Higher Education in America’s Highest City
Education News: Filling Jobs and Classrooms
The following two op-ed pieces were submitted by two of the top leaders when it comes to education in Lake County. The first was written by CMC’s lead administrator, President Dr. Carrie Hauser who describes the challenges the college is seeing in filling staff positions. The second op-ed piece is from Joyce Rankin who represents Lake County at the State Board of Education. Her post addresses another component to the university discussion: student admissions.
Thank you for reading and feel free to weigh in on any of Leadville Today’s social platforms.
CMC’s Commitment: Community First
By Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser
Each June, when most of our mountain resort communities are gearing up to welcome summer visitors and host signature festivals and events, the team at Colorado Mountain College has its first opportunity to exhale and prepare for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1. This year is no different, although conditions in 2019 have added new challenges and opportunities for your local college.
Most of the mountain region is doing well economically. Unemployment rates remain at historic lows, and local sales appear to have rebounded above pre-recession levels. Home prices continue to climb as do the local resident populations. Restaurants are full and crowds are ever-present – as are help wanted signs.
Though its campuses are generally smaller and highly tailored to the specific communities each serves, as a whole, CMC is one of the larger employers on the Western Slope. Consequently, the trends we see at the college usually reveal realities observed in the broader mountain economy.
The extremely low unemployment rate combined with ever-escalating costs of living in our mountain towns means that all employers are competing for a diminishing number of qualified employees. While this has always been true in remote resort towns, the intensity of the current marketplace is forcing employers to rethink strategies for recruiting and retaining the best employees. CMC is no different.
Historically, colleges like CMC could conduct regional and national searches and expect robust pools of applicants and many highly viable applicants. Over the past year or two, this has changed, especially for executive-level positions. Despite conducting vigorous searches, expending thousands of dollars and devoting hundreds of hours of staff and faculty time, CMC has seen several major national searches fail. Finalist candidates collide with reality when considering a move to our high-cost region. Their current employers counter CMC’s offer to prevent a highly talented professional from leaving. These results are costly for the college, frustrating for those who participate on the search committees, and a waste of time and talent that could have been applied to CMC’s core role and mission: serving our local communities and feeding the workforce with exceptionally trained nurses, teachers, police and other first responders, firefighters, entrepreneurs and outdoor industry professionals, to name a few.
Certainly, CMC could compromise its principles and just hire “adequate” employees. But, why settle for anything less than excellence? My principal responsibility in leading a dynamic college means building the best team possible and promising every member of our team that their work matters — and that they matter. For this reason, CMC will not compromise its quality due to an extremely tight labor market. Instead, we will invest in talented professionals right in our backyard and who are already committed to the region we love.
This strategy is paying off. Over the past year or so, I have authorized a number of “interim” positions, approved several internal promotions and made one external executive appointment to maintain continuity, grow our own talent, and position the college for continued and uninterrupted success. We have focused on increasing our employees’ skills by providing several internal leadership programs to support them in their own professional development. This year, more students graduated from CMC than at any other time in the college’s history and the college’s operations remain at or below inflation while we make the investments necessary to keep college facilities and technologies up to date.
The current economic circumstances will undoubtedly evolve as the economy matures through its current bull market cycle. A more “normal” cycle of employment will likely return. CMC will not, however, become complacent or lower its standards.
We have had to rethink the ways to ensure the college has the human capital it needs to achieve the very ambitious goals it set for itself, but we will never compromise our vision and aspirations. Our world-class communities deserve world-class campuses with world-class leaders. The current employment market won’t trip us up or force us to shift these priorities. This is our commitment to you.
Carrie Besnette Hauser is president & CEO of Colorado Mountain College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @CMCPresident.
Adversity in Diversity, for the University
By Joyce Rankin, Colorado Board of Education
Just when we were focusing on the READ Act and its importance for success in life, we find that entrance into some colleges will include an evaluation of the applicant’s school and community environment. The College Board controversy has been widely discussed in news articles over the past month. In case you missed it here are some highlights.
The College Board, an organization that prepares and administers standardized tests for college admission, also known as the SAT, has added an “adversity score” to reflect socio-economic advantages and disadvantages for college admission. So far it has been piloted by 50 colleges and universities and there are plans to expand to 150 colleges by 2020.
College Board president, David Coleman, says the “adversity index” is about finding young people who do a great deal with what they are given. They identify more than 15 factors that contribute to the score including poverty or food stamp eligibility, crime rates, broken families, single parent families, rent as a percentage of income, disorderly schools, families with education deficits, etc. Forbes magazine pointed out that race was conspicuously omitted from the new metric designed to inform admissions officers.
Transparency is a concern. There are 100 points given in the metric on adversity, and both the formula and results are proprietary. That means students are not informed of their scores and how they are calculated. Colleges and Universities will know the SAT adversity score, and applicants will not. Skeptics also point out that a neighborhood doesn’t necessarily measure a student’s grit or resilience. Can you compare socio-economic background without measuring the influences of parents, siblings, or mentors on a student? Because of these concerns, some students/parents are opting to take the ACT college entrance exam over the SAT.
In a Washington Post opinion piece, George Will has stated that the new metric is another step down the path of “identity politics,” putting college applicants into groups and categories, rather than evaluating them individually. He also goes on to state, “The College Board wants to solve a complex social problem that it and its test are unsuited to solve.”
Stanford University professor, Sean Reardon, commented that a well-educated, higher income family living in a poor neighborhood, is going to overstate the disadvantage. And there is also the consideration of international students. How will they be evaluated for admission?
So, I’ll leave it up to you. As one writer opined, will it increase fairness in college admissions? Will it help increase the diversity of enrollments? Or will it backfire, adding to Americans’ skepticism about the legitimacy of college admissions? Will it be viewed as an algorithm for political correctness, or worse, a form of handicapping that brings students with high scores more harm than good in the long run?
Please send your thoughts on this or any other educational matters you may have.
Thank you for the honor to serve.
Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District which includes Leadville and Lake County. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in the 29 counties she serves. The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol. Email her at email@example.com