1997

President's Report

In last year's President's report, it was my privilege to pay tribute to John Whitehead's leadership of the Foundation's Board of Trustees from December 1990 until March 1997. At their March 1997 meeting, the Trustees elected Hanna H. Gray, who has served as a Trustee since June 1979, to succeed Mr. Whitehead as Chairman. At that same meeting, Walter E. Massey, president of Morehouse College, was elected to membership on the Board of Trustees.

Important changes have also occurred in the Foundation's staff. In the fall of 1997, Mary Patterson McPherson, recently retired president of Bryn Mawr College, joined our staff as Senior Program Officer. "Pat" McPherson, as she is known to so many, is succeeding Alice F. ("Tish") Emerson as the staff member with principal responsibility for the Foundation's program for liberal arts colleges. Ms. Emerson will be retiring as a Senior Fellow of the Foundation this July, but will continue to advise the Foundation concerning our work with the Appalachian colleges. Elizabeth A. Duffy, who worked so ably with Ms. Emerson on grants to liberal arts colleges and who also served the Foundation in administrative and research capacities, has left the Foundation to accept a position as director of program development at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. James Shulman and Thomas Nygren, who already serve on the Foundation's staff, have each added some of Ms. Duffy's responsibilities to their existing portfolios.

I mention these personnel changes at the start of the President's report, rather than at the end (as is more customary) because I want to emphasize the importance of individuals at a foundation that has a small board of trustees and a small professional staff. Members of other organizations, and especially grant-seekers, appreciate being able to deal directly with a small number of highly capable people. For my part, I consider myself very fortunate to have such outstanding colleagues on the Board and on the staff.

Following our usual practice, the last part of this year's report is devoted to an extended discussion by staff members of one aspect of the Foundation's activities; this year, Tish Emerson and Liz Duffy have contributed an essay on the Foundation's liberal arts colleges program, with a focus on teaching and technology. Many will be interested, I know, in the lessons they have learned from a broadly ranging series of grants designed to assist colleges in using electronic technologies to improve undergraduate teaching, and especially the teaching of foreign languages. As Ms. Emerson and Ms. Duffy indicate near the end of their essay, identifying and assessing the financial consequences of such innovations has been one of the most difficult aspects of designing, monitoring, and evaluating this program.

They are by no means alone in coming to this conclusion, and the Foundation continues to support another initiative, led by Gilbert Whitaker, formerly provost of the University of Michigan and now dean of the Jones Graduate School of Administration at Rice University, designed to encouragecost-effective uses of technology in teaching in a variety of educational settings. During 1997, new grants in this area were made to the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan (in collaboration with the Universities of Chicago and Wisconsin and Northwestern University), Rice University, and the University of Cape Town in South Africa. The teaching projects supported by these grants include improvements in laboratory instruction, graduate teaching of less commonly taught languages, and the development of modules that will permit the acquisition of basic skills of expository writing and critical reading by undergraduates in South Africa. In each instance, the Foundation and its grantees are committed to careful assessments of both costs and pedagogic benefits. It would be an added benefit if some of these projects also enhanced our understanding of the subtleties of evaluating the uses of technology in teaching.

Before providing a fuller discussion of research projects in higher education that are either supported by the Foundation or carried out by Foundation staff, I would like to comment on appropriations made in 1997 in two broad areas of continuing interest to the Foundation: (1) graduate study, other forms of advanced training, and faculty development, especially in the humanities; and (2) the work of independent research libraries, research libraries that are parts of universities, and the field of scholarly communication defined more broadly still (including the evolution of JSTOR, an electronic database containing the complete backfiles of core scholarly journals in a growing number of fields).

No significance should be attached to the absence of special mention in this year's report of grantmaking in a number of fields in which the Foundation remains very active: conservation and the environment, population, refugee studies, museums, the performing arts, minority fellowship programs, and educational "transformations" in South Africa, to cite obvious examples. Consistent with the practice in previous annual reports, it has seemed best to concentrate on a manageable number of topics. (A full list of grants made in 1997, in all areas, is available in the printed annual report of the Foundation.) Brief special mention should be made, nonetheless, of two "new starts" in 1997. One is the development by Catherine Wichterman of a series of orchestra forums which she hopes will provide new insights into the condition and prospects of symphony orchestras. The second is the creation by Angelica Zander Rudenstine of a promising new program of photograph conservation.

Fellowships and Advanced Training

In 1997, the Foundation appropriated over $25 million in support of eight programs of assistance to graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members (especially but not exclusively young faculty members in the humanities and related social sciences). Itemizing these forms of support may serve to indicate the range of the Foundation's grantmaking in this broad area. Our Trustees and staff remain persuaded of the fundamental importance of programs of this kind, which are designed to provide tangible assistance to promising young scholars at critical points in their careers.

  • In 1997, the program of Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships in Humanistic Studies completed its fifth year. These highly competitive one-year portable fellowships, which are administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, are awarded each year to approximately 80 to 85 prospective first-year graduate students in the humanities. Their purpose is to encourage some of the ablest undergraduates to pursue doctoral study in the humanities at the university that seems best able to meet their academic requirements. Since 1981, the Foundation has committed over $63 million to this program and its predecessor program of multi-year awards.
  • The Foundation's companion program of institutional grants in support of graduate study at ten universities completed its seventh year. This departmentally based program is designed to improve the effectiveness of graduate education while reducing time-to-degree and attrition rates. The program is focused on the organization of graduate study at the departmental level and the accountability of departments for the progress made by their graduate students. It provides support for summer research, dissertation seminars, and the writing of dissertations, conditional on students' meeting agreed-on goals within specified periods of time. From the beginning, it was hoped that the program would be sufficiently successful to merit support for ten years -- a period staff believed would be long enough to demonstrate its potential and to allow departmental adaptations to be institutionalized. While it is too soon to judge how fully the program has met its objectives, the evidence to date suggests that its overall effects have been powerfully positive and that its most important elements deserve to be made permanent parts of graduate education at the participating institutions. To that end, the Trustees have approved a combination of endowment grants and annual spendable grants for three more years. The strong support for the program by the participating universities, including their willingness to raise matching endowment funds, is most encouraging.
  • Since 1992 the Foundation's Trustees have approved grants to 25 different universities for seminars aimed at helping graduate students think productivelyabout current debates over such propositions as: fields of study have no boundaries that distinguish them from other fields of study; all intellectual arguments are necessarily political; objectivity is an illusion; texts have no intrinsic meaning, only interpretations. The seminars are intended to bring into open discussion issues too seldom dealt with in graduate classrooms, and which are of immediate practical concern to students trying to write dissertations and preparing to teach. In 1998 this program will expand to include libraries, museums, and research centers.
  • An appropriation of $2,000,000 was made to the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) in support of its program, conducted jointly with the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), of predoctoral research fellowships in the humanities and social sciences. The SSRC and ACLS have adopted a flexible format for awarding fellowships; these awards are intended to enable highly promising doctoral candidates in the humanities and social sciences to address trans-regional issues comparatively while drawing on the perspectives of the histories and cultures of the countries and regions they are studying. The fellowships not only provide access to research materials not available in this country but give the fellows first-hand knowledge, early in their careers, of places other than the United States. On their return the fellows participate in workshops held at SSRC aimed at helping them make the often difficult transition from the field to writing up their work.
  • In the last few years, a modest number of grants have been made to liberal arts colleges in support of postdoctoral fellowships designed to allow able recipients of PhDs, chosen through national searches, to combine scholarship with teaching of special value to the college. In 1997, grants of this kind were made to Amherst, Williams, and Wesleyan. We expect this program to grow, and to include a small number of research universities. The grant made to Brandeis in 1997 can be regarded as illustrative of other grants to come. Over a period of five years, Brandeis expects to recruit eight postdoctoral fellows who are qualified to teach in its crossdisciplinary programs and whose research reaches beyond a single disciplinary tradition. Typically, fellows will spend half their time teaching and half doing research, and will be assigned individual faculty "mentors" to assist them in making the most effective use of the resources Brandeis can offer.
  • Begun in 1994, the Sawyer Seminars program seeks to encourage comparative study of the historical and cultural origins of significant contemporary developments. It provides faculty and advanced graduate students with opportunities for discussion and research in seminars which are informal and free of curricular constraints. Seminars usually meet throughout a year and are intended to advance the current research interests of faculty members and students without requiring universities to institutionalize those interests in permanent structural arrangements. In line with the Foundation's guidelines, each university submitting a proposal asks for support for one postdoctoral fellow and two dissertation fellowships, funds for visiting speakers including those from abroad, and the modest administrative costs of the seminar over a period sufficient to select the fellows and extend invitations to speakers. The Foundation's selection process, guided by an external advisory committee, has proven to be highly competitive. Eight new seminars were approved in 1997, and topics included the ethical, economic, and political implications of privatization of health care in Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the US (Emory University); a seminar on the City, Modernism, and Nationalism that will seek to explain heightened sensitivity to national identity in the 20th century (NYU); and an exploration of the economic and political effects of the European Monetary Union on European nations (Princeton University).
  • The largest single appropriation approved by the Trustees in 1997 was a grant of $5 million to the American Council of Learned Societies. When John H. D'Arms became president of the ACLS in September 1997, he immediately determined that revitalization of its fellowship program should be the highest priority. Our Trustees agreed with this view. It is hoped that this appropriation, in combination with grants from other sources, will strengthen the ACLS Fellowship Program in a number of ways: first, the number of fellowships will increase from the current 55 to a total of 60 by 2001; second -- and most important in D'Arms' view -- the stipend for senior fellowships will also increase (at present, all ACLS fellowships carry a $20,000 stipend); third, because the revitalization of the Fellowship Program will likely lead to increased numbers of applicants, provision will be made for an improved review process. We are optimistic that both the substance and the "signaling effect" of this appropriation will help to launch the process of strengthening the ACLS Fellowship Program in a major way.
  • Finally, mention should be made of a much more specialized appropriation of $2 million toward endowment for the support of faculty fellowships and grants within the Appalachian colleges. The Foundation has a long history of assisting these colleges, beginning with a grant for faculty summer study projects in 1979. In the last few years, most of the 33 colleges that are members of the Appalachian College Association (ACA) have been able to recruit faculty members who have already completed their PhDs. This has led to an increased need for postdoctoral research opportunities, but few of the ACA institutions are able to afford sabbaticals, faculty development grants, or student-faculty research projects. Fellowships and grants have proven to be major contributors to the intellectual life of the campuses as well as critical factors in mitigating the effects of geographic and cultural isolation. It also seems clear that the impact of such support on the morale of faculty members and the aspirations of students in the participating institutions has been pervasive, extending far beyond the fellows themselves.

 

These appropriations, considered together, illustrate the stages at which both younger and older scholars benefit from targeted support. Aspiring first-year graduate students need encouragement (and funding) to embark on demanding programs of study. The graduate programs themselves need assistance if they are to become ever more effective mechanisms for helping students move from first-year course work through the completion of a dissertation. Outside fellowships such as those provided by the SSRC are often critical in allowing graduate students at the dissertation stage to undertake more ambitious research projects than otherwise would have been possible. Postdoctoral fellowships, participation in programs such as the Sawyer Seminars, and, later, the availability of ACLS awards and other opportunities for faculty development facilitate movement to senior faculty positions and faculty development generally. There is a natural progression from one stage to the next and, while the Foundation cannot hope to support a seamless path of professional advancement, this broad area will receive continuing emphasis.

Research Libraries and Scholarly Communication

Concern for the well-being of research libraries has a long history at this Foundation. My predecessor, John Sawyer, was a leader in encouraging major libraries to work together, to share resources, and to be forward-looking in addressing common problems and emerging opportunities. Over the last decade, the Foundation's interest in research libraries and the related area of scholarly communication has, if anything, intensified. The Foundation's grantmaking in this broad area is now overseen by Richard Ekman, who has also taken major responsibility for related research (including a forthcoming book on electronic publishing of scholarly materials, edited with Richard Quandt and noted later in this report).

Independent Research Libraries and Historical Societies

The leading independent libraries and historical societies are good examples of valuable scholarly resources ("assets in being") that donors sometimes overlook. In 1992-93, the Foundation provided matching endowment grants to a number of these institutions in support of their core library functions. A subsequent series of grants supported postdoctoral fellowships intended to enhance their role as centers of advanced study.

Continuing interest in the financial health and operational effectiveness of these libraries prompted a review in 1997 of the progress they had made in achieving stability. This review indicated that many of them have succeeded in overcoming serious obstacles of the kind Jed Bergman, our former colleague, described so well in his 1996 book, Managing Change in the Nonprofit Sector. At the same time, new needs are evident, and in 1997 the Trustees approved a further round of grants totaling nearly $6.5 million that focused on the ability of these specialized institutions to maintain adequate programs of care for their collections of books, manuscripts, graphics, photographs, and other materials. At some institutions, important research materials are not adequately catalogued, and the cataloguing systems themselves are idiosyncratic and incompatible with widely used standard systems. Moreover, technology now widely available in college and university libraries is not yet being employed in many of the specialized libraries to achieve more cost-effective management of collections. The nine recipients of these grants were: American Antiquarian Society, American Philosophical Society, Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation, Folger Shakespeare Library, Henry E. Huntington Library & Art Gallery, Newberry Library, Pierpont Morgan Library, Villa I Tatti, and the Virginia Historical Society.

The New-York Historical Society (NYHS), another of these institutions, has both unique collections and a unique set of problems, long in the making. One of the most gratifying events of 1997 was the development of a detailed plan of collaboration between the Society and New York University that promises to address many of the most pressing needs of the Society's immensely valuable library on a sustainable basis. (Note 1) To enable both entities to take advantage of this opportunity, the Foundation made a grant of $2.8 million to NYU in order to: (1) insure better library service to NYHS visitors; (2) begin the process of cataloguing large parts of the NYHS's collection that are not at present listed in either RLIN or OCLC records; (3) process and preserve manuscript collections; (4) connect the bibliographic records of the NYHS's print and visual collections; and (5) improve access to the NYHS's prints, photographs, architecture, and ephemera collections.

Electronic Publication of Scholarly Materials

During 1997, the Foundation continued to support projects intended to test the effectiveness of electronic technologies in providing libraries and others with scholarly materials in formats that are easier to use and viable financially. One grant was made to the University of California Press (UCP), to experiment with electronic publication of scholarly monographs. Sales of scholarly books have been declining for years, and many presses, including UCP, have had to reduce the number of monographs they publish in order to maintain financial stability. The problem is particularly acute in area studies, certain fields of history, and literary criticism -- fields in which UCP is a major publisher. UCP has developed a detailed plan for electronic publication of 24 monographs in Middle Eastern, African, and South Asian studies in an attempt to halt the slide of monograph publishing in these areas. A careful business plan has been designed which will allow rigorous testing of the economic costs and benefits of this new approach.

A second grant went to the MIT Press, a leading publisher of scholarly journals in the US and a pioneer in the creation of electronic journals. The MIT Press has found that its electronically published journals, widely regarded as of very high quality, have had slow acceptance. The Foundation is providing the funds needed to analyze systematically the factors responsible. The MIT Press will organize visits by staff members to a number of libraries where they will consult with faculty members as well as librarians. This straightforward assessment should shed considerable light on the future of this mode of scholarly publication.

While the Foundation will continue to support particularly promising projects of the kinds just mentioned, the grantmaking program in this area has now reached the point in its evolution where an initial stock-taking is in order. The preliminary results of grants made early in the Foundation's program are becoming available, and project directors are now able to benefit from the experiences of others. This is especially the case for projects that have focused on electronic alternatives to scholarly journals. In April 1997, a conference was held at Emory University at which nearly 30 papers on aspects of technology and scholarly communication were presented, mostly by directors of projects supported by the Foundation, on such topics as cost issues in electronic publishing; journal pricing and user acceptance; patterns of use; technical choices and standards; licenses, copyright, and fair use; and multi-institutional cooperation. Richard Ekman and Richard Quandt, who organized the conference, are now editing a collection of these papers for publication by the University of California Press within the next year.

JSTOR and Related Projects

A third major area of Foundation activity centers on the use of electronic technology to preserve back issues of core scholarly journals, enhance access to them by scholars worldwide, and at the same time ease the long-term problems faced by libraries in housing, preserving, and handling this body of literature. As readers of previous annual reports are aware, the Foundation assisted in the creation of an independent not-for-profit organization called JSTOR to test the feasibility of this concept.

The success of JSTOR has been gratifying. More journals in additional fields are being added to the database each month, new and expanded production sites have been established, and continued progress has been made in improving JSTOR's technology (including printing capabilities). Over 250 libraries in the United States have already elected to participate, and user acceptance, judged by both usage of the database and the reports of highly satisfied students and others, has been extraordinary. In the single month of February 1998, there were over 89,000 searches of the JSTOR database, and nearly 27,000 individual articles were printed.

Most recently, an agency of the British government called the Joint Information Systems Committee has negotiated an arrangement with JSTOR to permit the installation of a mirror site in Britain that will serve libraries and scholars in that country. Plans are now underway to locate an additional mirror site in Hungary that would serve Central and Eastern Europe. Additional information about JSTOR can be obtained by consulting its Web page (http://www.jstor.org) or contacting its president, Kevin Guthrie.

The reasons for making special mention of JSTOR in this report are to explain its evolving relationship with the Foundation and to note two specific modes of collaboration. While JSTOR is independent and well on the way to becoming financially self-sustaining, it has so many objectives in common with the Foundation that there is every reason to seize opportunities to collaborate while learning from each other.

One mode of collaboration is illustrated by recent grants made by the Foundation to two associations of colleges that stood to benefit greatly from access to JSTOR but would not have been able, without assistance, to do so. The two associations are the Southern Education Foundation in Atlanta, which works with a large number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the Appalachian College Association, which was mentioned earlier in this report. Both of these associations have long-standing relationships with the Foundation, and their new participation in JSTOR has advanced other, broader objectives that the Foundation is pleased to be able to support.

Specifically, the Foundation's grants to these associations facilitate training of staff and faculty members and will provide a modest amount of flexible funding that is needed to permit member institutions to take full advantage of the technological advances that will affect so many aspects of education and research in the years ahead. In short, while JSTOR was important to these colleges in and of itself, its availability and power also served as a further "introduction," as it were, to modes of communication and interaction that will be of critical importance to the future of these institutions. New technologies must be accessible to institutions with modest resources so that even larger chasms are not created between "have" and "have not" sectors of higher education. JSTOR is an excellent example of a practical tool that, once made available, can give faculty and students at institutions with relatively small library holdings the same access to core scholarly literature that is already available at many larger and more advantaged institutions.

A second mode of collaboration between the Foundation and JSTOR is illustrated by a series of grants made in the last two years to the Ecological Society of America (ESA). The ecologists were among the earliest enthusiasts for JSTOR, and the three principal journals the Society publishes have been included in JSTOR long enough for the value of this form of access to have been demonstrated to many members of the ESA. An evolving collaboration between the ESA and JSTOR, begun in 1996, led the ESA to request support to: (1) enable individual members of the Society, and not just participating libraries, to have direct access to ESA journals in the database; and (2) investigate the possibility of linking current issues of key journals to the backfile. These two objectives are being pursued.

Meanwhile, the promise of that excellent collaboration prompted the leadership of the Society to submit a still more ambitious proposal -- namely, that Ecology and Botany could be one of the first JSTOR clusters offering a deeper selection of titles in a particular field. Ecology represents a good starting point because it is a central field, with rapidly growing enrollments in colleges as well as universities, and one that is also new enough, and sufficiently cohesive, that the corpus formed by its main journals is of manageable size. The Foundation responded very positively to this proposal, in part because the results eventually achieved should permit a useful test of the long-term implications of what can fairly be called a revolutionary new form of scholarly communication.

It is impossible for anyone to predict precisely how these projects and others like them will turn out. But there seems every reason to be optimistic about the JSTOR approach to broadening access to scholarly literature while simultaneously preserving it, and doing so in a highly cost-effective way.

The Foundation's Research Agenda in Higher Education

The remainder of my part of this report focuses on the research the Foundation is supporting on higher education. In part because of the interest of other researchers in utilizing the Foundation's College and Beyond database (described briefly at the end of this section), and in part because of the timeliness of some of the research underway, Trustees and others have suggested that I summarize these initiatives in some detail. I am glad to do so, but with the caveat that projects and sets of topics are always changing.

As background, it should be noted that this Foundation's approach to research is somewhat unusual. On the one hand, much of what we do is typical of foundations--that is, grants are awarded to a great many colleges, universities, and other kinds of organizations so that faculty and staff can carry out research in the Foundation's established fields of interest (such as ecology, population, refugee studies, and the arts, along with higher education). Other large foundations work in similar ways, while of course directing their support to fields of special interest to them.

The less common feature of this Foundation's interest in research is that our staff members -- both those who have significant grantmaking responsibilities and a small number of research staff members -- conduct studies themselves. The rationale for the Foundation's own research activities has four elements. (1) In company with all who do research, our staff members hope to contribute new ideas of value. In this regard, we seek to provide useful insights and information to institutions that are grantees (many liberal arts colleges, for example, have a strong interest in patterns of allocating merit aid, a subject staff members studied recently) as well as, in some instances, to a broader audience of scholars and policymakers. (2) A more narrowly focused objective is to gain the understanding necessary to be effective grantmakers in areas such as doctoral education, education of minority students, and support of libraries. (3) Research projects may suggest ideas that lend themselves to programmatic development (JSTOR grew out of a study of trends in library expenditures and the future of scholarly communication). Direct engagement with research also enhances the ability of staff members to evaluate external projects that have been funded by grants from the Foundation. (4) Finally, the active pursuit of research within the Foundation helps to create a milieu that is attractive to potential colleagues and stimulating to all members of the staff.

Recent Publications

Four recent publications growing out of research either carried out by Foundation staff or supported by the Foundation illustrate the range of subject matter, modes of analysis, and potential audiences that we expect to reach.

  • Published late in 1996, Charles Clotfelter's Buying the Best, is based on case-studies of college and university departmental expenditures. Professor Clotfelter, who teaches economics and public policy at Duke University, has provided the most detailed analysis that exists today of factors responsible for rising costs in higher education. He concludes that one of the main "drivers" of higher costs is high institutional aspirations -- combined with the availability of ever more expensive ways of doing research. At the same time, Clotfelter finds little support for claims that institutional inefficiency or unusually rapid increases in "unit costs" is to blame.
  • Alvin Kernan, a Senior Advisor to the Foundation, edited a volume entitled What's Happened to the Humanities? that includes essays by Louis Menand, John H. D'Arms, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and Frank Kermode. Favorable reviews and comments by a number of leading scholars in the humanities indicate that the book has been useful both in clarifying hotly debated issues (such as curricular directions, library needs, the effects of theory, the "demise" of the disciplines, and funding trends) and in providing reassurance that there is room within the humanities for a wide variety of positions and perspectives on issues of all kinds.
  • Two former Foundation staff members, Elizabeth Duffy and Idana Goldberg, completed Crafting a Class: College Admissions and Financial Aid, 1955-1994, a history of policies and practices at liberal arts colleges in Ohio and Massachusetts. A hallmark of the book is its combination of quantitative analysis and careful use of archival material to demonstrate how often a wide range of colleges was affected by successive "large waves" (caused, for example, by demographic trends and the move to coeducation by a number of formerly single-sex institutions). The book also provides a useful history of early efforts to recruit minority students and the recent adoption of merit aid policies by many colleges.
  • Another book on a related topic, Meeting Need and Rewarding Talent in American Higher Education, by Michael McPherson and Morton Schapiro, is based on research funded by the Foundation. It focuses on national trends in college enrollment and highlights the ways in which government policies, institutional responses to them, and a changing academic marketplace have affected both overall enrollment rates and the distribution of students from various socioeconomic categories among types of institutions. One finding that attracted considerable attention in the national press is that increasing numbers of students from affluent families are electing to attend public and private research universities rather than liberal arts colleges.

 

Ongoing Studies: Race and Diversity in Higher Education

The Foundation's heavy investment in studies bearing on race and higher education (evident in the list of projects given below) reflects a long-standing interest in the issues of both educational policy and public policy associated with the efforts of colleges and universities to enroll larger numbers of minority students. Several related but somewhat distinct types of studies are now being supported by the Foundation in this area of research, which is both unusually contentious and extremely timely.

  • Derek Bok, former president of Harvard, and I have spent much of the last 18 months on a study of the actual consequences of the policies of race-sensitive admissions that have been followed over the last 35 years by almost all academically selective colleges and universities, including the leading professional schools. In a book scheduled for publication by the Princeton University Press in September 1998 (titled The Shape of the River), we estimate the likely effects of a mandated policy of race-neutral admissions on the composition of entering classes and present new evidence on the academic performance in college and the subsequent life histories of the black undergraduates admitted in the fall of 1976 and the fall of 1989 (seen in comparison with their white classmates and national reference groups). The underlying research, which has been carried out in close collaboration with colleagues at the Foundation, includes an effort to measure at least some of the presumed educational benefits of enrolling more diverse classes.
  • One of the early findings from our analysis of a part of the College and Beyond database (described below) is the existence of what appears to be "underperformance" in college of many well-prepared black matriculants, who earn lower grades than white classmates with comparable SAT scores and high school grades. This result, which is reported in a paper by Fred Vars and me (to be published later this year in a Brookings volume being edited by Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips), is consistent with a considerable body of previous research and plainly merits closer investigation. Douglas Massey of the University of Pennsylvania and Camille Z. Charles at Ohio State University obtained a grant from the Foundation in 1997 to begin a pilot study that will use longitudinal data in an effort to understand underperformance and why it occurs.
  • Eugene Y. Lowe, associate provost at Northwestern, has edited a set of papers that address the subject of diversity on campuses more broadly. It includes essays by Claude Steele of Stanford, Uri Treisman of the University of Texas, and Scott Miller, now at the College Board, that comment on this same phenomenon from various perspectives. Neil Smelser of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences has contributed a paper on experiences with affirmative action in California. This volume is scheduled for publication in the fall of 1998.
  • Thomas Kane of Harvard is working on several projects that fall under the same general heading. One will extend his earlier work on the practicality of substituting class-based affirmative action for race-based programs. The second is an attempt to understand more fully than anyone does now why family income correlates so strongly with college enrollment; Kane suspects that "liquidity constraints" not captured by the usual measures of income or wealth are an important part of the story, and he intends to test this idea using business cycle data.
  • Michael Nettles of the University of Michigan is in the early stages of an ambitious effort to learn more about the reasons why black students drop out of college at higher rates than seemingly comparable white students. Some of the same issues of financial capacity being investigated by Kane may be relevant here.
  • Another Foundation staff member, Stephanie Bell-Rose, is working with Thomas Espenshade of the Office of Population Research at Princeton on an in-depth study of the changing composition of minority populations attending some of the same academically selective institutions included in the Bowen-Bok project (comparing, for example, native-born students and those who have come from the Caribbean or other places outside the US). Ms. Bell-Rose is also working with staff members at the Urban Institute in Washington on the characteristics, preparation, and backgrounds of black students who have high SAT scores. Ernest Bartell of Notre Dame and Derek Neal of the University of Chicago are independently pursuing related topics -- namely, changes in the secondary school origins and qualifications of matriculants at leading Catholic universities and the effectiveness of parochial schools in educating minority students.
  • Jacqueline Looney, who directs the Foundation's Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship Program (MMUF), is working on a later stage of the educational process. By employing a variety of qualitative methods, she will assess the extent to which the MMUF program is achieving its objectives. As she studies the histories of the MMUF program participants, one of her aims is to distinguish the characteristics and experiences of those who have been most successful in pursuing PhDs from the characteristics and experiences of those who have chosen other career paths.
  • Other scholars are exploring the role of community colleges in promoting diversity (Judith Blau of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and the contributions of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Henry Drewry, a Senior Advisor to the Foundation, and Humphrey Doermann of Macalester College). Using data collected as part of the College and Beyond database as well as other information gathered specifically for their purposes, Drewry and Doermann are studying the histories of selected HBCUs to provide a more up-to-date picture of their role in American higher education.

 

Other Topics in Higher Education

Educational markets and the returns to education.-- Zvi Griliches at Harvard is preparing a definitive account of his decades of research on sources of productivity gains, with special reference to the contributions of basic research and advanced training. Caroline Hoxby of Harvard and the National Bureau of Educational Research has completed an important study of the nationalization of the market for higher education and the attendant geographic integration of competition for undergraduates among colleges and universities; her first paper, which makes use of industrial organization concepts, is titled "How the Changing Market Structure of US Higher Education Explains College Tuition." Richard Zeckhauser and colleagues at Harvard are studying the proliferation of early-decision and early-action admission programs and have demonstrated already that such programs do not always benefit the students who are eager to participate in them. Richard Easterlin and Christine Schaeffer at the University of Southern California are studying a different type of "return" to higher education, namely its effects on life satisfactions as well as incomes. Cecilia Rouse at Princeton is studying the returns to education in community colleges, especially for minority students and women.

Faculty retirement.-- Orley Ashenfelter of Princeton and David Card of the University of California at Berkeley are carrying out what promises to be a path-breaking study of factors affecting faculty retirement decisions. Thanks to the cooperation of both TIAA-CREF and a large number of colleges and universities, Ashenfelter and Card are able to combine data on professors' assets in pension plans with data on current salaries, types of institutions, fields of specialization, and working conditions to estimate much more precisely than has been possible before the impact of these various factors on the timing of retirement decisions. John Pencavel at Stanford is carrying out a parallel study of retirement patterns within the University of California system (which has offered a variety of retirement incentives), and he hopes to extend his research to include at least one other large state system.

Gender, race, choice of major, and choice of occupation.-- Jerry A. Jacobs, professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, is studying patterns of curricular choice by students of different races and genders. Sarah Turner of the University of Virginia and I have finished a study of the relationship between pre-collegiate academic preparation (as measured by math and verbal SAT scores) and choices of majors by women and men in the late 1970s and the early 1990s. Turner now intends to collaborate with Harriet Zuckerman of the Foundation on a study of the interconnections, by gender, of pre-collegiate preparation, choice of major in college, grades in college, advanced degrees attained, and occupational choice and success.

Libraries and scholarly communication.-- Economists at Northwestern University with special competence in industrial organization (Ronald Braeutigam and others) are nearing completion of an analytical study of the economics of scholarly communication as they relate to libraries. Two of the Foundation's staff members, Richard Ekman and Richard Quandt, have finished editing a collection of papers on experiences in this country with electronic means of scholarly communication (presented at the Emory conference mentioned earlier in this report), which we expect will be published in 1998. Quandt is also editing a set of papers presented at a conference held in Warsaw that examined experiences with library collaborations in Eastern Europe.

Cost-effective uses of technology in teaching.-- As mentioned earlier in this report, Gilbert Whitaker of Rice is guiding the development of a series of demonstration projects intended to find ways in which technology can be used to improve teaching qualitatively while also reducing costs. Our expectation is that Professor Whitaker himself, as well as some of the directors of particular projects included within his program, will publish their findings. Also, this is a topic that Michael McPherson and Morton Schapiro hope to highlight in future conferences at Macalester College on research in higher education.

Intercollegiate athletics and campus life.-- James Shulman, a Foundation staff member, will be the senior author of a major study of trends in intercollegiate athletics over the last 40 years, in which I am also involved. The changing profiles of student athletes at various types of schools will be examined, as will trends in their academic performance (compared with the performance of other students who had similar test scores), subsequent life histories, and the economic forces that have had such powerful effects on the recruitment of these students and the organization of the entire athletic enterprise. A correlative study completed by two social psychologists, Nancy Cantor of the University of Michigan and Deborah Prentice of Princeton, draws on intensive case studies of sophomores at Amherst, Columbia, and Princeton. Their initial findings are reported in a paper titled "The 'Scholar-Athlete' and Participation in the Life of the Institution: Integration or Isolation." They now intend to extend this study to include both a large state university and later years in college.

Science, technology, and university-industry relationships.-- Paul David at Stanford is studying university-industry connections, and Richard Nelson and Michael Crow at Columbia, Nathan Rosenberg at Stanford, and David Mowrey at the University of California at Berkeley are jointly studying the patenting of university scientific and technological research.

Philanthropy.-- Charles Clotfelter of Duke University is investigating the factors associated with patterns of giving by alumni/ae at some of the academically selective colleges and universities included in the College and Beyond database; he is taking into account both the overall level of giving and restricted gifts in an effort to learn, for example, whether participants in intercollegiate athletics have been more likely than other students to target their gifts. Gordon Winston of Williams College is using financial aid records available at Williams to study the relationship between financial support provided to undergraduates and their subsequent willingness to make donations to their college. Abigail Payne and Aloysius Siow at the University of Toronto are studying the characteristics of donors to institutions of higher education in Canada.

Broader Topics.-- John Wilson, professor of religion at Princeton and dean of the graduate school, is editing a volume of papers on religion and higher education in the United States in the 19th century, including the interplay between science and religion. Harold Shapiro, president of Princeton University, and I have edited a series of papers that will appear in 1998 in a volume titled Universities and their Leadership; contributors include Martin Trow of the University of California at Berkeley, whose paper examines accountability in higher education, Oliver Fulton of Lancaster University in Britain, who has compared the academic professions in northern European countries, and Hanna Gray of the University of Chicago, who has responded to an essay by President Shapiro on trends in presidential leadership.

"Center" Grants

To answer one frequently asked question, decisions as to which externally generated research projects should be supported by the Foundation are made in several ways. Most grants in support of research in higher education result from ordinary applications, which are reviewed by staff members and often by outside advisors as well. Others projects are supported through "center" grants made to institutions that are interested in developing "portfolios" of research in higher education as part of broader commitments to encourage more able scholars to work in this general field. At present, four such research centers are being supported by the Foundation:

  • The National Bureau of Economic Research, under the leadership of Martin Feldstein, has stimulated much excellent research in the economics of higher education. The studies by Caroline Hoxby and Charles Clotfelter referred to above were carried out under grants made to the NBER. Also, the NBER has convened annual meetings of individuals working in this and related areas.
  • Williams College has been an exceptionally productive center of both faculty and student research in higher education. The work of Michael McPherson and Morton Schapiro, and the new work of Gordon Winston and his colleagues, grow out of the activities of this center. A 1997 grant to Williams provides support for both the research of Winston referred to above and studies of "peer effects" on learning being carried out by a social psychologist, Alan Goethals, and an econometrician, David Zimmerman.
  • Initial grants were made in 1997 to two new centers. One is Macalester College, which expects to continue and expand upon the work done earlier at Williams College by McPherson and Schapiro. In particular, Macalester intends to organize bi-annual conferences of researchers and administrators, with each conference to focus on a well-defined topic and to lead to publications of refereed articles and books. Projected topics include enrollment management and, as already noted, cost-effective uses of technology in teaching.
  • The second new center is the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, where Dean David Breneman and Sarah Turner, assistant professor of education and economics, have established the Virginia Project on the Economics of Higher Education. Faculty members at Virginia plan to study a range of topics including the evolving role of community colleges; the effects of specific Federal aid programs (such as Pell grants and loan programs) on enrollment of economically disadvantaged students and their persistence in college; differences between men and women in choice of major, postbaccalaureate study, and occupational choice; and the distribution of subsidies and costs in public higher education.

 

The College and Beyond Database

Many of the specific studies just outlined are likely to be useful and illuminating. Yet, it is entirely possible that the creation of the College and Beyond database will prove to be the most lasting contribution of the Foundation to research in higher education. This database was built by the staff of the Foundation, under the leadership of James Shulman and Thomas Nygren, over roughly three years (from 1995 through 1997). It will eventually contain the records of approximately 90,000 undergraduate students who matriculated at 34 academically selective colleges and universities in 1951, 1976, and 1989. The close cooperation of the participating colleges and universities was essential to its construction, and we would like to record here our appreciation for the efforts of all those who worked so hard to provide the information incorporated in it. Created on the explicit understanding that the Foundation would not release or publish data that identified either individual students or individual schools, it is a "restricted access database." As we note below, this attribute affects the conditions under which it can be used.

Broadly speaking, the database has three components.

  • First, there is the "in-college" component, compiled from individual student records in collaboration with the participating colleges and universities. For each matriculant, the database contains information available when the student was admitted, as well as records of grades in college and participation in athletics and time-intensive extracurricular activities.
  • The second component is survey data, compiled for the Foundation by Mathematica Policy Research under the direction of Geraldine Mooney. For many of these same matriculants we have detailed information describing their post-college histories, how they now assess their experiences in college, and how satisfied they have been with their lives after college. Finally, for the '89 matriculants only, the survey provided information on the extent to which they interacted with individuals of different races, political outlooks, socio-economic backgrounds, and geographic origins.
  • The third component of the database consists of sets of linked records obtained from other sources. For example, Alexander Astin and his colleagues at UCLA have enabled us to link information about pre-collegiate aspirations obtained through their surveys conducted in the fall of 1976 and the fall of 1989. Similarly, through the cooperation of the College Board and the Educational Testing Service, we have been able to link background information provided by students when they filled out the Student Descriptive Questionnaire at the time they took their SAT tests.

 

The presidents of the 34 participating colleges and universities have agreed that, under proper safeguards, the College and Beyond database should be used to address what will surely be perennial issues facing the kinds of colleges and universities represented within it. Accordingly, the Foundation has formed an advisory committee to guide it in developing policies for access to the database, in evaluating applications for access, and in constructing methods of protecting the absolute confidentiality of information provided by both individuals and institutions. The members are Michael McPherson, president of Macalester College, chairman; Alan Krueger, Bendheim Professor of Economics and director of the Survey Research Center at Princeton University; David L. Featherman, professor of sociology and director of the Institute for Survey Research at the University of Michigan; and Cora Marrett, Provost of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. While we regret having to be somewhat bureaucratic, our lawyers have advised strongly that any scholar approved by the advisory committee to use the database (as well as representatives of his or her home institution) must comply with unusually stringent procedures to assure confidentiality. The individual with overall responsibility for responding to inquiries concerning the database is Richard E. Quandt, a Senior Advisor to the Foundation.

The experience of building the database has reminded us again of the good fortune the Foundation has enjoyed, over many years, in having the trust of many members of the academic community. It is a privilege to be able to work so cooperatively, and in such good spirit, with others who share common objectives.

William G. Bowen
President
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
140 East 62nd Street
New York, NY 10021
(212) 838-8400

 



Notes

back to top
Terms of Use | Accessibility | Site Map
Personal tools