On Course Archives
On Course, January/February 2000
In planning for upcoming Sector Meetings as part of the University-wide Mission Review, we reflected on the process to date, on the value that this effort has brought even prior to its completion. Without question, one of the most prominent examples of this initiative’s progress is the outcome of six Regional Meetings, recently held throughout the State.
Bringing groups of campuses together by geographic region vividly highlighted the strength of the University, not only as a grouping of very fine institutions, but as a system, where issues and concerns can in fact mesh in a collaborative discussion to benefit the whole.
Highlighted briefly in our last issue of On Course, these sessions uniquely provided a formal setting for campus and system leaders to come together in setting priorities, addressing challenges and identifying opportunities.
We watched, for example, as an ideal transfer path was identified between a desktop publishing program being planned at a two-year institution and a proposed graphics program at a nearby four-year institution (encouraging cooperation and coordination at the very earliest stage). Another institution’s concern about the purchase of costly, but necessary, software was met by interest from a regional peer in exploring joint contract negotiations to bring costs down. We heard two-year institutions talk about the challenges their students face with intra-SUNY transfer and saw four-year institutions respond with a commitment to improve communication and resolve concerns. Would these issues have come to light outside of Mission Review? Maybe. But not as readily, and certainly not in a setting with so many focused participants contributing to and refining introduced ideas. These meetings also provided a rare opportunity to discuss relevant regional data. My office prepared detailed information on academic programming, transfer within the University, high-school graduation rates, population statistics, labor projections and more, for each meeting – an effort that sparked extensive and fruitful dialogue.
At its conclusion, the Mission Review process will have a significant impact on the academic quality of the University and I look forward to reporting on its substantive outcomes – from selectivity and enrollment patterns to priorities for academic program planning. But in the interim, it is individual elements of the process, like Regional Meetings, that stand out as success stories, as examples of a system becoming stronger.
Good things are happening at the University because we are working together to make them happen.
For the first time in its history, the University’s 2000-2001 budget request includes an allocation to fund merit-based performance. This proposed funding coincides with the ongoing efforts of the Provost’s Advisory Task Force on Performance Indicators, as it prepares to make its final recommendations.
By way of background, merit-based funding was envisioned as a component of the University’s multifaceted Budget Allocation Process (BAP) – the methodology for allocating State funds to State-operated campuses. As part of the initial roll-out of the BAP, the Provost’s Office was charged with the development of measures that would be used to allocate a certain percentage of funding tied specifically to performance – to be phased in upon completion.
In response to that charge, the Task Force on Performance Indicators was empaneled and given responsibility for the development of indicators that, within the context of campus mission, would:
Comprising academic vice presidents, chief business officers, deans, faculty and institutional research officers, the Task Force includes representatives from all sectors of the University. "After much deliberation within the Task Force and an extensive analytic effort within the System’s Institutional Research area, we are preparing our final recommendations to the Provost – for review by the Chancellor and broader University community," said Gary Blose, Officer-In-Charge for Institutional Research, Office of Academic Affairs, and current Task Force Chair.
Blose emphasized the importance of the data sources that would drive the indicators. "I am very pleased with the solid foundation we were able to build through multiple analyses of the University’s own data sets as well as through the purchase of two different national databases; tracking performance in the areas of both funded and scholarly research."
Briefly, for each of the three areas to be measured, discussions have centered on a number of different data sets and methodologies. "For example, in exploring student achievement, we could look at: (1) subscales developed from the 1997 Student Opinion Survey results, including quality of the academic/classroom experience, overall satisfaction with the college and satisfaction with personal growth and career preparation; (2) data on graduation rates using a sophisticated methodology to adjust for academic and demographic characteristics of students; and (3) data on the success of transfer students for each campus."
It is proposed that each of the three areas to be measured – student achievement, faculty achievement, and overall campus quality respectively – will be independently funded. In each of the three categories, campuses have the potential to receive funding for excellence and significant improvement (in a later funding cycle).
"While the current focus of this initiative is State-operated campuses, the Task Force has indicated that it will recommend the adoption of parallel measures and rewards for community colleges, reflecting differences between institutions and the populations they serve," said Blose. "For example, graduation rates at 2-year institutions need to be viewed very differently from those at traditional baccalaureate granting institutions, and any methodology used in evaluating them needs to recognize these differences."
In outlining next steps, Provost Salins said, "It is anticipated that there will be a series of presentations outlining the conceptual basis of the Task Force recommendations, followed by incorporation of suggested modifications from the University’s constituencies and governance bodies. Subsequently, we will move forward with recommendations regarding the allocation of available funds."
Since its inception in 1985, the SUNY Student Opinion Survey has served as a valued resource in allowing analysis of a broad range of student services and programs. Going forward, as noted in the article above, survey results will be used as one source of data for the University’s merit-based performance funding initiative.
Administered every three years, the survey was designed in cooperation with the American College Testing Service (ACT) and asks students to rate virtually every facet of institutional operation, from quality of instruction and library facilities to registration and campus activities. "The information gained from the SUNY/ACT Student Opinion Surveys has been valuable in identifying needed improvements in the substance and delivery of academic and student services," said Wendell G. Lorang, Director of Institutional Research at the University at Albany. "These surveys also provide a means for students to express ‘quality of life’ concerns. Living-learning programs, faculty mentors, freshmen seminars, special interest housing, faculty development initiatives, residence hall improvements, and technological enhancements are just some of the changes influenced by studies based on SOS survey data. The Survey is an important component of our assessment program."
The 2000 administration of the Survey, conducted in partnership between the Office of University Life and the Office of the
Provost, and at the recommendation of the System-wide Student Opinion Advisory Committee, will take place in the period from
Administration guidelines were recently sent to all campuses and include a new call for standardization of sampling and administrative processes, to maximize the quality and validity of the data. "Specifically, we are recommending an in-class administration," said Gary Blose, Officer-In-Charge for Institutional Research. "Clearly, campuses have flexibility in this process, but there is significant benefit in achieving a certain level of standardization, particularly as the aggregate data will be used for a common purpose."
With 10 of its 13 comprehensive colleges and one of its four University centers originating as "normal schools" or teacher’s colleges, the State University maintains historic strength in the field of teacher preparation. Through programs at 16 institutions (15 State-operated campuses and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell), the University accounts for approximately 40% of all college- and university-recommended teaching certificates granted by the State Education Department. Further, more than 95% of all SUNY students pass State licensing exams, a collective pass rate higher than the State averages for private and other public institutions.
Teacher preparation is a professional field broadly discussed at the State and national level and one that is facing significant change: new State regulations with broad programmatic impact have been issued (additional Regents regulations regarding certification are expected in February); there exists recognized teacher shortages in certain content areas and geographic locations; and expectations with regard to K-12 student performance have increased. In addition, discussions continue about proper curricular balance between content and pedagogy courses and the design of appropriate field experiences for perspective teachers.
This spotlight on teacher preparation also comes at a time when the University’s own Mission Review process has focused on the academic quality of key programs, including those in teacher education. "In many ways, the University is uniquely positioned not only to meet changing expectations, but to emerge as a national leader in teacher preparation," said Provost Salins.
Faculty and administrative leaders at University campuses with teacher preparation programs work closely with the State Education Department and are actively preparing to meet the new Regents requirements (including a required general education core in eight subject areas, a content core, and accreditation by a nationally recognized teacher education accrediting agency). Specifically, campuses are working to meet the April 1 application deadline for submitting revised classroom teaching programs. "Colleges need their programs registered by the Fall 2000 semester in anticipation of the deadline for full implementation of new policies in 2004," said Provost Salins. "These submissions are only our first level of response to new requirements; they will be complemented with further program reforms that build on existing efforts and enhance existing strengths."
The Advisory Council on Teacher Education was established to serve as a resource on several levels: in meeting new and upcoming Regents regulations, to expand the forum in which relevant issues are discussed and to position teacher education as a priority issue within the University. "I have asked the Council to explore the many issues relating to teacher preparation and to make recommendations with regard to possible University-wide programs and policies," said Provost Salins.
According to Hubert Keen, Special Assistant to the Provost and Co-Convener of the Council, the group has been divided into four subcommittees – with some cross-fertilization of issues – in an effort to assure that its broad charge is successfully met (the formal charge to the Council is available on-line at:
(1) Subcommittee on Urban Education
(2) Subcommittee on Supply and Demand
(3) Subcommittee on Curriculum and Programs
(4) Subcommittee on Program Quality
In fulfilling its mandate, the Council will make use of existing literature and research, the Provost’s commissioned study on teacher education prepared by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, as well as a group of external advisors with prominent expertise in the field. The Council is comprised of campus presidents, provosts, deans of education, arts and sciences deans, and faculty from both education and arts and sciences in an effort to bring together broad University expertise.
As of this writing the Council is planning its second meeting and is expected to work throughout the spring and early summer. Members include:
"If you believe that education makes a fundamental difference in the lives of students, not only with regard to career preparation, but in human development; if you believe that an educated person – exposed to a broader understanding of the world in which he or she lives – has the potential to become a better citizen, a better neighbor or a better employee as a result of that education, then you understand the value of Opportunity Programs," said Deidre Clark, who carries out planning and policy development at the System level for the University’s Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP).
A State-funded program, formally provided for in education law, EOP combines access, academic support and supplemental financial assistance in an effort to help capable students attend college, despite limited financial resources and deficits in prior preparation.
Since its inception in 1967, Educational Opportunity Programs within the State University – modeled after the SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge) program begun at CUNY in the late 1960s and comparable to the HEOP program run at private institutions – have expanded to include 47 campuses, with a collective current enrollment of approximately 11,000 students. According to Associate Provost Robert James, head of the System EOP office, the program is open to full-time freshman and transfer students at the two- and four-year level who meet State residency requirements and both of the following criteria: (1) "economic disadvantagement" as defined by State income guidelines; and (2) ineligibility for admission under traditional standards, while importantly, still demonstrating the potential for completing a college program.
The student population within the University’s 47 programs is diverse, including students from urban, suburban and rural backgrounds. Further, EOP students’ level of preparation is reflective of each institution’s admissions standards (varying from programs at University centers to those at community colleges). James added that the scope of the program also varies by campus, "Some campuses are able to expand services using their own resources or external funding – both efforts we strongly encourage."
According to James, the Educational Opportunity Programs office within System Administration is charged with providing program leadership and ensuring the effectiveness, quality and growth of the University’s EOP programs. Office staff in addition to James and Clark includes associates Larnell Flannigan and Tony Belcher and support staff Gail Guynup and Margaret McCargo. Responsibilities range from fiscal planning (including budget allocation and review of campus fiscal plans) to evaluation and oversight of enrollment targets, performance standards and accountability measures.
Effective administration of the University’s Educational Opportunity Programs requires extensive collaboration with campus administrators and EOP personnel. "We are committed to the training and professional development of our campus program directors and we are constantly seeking new ways to ensure creativity and efficiency in operation," said James. Collaboration is encouraged between campuses as well as with directors from states with similar programs, like New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
"Last year’s budget allocation included an increase in EOP funding that allowed us to launch a unique initiative," said Clark. "We solicited campus applications for funding support of best practices. From a campus-wide learning community for EOP students to the fostering of one-on-one relationships with faculty through research projects, this effort will bring tangible benefit to a large number of students and has generated real excitement on the campuses." Clark added that such creative initiatives are essential. "Financial support to students also remains an important element of EOP, but is no longer a foundation piece of a student’s financial aid package. As college costs have increased, funding largely has not. For example, 20 years ago, a $500 per semester grant met a significant part of a student’s financial need; today, on many campuses, that same grant may merely cover the cost of books."
Office priorities for the future include ongoing exploration of ways to improve existing services and gain maximum benefit from existing resources. "One example of a priority area is technology," said Clark. "Many of our students have never had access to computers or the Internet and we need to assist them in adjusting to an environment where technology serves as both a teaching tool and a significant influence on faculty expectations of students."
James cited EOP as a State program that more than pays for itself in generating resources for New York. EOP alumni now lead successful careers as physicians, teachers, scientists, engineers, attorneys, entrepreneurs and more. And many have returned to the University as administrators and counselors, supporting another generation of EOP students.
"EOP students – many of whom simply could not have continued their education without this program – have gone on to make substantial contributions to their communities and to the tax base of this State," said Provost Salins.
Faculty Senate Conference
The SUNY Faculty Senate is currently accepting registrants for its conference on Academic Freedom, March 31 to April 1, 2000. To be held at the University at Albany campus, the conference is designed to examine some of the challenges associated with maintaining academic freedom as a central value in American higher education. Walter Metzger, Professor Emeritus of Columbia University, will serve as the conference’s opening speaker. Cary Nelson, Daphne Patai, Harvey Silverglate and others, whose recent writings have sparked the contemporary debates on this issue, will join representatives from the University, including Trustee Randy Daniels, President Sean Fanelli of Nassau Community College, Professor Michael Zweig of Stony Brook, as well as Bill Scheuerman of UUP, in addressing the group. Requests for registration forms (to be received by February 28th) can be made via E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The conference fee is $50.