As Lent Begins

Today is Ash Wednesday, and we begin the Lenten season. Let us all take time for prayer and reflection during these weeks. Pope Francis’ Lenten message provides a powerful beginning:

Blessings to all,

Noreen Carrocci




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Student Debt Not “Crippling” for Most

The Wichita Eagle kindly published my latest commentary recently. Here it is. I welcome comments.

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Be Skeptical!

The Wichita Eagle published this Op-Ed piece the other day:

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Hyperbole! Hyperbole!

Today I submitted a Huffington Post blog trying to highlight the differences among types of higher education institutions, and their varying costs, loan debt, and default rates.  Here it is:


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A New Venture

The Huffington Post recently invited me to post blogs with them from time to time on issues in higher education. Yesterday, I posted my first. Here is a link:


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Congratulations, Everyone!

During this run-up to Commencement May 12, 2012 I have remarked to several people that the school year seems to go by faster as I get older.  But it’s not just me, I was reminded, when I had lunch with three sophomores today who can’t believe they will be juniors already in the fall.  Two of them were in freshmen seminar with me in fall 2010, and I marvel at how they’ve changed and grown these past two years.  Our faculty and staff do such a wonderful job of challenging and supporting our students – undergraduate and graduate – so that during the two, three, or four years they are here they are truly transformed.  

Among those who will graduate on Saturday will be some who have served the homeless and hungry at the Lord’s Diner, others who have traveled to Guatemala and served with Sisters Adorers in their school or clinic and later studied Spanish for several weeks.  Nearly all will have done some service in the local, regional or international community. Many student athletes will graduate having excelled academically and in their sports – e.g., a tennis player graduating summa cum laude, our women’s national champion bowler receiving her Master’s in Theological Studies degree.  And we will send 10 graduates to medical school in the fall, and several others to pharmacy, dental, physical therapy, mathematics, law and other graduate programs!  Our pass rate of 96% on the national Nursing board test is the highest of 34 programs in the state of Kansas for 2011.  One graduate is discerning a vocation with our sponsors, The Adorers. Although we don’t have any current students entering the seminary that we know of yet, we still have seven young men with Newman “roots” in various stages of study for the priesthood.

Year after year we can see our core values exemplified in our students and graduates – Catholic, Academic Excellence, Culture of Service, and Global Perspective. Yes, they are transformed while at Newman as we work toward our mission of empowering our graduates to transform society no matter what their chosen graduate schools and/or career choices.  And our annual alumnae/i awardees each year demonstrate such dedication – e.g., this year’s Ami Angell (’99) who works to rehabilitate terrorists, our Dr. John Pyles (’76) who volunteers medical service in distaster areas such as Haiti. 

And so at Commencement Saturday morning, we will celebrate our honorary degree recipients for their modeling our Core Values of Catholic (Bishop Michael O. Jackels) and Culture of Service (Alice & Dale Wiggins) – great examples for our graduates.  We will celebrate 350+ associates, bachelors, and masters degree graduates, and commission them to work to transform society, and admonish them to continue to live by the Newman code for they will always be part of the Newman family:
The Newman Code
As a member of the Newman community, 
I pledge to live in the spirit of critical consciousness
by respecting the dignity of every person,
honoring both personal and institutional integrity,
and striving to embrace all humanity.
Congratulations, graduates, faculty, and staff for jobs well-done!
Noreen M. Carrocci

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Kansas Private College Week!

The governor, Sam Brownback, has declared April 16-22 to be Kansas Private College Week!  I am delighted that the Wichita Eagle helped us to celebrate by publishing the piece below:





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Holy Week & Easter Blessings

During this holiest of weeks, I am mindful of the incredibly generous sacrifice made for all of us by our Redeemer.  I am mindful, too, of the sacrifices faculty and staff make daily here at NewmanUniversity on behalf of our students and our mission.  Finally, I am aware of the sacrifices made by students and their families to secure their education here at Newman University.

The book, Heart to Heart:  A Cardinal Newman Prayer Book is a compilation of Blessed Newman’s writings (by Daniel O’Connell, SJ). It was first published in 1938, and then reprinted in 2011 by Ave Maria Press after his beatification. The book is a treasure for prayer and meditation.  I share just two with you below. 

 May your Holy Week be a good time of reflection, and may your Easter season bring joy and blessings to you and your families.


Noreen M. Carrocci

One Name That Lives

There is just one Name in the whole world that lives; it is the Name of One who passed His years in obscurity, and who died a malefactor’s death….Amid the most various nations, under the most diversified circumstances, in the most cultivated, in the rudest races and intellects, in all classes of society, the Owner of that great Name reigns.  High and low, rich and poor, acknowledge Him.  Millions of souls are conversing with Him, are venturing at His word, are looking for His presence….Here, then, is One who is not a mere name; He is no empty fiction, He is a substance; He is dead and gone, but still He lives – as the living, energetic thought of successive generations, and as the awful motive power of a thousand great events….O my own Savior, now in the tomb but soon to arise, Thou has paid the price; it is done – consummatum est – it is secured.  O fulfil Thy resurrection in us, and as Thou hast purchased us, claim us, take possession of us, make us Thine. Amen.

Immediately following this prayer is a poem that seems just right for Easter Sunday:

Splendor Paternae Gloriae

Of the Father Effluence bright,
Out of Light evolving light,
Light from Light, unfailing Ray,
Day creative of the day:

Truest Sun, upon us stream
With Thy calm perpetual beam,
In the Spirit’s still sunshine
Making sense and thought divine.

Seek we too the Father’s face,
Father of almighty grace,
And of majesty excelling,
Who can purge our tainted dwelling;

Who can aid us, who can break
Teeth of envious foes, and make
Hours of loss and pain succeed,
Guiding safe each duteous deed,

And infusing self-control,
Fragrant chastity of soul,
Faith’s keen flame to soar on high,
Incorrupt simplicity.

Christ Himself for food be given,
Faith become the cup of Heaven,
Out of which the joy is quaff’d
Of the Spirit’s sobering draught.

With that joy replenished,
Morn shall glow with modest red,
Noon with beaming faith be bright,
Eve be soft without twilight.

It has dawn’d; – upon our way,
Father in Thy Word this day
In Thy Father Word Divine,
From Thy cloudy pillar shine.

To the Father, and the Son,
And the Spirit, Three and One,
As of old, and as in heaven,
Now and here be glory given.

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Second Missive to the White House!

I never got a reply to my February 8 letter from President Obama or anyone at the White House (see my previous blog).  Last week I sent the letter below to Ms. Zakiya Smith, Senior Advisor for Education on the White House Domestic Policy Council.  I share with all of you so that you might be aware of what is happening nationally, and so that you might provide feedback, too.

Ms. Zakiya Smith
Senior Advisor for Education
White House Domestic Policy Council
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington,DC 20500

February 21, 2012

Dear Ms. Smith,

I sent the enclosed letter to President Obama two weeks ago.  I never expected an answer, of course, but now want to send it to you for your consideration especially regarding the part of the letter that addresses the President’s “Blueprint for Making College Affordable.”  As you will read, I was in attendance at the NAICU meeting and was pleased that you were so interested in the feedback you received there.  I didn’t get a chance to comment then, and I hope it’s not too late for you to consider the points I raise.

 Too often, it seems, the media and the Department of Education focus on the highest priced universities (primarily on the coasts), and ignore the great mid-section of our country.  I hope that you will consider what this small (2,200) Kansas private university is doing to set responsible tuition policies, provide good value to students and their families, and serve low income students.  The story is similar for the other 17 independent colleges and universities of Kansas.  Together, we provided 21% of bachelor’s degrees and 29% of Master’s degrees in the state in 2010.  The only investment made by the state in our institutions is in the form of need-based grants direct to students – a total of 1% of the state’s higher education budget!  Now, that’s a return on investment! 

So, please let me underscore my great disappointment that, as written in the “Blueprint,” only public institutions can compete for the $1 billion investment proposed by the President.  

Last Friday, NAICU alerted us to the proposed “College Scorecard” on the White House website.  I went to it immediately, and provided some feedback, and have received no response.   I have no quarrel with the “costs,” “graduation,” and “student loan debt” items, as these data already exist and are available through NCES.  I cannot make sense of the “student loan repayment” category, and would suggest you use student loan default rates which are also available. 

The “earnings potential” item would be impossible to calculate for universities like ours that have 40+ majors.  Earnings vary greatly even with one major.  The example I used on the website is a History major – one might go to graduate school and become a professor; another may go to law school and become a defense attorney or prosecutor (where earnings vary greatly!), and a third might become a historical museum curator.  I simply don’t see how one would calculate “earnings potential” for the major based on such very different possible career directions.  Moreover, I wonder how and when we would collect data.  In a one-year post-graduate survey, many alumni haven’t settled into job or graduate school yet.  Response rates to 5 and 10 year surveys tend to be relatively low.  Would we need to hire another person to conduct such surveys, thereby driving up costs?  Finally, I would say we have excellent data available to us on earning potentials already – the U.S. Department of Labor’s annual Occupational Outlook Handbookand through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

I mean no disrespect when I say that this College Scorecard would pose an unnecessary burden on our colleges and universities.  It seems to me that families are getting used to using tools such as the College Navigator through theNationalCenterfor Education Statistics and NAICU’s U-CAN service.  And, of course, each institution has a net price calculator on its website.  All of these are excellent efforts at transparency.

I would welcome the opportunity to share more with you of my perspective and private higher education experience of 32 years. Thank you for your openness to receiving feedback and for all your work on behalf of U.S.students.

Sincerely yours,

Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D.
Newman University
3100 McCormick Street
Wichita,KS 67213
Phone:  316-942-4291 X2135

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Letter to the President Obama

After spending nearly a week in Washington DC at two professional meetings and the National Prayer Breakfast, I felt compelled to write the President.  It is copied below.  Let me just add that the National Prayer Breakfast was a wonderful two-day affair of meeting terrific people and hearing amazing speakers.  It was, indeed, a privilege to be there!

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington,DC 20500

February 6, 2012

Dear Mr. President,

It was my honor and privilege to attend the 60th National Prayer Breakfast February 2-3.  You and all the speakers were eloquent in encouraging all of us to behave in ways consistent with our moral values.  You and others urged us to try as best we can to bring “the spirit of Jesus” with us as we discuss difficult issues and work to fashion policies congruent with those values.

How uplifting to hear all the speakers both days!  Democrats and Republicans alike seem to want to have the kind of respectful dialogue that has been so absent in the public arena these past two years.  I pray for you and for all the Congress that we can make progress on the significant domestic issues before us even in this election year.  I want you to know, also, how much I admire your work and achievements in foreign affairs.

President Obama, the National Prayer breakfast was the culmination of nearly a week in Washington for me, attending as a University president first, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) Annual Meeting, and then the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) Annual Meeting.  It is from these vantage points that I write to say respectfully, sir, how deeply disappointed I am in your administration’s recent actions that impact our sectors.  I would so welcome the opportunity to have a conversation with you about these issues! Since that is highly improbable, I just pray that somehow this letter finds its way to your desk.

At the ACCU meeting we learned of two of the federal government’s recent actions that restrict religious liberty, and impact our ability to define ourselves as religious institutions.  First, the regional NLRB has “determined” that St.Xavier University in Chicago is not a Catholic university and, as such, must allow unionizing efforts for their adjunct faculty.  Sir, the full-time faculty is unionized, and so the University has certainly not been anti-union.  More importantly, their mission statement, legal and incorporating documents clearly define St. Xavier as a Catholic University sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy.  Part of the history and identity of NewmanUniversity (where I am president),St.Xavier University, and all Catholic universities is openness and hospitality toward people of all faiths.  We think that is in “the spirit of Jesus” and consistent with our Catholic moral values.  Yet, it seems that the finding of “not Catholic” was, in large part, related to the fact that St. Xavier employs and enrolls non-Catholics! I do hope that your office will assist the national NLRB office in finding for St.Xavier University in its appeal of this ruling.

The second issue had actually already received significant national attention.  That is, of course, the ruling by Secretary Sebelius and HHS that religious organizations, including Catholic universities, must provide coverage for contraceptives (including the “morning-after” pill which most Catholics believe causes abortions) and sterilization in our health insurance plans by 2013.  Again, it seems that your administration wants to restrict our right to the free exercise of our religion, telling us we are not free to have policies and procedures consistent with our religious beliefs and moral conscience.  Not only does this ruling seem unconstitutional, it doesn’t make good business sense.

More than two years ago, when we were negotiating a new health care plan for our employees, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas had the most cost-effective bid for us.  BCBS-KS was just gaining access to Catholic and other private organizations in our region.  When we told them they needed to exclude contraceptives, abortions, and sterilization, they at first said they couldn’t do it.  Once they realized it would be a deal breaker for us and other Catholic and faith-based entities, they found a way to do it legally.  It just made good business sense! Please find a way to reconsider this precedent-setting, unconstitutional decision.

At our NAICU meeting, we had several sessions relating to your “Blueprint for Making College Affordable,” as outlined in your State of the Union address and speech at the University of Michigan, and as posted on your website.  We are as one in applauding your concern for this issue, and your proposals to double Federal Work Study, expand Perkins Loans, maintain the Pell grant program, maintain the 3.4% interest rate on subsidized Stafford Loans, and retain the tuition tax credits (and other tax incentives for education).  We were also very appreciative that you sent Ms. Zakiya Smith to meet with us.  She obviously was interested in hearing our concerns, took copious notes, and at least seemed to grasp the real concerns we in the non-profit, private college sector have with the “blueprint” thus far.  We found it reassuring, too, that your office and the DOE are honestly looking for our reactions before final proposals are formulated.  So, in this final section of this treatise I want to react from the perspective of Newman University, Wichita, Kansas.

I assure you, sir, that affordability has been front and center for us the past several years, and we have already been meeting the 3 principles you outlined in your “blueprint” by setting responsible tuition policies, providing good value to students and families, and serving low income students.

Currently, NewmanUniversity’s tuition and fees are $21,841, nearly 25% below the national average ($28,500) for private, non-profit four-year schools.  During the past five years, tuition increases have been 5% or less each, and we have held the line similarly on room and board.  For 2012-13, we will likely be raising tuition 2.5% and holding room and board flat.  During these years, the amount of institutional aid provided students has increased 68% in order to try keeping the net tuition costs as reasonable as possible for our students and families.  For example, 98% of undergraduates received institutional aid in 2009-10, with the average amount being $11,573.

And we are serving an increasing number of low-income students. The percentage of Pell-eligible has risen from 34% in 2008-09 to 45% in 2011-12, and so you can imagine how important we believe it is to maintain the Pell grant program funding that we have.  Twenty percent of our undergraduates are students of color, also an increase in recent years.  On the other hand, we have not seen an increase in the numbers of students seeking student loans largely due to the increase in Pell funding, and our efforts to keep tuition increases low while increasing institutional aid significantly.  During the last three years, the percentage of students taking Subsidized Stafford Loans has remained at 79%, and the Unsubsidized Stafford Loans actually decreased from 78% to 76% of undergraduates.

Beyond these numbers,Newman University has a history of partnering with public and private entities to deliver educational excellence in our region.  Since St. Mary’s of thePlains  College closed in Dodge City in the early 1990s, Newman University has been in partnership with all of the community colleges in western Kansas to provide accelerated degree completion programs for elementary education teachers.  Our alumni there now number 484, and we are  the largest provider of teachers to western Kansas of any public or private university.  We now are offering reduced tuition rate, 5-course certificates in English as a Second Language for teachers throughout the state, helping them to be better elementary and high school teachers to a rapidly changing student population.

We are partnering with the University of Kansas Medical School-Wichita to provide instruction for first-year medical students on our campus.  This unique arrangement is testimony to the excellence of our faculty in preparing students for medical and other health-related graduate programs (i.e., more Newman graduates are typically accepted to KU Medical School than any other KS college or university except for KU and KansasState!).

Recognizing that some families just can’t see four years of private education as possible, we now have dual admission and articulation agreements with nearly every community college in Kansas.  Students can be advised by our faculty while still enrolled in their community colleges.  And, with our “advance standing” programs in many public and private high schools in the region, more than 800 students are entering their first years of college at Newman and elsewhere with as many as  18 college credits.  It’s been possible to graduate in three years from Newman University for more than a decade!

With all of these public and private partnerships, imagine my distress to read that your proposed “race to the top” initiative and $1 billion investment would only be open to public colleges and universities.  We would be eligible to participate in the “first in the world” competition, it seems, but the $55 million proposed is certainly a much smaller amount making it less likely that a relatively unknown Newman University would win an award.

So thanks in advance to you, President Obama, or to any staff member who might be able to read this lengthy missive.  Again, I wish we could have a conversation.  I’d like to hear more about your approach to these issues, and how you have come to your commitments.  I’d like to share my personal story of being a first-generation college student who took out significant loans to go to college, making the best investment of my life.  Since we most likely can’t have that conversation, I’d like to beg your consideration of the issues I have raised.  For my part, I pledge that I will keep praying for you as you work in the “spirit of Jesus” on behalf of the American people, our country and our world.

With great respect and gratitude,

Noreen M. Carrocci
Newman  University
3100 McCormick St.
316-942-4291 X2135

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