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Apr 20, 2012

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David Boyd

No worries. 3700 students * $37800 annual tuition, room and board = $139,860,000 - $77,000,000 annual operating budget = $62,860,000 left over to service their $700 million debt.

David Wharton

Nido: "I call it urban cleansing."

Virginia Louise

As I remember, Nido does not disclose his donors or their pledges the way most colleges do. The part that stinks is the sweetheart deal with his daughter. And what kind of succession plan does the college have? Where are you going to find another fund raiser like Nido? A disaster waiting to happen.

sittinginthemiddle

This is clearly a design to marginalize the poor and disadvantaged, where is the usual liberal outrage?

Thomas

Yep, Middleman, this article on a local university is definitely a conservative vs liberal thing.

Billy Jones

Middlemam, how much you want to bet that the majority of HPU students come from well-to-do conservative families?

sittinginthemiddle

"Middlemam, how much you want to bet that the majority of HPU students come from well-to-do conservative families?"- Billy

You name the bet Billy, Conservative families send their children to Universities that make children understand the value of EARNING a higher status in society. Not some swanky resort where they are taught the fantasy that four years, in an average at best institution, will lead to the entitlement lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. Put as many zeros on that bet as you can stomach, I assure you I don't live in the squalor of east greensboro and I can afford it. Can you?

Ed Cone

Middle has articulated one of my concerns with HPU's strategy -- I don't see how turning the place into a resort will inspire kids to go out and do great things.

Given the % of full-pay students, it's a good bet that much of the student body is used to parent-financed fancy living already. Maybe a more spartan existence would show them that there are more important things about college than comfort, and also remind them that if they want luxury they will need to pay for it themselves.

I don't think it's a conservative v. liberal thing, although HPU seems to skew more to the conservative side than many colleges in terms of the image it projects. The philosophical foundation might be found in the prosperity gospel and other consumerist dogma.

prell

One thing that is understandably lost on a lot of people in academia is that private schools and colleges are businesses, first and foremost (Blasphemous for me to say, but true.). Without the business end there are no academics. At the end of the day, students and their parents are customers. Until recently, HPU was never well-known outside of the state. It's never been known for its academic and athletic "prowess," both of which take decades to accomplish. It's competing for the same set of students who apply to schools like Guilford, Elon, Greensboro, Lynchburg, Roanoke, etc. - East Coast kids who have the funds but lack the grades to go to Dook, Wake, and Davidson. So, how do you set yourself apart from the competition ? I agree that what's been done at HPU in the past six or seven years is unconventional and "seems off," but so far it seems to have worked. My hope is that it continues to work because HPU may very well be the city of High Point's last stand. The city that once dubbed itself as Furniture City, USA is now the birthplace of Fantasia Barino.

I'm grateful for HPU. Without their graduate program I probably wouldn't have been able to get my Master's degree. At the time I enrolled, no local colleges and universities allowed students the opportunity to attend part-time AND in the evening. It wasn't the luxurious amenities that inspired me to "be extraordinary" (Grad students aren't even allowed to use them, and something seems wrong about a thirty-something hanging out at a swimming pool with a bunch of eighteen year-old girls.). It was my professors, and I can't say enough about them. Most are well-regarded in their fields and many are publishing machines.

My biggest gripe with HPU is that while they continue to grow and expand, they seem to be ignoring a key ingredient to growing a university - a BIGGER and BETTER library. They may very well employ the friendliest, smartest research librarians in the country, but my prep school library was about the same size as that place. For all that I spent on tuition, I probably matched it in gas and hotel money, traveling to research libraries throughout the South.

Ed Cone

I agree with a lot of what you say, prell, especially on the rapid growth of the HPU brand and the importance of the school's success to the city.

I think most people actually understand that private institutions have business imperatives. Certainly people in the Greensboro College community have learned that lesson. That's one of the concerns about HPU -- that it's gambling on a very risky business model. If growth of full-pay students falters, the plan could be in trouble.

What could slow that growth? The number of high school grads just peaked, although it will stay high for several years. The cost of full-pay at HPU is high. So if academics stay so-so (and your library anecdote is troubling) then the school is left with the lifestyle pitch...

Elon did a great job of improving academic quality, facilities, and branding across the northeast. I hope HPU's strategy pays off, I'm just nervous about it for more than one reason.

prell

"your library anecdote is troubling"

It's funny. I was in the first class of five in my program. I was one of two who hadn't done undergrad work at HPU. All of them marveled at the rapid changes that had occurred in such a short span of time (What's not to marvel? The campus is like none I've ever visited.). I did too. High Point College (that's what it was at the time) wasn't remotely close to being anywhere near the radar when I was a high school kid applying to colleges. The one thing that my colleagues complained about was the library. Of all the changes to the physical structure, the one that was neglected was the library. The only thing that's changed since I've been there? The carpet was torn up and it's now three floors of fine hardwood. They do offer unlimited free coffee, however. I just don't see how you can be a school that offers all three collegial degrees with one library that looks like a big Quaker meeting house.

prell

Elon is the gold standard. Where was that place twenty-five, thirty years ago? I graduated high school in 1999 and when I was applying to college my counselor told me time and time again to apply to Elon. I laughed. Well, look at it now. They did it the old school way and they may have done it better than any other private college in the country. Both schools provide striking contrasts in how to grow/re-grow a university. I hope both work but like you, I too have reservations.

As I was leaving HPU last week, I did think to myself, "What if this doesn't work and it looks like an abandoned Putt-Putt?"

David Wharton

Prell, while you're right that colleges and universities have to take in at least as much money as they spend (over time), the transactional model you use, with students as customers, doesn't capture nearly all of what we expect institutions of higher learning to do. For one thing, you ignore the fact that students pay far less in tuition than it actually costs because a lot of other people (governments and alums for example) give them LOTS of money for various reasons, some pedestrian (go Gamecocks! or whatever), some noble, e.g. to develop great citizens, leaders, writers, artists, etc. that enrich our civilized life together.

I won't wax eloquent on the glories of liberal education or pure research. I'll just say that you're thinking of a university as a trade school. Trade schools are great, but we they aren't universities.

David Wharton

Oops -- "they aren't universities." Related.

cheripickr

What did Prell say that reflects that he is thinking of a university as a trade school, that if it is a private one it has to rely on its own financial success to remain viable? What on earth does that have to do with the difference between a trade school and a university? I thought that was more defined by the type of curricula they offered, not the reality that their success or failure is subject to market forces just like any other private operation.

prell

Dr. Wharton: Settle down, Francis. I was referring to PRIVATE schools not PUBLIC ones, like your employer. There's a monumental difference between the ways in which the two raise money.

prell

Thank you, cheri. This may explain things...

"go Gamecocks!"

David Wharton

Prell & Cheri, sorry, you're just wrong. Private institutions get lots of government money and advantages in the form of Pell grants, Stafford loans, and grants from the NSF, NEH, the Department of Education, and doubtless many others. The only institution that doesn't take any of this money, I think, is Hillsdale College.

Who's Francis?

prell

"...he is thinking of a university as a trade school."

No, I'm not. Why are you such an intellectual snob? This is exactly why people laugh at academicians.

"Private institutions get lots of government money and advantages in the form of Pell grants, Stafford loans, and grants from the NSF, NEH, the Department of Education, and doubtless many others."

Uh, you're not exactly shooting straight, Dave. They get that money via STUDENTS who apply for said funds. Then they become so ensued in debt that they're economically unable to give back to their alma mater. Not all schools are constitutionally guaranteed money from the common taxpayer - the man you look down upon.

"Hillsdale College"

lulz

cheripickr

So are you saying then that a fledgling private school’s' stream of funding is just as stable and secure as a public school’s and that they need no more cater to the desires of the paying students they are trying to attract? They should just listen to what career academicians say they should do?

It seems that you are the one who is trying to ignore any difference between private and public schools.


Hugh

From the article: "a student guide, steering a golf-cart-style “engine,” tows our group of six parents and teens past statues of Aristotle, Galileo, and Jefferson."

A couple of years ago my girlfriend and I were driving around HP and decided to check out the changes on campus. When we got to those statues I called out their names and she said "Huh? I thought they were Star Wars characters?". I nearly ran up on the curb laughing so hard.

The other good laugh was when we got to the Frat house row there were massive keggers going on. Kids were having to clear the street for us to pass and we overheard one of them wondering about us, "They're just parents". I hate feeling old!

David Wharton

Pell grants account for only a part of the federal subsidies to higher education. But grants that go to faculty for research, especially in the sciences and to the schools of education, are huge; this is money that generally goes directly to faculty and (increasingly) to administrators; a little bit of it trickles down to students. (If I read these tables right, the federal government spent $37.5 billion on scientific research and development in higher ed in 2010 alone, which I think is about 10 times the amount spent on Pell grants.)

I'm not at all arguing that higher ed is or should be immune from market forces, and I don't disagree either that colleges/universities engage in many business-like activities (though often not in a businesslike way). And a very few for-profit colleges like the University of Phoenix are businesses. Of course all of them must compete for students or die.

But I think you guys are confusing categories here; saying that a college is a business "first and foremost" is like saying a chair is "first and foremost" wood, glue, and leather, or whatever it's made out of. Most private colleges were founded with a mission to do something more than attract students. Many of them started with a religious purpose; many have retained it, for example Calvin College, BYU, Wheaton, and all the Catholic colleges. Others have secularized their missions as did Harvard.

Prell, why do you think I look down on taxpayers? Do I know you outside of Ed World? Do you know me? And why do you call me a snob? If you want to insult me, sign your own name like a man.

prell

"Prell, why do you think I look down on taxpayers? Do I know you outside of Ed World? Do you know me? And why do you call me a snob? If you want to insult me, sign your own name like a man."

Why are you so mad? You missed the point of the article and argument, David.

"sign your own name like a man."

Darryl Pitts Happy?

Ed Cone

I think saying colleges are "first and foremost" businesses was infelicitous -- it points to some economic realities that we all grasp, but it misstates the full purpose and and intention of the institutions.

Prell, if you think he missed the point (and I found value in comments from both of you), maybe you could clarify it. Calling people names tends to shut down or derail conversation. For that matter, Dr. Wharton seems to have a pretty good grasp of the subject matter here, so "out of touch academic" doesn't even apply.

cheripickr

But whose place is it to decide the relative value of a more vocationally-oriented vs a liberal arts bend to a private entity? You and Ginsberg seem to be arguing in favor of the latter.
While I respect your opinions (and bias), my answer would be the aggregate of those whose dollars are required for the viability of the school, be it tuition-paying students, government funds, or private donors, IF the latter two choose to attach such influence to their funding, and in which case, the school can decide whether it is worth it to them to be beholden to such influence.

Paying the most heed to the actual consumers of their product seems the purest and most natural play to me. The glories of liberal education or pure research is in the eyes of those who perceive and choose the to pursue them. I find it ironic that Ginsberg labels himself a libertarian while apparently bucking this sort of self-determination and espousing what sounds like non-market intervention into what should be taught.

prell

Dr. Wharton: You're comparing private colleges like Harvard to HPU, which is beyond, WAY beyond laughable. You also insert University of Phoenix into the scenario, which is just ridiculous. Again, refer to the first sentence of my first post - lifelong academics DON'T GET IT. There's a reason you teach, perform research, and don't RUN the school. You're a valuable asset, but you don't bring in the big bucks. There's nothing wrong with that!

Get over yourself. You know A LOT.....in your field. There's a reason you've yet to be called to the helm of UNCG. You seem angry about that. I don't get it.

prell

"Calling people names tends to shut down or derail conversation."

"Intellectual snob?" How is that name-calling? I only wish people would refer to me in such a light! I'm sorry if Dr. Wharton was angered by that. Teachers/Professors are highly undervalued, but unfortunately they're all subject to the whims of the economy.

Andrew Brod

I doubt DW was angered by you. Don't sweat it.

For what it's worth, I found DW's comments entirely on the mark.

David Wharton

CP, with respect to your comment on trade schools vs. universities -- my assumption is that the student-as-customer model works better in that case, since vocational schools are wholly funded by student tuition.

You ask, "whose place is it to decide the relative value of a more vocationally-oriented vs a liberal arts bend to a private entity?" Obviously, it should be the student's choice (and any parents who might be paying tuition!). My youngest (of three) will be off to college next year, and you better believe that we made a steely-eyed economic analysis of costs and benefits before we PayPaled that first tuition deposit. We've gotten quite good at working the Byzantine economics of higher ed, unfortunately (BTW, I think you'd really enjoy Andrew Ferguson's Crazy U).

I happen to agree that many faculty are woefully ignorant of the economics of higher ed (and of economics in general for that matter), but one reason for that is that, these days, they don't actually run the show. Colleges and universities are increasingly run by a bureaucratic class of administrators, who are always scrambling to meet any number of mandates -- from government, from accrediting agencies, from alumni, from big donors, and last, from parents. Interesting take on that here, if you've got an hour and a half.

Prell, you don't know much about me, and of that which you don't know, it's best not to speak.

Ginia Zenke

Has anybody in EdWorld read "From Good To Great" By Jim Collins? He studied certain companies that were chugging along and then went "great" and stayed that way. Then compared those companies - and their makeup - to those that went great but slipped back. He was essentially saying that companies that had long term success were headed by people who ran them based on good policy, and those companies that slipped back were headed by people with their personality as the driving force. Take away the driving force and the machine caves in. We've all seen success stories, those people who came on the scene at the right time and got people motivated and moving in the right direction, only to flame out, 2 years, 10 years on. Iacoca and Chrysler was Collin's prime example. One of the key tip-offs that all is not well is if they leader is making plans for the institution's success after he leaves, or if he is just making plans for his retirement, or in some cases, does he think he'll never retire? In other words, getting good people in the right spots in the company, on the board, whatever, to advance forward and even take the leadership role even before the current "golden boy" is gone is a key determining factor in longevity. Another tip-off: is he delegating authority or is he the "all information flows through me", instead of "to me" kind of leader. Both kinds bring energy and assets to the table; some have produced great results for their institutions, but the telling mark is if that quality lasts beyond his leaving. I'm sure we can all think of similar situations locally.... and it begs a further study on the narcissism involved as well...

Ed Cone

HPU is being pitched as a place that will help students get jobs and make money -- not as specific a promise as a trade school, but more targeted than a traditional liberal arts approach.

It's a reasonable idea, especially given the high cost of college, and even those who embrace (and can afford) a love-of-learning model probably can accept it as one option among many in the higher ed. marketplace.

The consumerist/prosperity gospel approach won't speak to everyone, either, but neither will the diverse philosophical approaches of numerous other schools (allow me to bore you with my own deracinated Quakerism...)

Allowing for all of that, the debt-load and luxury as a teaching tool both leave substantial room for discussion.

GZ: Interesting point about leadership. Cult vs. Culture?

John

Bob Stout was Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Greensboro College a couple years back. He should be very familiar with university financiing.

Account Deleted

It's interesting to watch these threads go off-topic and to see the ways in which Ed tries to steer them pack on point. Repeated references to the prosperity gospel haven't seemed to work this time however. But Good to Great is an apt reference here. As noted in the story and a comment above the sweetheart deal with a PR company the president founded and still is listed as corporate officer for, not to mention the tangled pipeline with BB&T, all seem to point to the cult model.

Beyond the cash flow, however, I'm more interested to know what the graduation rate is, what degrees the university produces and what impact their graduate programs are having in their fields? The graduate programs seem to be quite generic with no research and tech component in the sciences, so Wharton's point about administrative overflow may be at work here. MBAs and M.Eds are great but worth a nickle a dozen these days.

Andrew Brod

I agree that the "Good to Great" question is on target. Nido is a force of nature and I have no doubt that he can address any and all of the criticisms of HPU if he feels like it, gets around to it, etc. (And of course an additional important question is which of those applies.) But will his successor be able to sustain it all?

David Wharton

I had a quick look at HPU's curriculum, and its College of Arts and Sciences general education requirements are pretty standard liberal-arts fare, which their web page markets with all the current higher eduspeak.

It might seem crazy to say it, but $37,800 in tuition, room, and board at a private school is a bargain these days; most schools we looked at in the last year are $50,000+, but it's hard to know how many full-pay students they get.

I hope HPU thrives, but I'm not happy with the way Nido tore down the surrounding neighborhood; it was a historic resource he could have leveraged. Colorado College (tuition, room, and board $51,450) bought up the old houses around it and turned them into charming student housing and administrative offices.

Ginia Zenke

EW: He's not at cult status yet, and he can go down the culture road if he addresses the concerns of Virginia Louise; disclosure of funding, and planning for a Nido-less HPU future. If he's the only conduit for funding, "only the great Nido can pull in funding" and the flipside, donors who only want to talk funding with the great Nido, who have an "in" with Nido and couldn't possibly speak with the hired help in the Office of Development or the corresponding board committee, right there are your seeds for the cult.

Likewise, if the guy is making retirement plans or not planning to retire at all that's a big indicator of trouble as well. Leaders, and their immediate followers who have no contingency plans for Nido getting bored and going elsewhere, getting ill, getting found out about something and being forced to resign, dying off or just plain getting fired, are not doing their job to ensure the college's continued success.

Now that the physical plant is going strong, I think now is a good time to shift gears a bit and strengthen the scholarship programs and academics, with Elon serving as a model.

That said, I don't think we should judge based on his different approach and his investment in the built environment. I thought it was a fitting strategy that plugged into the High Point Furnishing Industry angle rather well. In a few years it will be the record of the students which will tell if this remake was a success or not. Did the well-endowed built environment produce better students, with better careers, commitment to their interests, better manners? Now that I know HPU has fraternities, I just have to ask: Can Bluto peacefully coexist with the Wedgewood?

There are examples of people who "find their niche" and make a job or project "their life's work" and do well at it, leaving it better than they found it, and they are to be applauded. But there is also a long list of Snake-oil salesmen who had vision and a flair for fundraising: Jim and Tammy Fay Baker, Sun Yung Moon, Kenneth Lay.... empire builders all.....

Ginia Zenke

EC:
When I wrote EW I meant EC but didn't have my glasses, they aren't quite a habit yet.
DW:
I have only gone through the sections of HP that have the showrooms, and not much else, so I'm not familiar w/ HPU or the surrounding 'hood. When Nido took out those areas was he taking out quality, charming assets, or at least good sturdy structures that could be renovated well. I ask, because just riding my usual route downtown, its hard to imagine anything different. I'll take your word for it if it was worth saving. Just Nido's policy phrase is offensive enough, "urban cleansing" is just too close to the government's "urban renewal" which destroyed so much.

Andrew Brod

The similarity of "urban cleansing" to "urban renewal" isn't what caught my eye.

Ginia Zenke

AB: What caught your eye?

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