A Compendium of Recent Research and Books of Interest to Higher Education Professionals


 The Small College Imperative: Models for Sustainable Futures

Mary B. Marcy (Stylus Publishing LLC, 2020)

The Small College Imperative details innovative ways that small colleges and universities are tackling challenges such as financial, demographic, and enrollment pressures in order to attract, serve, and retain today’s students. The book explores five emerging business and educational models that small colleges are using to thrive in these challenging times—traditional, integrated, distinctive program, expansion, and distributed—and examines the pros and cons of each. Mary B. Marcy profiles ten very different small colleges across the United States, each of which is pursuing one of these models: Agnes Scott College (GA), California Lutheran University, Chapman University, Colgate University, Dominican University of California, Furman University (SC), Southern New Hampshire University, Trinity Washington University, Utica College (NY), and Whitman College (WA). She then provides a template for making key decisions about the future of an institution, with questions that help contextualize the challenges and opportunities it is facing. She also highlights the ways in which small colleges and universities are expanding their vision of consortia and partnerships in order to enhance both fiscal and educational sustainability. Marcy is president of Dominican University of California and a former member of CIC’s Board of Directors. The book includes a foreword by CIC President Richard Ekman.

Academia Next: The Futures of Higher Education

Bryan Alexander (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020)

To envision how colleges and universities might transform over the next 20 years, this book examines current economic, demographic, political, international, and policy trends as they relate to higher education. It also explores developments within higher education, such as those related to enrollment, access, certification, academic labor, and libraries, focusing on change in educational technology. Bryan Alexander offers practical solutions for institutions to consider when addressing issues such as reduced public support, shrinking enrollments, and expanded digital opportunities; he argues that colleges and universities must take these trends seriously if they wish to improve their chances of survival. An internationally known futurist, researcher, author, speaker, consultant, and teacher, Alexander is a senior scholar at Georgetown University. He presented at CIC’s Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction and will be the keynote speaker for CIC’s 2020 Institute for Chief Academic Officers.

The College Stress Test: Tracking Institutional Futures across a Crowded Market

Robert Zemsky, Susan Shaman, and Susan Campbell Baldridge (Johns Hopkins University, 2020)

This book presents a candid and data-informed discussion about college and university closures. Using data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the authors present a “stress test” to estimate the market viability of more than 2,800 undergraduate institutions. The stress test relies on four key variables—new student enrollments, net cash price, student retention, and external funding—to gauge whether a college or university may be at risk of closure or merging with another institution. The book’s appendix includes a tool that institutions can apply, using their own IPEDS data, to assess their level of risk. The authors find that closings will not be as prevalent as many prognosticators predict and will likely impact relatively few students. To thrive, however, institutions should reconsider the curricula they deliver, the prices they charge, and their willingness to experiment with new modes of instruction. Robert Zemsky is a professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania and the author or coauthor of several books, including, with Susan Shaman, The Market Imperative: Segmentation and Change in Higher Education. Shaman is the former director of institutional research at the University of Pennsylvania. Susan Campbell Baldridge is a professor of psychology and former provost at Middlebury College (VT). Zemsky will discuss the book during CIC’s 2021 Presidents Institute.

The New American College Town: Designing Effective Campus and Community Partnerships

James Martin, James E. Samels, and Associates (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019)

This book provides a practical guide for planning a new kind of American college town—one where campuses and their surrounding communities partner to achieve collaborative objectives. After detailing 20 characteristics of new American college towns, the book features chapters co-written or written by presidents (including Mauri A. Ditzler of Albion College [MI] and CIC Board Chair Katherine Bergeron of Connecticut College), provosts, planners, mayors, architects, and association executives on how college town relationships are shaping new generations of students and citizens. The book traces ways town-gown relations are expanding into innovative areas nationally and internationally and includes action plans, lessons learned, and pitfalls to avoid in developing relationships between colleges and their extended communities. James Martin is a senior consultant at the Registry and a senior contributor at HigherEdJobs.com. James E. Samels is the CEO and president of the Education Alliance and the founder of Samels & Associates. They are the coauthors of seven books, including most recently Consolidating Colleges and Merging Universities: New Strategies for Higher Education Leaders.

Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto

Kevin M. Gannon (West Virginia University Press, 2020)

Written by an activist, teacher, and public intellectual, Radical Hope provides both a political and practical response to many of higher education’s current problems. Kevin M. Gannon suggests that universities approach the issues they face as opportunities for critical engagement and argues that, when done effectively, teaching can be emancipatory and hopeful. The book surveys the field, tackling a range of issues such as impostor syndrome, cell phones in class, and claims of a “free speech crisis” on campus. With the goal of reclaiming teachers’ essential role in the discourse of higher education, the book aims to translate ideals into strategies and practices. Gannon is director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and professor of history at Grand View University (IA). He writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education and speaks and consults on a range of topics. He also is a past participant in and presenter for CIC’s Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction.

Campus Counterspaces: Black and Latinx Students’ Search for Community at Historically White Universities

Micere Keels (Cornell University Press, 2020)

Campus Counterspaces explores how racial and ethnic identities structure black and Latinx students’ college transition experiences. After tracking a cohort of more than 500 black and Latinx students who enrolled at five historically white colleges and universities in fall 2013, Micere Keels found that these students did not ask to be protected from new ideas; rather, they wanted to be exposed to new ideas, to be intellectually challenged, and to grow. She also found that these students were asking for access to counterspaces—safe spaces that allow students to go beyond basic conversations about whether racism and discrimination still exist and that enable radical growth. In this critique of how universities have responded to the challenges students face, Keels suggests ways that universities can take concrete actions to support diverse student groups. Keels is associate professor in comparative human development at the University of Chicago and the founding director of the Trauma Responsive Educational Practices project.

The New Student Activists: The Rise of Neoactivism on College Campuses

Jerusha O. Conner (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020)

This book examines the new breed of student activist—uncompromising, focused, and connected “neoactivists,” who borrow from and build on the legacies of past generations of college student activists. Moving beyond stereotypes, the book offers insight into who these student activists are, including the causes they care about, the strategies they deploy, the factors that motivate them, and the impact they have had on their campuses and beyond. Jerusha O. Conner explores the social and educational influences on their sociopolitical development and reveals the fraught but mutually transformative relationship between higher education institutions and student activists today. Conner is an associate professor of education at Villanova University; she is a coeditor of Contemporary Youth Activism: Advancing Social Justice in the United States and Student Voice in American Education Policy.

Decisions: Practical Advice from 23 Men and Women Who Shaped the World

Robert L. Dilenschneider (Citadel Press Books, 2020)

Written by an expert in business strategies, this guide shares the choices of 23 notable, visionary decision makers and explains how to apply their principles to readers’ own personal and professional scenarios. The book examines decisions made by politicians, scientists, economists, inventors, entrepreneurs, theologians, activists, and commanders of war and peace ranging from Harry Truman and Henry Ford to Marie Curie and Malala Yousafzai. It explores their upbringings, worldviews, and experiences in the context of the decisions they faced and provides insights into their thought processes. Although the book does not address higher education directly, it may be of general interest to readers as it aims to provide inspiring counsel that will give readers the tools needed to make their own significant choices and life changes. Robert L. Dilenschneider is founder of the corporate strategic counseling and public relations firm Dilenschneider Group. He is a former president and CEO of Hill & Knowton and the author of several bestselling books. The Dilenschneider Group advised CIC on the launching of its 2013–2016 Securing America’s Future: The Power of Liberal Arts Education public information campaign.

Laurentian Seasons

William L. Fox (St. Lawrence University, 2019)

Published during the tenth anniversary of William L. Fox’s presidency at St. Lawrence University (NY), this book features a selection of his essays, speeches, and messages to the Laurentian community. The writings are organized as seasonal reflections on the university and aim to inspire readers to reflect on its significance. The essays were curated as a gift for supporters of the largest comprehensive fundraising campaign in St. Lawrence’s history: The Campaign for Every Laurentian. Fox is a former member of CIC’s Board of Directors and the advisory committee for CIC’s Securing America’s Future: The Power of Liberal Arts Education campaign.


ROI of Liberal Arts Colleges: Value Adds Up Over Time

Anthony P. Carnevale, Ban Cheah, and Martin Van Der Werf (Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, January 2020)

Do degrees from liberal arts colleges pay off? This report confirms that degrees conferred by liberal arts colleges have substantial returns on investment (ROI) in the long term. For example, ten years after enrollment, the median ROI for graduates of liberal arts colleges is $62,000, which is $45,000 below the median ROI of all colleges; but 40 years after enrollment, the ROI of liberal arts colleges rises to $918,000, nearly $200,000 higher than the median ROI of all colleges ($723,000). These findings hold true for many of the 210 liberal arts institutions studied, but returns vary depending on the specific college’s selectivity and geography, the student’s choice of major, and more. This study follows a November 2019 report by the Center on Education and the Workforce, A First Try at ROI, that used federal data to calculate net present value to estimate return on investment at more than 4,500 colleges and universities across the United States. The report includes an online table of the 4,500 colleges that allows users to sort data on tuition, median student debt, and median earnings for each institution. For the reports, visit the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce website.

2020 Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers

Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman, editors (Inside Higher Ed and Gallup, January 2020)

Conducted by Gallup and answered by 597 chief academic officers (259 of whom are from private nonprofit colleges and universities) between November 4 and December 1, 2019, Inside Higher Ed’s ninth annual survey explored how these leaders perceive and address a range of challenges faced by colleges and universities in the U.S. The survey covered topics such as academic and financial health of the institution; institutional practices; faculty tenure; graduate student unions; sexual misconduct; liberal arts education; general education requirements; declines in majors and academic departments; competency-based education; and assessment efforts. The percentage of CAOs who indicated their colleges will expand online programs and offerings over the next year (86 percent) is the highest to date, with 84 percent of CAOs at private colleges and 88 percent of CAOs at public institutions saying so. The survey also found that although the vast majority of institutions offer faculty members professional development for “teaching with technology,” 88 percent of CAOs at private nonprofit colleges and universities said their campuses did so compared with 97 percent of CAOs at public institutions. Similarly, 44 percent of CAOs at private colleges and universities reported that their campuses offer professional development on “measuring of the effectiveness of digital tools,” compared with 62 percent at public colleges and universities. For the report, visit the Inside Higher Ed website.

Engagement Insights: Survey Findings on the Quality of Undergraduate Education—Annual Results 2019

National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) (Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, February 2020)

For this latest annual survey NSSE, based at the Indiana University Bloomington School of Education, surveyed first-year and senior students from 531 bachelor’s degree-granting institutions across the United States in spring 2019. The study found several positive longitudinal trends regarding student engagement. Namely, between 2004 and 2019, first-year student interactions with faculty members, time spent on academic preparation, and perceptions of the campus environment improved. NSSE finds the increases in time spent preparing as particularly encouraging, because it has found a correlation between the average amount of time first-year students devote to academic preparation and institutional retention and graduation rates. The results also show that the quality of academic advising is more important than the frequency of advising to first-year students’ perception of support for academic success and use of learning support services. First-year students who experienced “high-quality” advising were much more likely to express an intention to return the following year compared to students who experienced low-quality advising.  One example of this is when comparing first-year students who met with an advisor five or more times, where 94 percent who experienced high-quality advising intended to return for their second year compared to 77 percent who experienced low-quality advising. PDFDownload the Engagement Insights report.

NC-SARA 2019 Data Report: Enrollment and Out-of-State Learning Placements

Terri Taylor Straut and Marianne Boeke (National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements [NC-SARA], February 2020)

With responses from 1,960 institutions, NC-SARA’s fourth annual enrollment report and data set shows a significant increase in demand for postsecondary distance education opportunities. Nearly 1.3 million out-of-state students enrolled exclusively in distance education programs at NC-SARA-participating institutions in 2019, up 5 percent over 2018. The report includes new data on in-state distance education enrollments, which surpassed 1.5 million in 2019. And for the first time, the report also collected information about out-of-state learning placements, which provides insight into in-person distance education programming that students engage in across state lines. In 2019, public institutions made up 53.2 percent of total reported distance education enrollments, with most of these students located in-state (1.2 million). Private nonprofit institutions represented 29.8 percent of total reported distance education enrollments, with most of those students located out-of-state. The year-over-year percent changes for public and private nonprofit institutions with in-state enrollment included were 442.2 percent and 64.9 percent, respectively (see Table). (NC-SARA is a voluntary, interstate reciprocal approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education. The initiative is administered by the four regional higher education compacts in the U.S. and coordinated by NC-SARA.) PDFDownload the NC-SARA report.

Reported Enrollment by Sector: 2017–2018 Data Table with In-State Enrollment

Table depicting reported enrollment across public, private nonprofit, private for-profit, and tribal college sectors for 2017-2019  

Source: NC-SARA 2019 Data Report: Enrollment and Out-of-State Learning Placements, Figure 35.

(Figure recreated by the Council of Independent Colleges.)