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“What I am Working on Today” Blog

More Transparency

April 29, 2013

Michael Bugeja, director,
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
Iowa State University of Science and Technology

Earlier this month the ASJMC website ran an article by me on transparency published in Inside Higher Ed.

The piece criticized academia for being less than transparent when it comes to how tuition dollars are spent. It advocated for the publishing of key metrics on the department’s or school’s homepage so that prospective students understand how much starting salaries are in a chosen profession, how long it typically takes to graduate, and the placement rate in media, graduate school and military.

Accreditation also will require some of these metrics appear on the front door of journalism and mass communication homepages.

The IHE piece got plenty of attention. In fact, some institutions are already making plans to require transparency pages on their program websites.

One statistic that is potentially embarrassing is how much a journalism degree costs in tuition and fees. Unless administrators get average student debt under control, fewer graduates will be able to afford the relatively low starting salaries of community news outlets, from radio stations to newspapers.
We were surprised at the average debt of journalism and advertising students at the Greenlee School. It was close to the very high debt average of Iowa State University, a little more than $29,000.

What I worked on today was sharing all of our metrics, however impressive or humbling. You can visit our “Transparency Page” and tell us what you think in the comment section below.

Transparency has three rules:

• No data, no transparency.
• No sunshine, no transparency.
• No assessment, no solution.

In other words, while sharing our relatively high average debt may discourage some prospective students from attending Iowa State’s journalism and advertising programs, the greater good is served by publicizing those data.

We did something else. We set a target to reduce debt to $24,000 in the next three years.

Now that’s a benchmark worth attaining!


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