Reinventing colleges and universities


Preview: Perhaps too long ago, I wrote about starting a series of Eye columns on transformations we are likely to see as a result of the great recession and other 21st century changes we are facing. The first column was about reinventing“parks” from a playground notion of, for example, state parks to one of stewarding natural and cultural landscapes and urban settings. Since that article which mentioned the proposed California hit on state parks, a number of other states have targeted state parks for closure in other states including NYS. What has not happened is a conversation and/or direction for going forward as I suggested. For your information, here is the proposed hit list on NYS parks and historic sites.

A fact sheet on the proposed closures and service reductions is included below:

The Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) today put forward a list of closures and service reductions in order to achieve its proposed 2010-11 agency savings target and help address the State’s historic fiscal difficulties. As part of a comprehensive plan to close an $8.2 billion deficit, the 2010-11 Executive Budget included necessary cost reductions to each executive State agency, as well as cuts to education, health care, social services, and every other area of State spending.

OPRHP’s plan includes the closure of 41 parks and 14 historic sites, and service reductions at 23 parks and 1 historic site.

The plan also assumes $4 million in park and historic site fee increases that will be identified at a later date, and the use of $5 million in funds from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to finance OPRHP operations. These two actions were part of the 21-day amendments to the Executive Budget and are intended to reduce the number of parks and historic sites subject to closures and service reductions.

Specific recommended closures and service reductions are detailed below:

Long Island

Brookhaven State Park Suffolk Close Park
Bethpage State Park Suffolk Eliminate Winter Sports;
Reduce picnic area and polo field
Caleb Smith State Park Preserve Suffolk Close Park
Cold Spring Harbor State Park Suffolk Close Park
Connetquot River State Park Suffolk Close Weekdays
Heckscher State Park Suffolk Close Swimming Pool
Jones Beach State Park Nassau Close West Swimming Pool;
Eliminate July 4th fireworks
Montauk Downs State Park Suffolk Close Swimming Pool
Nissequogue River State Park Suffolk Close Park
Orient Beach State Park Suffolk Close Park
Trail View State Park Suffolk Close Park

New York City Region

Bayswater Point State Park Queens Close Park
Riverbank State Park New York Reduce Operating Hours;
Close Outdoor Swimming Pool;
Eliminate Seniors Classes; and
Community/Cultural Events

Palisades Region

Fort Montgomery Historic Site Orange Close Historic Site
Harriman SP– Anthony Wayne Orange Close Park Area
Harriman SP – Group Camps Orange Reduce Maintenance
High Tor State Park Rockland Close Pool
Knox Headquarters Historic Site Orange Close Historic Site
New Windsor Cantonment SHS Orange Close Historic Site
Schunnemunk State Park Orange Close Park
Stony Point State Historic Site Orange Close Historic Site
Tallman Mountain State Park Rockland Close Pool

Taconic Region

Donald J. Trump State Park Westchester Close Park
FDR (Roosevelt) State Park Westchester Reduce Swimming Pool Season
Hudson Highlands State Park Putnam Close Arden Point Area
James Baird State Park Dutchess Reduce Golf Course Season
Mills Norrie State Park Dutchess Reduce Golf Course Season
Olana State Historic Site Columbia Close 2 Days per Week
Philipse Manor Hall Historic Site Westchester Close Historic Site
Rockefeller State Park Preserve Westchester Eliminate Interpretive Programs
Taconic Outdoor Education Center Putnam Eliminate Interpretive Programs
Taconic State Park – Rudd Pond Dutchess Close Rudd Pond Area
Wonder Lake State Park Putnam Close Park

Saratoga-Capital Region

Bennington Battlefield State Park Rensselaer Close Historic Site
Hudson River Islands State Park Rensselaer Close Park
John Boyd Thacher State Park Albany Close Park
John Brown Farm Historic Site Essex Close Historic Site
Johnson Hall State Historic Site Fulton Close Historic Site
Max V. Shaul State Park Schoharie Close Park
Schodack Island State Park Rensselaer Close Park
Schoharie Crossing Historic Site Schoharie Close Historic Site
Schuyler Mansion Historic Site Albany Close Historic Site

Central Region

Chittenango Falls State Park Madison Close Park
Clark Reservation State Park Onondaga Close Park
Fort Ontario State Historic Site Oswego Close Historic Site
Helen McNitt State Park Madison Close Park
Herkimer Home Historic Site Herkimer Close Historic Site
Hunts Pond State Park Chenango Close Park
Oquaga Creek State Park Broome Close Park
Old Erie Canal State Park Onondaga Close Park
Oriskany Battlefield/Steuben SHS Oneida Close Historic Site
Pixley Falls State Park Oneida Close Park
Robert Riddell State Park Delaware Close Park
Selkirk Shores State Park Oswego Close Public Swimming Beach

Finger Lakes Region

Beechwood State Park Wayne Close Park
Bonavista State Park Seneca Close Park
Chimney Bluffs State Park Wayne Close Park
Newtown Battlefield State Park Chemung Close Park
Springbrook Greens State Park Cayuga Close Park
Two Rivers State Park Tioga Close Park
Buttermilk Falls State Park Tompkins Close Public Swimming Area
Seneca Lake State Park Seneca Close Lake Swimming Beach
Stony Brook State Park Steuben Close Public Swimming Area

Thousand Islands Region

Canoe Island State Park Jefferson Close Park
Cedar Island State Park Jefferson Close Park
Eel Weir State Park St. Lawrence Close Park
Keewaydin State Park Jefferson Close Park
Macomb Reservation State Park Clinton Close Park
Mary Island State Park Jefferson Close Park
Point Au Roche State Park Clinton Close Park
Sackets Harbor State Historic Site Jefferson Close Historic Site

Genesee Region

Hamlin Beach State Park Monroe Close Swimming Beach 3 Days per Week
Oak Orchard State Marine Park Orleans Close Park
Regionwide Multiple Eliminate Camper Recreation Program

Niagara Region

Joseph Davis State Park Niagara Close Park
Knox Farm State Park Erie Close Park
Niagara Falls State Park Niagara Reduce Interpretive Programs
Wilson-Tuscarora State Park Niagara Close Park
Woodlawn Beach State Park Erie Close Park

Allegany Region

Allegany State Park Cattaraugus Close Quaker Area Swim Beach;
Close Quaker Cabins Area on December 1st;
Eliminate Winter Trails Maintenance;
Reduce Recreation Programs
Long Point State Park Chautauqua Close Park


Stay tuned and we shall see what the legislature does with this proposal. Keep in mind my last column on parks for the future.

Since my parks column, I have struggled with how to grasp the transformations that will have to happen in higher education. There has been much discussion but also a sense that the leaders, interest groups and institutions of higher education are firmly set in stone with their commitment to the current core model even in the face of the collapse of public higher education in California, the failure to maintain an adequate educated work force, the increasing difficulty for families to afford the cost of college and the financial squeeze being faced by private institutions of higher education.

It is time for me to stop struggling (that is what my editor tells me) and do the best I can to address a transformational model for higher education that will make sense in the future.

Reinventing higher education

By Paul M. Bray

In a previous Eye column I asked, “Have you noticed that colleges and universities are flowing out into their cities and towns and city and town economic and residential uses are finding their way onto campuses?” I wrote about emerging trends in higher education including retirement communities and burial places on campus for alums.

Yet, the changes I wrote about are mostly frills or on the margins of the core practices of colleges and universities. Colleges and university continue to stick tenaciously to their long held core model. An article entitled “A Call for Change From Within”, states that “Beating colleges up about how expensive they are or telling professors that their students aren’t learning hasn’t helped persuade higher education leaders that their institutions must change” Robert Zemsky, a barely tolerated education gadfly” believes higher education leaders and faculty need to be told: “The doctors have changed, even the accountants have changed. It’s your turn to change now”.

Yet, even Zemsky’s enthusiasm for change only goes as far as offering a 3-year undergraduate degree.

At a time of remarkably accelerating technological, economic and global change and a need for life-long learning to be able to adequately navigate this change, higher education institutions need to fundamentally change.

Step back and you see the 4-year undergraduate degree increasingly taking 6-years. Professions establish continuing education requirements. Jobs are increasingly for a short term and rarely for life. Earning an income is also increasingly becoming an individual entrepreneurial activity requiring a wide diversity of skills. A musician, for example, rarely gets a contract from a record company. Instead the musician produces and self-markets his or her own CD or DVD.

In other words, what a student can learn for a 3, 4 or 6 year undergraduate degree is unlikely to have a long shelf life for that student.

Now image the traditional institution of higher education as a life time, life line for the life-long learner to be able to return to sharpen skills, develop new skills and/or redevelop networks. This may simply involve returning to one’s college or university to take a couple of courses or returning for a program that may take one or more years. The key is flexibility and an ability of colleges and universities to organize their services and resources so that they can be adaptable to the changes taking place in the world.

Instead of enrolling in a college or university for an undergraduate or graduate degree or simply to take one or more courses, image students applying to college for a life-long contract that will be flexibly drafted to serve the wishes and needs of each of the contract students. Income for the institutions would come from a minimum annual payment complemented with fees for specific programs and services that the student receives whether, for example, to polish skills, pick up a particular skill like a language or to learn a whole new discipline or trade. The college is always there for consultation and guidance.

This transformation, which may actually be happening to small steps, will not come full blown by one institution at a time or, in fact, by institutions of higher education collectively without engaging sectors of the economy like government, business and the nonprofit sector.

This approach moves beyond the “how to fix it” questions that have been discussed adnauseam. It offers a path for colleges and universities to move beyond being a starting point for students as it was for me when I got my undergraduate and law degrees to being a life-line for students and a much more dynamic element in the whole economy. It represents what is called for in the post Great Recession and 21st century world.


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