Shared-governance Strained by Conflicting Goals

Stunned by Accreditor, City College of San Francisco Faces Hard Choices (Chronicle of Higher Education, July 7, 2013)

…the financial troubles have a story behind them: The City College [of San Francisco] has a diverse but ultimately unwieldy governance structure, in which faculty members play an unusually powerful role, according to the accrediting agency.  With the power of their shared-governance system, faculty members helped ensure their priorities as the City College coped with sharp reductions in state financial assistance during the recession. Such decisions included protecting an abundance of noncredit courses, which employ faculty members but generate less revenue…”

Mr. Shireman, a former top official in the U.S. Education Department, said the City College’s broad course catalog in part reflects its unusual role as a designated provider of adult education in San Francisco, a function handled in most cities by the elementary and secondary schools.  But over all, he said, the union has been part of a divisive leadership structure at City College, in which faculty members have been overly fearful of community colleges’ focusing too tightly on job training. Some faculty members have suggested that is [the accrediting agency’s] real agenda, with the commission part of a conservative strategy to narrow the mission of publicly financed education.


As costs rise and revenues remain flat, reduced or decline, faculty will feel increasing pressure to reduce the scope of their institutions missions or find new ways to lower costs while maintaining services and programs.  Those faculty already working with new models for learning development and delivery will have the ‘early adopter’ advantage over faculty who insist that change occur solely on their terms.  Faculty who find and champion new ways to increase access, quality and student success will be the leaders of the New Learning ecosystems.


The shift toward digital doesn’t spell the end of print…(right)!

Publisher’s Bankruptcy Filing comes as Market for Print Textbooks Shrinks (Chronicle of Higher Education, July 2, 2013)

Cengage Learning Inc., one of the nation’s largest publishers of textbooks and other educational content, filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, seeking relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code for what it said was about $5.8-billion in outstanding debt. The move will not only reduce that debt but allow Cengage to restructure to support its “long-term business strategy of transitioning from traditional print models to digital educational and research materials,” the company said in a written statement.  [Market changes driving this action] include a rise in textbook rentals and “the open-source materials that are being pushed by large states like California,” he said. “Some of the trends that caused this are putting pressure on all publishers who publish for an academic audience.”


When publishers continue to focus on harvesting value for legacy products and formats they are putting the future of their business – and their markets – at risk.  While the decline of print is a definite trend in educational content, the speed and impacts are critical uncertainties for academicians.  Publishers are strong partners – with robust resources – and will have continuing roles as the need for greater use and efficacy of (and thus more expensive) assessments (especially those in digital modes) become more common.

As curricula commoditize, prices will fall and profits shrink

From: Samsung Cuts Its Forecast as Sales Growth Slows for Its Costliest Smartphones (New York Times, July 4, 2013)

Samsung Electronics may be having the same problem Apple has: nearly everyone in the world who can afford an expensive smartphone has one already.  But for Samsung, the real problem may be that much of the growth in smartphone sales in coming years will be at the lower end of the market, where Chinese manufacturers are gaining share. Samsung simply does not have the most appealing models for those consumers. As smartphones become increasingly commoditized, prices will fall and profit margins will shrink.


While many academics question the relevance of business models when predicting academic transformation – instructional models are increasingly looking like – and behaving like business models.  The impact of cost-efficient instructional innovations, especially in the general education space, imply lower tuition rates ahead for postsecondary providers that cannot leverage unique benefits or high brand value.