Intellectual Property and USAO

I spent yesterday visiting the University of Oklahoma main campus for the annual conference on legal issues. While there, I had an opportunity to refresh my understanding of a few issues I confront in the institutional research trenches. I attended a session on FERPA issues, some basic issues surrounding intellectual property, as well as some developments on immigration law as it impacts admissions.

Among the revelations that struck me the most was learning how other institutions approach intellectual property. So far as I could tell, many people attending that session were under the impressions that their institutions hold some claim over faculty and staff intellectual property. Of course this impression was the result of a show of hands, so it might not be at all indicative of actual policy. In any event, this struck me as a significant contrast from the way USAO handles this same issue. Here’s an excerpt from our employee handbook (4.14):

C. Copyrighted works produced by University personnel, except as noted in the paragraph E. of this section, are the property of the creator. All rights afforded copyright owners under Section 196 of the Act reside with the creator unless he or she has assigned or licensed any of the rights. Decisions relative to registering works with the copyright office are left to the individual creator.

D. Works specifically commissioned by the University under Section 201(b) of the Act belong to the University. As copyright owner, the University makes decisions relative to registering commissioned works. Royalties for University-commissioned copyrighted works may be shared by the University and the creator(s) of the work subject to the discretion of the University. Disputes arising over royalty sharing shall be referred to the University Research Committee, which will in turn recommend to the President.

E. All noncommissioned copyrightable material, developed with the significant use of funds, facilities, or equipment, administered by the University, become the property of the University. However, the University recognizes and reaffirms the traditional academic freedom of its faculty, staff, and students to publish freely without restriction. In keeping with this philosophy, the University does not construe the provision of office or library facilities as constituting significant use of University facilities, nor does it construe the payment of salary as constituting significant use of University funds, except for those situations where the funds, facilities or equipment specifically support development of such material.

So far as I can tell, and keep in mind that I am not a lawyer or even an H.R. person, this means that all work done by USAO faculty and staff remains their intellectual property. The exception to this is when USAO specifically commissions a copyrightable work. I think of this as one of the additional perks of working at this wonderful school.

USAO: How We Stack Up, 2014

I am occasionally called upon to collect summary figures on variables critically important to USAO and our various stakeholders. Often, this involves comparing ourselves to other institutions or aggregates of the same. I recently did just this and thought I would share some of these comparisons with my readers.

The comparisons that follow are all based upon data pulled from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) for the 2013-14 academic year (the most recent data available typically lags a year behind the current). Key USAO figures are compared against an aggregate of schools with membership in the Council Of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) and an aggregate of Oklahoma colleges and universities with public governance.


I pulled the cost a typical undergraduate student faces for one year of full time undergraduate study for USAO and the two benchmark groups. The numbers on Figure 1 assume in-state tuition and on-campus residence, so they are a pretty good indicator of what the average student can expect to pay. As you can see, USAO students face a substantially smaller bill when compared to our benchmark groups. On average, USAO students pay 20% less than they would at the average Oklahoma public school. When we examine the typical price of a COPLAC school we see that the savings grow to just over 40%. Please keep in mind that since we are talking about averages, the price of any individual school in these groups could be considerably higher or lower. Also, these figures do not include any financial aid or waivers awarded to students,so you could think about them as the worst case scenario bill. This figure could be an underestimate if you consider a new Ferrari to be absolutely critical to your higher education.


Full Time Enrollment

The size of a school is relatively easy to measure, but much harder to interpret. Larger schools tend to produce larger absolute numbers of graduates, and they employ more faculty and staff. However, school size also has an influence on a number of other variables that aren’t as obvious such as student/faculty ratio and minimum necessary infrastructure like residence halls, class rooms and computer labs. When we examine the full time enrollment figures (one of several ways to think about a school’s size) on Figure 2 we see that USAO is pretty tiny. The average COPLAC school is more than four (4) times the size of USAO, while the average Oklahoma public school is about twice that again. This disparity in size has significant implications for for all those factors influenced by school size.


Retention Rate

One of the more interesting intersections between psychology (my jam) and economics (not my jam, sorry Dr. Long) is on the construct of “value”. People routinely purchase goods and services, but normally they only do so when they find more value in the thing they are purchasing than in the thing they are exchanging for it. For example, this week I visited a local burger joint that I love and gave them something I value (a specific amount of money) for something I value even more (small double with onion rings). The point of this whole thing is that paying for a college education is no different at this level of analysis. Students, their parents or some other collective pays a certain amount of money on the assumption that the education they get in return is worth more than the money they are relinquishing.

This same sort of thing happens when our students pay their tuition bills, they except something of greater value in return. Unfortunately estimating the worth of a higher education is just a little bit more complex than doing the same for a cheeseburger, no matter how much cheese it might have. One of the ways we attempt this in Higher Education circles is to examine the probability a student will continue their education into the second year. This figure is called a retention rate and can be expressed in a number of different ways. Of course it is a rather simple way of capturing the quality of a school, or examining the performance of its students, but it is a figure that is widely reported and understood.  Figure 3 plots my comparison of retention rates for the schools we have been discussing. Here we see that 60% of USAO’s full time students are retained from Fall of one year to the fall of a second year. The graph also show that the average Oklahoma public school retains just 1% more of their students than USAO. I would rather USAO does better, but 1% is really not that far of the Oklahoma average. When we look at the COPLAC schools we see that they retain a great many more of their students, 15% more on average.


Graduation Rate

Another way we attempt to measure the performance of our institutions of higher education is through their graduation rates. This is essentially the percentage of students enrolling in a school that end up graduating. Like retention rate before it, the graduation rate comes in a variety of flavors and can vary pretty dramatically depending on which you choose. Figure 4 compares overall graduation rate (not the 4, 5 or 6 year) for the groups of interest. Here we see that 41% of students joining the USAO family end up getting a degree, which is 11% higher than the average Oklahoma Public School. On the other hand, USAO trails COPLAC schools by 13%.



So what does all this mean? Well, I can think of several different ways to think about these figures. We can take each comparison individually and independently of the others and this would be a good, simple way of understanding different aspects of the schools compared. However, if you take these in combination, I think we begin to see a very interesting picture. Be forewarned, while I could probably point to several bigger cheerleaders (metaphorically), I am confident I would be somewhere near the top of a list. My interpretation of what all this means is admittedly biased, but it is also not without at least some measure of validity.

If we consider the cost of attendance along with the size of these comparison schools, we get a sense of the resources available to each. Simply, more students yields more tuition dollars to convert into educational services. When wee combine these numbers with the increased tuition costs students face at other schools, we see that USAO trails pretty significantly where resources are concerned. When you combine this with the retention and graduation rate comparisons, I find USAO’s performance a remarkable one. This goes quite a long way in explaining why I am such an advocate of this school (aside from the occasional paychecks). In my opinion, USAO has done remarkably well with the resources at our disposal. We often outperform institutions that are better resourced, and where we don’t we come closer than one might expect given our economic constraints. So a huge kudos to everyone that makes USAO the tiny little juggernaut that it is. Our students, faculty, staff, alumni and regents all contribute to what I have often heard called “Oklahoma’s best kept secret.”

NSSE Results, 2014

Results for last year’s National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) are in and they look pretty good for USAO. I have uploaded a report for those brave souls that want to see some of the details (link below). For the rest of your, I thought I would provide a brief overview of these results.


What is NSSE?

NSSE is a survey administered to college and university freshman and seniors all over the United States and Canada. The idea behind this survey is to get a decent estimate of collegiate quality. To the extent that students at a given institution work on more rigorous assignments, collaborate with faculty and participate in enriched academic and social activities, schools vary in academic quality. For more depth on the nature of NSSE and what it measures, please see the official NSSE 2014 Results Report, or check out last year’s discussion on the topic.

In order to put USAO’s academic quality into some sort of context, I have created a few comparison, or benchmark groupings. The first of these is the Oklahoma Public group. Schools from our own state of Oklahoma with public governance (and funding) are included in this group. That is, assuming they participated in NSSE this year. I use these schools as a basis for comparison, not just because we have the same boss (the Oklahoma taxpayer), but also because current USAO students would likely have selected one of these schools had they not elected (wisely) to enroll here. This is a pretty decent way to figure out if that decision was a good one. Spoiler alert: It was.

The second comparison group I used in contextualizing our NSSE results was composed of all participating members of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC). Institutions in this group, our sister schools, share a common goal of providing a quality liberal arts education without the private school price tag. USAO students searching for a less expensive liberal arts education could conceivably get this type of education at any one of these COPLAC schools, so I think it is a good idea to make sure we perform at least as well as they do.

The final comparison group I included aggregated the results of all liberal arts institutions. I almost did not include this group because these include some of the most prestigious and rigorous of schools in the world.  Many of these schools have a reputation as selective, challenging and expensive, so comparing ourselves to them might make us look pretty bad by comparison (It’s why you seldom see me in the same room as Brad Pitt). However, these schools represent an ideal, a vision of what USAO strives to become (minus the hefty bill), so I decided to see how far we have left to go.

The Results

Without going into extensive detail, I am confident in characterizing these results as very positive for USAO. For many categories of academic quality, USAO exceeded scores of our comparison groups. Even for those categories where USAO was not significantly better, we at least did not score significantly worse. In fact, when we consider the group most likely to outperform USAO, (the liberal arts benchmark), I see the we only scored significantly worse in a single category. Given the tremendous disparity in resources, high potential for selection bias and range restriction, I find USAO’s performance to be remarkably positive.


For all of us affiliated with USAO, be you students, faculty, staff or alumni, I want to say thank you for participating in this study. We belong to a remarkable little community and each of you contributes to the quality of education we offer. For those of you considering USAO for you or your child’s undergraduate education, I will offer this little nugget: You can do better than USAO. But not this close to home, and for nowhere near this price.

Enrollment Summary, Fall 2014

It is time, once again, to discuss USAO’s enrollment figures. Overall, a single theme is evident to describe these figures, and that is the theme of increased stability. It seems that after a number of years of pretty steady declines in enrollment, we may be entering into a period of relative stability, or at the very least reduced enrollment losses.  Without diving into the potential causes of these enrollment figures, which are complex and likely include demographic, cultural or structural changes of myriad flavors, I will briefly describe our current enrollments compare to our observations from previous years.

Beginning with our enrollment figures overall, we see a small decrease (just above 1%) in headcount from last year. A closer examination of these figures demonstrates that this decreased headcount is driven by further reductions in part-time enrolments, though some full time enrollment declines are evident. Figure 1 demonstrates this trend for the past few years.


Examining the gender diversity of USAO, we again see relatively minor changes. The gap between females and males seems to increase but just a little bit. A closer look reveals that this year USAO enrolled 1 more female than last year, but lost a few males. This gender difference has been evident for many years, perhaps as the result of our unique history in the state, but is likely also a reflection of a larger and more current national trend. Figure 2 provides a broader view of USAO’s gender diversity.


The final comparison for the current discussion revolves around our student’s geographic diversity. As I did last year, I have assigned each of our students to one of three (3) categories, describing their place of origin. The first category includes all students from Grady County (our local county in Oklahoma). As figure 3 illustrates, we have fewer local students this year as we did last year. As with other comparisons, this year’s decrease is considerably smaller than in more recent years. We see a similar pattern when we examine students from other Oklahoma counties. In contrast to our more local enrollments, we see increased enrollments from other states and countries. This is the fourth consecutive increase in this category and serves to partially offset some of our enrollment reductions.


Liberal Arts in Today’s Workplace

Being a polymath sometimes isn’t a brag, it’s a way of life, a work life anyway when you are a librarian. In Lori Goetsch’s 2008 article ‘Reinventing Our Work: New and Emerging Roles for Academic Librarians’ she argues that work in libraries isn’t changing as much as completely being revolutionized to keep pace with civilization’s technological advances.


In short, a librarian in today’s world can’t just know their Library of Congress shelving locations–now they have to be as skilled in computers, customer service, and archives. Once long ago each of these skills was reserved for a specific member of the staff and that was their sole purpose. In the past years that has changed to where each member of the staff has to be able to wear many hats or find a new job.


The article brings up the fact that twenty years ago, a librarian would likely be the only one using a computer, would likely have physical reference materials, and would teach patrons how to look materials up in a card catalogue. Today nearly all of that is obsolete.


Positions in a library have been fluid and rapidly shift as the needs of their communities have changed. The average middle class patron carries more computing power in their pocket than most libraries had for entire data centers thirty years ago. So now to remain important to society, so too the librarian needs to adapt. In order to adapt librarians need a liberal arts education.


This is important for a myriad of reasons but the most important is because the librarian has to be more than just a book shelver. Librarians are to many the gatekeeper that bridge the gap of the digital divide. So then the average librarian must be anything but average. They need a skill and knowledge set of nearly any possible question that may come up and have the psychological training to be able to serve their patrons.


My take away from the article goes further however. Think of the community using libraries. They likely aren’t the same people using it thirty years ago. When I was a child everyone used a library but for the things that Google does for us now. So why are libraries still important?


Libraries are important because not everyone is able to use or afford a computer and internet and a home to use it. Some people have all the technology and resources and yet have no idea how or where to look for information. My personal opinion is that the shift in society along with our technology has made the library an important institution to close these divides in our society. To do that we need librarians who are well versed in many disciplines. We need the liberal arts in the stacks.


What do you think? Do you find the library to be important? Do you think librarians need liberal arts majors more than they used to?


Work Cited

Goetsch, Lori A.(2008) ‘Reinventing Our Work: New and Emerging Roles for Academic Librarians’, Journal of Library Administration, 48: 2, 157 — 172


DOI: 10.1080/01930820802231351



Contest Winner – Summer 2014 Evaluations #3

Vaunda gave us a piece of her mind by filling out her Summer Course Evaluations for 2014. To thank her we gave her a $50 Amazon gift card. She said it will go towards getting a new pair of headphones so she can rock out while she studies.


Thank you Vaunda!

For a chance to win your own fabulous prize, check your student email, look for our posters in the hallways, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Freshman Orientation, 2014

I want to send out a huge “Thank You” to all you new USAO students participating in last week’s Freshman Orientation. You were all great sports and a valuable source of information. The information you provided will be invaluable to us as we work to demonstrate that USAO’s type of educational experience is worth every penny.

Over the next few days, I intend to add some preliminary results on some of those assessments to this page. If you are at all curious, make sure to visit us again. Best of luck on your first academic term!