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Ohio’s Brain Drain
Reform of public higher education is intended to change perceptions and retain graduates

  In This Issue
 

Feature Articles
Ohio’s Brain Drain
Reform of public higher education is intended to change perceptions and retain graduates

Redesigning the Basics
Tennessee’s community colleges use technology to change their approach to developmental reading and math

Investing the Stimulus
Metropolitan State College of Denver uses federal funding to reposition itself for the future

New Teacher Education
Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation program brings change, one state at a time

News from the Center
Searching for Solutions
Recent Discussions of Key Higher Education Policy Issues

Editorial
Innovation and Public Trust
The public perceives colleges and universities to be unresponsive to their needs

Other Voices
Changing the Subject
Costs, graduation rates and the importance of rethinking the undergraduate curriculum

Access and Opportunity
This is a critical moment for public higher education, one that requires new approaches

E-Barbarians at the Gates?
Can an Internet-based education compare academically to a campus experience?


STEPHEN M. JORDAN, president of Metropolitan State College of Denver, meets with Adele Phelan, who chairs the board of trustees. The school’s “Rightsizing with Technology” initiative is expected to save or even generate money, while improving the overall student and faculty experience.
(full story)

By Jon Marcus

 
Ohio State University, with its main campus in Columbus, is part of the University System of Ohio, which was created in 2007 and includes 13 public universities, a medical college, and 23 community colleges.
 
BOWLING GREEN, OHIO

THREE HANDS RISE tentatively into the air from among nine students in a lecture hall at Bowling Green State University in rural northwest Ohio.

That’s the number of them—these three out of nine—who say that they expect to stay in Ohio when they graduate.

“Too cold,” says one of the students who didn’t raise his hand, as the others chuckle.

“Too boring,” pipes in another, provoking more giggles.

“No jobs,” says a third, much more seriously, eliciting a somber murmur of agreement.

Changing these students’ perception of Ohio, and Ohio’s about them, is at the heart of one of the most high-stakes and far-reaching reforms of public higher education in America—more dramatic still for coming in a part of the country where the economic recession is particularly severe, and at a time when even healthier states are shrugging off huge budget cuts to public universities and colleges.

Ohio’s governor, Democrat Ted Strickland, has bucked the trend by making public higher education a financial and political priority, on the grounds that educated graduates and laboratory research with commercial potential are the lynchpins of an economic comeback. And the universities themselves—unusually independent of each other in Ohio, and traditionally fiercely competitive—have slowly bowed to the pragmatism of collaboration, steered by a chancellor who is not shy about using new financial realities to prod them into it (along with public scrutiny that risks embarrassing any campuses that fail to meet his goals).
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Redesigning the Basics
Tennessee’s community colleges use technology to change their approach to developmental reading and math

 
   
By Kay Mills

 
Karen Wyrick, math department chairman at Cleveland State College in Tennessee, made the instructional videos that accompany the college’s redesigned developmental math courses.
 
CLEVELAND, TENNESSEE

TIFFANY WHITE, out of high school for 15 years, confesses that she was “really nervous” about taking algebra at Cleveland State Community College in southeastern Tennessee. “But I’ve surprised myself by doing better than I thought I would,” she said. She’s motivated because she was laid off from a manufacturing job last May and wants to become a legal assistant.

And she is helped along by a redesigned math program that uses technology to focus attention on the skills students need for college-level courses and lets them move at their own pace instead of in lockstep with classmates. White also likes the idea that, while she is at the computer in the math lab, “all day long somebody is here if I need help.”

White said that, while she had passed the writing placement test in about 13 minutes, after almost an hour she failed the math test. But halfway through the spring semester, she had already finished elementary algebra and had decided to move on to intermediate algebra.

Cleveland State, which is about 30 miles from Chattanooga, enrolled 3,471 students (2,329 full-time equivalent) this spring. Seven hundred students must take developmental math each semester because of gaps in their background. But in the past only 54 percent of them moved on.

“We’ve got 20 years of data to show that the lecture method of teaching doesn’t work,” said Karen Wyrick, math department chair. “We had too many kids failing. We had too many kids dropping out before they got through. This approach is quicker and saves money.” It also helps students complete the courses at higher rates. For example, the completion rate (that is, achieving a C or better) for elementary algebra was 50 percent before the redesign, 68 percent afterward. The intermediate algebra completion rate increased from 57 percent to 74 percent.

In addition, the overall college retention rate increased by seven percent in spring 2009. “That’s due to the math department,” Wyrick said.
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