Governor Foster Furcolo and His Vision on Public Higher Education in Massachusetts

More than 2,000,000 students or almost 43% of the college level student population annually would never have the opportunity to attend public higher education in Massachusetts unless the Governor Foster Furcolo’s passionate and untiring struggle to set up 15 Community Colleges within the state was not successful in 1950s. As the Republicans’ Editorial correctly expressed in September 2009, his services were long forgotten by the politicians. In appreciation of his services Massachusetts general laws were amended, only two years back, to designate the 15 Community Colleges Collectively as the “Governor Foster Fucolo’s Community Colleges.” At a time when the private higher education was dominant, and had access mostly to the students from well to do families, Governor Furcolo opened the door for public higher education to those who could not afford to attend costly private educational institutes. He wanted the colleges to locate closer to communities, provide the education at a lower cost to the individuals as well as to the state, meet the demands of the rising manufacturing and service sectors, and to raise the income of families and the revenue of the state in the long run. The benefits of his intelligent foresight could be seen clearly in the Massachusetts economy and society today.

One of his aims was to provide opportunity for higher education for members from low income families who wanted to pursue their higher education. He wanted to reach immigrants, non- working adults, working men and women and disable people who wish to enhance their skills and engage in economic activities. The composition of student population at present shows how far the Governor Furcolo’s target groups reached and benefited from his community college movement. According to a recent economic impact report, the average household income of those students attended community colleges was less than US$ 36,000 per annum, and 60% of the financial aid recipients, particularly the Pell Grant recipients, were from families who earned less than US$ 18,600 per year.

Governor Furcolo saw the growing college age population in mid fifties, and the obstacles they had to get into higher education. His solution was to have a public higher education system to help this population, providing opportunity for them to engage in skill enhancing studies, on-part time, open enrollment basis, and if required with opportunity to enroll in remedial courses. Examination of the composition of student population in Community Colleges in Massachusetts shows that the majority belong to the part-time adult student groups. More than 61% of students in Community Colleges in Massachusetts are half time or quarter time students, and were over 25 years of age, Only 39% were full-time students and in the traditional college age group. Many of them required to have remedial courses such as Math and English, Writing and Reading prior to enrolling for college work. As to a recent study, based on 2005 high school students who entered the Community Colleges in Massachusetts, 37% in average, needed at least one remedial course prior to start work at the college level(Conaway 2008).

Achievement of Fucolo’s vision to make public college education affordable to poor families is evidenced from comparing cost for community college education with other college systems, even today. The national average for college tuition cost for public universities is $4,694 for in state residents. The tuition and fees in a private college is around $ 20,000 in the nation, while in a community college the cost is averaged to $ 2,076. The same pattern is observable in Massachusetts. The nature of the student population required higher education, as Furcolo viewed it, required a dispersed pattern of education facilities. Low distance to facilities save time, and reduce movement cost, reducing the overall cost to an individual, and also minimizing the disturbance to daily routines. Furcolo envisioned that the colleges are located at a commuting distance, so those who were busy with household as well as work place chores could attend them conveniently. Hence, his Public Higher Education Act in 1958 provided laws to set up state wide system of 15 Community Colleges throughout in Massachusetts. They have become the house for 46% of the college students in Massachusetts at present, and it is more than four times of the student enrollment in Higher education in 1950s (Burns 1995).

Fucolo understood the need of the skilled labor in the growing business and the manufacturing sectors at the time, and the responsibility of the public higher education to create a skilled labor pool, if Massachusetts was to be competitive and keep pace with the other states. The community Colleges, therefore, seen as the solution to the shortage of skilled manpower problem at the time. The skilled labor training is a core function of the community colleges even today. Comprehensive Regional Community Colleges in Massachusetts today offer an array of programs leading to associate degrees, certificates and vocational programs. They provide basic, continuing, and remedial courses for college age students and adults. They affiliate with schools, industries and work places and develop programs to improve the skills and the quality of labor helping to increase efficiency and productivity. Massachusetts Community colleges have pioneered an innovative, low- cost, state wide workforce training resource for business and industry called Mass* Net, and it helps to provide workforce training in 21 technological fields. According to a Community College information source more than 5000 work force development programs are yearly offered by Massachusetts Community Colleges. By providing, skilled manpower needs of the states industry, commercial as well as other service units, they have helped to increase income of the manufacturing units, individuals, and the State.

Governor Furcolo wanted to make the Community Colleges a “preparation ground” for higher education. One of the important missions of these colleges today is to facilitate their graduates to transfer to four year colleges which is also an important component of the most community college students’ educational aspirations. At present, Community Colleges have well designed programs and provisions to facilitate student transfers through transfer agreements, and bindings with four year colleges and universities. As a member of a Public Higher Education System, Quinsigamond Community College for example,maintains ties with all the Massachusetts four year colleges and universities and facilitate student transfers through Mass Transfer program introduced in 2008.This program helps for students through reduced tuition fees, and credit transfers, and make transfer process quick, smooth and affordable..

The economic impact of the Community Colleges on individuals, families, and business is clearly seen today in Massachusetts. A recent economic impact report estimated that the incremental annual income of the Community College graduates as US$ 21400 compared to non-graduates. Education also opens to opportunity for better jobs with better benefits.It has been estimated that 90% of the Massachusetts Community College graduates working in the state after their graduation in business, industry, or other services, and the income they generate hence spent mostly within the state. This means that the state is able to generate more revenues taxing the personal income of the community college graduates working in the state. Further, the expenditure in Community Colleges has created a multiplier effects and further regional growth as to various studies. These colleges help also the local economies to sustain their economic activities through spending of students and visitors, and workers. Thus the Community Colleges in Massachusetts have become a growth engine for the state according to the same economic impact report mentioned earlier.

Governor Foster Furcolo ‘s foresight on Public Higher Education as discussed in this essay have helped many poor, and low income young as well as adult students to enter into higher education. The personal income of those who educated these colleges has increased due to their higher education, and also the income of the state through income tax revenues. Those graduates have become the greatest source of skilled man power, for industries and business to thrive in Massachusetts. Governor Furcolo should be viewed as a great serviceman who served Massachusetts, and embrace his visions in the future as The Republican Editorial remarked in September 2009.

Creating Quality in Higher Education Admissions: Increasing Institutional Effectiveness

Quality in Higher Education

Higher education is a service. Defining quality in a service can be more difficult than defining quality for a product. Quality in service has to do with accomplishing objectives while at the same time satisfying the customers’ perceptions of the service. Delivering quality can be difficult as objectives and perceptions change as the needs for customers change.

Many colleges have departments dedicated to quality assessment and improvement, focused on the institution as a whole. Quality in college admissions is required to make sure the student and school are a good fit for each other. Ensuring the best fit between school and student improves retention and ensures that the student is prepared for the area of study. Students who become part of a degree program is a good fit helps in leading people into a good fit for future profession in the area that the student is pursuing their studies.

Institutional Effectiveness

There is an increased emphasis on institutional effectiveness for higher education. Institutional effectiveness measures the percentage of graduates that receive jobs within their field of study from each institution. The growing concern over institutional effectiveness comes from the combination of high unemployment rates, concerns with student loans, and the national level of student loans.

The use of intuitional effectiveness gives students and schools a qualitative measure of quality among colleges. Colleges can benchmark their institutional effectiveness as compared to similar colleges. When superior results for a similar college are identified; other colleges can study that college as a model of how to improve their own institution. Higher education institutions can become aware of what programs are performing best in placing students into jobs after graduation; the results may indicate an area that the school can give more emphasis.

Quality in Advertising

Institutions can promote quality through advertising. Informing potential students how the college and degree programs attempt to achieve the potential students desires can achieve quality. For example if a student would like to become a mechanic, the school can illustrate how they are qualified to help a student become a mechanic. The advertisement could discuss the background of the college and the instructors. The advertisement could give examples of past students results after finishing the program. The ad could include information about the programs institutional effectiveness.

Colleges can proactively pursue students that are a good fit for the institution through accurate advertisements and promotions. The promotional material can take a bigger emphasis on what career the programs prepare the student for instead of promising career possibilities. Advertisements can be targeted the segment of students that would be ideal candidates for the program with information in promotional material that discusses the type of student the program was designed for.

The content of advertisements are of extreme importance to convey accurate information and set expectations for students and parents; however, where colleges advertise is of extreme importance also. It would be better for Seminaries (graduate school for pastors) should target people that are involved in a specific church or denomination. For the colleges that work with traditional students should advertise among young adults aged 16-20, where as schools geared towards non-traditional students would target an older demographic.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements can assist in ensuring proper alignment between the college and potential student. Admission requirements that help ensure proper alignment can include grade point average (GPA), assessment results, essays, reference letters, or experience. The college needs to understand their typical student and their challenges. Some colleges specialize in helping underprepared students excel through specialized programs to prepare those students for further academic programs and vocational aptitude. The college needs to define whom the school fits in demographic and academic terms.

An essay that requires the student to explain their motivation for applying to the school and why they are a good candidate allows the admissions counselor to make a judgment about institutional fit and at the same time allows the applicant to internalize and express how their goals align with the colleges. Essays can indicate the potential students ability to follow instructions for writing papers and indicate their grammatical ability. The entrance essay can indicate the student’s level of motivation, if the application process becomes delayed by the essay requirement that indicates that the student either needs encouragement, further educational support, or lacks the motivation to the complete the essay in a timely manner.

The GPA requirement can vary among schools depending on the degree and type of school. The requirement varies from a minimum GPA to be able to perform college level work to more specific transcript and grade requirements. The minimal purpose would be to not admit student who appear to be incapable of performing college level work an school policy that closely relates to entrance GPA. Other programs may need to see an overall good GPA in addition to specific grades and types of classes taken, in the case of engineering degrees.

Reference letters help colleges see if anyone will vouch for you and who vouches for you. To ensure proper good institutional effectiveness the school would like to see that the student has already begun to network in the right places or that they are least networked. What a school many times does not want to deal with someone who creates problems everywhere they go and has no one willing to refer them.

Assessment results typically come from SAT or ACT achievement test. Schools that work with older non-traditional students will many times find other assessments because of the time lapse from when the student was in school and when they were last assessed. Although assessment results are important, they are a piece of the whole picture of the student’s ability and fit for an institution.

The experience admission requirement helps ensure that the student has the ability to perform the profession that the school will be teaching. Many degree programs do not have specific experience requirements, however, the experience aspect can be imperative for some degree programs. Several programs that require experience are MBA (Masters of Business Administration), MFA (Masters of Fine Arts), and other specialty programs for both undergraduate and graduate levels.

The admission requirements help the school identify ideal students for the their program. Many times schools find their specific niche appeals to a specific type of student looking for a specific program. Once the student and the programs for the school are identified, the school can create programs to increase the effectiveness of the pairing of the school and the student. For instance if a school specializes in educating underprepared students the college can create methods to help the student through programs, remedial classes, tutoring, and vocational preparation. The schools can also build sections of the needed training into the curriculum of the classes.

Continuous Improvement

The need for continuous improvement in the quality of higher education admissions will help universities to adapt to the changing needs of the school and students. The expectations for higher education have changed over the years to have a vocational emphasis, which merits different assessment of effectiveness than how education was assessed in the past. Quality in admissions will help align the goals for the school and student to accomplish the shared goals. For example the current trend of measuring education institutions by the percentage of graduates acquiring jobs in that should lead Universities to cultivate relationships with employers in the areas that the school specializes in.

Conclusion

Quality in admissions for higher education comes from proper alignment between the student and the school. This alignment should be cultivated in an enrollment and marketing plan that clearly articulates the unique programs the school offers and excels. The plan should also include the detailed segmentation of ideal students. The increased attention on higher education’s effectiveness comes from marketing schools as one sized fits all for one-sized fits all students. The needs for the alignment will change as the students needs change while at the same time different industries will change.

The difficult part would be to focus on unique programs instead of popular programs. For schools to stand out from other schools they must provide something in a way that another college does not offer. Many schools will want to offer the popular and general education courses to not loose potential students while at the same time they will need to place emphasis on their unique programs.

One of the challenges would be the impression of higher educations view of the admissions office. The admissions office needs to be able to advise schools on issues further than sales and marketing. Specifically, with higher education admissions, academics, institutional effectiveness, and educational rigor are all interconnected. The more emphasis that colleges place on their unique programs coupled with admission requirements that admit the best students for the programs will increase the colleges retention and institution effectiveness numbers. With better retention and institution effectiveness, the school will attract more ideal students, which will create a stronger program. Implementing quality seems difficult in the beginning and requires support from senior leaders. However, the difficulties are worth the results.

How Can Cloud Computing Impact Higher Education Positively in Africa?

One could define cloud computing as an internet based computing where by shared resources, software and information are provided for computers and devices on demand. A lot of people have talked about cloud computing. Their ideas have summed up the basic task of cloud computing. Steve Jobs, late chairman of Apple (1997) said “I don’t need a hard disk in my computer if I can get to the server faster… carrying around these non-connected computers is byzantine by comparison.”

Currently, cloud computing has become a significant and major trend both big and small businesses, governments, individuals use cloud computing to make everyday life less complicated. One aspect of society which is strongly influenced by the concept of cloud computing is Education. Nelson Mandela once said that ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ Education is one essential tool which every individual is entitled to.

Before the introduction of cloud computing, the process of gaining Higher education was tedious and stressful one. Students and faculty were both faced with all sorts of dreary tasks like… ‘I WONT DO ALL THE WORK FOR YOU. Go look for said tasks’.

This is where the benefits of cloud computing comes in to make education less stressful on both to students and teachers. Since this paper is targeting higher education in Africa, let us discuss the roots of education in Africa. Africa is a continent that is in the process of figuring out its path in education in relation to advanced technology.

Cloud computing has the potential to change the face of Education in Africa while ensuring that everyone gets access to said education. Africa is made up of a lot of countries, some being much developed than others in terms of technology in education. But the baseline is ‘how can cloud computing effectively benefit and impact higher education in Africa?’

• It allows students to have access to learning materials from any location
• It facilitates the day to day operations of institutions that provide this service
• It helps teachers easily keep track of student progress
• Allows for easy identification and authentication meaning only those supposed to have access to materials and other stuff will as opposed to books and paper records where anyone can have access

With the integration of cloud computing services into higher education in Africa, the use of textbooks, hard copy papers on journals and handwritten notes will be at its minimal. Notes, articles and all other soft copy documents can be retrieved from the cloud server at any time to use. Students do not have to carry heavy books around any more. All reading material that has a soft copy can be uploaded to the cloud.

Also, the use of floppy disk, external hard drives, pen drives will be used less or possibly not all. Instead of carrying around these items that will contain your important documents, you can easily access it from your cloud provider. Currently almost all software supports the cloud. Adobe and others like Microsoft have made provision for these services and it is so convenient for individual use. So, you forgetting your flash drive somewhere and not having access to your documents will not be happening any more or your document being corrupted. You can have access to your documents anywhere at any time. Also, it will save a student’s money… You don’t need to spend money on a flash drive or an external.

To the benefit of both the teacher and the student, issuing assignments have become really simple and every student is assured of having access to it. The problem with copying assignments from friends is that the information is not always accurate. There is something always missing. So now, whether you are in class or not, a student is assured of having access to assignments in its original correct form. There is no need for a stack of printed assignments to be distributed to over a hundred students for instance.

It is not just the staff and the student body that can enjoy from the cloud. Administration of the school can also benefit from the cloud. School administration can send notices concerning the students via the cloud. Instead of pasting papers and postures on the notice boards, it can be uploaded to the cloud for easy access. How easy is that?

Technically, everyone benefits from the cloud. Last but not the least; virtual classrooms have become realistic in the African higher institutions using the cloud. On-line courses can now be put in full force because every activity, research notes, lecture voice tutorials, assignments and all relevant documents can now be uploaded to the cloud. All students can have full access to the same information at all times. With this, people who cannot attend class like regular students due to day time jobs or other related events can equally have access to information just as a regular student does.

I am concentrating on higher education because that is the level of education in Africa where the cloud concept can be effectively implemented. They have access to technological infrastructure like phones, laptops, tablets etc. that can support the use of the cloud and it is quite feasible to be implemented at this level.

There are still challenges related to implementing the use of the cloud in the higher education but it is a process that looks achievable. As Benjamin Franklin said ‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest’.