Sunday, December 17, 2023

Endowed Chairs and the "Dark Matter" of Higher Education

[The Higher Education Inquirer encourages college newspapers to explore their own schools for information on endowed chairs and to share it with us.]  

More than a century ago, Thorstein Veblen and Upton Sinclair critically exposed the structure and history of US higher education. Others have followed. Yet there is still much that the public doesn't know about the higher education business. Endowed chairs and their donors are one area of "dark matter" worthy of investigation. 

The Association of American Colleges and Universities estimated in 2011 that there were approximately 10,000 endowed chairs in the United States.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education reported in 2018 that the average endowment for a new chair position was $3 million. This suggests that there may be tens of thousands of endowed positions nationwide. 

A 2021 study by Inside Higher Ed found that there were over 8,500 endowed positions advertised on the Chronicle of Higher Education job board between 2016 and 2021.

While it may not be possible to determine the exact number of endowed chair positions in the US, it is clear that they play a significant role in supporting higher education and research.

Some highly controversial donors have been involved in funding endowed chairs, including the Sackler family, heirs to the Purdue Pharma fortune. 

Quid Pro Quo Arrangements

Determining the frequency of quid pro quo arrangements in creating endowed chairs is challenging due to the limited transparency and inconsistent reporting practices. However, several factors suggest that these arrangements may occur more often than publicly acknowledged.

Factors suggesting the prevalence of quid pro quo: 

Lack of transparency: Universities often lack clear and transparent guidelines regarding the creation and funding of endowed chairs. This lack of transparency creates fertile ground for potential quid pro quo arrangements. 

Donor influence: Donors offering significant financial contributions often have certain expectations, which may include influencing curriculum, research focus, or even faculty appointments. This can create pressure for universities to accommodate these expectations, even if they deviate from academic merit or institutional priorities. 

Competitive pressure: Universities face intense competition for funding, leading them to be more receptive to donors' demands, particularly when dealing with large sums. This creates a situation where donors can leverage their financial power to influence decisions.

Challenges in quantifying the frequency:
Subtle and indirect forms of influence: Quid pro quo arrangements can be subtle and indirect, making them difficult to identify and quantify. For instance, a donor may not explicitly demand specific research outcomes but might indirectly influence them through conversations, gifts, or other forms of pressure. 

Lack of reporting: Universities rarely disclose the details of their agreements with donors, making it difficult to assess the extent to which quid pro quo arrangements exist.

Fear of retaliation: Academics and university officials may be hesitant to come forward and report cases of quid pro quo due to fear of retaliation, further obscuring the true scope of the issue. 


Related links:

HEI Resources

The Business of Higher Education 

A People's History of Higher Education in the US?

One Fascism or Two?: The Reemergence of "Fascism(s)" in US Higher Education



Monday, November 27, 2023

Sotheby's Institute of Art on Department of Education's Heightened Cash Monitoring 2 List

Sotheby's Institute of Art (SIA) in New York City is one of only three institutions under the US Department of Education's Heightened Cash Monitoring 2 list for "financial responsibility" problems. 

SIA is owned by Cambridge Information Group, which is the parent company of ProQuest, The School of the New York Times, Hammond's Candies, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders minor league baseball team, and other investments. 

(Seven NY institutions were under HCM2. Source: US Department of Education)

According to the US Department of Education (ED), "schools may be placed on HCM1 or HCM2 as a result of compliance issues including but not limited to accreditation issues, late or missing annual financial statements and/or audits, outstanding liabilities, denial of re-certifications, concern around the school's administrative capabilities, concern around a school's financial responsibility, and possibly severe findings uncovered during a program review."

Also according to ED, "a school placed on HCM2 no longer receives funds under the Advance Payment Method. After a school on HCM2 makes disbursements to students from its own institutional funds, a Reimbursement Payment Request must be submitted for those funds to the Department." Schools in this position are often in such financial hardship that they may close.  

The September 2023 Heightened Cash Monitoring 2 list includes less than 100 schools nationwide and seven schools in New York. A disproportionate number of schools are small religious-based institutions and for-profit vocational colleges. 

Unlike most of the schools on the HCM list, Sotheby's has a prestigious name--and it uses its relationship with the auction house to elevate its brand. According to its vision statement, "Sotheby’s Institute of Art is the global leader in art world education, shaping future generations of cultural stewards and art market professionals."  

And according to its website "Sotheby’s Institute of Art alumni form a network of over 8,000 talented individuals around the world. Our graduates hold leading positions at renowned international arts organisations including Frieze, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, M+, the Institute of Contemporary Photography, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the Fine Art Group, the UK National Archives, Cartier, and numerous other galleries, auction houses, museums, luxury brands, art fairs, advisories, law firms and beyond."

The US Department of Education's College Navigator indicates that SIA's student population in the US is about 200. Tuition alone is $56,340 per year. The school's US faculty includes one full-time instructor and 35 part-timers. 87 percent of the students are female; 49 percent are Asian. The school only offers certificates and graduate degree programs. SIA's website does not appear to name any Board members.  

US Department of Education (IPEDS) data also suggest that SIA's expenses have surpassed revenues since 2016-17.  

(Source: US Department of Education)

The Higher Education Inquirer is in the process of gathering more information about the school's finances and whether students should be aware of the HCM status. Other schools on the list have recently closed or are in the process of closing, including Bay State College, King's College, and Union Institute.  

Related links: 

Ambow Education Facing Financial Collapse

A preliminary list of private colleges at risk

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Baby Boomers Turning 80: The Flip Side of the 2026 Enrollment Cliff (#medugrift)

While COVID eliminated hundreds of thousands of older Americans from the dependency rolls, higher education experts have not expressed the profound effect that the Baby Boomers reaching their 80s will have on state budgets. In 2026, the year we expect an enrollment cliff, the first Boomers will turn 80. Transfers of wealth will enrich the upper-middle class and the rich, but working-class folks will be further devastated. 

Some of this should not be surprising. US birth rates have been declining for more than six decades. And US inequality began widening about a decade later. 

It should also be unsurprising that younger adults have chosen to have fewer children. Non-immigrants have even fewer--below replacement level. We may not see a population decline soon, but it does change the composition of the US age pyramid (see images below).

This demographic phenomenon, of more older people and fewer young people to care for them, will strain state budgets that need more money for nursing homes and other forms of long-term care. It is taken for granted (from a medical perspective) that with aging in the US comes years of disease, advanced disability, and large medical costs with expensive pills, procedures, hospitalizations, and institutionalization becoming the norm. "Eds and meds" are major employers in most US cities. And ageism, ableism, and sedentary lifestyles make the situation worse. 

The CDC estimates that 80% of adults aged 75 and older have at least one chronic health condition, and 50% have at least two. Some of the most common chronic health conditions among older adults include heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, dementia among people in the US over 75 years of age is relatively common. In fact, they estimate that 6.2 million Americans aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer's dementia, which is the most common form of dementia. Additionally, they estimate that 700,000 Americans aged 65 and older are living with vascular dementia, which is the second most common form of dementia.The risk of developing dementia increases with age, and people over the age of 75 are at the highest risk.

There are a number of ways in which people over 75 in the US differ from elders in other countries. Some of the key differences include:

  • Health: Older adults in the US are more likely to have chronic health conditions and disabilities than older adults in other developed countries. For example, the US has the lowest life expectancy among wealthy countries, and the gap between the US and other countries widens as people get older.
  • Wealth: Older adults in the US are more likely to be living in poverty than older adults in other developed countries. For example, an estimated 6.2 million Americans aged 65 and older live below the poverty line.
  • Social support: Older adults in the US are less likely to have strong social support networks than older adults in other developed countries. For example, the US has a relatively high rate of social isolation among older adults.
  • Access to healthcare: Older adults in the US are more likely to have difficulty accessing affordable healthcare than older adults in other developed countries. For example, the US has a high rate of uninsured and underinsured older adults.

Robotics and other less human strategies to manage elders may reduce costs. However, unless there are dramatic cuts in the US healthcare system, K-12 education, and prisons, community colleges and non-flagship state universities are likely to face more austerity.  Suzanne Mettler described this budgetary strain in her 2014 book Degrees of Inequality.  It's almost ten years later and little has been done to prepare for this wave. 

States with large percentages of poor elderly may be harder hit.  This may include New Mexico (13.3%), Mississippi (12.4%), Louisiana: (12.4%), New York: (11.8%), Rhode Island: (11.2%), Texas: (11.1%), Florida: (10.6%), and California: (10.5%). 

Changing the inverting pyramid would have economic and political consequences. Forcing girls and women to have children may be more likely in 2023 than it was in 1973, but that's not likely to improve the human condition. Allowing more immigration does not appear politically feasible. And adding population to the US means more global environmental destruction--the ultimate rate limiting factor.



Related link:

"Let's all pretend we couldn't see it coming" (The US Working-Class Depression)

State Universities and the College Meltdown

Community Colleges at the Heart of College Meltdown