Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Victory Media Friendly School

In the comments to my post on The Best Colleges ranking, I received a heads-up from jhicks23 about another questionable accolade which The Penn State Propaganda Portal has recently pimped:
G.I. Jobs magazine has designated Penn State a military friendly school for 2012. It is the third straight time the  Pittsburgh-based publication has recognized the University's programs and services designed specifically to help active-duty military  service members and veterans pursue an education online through Penn State's World Campus.
I decided to take a closer look at how  G.I. Jobs magazine's military friendly school list works.  

According to the Military Friendly Schools website, G.I. Jobs starts with a list of 7000 colleges, universities and trade schools nationwide and narrows these down to around 1000 schools.  The explanation  of how this is done is a bit vague. It supposedly involves "exhaustive research" by the G.I. Jobs Military Friendly Schools Team. And that research "includes government agencies and private entities which administer education benefits and a comprehensive survey administered by G.I. Jobs. A Military Friendly Schools Academic Advisory Panel, consisting of five higher education administrators, helps determine survey questions and weightings."   What does it mean for the research to include government agencies and private entities? Does it mean that the data used in the research comes from these source?  No mention of to whom the survey is administered. Anyway, once they somewhat mysteriously assemble the data they use a set of criteria to winnow the  list down to about 1000 schools.   It is worth noting that the schools on the list are not ranked. Here is the nominal  reason for that
We purposely do not use a numerical ranking system as we encourage student to use our resources as a starting point for seeking education. School choice is not a one-size fits all process, so we built the Matchmaker tool to help narrow down the field.
Up to this point everything seems on the up and up. If we take G. I. Jobs at their word the collect and analyze data to come up with a list of schools for vets to select from by purely objective means.

It is the next step in the process where things get dicey. Once the list of military friendly schools is assembled G. I. Jobs sends out a  media kit to the schools on the list soliciting advertizing from them. Here's the pitch from that kit
Through its many established brands, long experience, deep relationships and unparalleled rating system, Victory Media’s print and web media products serve as the foundation for any school serious about recruiting the military and veteran student. If you’re one of the 20% of all schools nationwide which made the Military Friendly Schools® list, congratulations on such an elite achievement. Our media products, which start at only $990 per year, stand ready to carry your recruiting message to the enormous and valuable military student market. Only Military Friendly Schools® can run advertising in the print version of the Guide
to Military Friendly Schools® and www.militaryfriendlyschools.com. All other media are open to all schools.

[...]

In September 2011, the Military Friendly Schools® list will be released nationally to the press. Your school is encouraged to issue its
own press release to promote your inclusion.

That's Penn State's press release that I linked to back in  the first paragraph.

Here's the  menu of advertizing options from the kit.
From Drop Box

We see here the real reason that G. I. Jobs doesn't assign ranks to the schools. They want to give schools that advertize with them an advantage over those that don't advertize with them.  So even if one is generous in assuming no manipulations are involved in compiling the list,  we see that the manipulation comes in at this stage.   And how big of an advantage do schools that pay for advertizing have over those that don't?  Well, here's what the folks at G. I. Jobs provides a partial answer in their media kit.


How much does this all cost? Other than the reference to $990 per year in the above quote from the kit, all  prices have been redacted from the publicly available media kit.

But apparently no one at G. I. Jobs had a background in military intelligence, they redacted the prices by pasting opaque images over them which I was able to edit out with a PDF editor. The uncensored kit is here and here are the price lists from that uncensored kit.



So has the Penn State World Campus spent any money on advertizing with the nice folks at G.I. Jobs? You betcha

Note the "add to my school list" button. Schools that don't advertize don't get one of those which make it harder for vets to compare the schools that don't pay to those that do.

How much has Penn State spent on these ads? Once more I turn to the Snyder Reports which, unfortunately, do not give a definitive answer to the question. Penn State has been on the list three years running 2009-2010, 2010--2011 and this year, 2011-2012. This years payments will show up in a future Snyder Report, either the 2011-2012 report or the 2012-2013 depending on if the check for his went out before or after July 1rst this summer. 

What about past years? According to the reports, Victory Media, the publisher of G.I. Jobs, was paid $24,235 in fiscal year 2007-2008 (p. 471). If the military friendly list came out during the summer of 2009-2010, then this payment predated the World Campus' first appearance on the list.  If this  is the case, one must wonder how Penn State's prior advertizing with G.I. Jobs influenced its first appearance on the list.  And the payment of $17,226 in fiscal year 2008-2009 (p. 551) could be for either of the first two years on the list. 

No matter how you slice this, Penn State  World Campus is certainly a Victory Media Friendly School.



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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Graham's in Terrible Shape....Just Pass the Damn Thing for God's Sake!

On Monday, Democrats in Harrisburg held up funding for the four state-related universities and The Old Main Government Bribery and Cajoling Unit sprung into action as doctors rushed to the Schreyer House to attend to Graham's skyrocketing blood pressure.  A letter was sent to state lawmakers with the urgent message, "Graham's in terrible shape....just pass the damn thing for God's sake!" Ok,not quite, here is what they wrote, (via)
This has been a most difficult budget season, and it is safe to say that no one is entirely satisfied with the budget bills you will be asked to vote on over the next several days.  It is important, nonetheless, to complete your work this week by making sure that the non-preferred bills are passed in a timely fashion — that is, before the end of the fiscal year.
It did the trick, the Dems folded.  Local Democratic representative Scott Conklin said through his spokesman that he didn't want the guilt of being responsible in someway for Graham's stroke..... if you read between the lines, that is.
State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, had said that he would not
support any state budget unless it included level funding for Penn
State. But the letter from DiEugenio and DiRaimo "has certainly affected
his thinking," Conklin's chief of staff, Tor Michaels, said earlier
Tuesday.

Michaels said Conklin would give the correspondence some weight.

And everyone lived happily ever after....well, at least until the tuition bills go out.




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Monday, June 27, 2011

Democrats in Harrisburg are trying to Slowly Kill....

....Graham.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting today that
State funding for the University of Pittsburgh and three other
universities could be in jeopardy as Democratic lawmakers flex what
little muscle they have in a Capitol controlled by Republicans.
Democrats are rebelling against a GOP cuts to the state-related
universities, the only spending bills that require a two-thirds vote of
each chamber.

"There isn't any doubt that this is the one place where Democrats can
wield some power. It's the one place where they do have leverage," said
G. Terry Madonna, political scientist at Frankin & Marshall College
in Allentown. "This could get very dicey."

Democrats are threatening to use their votes to get Republicans to
allocate some of an estimated $650 million surplus to state-related
universities as well as other education and health programs.

But if Democrats block passage, Pitt, Temple University, Lincoln
University and the University of Pennsylvania could wind up with
nothing.
I'm guessing that about now  Graham is  wishing that he followed his dream and joined that circus right out of high school.

[Update 6/27/2011 10:18 pm: The Dems blocked passage of funding for the state-related universities this evening.  No word on Graham's mental and physical states.]




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Friday, June 17, 2011

The Best Ranking Money Can Buy

In early April, the lead story in the Penn State Faculty and Staff Newswire, a product of The Old Main Propaganda Shop,  was about a top ranking awarded to the Penn State World Campus by Best Colleges.



The same day the Collegian also ran a story about the World Campus and Best Colleges  and  the reporter got Graham to weigh-in on the ranking.
Penn State President Graham Spanier wrote in an email that World Campus has been a great success and established itself as a premier online program since its launch.
“We have already served tens of thousands of students with high-quality courses,” Spanier wrote. “I’m pleased to see that it has been recognized for its achievements.”
I had never heard of Best Colleges and neither had Don Heller, Director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Penn State. While I was digging around to see what I could find out about Best Colleges, he was emailing Lisa Powers,  Director of Public Information Bullshit, at  The Old Main Propaganda Shop with a warning:
Last week, Penn State issued a press release touting its World Campus' selection as the "the No. 1 online institution for 2011." This designation was conferred by the website, TheBestColleges.org, which I had never heard of before - and I've seen lots of different rankings over the years. So I spent a little bit of time going through the website, and after about 30 minutes or so, I sent this message to Penn State's Director of Public Information:

I read your press release, and not having heard of Best Colleges, took a look at the website. Unless you have some information establishing the validity and/or reputation of the website, I d be a little cautious about how much you want to promote the WC and other rankings from this site. While they say We do not accept paid placements for our school rankings, it appears to me that this is a site supported entirely by advertising fees from universities. When you do a search for any of the degrees they show there (not the rankings, but a degree search), no matter what the degree, you get a list of for the most part for-profit and online universities, and very few of what most of us would consider more traditional universities whose quality and rankings are more universally recognized.

Here are the criteria they say they use to calculate the rankings for the 25 best online universities:
We ve relied on the following criteria to generate our online colleges and universities rankings: student satisfaction (as measured by graduation and retention rates), peer and instructional quality (as measured by acceptance rate and student-teacher ratio), affordability (as measured by tuition costs and availability of financial aid), and credibility (as measured by years of accreditation, reputation and awards).

To be blunt, this is garbage. Graduation and retention rates are not measures of student satisfaction, any more than acceptance rates and student-teacher ratios are measures of peer and instructional quality.
We can all agree there are problems with the U.S. News & World Report rankings, but they are at least considered reputable by most parties. I would be cautious about trumpeting rankings from Best Colleges externally unless you know more about this organization (which I d be interested in hearing).

Don Heller
One can imagine that  Lisa responded to Don with  Old Main's fallback position whenever they are faced with a ranking problem...."Oh, pshaw...we don't take theses things seriously," and she might have even tossed in a we're so glad you brought the error of our ways to our attention. But apparently no one set Graham set straight or he refused to see the error of his ways, because at the last Board of Trustees meeting in May he bragged to the Trustees that
Students also have embraced Penn State s World Campus, which was named the No. 1 online institution in 2011 by the Best Colleges.
My research into Best Colleges confirms Don's suspicion that these rankings are paid for by the universities being ranked,or at least some of the universities being ranked.  .

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Penn State Right-To-Know Report 2011

I'm back.

It's that time of year when Penn State releases its annual Right-To-Know Report. True to Graham's commitment to transparency the report was released at the end of business on the  Friday before the Memorial Day weekend in a image PDF which can't be searched. As has become a tradition here at Left of Centre, I've transformed the report to a searchable PDF and uploaded it to Scribd (2010, 2009). Behold:
Penn State Right-To-Know Report 2011

Here's the compensation data for Trustees, Officers and Key Employees.



Here are the salaries of the officers



Here are the top 25 salaries,




New this year is this tidbit:2158 individuals had reportable compensation of $100,000 or more.

Look for more postings soon here at Left of Centre.  I have a post in the works on Graham cheating  on the University's  reporting requirements to the Commonwealth and another one on a suspicious ranking which came out about a month ago.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More Dreck From Beck



Glenn Beck responded, on his radio program, to the Donald Duck remix posted below by raising the question of....well....
"If I'm not mistaken," Beck said, "some of these remix videos, it's very interesting, I believe, get federal funding."
That's almost as funny as the video. Anyway, the above video is a response to Beck's innuendo.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Housekeeping Note

Sorry about the sporadic postings, but my day job is keeping me rather busy at the moment.  Once I hit my stride at work, I should return to a more regular schedule here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

In Case You Were Distracted by All of the Hockey Porn Today...

....I would  like to draw your attention to this tidbit from this morining's Board of Trustees meeting.
In a worst-case scenario [next year], if the federal-stimulus funds disappear and the resulting hole goes completely unfilled, Penn State could face "the most significant budget cuts in our history," Spanier said.
Graham didn't see fit to mention this little fact  in his latest propaganda film. You would think that a film ostensibly  about the state of the university would work that in somehow. But no, it was all ponies, rainbows and empty pride. By the way, I wonder if Graham bribed Micheal Bérubé with the promise of unlimited ice-time  to get him to debase himself in that film.

Obscene

That is the only word I can think of for the $88 million tax deductible gift Penn State received to build a hockey arena and to support the University's entry into men's and women's Division I ice hockey. I'm aghast.... Think of all  of the better uses to which this money could have been put....Don Heller did just that...go read what he has to say.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Only the 109th University in the World, But the Third Party School in the Country

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings were published today. Here is how the the Big Ten schools  finished overall.
  • 15. University of Michigan
  • 25 Northwestern University
  • 33 University of Illinois Urban-Campaign
  • 43 University of Wisconsin
  • 52 University of  Minnesota
  • 66 Ohio State University
  • 106 Purdue
  • 109 Penn State
  • 122 Michigan State
  • 132 University of Iowa
  • 156 Indiana U
The Big Ten's newest addition, the University of Nebraska, didn't make the top 200 schools.

I will have more to say about this on Friday and I'll also weigh in on the recent WSJ corporate recruiter rankings of universities.

And latter this month the long awaited  NRC graduate program rankings are scheduled to be released. How will Penn State do? Old Main already knows since the data was released to univerisities earlier this week. My guess is that The Old Main Propaganda Shop is working overtime getting ready to brag and spin as needed  once the public gets a look.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Das Bloat: Administrative Size and Cost at Penn State

As I mentioned in the previous post, one of my regular commenters sent me a link to a study by the Goldwater Institute on administrative bloat at American universities.  I've been playing around with the data from the report to see how Penn State fits into the overall pattern of spending on administrators.

The data used by the Goldwater Institute comes from Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which  is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. The report compares administration size in 1993, the earliest year for which IPEDS data available, to size in 2007, the most recent available data at the time the report was issued. The Institute uses two measures of administrative size, the number of administrators per hundred students and administrative cost per student. According to the Institute,
In the employment tables in this report, the “Administration” column consists of the IPEDS categories of “Administration/Executive” and “Other Professionals.”Other Professionals clearly fall within an administrative category because they are defi ned by IPEDS as “persons employed for the primary purpose of performing academic support, student service, and institutional support…. Included in this category are all employees holding titles such as business operations specialists;buyers and purchasing agents; human resources, training, and labor relations specialists; management analysts; meeting and convention planners; miscellaneous business operations specialists; financial specialists; accountants and auditors; budget analysts; financial analysts and advisers; financial examiners; loan counselors and officers; [etc.].” Under any reasonable defi nition, these employees are engaged in administrative functions but clearly not directly engaged in teaching, research or service.

[...]

Unfortunately, the spending categories in IPEDS are not identical to the employment categories, but we have done our best to map them into similar groupings. For the expenditure tables in this report, the “Administration” spending consists of the “Academic Support,” “Institutional Support,” and “Student Services” categories in IPEDS.

The Institute examined both private and public universities. I've restricted my analysis to public universities and I've dropped those schools for which data  was missing for one or the other year.

So whats the story with regard to Penn State?

First let's look at the number of administrators per one hundred students in 1993 compared to that metric in 2007 as shown in the first graph.

In all of the graphs of distributions shown below, the green bands show the first quartile, median and third quartiles. You can mouse over the graphs to get information about other universities.




In 1993, Penn State had 6.20 administrators per one hundred students which was below the 75th %-tile of 6.40 administrators per one hundred students for that year. By 2007, that number had jumped to 10.70 administrators per hundred students  which was substantial above the 75th %-tile which had risen to 8.50  administrators per one hundred students. A better picture of how the number of administrators has changed overall in academia and where Penn State fits in in the shift can be seen in this scatterplot.


Clearly, while Penn State has porked up on the number of administrators, it is not close to the worst offender.

Next the distribution of cost of  administration per student is compared for the two time periods .  The  seventy-fifth percentile of administrative spending per student went from 4,661 in 1993 to 6,247 in 2007. Penn State's administrative spending per student was already well outside the middle of the 1993 distribution at 5,002. By 2007, that number had ballooned to 12, 556.


The extent to which Penn State went from being a big spender on administration in 1993  to being ostentatious in 2007 can  best be seen in the following scatterplot.


To recap,  the size of Penn State's administration  as measured by the number of administrators per 100 students grew substantially between 1993 and 2007 shifting from the upper end of the middle of the distribution to the upper end of the distribution, but the cost of  administration per student, which was already in the upper end of the distribution in 1993,  blew up by 2007.