Skip to Main Content

Topic: Governance

Blog Post
August 30, 2021

Higher Ed Consolidation and Equity

Across American higher education, institutional consolidations are on the rise. In particular, multiple state systems have proposed or completed mergers of regional universities and/or community colleges with the stated goal of increasing efficiency. The conditions prompting these consolidations have been mounting for years—among them a long-term downward trend in state support for higher education and demographic shifts away from traditional-aged college students, especially in rural areas where numerous public institutions are located. With the COVID-19 pandemic contributing to…
Research Report
August 30, 2021

Public College and University Consolidations and the Implications for Equity

Across American higher education, institutional consolidations are on the rise. In particular, multiple state systems have proposed or completed mergers of regional universities and/or community colleges with the stated goal of increasing efficiency. The conditions prompting these consolidations have been mounting for years—among them a long-term downward trend in state support for higher education and demographic shifts away from traditional-aged college students, especially in rural areas where numerous public institutions are located. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting recession…
Case Study
August 30, 2021

A Georgia Case Study

A Look at the University System Consolidations with an Eye Towards Race, Ethnicity, and Equity

While it is clear that not all mergers and consolidations are a success story, and some collapse under backlash from students, faculty, and other community members, the University System of Georgia (USG) has completed an astounding number of successful mergers between its institutions. In fact, USG has “what is likely the nation’s most aggressive and high-profile campus consolidation program.”In 2010, when discussions regarding consolidations began, the university system had a total of 35 institutions “including roughly 10 in parts of…
Case Study
August 30, 2021

Consolidating the University of Wisconsin Colleges

The Reorganization of the University of Wisconsin System

In 2017 to 2018, the University of Wisconsin (UW) System undertook a major consolidation, removing its two-year college campuses from a standalone sub-system known as the UW Colleges and merging them with nearby four-year UW institutions. The system-level motivation for doing so, in a state undergoing a demographic shift with an aging population, was ultimately budgetary, even if specific savings were not promised. The receiving universities followed several different models for their mergers, some of which appear to have been…
Case Study
August 30, 2021

A Texas Merger

The Creation of University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

In December of 2012 administrators for the University of Texas (UT) System announced a proposed merger of University of Texas-Brownsville and the University of Texas-Pan American “with an eye toward securing increased state funds and potentially building a medical school.” Both increased funding and the medical school were seen as important equity issues, given South Texas’s low per capita incomes and predominantly Hispanic population. The status of University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) and University of Texas Pan American (UTPA)…
Blog Post
August 17, 2021

“It pushes you down even further”

Documenting the Burden of Stranded Credits Through the Voices of Those Affected

In October 2020, Ithaka S+R estimated that 6.6 million people in the US owe a debt to a college or university they previously attended, and because of that, cannot access their transcripts or credentials. This insidious and understudied form of student debt not only saddles individuals with collections, credit rating issues, and other typical consequences of debt, but also prevents them from using credits and credentials they’ve earned to continue their education or…
Research Report
August 17, 2021

Stranded Credits: A Matter of Equity

Usually when student debt is discussed and examined, the focus is on federal and private loans; however there are other more insidious forms of student debt that affect thousands of students each year and impact their ability to matriculate, transfer, qualify for scholarships and even qualify for job opportunities. Stranded credits is a phenomenon where students earn academic credits but cannot access them due to an unpaid balance with a previously attended institution that is holding their transcript as collateral.
Issue Brief
February 25, 2021

Academic Research Budgets

A Look Ahead with Special Emphasis on Research Enablement and Support

The United States university sector’s research enterprise is an important national asset. It is highly competitive and highly innovative in ordinary times, and during the past year plagued by coronavirus it pivoted quickly to conduct urgently needed research on a new threat. Beyond its national and international significance, the research enterprise is also an enormous asset—intellectually and financially—for each of the individual universities with a major stake in it. At the high level, the pandemic may seem not to have…
Blog Post
January 19, 2021

A New Report Examining the Relationship between Postsecondary Attainment and State Finances

Over the past two years, Ithaka S+R, in partnership with the Joyce Foundation, has examined the role of state policy in ensuring postsecondary access and opportunity for all students. In a newly released research paper, we build on our previous work and make the economic case for states to increase their attainment rates. To reap the benefits of their investments in increased attainment, we recommend that state leaders increase investment into historically underserved students, adopt progressive tax…
Issue Brief
January 19, 2021

It’s Complicated

The Relationship between Postsecondary Attainment and State Finances

Increased college-going and attainment comes with a host of benefits for individuals and society. A college credential is associated with increased civic engagement, volunteering, happiness, life satisfaction, and better health and wellness, as well as lower incarceration rates and reliance on social services. In addition to the host of nonpecuniary benefits of higher education, there is a direct link between both college access and attainment and students’ future economic outcomes. For example, students with test scores just above the eligibility…
Issue Brief
December 10, 2020

An Overview of State Higher Education Funding Approaches

Lessons and Recommendations

With a pandemic-driven recession and unemployment stratified by postsecondary attainment levels, investments in education, including higher education, are needed now more than ever. Yet, the outlook for state finances is grim, especially if federal investment stalls, and shrinking budgets and financial instability are likely to lead to reductions in state spending. As we discuss in a companion brief, during times of constrained resources, states’ playbooks should include three key elements: ensuring that higher education funding is adequate, ensuring that institutions…
Blog Post
December 1, 2020

Leadership for the Research Enterprise

For many of the largest universities, the research enterprise is an essential component of the mission. And during this year of pandemic related disruptions, it has proved to be one of the most resilient sources of university revenue. In recent years, major universities have established senior research officers to provide a unitary source of leadership for this vital work. Today, my colleague Oya Rieger and I are publishing a major examination of the role of the senior…
Research Report
December 1, 2020

The Senior Research Officer

Experience, Role, Organizational Structure, Strategic Directions, and Challenges

The research enterprise continues to grow more complex, competitive, interdisciplinary, and interinstitutional. Although academic research often is conducted in a distributed and grassroots manner, the senior research officer (SRO) plays an increasingly central and unifying role in stewarding research activities and shaping institutional policies and strategies. The SRO—who often holds the title of vice president, vice provost, or vice chancellor for research—typically holds responsibilities including overseeing external funding, institutional research safety and compliance, core research facilities, and research ethics and…
Blog Post
November 12, 2020

Findings from the Inaugural Art Museum Director Survey

Benchmarking Perspectives from Early 2020

Today, Jennifer Frederick and I published findings from the inaugural art museum director survey, funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and conducted in partnership with the Association of Art Museum Directors and the American Alliance of Museums. The survey captures the perspectives of directors from a moment in time before the COVID-19 pandemic forced closures of museums in the US, and before the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked major protests against police brutality…
Research Report
November 12, 2020

Ithaka S+R Art Museum Director Survey 2020

Art museums serve a unique social role in that they operate between the public sphere, the academy, the art market, and the philanthropic sector. They are invaluable resources for scholars and also serve school children, adults, seniors while engaging broadly in the cultural life of their cities. Beyond these roles, they also have the responsibility to maintain and care for a collection of objects for future generations in perpetuity. The Ithaka S+R Art Museum Director Survey 2020 examines strategy and…
Research Report
November 10, 2020

Structuring Collaborations

The Opportunities and Challenges of Building Relationships Between Academic Museums and Libraries

In 2019 Ithaka S+R received funding from the Mellon Foundation to study the structural relationships between academic museums and libraries. Ithaka S+R conducted interviews with museum and library directors, and in some cases other senior staff, at thirty universities. Based on these interviews, three institutions were selected for short case studies as examples of effective collaborations: University of Iowa, the Atlanta University Center, and Princeton University.
Blog Post
October 26, 2020

Looking at the Impacts of COVID-19 on the Research Enterprise

New Report

Scholarly research is an enormous priority for many higher education institutions, serving both as a core part of the academic mission and also in some cases a major source of revenue. This year’s COVID-19 pandemic massively disrupted scientific research projects and the lives and careers of scientists themselves, and it has already begun to have profound budget consequences for some of the most research intensive higher education institutions. Some of the other impacts of this period of disruption…
Research Report
October 26, 2020

The Impacts of COVID-19 on the Research Enterprise

A Landscape Review

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated disruptions have had a major impact on the US academic research enterprise. This report provides a landscape review of what is known about these impacts, from March through mid-October 2020, with an aim of identifying gaps that should be addressed. Our focus is on externally funded research, and therefore we emphasize STEM fields almost exclusively. As a result, we also focus on the largest research universities, which conduct an outsized share of this research and…
Blog Post
October 5, 2020

“Stranded Credits”

New Report Explores Scope and Effects of Transcript Withholding 

In the past 20 years, over thirty-six million Americans have left higher education without earning a postsecondary degree or credential. Those with some college experience but no degree are often left in debt without the requisite labor market opportunities to pay it off, and can struggle financially for several years after dropping out. These impacts are particularly deleterious for students of color, who are often saddled with an…
Research Report
October 5, 2020

Solving Stranded Credits

Assessing the Scope and Effects of Transcript Withholding on Students, States, and Institutions

Attention to the burden of U.S. educational debt, now at $1.7 trillion, has grown in recent years. For too many former postsecondary students—especially Black students—debt they took on to improve their lives and career prospects has instead become a financial hindrance, delaying or undermining their efforts to buy homes, build savings, or provide for their families. The debt burden is especially severe for those who never completed their postsecondary program and therefore did not receive the credentials that might have…