Home Current Events Higher Ed Insights: Week of Oct. 24, 2016
Higher Ed Insights: Week of Oct. 24, 2016

Higher Ed Insights: Week of Oct. 24, 2016


A book by BowenLast week marked the passing of Dr. William G. Bowen, former provost and president at Princeton University, president of the Mellon Foundation, and author of several noteworthy books on higher education. During his tenure at the Mellon Foundation, he created an internal research division, the non-profit reference sources JSTOR and ARTstor, and the iThaka research foundation dedicated to examining the interface between technology and education. The books he authored or co-authored include: The Shape of the River with Derek Bok (2000), The Game of Life (2002), Reclaiming the Game (2005), Crossing the Finish Line (2009), Higher Education in the Digital Age (2013), and Lesson Plan (2016).

Bowen, along with his fellow Princeton economist William Baumol, also coined the term “cost disease” to describe the higher than inflation spending in higher education in the 1960s and beyond. I had the good fortune to meet him at a conference a few years ago where we discussed the potential for online learning to influence the higher education cost curve. His influence on higher education was monumental.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) released a paper co-authored by David Demin, Michael Lovenheim, and Richard Patterson that examines tuition pricing and enrollment across sectors since the 50/50 rule was eliminated by Congress in the 2006 Higher Education Act reauthorization (note: the 50/50 rule required institutions to enroll no more than one online student for every face-to-face or onground student). The paper is inconclusive about the impact of online education on public institutions, but the researchers cite evidence that private institutions in near-monopoly markets saw decreased enrollments and tuition pricing after the climb in online enrollments.

In an Inside Higher Education article, Russ Poulin, director of policy and analysis for the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), agreed with the paper’s findings about declines in enrollments in monopoly markets but disputed the authors’ assumptions that colleges are attracted to online education because it enables them to cut costs. Instead, he argues that online education allows many colleges to expand their market share by serving adult learners who prefer the convenience of attending online programs. I agree with his comment about market expansion and note that another NBER report was issued recently that discussed the expansion of learners enabled by Georgia Tech’s online Master’s of Science degree in Computer Science. In addition, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) has had a limited ability to differentiate between online and onground learners until very recently, so some of the IPEDS data may not capture all of the online learners.

A federal appeals court (the Eighth Circuit) upheld a lower court ruling allowing a community college in Minnesota (Central Lakes College) to dismiss a student from a nursing program because of comments the student made on Facebook. While the judges disagreed about whether the statements were protected under the First Amendment, they ultimately decided that the program the student was enrolled in was covered by a code of ethics. Attorneys for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) were disappointed in the decision which they believe gives institutions the ability to “do an end run around the First Amendment.” They warned that anyone who enrolls in a public university program with a professional code of conduct should understand that their behavior at all hours may be used against them. I suspect this is not the last court case we’ll see governing students’ freedom of speech using social media.


Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


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