Thursday, July 26, 2012

Harrisburg University misses payroll

I've received numerous reports that Harrisburg University missed payroll on July 13th. Apparently the University secured another loan to make payroll a few days later. HU has also failed to pay faculty overload pay which was due July 13th, instead telling faculty that they would be paid around at the end of August.
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Sunday, July 15, 2012

It's only a matter of time for Harrisburg University...

You may recall back in December I reported:

Dickinson State University's president was fired for inflating enrollment numbers and for creating an intimidating environment. Those who were misidentified as enrolled students included members of the general public and high-school students seeking dual credit. An auditor's reports said "The....leadership has created a campus culture that is divided, one of distrust, disrespect, and staff being pressured to engage in unethical, suspect, or wasteful activities to meet demands."

On July 11, 2012 Dickinson State University was put "On Notice" (probation) by it's accrediting body. Their report states:

On July 11, 2012, the Higher Learning Commission placed Dickinson State University on
Notice. The Commission’s Board of Trustees took this action because of concerns related to the
University’s oversight of admissions and transfer procedures; its gathering and reporting of
enrollment and related data; its accountability for, and oversight of, contractual relationships
related to its academic program; the integrity of the program provided to certain international
students; and its articulation of, and consistent adherence to, policies and procedures at the
University or other levels.
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HU students - got something to say? The press would like to hear your story. Drop me a note if you want your voice to be heard.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Harrisburg University fails to address poor student outcomes

You've heard me talk ad nauseum about enrollment. I've talked some about outcomes, but it's hard to understand what I mean without clear evidence.  The chart below should give you some idea about why I've been crying foul over HU's poor performance as an academic institution.                                                                                                                        
Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics
The figures tell us that HU only awarded 20 Bachelors degrees in all of 2010-11. That is a very small senior class --that's not even 10% of the undergraduate student body.

Most of the graduate degrees were awarded in Project Management, which isn't even a STEM discipline.

You can also see from the chart that there are a few programs that are very, very dead. eBusiness only had ONE graduate and Geospatial Technology (AKA GIS) once again had NONE. Learning Technologies managed to have a couple of graduates. These three programs cost the University somewhere in the neighborhood of $300K a year, just in director salaries, yet they managed to produce only THREE graduates. This is a testament to HU's lack of assessment and inability to act to improve student outcomes.
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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Unaudited Balance Sheets March 31, 2012 and 2011


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Harrisburg University responsible for population growth?

Seriously? HU is claiming credit for population growth?!

And BTW a 2% change in population over 10 years is not statistically significant.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It's just a matter of time.....

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported yesterday that Mountain State University's accreditation will be withdrawn:

Mountain State University, a small private institution in West Virginia that paid its president like an Ivy League chief, will lose its accreditation next month...Explaining its decision in a report, the Higher Learning Commission cited violations of three of its accreditation criteria, including "mission and integrity," "preparing for the future," and "student learning and effective teaching."

The violations struck at the heart of the academic enterprise of Mountain State, where the agency found that teaching and learning were compromised by a lack of faculty oversight and insufficient resources.

The university's graduation rate of 8 percent, while skewed because of its large number of part-time students, remains below that of many of the institution's peers, the commission found.

The commission determined that Mountain State's Board of Trustees has been lax in its oversight of the institution, which was for years under the tight control of Mr. Polk and a small group of administrators. Several of those administrators, who remain employed, "lack credentials and previous employment experience consistent with their job titles and responsibilities," the commission found.
- The Chronicle of Higher Education July, 2012, Mountain State U.'s Regional Accreditation Will Be Withdrawn

Humm...anyone else know of any other university with overpaid leadership that "lack credentials and previous employment experience consistent with their job titles and responsibilities," has a graduation rate around 9%, hasn't met their mission, have failed to prepare for the future, have failed at student learning and effective teaching, have a lack of faculty oversight and insufficient resources?
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HU students - got something to say? The press would like to hear your story. Drop me a note if you want your voice to be heard.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Harrisburg University faculty...confused?

Note: I make references in this post to the recent discussion at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore about Harrisburg University. You will see time stamps that look like this (00:00). You can match the time stamp to the recording to find the source of the quote.
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As many of you know, on June 21, 2012 there was a public panel discussion about the issues surrounding Harrisburg University. The event was at full capacity. The tone of the discussion was generally cordial and respectful. There was a lot of good information and a lot of good questions -- there was so much information, the discussion ran long and probably would have run well into the night if the moderator hadn't kept it to a reasonable length.

There was one full-time adjunct instructor that attended the discussion. I don't know if he was there on his own accord or if he was acting on behalf of Harrisburg University. At (1:11:50), he asked me "How many faculty members are at HU?" even though 1) He's a faculty member so he should already know the answer and 2) a few minutes prior to his question I answered the same question with "12 faculty and 28 or so adjuncts" (58:18). He was driving at the fact that I don't agree with the numbers that HU puts out there in terms of faculty members, so I often don't quote the official figures. I explained why I don't quote the official figures, but I again said "12 full-time faculty" and "roughly 29 adjuncts". Those numbers are in line with what is listed with the U.S. Department of Education for the Fall of 2011, the most recent year data is available. (See: What is faculty?) He later goes on to state "...there are about 50 faculty members" at HU (1:17:35) which is simply not true. You can't count everyone that HU has listed as faculty, as many have never taught a class at HU (like David Burns, Mel Shiavelli or Stephen Reed) and  you can't count people that don't work there anymore.

Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics

He then asks "You're talking about retention numbers and you're equating that to declining enrollment numbers. Isn't it a fact that enrollment of freshman has about doubled each year in the last few years? I know we are going to have approximately 200 over the last year's 100?" (1:13:57) It appears he is confusing "enrollment" (student body) with "first-time first-year enrollment" (freshman). Sheila Dow-Ford eventually fields the question by explaining that the total enrollment numbers (even if freshman enrollment has increased) don't meet the projected levels of growth in order to meet the debt service. She explains that it's a "very basic arithmetic calculation."

Additionally, it isn't true that freshman enrollment has doubled each year for the past few years, nor was there even 100 of them last year. (See "Harrisburg University caught in another questionable statement about enrollment") Eric Darr stated that the first-time first-year (freshmen) undergraduate enrollment for 2009 was 69. So if that doubled for 2010 that would be 138 for Fall of 2010, 276 for Fall of 2011 and 552 for Fall of 2012. I'm going to go out on a limb and make a crazy prediction: HU will not have 552 freshman this fall.  The reality is that there were 69 freshman (according to Darr) in Fall 2009 and there where 92 in Fall 2011 (according to the audit.) That is only a 25% increase over three years. Darr recently claimed their were "140 committed" freshman (not 200) for Fall 2012. Historically about a third of those won't actually enroll, so HU will be back to a freshman class of 90 something again for Fall 2012. Growing first-time first-year students is a sign of better marketing, but retention is an indicator of the institution's health/quality. HU has seen modest increases in freshman enrollment, yet many of them still don't return for a second year. That's why retention is related to enrollment.

A member of the audience asks the adjunct faculty member "Are you seeing that your students are making it through the semesters when you say your numbers are up? Do the kids stick it out or do they have a hard time sticking in there?" (1:29:36) The adjunct replies with "Most of the students,  yes...there are few students that run into very specific problems...it's always one of three things: It's either a financial disaster within their family....they aren't prepared for college, their high school or whatever did not prepare them and then there is a third type of student that just doesn't want to work." Has Horatio Alger returned from the grave? Apparently in the adjunct's view, HU bears no responsibly for retention issues. Students drop out because of their own problems: Financial issues, not being prepared or not having a strong work ethic. I would say that a school that has a mission to serve underrepresented students and has open admission should anticipate that those students will have those types of issues and have a strong program in place to address them. If the institution fails to anticipate and address these issues, it's a fundamental failure on the part of the faculty and the institution, not the students.

The audience member then asks if the adjunct taught upper level courses and if those numbers carry over to the upper level classes. The adjunct states he taught a "400 level" class with "four students who entered it" (Did they finish it?) He also claimed that is was "normal" and apparently tried to explain away the low number of students by claiming it was a "graduate" class. (1:32:03) According to the Harrisburg University Catalog, 400 level classes are undergraduate classes.

A handy chart for future reference



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HU students - got something to say? The press would like to hear your story. Drop me a note if you want your voice to be heard.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Harrisburg University achieves a 9% overall graduation rate

According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education, the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology has an overall graduation rate of 9%.

Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics

Those numbers are not what you would typically see from a 4-year university. For comparison, here are some graduation rates form other local 4-year institutions:

Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics for Fall 2010
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Harrisburg University: Enrollment. Again.

You may recall last month I reported that Harrisburg University had a decline in enrollment.  The official reports are now available, check it out for yourself. Here are HU's historical enrollment numbers:

Source: Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics June 2012

This is the official government data that was just released:

Source: Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics June 2012

Enrollment fell from 373 in Fall 2010 to 322 in Fall 2011. HU had a loss of about 50 students

Current Enrollment
31 students graduated in 2011.
Retention rates tell us that about 35 1st-year students won't return for Fall 2012. So...

322-31=291-35=256

Therefore a fair estimate of current student enrollment at HU is still around 256. If you include students that are "committed", but not enrolled (140 according to Darr) and pretend that all first-year students from the Fall of 2011 are going to return, you get a different number.

Source: Patriot News July 2012 Harrisburg University sees partnerships as vital.

In reality it doesn't matter all that much if HU has 256 or 440 students though, since neither of those numbers even approach what HU needs to be sustainable. HU's business plan calls for 983 students by the Fall of 2013. I'm guessing that they are gonna' miss that goal.
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HU students - got something to say? The press would like to hear your story. Drop me a note if you want your voice to be heard.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Harrisburg University and the Patriot News

The Patriot News has a long history of publishing fluff for HU and deleting comments that aren't favorable to HU (not just mine). They do get it right on occasion, but more often then not, they are simply serving as a platform for HU's PR department. Case in point: The Patriot -News recently published an interview with Robert Dolan and Eric Darr. It gave Darr and Dolan a nice platform to pontificate (but fodder for me since they state "facts" and figures.) I wrote a comment in response to other comments:

Even though the University has taken $50+ million of our tax money, they are a private institution and don't need to offer us any details about their finances. As a non-profit, they do need to file 990 forms though (http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/990finder/) The 990s will give you an idea how they pay themselves (they pay themselves well!). You can also see their financial audits related to the bonds (http://emma.msrb.org/IssueView/IssueDetails.aspx?id=MS102267) Clearly HU is a financial disaster, Darr's prediction about "breaking even" in 18 months is about as reliable as the rest of his financial predictions (read the business plan, it's laughable.) HU needs three times the students they currently have to even have a chance at survival. Historically, they have been unable to recruit or retain students to reach those levels and they won’t as long as they keep their current leadership and trustees.

Yes, SciTech students can go to HU tuition free, although most of them elect not to (that should tell you something). The Harrisburg School District supported HU with millions of $ -- the claim was that ALL CITY students could go to college for free. That was never honored though, it's just SciTech graduates. The HSD would have been better off just paying the student’s tuition outright. HU is having a problem recruiting locally, because their academic reputation is not a good one.

HU has no significant endowment, they are tuition driven. Recruiting international students would be a great idea if they had already met their mission to serve the Commonwealth. HU needs to improve as an institution before it recruits internationally though, it can't even keep LOCAL students. HU has worse-in-class retention rates because it's a terrible institution; it clearly has little chance of retaining international students. Competent leadership could have predicted that very easily.  Real universities that recruit internationally understand that there are cultural differences and offer help and support to that end. At HU it was just another half-baked ridiculous plan to make money. The bottom line is that it doesn't matter how many students (international or otherwise) are suckered into enrolling each year if they don't come back the next year. Reeling students in and spitting them out is classic behavior of a for-profit predatory institution.

It should be obvious to anyone that takes a sincere look at HU that it is nothing more than another Steve Reed financial boondoggle. They spent something like $73 million for an "academic center" that contains a total of EIGHT class rooms and a few labs. Heck, floors 3-9 are a PARKING GARAGE that the HPA owns and floors 10 and 11 were never finished. They spent $73 million for that? Now HU is spending more of our tax dollars (check out roxburynews.com) to remodel apartment buildings they don't even own. At the same time, the people of Dauphin County were forced to pay $1.5 million towards HU’s bonds. Dauphin county has also been loaning them money since 2010 to meet operating costs (which HU never paid back.) Where else would local government be paying the mortgage and operating costs for a private university besides Harrisburg? HU's leadership has been academically inept and financially irresponsible since day one -- defaulting on loans and borrowing new money to pay old debt that they couldn't pay back is nothing new to HU.  

The Patriot-News deleted the comment. 
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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Harrisburg University hires another administrator

The Central Penn Business Journal reports that HU has hired an "associate vice president to manage its growing list of university centers." Did they hire more faculty? Did they hire someone to fix the retention problem? Did they step up programs to help disadvantage students? Nope, they hired another BS administrator. Is there no end to the incompetent leadership at HU?
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Harrisburg University raises tuition again

The Patriot-News reported today that Harrisburg University increased its tuition by $1400 for 2012-13. Undergraduate tuition will now be $23,900 per year. That's $95,600 for a four year degree from a less-than-stellar institution.

There is no shortage of good schools in the Harrisburg area with more reasonable tuition:
York College of PA - $16,520
Penn State Harrisburg - $13,900 
Harrisburg Area Community College (2-year) - $4,440
Messiah College - $29,460


[7/3: Correction(s): fixed math errors. I shouldn't drink so early in the day ;)]
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