Inside Higher Ed

The 2019 Inside Higher Ed Survey of Chief Academic Officers

3 hours 12 min ago

Survey reveals their thoughts on Me Too (nearly half have seen complaints of harassment by professors in last year), the liberal arts (many are worried), criteria for program cuts (they don't favor just counting number of majors), general education, textbook costs, civility and more.

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Massachusetts regulators propose efforts to protect students from unexpected college closures

3 hours 12 min ago

The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education on Tuesday advanced a plan intended to protect students from unexpected college closures, voting to start working on recommendations including screening all private nonprofit colleges’ finances and warning students 18 months before a college is at risk of closing its doors.

State regulators hope to have a new system in place for the start of the semester in the fall of 2019. But the working group’s recommendations left several key details to be determined, including which entity would be responsible for the work of annually screening colleges’ financial condition, what score on a new financial metric would trigger closer state monitoring and how, specifically, the 18-month warning would be tripped.

Groups representing private nonprofit colleges voiced concern that the proposals could duplicate existing reporting requirements, spread private colleges’ confidential financial information far and wide, and be rushed into place. Some also worried the requirements miss an opportunity to throw small private colleges a lifeline.

Still, in a sign of the intense concerns swirling in Massachusetts about many private colleges’ financial viability, much of the reaction to the proposed changes has not been to push back against the idea of additional regulation -- it’s been to try to tailor regulators’ thinking so they don’t create unintended consequences that would harm private colleges and universities.

“It’s sort of hard to argue that if you can’t show you’ve got 18 months of resources to operate your institution perhaps there needs to be more intervention or work with the board and the school to figure out what the next steps should be,” said Richard Doherty, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts. “That is one of the things that’s a little dicey. Is 18 months the right amount of time? When do you measure that 18 months? Stuff like that is important, but it’s still unresolved.”

The 18-month recommendation is perhaps the most attention-grabbing idea from the working group, which started meeting in May in the wake of the unexpected closure of Mount Ida College. Mount Ida’s leaders faced fierce criticism after they announced plans to close the college on only a few weeks’ notice last spring, leaving many students uncertain of where they would enroll in the fall. Some of those displaced had just accepted admissions offers and turned down other opportunities. The saga forced the state to grapple with the difficult issues of who should regulate college finances, how closely they should be watched and when students have a right to know their college might close.

In the last several weeks, two more colleges in Massachusetts have made announcements about their futures as going concerns. Newbury College plans to close at the end of the spring semester, and Hampshire College is seeking partnerships and considering not enrolling a new class this fall -- although both of those announcements were arguably handled in a more organized manner than Mount Ida's.

Massachusetts will only be able to require colleges to tell students about a risk of closure 18 months early if other working group recommendations are put into place. A report from the group sketches out a new process that begins with confidential annual screening and ends with the requirement for early notice plus teach-out and contingency plans.

“The proposed plan centers on a clear goal -- to ensure that any college that reaches a defined threshold where its financial condition puts current and recently admitted students at meaningful risk of interruption in their educations must prepare necessary contingency plans and must inform the students and other stakeholders when that risk becomes sufficiently imminent,” the report says.

Under the proposals, the state Department of Higher Education would screen all private colleges in Massachusetts using a new metric developed by EY-Parthenon, a consulting firm, on a pro bono basis. The metric, the Teachout Viability Metric, would use publicly reported data in order to estimate how well a college can teach-out students who are currently enrolled based on their expected graduation dates.

A college scoring 100 percent would be able to wind down and meet all obligations to its current undergraduates, according to the report. One scoring 75 percent could teach-out students for three years, one scoring 50 percent could teach-out for two years, and so on.

The metric is not supposed to be used to determine which colleges will have to close or issue public notice of viability concerns -- it is only recommended as a screening tool. Yet to be determined is whether the screening should be conducted by the state agency or outsourced and what cutoff would invite additional state scrutiny.

Nonetheless, a cutoff would in fact be established. State regulators would contact colleges and universities falling below that level to determine whether they need additional monitoring. Certain circumstances could mean regulators would deem some institutions not at risk, while others would be actively monitored.

Again, the specifics of the monitoring protocol have not been determined. The working group called for it to allow regulators to assess changing conditions of nonprofit colleges and universities but still fit with the 18-month notification threshold.

Up to this point, all new regulatory actions would be confidential.

“All information about the existence of the monitoring and the contents of communication and data shared by the [institution] in accord with the protocol should be held to strict confidentiality guidelines,” the report says.

Active monitoring would continue until the institution is deemed not at risk of closure or until it is determined it will soon violate the 18-month notification cutoff. When state regulators determine a college or university only has the financial resources to complete its current and next academic years, it is deemed to have triggered a “North Star” principle and would have to notify students.

“That is to say that the trigger for moving beyond active monitoring to action is the determination by no later (but possibly quite a bit earlier) than each December 1st whether [a nonprofit college or university], in the reasonable judgment of the [Department of Higher Education], has the financial resources to complete the current and subsequent school years,” the report says. “If they do have such confidence, the [college or university] should remain in active monitoring; but if they do not, December 1st should be the latest date (earlier would be better) by which [the state Department of Higher Education] should ensure the [college or university] takes two critical actions: contingency planning and student notification.”

Once the 18-month threshold is crossed, the college or university would submit transfer, teach-out and contingency plans identifying at least two alternative programs at “geographically accessible” colleges that would accept full transfer credits for students. Plans would also be required to address issues including where historical student records would be maintained.

A college or university would also have to tell all of its current students, all of its students who have been admitted but not matriculated and all of its pending applicants that it is at meaningful risk of financial distress that would prevent it from being able to teach them through their degrees. The notification would also tell other stakeholders like faculty and staff members about the situation.

“By notifying students on a sufficiently timely basis -- with enough lead time to consider and act on alternatives before annual deadlines at alternative institutions -- and by developing a thorough contingency plan, these actions should prove sufficient to greatly reduce the risk of harm to students,” the report says.

The report acknowledges that some colleges and universities could resist the process proposed. It suggests making them ineligible for state student financial aid if they do not agree to the plan, a considerable penalty in a state with meaningful grants for state residents who enroll at private colleges.

“It is fair and appropriate for Massachusetts to place such strings upon publicly financed aid provided to schools,” the report says.

Although some elements of the plan could be put in place using regulators’ existing authority in Massachusetts, some will need legislative changes. Laws would need to be changed to protect institutions’ confidentiality, said Carlos Santiago, Massachusetts commissioner of higher education.

“There is a lot of work to do,” he said. “What is important is we’ve gone down this path and had a conversation with stakeholders, predominantly the private, nonprofit institutions in Massachusetts.”

The vast majority of the state’s dozens of private colleges and universities are doing well, Santiago said.

Yet troubling trends cloud the horizon. Working group documents indicate that 24 percent of private nonprofit four-year institutions in the state experienced enrollment decreases of 10 percent or more between 2011 and 2016. Meanwhile, 34 percent experienced expense increases of at least five percentage points.

At the same time, existing metrics that could mark stressed institutions, like the federal government’s Financial Responsibility Composite Score, have failed to identify problems with colleges and universities in the years leading up to their closure and have sometimes flagged colleges with considerable resources.

The working group concluded that the risk of challenges at colleges and universities leading to possible student disruption is “significant, ongoing and likely growing.” It also found current standard financial metrics are insufficient for identifying at-risk institutions in a timely manner.

With all the concern, some wonder why Massachusetts is worried about closing its private colleges instead of propping them up or removing public competition.

“I think consumer protection is a valuable thing to do, and timely notice makes sense,” said Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges, a national association. “What I worry about is that unless that is accompanied by steps taken by the state of Massachusetts to lower the artificial competition that puts pressure on some of these private colleges, it could lead to a worsening of the situation.”

And the president of a nonprofit organization that advocates for zero-debt college delivered testimony at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting pushing for the department to approach the issues at hand with an eye toward more expertise. The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education should create a financial institution role that is able to deal with complicated matters like liquidity and debt, argued Bob Hildreth, president of the Hildreth Institute. He also advocated for the board to turn to experts in bankruptcy or mergers and acquisitions.

“The 18-month threshold may not be viable as well, as colleges may close much sooner,” he said, according to a written copy of his testimony. “Sometimes a 10-seat enrollment drop is enough to spell financial doom. As word leaks out, credit lines may be pulled and bonds called.”

That last point brings up the issue of when, specifically, parties should be told about a college’s financial struggles. Make information public too late, and students arguably haven’t been able to make an informed decision about where to pursue their education. Make it public too early, and many college leaders worry students will enroll elsewhere, taking their tuition revenue with them and accelerating a struggling college’s crisis -- or even causing one.

“The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities will say we’ve had institutions that lived almost paycheck to paycheck,” Santiago said. “They get through that one year, and they’ve been doing that for years and years. I think we need to be sensitive to the differences across the institutions.”

Also of concern are the student populations most likely to be hit by closures. Institutions most at risk of closure are the smallest, least wealthy, most dependent on tuition and fees, and those that have seen enrollment decline in recent years, according to the working group’s report.

“It is also notable that they are the most likely to serve low-income (Pell-eligible) students, our most vulnerable population,” it says.

The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts is ready to work with regulators to examine issues, according to its president, Doherty. All involved indicate details have to be worked out or changed. Nonprofit colleges remain concerned, though, that the most challenged institutions will face additional reporting requirements under a plan that is being put in place on a rapid timeline.

Regulators hope to add no work for colleges, at least in the screening phase. The metric proposed uses publicly available data through the federal government’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

“The additional information that would be needed would be simply for the subset of institutions that are viewed through the metric as being in a more financially difficult position,” Santiago said. “By and large, most institutions won’t hear from us.”

Going forward, regulators, the regional accreditor and chief financial officers from institutions will dive in to the metrics in question while the state Department of Higher Education starts crafting regulations.

“There are a lot of moving parts, but there are elements we can move forward with now,” Santiago said. “The longer term would be the Legislature giving it confidentiality.”

Meanwhile, private colleges have arguably been on their best behavior in the months since Mount Ida collapsed. Newbury College announced in December that it will close at the end of the spring 2019 semester. Hampshire College said this month it is seeking a partner and may not enroll a freshman class this fall. The regional accreditor, the New England Commission of Higher Education, is said to have been active in addressing concerns about financial viability, closure and public disclosure.

“Since last spring, we’ve had a couple of announcements, and they have been perhaps textbook announcements with a lot of notice and lots of cooperation between the institutions and NECHE,” Doherty said. “Without anything new in place, the system is sort of doing a good job right now.”

Of course, there is no guarantee the good behavior would continue after the public’s attention drifts. Given projected population declines and demographic changes in Massachusetts, colleges may continue to face challenges.

Some public assurance could arguably be good for all involved.

“I certainly am hopeful that the institutions say this is to our benefits that the students are well treated -- and to the industry’s benefit,” Santiago said. “We have an industrywide reputation to keep. If I don’t have to force these agreements, but rather the institutions come forward, I think that would be the best of all worlds.”

The plan voted on Tuesday focused on private nonprofit institutions granting four-year undergraduate degrees. But the work group acknowledged challenges facing public institutions, for-profit institutions, private two-year colleges and private graduate-only institutions. Regulators should evaluate ways to address risk among many of those colleges, the working group recommended.

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Wright State professors strike over board-imposed contract they say would gut faculty rights and compensation

3 hours 12 min ago

After failing to reach an agreement with their administration over newly imposed working conditions, including a furlough policy, the Wright State University faculty union started a threatened strike Tuesday.

Wearing the union-advised dress code of “layers, layers, layers,” dozens of professors faced winter morning weather to picket starting at 8 a.m. Their ranks grew over the course of the day. Many students came to show support. Many others attended classes as usual.

The university said in a statement that 40 percent of American Association of University Professors-affiliated faculty members at its main Dayton, Ohio, campus were teaching their classes or planned to. Some 53 percent of AAUP-represented professors were teaching or would be teaching at the Lake campus, it said.

Some 80 percent of Wright State classes taught by AAUP-affiliated faculty members “were held without issue,” according to the university. Wright State “is committed to providing our students with a high-quality, affordable education,” President Cheryl B. Schrader said. “This is our contract with students, and it is nonnegotiable.”

The union took issue with that kind of characterization on social media, highlighting generic university directions to students without instructors to visit the library and complete modules or attend guest lectures.

This is not in alignment with the promises of the administration! There is no way they can actually cover classes with "qualified instructors." Additionally, music students were told to go to a practice room and basically self-teach. Wow. #fighting4Wright pic.twitter.com/vRMOExCfId

— AAUP-Wright State U (@aaupwsu) January 22, 2019

Wright State’s faculty union has been without a contract for two years, due to protracted negotiations. The university has indicated that its hands are tied as it seeks to rein in historical overspending, including via a $53 million budget reduction last fiscal year. The union, meanwhile, has blamed any budget crisis on the board’s noninstructional expenditures, such as new campus housing units and million-dollar settlements in federal cases alleging that Wright State secured student visas for nonstudent area employees and paid loans to nonconfirmed students.

“Wright State’s administration has spared no expense when it comes to protecting themselves from the consequences of their actions. Now that the bill has come due, their answer is to dilute the quality of Wright State’s education with more classes per teacher and less time for research. Enough,” Marty Kich, professor of English and president of the Wright State AAUP chapter, said in a statement.

Other union talking points are that full-time teaching salaries make up just 17 percent of the budget and that there has been a net loss of 92 full-time instructors since 2016. So Wright State's problems can't be solved on the backs of the faculty, no matter how hard the university tries, the union says.

Even though the university has managed to avoid a state-imposed fiscal watch while under the last faculty collective bargaining agreement, “we do recognize that we will have to take a financial hit on this contract,” the union’s executive committee wrote in a memo to members, advising that they vote to strike. “What we are objecting to is that the people who created the mess are now trying to gut our contract by using the mess that they created as a justification.”

The union says its previous attempts to negotiate on those grounds were rebuffed.

“The administration still refuses to talk with us,” Rudy Fichtenbaum, professor of economics at Wright State and president of the national AAUP, said on the eve of the strike.

‘Last Best Offer’

The campus AAUP chapter ultimately did vote to strike after the university’s Board of Trustees approved a “last best offer” -- what the union calls an imposed contract -- earlier this month.

That offer included no pay raise, similar to five of the last eight years. It canceled existing workload agreements and gave deans and chairs discretion over merit pay in lieu of a formula, in a loss for transparency, according to the union. The contract also increased the eligibility period for non-tenure-track faculty members to win continuing appointments from six to nine years. The current six-year period parallels typical tenure timelines elsewhere.

The union estimates the latter change would impact at least 60 current employees and asserts that it threatens academic freedom, since instructors will have less of it with less job security. It also says that the new timeline for eligibility for these continuing appointments is effectively 12 years, since the board's last best offer says that eligibility means nine or more years of service and appointment or promotion to the rank of senior lecturer or clinical assistant professor.

The board-approved conditions include additional changes to professors’ health care and their rights to summer teaching assignments, all of which union leaders reject.

Perhaps most controversially, the board approved a new furlough policy, which the union says could be unlimited as written.

“We cannot measure how much income you might lose, because the board’s recommendation that cost savings days be limited to two per semester is not in the imposed contract,” the union’s executive committee wrote in its strike recommendation to members. “Since the imposed contract requires that cost savings days be implemented ‘in a manner that does not interrupt academic … functions,’ you will be forced to work without pay.”

Gretchen McNamara, a senior lecturer of music who teaches trombone at Wright State, wrote in a widely shared Facebook post that she began teaching on campus in 2007, terminal degree in hand, for $31,000. Unionization of non-tenure-track faculty and personal advocacy for comparable pay to others in her department eventually landed her a continuing appointment, promotions and the opportunity to max out the pay scale at a $59,000 annual salary. Now, she says, those gains are at risk -- not, in her opinion, because the university can’t afford them, but because it’s trying to grab power.

“If we accept this imposed contract, the administration will have effectively taken away our right to bargain over our terms and conditions of employment,” she wrote. “It’s time to stand up and fight.”

The strike resumes today.

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Ghent University, in Belgium, embraces new approach to faculty evaluation less focused on quantitative metrics

3 hours 12 min ago

It was an unusual press release, to say the least, framed more as a call to arms than a communiqué about a new personnel policy.

“Ghent University is deliberately choosing to step out of the rat race between individuals, departments and universities. We no longer wish to participate in the ranking of people,” said the press release announcing the Ghent’s new policy for evaluating faculty performance, including for tenure.

“It is a common complaint among academic staff that the mountain of paperwork, the cumbersome procedures and the administrative burden have grown to proportions that are barely controllable,” the release from Ghent, which is located in the Flemish region of Belgium, continued. “Furthermore, the academic staff is increasingly put under pressure to count publications, citations and doctorates, on the basis of which funds are being allocated. The intense competition for funding often prevails over any possible collaboration across the boundaries of research groups, faculties and -- why not -- universities. With a new evaluation policy, Ghent University wants to address these concerns and at the same time breathe new life into its career guidance policy. Thus, the university can again become a place where talent feels valued and nurtured.”

The release clearly struck a chord with many international academics and was shared widely on social media. Inside Higher Ed spoke with Ghent’s rector, Rik Van de Walle, about what is changing and why.

Van de Walle said the university is moving from a primarily quantitative system for evaluating faculty performance to a more holistic model. The university has done away with annual task reports in which faculty had to report on plans for the coming year and what they did the year before. And it has moved from conducting evaluations of faculty every two to four years, depending on their rank, to every five years, to create an “evaluation break.”

At the beginning of the five-year period, faculty will have to explain what their goals are, Van de Walle explained, “but we don’t tell them which type of ambition they should go forth with. It’s up to the professors themselves to let us know what they want to do not for the next year but for the next five years. That’s the first major change.”

The second major change, Van de Walle said, is an increased emphasis on coaching. “Every professor gets five people around him or her, we call this an HR committee, but it’s not an administrative committee, it’s five people” -- including the professor’s department head, a senior professor from a related field and a human resources administrator -- “who are coaching, who are guiding the professor through their careers.”

“The third thing we changed -- in the past our evaluations were based very, very strongly on outputs metrics, while now the evaluation will be based on a feedback report coming from professors. So, the professors will have to write down at the end of the five-year period what they are proud of, what they believed they realized during the last five years, and we will not force them to report the number of publications or the number of Ph.Ds. [they supervise] or so on. Just like they had at the beginning, once again they will have the freedom to explain, to tell us what they believe are their major contributions they came up with during the last five years, so it’s really what you could call professor-driven, so to speak. It’s the ambition of the professor that is put on paper at the beginning of the five-year period and it’s the view of the professor at the end of that period on what happened in the last five years that will drive the evaluation at the end.”

The same committee that did the coaching will be doing the evaluating, sending its assessment of faculty performance to the Faculty Board. If the Faculty Board’s assessment is positive, the evaluation process ends there; if it is negative, it goes to university management for a final decision. For tenure-track faculty, the tenure decision will be made at the end of the first five-year evaluation period. For professors who already have tenure, a negative evaluation at a five-year mark will trigger a second evaluation two years later; after two successive negative evaluations, termination is possible (though not automatic).

“I really think it will change the culture in a really drastic way,” Van de Walle said of the new policy. “I think the pressure that people feel, the pressure towards slicing their publications, trying to get five publications out of a bunch of results instead of one major publication -- this is something we really see in practice -- this will disappear, at least partially because it’s not in their interest anymore.”

Before, he said, professors who went up for promotion were expected to deliver minimum numbers of publications, minimum numbers of Ph.D. students they supervised and minimum numbers of research proposals accepted. “And more was always better. Now we got rid of that.”

This approach of de-emphasizing the quantitative metrics is not wholly without risk, both in terms of the impact a drop in some of these metrics could have on Ghent’s standing in international rankings -- in three major world rankings, Ghent is variously ranked the first, second- and third-best university in Belgium -- and, perhaps even more crucially, on its ability to compete with other institutions for funding within the Flemish university system. Van de Walle said that performance on metrics like the number of Ph.D.s awarded, publication output and project funding determine a substantial part of the funding Ghent gets from the government. It is what Van de Walle described as a "closed-envelope system," in which the five Flemish universities compete with one another on these metrics to maximize their share of a fixed amount of funding.

Faculty are waiting to see how the system works in practice, but some who spoke with Inside Higher Ed were positive about the changes.

Ben Derudder, a professor of urban geography at Ghent, said it’s important to understand that in Flanders, university rectors are elected by staff, students and faculty, and that this change (“or better,” he said, “the spirit of this change”) was part of the current leadership team’s campaign platform. “Because tenured [academic] staff have the largest proportion of votes in the election process, it is therefore safe to say the change you are discussing is broadly endorsed,” he said via email.

“I support the change, even though I believe the tangible short-term impacts will be minimal,” Derudder said. “The change has above all an important signal function: it shows an understanding/concern that the output-maximizing focus does not lead to better science and creates all sorts of problems, ranging from Matthew effects in funding allocation" -- Matthew effects are sometimes summarized as the rich get richer while the rest get poorer -- "to well-being in the workplace. I think changes will be minimal because the broader environment still breathes the spirit of more, more, more: major E.U. and Flemish funding agencies still operate in the broader spirit of metrics, so all of us still need to consider this as we navigate how we will be evaluated. Another reason why change will be slow is that my generation has been socialized in this spirit. There may be short-term advantages such as less paperwork (putatively needed to be ‘measured’ all the time), but for me the major pluses are intangible: a spirit of trust, an evaluation system that is part of a broader coaching strategy, an assessment system that is supportive rather than punitive, and perhaps above all its broader signal function.”

“I think it’s a more humane approach,” said Koen Vlassenroot, a professor in political and social sciences in Ghent’s Department for Conflict and Development Studies. “Is it going to really entirely transform academia? I don’t think so, but this is a very, very necessary step to de-quantify academic performance and to turn universities into what they should be -- a healthy environment [to] come up with good ideas and good theories. That’s what we are losing a little bit.”

Jeroen Huisman, a professor of higher education at a research center at Ghent focused on higher education governance, likewise said he “would see it as a change for the better.”

“There are many signals -- also from research -- that contemporary management practices may have swung too much to the extreme of performance indicators, quantitative targets and the wrong types of accountability (including much unnecessary bureaucracy),” Huisman said in an interview over email. “There is very limited evidence that these management practices have been effective. On the contrary, there are clear signs that these regimes affect staff well-being and health negatively (read: stress, anxiety, burnouts). The focus on trust, a shift towards a more qualitative assessment and ex post evaluation all are sound elements of [human resources management] practices that go beyond simply counting on the basis of ill-founded performance indicators. The approach still contains elements of accountability, but it is a form of evaluation that is much more in line with key values of professional accountability, a belief that academics are in principle intrinsically motivated to ‘perform’ well and the nature of academic work (ridden with uncertainties about success of grant applications, success in getting something published in a particular journal, but also uncertainties about whether students will e.g. appreciate a curricular or pedagogical innovation by an enthusiastic teacher). The portfolio approach (staff may perform well in certain areas, but not necessarily in all) offers staff much more leeway to reconstruct their past activities and achievements.”

Huisman described Ghent’s move as “unusual for sure. On the one hand, it may not be a revolutionary change in that there are other universities that have also moved towards a management approach that better fits the values of the academic profession (see e.g. the developments in various countries to create a 'quality culture' related to teaching and learning). Let us also not forget that one cannot totally do without performance indicators. As long as there is competition, humans will look for tools and indicators to decide on who is doing well and not so well. Who would want to watch a professional soccer match if there are no rules that tell us who the winner is? In that sense, the change at Ghent University may not be that radical. On the other hand, it is.”

"Roughly speaking," Huisman continued, "I would see two dominant evaluation practices across different higher education system -- both are actually easy ways out. One is to develop REF-style formats that discipline academics" -- REF being a reference to Britain's Research Excellence Framework, a system for evaluating university research performance. "It is an easy way out, for there will likely be a sufficient number of academics that are willing, some with gnashing teeth, to play that game. The other is to totally do without, which would also be cheap and easy, although not in line with what society would expect from any professional (semi-)publicly funded higher education system. The most courageous, and in that sense somewhat radical, is to be one of the first to swing the pendulum against what seemed to be an irresistible trend of performance management.”

Sarah de Rijcke, a professor of science and evaluation studies and director of the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University, in the Netherlands, described the policy change at Ghent as admirable. "The merits of the new procedures are obvious: they encourage greater emphasis on content, relevance, and leadership than traditional evaluation criteria. Of course, there are also potential challenges," she said.

De Rijcke continued, “The introduction of new criteria could create uncertainty among researchers. ‘What will I be assessed on exactly?’ And what if I indeed adopt these local criteria? What if I orient my research to this particular university -- how will others then judge my CV when I apply for a position elsewhere, outside of Ghent or Belgium? This is a relevant concern, seeing that many scientific fields operate on a global scale. Successful implementation will depend on a fit between the new criteria on one hand, and the beliefs and expectations of the research community on the other. Another crucial success factor is the willingness of people in leadership positions to adopt this new system. There is a risk that evaluators will slip back into their ‘comfort zone’ and resort to traditional assessment criteria. These are the criteria that got them into their leading positions in the first place. The new career model requires much more than a policy change: it requires a cultural change.”

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Slain University of Utah student asked campus police for help multiple times with no results

Tue, 2019-01-22 08:00

Jill McCluskey was on the phone with her daughter when she heard the screams. On the phone call on an October night, Jill heard her 21-year-old daughter, Lauren, a University of Utah student, yell out, “No, no, no!"

Lauren McCluskey was a track athlete who planned to graduate in 2019 and get a job in public relations or academic advising. Her obituary said she entered her first track meet at 8 years old. She volunteered at the YMCA, the Special Olympics and her local branch of the Humane Society, socializing cats so they could be more adoptable. Friends said she never had an unkind word to say about anyone.

Lauren was found dead in the back of a car in a campus parking lot.

She was shot by Melvin Shawn Rowland, a man she had dated for about a month, a relationship she ended and reported on multiple occasions to campus police, who missed signs that Rowland (who fatally shot himself after killing her) was abusive and controlling, according to a university-commissioned report on McCluskey’s case. Investigations by the institution and state found that the campus officers hadn’t been trained in domestic violence and to check whether Rowland was on active parole, which he was -- knowledge that many say could have saved McCluskey’s life.

Being on active parole (temporary release for good behavior) means Rowland's threatening conduct could have led to his being jailed. His parole agreement dictated he wasn't allowed to possess a firearm (as the reports insinuated he did) or have active social media accounts.

The tragedy of a young woman murdered by a man whom she told law enforcement she feared was enough to inspire national drama, but experts in dating violence say Lauren McCluskey’s death serves as an important lesson for institutions -- that they should invest financially in both their police forces and counselors, as well as coaching on how to prevent such incidents.

University officials have acknowledged they need to improve campus security, but have maintained it’s not clear whether McCluskey’s death was preventable.

The following comes from the twin reports that the university and state ordered after her death.

McCluskey met Rowland at a bar in early September and began a relationship with him for most of the month. Rowland, 37, lied to her about his age, claiming he was nearly a decade younger, and never told her about the original offense that put him in jail in 2004 -- he pled guilty to attempted sexual assault of a teenage girl. The university report states that McCluskey spoke to two friends in September and appeared sad because Rowland hadn't let her see her friends.

In early October, McCluskey unearthed Rowland's criminal record, confronted him about it and, shortly thereafter, broke off their relationship. She allowed him to use her car, however, to apparently run errands.

The same day McCluskey ended the relationship, Oct. 9, she received a text, which she believed to be a from a friend of Rowland’s, accusing her of breaking his heart. Investigators reported later that they believed Rowland was sending these messages. Other messages urged her to end her life.

McCluskey’s mother, worried about her daughter’s safety, talked with a university dispatcher the next day, and arranged for a security worker (not a police officer) to escort her to pick up her car from Rowland, which they did without incident.

But the text messages kept coming.

The day after McCluskey retrieved her car, she received a text that Rowland was in the hospital, allegedly because of an accident. Then on Oct. 12, she got a message that he had died.

McCluskey filed a report with campus police the same day she was told about Rowland’s purported death, characterizing the texts as nonthreatening. An officer informed her then that “not much can be done.”

On Oct. 13, McCluskey contacted police again, this time because she received a message blackmailing her. She was warned that “compromising pictures” of her would be made public if she did not send $1,000 to a bank account. Police interviewed McCluskey at the campus police headquarters that day, but ultimately, a formal investigation didn’t begin until six days later, in part because the detective on the case was working on other assignments. The university report criticizes the department for not recognizing “possible dangers” of domestic violence that were present in the text messages.

Listen to the rest of the 911 calls between Lauren McCluskey and police.

The same day that McCluskey was killed, Oct. 22, she received fake texts, allegedly from the university deputy police chief, asking her to come to the police building. She called an officer instead, who directed her not to respond to the messages, though the officer did not report the impersonation. McCluskey was murdered later that night.

The reports document a rash of other errors. The detective assigned to McCluskey's case wasn’t versed in interpersonal violence. The initial report of McCluskey taking back her car wasn’t documented with university police because they did not handle the interaction. Officers who worked with McCluskey -- who are spread thin at the institution, with the police department understaffed, according to the university report -- never interviewed her in her dormitory because they were unable to leave their assigned posts. This meant they didn’t pick up on more subtle hints that the case was so serious -- like the fact that McCluskey covered her window with a blanket because she thought Rowland had peered into her room.

“There’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction with a police officer and a crime victim to ascertain the whole story of what is happening or what has happened,” said Sue Riseling, executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. Riseling was also one of the three-member team to prepare the report for the university.

McCluskey’s friends also had expressed concerns to university housing officials as early as September. They reported to a resident assistant that McCluskey was in an “unhealthy” and “controlling” relationship and that Rowland had been “practically living with her” and that he had floated giving McCluskey a gun. When the report went up the chain of command in university housing, the administrators concluded that they should not “overstep” unless McCluskey sought out help, because she was “in an apparently consensual relationship,” though officials did intend to raise whether Rowland’s frequent stays in her room violated policies around long-term guests.

Campus police officers also weren’t properly trained to identify whether Rowland was on active parole. An agent from Utah’s Adult Probation and Parole contacted Rowland in mid-October but was unaware of McCluskey’s concerns because campus police had not communicated with the state. Campus law enforcement checked Rowland’s criminal history, which did reveal his conviction but not his parole status. He was out on parole for the third time.

Utah’s criminal records, however, do not note whether an offender is on probation or parole -- they used to, but a Federal Bureau of Investigation audit determined in 2015 this was a violation of the federal agency’s rules.

But the state’s report documents flaws with their systems for tracking parolees’ status, too. The Department of Corrections maintains a system called O-Track, which mistakenly only had a record of Rowland’s parole identification number, but not his driver’s license.

Despite the university’s findings, administrators have never clearly stated that McCluskey’s death was avoidable if police had not erred, which her family and have friends have said is the case. At a press conference in December, President Ruth Watkins said the report “does not offer us reason to believe this tragedy could have prevented.”

Earlier this month, when Jill McCluskey wrote to The Salt Lake Tribune outlining her complaints with the university’s process, officials acknowledged “identified mistakes and weaknesses in university procedures” but said in a statement “there is no way to know for certain whether this tragic murder could have been prevented.”

“If our daughter’s death could have been prevented after she reached out to campus police so many times, we have to ask, is anyone’s daughter safe?” Jill McCluskey wrote in a letter to the Tribune. “She did everything she could to obtain help from an organization that claims to have an overriding objective of protecting the safety of students. This organization fatally failed her. What will it take for them to treat women’s concerns seriously and with urgency when they complain about harassment, peeking through their windows, extortion and impersonating a police officer?”

The university announced in December it will add staffers to both its Public Safety Department and its Behavioral Intervention Team, a group in its counseling center designed to handle students who are a threat to themselves or others who are worried about being harmed. It also will train its campus officers in the Lethality Assessment Program, developed to identify the signs of domestic violence.

Riseling, of the police association, said that this is a good investment, given that campus police forces have suffered financially since the Great Recession in 2008. While the association does not maintain any data on police budgets, Riseling said anecdotally the top reason that campus police agencies did not renew their membership with the association was because they could not afford it. The dues range between $400 and $500 annually, Riseling said -- there was about an 11 percent drop in the association’s 4,000 members, which are a mixture of colleges and universities, individuals and businesses.

“It’s just gotten so much tighter over the last seven to 10 years,” Riseling said.

But since 2013, when Congress approved the Violence Against Women Act, an expansion to the federal law that requires colleges to individually report certain crimes (sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking), these issues have gotten more attention on campuses, said Abigail Boyer, interim director of the Clery Center.

The Clery Center is named for that federal law, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

While Boyer said she has heard budget complaints, she said that she has encouraged campus law enforcement to reach out to local and state coalitions on domestic violence. These organizations often receive federal grants for such training. But she said all parts of the university, and officials outside of law enforcement -- in student affairs, in residence life -- should be learning about these problems, too.

“Reports can come in anywhere,” Boyer said.

Universities should also then educate their professors and students on domestic violence, said Kerri Raissian, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Connecticut and a specialist in child and family and interpersonal violence.

Women ages 16 to 24, the demographic traditionally entering college, are at the highest risk of dating violence, Raissian said. But she stressed that men, and people in same-sex partnerships, can also be victims. College students are often dismissed when they bring up troubles in relationships because the turbulence is just considered “part of the college experience, something you experience as a young adult.”

“While some of that is true, there are some clear warning signs that are not normal,” Raissian said, noting in McCluskey’s case the repeated text messages and preceding controlling behavior.

Universities should financially bolster not only their police, but also their counseling centers, and employ more people who can handle the “emotional” side of domestic violence incidents, which police may not be equipped to do, Raissian said. Students, without these resources at hand, can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233), which is staffed all the time, she said.

At Raissian’s institution, the Dean of Students Office offers victim advocacy services, which employs people who will help survivors of domestic violence as police work through their cases. Nationwide, most victim services are placed within campus police departments.

The University of Florida’s police department, for instance, employs three full-time advocates, who assist in reviewing cases and conduct campuswide seminars on domestic violence and other crimes in addition to their traditional duties.

Some institutions also maintain “special victims' units” within their campus law enforcement. Michigan State University’s investigates sex crimes, relationship violence, stalking and harassment, and child abuse, and officers in the unit receive special “trauma-informed” training.

Yale University, meanwhile, employs a “sensitive crimes coordinator” who doesn’t investigate cases but can sit in on interviews and make sure students are connected to resources and may work with students on a safety plan, including finding them appropriate alternative housing if they are in danger.

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Study: Student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes institutional norm

Tue, 2019-01-22 08:00

Faculty buy-in is a common challenge to curricular innovation. But what about students? What hurdles, if any, do they represent when it comes to adopting a more student-centered pedagogy? After all, taking notes during a lecture is arguably less demanding than engaging in more active learning.

That question is at the heart of a new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation.”

Hypothesizing that student buy-in would increase as the share of students who completed a revised course grew within a given student population -- due to a new sense of “community,” and not just teacher efficacy -- the authors of the study measured learning gains and attitudes during a course transformation at a small liberal arts college.

Using an original curriculum called Integrating Biology and Inquiry Skills, or IBIS, the authors found that students reported and demonstrated substantial learning gains. And, confirming their original hunch, the authors determined that buy-in did increase with each successive cohort -- in part because students increasingly linked certain aspects of the course to their learning gains in surveys.

Suann Yang, an assistant professor of biology at the State University of New York at Geneseo, co-wrote the study with several colleagues. They helped develop the IBIS curriculum, which covers introductory biology in nine modules or scenarios that touch on real-world problems, such as diseases. Then the authors and other faculty members at the small college, which Yang has since left -- some 13 in all -- taught the courses to 724 students for four years.

Student resistance was highest the first year, based on pre- and post-course surveys. But by the end of the fourth year, it was significantly reduced. While students' overall course grades did not increase, substantial learning gains were observed across all years.

Students participating in the IBIS curriculum demonstrated learning gains of between 19 and 75 percent in terms of content knowledge and between 30 and 50 percent in terms of skills, based on several different instruments. That’s comparable to or exceeding reported learning gains from other student-centered environments, according to the study, "and help[s] to explain the extensively documented increase in student performance under active learning environments compared to traditional lecturing."

Source: Shaw et al. Note: Normalized learning gains across concepts (a) and skills (b) were above 19 percent across all years of the study.

Data collected at the same time on student attitudes show that the “increased frequency of students who have successfully completed the course in the student population promotes buy-in among current students,” the authors add. They also guess that their “thorough use of formative assessments and a well-structured peer mentor program -- major components of the IBIS curriculum -- may help students identify and correct deficits in their understanding of course material, which are key components of student metacognition.” Students most frequently identified "clicker questions," which help instructors gauge student recall and understanding in real time, as helpful. There was no observed difference in attitudes among science, technology, math and engineering majors and non-STEM majors.

Note: An overwhelming majority of students, compiled across all years of the study (2013-2016), ranked their gains as moderate or higher in teamwork (a) and critical thinking skills (b) as a result of the course.​

Interestingly, more students reported wanting to know more about biology before the course than after. But the study attributes this to possible factors other than the new curriculum, such as the fact that negative responses were largely driven by students who were not planning to major in STEM. Students also had increasingly positive responses over the years of the study to questions about how the class impacted their perceptions of biology.

Note: Student responses shift over time, reducing the frequency of low rankings (No help, Little) relative to high rankings (Much, Great). Over four years, students increasingly report the instructional methods as responsible for large gains in their learning (p<0.0001).

Co-author Tarren J. Shaw, a lecturer in biology at the University of Oklahoma, said via email that while the main purpose of the project was to update a biology curriculum, “we were interested to measure the amount of student resistance to our changes, and figure out if there were any patterns in student resistance.”

As faculty members, he said, “we can be reluctant to make changes in the way we teach, especially if changes result in negative feedback from students on teaching evaluations.” And because institutions’ end-of-semester teaching evaluations aren’t typically designed for measuring resistance, he and his team used the pre- and post-course instruments to specifically gauge student perception of learning gains and which aspects of the course contributed to them.

“We found that there was surprisingly very little resistance from students, and that this resistance lessened every time we taught the course,” Shaw said. “This underscores the need for faculty and administrators to understand the time frame over which student buy-in to change occurs. Both patience and persistence are needed.”

As for faculty buy-in, Yang said that was a concern “because we needed cooperation among the many instructors of this team-taught course.” And while teaching the new curriculum was difficult at first, she said, having a cohort of faculty who supported one another during the transition was helpful.

“In fact, the curriculum’s success is probably due in part to the collaborative and collegial working group of instructors that developed during the project,” she said.

Still, Yang said, “it’s also important to recognize that student perspective can play a hidden role in the success of a course.” That’s especially relevant where active learning is concerned, she said, since “we need students to be on board and engaged for this type of instruction to be effective.”

Over all, Yang said she and her team recommend “spending some time at the start of the semester, and throughout the term, to [justify] the curricular change taking place.”

Kelly Hogan, associate dean of instructional innovation for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, worked for years with students and faculty members on the campus’s Association of American Universities STEM initiative. The project involved adopting more highly structured active learning in introductory-level courses in four departments. And in her experience, student resistance is a factor in curricular innovation -- particularly among students who haven’t been exposed to active learning before, or when it’s been introduced and adopted poorly.

“If a professor tells students something like, ‘I’m trying a flipped classroom for the first time,’ and then it doesn’t go smoothly,” Hogan said, “students will resist that kind of pedagogy with the next instructor that uses it.” She and a colleague like to jokingly tell other professors, “Never say the F-word to students!”

More generally, Hogan said that when Chapel Hill began moving toward more student-centered learning, first-year students tended to accept it, while professors who tried it with their juniors and seniors found “it was much harder to get past their resistance.” Still, she said, students became more comfortable with the style over time.

“I knew we were making progress on the student perception side when I overheard a student walking along a campus path say to her peer, ‘Oh, don’t take that class, it is just a lecture,’” Hogan recalled.

She noted that the Chapel Hill AAU project also involved a lot of sampling of student perceptions in mid-semester surveys. Over time, instructors saw increases in how students valued active learning and actual learning gains on concept tests, along with perceptions of classroom atmosphere.

As for the new study, Hogan said it’s “an important read to professors and departments looking to make change in their pedagogy.” In particular, Hogan said it highlights how a variety of tools can be used to assess students longitudinally, including student perceptions.

“Because many faculty don't often have the flexibility to change the question in campuswide, end-of-course evaluation tools, the study serves as a nice road map for how individual faculty or departments could think about students holistically,” beyond just learning gains when assessing changes in pedagogy, she said.

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Ave Maria forecloses on the home of a faculty critic (and his nine children)

Tue, 2019-01-22 08:00

As an early faculty member at Ave Maria University, the Roman Catholic institution established by the Domino's founder Tom Monaghan, Michael Raiger was also the first professor to move into Ave Maria, Fla., the planned community Monaghan opened near the university in 2007.

To encourage professors to live close to the campus, for their benefit and that of their students, university administrators offered employees like Raiger and his wife loans of $150,000 to make homes more affordable. With their loan from Ave Maria, the Raigers bought their home for $353,000.

"We were basically the pioneers," Raiger says.

This month, Ave Maria sought and won a court order to sell the house out from under Raiger, his wife, Caitlin, and their nine children who call it home.

The stated reason is that the Raigers did not repay Ave Maria when the university and its president, H. James Towey, notified them last spring that it was calling the mortgage loan.

The real reason, Michael Raiger asserts, is because he and his wife are suing Ave Maria, and Towey and other administrators want the couple, and their lawsuit, to go away.

"It's another form of retaliation," he says. "They know we don’t have the kind of money to fight this, and that if they take away our house, there’s no way we’re going to be able to fight this lawsuit."

Ricardo A. Reyes, whose Tobin & Reyes law firm represents Ave Maria, roundly rejected the assertion that the university is trying to punish the Raigers. "He borrowed the money and had to repay it, and they haven't repaid it," Reyes said in an interview. "There's nothing retaliatory about it."

A History of Conflict

Jim Towey's name may be familiar to those who follow national headlines for his defense last spring of Pope Francis against Vatican whistle-blowers who criticized the pope for allegedly covering up sex abuse by a former cardinal.

Closer to home, longtime readers of Inside Higher Ed may remember Towey for his treatment of one of the few faculty members willing to criticize him publicly when he was president of Saint Vincent College, in Pennsylvania.

Mark Gruber, at the time a priest and professor of anthropology at Saint Vincent, was among the only university employees identified by name in a 2008 Inside Higher Ed article about allegedly autocratic management practices there. A year later, the university barred him from the campus and reported him to local police after saying its officials had found child pornography on a computer in a common area outside his office.

The charges were dropped after police concluded that no images on the computer had been of men under the age of 18, and that the computer was in a common area and many people had access to it. (Another Saint Vincent employee later came forward and took responsibility for having downloaded the images.)

Saint Vincent and Towey didn't stop there, though, pushing the Vatican to oust Gruber as a priest, which its leaders did in 2012.

Towey, whose diverse professional history included stints working for Mother Teresa and in President George W. Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, left Saint Vincent in 2010, a year before his contract expired, and became president of Ave Maria in 2011.

Ave Maria, founded with a $250 million donation from Monaghan, the pizza magnate and philanthropist for Catholic causes, has sought to carve out a niche as a "fresh, faithful voice" -- part of a new wave of Catholic institutions whose mission was to "explicate the truths of the faith, and measure against them the evolving societal propositions or practices in politics, the arts, the economy, etc." In the past, those practices included slavery and Nazism, the history tab on the university's webpage states; today they are "abortion, fetal research … same-sex ‘marriage’ … and world terrorism."

The university has the stamp of approval of the Cardinal Newman Society, which urges universities to closely adhere to traditional Catholic teachings, and during Towey's time there, its enrollment has grown to about 1,100 students and its finances have solidified.

As at Saint Vincent, though, Towey has alienated many faculty and staff members at Ave Maria, on several occasions accused of forcing out those with whom he disagreed. Michael Raiger was among them.

Raiger's allegations, contained in a lawsuit he filed in state court last spring, are that he ran afoul of Towey by reporting "seriously disruptive, scandalous and disreputable behavior" by another professor to numerous administrators at Ave Maria. Raiger asserted that he had a duty under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law barring sex discrimination, to report the alleged wrongdoing, which involved among other things the other professor's purported spreading of false accusations of homosexual activity involving professors and students. (Inside Higher Ed has chosen not to identify the other people named in the lawsuits, given their distant relevance to the dispute between Raiger and Ave Maria.)

Raiger's lawsuit alleged that Towey and Ave Maria not only covered up the alleged misbehavior but also retaliated against Raiger for raising the issues. Specifically, in Raiger's telling, Ave Maria violated its own policies on renewing or extending one-year and three-year faculty contracts, among other things, leading to his separation from the university in May 2017. He filed the lawsuit on April 30, 2018.

The next day, May 1, Ave Maria alerted the Raigers of "its election to accelerate" the loan and demand payment of the principal amount of $150,000 plus interest.

In a court hearing this month, the Raigers' lawyer, Herbert S. Zischkau, described the university's decision to call the mortgage and foreclose as punishment for "being irritable to the president of the university." Raiger himself calls it "draconian" and notes that the university itself stands to lose money from selling the house now because the real estate market has declined in value. (Real estate websites currently value the property at between $185,000 and $320,000.)

Reyes, the lawyer for Ave Maria, said Florida law compels the university to counter any lawsuit brought against it (such as Raiger's) with a claim of its own for anything Raiger might owe Ave Maria in return.

"Raiger picked this fight" by suing the university, Reyes said. "When he sued, in defending the action, the university has to assert any claims it has related to the action. This is not retaliation. This was a claim that had to be brought."

Reyes said that Ave Maria's board "has approved or mandated that these loans be pursued" when employees leave. But in response to a reporter's question about whether Raiger was being singled out, Reyes said he "couldn't tell you how many loans there were, or how they were resolved."

An Ave Maria spokesman, asked a set of questions about the status of the university's mortgage loans to former employees and whether it had collected on them, did not respond.

The Larger Case

A judge this month dismissed three of the five claims in Michael Raiger's lawsuit, allowing the other two to continue. (The same judge initially dismissed the entire lawsuit last summer, but permitted the former professor to refile.)

Reyes expresses confidence that the lawsuit's claims are "unfounded" and that "that will be the ultimate conclusion" of the courts.

Raiger says he will press on with the suit and notes with some irony that, soon after approving Ave Maria's foreclosure request this month, the judge in the case urged the parties to seek mediation to try to resolve their dispute.

"Not exactly the best way to make you feel good about mediation," he said. "It's hard to see what they're trying to accomplish here, except to put pressure on me to drop the lawsuit."

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University of Notre Dame will cover its murals of Christopher Columbus

Tue, 2019-01-22 08:00

The University of Notre Dame announced Friday that it will cover a series of murals that depict Christopher Columbus and his famous journeys across the Atlantic.

Native American organizations have been calling for the removal of the murals, which portray Columbus as heroic and the Native Americans as beneficiaries of his arrival. Many colleges have struggled with art of earlier eras that does not reflect contemporary values of inclusiveness.

For Notre Dame, the issue of the murals has been particularly complicated. They are located in a prominent place in the Main Building. And they were for many years a point of pride to Roman Catholic students and alumni at the university. The murals are fragile and painted directly on the wall, so the university had no option to move them. The university has decided to cover the murals and make high-quality reproductions available elsewhere on campus (in a location not yet determined) with more historical context. The murals were painted by Luigi Gregori from 1882 through 1884.

"The murals present us with several narratives not easily reconciled, and the tensions among them are especially perplexing for us because of Notre Dame’s distinctive history and Catholic mission," said a letter to the campus by the Reverend John I. Jenkins, president of the university. "At the time they were painted, the murals were not intended to slight indigenous peoples, but to encourage another marginalized group. In the second half of the 19th century, Notre Dame’s Catholic population, largely immigrants or from families of recent immigrants, encountered significant anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant attitudes in American public life. At the same time, Columbus was hailed by Americans generally as an intrepid explorer, the 'first American' and the 'discoverer of the New World.' Gregori’s murals focused on the popular image of Columbus as an American hero, who was also an immigrant and a devout Catholic. The message to the Notre Dame community was that they too, though largely immigrants and Catholics, could be fully and proudly American."

But Father Jenkins noted that this was not the only message people saw in the murals.

"For the native peoples of this 'new' land, however, Columbus’s arrival was nothing short of a catastrophe," Father Jenkins added. "Whatever else Columbus’s arrival brought, for these peoples it led to exploitation, expropriation of land, repression of vibrant cultures, enslavement, and new diseases causing epidemics that killed millions. As Pope John Paul II said in a 1987 meeting with the Native Peoples of the Americas, 'the encounter [between native and European cultures] was a harsh and painful reality for your peoples. The cultural oppression, the injustices, the disruption of your way of life and of your traditional societies must be acknowledged.' The murals’ depiction of Columbus as beneficent explorer and friend of the native peoples hides from view the darker side of this story, a side we must acknowledge."

Notre Dame has a brochure available for those who have viewed the murals in their current location. "These murals … survive as that period’s interpretation of the historical events they depict. We, in our turn, have the responsibility to interpret both the historical events and the murals themselves from the perspective of our own time, with our knowledge and our moral commitments. The university encourages you to keep this responsibility in mind as you view and reflect on these."

Father Jenkins's letter noted, however, that the murals are located in a "busy throughway for visitors and members of the university community," a location that "is not well suited for a thoughtful consideration of these paintings and the context of their composition."

As Native American students have in the last two years urged the university to do something about the murals, some alumni and others have argued to keep them where they are.

A letter from an alumna in the student newspaper, The Notre Dame Observer, defended Columbus as a "brilliant navigator," whose history has been distorted. "Even more divisive than the twisted facts employed in anti-Columbus rhetoric, however, is its twisted logic," the letter said. "It simply doesn’t make sense to argue that Columbus should be held responsible for all the crimes committed by those who came after him. (Three-quarters of Americans agree, according to recent polling.) Almost no cultural icon’s legacy is perfect, not even the saints of our Catholic Church. If we go on a revisionist crusade, only Mary atop the Dome is safe."

The president of the Native American Student Association of Notre Dame responded with his own letter. "Our 'attack' is not political (it’s not even just about Columbus!), but a call for human dignity and progress," he wrote. "The most open form of representation that natives get on Notre Dame’s campus is not through a faculty member, administrator or celebration -- but through pictures of our people in chains. This needs to be addressed immediately."

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New presidents or provosts: American Dublin Hartwick Hebrew Union Henderson Minnesota RISD Rochester Spartanburg Wake Tech

Tue, 2019-01-22 08:00
  • William J. Ehmann, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Marymount University, in Virginia, has been chosen as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Hartwick College, in New York.
  • David FitzPatrick, principal of the College of Engineering & Architecture and dean of engineering at University College Dublin, in Ireland, has been appointed inaugural president of Technological University Dublin, also in Ireland.
  • Joan T. A. Gabel, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of South Carolina, has been named president of the University of Minnesota.
  • Mark W. Gibbs, dean of instruction and a professor of religion and philosophy at Spartanburg Methodist College, in South Carolina, has been named provost there.
  • Kent Kleinman, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning at Cornell University, in New York, has been appointed provost at the Rhode Island School of Design.
  • Sarah C. Mangelsdorf, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, has been selected as president of the University of Rochester, in New York.
  • Daniel J. Myers, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Marquette University, in Wisconsin, has been selected as provost and chief academic officer at American University, in Washington, D.C.
  • Scott Ralls, president of Northern Virginia Community College, has been appointed president of Wake Technical Community College, in North Carolina.
  • Andrew Rehfeld, president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and associate professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis, in Missouri, has been chosen as president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in Ohio.
  • Jason D. Warren, chief student affairs officer at Hopkinsville Community College, in Kentucky, has been selected as president of Henderson Community College, also in Kentucky.
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Tufts re-evaluating connections to OxyContin maker

Mon, 2019-01-21 08:00

Tufts University will review its connection to OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma in the wake of court documents filed last week detailing explosive allegations about the company, the mega-donors that own it and their alleged influence over the university’s medical school.

The court filing from Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey alleges that members of the Sackler family knew the opioid was causing overdoses and were involved in efforts to mislead doctors and the public about the powerful painkiller’s effects. They did not tell authorities about reports the drug was being abused and peddled on the street, it says.

One member of the family, Richard Sackler, wanted to blame abusers, writing in a 2001 email that abusers “are the culprits and the problem” and that they “are reckless criminals,” the filing claims.

The filing alleges that Purdue funded “an entire degree program at Tufts University to influence Massachusetts doctors to use its drugs.” Purdue sponsored an annual “Sackler Lecture” at Tufts on pain medicine, and Richard Sackler for many years held a seat on the school of medicine’s board, it alleges. (Purdue Pharma is unrelated to the university in Indiana.)

A Tufts spokesman, Patrick Collins, issued a statement Friday saying that the university has been and remains deeply committed to the highest ethical and scientific standards.

“The information raised in the Attorney General’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceuticals and other defendants is deeply troubling,” it said. “We will be undertaking a review of Tufts’ connection with Purdue to ensure that we were provided accurate information, that we followed our conflict of interest guidelines and that we adhered to our principles of academic and research integrity. Based on this review, we will determine if any changes need to be made moving forward.”

Members of the Sackler family have given money to scores of universities and museums over the years. Donations have resulted in their names being inscribed on campuses, including the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences and the Arthur M. Sackler Center for Medical Education at Tufts and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University.

Both Tufts and Harvard found themselves facing questions from a local politician Thursday when the mayor of Somerville, Mass., tweeted about the Sackler name on their campuses. Joseph A. Curtatone called for talks about striking the names from campus.

Curtatone wrote, “As a @Harvard graduate and Mayor of a city that's home to @TuftsUniversity, I think there needs to be a serious discussion about removing the Sackler name from those campuses given the revelations coming from @MassAGO about how #OxyContin was pushed in our state. #mapoli”

As a @Harvard graduate and Mayor of a city that's home to @TuftsUniversity, I think there needs to be a serious discussion about removing the Sackler name from those campuses given the revelations coming from @MassAGO about how #OxyContin was pushed in our state. #mapoli

— Joseph A. Curtatone (@JoeCurtatone) January 17, 2019

The public should be demanding the universities ask questions, Curtatone said in an interview with The Boston Globe.

“Something’s wrong here,” he said.

The director of communications for Harvard Art Museums declined comment via email. So did a university spokesman.

The Boston Globe noted Harvard Art Museums have pointed out that the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation provides no continuing funding for the museum:

“Arthur Sackler generously donated the funds in 1982 that paid for the construction of the original building that housed the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at 485 Broadway. In 2014, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum was relocated to 32 Quincy Street, as part of the renovation and expansion of the Harvard Art Museums.”

Tufts provided similar background information in response to a question about the Somerville mayor’s call to remove the Sackler name from campus:

“The Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences was established in 1980 by Jean Mayer, then president of Tufts University, and the Board of Trustees to promote collaborative and interdisciplinary graduate education to advance health. In 1983, Jean Mayer and the Board of Trustees established the Arthur M. Sackler Center. In both cases, the naming gifts were provided to the university more than a decade before OxyContin was introduced to the marketplace.”

Arthur Sackler is one of three now-deceased brothers that formed an elder generation of the Sackler family. Those who defend his name argue he should not be linked to OxyContin. He died in 1987, while the drug was not released until 1995.

The question of whether Arthur Sackler’s name should be lumped in with the rest of the family has come up repeatedly in the philanthropic world in recent years. A 2018 piece in ArtNet argued that Arthur M. Sackler and his daughter, Elizabeth Sackler, were never involved in or benefited from OxyContin sales.

“Elizabeth A. Sackler -- the activist, historian, and advocate for feminist causes, American Indians, and women and children of incarceration -- has been imprecisely and wrongly implicated as a beneficiary of the opioid crisis,” wrote the piece’s author, New York-based artist Natalie Frank, a member of the Council for Feminist Art at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

Nonetheless, Arthur Sackler has drawn criticism for pioneering controversial drug-marketing tactics.

A lengthy 2017 feature in The New Yorker says he became wealthy marketing the tranquilizers Librium and Valium. It quoted Allen Frances, former chair of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, saying that, “Most of the questionable practices that propelled the pharmaceutical industry into the scourge it is today can be attributed to Arthur Sackler.”

At Tufts, ties to Purdue and the Sacklers allegedly go much deeper than when its schools were named and for whom, however. The attorney general’s filing spells out other ways the Sacklers and the university have been involved with each other since the 1980s.

“Later, in 1999, the Sackler family made a more targeted gift, establishing Tufts Masters of Science in Pain Research, Education, and Policy (‘MSPREP Program’),” it says. “Kathe Sackler co-presided over the decision to fund the MSPREP Program. Richard Sackler attended the launch symposium in Boston and paid Tufts hundreds of thousands of dollars. Purdue also sponsored the annual Sackler Lecture at Tufts on a topic in pain medicine. For many years, Richard took a seat on the board of the Tufts University School of Medicine.”

The MSPREP program “bought” Purdue name recognition, goodwill and access to doctors at hospitals, the suit alleges. Staffers sent a report to the Sacklers showing Tufts and its affiliated teaching hospital helped the company develop a publication for patients about “taking control” of pain.

“Purdue got to control research on the treatment of pain coming out of a prominent and respected institution of learning,” the filing says. “Staff told the Sacklers that Purdue employees regularly taught a Tufts seminar about opioids in Massachusetts as part of the MSPREP Program.”

In 2014, Purdue medical liaison staff “succeeded in getting two Purdue unbranded curricula approved for teaching” to Tufts students, it alleges.

Purdue Pharma, based in Stamford, Conn., did not respond to requests for comment. The company sent a statement to WBUR saying Healey is attempting to vilify “a single manufacturer whose medicines represent less than 2 percent of opioid pain prescriptions rather than doing the hard work of trying to solve a complex public health crisis.”

It also said that “the complaint distorts critical facts and cynically conflates prescription opioid medications with illegal heroin and fentanyl, which are the leading cause of overdose deaths in Massachusetts.”

Almost 218,000 people in the United States died from overdoses related to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2017, according to the CDC. Overdose deaths from prescription opioids were five times higher in 2017 than they were in 1999.

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State support for higher ed rises 3.7 percent, improves over 2017

Mon, 2019-01-21 08:00

Public higher education leaders may have reason to be cautiously optimistic this spring: an early indicator of states’ fiscal health shows modest, if uneven, improvements.

States spent 3.7 percent more supporting higher education in fiscal year 2018-19 than in the previous year. The small rise continued a five-year trend of upward support that this year totals about $91.5 billion.

In the previous fiscal year, support for higher education grew just 1.6 percent, according to the Grapevine survey, an annual early survey of state indicators.

And while five states reported funding decreases between FY18 and FY19, that represents a small fraction of the 18 states that reported declines the previous year.

“We’ve had, over all, a marginally better year,” said James Palmer, a professor of higher education at Illinois State University and editor of Grapevine, a project of Illinois State’s Center for the Study of Education Policy and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

Palmer said the 3.7 percent rise “continues a trend in what can only be called modest annual increases to state higher education funding over the past five years.”

The recent higher education expenditures were uneven across states, with only Colorado and the District of Columbia increasing appropriations by double digits. Funding in Colorado grew by 12 percent, while D.C. grew by 11.7 percent.

In the five states that provided less funding -- Ohio, Alaska, Minnesota, Kentucky and South Carolina -- the drop ranged from 0.1 percent in Ohio and Alaska to 1.4 percent in Minnesota. In Kentucky, it dropped by 2.4 percent. South Carolina reported the largest one-year drop of all states at 3.7 percent.

The data show that more than two-thirds of the growth nationwide -- nearly 70 percent -- can be attributed to gains in just nine large states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington. Together, these states increased funding for their higher ed systems by 5.4 percent, while the remaining 41 states saw a much smaller 2.1 growth.

While California’s state support grew by just 6.6 percent, the state is so large that it accounts for 29.3 percent of the total increase nationwide, the survey found. California is among the states where a growing population creates more demand for public higher education.

“There are 50 different stories here,” said Palmer.

Looking out over the past five years, five states -- California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon and Wisconsin -- have increased support for higher ed by more than 40 percent, while eight have seen it flat or declining. They range from essentially flat funding in New Mexico to 21 percent less in Oklahoma.

Over five years, state funding rose 18.2 percent.

While Grapevine has reported data from Puerto Rico since 2017, subsequent years' data aren't available but will be posted online when they are.

Palmer said each year’s small annual increase “kind of reflects the ongoing struggle of the states to sustain the revenue needed to increase funding for colleges and universities.” Economic downturns, legislative tax cuts and, in a few cases, the large burdens of obligations like state pension fund payouts are all weighing on various states. “In other words, the fiscal capacity of many states to increase funding for higher education just isn’t there,” he said.

The Grapevine findings typically appear a few months before a more comprehensive State Higher Education Finance report issued by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. That report found in 2017 that for the first time more than half of states relied primarily on tuition to fund higher education.

Grapevine data cover tax and nontax state support for college and university operations each fiscal year, roughly coinciding in most states with academic years. The data include funding for four-year institutions, community colleges and vocational-technical colleges, as well as appropriations to coordinating and governing boards, appropriations to state student financial aid, funding bound for higher ed but appropriated to other state agencies, and appropriations for private institutions.

The data don’t include appropriations for capital costs, debt service, money drawn from most federal sources, or funds drawn from tuition, student fees and auxiliary enterprises.

While it’s called a survey, the data is provided directly to Grapevine by state agencies, which upload it to a server that SHEEO maintains.

Because the survey doesn’t track enrollments, analyses of funding per student aren't included. So, for instance, in a state where funding is declining, the effects may not be as severe if enrollment is declining as well. By contrast, if funding is declining and enrollment growing, per-student funding may be heavily affected.

Enrollments nationwide have fallen slightly for the past several years -- in 2018, overall postsecondary enrollments decreased 1.7 percent, led by sharp drops at four-year for-profit institutions, which saw 15.1 percent fewer students, and at two-year public institutions, where enrollment dropped 3.2 percent.

Meanwhile, enrollments at private, nonprofit four-year institutions grew 2.4 percent. Enrollments at public four-year institutions were basically flat.

While Palmer noted that the past five years have seen uninterrupted annual funding upticks, he said state support of higher education rises and falls with business cycles, with gains easily erased due to conditions.

“We'll need to keep an eye on the economy,” he said. If a recession hits any time soon, “then all bets are off.”

State Support for Higher Education: Grapevine Data

State Fiscal Support for Higher Education ($)   FY14 FY17 FY18 FY19   Alabama 1,444,764,352 1,557,047,574 1,588,026,154 1,645,894,944 Alaska 399,052,668 352,480,709 343,870,898 343,486,475 Arizona 897,579,300 860,387,400 875,132,900 902,095,800 Arkansas 1,001,496,233 974,615,738 978,568,798 1,012,705,646 California 10,765,415,955 13,562,573,000 14,489,452,000 15,439,058,000 Colorado 677,086,916 866,808,182 887,037,491 993,825,292 Connecticut 1,026,156,341 1,152,055,154 1,071,282,616 1,115,487,119 Delaware 227,606,200 234,722,700 237,069,500 237,443,800 Florida 3,925,291,451 4,537,335,070 5,037,744,203 5,323,619,860 Georgia 2,790,040,144 3,210,406,736 3,443,626,402 3,622,236,182 Hawaii 530,388,306 667,478,019 716,718,368 777,647,851 Idaho 374,642,100 460,323,000 478,997,900 502,954,900 Illinois 4,295,926,531 4,535,178,335 4,129,826,231 4,315,738,835 Indiana 1,663,061,249 1,745,379,182 1,773,727,687 1,779,141,830 Iowa 823,333,019 829,402,839 804,642,010 815,518,230 Kansas 771,121,325 769,175,109 772,091,220 801,527,217 Kentucky 1,194,587,857 1,170,767,200 1,173,159,100 1,144,995,600 Louisiana 1,125,250,832 1,083,387,063 1,159,690,661 1,163,071,254 Maine 271,864,121 299,740,529 302,551,904 305,883,736 Maryland 1,721,006,820 1,983,512,996 1,997,863,397 2,066,976,438 Massachusetts 1,342,072,529 1,544,319,564 1,564,337,918 1,606,272,299 Michigan 1,669,524,700 1,877,039,600 1,917,024,500 1,954,421,700 Minnesota 1,394,503,000 1,543,313,000 1,653,249,000 1,630,558,000 Mississippi 973,846,876 1,013,678,408 900,155,014 904,710,576 Missouri 954,236,519 1,011,797,327 988,536,584 998,983,910 Montana 226,961,354 252,366,788 243,920,115 244,454,061 Nebraska 688,183,035 753,553,849 745,710,158 762,533,014 Nevada 485,640,591 570,958,220 622,021,005 655,333,247 New Hampshire 109,000,000 125,200,059 127,935,617 128,543,198 New Jersey 1,990,469,000 2,083,569,000 2,065,933,000 2,155,024,000 New Mexico 856,215,012 854,808,000 836,246,000 855,931,200 New York 5,306,812,959 5,735,095,034 5,918,513,522 6,045,266,911 North Carolina 3,617,627,709 3,982,126,724 4,086,567,077 4,283,647,083 North Dakota 409,693,640 419,650,340 358,491,256 358,491,256 Ohio 2,104,931,061 2,303,647,976 2,300,904,761 2,299,505,863 Oklahoma 1,053,566,920 863,204,515 824,226,487 832,707,167 Oregon 631,121,950 816,722,620 851,699,382 884,722,988 Pennsylvania 1,644,692,000 1,693,108,000 1,713,363,000 1,756,295,000 Rhode Island 167,567,862 188,739,813 199,553,587 208,435,318 South Carolina 909,110,205 1,094,964,380 1,097,979,545 1,057,670,049 South Dakota 207,837,626 238,612,300 234,058,232 238,879,017 Tennessee 1,587,786,604 1,732,289,377 1,844,857,699 1,923,836,726 Texas 6,948,653,093 7,614,429,799 7,493,114,733 7,577,802,811 Utah 798,346,200 978,663,600 1,025,936,100 1,113,971,200 Vermont 92,686,200 93,158,125 95,533,067 95,494,089 Virginia 1,780,468,378 2,051,845,077 2,013,572,522 2,120,330,179 Washington 1,570,807,000 1,878,116,000 1,906,810,000 2,037,367,000 West Virginia 516,276,320 484,109,151 470,910,031 489,388,995 Wisconsin 1,114,018,800 1,473,947,300 1,509,157,200 1,573,280,133 Wyoming 352,669,707 382,164,128 373,759,707 384,799,235 Total, 50 states 77,430,998,570 86,507,974,609 88,245,156,259 91,487,965,234 Editorial Tags: Business issuesFund-RaisingResearchState policyStatesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Illinois State University

Report says states and VA have poor oversight of programs that receive GI benefits

Mon, 2019-01-21 08:00

Hundreds of college programs that enroll military service members and veterans have gone years without adequate oversight to determine if they are delivering quality education, according to a recent audit by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General. As a result, more than $1.54 million in federal tuition and fee payments have gone to "ineligible or potentially ineligible" colleges participating in the Post-9/11 GI Bill program.

The colleges were part of a statistical sample of education programs reviewed as part of the audit, which "estimated that the risk of improper payments was particularly high at for-profit schools." The audit found that for-profit institutions received $1.5 million of the improper payments.

The audit, which was released last month, reviewed the Veterans Benefits Administration's oversight of state agencies charged with ensuring the quality of education and training programs. The Veterans Benefits Administration, or VBA, is the agency within the Department of Veterans Affairs responsible for administering programs that provide financial and other assistance to veterans and their dependents. State approving agencies, or SAAs, work with the VA to ensure the educational quality of programs that receive GI Bill benefits.

The audit highlights internal disagreements and a weak partnership between the Veterans Benefits Administration and the state approving agencies that led to the improper payments.

“Because VBA and the SAAs lacked effective controls to ensure the proper review, approval and monitoring of programs, VBA could not provide reasonable assurance that Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits were paid to eligible schools and programs and that students received quality education and training,” the audit states.

The OIG review also determined that thousands of students who will enroll in the Post-9/11 GI Bill program over the next five years will attend more "ineligible or potentially ineligible programs due to inadequate oversight" by the Veterans Benefits Administration. The audit report estimated the VBA will issue an additional "$2.3 billion in related improper payments" if it does not improve oversight of state approving agencies and ensure they have effective monitoring procedures in place.

The VA did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the audit, but the VBA challenged the findings in a written response to the inspector general.

“VBA does not agree that there has been weak oversight and a lack of accountability for program oversight functions,” the response states.

The VBA questioned the audit's methodology and said it was biased toward for-profit schools, which only represent one in five institutions where students receive military benefits. Out of 70 institutions sampled in the audit, 50 were for-profits.

The VBA also disagreed with the audit's assessment that the relationship between the VBA and the SAAs is weak.

"This report does not accurately characterize this strong and effective partnership that has been in place for decades, nor does it accurately reflect the high quality of work performed by most SAAs and VBA employees in the realm of compliance and oversight," the response states.

The inspector general's report criticized the VBA's response and implied that it was disingenuous.

"The OIG views VBA's opposition to its findings and conclusions to be unconvincing," the report states. "VBA's response, which portrays most of its actions in laudatory terms with few admissions that improvements are needed, is disappointing given the acknowledgment in VBA's general comments that several areas needed improvement."

The inspector general agreed that VBA has taken action in some instances, but that "does not negate the fact that the audit identified systemic weaknesses in SAA program approval and monitoring," the audit report concluded. And those weaknesses undermined processes meant to protect 800,000 Post-9/11 GI Bill students enrolled in over 100,000 education and training programs.

The audit review covered the period from February 2015 through January 2016. During that time, 51 state approving agencies nationwide approved nearly 82,200 education programs that enrolled Post-9/11 GI Bill students.

The audit team randomly selected seven of the 51 state approving agencies and reviewed a statistical sample of 175 approved programs. The states selected were California, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Oregon. The audit found 35 programs approved by six of the seven state approving agencies had “unsupported or improper program approvals; missing or delayed program modification reporting and reviews; or potentially erroneous, deceptive, or misleading advertisements.”

As a result, "The audit team identified $1.54 million in improper Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition and fee payments made for just over 230 students enrolled in 35 of the 175 programs reviewed," the audit report states.

Programs were considered ineligible if the institutions didn't report any changes in their administrative operations or the courses they offered, or if they used deceptive or misleading advertisements. The six approving agencies also did not always conduct adequate reviews to ensure programs met legal requirements, according to the audit. Twenty-nine of the ineligible programs were at for-profit institutions that received $1.5 million in payments.

The audit report also estimated that 17,000 students who enroll in a GI Bill program within the next five years will attend more than 5,400 "ineligible or potentially ineligible programs" due to poor oversight.

Some veterans' advocacy groups were disappointed to hear that a large number of education and training programs were receiving GI Bill benefits without proper oversight.

“Students are not being protected from deceptive colleges, and the IG is asking why are we sending veterans to bad actor colleges,” said Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success, a group that focuses on fraud and abuse in programs for student veterans. “The schools don’t pay anything back. The students don’t, either, but taxpayers are getting ripped off.”

Despite the audit findings, Daniel Elkins, director of the Veterans Education Project, a nonprofit that focuses on the needs of student veterans, said the report doesn’t distinguish between those programs that don’t file the correct paperwork and those that have poor academic quality.

“We want to see this information disaggregated to know whether or not we need to move in a stronger regulatory environment for student protections or if we need to move in a strong way to reprogram what the state approving agencies are doing,” said Elkins, who is also legislative director of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.

The audit does show that there are accountability and oversight issues, but Elkins said he is concerned about the bias against for-profit institutions.

The National Association of State Approving Agencies expressed concern about the lack of funding for the state agencies despite their heavy workloads. The organization also agreed with the audit's recommendation that the relationship between SAAs and the VA needs to improve.

“The inspector general mentions the concern with funding now, but we were not resourced to do as good a job as we could do,” Joseph Wescott, legislative consultant for the National Association of State Approving Agencies and former president of the organization. “We take seriously the challenges and concerns about oversight.”

Part of the problem is that the state agencies have taken on more responsibilities that were previously handled by the VA. For example, as part of its contract with the VA, the California State Approving Agency for Veterans Education is required to perform 151 compliance surveys this year. Those surveys are primarily federal fiscal audits that ensure payments are made correctly.

The state agencies began helping the VA conduct these surveys about eight years ago, Wescott said.

“The VA took us off mission and put us on audits,” he said. “Now the hope is that this year, by working with our partners at the VA, that will change.”

And the state approving agencies expect to receive an additional $2 million in funding from the VA this year, Wescott said.

“That’s what is exciting and challenging about this year, because it can’t be business as usual,” he said. “With the millions and billions of dollars being poured into the GI Bill … we have got to make sure that money is well spent. That’s the role of state approving agencies. We need to do that work on the front and we need to provide effective and proper oversight.”

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Email to students at U of Houston about body odor raises concerns about how to broach this delicate topic, if at all

Mon, 2019-01-21 08:00

A professor of engineering at the University of Houston is facing criticism for writing an email to graduate students about the importance of personal hygiene, singling out certain cultures in the process.

“People from different parts of the world have different food habits and many Americans do enjoy ethnic foods,” the professor wrote to all graduate students in the program. “People from India use lots of spices and people from other Southeast Asian countries use lot of garlic which has lots of health benefits. However, there is one problem. The body odor due to consumption of these foods becomes strong.”

Some students “do not change their shirts daily,” the email continues. “The shirt may not look dirty but has absorbed one's body odor after wearing it whole day. To make the matters worse, Houston is very hot and humid most of the year and the perspiration from our body adds to the odor problem further.”

The letter suggests what students “must do,” including using deodorant or light perfume and taking a shower every morning, even “if you have a quiz or test.”

“Most Americans shower twice daily once in the morning and once before going to bed,” the letter asserts. And if “you do eat spicy/garlicky food, please use mouth wash.”

“The person having the odor is the last person to know it,” the letter concludes. “However, it is not bearable for someone sitting next to you for hour and half or longer. So, please be considerate to others beginning today. Remember you are the ambassador of your country and do not want people to remember you as the one having bad odor.”

The professor who wrote letter has not been named publicly. But the email itself has attracted attention, including that of the local news station, Click2Houston. Some students have commented that publicly the letter is appropriate. But others have said they believe the note is racist and offensive due to the inclusion of certain cultural groups. And anyone who has ever visited a campus knows that college and university students in general aren't known for terrific hygiene.

The university said in a statement that personal hygiene is “a sensitive topic and every culture has accepted standards.” The message was shared with “good intentions and meant to help any student avoid a potentially embarrassing or awkward situation by making them aware of the hygiene practices that prevail in the U.S.,” it said.

“As the second most diverse public research institution in the country,” Houston added, “we are committed to fostering a diverse, inclusive and respectful environment for the [university] community to live and learn.”

Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher, senior lecturer in literacy, culture and international education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, said that in an apparent attempt to be “well-meaning, the email is full of microaggressions and factual inaccuracies.”

Not only does the letter imply that international students and, by extension, immigrants, from certain parts of the world are “the guilty party when it comes to body odor,” Ghaffar-Kucher said, it also casts Americans -- presumably white ones -- as “non-ethnic” people.

Admitting that she was “no expert” on the science of body odor, Ghaffar-Kucher said that she believed it was not all about one’s diet, and that genes play a role. Beyond that, she said, actual data suggest that most Americans do not shower twice a day (others have said the same in discussions about the email on social media).

Ghaffar-Kucher didn’t rule out the idea of discussing hygiene with students entirely. But she said that if the issue was serious enough to warrant attention, the professor could have simply said something shorter and to the point, such as, “Body odor is a universal issue that causes discomfort to those who are in close proximity to the odor. Therefore it is recommended that all students take a daily shower, use deodorant and wear fresh clothes every day.”

It’s “the tiptoeing around the issue by talking about the health benefits of garlic and spicy food -- and juxtaposing that with the factual inaccuracies -- that actually made it worse,” she said. “Because, ultimately, the message implied is that people of color, from Asia in particular, need to work on their personal hygiene.”

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Nonprofit Dream Center institutions placed in receivership

Mon, 2019-01-21 08:00

The nonprofit Dream Center Education Holdings, which owns the Art Institutes, Argosy and South Universities, filed for receivership in federal court last week. The court appointed a receiver Friday.

The company can prevent the universities from closing under a receivership. It also allows DCEH, as the company running the Dream Center institutions is now known, to continue receiving federal student aid and gives the company more time to meet financial obligations.

The Art Institutes enroll about 22,000 students, Argosy University has about 17,600 students and South University has 14,200 students, according to DCEH.

DCEH largely placed the blame for the company's poor performance on Education Management Corporation. The Dream Center purchased the universities from the for-profit EDMC in 2017 and converted them into nonprofit entities.

"Within 60 days of the final closing and after completing the opening balance sheet audits DCEH discovered that the actual revenues fell far short of the projections provided by EDMC, in an amount in the tens of millions of dollars, while overhead fixed costs were significantly in excess of the EDMC’s representations. DCEH’s efforts to instill best practices organization-wide and reduce enormous corporate inefficiencies clearly would not be enough to balance what was now projected to be a substantial operating deficit," according to the court filing.

The nonprofit stated there was additional stress on the company because of "high fixed expenses, principally driven by large leased facilities" at the universities. DCEH forecast months ago that it would not be able to meet its financial obligations by December 2018. About 30 DCEH colleges closed at the end of last year.

The company is also in negotiations to sell Argosy and possibly South University of Ohio to Eastern Gateway Community College in Ohio, according to the filing. The community college wants to use Argosy's facilities to provide career training to thousands of workers displaced by General Motors' Lordstown, Ohio, plant closing. The receivership would allow those negotiations to continue. The filing doesn't specify which Argosy campuses the Ohio college is interested in purchasing, but South University of Ohio is in Cleveland.

DCEH said it is working with accreditors and the U.S. Department of Education to reorganize and preserve existing campuses.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education is also working with the department and Argosy leaders to prevent a campus with about 1,000 students near the Twin Cities from abruptly closing.

Education Principle Foundation, a Delaware nonprofit, also announced Friday it acquired some DCEH properties. The foundation now controls Art Institutes campuses in Atlanta; Austin, Tex.; Dallas; Miami; Houston; San Antonio; Tampa, Fla.; and Virginia Beach. It also acquired South University campuses in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Not much information exists about the foundation's ownership.

"The foundation will not be involved in the operations of the Art Institutes or South University," according to a news release. "Each university system will be governed by a board of trustees comprised of a majority of independent members."

The acquisition requires final approval from accreditors and the Education Department.

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Trump offers three years of DACA in exchange for wall funding

Mon, 2019-01-21 08:00

President Trump on Saturday proposed temporarily extending protections against deportation for certain young immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion funding for a wall along the southern border.

Trump, who has not budged from his position that any deal to reopen the federal government must include funding for the wall, proposed in exchange for wall funding a three-year extension of protections for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a program established by President Obama that provides protections against deportation and temporary work permits to more than 700,000 young immigrants, many of them current or former college students, who were brought to the U.S. without documentation as children.

Trump, who described his plan to end the partial government shutdown as "a commonsense compromise both parties should embrace," also proposed a three-year extension of protections for immigrants who have an immigration classification known as temporary protected status due to armed conflict or an environmental disaster in their home countries.

Democrats, who have maintained that Trump must reopen the government before they will negotiate on border security, seemed unreceptive to his proposal. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi described his plan as a “non-starter.”

"It is unlikely that any one of these provisions alone would pass the House, and taken together, they are a non-starter," Pelosi said in a statement issued in advance of the president’s address. "For one thing, this proposal does not include the permanent solution for the Dreamers [as DACA participants are known] and TPS recipients that our country needs and supports."

Trump moved to end the DACA program in September 2017, holding that the program represented an unconstitutional overreach by Obama of his executive authority. Multiple courts have blocked the Trump administration from ending the program as planned, and protections remain in place for current DACA holders.

The Associated Press reported that the Supreme Court took no action Friday on the Trump administration’s appeal that it rule this spring on the lawfulness of its decision to end DACA, raising the prospect that the court will not hear the case this term and the program will be kept in place for at least another year. The National Immigration Law Center cautioned, however, that it is too early to know whether the court will take up the DACA case this term and that if the court did make any decisions on Friday it expects to learn of the outcome Tuesday morning.

4️⃣ We’ll be watching closely on Tuesday morning at 9:30am EST, the next possible time we could hear from SCOTUS about whether they’ll take up #DACA. Stay tuned for updates. 4/4

— National Immigration Law Center (@NILC_org) January 19, 2019

Many college leaders and higher education groups have lobbied for a permanent solution for DACA recipients, saying that the students with DACA status contribute to their communities and economies and that this cohort of American-educated students provides a critical source of talent for the U.S.

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UNC, Michigan State show how partisan politics is infiltrating university governance

Fri, 2019-01-18 08:00

Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina became uncanny reflections of each other this week as the new culture wars claimed two casualties on campus in the form of ousted executives.

On Monday, UNC Chapel Hill chancellor Carol Folt handed in her resignation at the same time as she decided to remove the remnants of the toppled Silent Sam Confederate monument. Two days later, Michigan State interim president John Engler tendered his resignation rather than be fired in the wake of another in a long series of missteps seen as hostile toward victims of sexual assault.

Clearly, the details and dynamics of each situation are different. In North Carolina, Folt was a leader who had faced criticism for not acting as she unsuccessfully supported a middle-of-the-road solution between progressive activists who wanted the statue off campus and a conservative system board that did not. When she did act, citing safety concerns, she suddenly found her tattered image at Chapel Hill being rehabilitated.

Engler, on the other hand, was embattled after he made comments and took actions that set victims of sexual assault and the Me Too movement against him. But he had enjoyed the backing of a Board of Trustees until new members took seats -- and until he said last week that sexual assault victims in the spotlight were enjoying the moment. Few on campus seemed to be backing him in the wake of his ouster.

Nonetheless, both leaders found themselves dismissed earlier than they’d hoped. Folt planned to step down after graduation, but the UNC System Board of Governors accepted her resignation as of the end of the month. Engler, who until this week planned to stay on until a new president would be in place sometime this summer, intended to stay on until Jan. 23, only to have his board vote Thursday to oust him immediately.

Underneath all those details, the two cases fit into a larger trend of cultural change causing governance challenges on campus. Anyone who remembers the 1960s will tell you that’s nothing new. It is still notable today for playing out in the form of politically charged clashes between presidents and boards at public institutions. In North Carolina, Folt found her actions on the Confederate statue angering board members appointed by Republicans with little sympathy for those who study and teach at Chapel Hill and felt the monument glorified racism and white supremacy. Engler's background as a powerful and connected Republican politician could have been seen as a strength at a time when the university in crisis would likely need backing from lawmakers, but he also brought a fair share of baggage.

It’s a particularly concerning development for higher education supporters because boards have traditionally been seen as protecting universities and their potentially controversial scholarship from political whims. Having elected or appointed boards who in turn are responsible for hiring and firing presidents and chancellors strikes a balance by providing much-needed political insulation but still keeping institutions accountable to the taxpayers who fund them and the politicians in charge of the states.

If clashes continue to take on tones of the political polarization that has poisoned so much public discourse, it will harm governance and universities themselves, the fear goes.

“Governance cannot break the university system quickly, but it can break it steadily over the long term,” said Ellis Hankins, a former executive director of the North Carolina League of Municipalities who ran for state senate in 2016 and who has taught at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University and Duke University. “If we don’t have enlightened, effective university system governance, we’re no longer going to have a world-class university system. You start having more trouble attracting and retaining faculty members. It can become a downward spiral, which I’m very concerned about.”

Engler’s resignation letter provides a striking example of a cultural change bringing about a burst of partisan accusations. The resigning interim president, who spent three terms as a Republican governor of Michigan, opened his letter by discussing trustees’ political affiliations.

“You have advised me that five Democratic members of the MSU Board, including yourself, have requested my resignation as MSU President,” he wrote to the board’s chair, Dianne Byrum. “The election of two new Democratic members and the appointment of a Democrat to replace Trustee George Perles has created a new majority on the board.”

An Engler supporter also turned to politics, telling the Lansing State Journal that trustees and Engler’s critics should have examined the reforms that were put in place under Engler’s watch.

“It’s more about partisanship than it is about scholarship,” Dan Pero, who managed two Engler campaigns for governor and spent a term as his chief of staff, told the newspaper.

During Thursday’s meeting to accept Engler’s resignation, trustees maintained that they were acting in the university’s best interest, not in a political fashion.

“It’s not a partisan decision,” said Dan Kelly, the board’s vice chair. “I don’t think it’s a Democrat or Republican position to condemn comments that are not consistent with the values or what we hope to be the values of the university."

Indeed, many Republicans were horrified by Engler's comments about abuse survivors. And former lieutenant governor Brian Calley, a Republican, was credited with recruiting Nancy Schlichting, one of the new trustees who voted to accept Engler's resignation Thursday, to the board.

Engler’s case may be an aberration, of course. He is a former politician, and his relationship with some trustees was already remarkably poor -- one trustee, Brian Mosallam, described Engler during Thursday’s meeting as an individual with an instinct for division, callousness and hostility.

Yet the clash between Folt and the UNC system board shows political polarization overshadowing board actions elsewhere. And critics say the UNC board has been growing more polarized -- and more Republican -- for years.

The Board of Governors is elected by the state Legislature, which has been Republican since 2010. Some bemoan the dismantling of an arrangement that used to see Democratic and Republican lawmakers both appointing members of the board.

“Historically, there was a peace treaty between Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly,” said Hankins, of North Carolina. “It made perfect sense, and it worked well for many years back when the General Assembly members and governors of both parties didn’t disagree significantly at all about the value of the public university system and how important it was to the future of the state -- not just educating our citizens, but as an economic development engine.”

In the years since, critics have pointed to a long line of actions taken by state lawmakers and the system Board of Governors that they say amount to conservatives exercising too much influence over university governance.

In 2017, the Board of Governors overwhelmingly voted to prevent a center for civil rights at Chapel Hill’s school of law from engaging in litigation. In 2015, the state Legislature passed a law preventing monuments that are public property from being removed, relocated or altered without permission from the state’s historical commission. That law was passed amid protests over the Silent Sam statue, according to The News & Observer.

When Margaret Spellings, the former U.S. education secretary under President George W. Bush, became president of the UNC system, she soon found herself caught in a battle over a controversial state bathroom law. Tensions between the Board of Governors and Spellings, who was seen as interested in focusing on areas like assessment and completion when she first took the job, developed over several other issues, including Silent Sam. She decided in October to resign, and her last day was scheduled for this week.

So the power struggle that played out between Folt and the Board of Governors this week fit into long-running governance tensions tinged by politics.

Folt publicly issued her decision about the monument remnants and her own future while the board was meeting Monday. She and her supporters have maintained the chancellor has responsibility for matters of security on campus.

On Tuesday, after the board voted to accept Folt’s resignation at an early date, its chair, Harry Smith, told reporters he would have encouraged her to take a different approach.

“If this is the action you wanted to do, then let’s talk about it,” Smith said. “You know, the fact that we may not like governance and process doesn’t give us a right to usurp it. And whether you have the authority to do it or not isn’t congruent with the fact that we should follow the proper process and procedures that we had laid out.”

The Board of Governors isn’t the only board for Chapel Hill -- the flagship campus also has a Board of Trustees, although the statewide board hires and fires chancellors. After this week’s events, 20 former Chapel Hill trustees issued a statement that circulated in North Carolina media outlets.

The university faces challenges “created by the very people charged with governing it,” and the former trustees are unable to stay silent any longer, the letter says. Folt stood strong for the university, but during her tenure, increasing pressure from Raleigh and the Board of Governors “put politics ahead of the best interests of education, research and patient care,” it says.

“Silent Sam came to embody it all,” the letter says. “Tuesday, Chancellor Folt paid the price for her leadership and North Carolina lost another great opportunity to resurrect its history as a progressive part of this nation.”

The letter draws a line between Folt’s departure and that of Spellings. The board could not be satisfied to let either leader leave on her own terms, the letter says.

“Regardless of one’s view on Silent Sam, the Confederate monument had become a lightning rod for violence and intolerance on this campus and had to be removed,” the letter says. “We realize taking it down quickly was controversial. It is our hope that we will not have to continue fighting the Civil War by trying to resurrect it elsewhere on campus.”

With all of those words and actions flying, it’s reasonable to wonder whether it's possible that a single executive -- chancellor or president -- can lead in the UNC system under current conditions.

Folt thinks it is.

“Yes, it is absolutely possible to run a university,” Folt said Tuesday in a call with reporters held before the board voted to move up her last day. “We come to campus every day. I’ve got 30,000 students. Every one of them is a ray of sunshine.”

In the face of tensions at the board level, Folt spoke of mission. Leaders have both a mandate and an opportunity to make education available to everyone, she said.

“So no matter what happens to me in the future, I’ve had the greatest privilege of all to be a part of that,” Folt said. “I think that’s what chancellors and presidents feel every day. We live in the middle of the campus. So in spite of these conversations and these tensions, I’m going to walk out of this room and I’m going to see 15 students on the way back to my office, and they’re going to reinvigorate me for the future.”

Faculty members and experts voiced some concern that the issues at Chapel Hill had been boiled down to board versus chancellor. That dynamic shuts out a third party that is traditionally involved in shared governance at universities -- the faculty.

Chapel Hill’s Faculty Council unanimously voted in October to keep the statue off campus and remove its base, according to Sherryl Kleinman, professor emerita of sociology at Chapel Hill. Over 50 black faculty members agreed with that stance, she added.

Yet Folt backed a plan in December that would have housed the statue in a history center, and the faculty resolution was buried in a long appendix after a faculty member asked to have it added, Kleinman continued. The Board of Governors rejected that plan.

“It’s crucial that future chancellors ensure that faculty are at the table with administrators and the Board of Trustees when it comes to such important campus matters,” Kleinman said in an email. “If the chancellor and other administrators had lived up to the AAUP principle of shared governance, they would have received faculty expertise, strategies and support. By shutting out the faculty, the chancellor faced pushback from within and without.”

The situation cuts to the heart of the role of faculty and shared governance, said Cathy Trower, president of Trower & Trower, a firm providing governance consulting to nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities. Do faculty matter, or does the situation come down to the powerful boards and their dynamics with the chancellor, she asked.

But Trower also addressed the political dynamics at play.

“We should definitely be concerned about this,” she said. “What happens nationally plays out on college campuses and always has. It’s one of the reasons things are a little scary right now for a lot of presidents who feel they are in precarious positions, especially at public institutions.”

In crisis situations, Trower asks boards to consider their own performance before hiring a president. How does the board function as a partner for that executive? And when leaders must make difficult decisions, she asks everyone to think about the institution’s mission and values.

She sounded a hopeful note.

“If we can’t solve some of this on college campuses, who are we kidding?” Trower asked. “This is where we should be dealing with these issues. We should be, I think, leaders on those issues. That’s what students come to us -- hopefully -- in part to learn.”

Only time will tell whether UNC and Michigan State leaders are set up to move past the political overtones and find a way to address the issues at hand. Many worry that with Spellings and Folt gone, few leaders are left in a position to protect Chapel Hill from outside influences.

At Michigan State, some trustees tried to look forward after accepting Engler’s resignation Thursday morning.

“I’m sorry it took so long,” said Kelly Tebay, a newly elected trustee, her voice cracking with emotion. “I really hope this is the first step in a long road to really changing the culture of this institution that we all love so much.”

The board’s chair, Byrum, thanked those throughout the university for keeping it dedicated to its mission.

“I believe this is the beginning of a better relationship, both among board members and to the MSU community as we continue the healing and pay respect to the survivors,” she said.

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Colleges respond as shutdown creates new cost issues for some students

Fri, 2019-01-18 08:00

The College of Southern Maryland is located about an hour’s drive from Washington, and it’s midway between two U.S. Navy bases. That means the area served by the community college is home to thousands of federal employees -- and the impact of the ongoing federal shutdown on its students is unavoidable, said Maureen Murphy, the college’s president.

“The ripple effect is significant. There are very few people who are untouched,” she said.

The college is one of a handful of institutions that are offering emergency aid to students who are suddenly facing challenges paying for college because they or their parents are furloughed or not being paid. At the College of Southern Maryland, more than 100 students by last week had taken advantage of options such as deferred payment plans to deal with those unexpected challenges.

The Office of Federal Student Aid is unaffected by the government shutdown, so federal student loans and Pell Grants are being disbursed like normal. But for students at institutions like Southern Maryland or others elsewhere who depend on income from the federal government, the shutdown is creating sudden challenges paying for tuition, books and fees that would otherwise be affordable. Many of the students affected are well outside the Beltway and attend colleges across the country.

“People believe this is primarily concentrated in the D.C. or Virginia area,” said Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management at Wayne State University. “There are lots of federal offices all over the United States. People are being affected, and they didn’t know to plan for this.”

Detroit, where the Wayne State campus is located, is home to a Delta Airlines hub and a large number of Transportation Security Administration employees in particular.

Medley said the university has seen a handful of students drop classes this semester. Wayne State announced emergency aid early in January in the hopes that it could let students know about their options to cover those costs. The university has been offering students deferred payment plans and emergency loans using institutional funds. So far, the campus has extended that aid to about 10 students but expects more to take advantage if the shutdown continues.

“We’re working with students coming now who didn’t think it would take that long or thought their parent would be back to work by now,” Medley said. “Every day we’re having new ones pop up.”

Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said financial aid offices deal with situations all the time where a parent is laid off during the semester or a family member accumulates unexpected medical debt. The temporary nature of the shutdown makes it a unique circumstance, he said -- federal workers should eventually get paid when the shutdown ends. But it creates uncertainty for their ability to pay for essential costs in the short term.

Murphy, from Southern Maryland, said financial aid administrators have seen student parents who are afraid they won’t be able to continue paying for childcare and the cost of classes during the shutdown.

“I don't think anybody realizes how thoroughly it disrupts the lives of people who are struggling to get an education,” she said.

The college’s winter semester doesn’t begin until next week, meaning it’s tough to tell how enrollment may be affected, but Murphy expects some sort of decline. The college has also tried to assist students in the meantime in applying for state and federal aid. Many have tried updating their federal student aid or FAFSA applications -- an endeavor hindered this month for some students by problems with the IRS website.

Other colleges are taking their own steps to help students during the shutdown. Thomas Edison State University in Trenton, N.J., said this week it would cover the tuition for any Coast Guard students enrolled at the college who haven’t received tuition assistance because of the shutdown. The University of Indianapolis said this week it would partner with a local brewery to provide meals to federal workers. 

And Southern New Hampshire University announced a $1 million special fund for those without their regular income.

Announcing today the creation of a $1m emergency fund for all SNHU students and employees adversely impacted by the federal govt shutdown and furlough. Emails have gone out to the SNHU community. No should be facing hunger or seeing their housing at risk because of broken govt.

— Paul LeBlanc (@snhuprez) January 15, 2019

The federal government, meanwhile, issued guidance last week to federal employees who have student loans about what steps to take during the shutdown. Their options, the department said, include postponing payments through a deferment or forbearance. Or they could enroll in an income-driven repayment plan that will lower their monthly payments.

Colleen Campbell, associate director of postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said the most important step for those borrowers is to call their loan servicer themselves to discuss their situation.

“The Department of Education is not telling servicers who is furloughed,” she said. “There are tools in place that should be able to assist furloughed borrowers.”

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Enrollment rebounding at City College of San Francisco

Fri, 2019-01-18 08:00

For years City College of San Francisco faced declining enrollments as it weathered budget shortfalls, an accreditation crisis and leadership turnover.

It was a positive development when enrollment at the two-year college finally began climbing last year. But it still wasn't enough to stop CCSF administrators from moving forward with a plan to eliminate a third of nearly 1,200 credit courses over the next seven years to help balance the college's budget. College officials are also planning to increase the number of high-demand classes offered, such as accounting, math and English, as part of that process. Administrators aren't certain how many more courses will be added, however.

“We are decreasing offerings of some underenrolled classes but also increasing the offerings of in-demand classes,” said Connie Chan, media relations director for the college. “We’re looking into the future and we are staying on track.”

Last month, Chancellor Mark Rocha proposed cutting about 400 underenrolled classes over several years. Those classes, ranging from labor relations to ethnic studies, are multiple sections of general education courses that have had fewer than 20 students enrolled in the last six years, according to CCSF data.

Rocha wasn’t available for comment, but he told board members in December that the underenrolled “courses over a period of time have to go or else the college cost structure will just be unsustainable.”

Those cuts could also help lower an $11 million budget deficit City College is facing this year. CCSF has a $185 million operating budget, but last year was the first time the community college didn’t receive about $35 million in stability funding from the state. That funding had been given to help City College make up the shortfall from the loss of enrollment revenue precipitated by students' uncertainty about CCSF's accreditation status. The enrollment decline began immediately after the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges sanctioned the college for financial and administrative problems. At the time, City College had been running budget deficits for several years and had dipped into its reserves to cover shortfalls. The sanction led to a years-long dispute between the college and the accrediting commission.

“We no longer have that large number of full-time-equivalent students,” said Brigitte Davilla, a City College board trustee and a faculty member at San Francisco State University. “But we're growing. We’re trying to keep in mind our budget is much less without stabilization funds.”

City College earned back its full accreditation in 2017 after years of uncertainty. But rebuilding hasn’t been easy.

When the accreditation crisis occurred in 2012, the overall student head count at City College fell by 12 percent, going from about 83,400 in 2011 to 73,359. Enrollment reached its lowest level in 2016, when just 58,242 students were attending the college, but the number rose to 63,041 students in 2017, the first increase in 10 years.

Enrollment at City College has rebounded in part because of the Free City College program started by the college and the City of San Francisco. The pilot program allows city residents to attend the college tuition-free and earn associate degrees or enough class credits to transfer to a four-year college or university, where they will be guaranteed admission.

“It’s definitely had an impact and encouraged people to go back to school or to take classes and switch careers,” said Jennifer Worley, president of the City College of San Francisco Federation of Teachers. “So, for sure it has increased enrollment, but we’re still not where we were before the accreditation crisis.”

The free-tuition program is set to expire later this year, but voters will decide this fall whether to extend it for 10 years.

CCSF is not the only struggling community college to experience increased enrollments after starting free-tuition programs.

Morley Winograd, president of the Campaign for Free College Tuition, points to enrollment increases in Tennessee after the state expanded its tuition-free program to include adults last year. Tennessee officials had anticipated 8,000 adult learners would apply for the program. But they received more than 30,000 applications, and nearly 15,000 adult students enrolled.

Winograd said Tennessee's experience is an example of how these initiatives can help community colleges rebound.

The numbers "suggest expanding the idea to adult learners would actually end any enrollment decline," he said in an email. Free City doesn't have any age restrictions and its message is clear -- it's for San Francisco residents.

Mary Rauner, a senior research associate at WestEd, a nonprofit organization that is part of the California College Promise Project, which tracks and provides support for free-tuition programs in the state, said programs that have clear messages about the financial and academic benefits of participating can influence students' decisions about where to go to college, which can lead to enrollment increases.

Davilla said CCSF administrators are also expecting more students to enroll as a result of the college's efforts to increase dual enrollment with San Francisco-area high schools, and also because the college added more online classes to its course offerings.

"We see a lot of room for growth," she said.

Davilla is also optimistic that CCSF's enrollment will return to what it was prior to the accreditation crisis.

"We still have enough of a program base that attracts students and enough underserved students to climb back," she said.

Chan, the CCSF spokeswoman, said some faculty members may see their workload increase or decrease with the programmatic changes. The college is also hoping to shift faculty members into high-demand courses, such as math and English, for which four-year universities grant transfer credit, she said.

Worley said the faculty union disagrees with Rocha’s decision to cut classes.

“We want to see the college rebuild enrollment, and if we’re cutting courses, then we’re shrinking the college,” she said.

Some faculty members fear the changes City College administrators want to implement may alter the mission of the college.

Worley said there has been "a pretty concerted effort" to turn the institution into a junior college focused on increasing access to 18-year-olds so they can transfer to universities. She noted that CCSF already serves young students and the faculty union would be against any changes that limit options for nontraditional students and students in non-credit-bearing courses.

“We want to keep robust and diverse course offerings at City College for the entire community.”

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Ontario cuts tuition by 10 percent while reducing aid spending, raising concerns about effects on low-income students and university budgets

Fri, 2019-01-18 08:00

The Ontario government announced Thursday it would cut tuition fees for domestic students at all public colleges and universities across the province by 10 percent and reduce student aid spending, raising concerns both about the hit universities will take to their bottom lines and the impact of the changes on low-income students, who will no longer be eligible for free tuition.

According to the CBC, low-income students who previously could qualify for a grant covering the full cost of tuition will now receive a loan for a portion of their funding. An online calculator for estimating eligibility under the Ontario Student Aid Program shows that a student with a family income of 50,000 Canadian dollars ($37,659) or less would be eligible for about a 50-50 mix of loans versus grants, while students from higher-earning families would receive a higher proportion of funding in loans.

In a news release, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government said it wants to target funding to students who need it most, reducing the family income threshold a student must fall under in order to be eligible for grants and increasing the share of grants going to families with incomes of less than 50,000 Canadian dollars from 76 to 82 percent.

Alex Usher, a Toronto-based higher education consultant and frequent commentator on Canadian higher education, said on Twitter that the changes include some he has advocated for, such as not wasting money on grants for high-income students. But he said the problem is that some low-income students are worse off as a result of these changes while students whose families make 170,000 Canadian dollars or more are better off.

This is not wholly inaccurate spin. Such OSAP as remains will be more targeted than previously. Fact remains: all students on student aid will be worse off after today; only students not in need of aid (mainly due to high family income) will be better off. https://t.co/tgXwHpb81U

— Alex Usher (@AlexUsherHESA) January 17, 2019

Ontario’s minister for training, colleges and universities, Merrilee Fullerton, said in a news conference Thursday that the previous Liberal government had put the OSAP program "on an unsustainable path." She cited a December report from the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario that found the cost of OSAP rose substantially after the government introduced changes in 2017-18 that increased the share of aid that took the form of grants versus loans. The audit found that the cost of aid, mostly in the form of nonrenewable grants, disbursed in the 2017-18 academic year increased 25 percent over the previous year while enrollments rose 2 percent.

Fullerton said the government would restore the program to its 2016-17 levels "to ensure that it is both sustainable and available for the students of today, tomorrow, and generations to come."

Another change announced by Fullerton Thursday will allow students to opt out of paying certain ancillary fees. Fullerton said that while certain "essential" fees covering things such as health and safety programs and mental health counseling would continue to be mandatory, students could choose to opt out of others. “Starting in September, students will be able to choose which programs and organizations they want to support and be more empowered and informed about their own finances through our Student Choice Initiative,” she said.

Fullerton did not reference specific examples of programs that students might opt out of. However, in response to a question from a reporter about whether a student could opt out of paying for a program supporting LGBTQ students, she said there will be some leeway for institutions to determine which fees are essential.

Over all, Fullerton framed the changes as intended to put money back in the pockets of students and their families.

“This first-of-its-kind, across-the-board tuition reduction will see Ontario students receive a 10 percent savings in their education,” she said. “This reduction means significant savings for students and their families. And for a student attending an Ontario college, they will see a savings of on average of 340 [Canadian dollars] depending on the program,” she said.

Fullerton said the total value of tuition relief to students and families across the province equates to 450 million Canadian dollars. Asked if colleges and universities would be reimbursed by the provincial government for the lost tuition, she said she had confidence universities would adapt and find other sources of revenue. She estimated that the lost tuition revenue will account for between 2 and 4 percent of most institutions’ operating budgets.

“Universities are autonomous, colleges are relatively independent, and they have funding from other sources and revenues from other sources. And I fully anticipate that they are capable and able to make adjustments,” Fullerton said. She said that there will be no reduction to state operating grants for institutions.

Universities protested, however, that without being made whole, the cuts to tuition will negatively affect their teaching. The situation is parallel to state legislatures in the U.S. freezing tuition rates and not making up for the difference in tuition revenue with increases in appropriations -- though in this case Ontario actually reduced tuition rates, as opposed to merely freezing them in place.

“Ontario universities share the government’s goal of ensuring that all students who qualify should be able to access a postsecondary opportunity,” David Lindsay, the president and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities, said in a statement. “However, today’s announcement, cutting domestic tuition fees by 10 percent, will reduce universities’ revenue by 360 million [Canadian dollars] -- and negatively affect their ability to provide the best possible learning experience for students, partner with their communities and help deliver economic and social benefits to the people of Ontario.”

Lindsay added, “The current financial situation faced by universities should be viewed in the context of over 16 years of decreased funding. Since 2002-3, operating grants per student, when adjusted for inflation, have decreased by 10.6 percent, which in turn has required universities to fund a greater proportion of their operating costs through tuition fees.”

Mitzie Hunter, a member of Ontario's provincial parliament from the Liberal Party and a former minister of advanced education and skills development for Ontario, issued a statement criticizing the policy of the Progressive Conservative government, led by the premier, Doug Ford. “Doug Ford is slashing funding to universities and colleges while adding debt to students across the province -- it’s completely unacceptable,” she said.

“Only Doug Ford would introduce a student aid plan that will help the wealthiest students at the expense of those who need help the most. The Ford government tuition cut will benefit only the wealthiest and the government. Because tuition fees will be lowered, the government will be spending less money on tuition fees through OSAP. Needy students will see next to no benefits because under the previous program they were already being provided for. Wealthy students, who never qualified for OSAP in the first place, are being given a 10 percent tuition cut even though they can afford it the most.”

The Canadian Federations of Students-Ontario also issued a statement condemning what it described as “a reckless plan for postsecondary education in the province, leaving students in Ontario worse off.”

“The Doug Ford government has attempted to spin this announcement as a 10 percent reduction in tuition fees when in reality Ford’s plan will increase out-of-pocket costs for students, diminish the quality of education students receive and undermine crucial student supports on campus,” said Nour Alideeb, the chairperson of the student federation. “The reality of loans-based financial aid programs is that students from low-income families pay more for their education in the long run. This announcement will make life harder for students and their families.”

The student federation also raised concerns that the Student Choice Initiative will encourage students to opt out of paying dues to student unions, which the group described as "important and independent organizations that advocate for students’ best interests and provide cost-savings services."

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, an entity representing a group of student associations across Ontario, also issued a statement expressing concern about the impact of the "opt-out" provisions on student organizations.

"Student representation, the autonomy of student governments, student media outlets, and services like health and dental plans, clubs systems, student-led programming, transit passes, and peer-support services, could be at risk," the alliance said. "Most student unions’ services, funded through student fees, reduce university and student reliance on government funding. Student unions fill in gaps in programming and services where universities cannot or will not."

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Colleges announce commencement speakers

Fri, 2019-01-18 08:00
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