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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Louisiana's higher education formula seems unfair to Southern

A member of the panel looking at ways to revamp Louisiana's public college systems questioned the state university budgeting formula Tuesday and suggested it could be shortchanging Southern University.

The comments from Lezli Baskerville, an appointee to the Postsecondary Education Review Commission, came in a wide-ranging discussion the panel had about university funding in the state as it considers recommendations for cutting costs amid years of projected budget woes.

Baskerville said the commission should consider whether to recommend that cuts fall more heavily on schools with larger endowments and more private donations, instead of colleges like Southern, which has fewer resources to cushion the blow.

"If you treat things equally, they will not necessarily be equitable," she said.

Colleges received budget cuts this year at least partially based on a performance-based formula that uses benchmarks — like student graduation rates, curriculum costs and research work — rather than just student enrollment.

The three-campus Southern University System, the nation's only historically black university system, took a larger percentage cut than the three other public college systems in the state, said Baskerville, president of the National Association For Equal Opportunity.

Southern's course offerings and smaller number of graduate students contributed to the size of cut the system received under the funding formula, said Donnie Vandal, deputy commissioner for finance for the Board of Regents. He also noted that Southern's funding levels have been high when compared to similar institutions.

Baskerville said without comparability in funding, state officials shouldn't expect comparability in the performance of schools.

"We've got disparities in faculty salaries, disparities in infrastructure, disparities in a range of things, including outcomes," she said. "Everything in the chain of getting to the outcome is not equal."

She also said it costs more to educate students who are low-income, first generation college students, who she said make up a larger portion of the student population at Southern, compared to many other schools.

The 13-member higher education commission is combing through the details of Louisiana's university systems, looking for efficiencies, cost-cutting moves and restructuring ideas. The panel, created by the Legislature, is packed with national and regional higher education experts. Its report is due to the Board of Regents by Feb. 12.

The commission hasn't made any recommendations so far. State Sen. Ben Nevers, chairman of the commission, said recommendations to merge or close campuses, restructure governance or make cuts will be debated in later commission meetings, which are scheduled monthly.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Morgan protests planned online Ph.D. program

Morgan State University has objected to the creation of a doctoral program for aspiring community college administrators at the University of Maryland, University College, raising questions about how the state will handle competition between traditional universities and their online peers.

Morgan offers a similar degree and has told the Maryland Higher Education Commission, which would have to approve the program, that UMUC could lure students away, in violation of civil rights precedents set by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Though the standoff is reminiscent of Morgan's 2005 fight to prevent Towson University and the University of Baltimore from creating a joint MBA program, it's complicated by UMUC's status as a predominantly online institution.

The higher education commission has already said that UMUC can offer the program to students outside Maryland. So if Morgan wins this fight, a state university could offer a doctorate to students from 49 states but not to students from Maryland.

"It doesn't make sense," said William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland. "I'm not aware of another instance in which an online degree has been considered duplicative of a face-to-face program. I think there's an important principle at stake here."

Secretary of Higher Education James E. Lyons Sr. said he will deliver his decision on the matter at the commission's next meeting in late September. UMUC could then appeal to the commission if Lyons decides against its request.

"This is a very complicated issue," Lyons said. "Far more so than the MBA issue with Towson."

Lyons said he is looking at many issues, from the possible demand for the program to the similarities between courses at each university. He asked the attorney general's office for an opinion on the civil rights implications.

He downplayed the potential impact on overall relations between traditional and online programs.

A Morgan spokesman did note that classes for the university's doctoral track meet on weekends and that the program, which has 69 students, is geared to working people, much like the proposed UMUC program.

Kirwan said UMUC created its program at the request of the American Association for Community Colleges, which forecasts a growing need for administrators because of booming enrollment and the impending retirement of many current campus leaders.

UMUC, based in Adelphi, is a perfect candidate to meet the need because of its flexible course schedules and worldwide reach, the chancellor said.

If Morgan's objection stands, Kirwan said, "it puts at risk the ability of an institution to deliver programs in areas where online degrees are needed."

One member of the Board of Regents, David Nevins, said a duplication dispute involving an online program was inevitable.

"All of us need to adapt for a changing world in which where one lives is less important and traditional classroom programs will be supplemented by online programs," he said. "It's probably good that this came up now, because we need to decide how we're going to deal with this as a state."

The Supreme Court has traditionally opposed the duplication of programs at historically black universities, arguing that it promotes segregation.

In the 1992 case United States v. Fordice, the Supreme Court held that, barring "sound educational justification," duplication of specialized and graduate academic programs at historically black and white colleges violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Morgan President Earl S. Richardson has used civil rights arguments to block more than a dozen proposed programs at area colleges in his 25 years at the university, including history and education programs at Towson and an electrical engineering major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. His effort to block the Towson/UB MBA program was unsuccessful, though the battle spread to the state legislature and local courts.

Morgan's MBA program has actually grown since then, from fewer than 30 students in 2005 to 86 this year, though the Towson/UB program is much larger.

Richardson has always said that he's interested in protecting a principle, not in obstructing the plans of other universities.

"Until and unless you stop duplicating programs, you will continue to have a racially segregated program of higher education in Maryland," said Aderson B. Francois, a professor at the Howard University School of Law.

Francois is assisting a coalition of Morgan alumni and others in a court case that seeks to eliminate the Towson/UB MBA program on civil rights grounds. Though he didn't know the specifics of the UMUC issue, he said he sees no reason why an online program would be different than a face-to-face one under the Fordice precedent.

"Online or not, all that matters is whether it's a non-core program that would duplicate an existing program" at a historically black college or university, he said.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Paul Quinn gets temporary injunction to maintain accreditation

Paul Quinn College won a temporary yet significant battle in preventing the college from having its accreditation removed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Inc. (SACS). Attorneys for the school secured a preliminary injunction that allows it to maintain its current accreditation status.

The document from the Atlanta Division of the United States District Court stated: “Paul Quinn College … is hereby reinstated to membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Inc ., (SACS-COC), in the same status it was in immediately before the action to remove it; that is, as a member on Probation.”

The injunction is pending until the final outcome and resolution of Paul Quinn’s case will be resolved. It’s not sure at this point of what further actions will be taken by SACS or the North District Court. The injunction will allow Paul Quinn to remain accredited during the pendency of its litigation against SACS – challenging efforts to remove accreditation from the 137-year-old college. As a result of the Aug. 27 order, Paul Quinn may continue to award degrees and distribute federal financial aid to students. Fall classes will begin as planned on October 5.

“The injunction allows Paul Quinn to continue serving students and the community in its full capacity, and represents another step toward securing the long-term future of this college,” said William A. Brewer III, partner at Bickel & Brewer Storefront and lead counsel for Paul Quinn. The law firm filed the injunction on Aug. 25 in Atlanta.

The accreditation dispute involving Paul Quinn has become among the most closely watched cases in higher education. SACS’ Commission on Colleges notified the school on June 25 that it was removing it from membership in the organization, and that decision was affirmed by an appeals committee on August 24.

The following day, the Bickel & Brewer Storefront filed a lawsuit in Atlanta federal district court and a motion seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.

The Storefront argued that SACS had violated Paul Quinn’s common law and statutory due process rights and that removing the school’s accreditation would represent “catastrophic and irreparable harm” for the institution, the oldest historically Black college in Texas. The filings demonstrate the extraordinary recent progress the school has made in its financial and administrative management – and cite ongoing concerns that SACS “made multiple material factual errors in connection with its assessment of [Paul Quinn’s] financial condition.”

The Storefront alleged that SACS violated the Higher Education Act by denying Paul Quinn the opportunity to “present new and significant financial information” relating to its accreditation appeal.

Paul Quinn President Michael J. Sorrell hailed the developments as a signal that the college would ultimately prevail in its legal challenge and ongoing pursuit
of accreditation.

“This is an incredibly important day in the history of Paul Quinn College,” said

“The message for our students, faculty, alumni and supporters is that we remain fully accredited, confident in our future, and focused on our goal of becoming one of America’s great small colleges.”

In spite of significant improvements under Dr. Sorrell, who took over as president in 2007, SACS still voted to revoke the school from its membership in June.

Paul Quinn immediately appealed and made their appeal presentation on Aug. 18. When SACS formally informed the college that it is upholding its decision on Aug. 25, Paul Quinn immediately filed for the injunction. Two experts hired by Bickel and Brewer, an accountant and a former higher education policy executive, both assessed that the school had actually complied with SACS’ requirements. An excerpt of the filed complaint reads: “The Decision that the College had not demonstrated its financial stability or availability of financial resources was based on erroneous findings with respect to the College’s account payables, operations and Maintenance costs, budget deficit and financial plan. Besides those erroneous factual determinations, there existed no other substantial evidence to support the Commission’s negative findings as they related to the College’s finances.”

The complaint further argued that SACS “Violated the due process rights by failing to follow its own standards and policies in reaching the decision to revoke the College’s membership,” plus that the college will suffer “irreparable harm” if accreditation is not granted.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Grambling faculty at odds with university president

Grambling State University's Faculty Senate delayed a no confidence vote on university President Horace Judson for the second time in a week.

Instead faculty senator fought among themselves over senate rules and procedure, and discussed whether the resolution could legally be presented than the resolution's actual merits.

Senate President Matthew Ware, who formed the three-member committee that created the resolution, said the meeting served its purpose.

"Don't think we didn't accomplish something today — we got through all of the discussion — so we'll be ready to vote at the next meeting," he said.

The resolution marks the first time in the school's 108-year history that faculty has moved for a resolution of no confidence in the university's president, Ware said, calling the meeting "extraordinary."

Similar to Tuesday's meeting, when only 14 of 40 senators showed up for a regularly-scheduled meeting, Thursday's meeting was sparsely attended.

Only a few more senators showed, along with a few faculty, all of whom were invited to attend the meeting.

Jimmy McJamerson, a history professor who helped draft the resolution, attributed the low turnout to senators' fear of reprisal from the administration.

"At historically black schools, if the person doesn't like you, he will fire you," McJamerson said. "That's the reason you don't have the majority of senators here."

Nonetheless, the Senate had a quorum and went forward with the meeting.

Martin Ayim, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Sports and Leisure Studies, said he opposes the resolution and wants faculty to air their grievances directly.

"If you are a faculty member and have a problem with the administration, go and talk to them," Ayim said.

"This resolution was drawn up over the summer and school has just started. We need more time. This is not the Grambling way. The intent might be good, but the process has been flawed. Let's dialogue with the administration and look at other ways of doing this," Ayim said.

McJamerson spoke out in favor of the resolution.

"It is a disgrace and a shame that the administration has treated Grambling and its faculty like they have no purpose at all," he said.

Early in the meeting, McJamerson, the Senate's parliamentarian, called campus police after he ruled that a faculty member who showed up in place of an absent senator would not be eligible to vote because the Senate does not allow proxy voters.

The man continually interrupted McJamerson and two police officers showed up. But they said the meeting was public and the faculty member had a right to be there.

The officers stayed in the room for the rest of the meeting.

The no-confidence resolution features a litany of allegations against Judson and his administrative team, including charges they have repeatedly refused to acknowledge and act upon the faculty's role of shared governance; the administration has usurped the faculty's role in developing the academic curriculum;

Judson has displayed an indifference to the concept of "Town and Gown" and through his actions sought to distance the university from the Grambling community; the administration had repeatedly and disproportionately favored administrators and staff over faculty with regard to salary adjustments; the administration hired people who do not have the best interest of the university in mind; the administration has not provided the appropriate resources for schools and colleges working toward re-accreditation; and the administration required faculty to work three weeks in August but only paid them for two weeks.

A no-confidence resolution carries only symbolic power, but it would be a strong statement from faculty against the leadership of Judson to the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors. School presidents serve at the pleasure of the board.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

NCCU Law named best value by law magazine

For the second consecutive ranking, the North Carolina Central University School of Law has been ranked as the No. 1 Best Value Law School in the Nation. The ranking by the National Jurist Magazine is based on affordability, bar passage rate and job placement.

“We are again honored to receive this recognition,” said Raymond Pierce, dean of the NCCU School of Law. “Our law school continues to take pride in the ability to provide a quality and affordable legal education for persons seeking to enter the legal profession.”