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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges, collegiate houses, and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. For more about residential colleges and collegiate universities please visit the main Collegiate Way page.

Value-Designed Models of Undergraduate Education

— An ambitious proposal for reducing the cost of higher education in the United States has just been published by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, an education-policy think tank in Washington, D.C. The proposal was written by Prof. Vance H. Fried of Oklahoma State University, and it lays out a detailed plan for a hypothetical low-cost institution Fried calls the College of Entrepreneurial Leadership and Society (CELS)—a plan complete with curriculum, staffing requirements, and facilities needs. The report’s title gives away its frugal bottom line: “The $7,376 ‘Ivies’: Value-Designed Models of Undergraduate Education.” An outline of the project was published last month at Inside Higher Ed.

As with any ambitious proposal, there are elements in Fried’s report that I find appealing, and other elements that I might question. But one component of the proposal is certainly on target: Fried organizes his hypothetical college into a system of houses, drawing a number of his recommendations from the materials available here at the Collegiate Way.

A major component of the educational process at CELS will be a house system, somewhat along the lines of the residential colleges at Harvard and Yale. Every freshman will be randomly assigned to a house they will belong to for all four years. Houses will be same-sex and will have 150–225 members, including about fifty entering freshmen a year. The house will be the primary social unit for the student while in college….

In addition to internal social functions, the house will be the primary unit for student participation in a variety of broad-interest student life activities like intramural sports, general community service projects, “varsity review,” and homecoming…. High student involvement in the activities of these self-governing houses will be central to the CELS value proposition.

The house will be the delivery point for the required personal skills development courses taken during freshman and sophomore years. As part of their personal development course, students will be required to participate in a variety of ways in the activities and management of the house.

Each house will have a faculty member who serves as senior tutor. The senior tutor will actively advise the house government and ensure that the house is operating within the framework established by CELS. In addition to advising the house government, the senior tutor will play a major role in every house member’s academic and personal development, particularly during the first two years. The senior tutor will be the academic and personal advisor for all freshmen and sophomores in their house, and will also be responsible for the personal skills development courses for their house. Upperclassmen will serve as junior tutors, assisting the senior tutor with certain house responsibilities.

A group of 6–7 freshmen will live in the same part of the house with their assigned junior tutor. Junior tutors will assist the senior tutor in providing a structured program of personal development and academic counseling for their tutorial group. The junior tutors’ formal structured roles will include serving as group facilitators in the personal development course, personal mentors on some personal development skills (e.g., time management), and mentor/monitor of participation in student life activities in both the house and college. In addition, each underclass student will have an informal personal mentor who is a junior or senior member of the house.

In addition to the senior tutor’s formal roles in the house, he or she will provide a great deal of informal encouragement and guidance. The senior tutor will have an office in and eat a majority of meals at the house. In addition, every regular faculty member will serve as a fellow of the house, promoting communication between faculty and students. This results in 4–5 faculty fellows per house. The fellows’ role will be informal, but will require regular attendance at house dinners and major house activities.

The full proposal is available at no charge as a single pdf file from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2016