingston Pizza, and a special appearance by Rhody the Ram.
Olivia Ross, an intern in the Marketing and Communications Department at URI and public relations major, wrote this press release.

 

Federal Budget Proposal Cuts Billions in Higher Education and K-12 School Programs

The Department of Education would face some major downsizing under the Trump administration’s newly released budget proposal that seeks a $9 billion dollar (or 13.5 percent) reduction. The $59 billion-dollar budget eliminates teacher training grants, supplemental K-12 school programs, and higher education financial assistance while increasing funds for school-choice programs.

U. to offer fully online degree programs

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah will offer fully online undergraduate degrees beginning in fall 2017. A new package of courses, called Block U, will be available online and will fulfill all general education requirements. This set of courses will complement the select majors currently offered in online format.

“In the past, the U. has offered several online undergraduate majors, but without an online general education program, students going to school online couldn’t complete their degree,” Ann Darling, assistant vice president of undergraduate studies, said in a statement. “Block U provides the flexibility of online delivery and the benefits of highly engaging instruction.”

Majors offered fully online through UOnline will include economics, nursing, sustainable tourism and hospitality management, psychology and social work, and a minor in gerontology. Most general education courses in Block U will be available for students to take at their convenience, helping them fit school into their personal schedule and busy lives.

In addition to these fully online programs, the U. offers more than 450 online courses. Online graduate degrees available through the U. include electrical and computer engineering, gerontology and information systems.

Berkeley Heights Board of Education Honors Individual, Team Achievements in Athletics; Inclusion Program Highlighted

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ—2017 state 800-meter run champion Victoria Vanriele of Gov. Livingston High School, along with the Gov. Livingston Central Jersey Group C champion boys’ and girls’ swim teams were honored at Thursday’s Berkeley Heights Board of Education meeting.

During the presentation of a plaque by board member Denis Smalley to Vanriele’s winter track coach Dan Guyton noted that the Gov. Livingston freshman was the first Gov. Livingston girl to win the State crown in the 800-meter event.

Swim team coach David Closs presented his teams, who were congratulated by board member Jeane Parker and board president Doug Reinstein.

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During the second part of the presentations for the evening, members of the township district’s special services staff outlined the district’s program for inclusion, community based instruction and post-high school planning for students served by special services.

Berkeley Heights Director of Special Services Michele Gardner noted that the top tier of the least restrictive learning environment, as reported to the state and federal government, is to have students with individualized education plans spending 80 percent of their school day in general education classes.

She added that, for 2015-2016, 74.52 percent of these students in Berkeley Heights spent 80 percent or more of their school day in general education and the goal is to have 80 percent of students with IEPs spending 80 percent or more of their day in general education.

Gardner said the goal of the next five years is to use creative classroom strategies combined with education in the community outside the classroom to move most of these students into successful careers.

The township district also has established a partnership with the New Jersey Center for Inclusive Education to improve its training and helping incorporate strategies that have been successful in other districts.

She also noted that, building off the co-teaching model in force for the last seven years at Mary Kay McMilln School, her department has budgeted for co-teacher section at Mountain Park School beginning next year. This will enable a special education teacher to be in the co-teacher classrooms throughout the school day.

District supervisor of special education Kevin Morra said that, after transition assessments and IEP planning, in collaboration with adult agencies, the Berkeley Heights schools have created in-house “job opportunities,” such as having IEP students help with vending machines and in school libraries in addition to providing community internship opportunities.

These activities are backed up by classroom-based activities in filling out job applications, conducting job searches and improving daily living skills.

Transition coordinator Steve Siebelts, noting that students have a great deal of input to the process, said it starts with a sampling of various potential occupations and then narrowing down of interests to the point where it can lead to paid employment opportunities.

On-site support provides for such activities, as resume writing and job coaching is instituted, but “fades” over time as students gain more independence.

He added local employers have been very cooperative and often request to hire students from the Berkeley Heights program.

In fact, the Berkeley Heights YMCA, in addition to employing some of the program’s students, develops outside-work activities for them such as the “Ashram for Autistics” yoga class, which meets every Friday.

Siebelts added that the township program is participating in a three-year grant, worth more than $1 million, recently awarded to the Morris-Union Jointure Commission.

The grant helps to assist in community networking, presents staff training opportunities, provides direct support of students, offers assistance with transition assessments and helps with potential expansion of social and recreational activities and shared resources.

Structured learning experience coordinator Phil Acosta listed the following employers who are participating in the program:

  • The Berkeley Heights and Summit YMCAs
  • Super Kids
  • Lord Stirling Stables in Basking Ridge
  • New Jersey Sharing Network
  • Yo Addiction
  • Walgreens in Berkeley Heights and Stirling
  • TV 35 in Cranford
  • Dean’s Greens
  • The Berkeley Heights Library
  • The Wharton Music School
  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Rich’s Automotive
  • Splurge Bakery in Millburn

Students work in maintenance, custodial work, housekeeping and clerical areas, customer services, YMCA member services, daycare, as teacher assistant, pages in the liibrary, stocking, food services, tacking and saddle cleaning, cleaning stalls and filming and video switching.

Acosta noted that one of the students employed through the program is making $9.50 per hour and one is earning $10 per hour—both substantially over the New Jersey minimum wage of $8.40 per hour.

In a video shown during the presentation, a YMCA spokeswoman said students work in the child care center, greet visitors and work at special events, all the while helping the staff and learning new responsibilities.

A mother of one of the students said her son works setting up materials and the program has given him new skills and confidence, while showing him how to handle personal finances. She also said he has taken a new interest in home improvement thanks to what he has learned.

Board member Gerard Crisonino, who works in special education, said he has heard the Berkeley Heights’ program praised on a number of committees on which he sits.

Also, board member Chris Reilly said she tells local store managers that she is more likely to shop in establishments which employ students with special needs.

On another matter at the board meeting, Superintendent of Schools Judith Rattner agreed to explore establishment of a foreign exchange program between Livingston students and students from Quebec, Canada after the program was suggested by a junior at Livingston.

The student said that, based on information from students he has spoken to in similar programs in New Providence and Millburn, students in the township program would spend a week or two in a Canadian school in efforts to further immerse themselves in French and learn about foreign countries.

In turn, the Canadian students would attend Livingston.

Rattner said the students would be assessed like the students already attending schools in the respective countries.

On another matter, Reinstein said that, over the past several months, pre-meeting board executive sessions seldom have run over half of the hour allotted for them.

He suggested that, starting immediately, the board meet in executive session from 7 to 7:30 pm instead of from 7 to 8 pm and that open board meetings begin at 7:30 pm instead of 8 pm.

The board president added that, if more time is needed, such as when retiring teachers are to be recognized at board meetings, executive sessions can begin at 6:30 pm or after the regular open meetings.

Responding to a question from the parent of one of the two student representatives on the board, he said remarks from student representatives could be scheduled later in meetings to give the students time to do homework or other activities between the time of school distmissal and board meetings.

School District superintendent discusses budget with community members


Superintendent Kris McDuffy speaks to community members about the district’s budget at Meadowdale High School.

When it comes to funding Edmonds schools, Superintendent Kris McDuffy says she has both optimism and concerns — optimism for funding from the state, but concerns for federal funding.

That’s what she told a small group of people at a community budget meeting on Wednesday, March 22 at Meadowdale High School, 6002 168th St. S.W.

“I believe this is the most hopeful time in our state’s history in terms of full-funding of basic education,” McDuffy said. “At the federal level, we are really concerned in terms of the possible reductions we may see.”

The Edmonds School District gets approximately 67.9 percent of its total budget from the state and 6.1 percent of its budget from federal sources. The remaining chunks of income are 22.4 percent from the local levy, 1.9 percent in local non-tax funding and 1.7 percent from other revenues, such as county-level grants.

The largest chunk of that money, 86.2 percent, funds salaries and benefits for district staff, including mostly teachers, but also teaching support and administrators, among others. Other costs include 9.6 percent going to contractual services, 4.1 percent going to supplies, and 0.14 percent other expenses.

The 6.1 percent chunk of income from the federal level is primarily funding for federal special education programs, as well as funding for Title I, Title II and Title III programs, which each have their own guidelines.

McDuffy explained that President Donald Trump’s version of the federal budget, which was presented last week before it goes to Congress to be further negotiated, showed an approximately 14 percent reduction to public education. Our online news partner The Seattle Times has more details about Trump’s budget proposal at this link.

“The president’s version of the federal budget in terms of funding public education is a drastic difference than we have seen in decades,” McDuffy said. “We’re really concerned. For us, that would be a huge hit.”

For example, just the cuts to professional development funding would equal about $600,000 for the Edmonds School District.

However, McDuffy’s hopes remain high at the state level, which also makes up the largest chunk of income for the Edmonds School District. The state legislature is now down to the wire to fully fund public education, as demanded by the McCleary decision made by the state Supreme Court in 2012. For a breakdown of that lawsuit from The Seattle Times, click here.

“This is it,” she said. “This is (the session) where they have to have a solution. They also must have the revenue to support it.”

Timing, however, could prove to be problematic. State legislators are scheduled to meet through April 23. However, many expect additional sessions to be called. Meanwhile, the Edmonds School District needs to have a budget prepared by summer.

“We need to proceed with some initial planning, but not having a target or clear parameters from the government is challenging,” McDuffy said.

So she and district staff are holding these community budget meetings to ask for input on where the gaps are in education funding at the moment, and what families would like the district to focus on as they begin planning their budget.

For a more detailed look at the district’s 2016-2017 budget, click here to view the Citizen’s Guide. To give feedback on budget priorities online, click here, then click “Feedback” and fill out the form.

Three more community budget meetings are scheduled for the near future as follows:

  • March 29, 7–8 p.m., Lynnwood High Theater
  • April 12, 4–5 p.m., Mountlake Terrace High Theater
  • April 19, 7–8 p.m., Edmonds Woodway High Theater

–By Natalie Covate

Students’ pre-college academics meet gen. ed. requirements

Student Opinion

By Megan Brewer —

One of our professors once said that today’s generation, our generation, can’t focus. He said we “can’t be taught.” We can’t sit in a class room for an hour and focus on the class at hand.

I hate to say it, but he’s right to some extent. We can’t sit for an hour and focus on a professor that lectures us about something we don’t really care about – anything we learned in high school.

High school: five classes a day, one in each subject, for four years. We’ve spent years upon years learning the same things, and then we came to college in hopes of learning something new, but instead we get the wonderful list of classes we must take: general education requirements.

Why should a student who wants to learn about cells and the human body have to be taught the history of Spain for a second or third time? Why should an English major have to do the same math that was done in high school? Why should an engineer be forced to take a theatre or art class?

General education requirements are three words that every college student dreads. A whole year or more of your college career is spent fulfilling the course requirements the college feels everyone should take. Yet, we learned all of this, once, twice or maybe five times. So why must we learn it again?

We pick classes that have nothing to do with our selected major, because we have no choice but to do so. We go to the classes, because we have to, but we don’t look forward to it. We’d rather become brilliant in our field of study by taking classes in our subject area.

We enter college classrooms in hopes to gain an astonishing education from experts in a field of study. We have a calling to do bigger and better things. We go to college to become an expert in our chosen field of study, but we can’t become experts by sitting in classrooms learning things that have absolutely no relevance to our degree.

I am a student who has changed majors multiple times, taken a very diverse set of courses in my time as a college student and attended two different universities (and been forced to take history twice because of the move). From this experience, I understand what is trying to be accomplished by making students take a wide variety of courses. If a student, like me, decides to change majors, it shouldn’t be a big deal if the only courses taken until then were gen. eds., right? Wrong.

The reality is, most students come to college knowing what they want to major in, and if we don’t, we can figure it out without the aid of general education requirements. I understand the point in making sure every student graduating college is a well-rounded student, but we went to high school. We came to college already well-rounded. We are a generation that is over the basic college curriculum and ready to really become experts in our fields.

We are told to start thinking about college our freshmen year of high school. So, while I’m sitting in a history course learning the same history I’ve learned multiple times, I wonder how this course is going to help me achieve my goal of becoming an author. Or I sit in a biology course and wonder about the likelihood of writing a book about cells.

As an English major, I need 36 upper-level English credits to graduate. This means that I will take about 28 classes that have little or nothing to do with my English degree, and 12 classes that are upper-level English classes. 12 classes. An average college student takes somewhere between eight and ten semesters in college, which means I’m taking one to two English courses per semester and I get to call myself an English major because of this.

Students will not graduate from college feeling as if they’re experts in their fields of study. We will graduate feeling like we should’ve taken more classes in our subject area. There are many courses offered for every major that students would love to take instead of taking a gen. ed.

Parents strongly object to report calling for local funding of special …

Special Ed-Credit: iStock / EVAfotografie

March 23, 2017

State Board of Education President Michael Kirst called a report urging California officials to dismantle the current special education funding system “provocative and bold.” After listening to two hours of the public’s reactions at a hearing in Redwood City last week, Kirst could add the phrase “and feared.”

Parents of children with disabilities and special education teachers and administrators said they oppose the recommendation, which would eliminate direct funding of regional agencies that currently allocate special education money, coordinate services and monitor complaints. Under the proposal, the money would be sent directly to school districts to administer, as recommended in a report by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, concluded that adding special education to the Local Control Funding Formula would be consistent with the principle of holding school districts accountable for the progress of all students. Students with disabilities would become another category of students receiving extra dollars, along with English learners, low-income children and foster youths. The amount of special education dollars wouldn’t change, but districts, which already fill in large gaps in federal and state special education funding, would have more latitude in deciding how to spend some of the money.

That prospect made parents nervous. As they had in two raucous hearings in Sacramento and Los Angeles, parents of special education students were emphatic that districts shouldn’t be trusted to do right for children who require expensive services for disabilities. Some exceeded their three-minute testimony limit to detail their anguishing battles with districts over services for their children. They said they were angry that researchers didn’t ask them for their perspectives. Only then, parents said, would the researchers understand why parents are worried about the proposal that would give districts more control over dollars.

Paul Warren was the chief researcher for the Public Policy Institute report. He is a retired policy analyst and director of the Legislative Analyst’s Office specializing in education finance and policy. After listening to parents’ criticism, he acknowledged that in retrospect “it would have been a good idea to seek out parents.” That was the only remark of his that parents applauded; the clapping was loud.

“No one in special education is confident there would be the same level of services” that students currently get, said Alida Fisher, who serves on the community advisory committee for special education for the San Francisco Unified School District. Many districts, which legally have to cover substantial shortfalls in state and federal revenue for special education services, already face financial pressures providing services for general students. Adding special education to the mix “would be one more instance of pitting parents against each other” over insufficient funding, Fisher said.

Christine Case-Lo, the mother of an autistic child in Mountain View and the founder of the Learning Challenges Committee for the area PTA, said that districts in the state have shown “patterns of bad behavior,” forcing parents of special education students to hire lawyers and turn to the federal Office of Civil Rights to obtain services for their children.

Most states fund special education by sending money directly to school districts either in their financing formulas or through restricted funding. As the nation’s largest state, California created 133 intermediaries called Special Education Local Plan Areas, or SELPAs.

California created the agencies to ensure that all students with disabilities are educated in compliance with federal law, which guarantees a “free and appropriate” education for students with disabilities. State law hands the agencies a range of responsibilities and procedures. They coordinate services, budget money, train district personnel, provide data to the state and monitor compliance with the law to protect students’ rights – functions that most districts lack the expertise to provide. Some also pool money to cover expensive disabilities, like severe autism, that small and medium-sized districts couldn’t afford.

Some of the agencies serve individual, usually large, districts, while others are regional, managing services for counties and several districts.

Benjamin Picard, superintendent of the Sunnyvale School District, said that if the agencies were dissolved, “districts would have to add staff and continue much of what SELPAs do with a loss of advantages of scale.”

The Public Policy Institute of California did the study at the encouragement of Kirst and Linda Darling-Hammond, a retired Stanford University professor who chairs the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Both have pointed to low graduation rates and poor academic performance of students with disabilities, who comprise about 1 in 8 California students, as cause to reexamine how services are funded and provided.

No uniformity in services

PPIC found that the agencies operate with little transparency, even though they’re governed by boards made up of school district representatives. “California does not hold SELPAs accountable for student success in any formal way,” PPIC wrote. The state doesn’t set performance goals for special education, and the agencies aren’t required to track student performance. PPIC couldn’t find budgets or administrative plans online for more than half of multidistrict agencies. There also are no guidelines for parceling out money. Some pool resources to cover expenses that exceed $100,000, while others divvy up funds uniformly per student.

Because of its complex financing, the Legislature left special education funding out of the Local Control Funding Formula. PPIC suggested that folding it in, while encouraging special education parents’ participation in a district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan, would heighten the focus on student results. Districts would have flexibility to use special education funds to treat students’ learning and emotional problems early, before they’re formally identified, potentially saving money later, said Paul Warren, an expert in school finance and lead author of the study. Regional agencies might continue to exist, but they’d function differently, he said. They might continue serving small districts, or administer money for students with severe disabilities.

But special education parents view funding flexibility as a euphemism for diverting money that should be spent on their children. And agency administrators question whether district control would be an improvement.

Leslie Anido, a special education teacher with the Santa Clara County Office of Education, said that changing the allocation method would mask, rather than remedy, funding deficiencies. Rolling the money into the funding formula “could disrupt services for students with disabilities” if districts lack specialists in speech and physical needs and decide not to fund them.

Anido serves on a committee on special education for the California Teachers Association, which also opposes a fundamental restructuring of financing.

Robert Stout, director of special education for the Alameda County Office of Education, said the funding formula is still in its infancy, “a shiny new thing right out of the box,” without a track record. Federal law requires that districts at least maintain the same level of special education funding from year to year, but parents worry their kids would come up short if special education has to compete with teacher raises in the budget mix.

Districts’ costs escalate

Since 2005-06, school districts' portion of paying for special education in California has risen 100 percent, from $4.1 billion to $8.1 billion. Overall costs of special education have increased 55 percent, from $8.5 to $13.17 billion.

Source: Coalition for Adequate Funding for Special Education

Since 2005-06, school districts’ portion of paying for special education in California has risen 100 percent, from $4.1 billion to $8.1 billion. Overall costs of special education have increased 55 percent, from $8.5 to $13.17 billion.

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There’s already tension. Spending on special education rose to about $13 billion statewide last year, and districts’ share of it has risen sharply. The federal government, which once promised to fund 40 percent of states’ special education costs, funds 9 percent in California. The state’s General Fund, which funded 39 percent of the cost before the Great Recession, now funds 29 percent, as Brown has made the funding formula a priority. Districts’ share has risen from 48 to 62 percent over the same period, since 2005-06.

The state funds special education based on total student enrollment, not by numbers of special education students – a strategy intended to discourage over-identification of disabilities. But in most districts, the proportion of students with disabilities has outpaced overall enrollment growth, and many of the new diagnoses are for autism and severe problems, adding further budget pressure. 

Case-Lo, the Mountain View parent, said she would support district funding only if regional agencies then served as “a neutral organization to represent parents against the school district” – ­ a role they don’t now provide.

PPIC and the 2015 Statewide Task Force on Special Education did make recommendations that parents and teachers like. Both said the state should increase funding to screen and treat infants and preschool children with disabilities and fold funding for mental health into the formula for special education. The report also recommends ending disparities in funding for Special Education Local Plan Areas, which differ by as much as $500 per student.

Assembly Education Committee Chairman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, is sponsoring Assembly Bill 312 to move toward equalizing funding. But the California Department of Finance, which was interested enough in PPIC’s ideas for district control to hold the statewide hearings, may not support more money without financing reforms. Prospects for that appear unlikely this year.

After listening to continuous criticism of PPIC’s report at the Redwood City hearing, Jeff Bell, who oversees education policy for the Department of Finance, said only that the department “currently has no proposal to dissolve SELPAs.”

“We’re talking about improving services for students,” he said, and encouraged audience members to send ideas to the department.

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URI general education requirements revamped

KINGSTON, R.I.- March 24, 2017- The general education course requirements at the University of Rhode Island no longer vary across majors, and instead are based on learning outcomes that apply to all University programs.

On Wednesday, March 29 from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Rachel DiCiocco, the director of the new general education program, along with University College for Academic Success, will hold an event that will allow students to learn more about the new program and how it can benefit them. The event will be held in the Memorial Union.

In the fall, the new general education program was introduced to the incoming freshman class and will be used for all classes to follow. Current sophomores, juniors, and seniors have the option to switch from the old general education requirements to the new ones if it would benefit their academic track.

“The new program developed out of a need to revitalize general education and deliver a program that provides our students with a contemporary, engaging, and rigorous liberal learning experience” DiCiocco said. “The new program allows students to explore, challenge, and create through interdisciplinary inquiry and helps them develop the critical thinking and communication skills essential for student success at URI and beyond.”

The former guidelines for general education were set by the University, but could have been altered within different colleges as some colleges required more credits in certain areas than others. With the new general education requirements, students will complete a total of 40 credits that fulfill four key objectives through 12 measurable learning outcomes.

Learning outcomes, the base of the new program, include building knowledge of diverse peoples and cultures, intellectual and interdisciplinary competencies, exercising social responsibility, and the Grand Challenge overlay.

“Grand Challenge courses are designed to provide a stimulating and innovative course experience that addresses significant global challenges and broadens students’ understanding of the critical issues facing them in the 21st century” said DiCiocco. Some examples of topics that are covered under the Grand Challenge learning outcome are the history of marriage, topics in disability, race, gender, and sexual identity, Earth gone mad, immigrant voices, and financial literacy and conscious capitalism.

The event, coordinated by DiCiocco, is free and will provide ample incentive to students looking to learn more about URI’s new general education requirements. Students will have the opportunity to speak to faculty and staff who will be teaching courses that fulfill each of the required learning outcomes.

Students who participate will be entered into a drawing for such prizes as early registration for fall 2017, gift cards to local establishments, and iPads. While exploring the new requirements, set up at tables around the ballroom, students will also be able to enjoy snacks and sweets provided by URI Dining Services, free Kingston Pizza, and a special appearance by Rhody the Ram.
Olivia Ross, an intern in the Marketing and Communications Department at URI and public relations major, wrote this press release.

 

Administration proposes cuts to federal student aid programs

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For Tuition Aid Boost to be Meaningful, CUNY Needs New Investment

 

James Davis, the author (photo: Dave Sanders)


There has never been a better moment for the state Legislature to fight for investment in quality, affordable public higher education. Governor Cuomo’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship, though flawed, has reaffirmed the value of CUNY and SUNY and made “free tuition” for many a realistic policy goal.

But, CUNY needs a substantial increase in state funding to ensure the quality of the education that it currently provides, and far more than that to provide free, quality education to its entire student body, which is likely to continue to grow significantly.

As undergraduate enrollment has steadily increased at CUNY, state funding has not kept pace. This has meant fewer faculty teaching more students – leading to less student contact with full-time faculty members and more students who cannot enroll in the already-full classes they need to graduate.

I teach at Brooklyn College, where over the past five years, fewer than half the undergraduate courses were taught by full-time faculty. Sadly, this is higher than the average across CUNY’s eight senior colleges. Our students need more contact with full-time professors, not less.

In addition to teaching and conducting research, we provide academic and career advisement and guide students toward extra-curricular opportunities and internships. Despite the high quality of many of our adjunct faculty, they cannot mentor students in these ways, and CUNY’s overreliance on a vast, underpaid, contingent workforce shortchanges our students. Increased state funding would pay for more full-time professors to meet our students’ needs and support better pay and teaching conditions for adjunct faculty.

CUNY faculty consistently rise to the occasion, absorbing the impact of defunding by taking more and more students into our classes. Student requests for “overtallies” into classes that exceed the enrollment limit, demands from administrators to offer “jumbo” size courses, trips down a hallway to borrow chairs from a neighboring classroom – these are regular occurrences at Brooklyn College.

“Students essentially have to beg multiple faculty members to enter a class,” remarked one of my colleagues, “often after the first, second, or even third session.” “Rather than stuffing more bodies into an already crowded room,” she noted, “more funding would allow for reasonable class sizes and give students access to the education they deserve.”

The chair of one department mentioned that despite adding three students to every professor’s roster above the enrollment cap in their general education courses, at least 20 additional students per semester are denied “overtally” requests.

The problem creates a backlog to degree progress. Students often have urgent reasons to take these courses – to graduate on time or to maintain financial aid eligibility. But it is impossible to let everyone in.

CUNY faculty care deeply about our students’ educational progress and classroom experience. As professors acquire more students, the incentive is to assign less work – fewer or shorter papers, fewer exams or assessments that are standardized for quick turnaround – but that is not in the students’ interest, and faculty absorb the brunt of the impact of defunding. Professors are not averse to staying up later at night to read the extra papers or write the necessary comments, but there are diminishing returns for everyone. Overtallies are a perhaps less visible or even ‘backdoor’ method of increasing class sizes, one that cheats our students and further squeezes underpaid instructors.

As state legislators weigh the merits of Governor Cuomo’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship, equal consideration should be given to educational quality as to access, and a substantial, long-overdue investment should be made in the City University.

***
James Davis, Ph.D., is a professor of English at Brooklyn College and Brooklyn College Chapter Chair of the Professional Staff Congress.

***
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