After approving a 4 percent undergraduate tuition increase and other campus projects, the Board of Trustees continued conversations on the state of the University during a Saturday retreat.
The Trustees analyzed the benefits of higher education through different mediums, said President Richard Brodhead. The Board also received updates on major University initiatives, including Duke Kunshan University and the Duke Forward capital campaign.
The meeting led to a stronger sense of the future goals and needs of the University, said Board Chair Richard Wagoner, Trinity ’75.
Changing nature of professional education
Both Bill Boulding, dean of the Fuqua School of Business, and David Levi, dean of the School of Law, gave presentations on how their schools have responded to the changing role and demand for professional education.
Many business schools need to address the question of their importance with the growing presence of online education, Wagoner said. Fuqua has better positioned itself by taking advantage of the benefits of interdisciplinary learning that is best taught on campus. For example, interdisciplinary programs at Fuqua enable MBA students to enter their careers with more in-depth knowledge of sectors such as health care or energy.
Boulding was not available for comment in time for publication.
Nationally, law school applications have decreased due to growing concerns about employment prospects, but application numbers to Duke Law have held steady compared to previous years, Levi noted in an email Saturday. Duke Law has devoted more resources to training students for changes in the legal field, especially in more specific areas of legal practice.
“The Trustees urged us to take full advantage of the strengths of other parts of the University,” Levi said. “We do so now and will continue to look for opportunities to engage in multidisciplinary teaching, research and problem solving in the future.”
Levi also presented employment statistics for law graduates. He noted that the data demonstrated the different outcomes offered by top law schools. Duke Law—ranked 11 by U.S. News and World Report—and other top law schools continue to yield significantly better employment opportunities and attract more applicants than lower-ranked schools, despite the contracted legal job market.
Wagoner said the placement data was a good sign, but the salaries for top law school graduates are not quite as strong as it was during the economic boom. The national trend in declining applications can have major ramifications for law school offerings in the future.
“The question becomes ‘What are your strategies to ensure that you have a viable, dynamic, financially solvent law school?’” Wagoner said. “Dean Levi laid out some interesting potential lines of business for the Law School that will enhance the reputation of the school and the kinds of customers that might get value from different programs at Duke.”
The value of higher education
The discussions during the retreat reinforced the idea that the value of higher education cannot be assessed through a narrow framework but through holistic measures that consider the long-term personal gains a Duke education can offer, Brodhead noted. Surveys of alumni and parents, for example, are important indicators of the benefits of Duke.
“No one knows the value of their education the day they graduate, so the retrospective surveys are important to us,” Brodhead said. “There is a lot of public discussion, and there are questions that make sense for some kinds of universities that don’t make sense for a university like Duke.”
People should consider employment prospects when valuing higher education, Brodhead noted. Census data indicates that a college degree is the strongest correlate for stable employment and high income, but the trend among some state universities when relating income data to undergraduate majors is discouraging, he added.
“If somebody spends three years traveling the world having experiences that then enable them to write an amazing book, their income is going to be zero in those three years,” Brodhead said. “That doesn’t mean there is zero value for those experiences.”
Value and cost are related in terms of assessing the future of higher education as a whole, as well as the decision to pursue it, Brodhead said. A Duke education today offers more diverse, enriching experiences for students than in previous years. As a consequence, the value has increased, but the level of investment needed and costs incurred also increased. Increases in tuition cover some of the increasing expenses, but they are matched by more generous financial aid provided to more than 50 percent of undergraduates.
Given these trends, Brodhead said he believes the growing value of a Duke education has outpaced the increased cost.
The discussion about value generated ideas about ways to enhance the educational experience and ensure that students remain engaged with what they learn, Wagoner noted.
‘A positive more than a negative’
Although administrators recently announced another delay for the opening of Duke Kunshan University, discussions about the new China campus were not part of the Board agenda this weekend beyond the routine update.
DKU has generated interest among faculty members who are interested in developing academic programs in China, Brodhead said, adding that the delays have allowed time to build up more ideas and discussions about course offerings.
“In that sense, the delays have been a positive more than a negative,” Brodhead said.
Wagoner noted that the construction relies on the partnership with the Chinese government, in which the language barrier and other cultural differences can affect communication and lead to some delays. He cited his experience with General Motors when it entered the Chinese market and faced some difficulties when he was the company’s CEO.
Wagoner added that Chinese people want to learn about American culture, which has built demand for American higher education and reinforced DKU’s importance in the region.
“Very little Duke money is being spent [on DKU],” Wagoner said. “Meanwhile, the value of the option is growing, and this relationship [with the Chinese government] is getting to second, third, fourth and fifth levels of depth of understanding.”
Over eight years, beginning fiscal year 2012, Duke expects to spend about $41 million dollars in operating costs for DKU. The University has also committed more than $8 million for construction oversight.
Near the halfway mark
The Board also heard an update on Duke Forward.
The Duke Forward capital campaign—officially launched in September after collecting $1.325 billion in a two-year silent phase—has raised $1.54 billion to date. Its goal is to raise $3.25 billion by July 2017.
The campaign has benefited from regional launches, the first of which took place in Atlanta in early February, Brodhead said. Duke will also host events in San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C. and London in the next few months.
The events offer seminars and lectures from members of the University community, said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations.
Students who participate in the regional launches are able to share their experiences with alumni, making the conversation “80 times” more meaningful, Brodhead noted.
“Students are the best ambassadors in these kinds of contexts,” Wagoner added.
In other business
The Trustees approved the promotion of international comparative studies from an undergraduate major to a program. The change—greenlighted by Arts and Sciences Council in November—will allow ICS to make its own faculty appointments.
The division of neurology in the School of Medicine was approved to become a department, which better positions it to gain research funding and hire faculty.
The Board also approved renovations to Gilbert-Addoms residence hall on East Campus to add common space and make the dormitory more accessible.