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Business Officer Magazine

Business Briefs

Short news articles based on research surveys and peers’ business experiences that can benefit institutions

Traveling Exhibit Promotes Ways to Include All

Recession Rocks State Finances


Decline in total state government tax revenue from FY08-09.


Increase in total state government expenditures in the same period.


Total state government long-term debt at the end of FY09, a 5 percent increase from FY08.


The amount of federal grants to state governments for education in FY09, an 11 percent increase from FY08.


Number of states that faced budget shortfalls in FY11.

Sources: "State Government Finances Summary, 2009" (U.S. Census Bureau); and "States Continue to Feel Recession's Impact" (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Feb. 10, 2011) 

Disability education is for everyone by everyone. It is a shared responsibility, and it is up to each of us to model inclusive behavior. To demonstrate this, Saint Louis University (SLU) developed a welcoming, user-friendly exhibit. Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit debuted at the university on Oct. 27, 2010. More than 150 students, faculty, staff, and community members attended the unveiling, timed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

The purpose of The Ability Exhibit is to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities by highlighting a number of supportive actions, such as showing respect for others, ensuring comfort during interactions, and demonstrating awareness of disability issues.

Progress, But Not Perfect

Americans have advanced significantly in attitudes and behaviors toward people with disabilities since the signing of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and, nearly 40 years ago, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Both laws were designed to protect against discrimination of all people with disabilities by requiring equal access to employment, education, goods, and services.

However, questions and concerns remain as to appropriate communication, comfort level, and inclusive practices. When it comes to interacting with individuals with disabilities, people continually ask, "What should I do?" "How should I respond?" "Is it okay to say that?" "How can I become an ally?" It is our intent that Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit will answer some of these questions.

Visual Reminders and Cues

Using a multimedia approach, the exhibit offers suggestions for becoming disability allies and educators. The Ability Exhibit began as a project by graduate student Anne Marie Carroll in my Disabilities in Higher Education and Society class. I was so inspired by Anne Marie's initiative that I formed a team of students to take her idea to the next level. After much planning, the team decided on the elements to include in the exhibit:

  • Twelve seven-foot banners displaying historical facts and statistics about disabilities.
  • Twenty foam-board posters depicting the disability movement, celebrities with disabilities, and person-first language.
  • Interactive activities, including a "Who do you know?" pegboard noting which participants know someone with a visual, hearing, mobility, psychological, learning or medical disability; and a "space rope," with which participants can experience the communication distance required by people who are blind or have low vision.
  • Computer quizzes through which people can test their "ability IQ" regarding facts about disabilities, knowledge of celebrities and well-known people with disabilities, and the most appropriate kinds of communication.
  • Videos and slides about people with disabilities, disability law, and Universal Instructional Design. Visit the University of Minnesota PASS IT (Pedagogy and Student Services for Institutional Transformation) Web site for more information.
  • Tips for becoming an ally in the effort to be all-inclusive.

Support and Shared Use

What began as a graduate student's project in a higher education course grew into a sophisticated exhibit cosponsored by SLU's leadership and higher education department and the SLU division of student development, with generous donations from the university's division of information technology services and Logan College of Chiropractic.

The students and volunteers did a superb job, and we look forward to sharing this exhibit with other colleges and universities. The Ability Exhibit will be presented at the ACPA College Student Educators International annual convention in Baltimore this month, and plans to take the display to other campuses are under way. To host Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit on your campus, please contact Karen Myers.

Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit at Saint Louis University
Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit at Saint Louis University

SUBMITTED BY Karen Myers, associate professor, Higher Education Administration, Saint Louis University

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Rotational Training Expands Staff Competency

Creating administrative efficiencies is paramount for Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Baltimore, the largest recipient of federal research dollars in the country. That challenge intensified in spring 2009, as we were planning resources to handle the large volume of grant proposals resulting from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Using facilities and administration (F&A) funds to be earned from ARRA awards, we established the Research Administration Training Program, which is managed by a chairman and an executive committee made up of senior leaders at the university.

The two-year, full-time program allows qualified candidates to work in six-month rotations through the various offices involved in research administration, providing hands-on experience along with formal classroom training. The initial results have exceeded our expectations.

Selection and Structure

We established a fund of $250,000 to seed the program, covering salaries, benefits, and some travel. For the program's first cohort, we hired a diverse group of five trainees during a job fair the university hosted in spring 2009. The program calls for each trainee to take the full complement of Johns Hopkins courses that involve research administration, gaining a fundamental working knowledge of all administrative components.

In addition, trainees' schedules include shadow days, during which they visit staff experienced in areas, such as effort reporting, technology transfer, internal audits, and clinical trial administration. Other such days allow for time to be spent at each of their four colleagues' sites to experience the environment and responsibilities of the different settings.

Supervision and Expectations

We assign each trainee to a senior staff research administrator to mentor the individual and monitor his or her progress throughout the rotation cycles. During each rotation, the trainee is assigned to a specific supervisor who specializes in the particular area. Expectations are set by the mentor and supervisor before the start of each rotation.

At the conclusion of each program segment, the mentor and supervisor conduct 360-degree evaluations. The chair of the executive committee meets regularly with the mentors and trainees, reporting any significant findings or issues to the committee, which also routinely meets with the cohort and supervisors.

The university's expectation is that at the end of the two-year experience, the trainees will be highly qualified to apply for any number of vacancies that are typically available throughout the university.

Results and Resolutions

After the first six months, the program was so successful that it was repeated for the 2010–11 academic year. It's a model that gives low-risk opportunities for both employer and employee, but it has the potential for very high reward.

The only issue has been a logistical one. Each trainee would love to start in the proposal phase first, but it's too large a burden for one department to handle multiple new hires at one time, so we must stagger the initial starting point.

From this highly collaborative project, we expect to produce skilled, competent staff possessing a complete understanding of the research administration process as well as a network of colleagues who will be invaluable to future work performance. So far, our goal seems to be realistic: Three trainees are applying for and likely to receive offers within JHU; another has been hired at the JHU Applied Physics Laboratory; and the other has been hired by an outside firm.

SUBMITTED BY James B. Aumiller, associate dean of finance and administration, Whiting School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

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Graduation Rates Remain Flat for More Than a Decade

Forty percent of first-time, full-time undergraduates who started college in 2003–04 graduated within six years with an associate's or bachelor's degree, according to the most recent data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics. The NCES report, Persistence and Attainment of 2003–04 Beginning Postsecondary Students: After Six Years, notes that an additional 9.4 percent of students earned a certificate; 15 percent were still enrolled after six years of attendance; and 35.5 percent left higher education without earning a degree or certificate. Comparisons of the most recent data with those of the previous cohort (entering higher education in 1995) show that graduation rates have essentially remained unchanged for the past decade.

The NCES report uses data from the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS) to examine the persistence and degree-attainment rates of a nationally representative sample of students who began postsecondary education for the first time in the 2003–04 academic year. The BPS interviewers communicated with the students periodically from 2003 to 2009. These interactions allow NCES to examine the students' postsecondary attendance and attainment experiences from a variety of variables, including the type and sector of institution attended, attendance patterns, and other student characteristics.

 Influential Variables

Students' age, family support for students' higher education, as well as the institution type attended by students are factors that hold significant sway over degree types and attainment rates.

Dependency status and age. The report shows large differences in postsecondary achievement by students' dependency status. As Table 1 illustrates, nearly 41 percent of undergraduates classified as "dependent" (those who had at least one parent responsible for paying at least a portion of their postsecondary expenses) obtained a bachelor's degree from either the first institution attended—or any subsequent institution—within the six-year study period. This compares with only 5.6 percent of independent students (those who were deemed not dependent upon their parents to pay any portion of their college costs).

Independent students, however, were more likely to earn a certificate (18 percent versus 6 percent for dependents). For independent students, who are typically adult students, low bachelor's degree attainment, coupled with nearly 52 percent dropping out, is of concern, as this student group has been on the rise. The Digest of Education Statistics: 2009 reports that adult students age 25 and over made up 27 percent of the total student population in 1970. In 2009, they made up 38 percent and are projected to become 40 percent of the students in 2018.

Institution type. Students enrolled in private, nonprofit four-year institutions had a higher rate of attaining bachelor's degrees than those who entered public four-year institutions (64.6 percent compared to 59.5). However, students at public institutions were more likely to be "still enrolled" (9.7 percent) than those at private nonprofits (7.9 percent).

Because of the BPS longitudinal design, students can be followed through transfers and multiple enrollments at institutions. One quarter of the undergraduates who began their educational careers at four-year universities transferred to another institution at least once during the six-year study period.

Comparisons Show Stagnant Completion Rates

When the most recent degree-completion rate data are compared to the previous BPS cohort's data (from the group entering in 1995, which was followed through 2000), it is evident that persistence and graduation rates have essentially been unchanged for the past decade. NACUBO's analysis of the publicly available BPS data from the previous cohort (1995–96) shows that bachelor's degree completion rates rose from 28.9 percent to 30.7 percent, while the percentages of students earning associate degrees and certificates dropped (see Table 2).

In total, about 51.5 percent of all students who entered postsecondary higher education in 1995 seeking a degree or certificate left with a credential within six years. In contrast, only 49.4 percent of entering 2003 students completed their programs within the six-year time frame. The percentage of students still enrolled at any institution after six years has remained essentially unchanged between the two study cohorts, while the share of students who have left higher education without a credential rose slightly (34 percent for those starting in 1995, and 35.5 percent for the 2003 freshmen).

Capacity Stretched With Available Resources

What factors might explain why graduation rates appear not to have increased substantially during the past decade? For one, NACUBO's analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Digest of Education Statistics: 2009 shows that many of the factors affecting degree-attainment rates have remained relatively flat. For example, from 1998 to 2009, while enrollment in higher education increased 29 percent (from 14.5 million students to 19.1 million students), the number of degree-granting colleges and universities—including branch campuses—rose by only 361 institutions (from 4,048 to 4,409). The number of faculty and the amount of funding to support postsecondary institutions have also remained relatively stagnant.

The stable bachelor's degree attainment rates thus may suggest that higher education has reached its capacity to produce the highest number of graduates with the available resources. Given the limitations and constraints placed on colleges and universities over the past 10 years, it is possible that keeping the graduation rates stable at a time of increasing demand from most students may actually be considered a success.

NACUBO CONTACT Natalie Pullaro, manager, research and policy analysis, 202.861.2596

RESOURCE LINKS Download Persistence and Attainment of 2003-04 Beginning Postsecondary Students: After Six Years

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