Public Purpose Magazine, Summer 2016
2016 Summer Public Purpose Cover


Clinton, Trump, and Higher Ed: Where Washington Goes from HereBy Stephen G. Pelletier
As Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump vie for the presidency, we take a look at their stands on higher education—and at how federal education policy might play out after the election. 

Advancing quality education is an evergreen plank for presidential contenders. George H.W. Bush campaigned to be “The Education President.” Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama made education a pillar of their successful campaigns.

In 2016, though, education is taking a bit of a back seat. While Hillary Clinton has talked a fair amount about higher education, that issue has been overshadowed this year by discussions about national security, law and order, immigration policy, and the domestic economy. On the other side of the aisle, while the official Republican party platform addresses specific aspects of higher education, Donald Trump’s campaign has relatively little to say on that topic.

Approaching the presidential election of 2016, we thought it would be interesting to take a deeper look at what both Clinton and Trump have to say about higher education—and to speculate about how related policy might change after the election. (One important caveat: As we write this analysis in the summer of 2016, just after the Democratic National Convention, we know that much can change in the months ahead. That seems especially true in this unusual election year. Caveat emptor.)

Between the LinesServing Generations and Caring for CommunitiesSusan M. Chilcott
We want to help them [first generation college students] understand that education is a pathway to a better life.” Robert Robinson is director of multicultural student affairs at the University of North Georgia, and was explaining to writer Karen Doss Bowman the value of their Trailblazers Club.

Of course first generation students aren’t new. They’ve always been part of an institution’s student profile. I attended a small college in the Midwest, “back in the day,” and many of my classmates were first generation students. It wasn’t unusual and they weren’t singled out. They were invariably Caucasian, their parents were likely second or third generation Americans, they had rural or small town backgrounds and, while they weren’t rich, they weren’t poor either. Most importantly they had parents who said to them, “I never went to college, but I want you to have opportunities I didn’t.” They knew they wanted a pathway to a better life for their children and a college education could offer that opportunity.

During my career in higher education, I saw the profile of first generation students change over the years. With those changes came the realization for many educators that these students confront a variety of challenges: cultural, financial, academic, and social. In her story, “Fondness for Firsts,” Bowman does an excellent job of capturing AASCU members’ commitment to their first generation students, interviewing presidents, staff, and students. And as she points out, this commitment embodies our state colleges and universities promise of opportunities for all.

Making the Most of a MomentWhen a college or university hosts a debate or a presidential speech, that brief but shining spotlight can bring numerous benefits—and a few challenges.By Gayle Bennett
On October 4, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine from Virginia and Governor Mike Pence from Indiana will square off in the one and only vice presidential debate of the 2016 elections, which will be held at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.

This will mark Longwood’s first time hosting a national election debate, and the institution did not make this decision lightly. In fact, colleges and universities interested in being debate hosts must complete a rather arduous application.

“Once we started to dig into the application and talk about what was required, it really started to become clear that Longwood fit into this really well—from our mission to where our school is located to the way our campus is physically situated—it all seemed to fall into place,” says Matthew McWilliams, director of communications and media relations at Longwood.

The application process is thorough because hosting a debate is a big undertaking: security is intense and logistics are planned to the nth detail. But even just a one-hour presidential visit to a college campus requires an intense level of planning and coordination.

The extra work is worth it, say college and university hosts of debates and presidential speeches. Such events offer a unique opportunity to publicize the institution regionally, nationally and even internationally, and the event becomes an important piece of the institution’s history.

A Fondness for FIRSTSAASCU Institutions Committed to the Success of First Generation College StudentsBy Karen Doss Bowman
For Travis Cameron, starting college last fall was a daunting experience. As the first in his family to attend college, he received encouragement from his parents and grandparents—with whom he lives—but none of them had the experience to offer the support he needed to navigate the application process, financial aid and the basics of campus life.

Now a sophomore at Missouri State University, Cameron enrolled in the university’s required first-year experience course, GEP 101, opting for a section designated for first generation students who were undecided on their major. The course focused on topics such as financial aid, career services, what to expect in classes and how to work with academic advisors. The professor also helped Cameron assess his interests and strengths to select a major. He chose philosophy.

“As a first generation student and being undecided on a major, you feel like you’re in a free-fall,” says Cameron, from El Dorado Springs, Missouri. “Going into college, I had no expectations or ideas of what things might be like. This class helped my transition to the setting, and a lot of the activities we did in class gave me the opportunity to become familiar with the services on campus.” 

Cameron is among about 30 percent of undergraduates in the U.S. who are first in their families to attend college. This population of students—many of whom come from low-income and underrepresented populations—face financial, academic and social challenges that may become obstacles for completing their education.

In the Wake of Tragedy: The Critical Role of AASCU CampusesBy Michelle R. Davis

"An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the Orlando shooter once attended UCF. He never attended UCF and has no association with the university." Public Purpose regrets the error. 

The mass shooting in June inside Orlando’s gay nightclub, Pulse, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others; it was a tragedy that reverberated across the country.

The deadly event took place just miles from the University of Central Florida and hit hard on campus: a UCF student and an alum were among those killed, and many students and faculty had ties to other victims. The shooter, who had been radicalized and pledged allegiance to terror group ISIS, deliberately targeted members of the LGBTQ community.

So determining the best way to provide support as a university took careful thought. Ultimately the campus held several vigils, which played an important part in the community healing process, and launched blood drives. An emotional video message of support by university President John C. Hitt, released the day of the shooting, captured the sadness and grief many felt after learning of the murders.

This fall, as the new school year begins, the university will host workshops and community engagement projects around tolerance and other issues related to the shooting, said Grant J. Heston, university spokesman. “Every university has a plan for disaster on campus, but it’s less clear how you handle a tragedy in your community,” he said.


Opportunities for AllA National Campaign For Educational & Economic ImpactBy Robert L. Caret
As chancellor of the University System of Maryland (USM), I am proud to join with my AASCU colleagues in active support of the “Opportunities for All” initiative. The University System of Maryland and eight of the USM’s constituent institutions are AASCU members. And every USM institution fully supports the twin goals of Opportunities for All: helping more students and their families recognize the tremendous value offered by public higher education, and helping more political, business and community leaders grasp the critical contribution state colleges and universities make toward successful economic and workforce development in their region and state. 

A Horse of a Different ColorThe Federal Appropriations Process in a Presidential Election YearBy Alex O. Wood
The federal appropriations process is the means through which Congress distributes discretionary spending—funds whose purpose is not mandated by law and/ or tied to formulas. This annual process commences with the president and the executive branch submitting a budget to Congress. Each chamber’s respective budget committee approves a budget resolution, which is then reconciled after passing each full body. The resolution sets a total amount available for spending by each chamber’s appropriations committee. This amount is currently limited by The Budget Control Act of 2011 and several subsequent modifying pieces of legislation, the most recent passing last October. For now, the spending limit for the 2017 fiscal year is $1.07 trillion. Various proposals have been floated to decrease this limit even further. This amount is then divided by each chamber among their 12 respective appropriation subcommittees. For example, for FY2017, the Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has been allocated a total of $161.9 billion for spending. Each subcommittee will hold a hearing and markup their legislation. After the appropriation subcommittees complete their work, each chamber will typically pass some appropriations bills individually, and others will be passed together as either an omnibus or minibus legislation. Subsequent to each chamber passing identical appropriations bills— often requiring a conference between the two bodies to hash-out differences— the president will either sign or veto the bills. Another actor in the process (to varying degrees depending on the environment) is the White House, which will often lobby—or attempt to lobby— to exude some influence on the ultimate legislation. 

Reality Testing, Risk-Taking, and the Legalization of Guns on College CampusesBy Katherine Conway-Turner

Recently, the University of Texas at Austin paused to remember the 17 lives that were taken in the tragic clock tower shooting on the UT-Austin campus on August 1, 1966. Fifty years to the day—Monday, August 1, 2016—a new “campus carry” law went into effect in Texas. 

Over the past year, I have spent time with fellow college and university leaders at various professional conferences discussing the preposterous rise of state “campus carry” laws. As eight states now have such laws on the books (fortunately New York state is not among them), we as higher education leaders need to speak up in union to say that we will not endorse or tolerate such a Wild West mentality on our college campuses. 

I understand and value our constitutional rights as citizens of this wonderful country, including the rights protected by the Second Amendment. I grew up in a small rural town in Missouri, and hunting was a cherished pastime for many. I am not saying that we as citizens should not have a right to bear arms, but I wonder how anyone could think it would make us safer to have concealed guns on a college campus. 


Presidents & PracticesTransitioning to the PresidencyBy Timothy M. Downs

As a new president, my bearings continue to be in a state of adjustment. Although I prepared for years to assume a presidency, I am experiencing “on-the-job learning” every day. While I am extremely proud to have achieved this goal, I now know that I must learn quickly because members of the institution are looking to me as their leader, the person who has answers to the questions that arise. 

My decision to pursue a presidency was made some time ago with a traditional pathway from the academic sector—including serving as a vice president for academic affairs and provost for five years, as well as spending nine years as college dean. Although this article could pertain exclusively to presidents emerging from the academic sector as the traditional “heir apparent” professionals to lead our institutions, we need to be mindful that increasing numbers of presidents come from other sectors of the academy and some are even chosen from outside higher education all together. 


Currents & Transitions

Task Force Goal is Support of Teacher Preparation Programs

AASCU’s Board of Directors has appointed a Task Force on Teacher Education that has three areas of focus: assessing the state of teacher preparation at AASCU institutions; showcasing innovations and successes of teacher preparation at AASCU institutions; and highlighting the roles of AASCU presidents and provosts in strengthening and supporting teacher preparation programs for an increasingly diverse PK-12 student body.

In support of their work, the task force has surveyed AASCU presidents and chancellors, provosts, chief academic officers, deans and directors of teacher preparation to improve their understanding of teacher preparation programs at AASCU institutions with a focus on better serving these institutions. A task force report will be released at the AASCU Annual Meeting in October.


EndSightsRedefining “Traditional”By Thomas Mitzel

The State of North Dakota recently hosted a retreat entitled “Envision 2030.” A vast number of state leaders, including the governor, gathered to discuss higher education and how best to plan educational pathways for the next generation of our students. Over two days, a multitude of topics was discussed ranging across various areas of student education. 

I participated in a workgroup that focused on student diversity; topics included racial diversity, socio-economic diversity, geographic diversity, and the diversity noted between traditional and non-traditional students. On the topic of traditional students, our group quickly realized that the historic definition (as defined by the National Center for Educational Statistics) was outdated: “One who enrolls in college immediately after graduation from high school, pursues college studies on a continuous full-time basis at least during the fall and spring semesters, and completes a bachelor’s degree program in four or five years.” However, a larger percentage of students enrolled in higher education, especially in public institutions, currently adhere to the historical definition of a non-traditional student: “One who is over 24, has family and work responsibilities, has other life circumstances that may interfere with the educational pathway, and is more likely to be enrolled part time.”