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CAO Briefing: March-April 2017

March 01, 2017

CAO Briefing


Welcome to CAO Briefing, ACE's bi-monthly news roundup for chief academic officers. The countdown has begun for ACE2017, our 99th Annual Meeting, which begins this Saturday, March 11, in Washington, DC. Hopefully, we will see many of you there—if not, please start thinking now about joining us next year for our 100th anniversary meeting, which also will be held in Washington. For those of you who will be attending this year, we have a full range of sessions of interest to CAOs, including The Next Wave of Higher Education Change (a presidents and CAOs caucus session) and Taking Charge: Fundraising for Academic Leaders, both scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Continue sending your news tips and feedback on CAO Briefing to Jim Sirianni, a director in ACE Leadership. For those of you on Twitter, follow ACE at @ACEducation.


How the Immigration Controversy Could Drive Up the Cost of College: More than one million international students studied at U.S. colleges and universities last year, adding an estimated $35 billion to the U.S. economy, according to a recent study from the Institute of International Education. After the Trump administration’s first immigration travel ban was issued in January, institutions are already seeing drop-offs in international applications. The Hechinger Report looks at what this decline could mean for colleges and universities, and the country as a whole.

Whiteboard Session: The Ingredients of Great Leadership: The conversation about what it means to be a great leader is often clichéd and vague, says historian Nancy Koehn. In this video, Koehn discusses how leaders are made and the necessity of embracing the cause of leadership once you’ve decided to step into the fray.

Between Scylla and Charybdis: Navigating the Cost of College: In this new post on Higher Education Today, Marist College (NY) Vice President Geoffrey L. Brackett looks at how the stagnation of incomes, shifting employment models and income gap disparity has affected the middle class, a population that has traditionally depended on the upward mobility that comes with a traditional four-year college degree. While the benefits of a degree are significant, the challenges of college affordability make it clear that the current model cannot continue without strategic innovation.

Higher Education Can Lead the Way Toward a More Tolerant Society: We spend so much time examining the individual benefits of higher education that we often overlook the societal benefits, according to ACE’s Lorelle Espinosa. College graduates are more engaged citizens, more involved in their communities, more likely to understand the issues of the day and vote, among other things—all of which strengthens America’s economy and citizenry. But higher education, Espinosa argues, also can lead the way to a more tolerant society, which may be the number one societal good it has to offer.

American Universities Must Take a Stand: Bard College (NY) President Leon Botstein writes in The New York Times that higher education leaders must speak up in the current political climate and work to ensure that academic freedom and the highest standards of scholarship prevail. College and university presidents should defend the principles that have enabled institutions of higher education to flourish: freedom and tolerance, and openness to individuals no matter their national origin or religion.

Why Pragmatic Liberal Education Matters Now More Than Ever: On a similar note, Michael S. Roth, president of Wesleyan University (CT), writes that liberal education matters now more than it ever has. A scholar of China, Roth explains how scholars in that country are daring to imagine ways to preserve culture and stimulate inquiry for the sake of social progress, despite political constraints. Such progress, he claims, is becoming harder to imagine in America given a political climate bent on ignoring facts.

Academic Affairs

Provosts in the Middle: Inside Higher Ed in January released the findings of the 2017 Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers, conducted by Gallup and answered by 654 provosts or CAOs. The results show that most respondents believe the academic health of their institutions is quite strong, with 86 percent saying that it is either excellent or good. But while that finding might suggest CAOs are feeling confident about how their institutions are fulfilling their many missions, when it comes to institutional effectiveness and many other larger challenges, they aren't always confident.

Making Committee Service Count: For decades, American higher education, with its long tradition of shared governance, has fretted over the burdens of faculty service and workloads more generally. Of late, demands for service, along with demands on administrators, have swelled because of such forces as increased oversight by accrediting and government agencies; campus safety; teaching effectiveness; sex and race discrimination; and more. The Chronicle of Higher Education looks at how administrators can get the most from all of these committees.


How Much Power Does Betsy DeVos Really Hold to Shake Up Higher Ed? The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education has raised alarms among many academics, who worry that the billionaire philanthropist might do harm to higher education. During her bruising confirmation battle, some raised questions about the new secretary’s grasp of education policy and her commitment to public education. But beyond rolling back Obama-era policies, how much power does DeVos really wield over higher education?

Waiting for the Dominoes to Fall: The surprise election of Donald Trump and the resulting one-party control of the legislative and executive branches makes substantial changes in federal policy over the next two years nearly inevitable. When it comes to figuring out what this will mean for financial aid, speculation about the future is heightened by the stakes involved and some clearly identified threats. ACE’s Jon Fansmith looks at the best- and worst-case scenarios for the coming months.

San Francisco Becomes First City to Offer Free Community College Tuition to All Residents: Last month, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced it would start setting aside $5.4 million per year to cover enrollment fees and other expenses for City College of San Francisco students, making it the first city in the nation to offer free tuition to residents. Overall, the program could provide some form of assistance to 28,000 to 30,000 students.

ACE Events

National Women’s Leadership Forum: Encourage senior-level women on your team to register for ACE's 89th National Women's Leadership Forum, scheduled for June 21-23 in Herndon, VA (just outside of Washington, DC). The program includes the opportunity to sharpen critical leadership skills, participate in mock video-taped interviews and CV/resume critiques, work with executive search consultants to develop effective search strategies, and meet outstanding women leaders to gain a better understanding of the inherent rewards and challenges of a presidency. Women working at the dean's level or above from all institutional types and who are planning to seek a college or university presidency, vice presidency or major deanship, may participate in the program. Limited scholarships are available.

ACE Institute for New Chief Academic Officers: If you are new on the job, please join us for this nine-month program consisting of three meetings that aims to identify topics and issues of immediate concern to recently appointed academic vice presidents and provide the means to address them. Each convening is highly participatory, incorporating interactive panels with experienced CAOs, mini case studies presented by program participants, conversations with peers from a range of institutions and briefings by national experts. The first session for the 2017-18 Institute will take place July 25-27 in Washington, DC. Other meeting dates are Nov. 28-30 in Albuquerque, NM, and March 9-10, 2018, in Washington, DC.

2017 CAO-CBO Collaborations: At no time has the relationship between CAOs and chief business officers (CBO) mattered more to the effective leadership of colleges and universities. To help better understand and support this important relationship, ACE and the National Association of College and University Business Officers bring together CAOs and CBOs for an annual two-day meeting, this year scheduled for Aug. 7-8 in Washington, DC. We encourage you and your CBO to register together to receive a team discount and make the most out of the program.

2017-19 ACE Internationalization Laboratory: ACE’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement (CIGE) is now accepting applications for the 15th cohort of the Internationalization Laboratory. Institutions that join will build leadership teams to develop strategic plans that will focus campus attention on internationalization, with the goal of long-lasting institutional change. Interested campuses should apply soon as space is limited. For more information, contact CIGE at Cohort participants begin 20 months of work in August 2017.


America’s Great Working-Class Colleges: Universities that educate students from modest backgrounds face big challenges, particularly state budget cuts. But many of them are performing much better than their new stereotype suggests, according to a new study from the Equality of Opportunity Project. They remain deeply impressive institutions that continue to push many Americans into the middle class and beyond—many more, in fact, than elite colleges that receive far more attention.

New Books

The World Economic Forum looks at the best-selling leadership books of 2017 so far on Amazon. Topping the list is The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, which explains why one of our favorite activities—multitasking—is not the most efficient or productive way to work.

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