Higher Education News

Retired president's long-simmering lawsuit heads to trial

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 14, 2019 - 7:00pm

In October 2015, James Taylor retired after 35 years as president of the University of the Cumberlands, which at the time was a Baptist institution in Williamsburg, Ky., enrolling about 6,300 students.

Taylor had led the university through significant growth, overseeing it as it changed from Cumberland College to a university, grew its campus and increased its assets. The plan was that he would step down from the presidency and into the newly created role of chancellor. Taylor would live in Florida but assist his successor, Larry Cockrum, “in friend raising and fund raising,” according to an archived university statement.

That arrangement didn’t last long. By spring, Taylor and the university were at odds over the terms of his retirement and whether he should be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in compensation and perks -- for life.

Taylor and his wife say they are covered by a 2012 contract promising them lifetime salary and benefits equal to what he was receiving when he stepped down from the presidency. The university has taken the position that its Board of Trustees was never told about the contract’s details, that its board never approved the contract terms and that the chairman of the Board of Trustees who signed the agreement didn’t have the authority to do so. It also argues the agreement in question does not meet legal requirements for a valid, enforceable contract.

In June 2016, the Taylors sued over the disagreement in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. Today, after 31 months of often-contentious legal proceedings, the case is scheduled to go before a jury for trial.

The case has drawn attention beyond the borders of Kentucky because it is unusual in the often-opaque fields of private higher education executive compensation, contracts and board governance. Although it’s not unheard-of for presidents or retired presidents to come into conflict with boards over the terms of their compensation packages, few such disagreements end up in court. Most are settled quietly.

Details about the compensation the Taylors say is owed to them are also raising eyebrows.

The 2012 agreement in question provides for the Taylors to receive James Taylor’s yearly salary as president for the rest of his and his wife’s individual lives, along with benefits. Taylor earned $204,875 in base compensation for the last full year he was president, the year ending in June 2015, university tax filings show.

Benefits spelled out in the 2012 agreement for the university to provide include long-term health-care costs, assisted-living facility costs, an apartment or residence for the Taylors in Williamsburg, and a university-provided $200-per-month apartment for Taylor’s brother and sister-in-law, according to court documents. Taylor’s wife, Dinah, was also to be the beneficiary of a university-purchased $1 million life insurance policy.

In return, the Taylors agreed to continue their fund-raising efforts for the university and to serve it “in any capacity requested.” But the agreement also said that compensation and benefits were not conditional upon Taylor remaining president or accepting the chancellor role.

“The compensation and benefits contained in this agreement is/are for the past decades of duties and/or work performed by Dr. and Mrs. Taylor all for the benefit of The University of the Cumberlands,” the document said.

Experts voiced surprise at those terms. In the past it has been common for presidents to receive tenured positions after they step down from leading a college or university. But tenure comes with clearly defined expectations. And that arrangement is becoming less common, said Raymond D. Cotton, a Washington-based lawyer who represents boards and presidents.

“Boards are not going for tenure anymore,” he said. “What they’re going for is faculty appointment for a fixed period of time.”

The amount and type of compensation the Taylors would be receiving has also stood out to those who watch presidential pay. James Finkelstein, a professor emeritus of public policy at George Mason University, studies presidential compensation in higher education, including postpresidential guarantees he and another researcher call platinum parachutes. Finkelstein was contacted by the lawyer representing the University of the Cumberlands about testifying in the lawsuit as an expert but is not doing so.

“As I read through this and compared it to what we know about what we’ve called these platinum parachutes, we’ve never seen anything like the terms of what Dr. Taylor claims to have been approved,” Finkelstein said.

Breach of Contract

When the Taylors filed their lawsuit in June 2016, lawyers representing them wrote that the salary and benefits in question were worth at least $395,000 per year. The suit outlined a series of events beginning in October 2005, when the university’s Board of Trustees allegedly voted unanimously on a postpresidential package for the president and his wife.

The board voted to continue both James and Dinah Taylor’s salary and benefits after he retired from the presidency and to appoint him chancellor, the suit said. James Taylor’s compensation and benefits in effect on the date of his retirement would be continued until his death, and they would continue going to his wife in the event she outlived him.

More than six years later, on April 19, 2012, the Board’s 2005 action was carried out by the execution of a contract, according to the Taylors’ suit. It says the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the agreement, which was signed by James Taylor and Board of Trustees chairman Jim Oaks the same day.

On the day Taylor stepped down as president, the board “unanimously reconfirmed” the university’s commitment to provide a benefits package “to include salary in effect on January 1, 2015, all previously approved insurance for Dr. and Mrs. Taylor, plus all other perks they were receiving,” the suit said.

After Taylor’s retirement, the university offered him a one-year renewable contract at a lower salary, according to the suit. Other court documents indicate that offer was about $152,000 for part-time work.

Taylor turned down the offer.

“He was told if he did not accept this new contract that his relationship with the University would terminate, that no benefits would be paid, and that he would lose the use of a University owned apartment in Williamsburg, KY, the university owned vehicle he drives, and the cellular telephone he uses,” the original lawsuit said. “Despite these threats, Dr. Taylor did not accept any offer from the university for less than he had been previously promised.”

In the summer of 2016, the university acted to sever its relationship with the Taylors, it said in court documents. It discontinued their salaries, Dinah Taylor’s health benefits and mobile phone service for the couple. It later removed Dinah Taylor from the $1 million life insurance policy on James Taylor.

But it did not stop providing the Taylors’ health insurance premiums, the couple’s long-term care insurance premiums, an apartment on campus for the Taylors or an apartment for Taylor’s sister-in-law at below-market rent. Taylor also receives retirement benefits that, combined with Social Security benefits, gave the Taylors at least $175,000 a year, according to the university’s court filings.

When the Taylors filed their lawsuit in June 2016, they alleged breach of contract, promissory estoppel, slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The suit also sought punitive damages and reformation of the agreement in question.

About three months after filing the initial complaint, the Taylors amended their suit to include allegations of unjust enrichment and violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.

Since then, U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove has issued opinions stripping the lawsuit down to its claim that a contract or agreement has been breached. The judge denied an attempt by the Taylors to amend their suit for a third time and also denied multiple requests by the university to rule in its favor on the breach of contract claim.

That leaves the Taylors saying they had a contract and the university saying the agreement was unenforceable.

“The university claims that the Taylors would receive lifetime salaries and benefits, even if they did not provide any services to the university,” according to an agreed statement of the case filed by both sides in September. “It is the university’s position that the dispute in this lawsuit is whether the University understood, approved, and agreed to pay the Taylors for the rest of their lives if the Taylors did nothing in return. It is the university’s position that the terms of the Disputed Agreement were never presented to or approved by the Board of Trustees, there was never a meeting of the minds, and consequently Jim Oaks did not have authority to sign the Disputed Agreement.”

A lawyer representing the Taylors declined comment and said the couple would not be commenting. The University of the Cumberlands said in a statement that it is looking forward to a jury hearing the case and that it feels confident it will prevail.

“The university asserts that its Board of Trustees never agreed to pay former president Taylor the same salary and benefits he earned as president for the rest of his life, and for the rest of his wife’s life, if Dr. Taylor did no work for the University,” the statement said. “The University remains committed to using its resources for the benefit of students and to fulfilling the mission of providing educational opportunities to people of all backgrounds.”

For the fiscal year ending in June 2017, the University of the Cumberlands collected about $79 million in revenue versus $72.5 million in expenses, federal tax forms show. Its net assets totaled $150.9 million.

Messy Arguments

Recent court filings show lawyers for the university and the Taylors challenging each other’s witnesses and exhibits. They have also outlined the arguments they planned to make in court.

They include arguments over the way the contract was signed, prepared and recorded in meeting minutes. In a pretrial memo, the university argued Taylor alone procured the draft of his retirement agreement from a lawyer without giving the Board of Trustees any opportunity to weigh in on the terms.

Although that lawyer had represented the university regarding planned-giving issues, “he had never prepared any employment contracts for the University,” the memo said. “The University was represented at that time by other counsel, who regularly provided the Board of Trustees with legal advice and services including assistance negotiating and drafting contracts, but that counsel was never consulted regarding the Disputed Agreement.”

The university also argues that Taylor signed his wife’s name on the agreement and that the then board chair, Oaks, ultimately disavowed its terms.

“He repeatedly stated during his deposition that the University never agreed to pay Dr. and Mrs. Taylor a salary and benefits for life if they did nothing in return, and instead insisted that they were to be paid only if Dr. Taylor continued working for the University,” the memo said. “Not only was a copy of the Disputed Agreement never provided to members of the Board of Trustees at or before their April 19, 2012 meeting, but it also was concealed after its execution.”

Lawyers for the Taylors planned to object to any questions suggesting Taylor acted unethically or illegally when signing his wife’s name. There is nothing wrong with signing for a spouse with permission, they wrote in their own pretrial memo.

They argued trustees were justified seeing value from keeping Taylor as chancellor and having his wife as an ambassador. Trustees also had justification to think the couple would contribute to the university after Taylor stepped down from the presidency, according to the plaintiffs’ memo.

“The evidence will have a tendency to show (and will show) that it is highly improbable that Dr. Taylor had the Disputed Agreement prepared and delivered … and then decided not only to not present it to the board for a vote, but instead to conspire with Chairman Oaks (and others) to sign the agreement, falsify the minutes of the meeting, and hide the signed agreement from the University for years,” it said.

Further, the university has not identified anything Taylor did to deceive the board or its chairman, the Taylors' lawyers wrote. They also pointed out that minutes from the April 2012 board meeting indicate a contract for the Taylors was read and approved, and that the board subsequently approved those minutes.

“So far as the events of April 19, 2012, are concerned, the University has not identified anything that Dr. Taylor did to deceive the Board of Trustees or Jim Oaks,” they wrote.

The university maintained no written contract was ever attached to the minutes for the April 2012 meeting. No other trustees that have been deposed or provided affidavits in the case remember Oaks reading a seven-page contract, according to the university’s pretrial memo.

Lawyers for the university questioned the Taylors’ version of the October 2005 meeting where the arrangement originated.

“Minutes state only that the Board of Trustees discussed generally in executive session Dr. Taylor’s retirement and the possibility of him continuing to work in some capacity after his retirement,” the university’s pretrial memo said.

“Dr. and Mrs. Taylor have produced in discovery a second set of ‘closed minutes’ purportedly from a second executive session on October 21, 2005, which contradict the official minutes and handwritten notes from the official meeting,” it said. “According to notations thereon, these ‘closed minutes’ were placed in a sealed envelope kept by Mr. Oaks and not to be opened until authorized by the Board of Trustees.”

Oaks “flatly stated” a second meeting never happened, according to the memo.

Both sides agree that they were unable to reach an agreement in mediation in July. That’s unusual for such a case. They are usually settled out of court, said Michael S. Melbinger, a partner at the law firm Winston & Strawn LLP in Chicago.

“Neither party wants to read their name in the papers,” Melbinger said. “It doesn’t help either one.”

Melbinger’s practice is mostly focused on the for-profit world, but he wrote about the University of the Cumberlands case on his firm’s executive compensation blog in June. He used the case as an example of why lawyers should be sure to follow corporate formalities when preparing compensation agreements.

The stands out because an executive holding signed documents would generally be considered to have substantial evidence in his or her favor, Melbinger said. Nonetheless, this case has progressed to trial.

“Almost any lawyer representing Dr. Taylor who got all the documents would see this as a slam-dunk case,” Melbinger said. “Yet there is something wrong with it. That’s what’s really unusual.”

Expectations can be different for for-profits and nonprofits, though.

“In the for-profit world, they don’t have the constraints we do,” said Cotton, the lawyer who represents college and university boards and trustees. “In our case, we are regulated by the IRS. You can’t give away the assets of a school and you can’t overpay. They want you to pay market, whatever market is.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Can 'light-touch, targeted feedback' to students improve their perceptions of and performance in a class?

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 14, 2019 - 7:00pm

Students benefit from increased faculty engagement. Yet many professors still resist more student-centered teaching.

Part of the problem is that graduate schools are slow to adopt pedagogical training, meaning that some professors may want to up their interaction with students but don’t know how. Another part of the problem is that becoming a better teacher takes time, an increasingly scarce faculty resource.

What if engagement wasn’t complicated and didn’t take that much time? Preliminary research called "My Professor Cares: Experimental Evidence on the Role of Faculty Engagement," presented last week at the annual meeting of the American Economics Association, suggests that even “light touch” interventions can make a difference to students.

“Everything we know from K-12 education is that teaching matters,” said co-author Michal Kurlaender, professor and chancellor’s fellow in education at the University of California, Davis. “Yet somehow we’ve left the college classroom alone. We have wraparound services for students, but the classroom space is considered sacrosanct and faculty can do whatever they want. We wanted to interrogate that by having faculty members provide some simple, individualized feedback to students as an intervention.”

Kurlaender and her co-author on the project, Scott Carrell, professor of economics and co-faculty director of the California Education Laboratory at Davis, wanted to see what would happen if professors reached out to students individually via email just a few times a term, with the goal of promoting their sense of self-efficacy and help-seeking behavior. Would their performance improve? Would they get a better impression of the course and the professor? A small 2014 pilot study involving economics students at Davis suggested yes, to both.

After the first email “nudge” about homework, students in the Davis study increased the time they spent on homework. After a second nudge about performance on their first course exam, students scored significantly higher on a second exam, compared to students in a control group who did not receive the emails.

There was no significant positive effect on overall course performance or on course withdrawals. But students reported that they appreciated the intervention.

“[I’d] like to thank you for offering your help in such a kind manner, I've rarely seen teachers at this school respond to missed assignments the way you have,” one student responded to a professor, for example. "I’ll be sure to complete future assignments in a timely manner, the first practice homework was indeed pretty helpful.”

Another Setting

Would the intervention work across a more access-oriented institution, however, where persistence rates are lower and students are arguably in greater need of faculty engagement? Kurlaender and Carrell designed a bigger study involving dozens of disciplines, from art to math, at one unnamed campus in the less selective California State University System.

Compensating participating professors for their time with $500 each, the researchers directed these instructors to send three different kinds of emails to students in their courses over a semester. The first was a welcome-style email, sent two to three weeks into the term. The second offered feedback on performance halfway through the semester. The third was sent about a week before the end of the term and final exam.

In all three emails, the idea was to offer feedback and information about course performance and success, focusing on the underlying processes involved in completing course tasks and offering strategies to improve performance.

Crucially, Kurlaender and Carrell wanted professors to focus on positive steps their students could take to improve their performance, rather than on shortcomings. Professors received templates for each kind of email, which varied by student performance. Below are some examples.

Source: Kurlaender and Carrell

In spring 2016, half of the students in 24 courses at California State were randomly assigned to the intervention group -- some 1,134 in all. The rest, some 1,218, made up the control group and did not receive professors' personalized emails.

A modified study design, involving about 1,600 additional students, was adopted in fall 2017.

In response to professors’ emails, some students expressed alarm at being contacted directly by a professor. “I was wondering why I was sent this message,” one student wrote to a participating art instructor. “I believe that I have been coming to class regularly as well as taking notes actively. Thank you for your time.”

But many others were more welcoming, or expressed appreciation. “I attend every class, go to the review sessions, and have turned in the extra credit so I am defiantly [sic] trying to do well but I am still struggling,” one student replied to a history professor. “I will come to office hours and try to meet up with our TA as well. Let me know if there is anything else I can do. Thank you!”

Participating professors also were asked to complete a survey after the term about the intervention, for which they received a $100 Amazon gift card.

Here is how some professors described the nature of the student responses they received:

A number of professors said they were surprised by their students' gratitude at their gestures. Other professors said they found interacting with their students outside class to be important. But some said the intervention probably did more to highlight students who already were engaged, rather than hook those who weren’t.

Findings and Future Research

Over all, Kurlaender and Carroll found strong evidence that this "light-touch, targeted feedback" can positively affect student perceptions about a course and instructor. But in the California State study, unlike the University of California study, they found no evidence of the intervention's effects on course performance -- with one exception: students with fewer than 30 previous college credits seemed to have improved course performance after getting the emails.

Positive results on student perceptions of the course and instructor -- gauged by a student survey that asked questions about professors' availability and degree of caring -- were largely driven by Latinx, female, first-year students and more prepared students, based on high school transcripts.

Kurlaender and Carrell are still trying to figure out why their intervention positively affected student course performance on their campus and not another. They’re soon running a second, bigger Davis study to re-examine their initial results. But Kurlaender said the California State finding is not a reason to give up on student engagement at more access-oriented institutions. If anything, she said, the findings may mean that students need not just three emails per semester, but more -- or maybe even a required face-to-face meeting.

“Maybe this was too light-touch, but we wanted something scalable but that wouldn’t take too much time,” said Kurlaender, noting that professors said each email took just about one minute to send.

Either way, she said of faculty engagement, “This is an untapped space where we should think about moving the graduation rate.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Elsevier journal editors resign, start rival open-access journal

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 14, 2019 - 7:00pm

The entire editorial board of the Elsevier-owned Journal of Informetrics resigned Thursday in protest over high open-access fees, restricted access to citation data and commercial control of scholarly work.

Today, the same team is launching a new fully open-access journal called Quantitative Science Studies. The journal will be for and by the academic community and will be owned by the International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics (ISSI). It will be published jointly with MIT Press.

The editorial board of the Journal of Informetrics said in a statement that they were unanimous in their decision to quit. They contend that scholarly journals should be owned by the scholarly community rather than by commercial publishers, should be open access under fair principles, and publishers should make citation data freely available.

Elsevier said in a statement that it regretted the board's decision and that it had tried to address their concerns.

“Since hearing of their concerns, we have explained our position and made a number of concrete proposals to attempt to bridge our differences,” Tom Reller, vice president of global communications at Elsevier, said in a statement. “Ultimately they decided to step down and we respect that decision and wish them the best in their future endeavors.”

Elsevier’s response to the board’s requests can be accessed in full here.

This is not the first time the editorial board of an Elsevier-owned journal has quit to start a competing journal. In 2015, the editorial board of top linguistics journal Lingua made headlines by leaving their posts and announcing plans to start a rival open-access publication called Glossa.

Like Lingua, the Journal of Informetrics is considered one of the top journals in its field. It was started in 2007 and focuses on research of measures used to assess the impact of academic research, including bibliometrics, scientometrics, webometrics and altmetrics.

There have been similar editorial revolts at journals owned by other publishers, many predating the Lingua case, but this method of so-called flipping journals from subscription-based access to completely open access is still relatively unusual.

The resignations of the Journal of Informetrics editorial team comes at a time of considerable scrutiny for Elsevier. Last month the publisher lost two large European customers -- the Max Planck Society and the Hungarian Consortium -- after rejecting their proposals to change its subscription model. Elsevier is also locked in negotiations with the University of California System, which has similarly threatened not to renew its contract unless the publisher changes how it charges customers to publish and access research.

Ludo Waltman, editor in chief of the Journal of Informetrics, intends to step down from his role and become editor in chief of the new journal when his current contract with Elsevier expires. His end date has not yet been determined. Waltman said the editorial board has agreed to review all accepted submissions to the journal but will not review any new submissions.

“The most important thing is that authors who currently have manuscripts under submission should not suffer negative consequences from the current situation,” he said. “This is something on which Elsevier and the editorial board are in agreement.”

Cassidy Sugimoto, president of ISSI and a former member of the JOI editorial board, said the decision to resign was not easy. The board has been negotiating with Elsevier for more than 18 months, she said.

Waltman said that it was, however, quickly obvious that some of the requests made by the board were "non-negotiable for Elsevier."

Sugimoto said that ISSI, a scholarly society whose members were heavily involved in the production of JOI, wanted greater control of the Elsevier-owned journal but were told by the publisher that its ownership was not up for discussion.

"The editorial board were members of ISSI, the reviewers were members of ISSI. Our society was actively participating in the labor of this journal without any remuneration," she said. 

Proposals to transition the journal from hybrid to fully open access and reduce the journal’s article-processing charges were also rejected, said Vincent Larivière, interim editor in chief of the new journal QSS. He said another sticking point was that the editorial board wanted the citation data in the journal’s articles to be freely available because this information is very important to researchers in the field. Elsevier said in its response to the board that it offers unrestricted access to some journal data, but it is not willing to make journal article reference lists available for free.

Elsevier launched the Journal of Informetrics in collaboration with the scientific community, the publisher said. Founding JOI editor Leo Egghe thanked the publisher for its role in developing and managing the journal in his final editorial in 2014. The publisher intends to keep the Journal of Informetrics running and will move to appoint a new editorial team and board, it said.

Johan Rooryck, president of the Fair Open Access Alliance, said JOI is the sixth journal that his organization has helped to flip in the past four years.

“We have developed a blueprint to help journal editors leave big publishers and launch new journals,” he said.

Rooryck, who was editor of Lingua and now leads Glossa, said the most challenging aspect of starting a new open-access journal is securing funding to ensure it survives. He said Glossa is doing well and has more submissions now than Lingua did. Lingua has been described as a “zombie” journal by some scholars, but it continues to receive hundreds of submissions.

QSS is being launched with some financial support from the MIT Libraries. In order to make all articles open access, the journal will charge an article-processing charge of $600 for ISSI members and $800 for nonmembers -- significantly less than the $1,800 Elsevier charged. For researchers without the ability to pay to have their articles be open access, their fees will be covered for three years by the German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB).

Representatives of MIT Libraries and MIT Press would not disclose how much financial support they are offering the new journal.

Nick Lindsay, director of journals and open access for MIT Press, said the press has a “long-standing commitment to open access across both its books and journals” and is a natural home for the journal because of its interest in data science. Lindsay said when ISSI approached him about creating a new journal, he "jumped at the chance to work with them."

Chris Bourg, director of MIT Libraries, said financial support for QSS is “part of a deliberate strategy of using our resources to support the kinds of changes in scholarly communication and access that are consistent with our vision: a world where enduring, abundant, equitable, and meaningful access to information serves to empower and inspire humanity.”

There has been speculation recently that Elsevier may have offered extra money to journal editors who were considering resigning and launching rival journals. ScienceGuide published an article in December alleging the offer of extra payment.

Reller, Elsevier's spokesman, tweeted in response, “ScienceGuide has it wrong: Nearly all of our 20,000 handling editors are compensated for their fantastic work and conversations about the right amount occur all the time. There is nothing particular about that now in the context of ‘flipping’ journals.”

Rooryck said he believes the rumor is true, but the publisher has denied that any such activity occurred.

JOI’s editor in chief, Waltman, said he receives several thousand euros a year for his work on the journal and was not offered any more money to stay. No one else on the editorial board receives any compensation from Elsevier, said Sugimoto.

For his part, Larivière said he has no regrets or sadness about leaving JOI behind.

"A journal is a shell. It's what's inside the shell that counts," he said. "What we'll have at this new journal is exactly the same group of people, the same topics, the same science." 

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Categories: Higher Education News

Trump administration rejects inspector general's critical audit findings on Western Governors

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 14, 2019 - 7:00pm

The U.S. Department of Education on Friday released a long-awaited response to an inspector general audit, which found that one the country’s largest online universities had run afoul of federal standards.

The department’s Office of Inspector General found in 2017 that Western Governors University, which enrolls more than 83,000 students, failed to meet federal requirements for the interaction between faculty members and students. The audit said WGU should pay back $713 million in federal student aid.

The Trump administration wasn’t expected to carry out the IG’s recommendations. The Education Department has been less interested in cracking down on colleges under Betsy DeVos, the U.S. secretary of education. And Western Governors has received bipartisan support from Washington policy makers, including praise from the Obama administration for its low-priced, competency-based model.

But Inspector General Kathleen Tighe, who retired from the department last year, found that most WGU courses should actually be classified as correspondence courses, citing a 1992 law that defines distance education programs' eligibility for federal aid. Those courses don't meet requirements for regular and substantive interaction between faculty and students, according to the audit. And an institution isn't eligible for federal funds if more than half of its courses are offered via correspondence.

However, in a letter sent to Western Governors Friday, the department's Office of Federal Student Aid said that because of "the ambiguity of the law and regulations and the lack of clear guidance available at the time of the audit period" as well as information provided by WGU and its regional accreditor, the department would not seek the return of Title IV student aid funds. (The university will be required to return about $2,600 thanks to one identified instance of deficiencies in returning Title IV funds when a student withdrew.)

"The statements made and the actions taken by the institution and its accrediting agency demonstrate that the institution made a reasonable and good faith effort to comply with the definition of distance education and provide regular and substantive interaction between the students and its instructional team during this period," FSA found.

Some experts have complained that the "regular and substantive" standard is an outdated way to assess online education programs. The rules may be in flux. In upcoming negotiated rule-making sessions, the Education Department will ask appointed panelists to consider modifying regulations involving faculty interaction. A proposal from the department would allow accreditors to define who qualifies as an instructor for the purposes of college-level courses.

The IG audit also included findings critical of WGU's adherence to the credit-hour standard. But, as with the regular and substantive requirement, the department disagreed with those findings. FSA noted in the letter to WGU that the Education Department is undertaking negotiated rule making to craft new policies involving both rules.

"The department is hopeful that further clarification will be part of future regulations that will help spur the growth of high-quality innovative programs," the agency said in a press release Friday.

In a statement released Friday, Western Governors said FSA's decision affirmed that the institution is eligible to participate in the federal student aid program.

"We appreciate the extensive and careful review conducted by the Office of Federal Student Aid over the past 15 months, we respect the important role of the OIG, and we are pleased to receive this notification," the university said in the statement. "As we have done since our founding by U.S. governors 22 years ago, WGU will continue our work to expand access, improve quality, and optimize outcomes for students."

But Spiros Protopsaltis, the director of George Mason University’s Center for Education Policy and Evaluation and a former Education Department official, said nothing in the letter questions the substance of the inspector general's findings. To the contrary, he said, the letter directed Western Governors to comply with existing regular and substantive interaction requirements.

"However, the critical issue is that we should not lower the bar to accommodate any particular online model, whether it's WGU or any other school, but instead we should raise the bar for quality and rigor," he said. "Given the evidence on the importance of interaction between students and instructors for student success, requiring and enforcing such interaction is imperative."

Just because one institution has strong outcomes while failing to meet that standard, he said, does not mean the Education Department should lower the bar for the entire online industry.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Tulane agreement with OCR leads to debate over gender bias

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 14, 2019 - 7:00pm

Conservative websites this weekend announced what they said was a major victory in the battle against discrimination against men in higher education.

"Female Lawyer Gets Tulane University to Stop Discriminating Against Men" was the headline on PJ Media. The article says, "Tulane University has agreed to stop financially discriminating against male students in an unprecedented response to a Title IX complaint made against the school." Mark J. Perry, a professor at the University of Michigan at Flint who has filed many complaints against colleges that maintain scholarships or programs for women, proclaimed victory on the website of the American Enterprise Institute. He sent an email to reporters about this win against "Tulane University’s ongoing, systematic and illegal gender discrimination."

But Tulane officials and other experts on higher education law suggest that what the university has committed itself to is only to review various programs to make sure that they don't discriminate against men, and to make changes if needed. And many legal experts say that there is no evidence -- as the complaint against Tulane suggests -- that having some programs for women is inherently illegal under federal antibias laws.

Some critics of scholarships and programs for women have been filing complaints against a number of colleges and universities, in some cases prompting changes. In 2016, Michigan State University, following a complaint from Perry, closed a lounge that was for women only. This year, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities agreed to open up several scholarships that had been only for women so that they could be awarded to men as well.

In the Tulane case, the university reached an agreement with the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights to resolve a complaint before OCR had made a determination in the case. Under the agreement, Tulane will review programs to assure that male students do not face illegal discrimination with regard to financial aid or educational programs, and will report on any needed changes. The university also pledged to provide training for administrators on requirements of antibias laws, including prohibitions on discrimination against male students.

The programs are all part of the Newcomb College Institute, which grew out Newcomb College, which was a women's college affiliated with Tulane and over time was merged into the university.

The agreement names a number of scholarships and mentoring programs or organizations for women at Tulane -- scholarships and programs that were the basis of the complaint filed against the university. But Tulane did not in the agreement pledge to change any of the programs, only to report to OCR if it does so, and on the university's compliance with antibias laws.

A spokesman for Tulane noted that the agreement with OCR did not involve any admission of wrongdoing by the university. Further, he said that Tulane would continue to abide by 1975 guidance from the Education Department about how to administer scholarships that had been created specifically for either men or women (the guidance is written based on the assumption that the former is the case): "If 50 students are selected by a university to receive financial assistance, the students should be ranked in the order in which they are to receive awards … The list should then be given to the financial aid office which may match the students to the scholarships and other aid available, whether sex-restricted or not. However, if after the first 25 students have been matched with funds, the financial aid office runs out of non-restrictive funds and is left with only funds designated for men, these funds must be awarded without regard to sex and not solely to men unless only men are left on the list. If both men and women remain on the list, the university must locate additional funding for the women or cease to give awards at that point."

The spokesman said that "Tulane’s financial aid office administers donor-restricted institutional scholarships restricted based on sex in a manner consistent with this guidance, and going forward, will continue to administer such donor-restricted funds in this way."

Tulane's explanation reflects the reality that the scholarships involved are relatively few in number compared to the university's overall efforts to provide financial aid for students. For example, one of the challenged scholarships is "bestowed upon a current second-year woman from an under-represented group at Tulane University who has distinguished herself through involvement with the Newcomb College Institute, an engaged pursuit of learning, and contribution to the greater New Orleans community. The recipient of the award will receive $250; this one-time cash award can be used to enhance the recipient's education experience at Tulane."

Adaku Onyeka-Crawford, senior counsel for education at the National Women's Law Center, said that "the agreement doesn't say that they are going to end these programs." Onyeka-Crawford said that she was not familiar with Tulane's discussions with the Education Department, but that it is common for colleges to reach agreements like this to avoid long investigations.

Michael A. Olivas, the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of Houston Law Center and author of several books about higher education law, said he saw nothing illegal or improper in what Tulane has been doing. While women may be a majority of undergraduates, he said, evidence is widespread of discrimination faced by women at all levels of education. Programs for women "are necessary" in this environment, he said, adding that it was also important to look at "the totality of programs" at Tulane, an examination that would show a small number of programs to help women amid a much larger group of programs for everyone.

Olivas called complaints filed over programs for women "a dog whistle to create the impression that men are discriminated against."

Peter McDonough, vice president and general counsel of the American Council on Education, said that many colleges have programs such as Tulane's and that they are (within certain limits) legal. In some cases, however, he said via email, it may be important for colleges to consider whether their demographics have changed and whether programs are needed for members of particular groups.

"No one’s intending to violate the law," he said. "But staying on top of what’s legal and what’s questionable can be hard. The facts really matter. What’s more, these facts change over time. Twenty years ago a school may have enrolled a class that was 70 percent male, yet today finds itself with women making up 70 percent of its freshmen. Ten years ago, perhaps there were no men interested in a noon yoga class, and today there are. Changes like these may be good reasons to take a look at how some things are structured, described and done."

He said such reviews go on all the time, he said.

The problem about publicity over the complaint about Tulane, he said, is that it may discourage colleges from keeping programs that are legal. "We would only be concerned if a misimpression developed," McDonough said. "It would be worrisome if people came to believe that any college program or activity that is more attractive to women, or designed to attract women, is illegal. That is not the case."

Perry, via email, said that he believed Tulane would be forced by the agreement to abandon the programs and scholarships cited. He said that he believed the agreement "seems to be a significant legal precedent."

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Categories: Higher Education News

Trump administration proposal would lift cap on colleges outsourcing higher ed programs

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 11, 2019 - 7:00pm

Dozens of colleges, including many with widely known brands, outsource parts of degree programs to other institutions or private companies. Under federal rules, colleges can offer degree programs in which up to 50 percent of instruction is outsourced, including through unaccredited entities.

A proposal from the Education Department would remove that cap entirely, potentially allowing colleges to completely outsource curriculum and instruction for degree programs. That possibility is alarming consumer advocates who worry it will give low-quality operators backdoor access to federal student aid money.

Amy Laitinen, director for higher education at New America’s education policy program, said it would basically allow colleges to rent out their names to third-party companies while pulling in federal aid.

“It raises questions about what it means to be an institution and what it means to have to get a degree from your university,” she said.

The idea is part of a package of proposed changes to the regulatory system governing higher education that the Education Department will ask a group of appointed negotiators to consider beginning next week. They’ll have a chance in that process, known as negotiated rule making, to weigh in on the outsourcing proposal and its implications for students and parents.

The slate of proposals focuses largely on rolling back regulations involving higher ed accreditors, the bodies that serve as gatekeepers for federal student aid. Current rules say an institution can outsource up to 25 percent of a program to an unaccredited provider. But having a third party provide between 25 and 50 percent of a program requires an accreditor’s approval.

Under the proposed change, colleges could outsource any amount of a program with permission from their accreditor.

Diane Auer Jones, the department's principal deputy under secretary, said in a call with reporters this week that officials would seek feedback from negotiators about what the appropriate cap may be for outsourcing programs.

“We don’t really know what the right answer is,” she said. “There probably are not many institutions that would outsource 100 percent of a program.”

Jones said the change was proposed with work-based learning in mind and not online-driven models like coding boot camps.

But most observers expect the change would have the biggest implications for just those kinds of alternative higher ed providers. And the proposal is being greeted with skepticism even from companies in that sector.

Liz Simon, vice president of legal and external affairs at General Assembly, one of the biggest operators in the coding boot camp market, said the company is still grappling with how to offer quality education at a large scale. And she said there are plenty of examples in the past of new higher ed companies exploiting the federal student aid system.

“There’s still a hard conversation to be had about ensuring quality in some of these nontraditional programs,” she said.

Without hearing more details about protections for students and federal funds, Simon said the company would be hesitant to endorse the idea.

Rick O'Donnell, the founder and CEO of the Skills Fund, which provides financing for coding boot camps and other skills-training programs, said a regulatory overhaul that results in more partnerships between colleges and outcomes-focused higher ed providers would be a win.

“However, innovation cannot be prioritized over program quality,” he said via email. “As ED rightfully pushes to limit the authority of accreditors, who are unequipped to serve as the gatekeeper of institutional quality, private market quality assurance entities become that much more crucial to ensure student learning and positive outcomes.”

Although the proposal has driven concerns about program quality, one higher ed entrepreneur doubts that it will be the department’s most impactful proposal for the market of postsecondary providers.

Paul Freedman, co-founder and CEO of the Entangled Group, said agreements between colleges and unaccredited content providers haven’t been blocked in the past on the basis of the 50 percent cap. And he said unaccredited companies just don’t generate the material themselves to fill 120 credit hours of courses.

“There aren’t a lot of places besides educational institutions that teach that much,” he said. “I don’t think it will dramatically change the marketplace.”

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Printer closures, paper shortages lead to delays for university publishers

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 11, 2019 - 7:00pm

When one of the largest independent book and journal printers in the U.S. closed its doors last summer, many university presses braced themselves for printing delays. What they didn’t expect from the closure of Edwards Brothers Malloy was that the disruption would continue into 2019.

“It was really bad this fall,” said Gregory Britton, editorial director of the Johns Hopkins University Press. He said the printing schedules of most of the press’s new titles were delayed.

Britton initially believed the delays were due to paper shortages that have affected much of the publishing industry -- including newspapers and magazines. But this was not the major cause of delays for university presses, he said.

“The companies that manufacture books are inundated with work,” said Britton. “There’s been a lot of consolidation and now there’s less capacity. In the past when there were delays, we might have been able to shift work to a different printer -- now those printers don’t exist.”

As a result, book and journal publishers and university presses are scrambling to adjust to longer, sometimes unpredictable, printing schedules.

In addition to printers closing or merging, university presses have in recent years been printing books in smaller batches so that they don’t end up with unsold books.

“Instead of printing a two years’ supply, presses might print a six-month supply to keep inventory costs down,” said Britton.

More frequent reprinting has put additional pressure on printers, however. “They’re swamped,” he said.

A Christmas Crunch

University presses publish lots of academic monographs that don’t have strict deadlines, said Britton. But they also publish commercial trade titles that need to be printed before key selling periods such as Christmas, and there are academic works that need to be out early in the year to be considered for fall course adoption. Consequently, there is “always a big rush before the holidays to get books printed,” said Britton.

The run-up to Christmas 2018 was unusually stressful, said Mary Rose Muccie, executive director of Temple University Press. “Our lead trade title for fall, which had a specific, critical launch date, ended up being significantly delayed,” she said.

Temple University Press wanted The Eagles Encyclopedia: Champions Edition, a third-edition nonfiction book celebrating all things Eagles, to be out early in the football season. In the end, the title was available for Christmas sales and author signing events. They pulled it off “by the skin of our teeth,” said Muccie.

She said she has experienced delays of up to a month on some titles, the effects of which extend beyond potential lost sales.

“We pride ourselves on providing excellent support to our authors. This includes having their books available when we expect them to be," she said. "Publication dates that are moving targets makes managing these expectations a challenge,”

Representatives of several university presses contacted by Inside Higher Ed said their companies -- West Virginia University Press, George Mason University Press, the University of Iowa Press and Penn State University Press -- had also experienced longer printing schedules than usual in recent months.

“We’ve had a few close calls,” said Jennifer Norton, associate director of Penn State University Press. It’s important that books be printed in time for conferences, events and book signings, but some conference deadlines were missed last year, she said.

Previously, Norton would have allowed four weeks to get a book printed, but now she’s budgeting at least six weeks. For titles that have strict deadlines, Norton said she now secures printing slots months in advance.

The prospect of a book signing without any books would make any author anxious. Thankfully, it didn’t happen to Ilan Stavans, professor of Latin American studies at Amherst College, whose book was recently published by Penn State University Press.

Stavans’s book, Don Quixote of La Mancha, is a graphic novel adaptation of Don Quixote illustrated by Roberto Weil. It was delayed by 10 days after the contracted printer ran out of the paper needed for the job and an alternative printer had to be found, said Norton.

“For a moment, it looked as if some publicity events and the publication of reviews might need to be rescheduled,” said Stavans. “But in the end, everything worked out.”

Stavans, who is publisher at Restless Books, said he understands the challenges presented by this new printing environment.

“The press acted intelligently, updating me at all times,” he said of Penn State University Press.

Karen Copp, associate director of the University of Iowa Press, said there is naturally “some disappointment” from authors when books are delayed, but many are understanding. She said she had been experiencing delays of eight to 10 days but is hoping the wait time shrinks now that the fall rush is over.

A New Normal

Still, it's uncertain how long it will take for printing times to return to what they were, said Britton. It could be that the slower lead times persist throughout 2019. For now, at least, delays are the "new normal," he said.

“We’re doing a lot of different things to counter this,” he said. “We’re building more time into schedules; we’re looking for alternative vendors. We’re being flexible on things like what paper stock we use.”

Britton noted that the increased use of ebooks has negatively influenced print sales, but the impact was not as great as some printers and paper mills anticipated.

“Looking at this in a broader context, the forces that caused printers to consolidate and close may have been a market overcorrection,” said Britton.

The printing industry began experiencing major problems in mid-2018, said John Bond, a scholarly publishing consultant and founder of Riverwinds Consulting. Several U.S.-based printers merged or closed, increasing demand at remaining printers. Severe paper shortages also played a role as many mill operators, seeing falling demand for books, switched to producing tissue paper and paper-based packaging in place of printing- and writing-grade paper. Bond believes it may take six to nine months for paper mills and printers to catch up to demand.

John Edwards, vice president of market development at CJK Group -- the parent company of numerous technology, communications, printing and manufacturing companies -- agreed that paper mill operators had underestimated demand for paper, creating a gap between supply and demand that he predicts will persist through 2019. The price of pulp also increased, making paper production more expensive, he said. Several university press directors said they had noticed slight increases in their printing costs.

Maple Press, a Pennsylvania-based printer, has seen exceptionally heavy demand for book manufacturing services over the last six months. In addition to competing printers merging or closing, there were some exceptionally popular books in the last half of 2018 (such as Michelle Obama's Becoming, published by the Crown Publishing Group) that put additional strain on industry capacity.

“Many of our customers did experience lead times that were longer than normal during the second half of 2018,” said Bill Long, vice president of sales and marketing at Maple Press. The printer has been ramping up -- “running overtime, hiring additional workers and investing in additional capacity to better service demand levels,” he said.

Long predicts that capacity levels will “remain somewhat tight for the foreseeable future.”

“This will inevitably lead to longer lead times in some cases moving forward,” he said. “It will become more important for publishers to work more closely with printers on their capacity needs and timing.”

Britton said he viewed the situation as somewhat ironic. “Reports of the death of the book, it seems, have been greatly exaggerated.”

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New cookbook from Modern Language Association celebrates subtle and not-so-subtle links between literature, food and drink

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 11, 2019 - 7:00pm

CHICAGO -- Among the books on display at this year’s annual meeting of the Modern Language Association was something unusual: a literature-inspired cookbook written by MLA members and staffers. The 27-page book, called MLA Members Cook! Cherished Recipes Inspired by Literature, features beverages, appetizers and side dishes, mains, and desserts.

Sales support the organization. The project in general supports the notion that literature, like food, is delicious and should be shared.

Angela Gibson, director of scholarly communication at MLA, said the organization wanted to give members “an opportunity to put their research and teaching interests in touch with the many creative endeavors they pursue -- and to come together to do something just plain fun. Food seemed like an obvious place to start.”

Emily VanDette, an associate professor of English at the State University of New York at Fredonia who specializes in 19th-century American women’s literature, contributed a recipe called Emily Dickinson’s Coconut Cake. (A photo of the icing-smothered confection graces the cookbook’s cover.)

Dickinson scholars, fans and those who have visited the Massachusetts museum devoted to the poet will probably know that she was an avid baker who sometimes combined her two passions: her recipe for coconut cake was inked on the back of a handwritten poem.

Source: Amherst College Digital Archive

Inclined to help support the MLA with the book, VanDette immediately knew she wanted to share the coconut cake recipe. But she modernized it: VanDette’s recipe is vegan, while Dickinson’s original calls for 1/2 cup of butter and milk each and two eggs. Still, VanDette said she thought Dickinson would approve.

Asked why literature pairs so well with food, VanDette said that many of the best cooks she knows love literature, or are writers, or both.

“I'm not sure why, but perhaps there is a certain appreciation for the aesthetics of food and the creative process of producing it that makes readers and writers such good foodies,” she said. “And then there's the social experience that is a part of creating and devouring literature and food.”

VanDette added, “That was certainly the case for Dickinson, who was known for sharing both her baked goods and her poems with her loved ones.”

Gibson said the MLA's members were enthusiastic about the project over all, and that the organization is pleased with the “sheer range of recipes in the cookbook. Evident, too, is their literary lineage.”

Indeed, there are some punny, more familiar recipes, such as Much Ado About Gnocchi. Don’t let the name fool, you, though: contributor Mary Learner, a Ph.D. candidate in English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, notes that gnocchi is “more than nothing.” She also included several sauce options inspired by characters in the gnocchi's Shakespearean namesake, including Don John’s “green-eyed monster” pesto and Beatrice’s bolognese.

John Scheckter, professor of English at Long Island University, shared a recipe for Walt Whitman’s Cranberry Sauce, complete with a “long-lost” Whitman poem called “Song of My Sauce.” And for thirsty MLA style-heads over 21, there’s the MLA staff’s Pear-enthetical Citation, a pear liqueur- and triple sec-based concoction. (That cocktail and others parallel the American Historical Association’s tradition of featuring historically themed cocktails at the hotel bars at its annual meetings. Last year’s were Rosé the Riveter, Libation Without Representation and Moscow Mueller -- all served in Washington.)

Then there are evocative recipes from around the globe. Tao Leigh Goffe, assistant professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University, shared a recipe for Stuffed Aubergine Curry, which she said she’d learned from her mother-in-law. Her description of it reads like literature: “Curry is the colonial entanglement that connects Africa, Asia and Europe in her culture -- Kenyan Indian British -- and mine -- Afro-Jamaican Chinese British,” Goffe wrote of her mother-in-law. “[She] learned to cook from her mother, who learned a repertoire of generations of Indian recipes in Kenya.”

Goffe says the recipe also recalls Amitav Ghosh’s novel on servitude around the time of the Opium Wars, Sea of Poppies, in which a food -- as it so often does -- serves as metaphor. “Ghosh gives the reader a sense of the scale of variation for the same dish within household, family and village,” Goffe wrote.

Hasselback potatoes are inspired by Pablo Neruda’s “Oda a Las Papas Fritas” and Russian pancakes, by the many Russian literary works that feature characters eating them. An adafina stew recipe is dedicated to the often food-centric 15th-century “converso” poems written by and about Jews who converted to Christianity to avoid the Spanish Inquisition. Dongpo soup honors the 11th-century Chinese poet, calligrapher and food connoisseur Su Shi, who also was known as Su Dongpo.

Room for more dessert? Rosemary Feal, former executive director of the MLA and currently a visiting scholar at Harvard University's David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, keeps things in flagrante delicto with her recipe for Cheater’s Cheesecake.

Quoting Don DeLillo’s Underworld, Feal introduces her sumptuous, sour cream-infused cake this way: “The cheesecake was smooth and lush, with the personality of a warm and well-to-do uncle who knows a hundred dirty jokes and will die of sexual exertion in the arms of his mistress.”

Bon appétit!

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Authors discuss their new book on religion in American higher education

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 11, 2019 - 7:00pm

William F. Buckley Jr.'s 1951 book God and Man at Yale popularized a view of higher education as hostile to faith. A new book, however, The Resilience of Religion in American Higher Education (Baylor University Press), finds faith alive and well in American higher education. The authors find that resilience evident both at public and private institutions. And they find it at religious institutions with varying ideas about their missions.

To be sure, the book does not present issues of religion in American higher education as simple or without tensions. But they find "a surprising openness" to religion in academe.

The authors are John Schmalzbauer, a professor of religious studies at Missouri State University and the author of People of Faith: Religious Conviction in American Journalism and Higher Education, and Kathleen A. Mahoney, a senior staff member at the GHR Foundation and author of Catholic Higher Education in Protestant America: The Jesuits and Harvard in the Age of the University. They responded via email to questions about their new book.

Q: Many people think of religion and higher education as a topic related to religious colleges. Your book also discusses student religious life at secular institutions, many of them public. What do you see as the major trends in student religious life at these colleges?

A: Public and nonsectarian private universities are some of the most religiously diverse places in America. Since the '60s, they have witnessed an increase in the sheer variety of religious activity, reflecting the rise of campus evangelicalism, the revitalization of Jewish student life, a surge in new immigrant religions and the emergence of alternative forms of spirituality. At the same public university where Coach John Wooden and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar forged an interfaith friendship, religious diversity flourishes. Today the University of California, Los Angeles, is home to nearly 50 religious groups, including the first Campus Crusade chapter, the first Chabad House, a large Hillel building, a 54-year-old Muslim Student Association, a Coptic Orthodox Christian club, a Methodist cafe and a University Buddhist Association. Across the country, private philanthropy has supported dozens of ventures at secular institutions, including the Lilly Endowment’s recent vocation initiative and Yale University’s $75 million Roman Catholic center.

Responding to this diversity, the field of student affairs is rediscovering a more holistic understanding of student development that recognizes religious, secular and spiritual identities (the focus of two recent NASPA gatherings). A growing number of secular institutions have constructed multifaith chapels and meditation spaces, catering to both people of faith and the spiritual but not religious. A burgeoning interfaith movement has tried to connect these diverse communities, though recent findings from the IDEALS survey suggest that universities could do more to foster an inclusive climate.

Q: What is your sense about the directions of scholarship about religion at secular institutions?

A: Over the past 50 years, religion departments have proliferated at public and nonsectarian private institutions. Religion-oriented centers and institutes can be found at Columbia, Colorado, Indiana, New York University, Princeton and the University of Southern California. Most of these centers focus on “religion and” topics, exploring the role of faith in politics, health care and popular media. In the wake of the 2016 election, scholars in history, sociology and political science have investigated the roots of religious nationalism in America and around the world. While some religion scholarship is a version of “knowing your enemies” (Peter Berger’s apt expression), others have cultivated a more empathetic approach, though the current political climate has strained this capacity for scholarly empathy. In the face of resurgent racism, sexism and xenophobia, religion scholars are taking a stand.

Faculty have also turned their attention to spirituality, including senior scholars like Alexander Astin, the founding director of UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. Even theology is finding a place. While Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health helped institutionalize the field of religion and medicine, programs at Berkeley and Virginia are bringing theology back into public universities.

Q: Many Roman Catholic colleges, which have long served students and employed faculty members of a variety of faiths, have made or are making the adjustment to lay presidents. Do you see this changing their missions?

A: Filling the position of president in Catholic colleges with lay men and women instead of priests and sisters speaks less to a change in mission and more to the coming of age of the American Catholic laity. Of course, the declining number of priests and sisters in the U.S. is a factor. There’s no doubt about that. But recourse to lay presidents also demonstrates the fulfillment of mission, namely the historic commitment to prepare lay Catholics for leadership in church and society. John J. DeGioia is a great example: a graduate of Jesuit-sponsored Georgetown University, Jack assumed the presidency of his alma mater in 2001 and has become its longest-serving president.

The shift to lay leadership hasn’t been without some angst. But significant investments have been made to support lay presidents and their teams. For almost 20 years, Boston College’s Institute for Administrators in Catholic Higher Education has been working with senior leaders of Catholic colleges. Many universities have hired senior-level mission officers, recognizing that responsibility for institutional identity should not be solely vested in the person of the president. If it means anything at all, responsibility for the mission must be dispersed more widely, to the sponsoring religious order, the board, administration, faculty and staff, as well as the president.

Q: Many evangelical colleges have experienced tremendous enrollment growth in the last decade. Do you expect that to continue?

A: After decades of growth, there are signs that enrollment in evangelical colleges is already tapering off. During the Great Recession, many small religious colleges faced mounting financial problems due to tuition discounting. As Robert P. Jones notes in The End of White Christian America, white evangelicals comprise a shrinking percentage of younger age cohorts, suggesting that the market for evangelical higher education may be contracting. The key to future enrollment growth lies in the ethnic diversification of American evangelicalism. Thanks to immigration, denominations like the Assemblies of God will soon be minority majority. Colleges that diversify will thrive. Colleges identified with nativist rhetoric and anti-immigrant policies may struggle.

Q: Many evangelical colleges have been criticized for their views on sexuality (in particular ideas about gay people) and science (a belief by some that the Bible is to be taken literally, challenging ideas about evolution and so forth). Do you see those views holding back these colleges?

A: Evangelical colleges will find it increasingly difficult to maintain conservative positions on LGBT issues. According to a 2017 survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, 53 percent of young white evangelicals favor legalizing same-sex marriage. Older evangelicals feel very differently about this issue. This gap will create tensions and conflicts for evangelical colleges and could further depress enrollment. Recently, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities endorsed sexual orientation and gender identity laws that include broad religious exemptions. While such legislation could insulate CCCU institutions from legal challenges, it will not eliminate evangelicalism’s generational divide on LGBT issues.

As for religion and science, there is a wide spectrum of views on evolution. Some colleges hold to a young earth creationist position, appealing to evangelicalism’s right flank. Another set of institutions affirms the harmony of evolutionary biology and Christian theology, along the lines of the BioLogos Foundation. In the middle are places where the boundary lines are unclear, a situation that has sometimes led to the firing or resignation of science faculty. Such uncertainty makes it hard for evangelical colleges to recruit and retain scientists.

Q: During the Trump presidency, Liberty University has emerged as the president's favorite college and its president has become a consistent advocate for President Trump. How is this shaping public perceptions of religious higher education?

A: The alliance between Liberty University and the Trump administration contributes to the cynicism many Americans have about religion and public life. While such coalitions go back to the Reagan administration (and are rooted in the fraught racial history of white evangelicalism), there is a growing sense that evangelicals will do anything for political power. Because of its immense online footprint, Liberty looms large in public perceptions of Christian higher education. Yet scholars at dozens of other evangelical institutions (see, for example, the work of Kristin Kobes Du Mez, John Fea and Soong-Chan Rah) do not identify with Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham. They are also alienated from the 81 percent of white evangelicals who voted for Trump. Many faculty have ditched the evangelical label. Others have articulated an alternative vision of evangelicalism that rejects misogyny, racism and xenophobia, though it is hard to shout louder than Falwell and Graham.

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South Korean leaders continue to meddle in university leadership choices, critics say

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 11, 2019 - 7:00pm

Ongoing political interference in the appointments of university leaders in South Korea risks destroying trust between scientists and the government and hampering the country’s progress on research performance, academics have warned.

In November, the country’s Ministry of Science demanded that the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) suspend its president, Shin Sung-chul, after alleging that he embezzled public research funds in his previous job as leader of the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST).

One of the allegations centers on payments made by Shin to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California to secure access for South Korean scientists to one of its facilities.

Shin, who was hired to lead KAIST in 2017 under the previous administration, has denied any wrongdoing, and the Berkeley lab said in a letter sent to the ministry and seen by Times Higher Education that the agreement was lawful. A petition in support of Shin, organized by the KAIST physics department, has collected more than 800 signatures from university researchers across South Korea.

KAIST’s board last month deferred a vote on whether to suspend Shin. A spokeswoman said that the case was “now under investigation [by the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office], and we believe it will take time for a full investigation.”

But experts have said that the effort to remove Shin is the latest episode in a long tradition of political interference in university governance.

An editorial in the Korea Herald said that since Moon Jae-in became president in May 2017, 11 heads of state-run research institutes and universities have resigned in the middle of their terms. All had been appointed during the previous government.

Jayden Kim, director of the Korean Association of Human Resource Development and a lecturer in human resource management at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, said that heads of government-funded universities and research institutes in South Korea were routinely replaced before they completed their term whenever a new government came to power.

“Most of them have been under direct or indirect resignation pressure from the government,” he said. “It is a painful tradition of South Korea.”

He added that long-term research projects have also “often been discontinued by newly appointed presidents or chairmen of the regime.”

Kim said that “continuity is absolutely imperative to conduct research projects at universities” and “an independent operating system should be established to guarantee the creativity and independence of research and to minimize the interference of bureaucrats.”

“If South Korea continues to follow the painful tradition of the past, it will be difficult for South Korea to achieve a better research performance than other advanced countries,” he added.

So Young Kim, head of the Graduate School of Science and Technology Policy at KAIST, said that it was “somewhat alarming” that the current left-leaning administration had continued this practice and “quite shocking” that some of the ministry’s allegations were based on a “misunderstanding of how an international collaboration takes place in scientific research.”

She expressed concern that “the whole process of trying to examine or reveal the possible faults of the people appointed in the previous government … risks [damaging] the trust of the scientific community.”

“Since research and development requires typically long-term investment and commitment, it is very hard to continue the research prioritized internally within any public research institute with relatively fast-changing heads,” she said.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Historians and language professors discuss advising at recent conferences

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 10, 2019 - 7:00pm

CHICAGO -- Eight-four-two-one. That’s the “mental PowerPoint slide” Leonard Cassuto asked those at a cross-over panel on graduate advising to imagine last week, during the annual meetings of the American Historical Association and Modern Language Association here.

Both conferences happened to take place in the same city this year, and both featured a number of well-attended sessions on rethinking graduate education -- perhaps a sign of growing awareness of a thorny but urgent topic.

For every eight students who begin a humanities Ph.D. program, said Cassuto, a professor of English at Fordham University and author of The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It, about four will not finish. Based on national data, two will leave early on in the program and two later -- the latter departures being what he called “ethical failures” on the part of institutions. Of the four students who do finish, he continued, two will eventually get full-time teaching jobs. Less than one will get a full-time job teaching at a research university.

And yet graduate schools still largely train students based on the premise that they’ll be research university faculty members, he said.

‘A Question of Academic Responsibility’

What can be done about that “utterly irrational” reality, Cassuto asked? He and others on the panel said that advising is an overlooked but essential key to graduate education reform.

“These are teaching problems,” Cassuto said. “And advising is, after all, part of graduate teaching -- arguably the most important kind of teaching.”

Cassuto pitched an idea that he said was at once “humble,” given its simplicity, and “heretical,” given the faculty-centered culture of graduate school: that programs should “reverse engineer” the graduate experience based on students’ actual career outcomes, with graduate advising at the center of that effort.

“What should the dissertation look like going forward, and how should it change to fit these new realities?” for example, Cassuto asked.

“This is a question of academic responsibility,” he continued. Saying that faculty members hold close their academic freedom and sometimes reject administrative guidance on teaching to protect it, Cassuto added, “I haven’t had a freedom worth having that doesn’t come with responsibility. And part of that means looking at graduate school in terms of the student experience.”

Faculty Resistance and Multiple-Adviser Models

Other panelists noted faculty resistance as a major barrier to changing graduate advising.

Rita Chin, professor of history and associate dean of social sciences at the University of Michigan’s Rackham Graduate School, agreed that most faculty members do see advising as part of their teaching role, and therefore a “sacred space.” So it’s difficult to get faculty colleagues to talk about the process of mentoring in order to change it -- at least under pressure, she said. Professors are much more amenable to low-key discussions about “best practices” for advising, however, she said.

One increasingly popular way around the faculty resistance problem is to assign graduate students multiple advisers. That way, if one doesn’t support a graduate student’s true career goals, or if that relationship is otherwise strained, another, hopefully more helpful coach is waiting on the sidelines. Multiple-mentor models are especially timely in the Me Too era, as many critics of the traditional mentor-mentee model say it facilitates or even encourages abuses of power.

Chin said Michigan's incoming graduate students in history are assigned one adviser based on their stated subdisciplinary interests, and another adviser within the broader department. "This means they’re getting an alternative perspective on the kind of advice they’re getting from their primary mentor,” she said. “One of the reasons this has been important to us is that it allows us to rethink the apprenticeship model of individual faculty mentoring, where faculty kind of see their students as their legacy."

Since Michigan's history department also has shrunk graduate cohorts a bit of late, to about 15, all 75 faculty members know they’re not all going to get their own graduate students. They’re therefore more open to a “team-based approach” to advising, Chin said.

Rackham also holds regular meetings and workshops for faculty members to learn about better advising.

Duke University has taken another approach to multiple advisers, creating a grant-funded supplemental adviser position for all 450 humanities and humanistic social sciences graduate students. The idea is that if you don’t want to share your nonacademic career goals with your adviser because you think you’ll be written off, Maria LaMonaca Wisdom can help.

Graduate students often "need to be seen and heard,” said Wisdom, who was a tenured faculty member in English before taking on her new role at Duke about three years ago. For any supplemental adviser, she added, "I'd say a good first step is to help restore to students what doctoral programs all too often strip away -- a student's confidence in her ability to find her own path.”

That often means letting graduate students steer their interactions with her. Sometimes they just need another set of eyes on an academic paper, Wisdom said, in which case her faculty background comes in handy. Often, they need the “gift of time,” as Wisdom’s one-on-one advising sessions rarely last less than an hour. But many desire the ability to be themselves.

Wisdom said she wouldn’t recommend a relationship in which academic advisers “see into students’ souls,” and that the relationship is a business one. But some students have developed such elaborate “workarounds” for their relationships with their advisers that they lead a “double life.” In one instance, she said, a student she’d arranged to meet at a campus coffee shop hid behind a potted plant when her departmental adviser came in, to avoid being seen with someone associated with diverse career advising.

Cassuto said he’d had similar but less dramatic experiences with students. Once a late-stage graduate student told him that he should know she wanted to be a community college teacher. When he said that probably made sense, given that the student had attended a community college herself and loved the experience, the student said, “No. You should know I have always wanted to teach at a community college.” The student had said otherwise previously, including in her application materials, Cassuto recalled.

He also praised the idea of supplemental advising, saying that sometimes people positioned outside of departments can accomplish what in-program professors can’t, mainly for political reasons. While those who resist student-centered approaches are often “old bull” full professors, he said, directors of graduate studies are typically lower-ranking associate professors who may not make too many waves with them.

Wisdom added, “These are things we have to think about until the culture changes.”

Indeed, the question is one of culture, of mindset -- not necessarily radical change, and certainly not radical change in faculty expertise. And some panelists noted that faculty members often actually do want to support students’ nonacademic career goals, but don’t because they believe they don’t know how.

Wisdom said that good advising is, in part, about simply having a “realistic sense of the job market” and “humility.”

Cassuto agreed, saying that a former advisee once told him the best piece of advice he ever gave was to “go talk to someone else.”

Student Resistance

Students also can challenge graduate education reform efforts. Cassuto said he tells students that they must be the CEOs of their own experiences, meaning they should feel empowered to make choices and even employ informal “boards” of advisers.

Panel moderator Edward Balleisen, professor of history and public policy at Duke and vice provost for interdisciplinary studies, and a national advocate for career diversity, asked, “How do we empower graduate students?” Thinking aloud, he said, “I do often tell my students, ‘Don’t take my word as gospel. I’m certainly not always right, and mine is not the only perspective.’”

Beyond the “double life” problem, students often resist the nonacademic career question. Wisdom said that she’s learned that talking about this with new graduate students can scare them away from her. So when she hosts a dinner for first-year students, she focuses on other topics entirely. She takes the same approach with faculty members when she first meets them and "networks like crazy" instead of pushing any one agenda.

Balleisen also wondered about timelines by which advisers should engage students in talks about career diversity. On the one hand, he said, doing so when brainstorming dissertation topics seems too soon. On the other, it seems like an opportune time to shape that project around emerging career goals.

During a question-and-answer period at a later joint-conference panel on innovations in graduate education that Balleisen also moderated, Alicia DeMaio, a Ph.D. candidate in history at Harvard University, said students who demonstrate bravery in being honest with their advisers might just be pleasantly surprised.

"I got halfway through my degree and realized I didn't want to be in academia forever, and I was terrified to tell people. But I did, and folks were surprisingly supportive," she said. "Sometimes I worry faculty especially are under the misapprehension that there are just nonacademic jobs lying around for the taking, especially for someone with a Harvard Ph.D. -- which of course is not true."   Still, she said, "at least they're open to having these conversations." FacultyEditorial Tags: EnglishHistoryFacultyGraduate educationGraduate studentsImage Source: Duke UniversityImage Caption: Edward Balleisen and Maria LaMonaca WisdomIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Reforming Graduate EducationTrending order: 1College: Duke UniversityFordham UniversityHarvard UniversityUniversity of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Categories: Higher Education News

GAO report reviews studies on student hunger

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 10, 2019 - 7:00pm

A long-awaited report examining the extent of hunger on college campuses recommends increasing students' awareness of federal food assistance benefits so that higher ed institutions can better combat the problem.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office report, which was released Wednesday, examined 31 studies on food insecurity among students. It also determined through further analysis that about two million at-risk students who were potentially eligible for food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, did not report receiving the benefits in 2016.

The report was the result of a 2017 request by Senate Democrats that the GAO assess hunger among college students after several surveys found that students were experiencing food insecurity.

“As the costs of college continue to climb, it’s clear that students are struggling to afford more than just tuition -- many are unable to afford textbooks, housing, transportation, childcare and even food,” U.S. senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, said in a statement. “This report confirms that food insecurity is a widespread issue on our nation’s campuses and that there’s a lot of work to do to ensure students are getting enough to eat. As we work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, I look forward to building on the recommendations of this report to make college truly affordable by addressing the total costs of college.”

Despite broad agreement that the problem is extensive, finding consensus on a clear or accurate estimate of the number of hungry college students has not been easy. The report notes that estimates in various studies on food insecurity ranged from 9 percent to more than 50 percent.

The report highlights one national study from the Urban Institute last year that estimates:

  • 11 percent of households with a student in a four-year college experienced food insecurity
  • 14 percent of households with a student in a vocational or technical program experienced food insecurity
  • 17 percent of households with a student in a community college experienced food insecurity

Part of the reason for the growing rates of hunger is the increase in low-income students attending college, the report states. It is also a reflection of changing student demographics. The percentage of all undergraduates who had a household income at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty line increased from 28 percent in 1996 to 39 percent in 2016, according to national data. The number of students receiving federal aid through Pell Grants has also increased from about 23 percent in 1999 to about 40 percent in 2016.

“It is time to not only think about tuition and fees but basic needs,” said Pam Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. “That’s why our students are failing out of college. Sometimes they’re choosing between food and books.”

Eddinger said people have long doubted that students were going hungry in significant numbers because of assumptions that students attending four-year colleges are financially supported by their parents. Those students are no longer in the majority, she said.

The struggles of Bunker Hill students and the college's efforts to help them have been documented in the columns of Inside Higher Ed's Wick Sloane, an administrator at the college who works on this issue.

Current college students don't fit the traditional demographic of teenagers who enrolled immediately after graduating high school and who are financially dependent on their parents. According to federal data, about half of all undergraduate students in 2016 were financially independent. About 22 percent of all undergrads that year had dependent children of their own, and 14 percent were single parents. The average college student today is 26 years old.

The GAO’s analysis focused on the 39 percent of students whose income was below 130 percent of the federal poverty line and found that most low-income students also experience additional risk factors for food insecurity. The three most common factors were being a first-generation college student, receiving SNAP benefits and being a single parent.

The GAO report also looked at low-income students with at least one risk factor for food insecurity who were eligible for SNAP and determined that 57 percent did not report participating in the federal program. Another one-quarter of 5.5 million low-income students with at least one additional risk factor for food insecurity did not meet any of the student exemptions allowed under SNAP and would likely be ineligible to participate in the program, according to the report.

Currently, there are 38 million people who receive the food assistance benefit, which will receive funding through February under the current government shutdown, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The GAO’s estimate of about two million students who are potentially eligible for SNAP seems too conservative, said Carrie Welton, a policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy.

“What they recommended is probably the bare minimum Food and Nutrition Service can do,” she said, adding that states should do a better job of clarifying the eligibility rules for SNAP. “We’ve been working with multiple states to help them clarify the rules and improve postsecondary benefits in their states.”

Welton said she supports rolling back exemptions that prevent many students from taking advantage of SNAP.

For example, full-time students can qualify for SNAP benefits if they meet one of several criteria, including participation in the Federal Work-Study program. But the GAO report notes that work-study funding is limited “especially at community colleges where there are more students at risk of food insecurity.”

Officials at nine of the 14 colleges selected for analysis in the GAO report said they viewed food insecurity as part of students’ increasing inability to meet their basic needs, which is a result of the rising costs of college and of living expenses such as housing and transportation.

But many college officials said that administrators, faculty and staff on their campuses are unaware that many students don't always have enough to eat and struggle to pay for food, according to the report. All 14 colleges said they educate their students about the resources available to them if they are facing food shortages, and eight of those institutions train or provide information to faculty about campus or community resources.

But there is still a stigma about food assistance on many of these campuses. Officials at 11 of the colleges said that stigma is a major barrier for some students. A few of the colleges have tried to eliminate the stigma by centralizing their food pantries to normalize their presence on campus; others have moved the pantries to less public areas of campus.

Students have also created their own barriers to receiving public benefits by buying in to the stereotypical and acceptable image of being a starving college student surviving on ramen noodles.

“We need to stop reinforcing this idea that starving is being a college student,” she said.

The GAO report revealed that federal programs have been limited in what they do to address food insecurity among college students.

The Food and Nutrition Service, an agency within the USDA which administers SNAP, doesn’t share pertinent information such as student eligibility requirements with college officials to help them better assist students, according to the report. Federal student aid, while available to help low-income students pay for college, does not cover the full costs of attending college.

According to federal data, 40 years ago the average Pell Grant covered about 50 percent of the average cost of in-state tuition, fees, room and board at community colleges and 39 percent at four-year colleges. But today the grant covers 37 percent of costs at community colleges and 19 percent at four-year institutions.

“The net price of college attendance has increased, and students and their families are asked to devote substantial shares of their income to college,” said Katharine Broton, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa and a faculty affiliate with the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University. “Certainly, students from low-income families are at increased risk, but this problem isn’t only limited to low-income families.”

Broton said a growing number of students from moderate-income families do not qualify for Pell Grants and don’t have the resources to pay the growing costs of college.

Although working adults who may be parents are increasingly a larger portion of the U.S. college student population, federal and state financial aid and social service policies have not been adjusted to fit their needs, Eddinger said.

“Look at K-12 and the hot lunch programs and how that has changed and brought equity to the learning environment,” she said. “If a child is hungry in elementary school and getting hot lunches and they’re the children of our students … what are the parents eating?”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Amid IRS technical glitches, feds give colleges alternatives to approve aid applicants

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 10, 2019 - 7:00pm

At the University of Nebraska at Kearney, the spring semester started Monday. But ongoing technical issues at the Internal Revenue Service meant some students at the campus still hadn’t been approved to receive the federal student aid they needed to attend classes.

That’s because they were selected for a process known as income verification. And those IRS technical issues meant the students -- like others at campuses across the country -- couldn’t get the necessary paperwork to prove they qualified for aid awards.

On Wednesday, though, the Education Department released long-awaited guidance giving financial aid administrators alternative ways to verify students’ family incomes.

Mary Sommers, the financial aid director at the Kearney campus, said there was a “little explosion of cheering” in her office after the guidance was released.

“It would help these students so much,” she said.

The department’s new guidance allows students to submit tax returns to demonstrate family income instead of tax transcripts from the IRS, an official document including line items like gross income, that can take weeks to obtain -- even when the process is working correctly. And non-tax filers can submit signed statements that they did not file taxes.

Most students at the Nebraska campus file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, in the fall, so just a handful had been affected by the verification issue, Sommers said. But those challenges can mean the difference between attending class or not.

"We have for sure one case, and maybe more, where students are just opting not to enroll," she said.

At colleges with more frequent start dates or at community colleges, where students more often enroll semester to semester, the effect of the verification roadblock this month is likely even bigger.

Students eligible for Pell Grants are flagged for income verification at higher rates. That means additional bureaucratic hurdles for those students most in need of financial aid and, sometimes, those least equipped to navigate the process. The challenges involved in verification have come under closer scrutiny recently as part of broader discussions about simplifying the application process for student aid. The National College Access Network estimates that more than half of Pell-eligible students were selected for income verification in the 2016-17 financial aid cycle, and 44 percent of those applicants never received a Pell Grant.

The technical issues at IRS happened as the agency furloughed employees because of the ongoing government shutdown. Officials told news outlets that those issues were the result of routine maintenance and not the shutdown. But student aid groups were still frustrated with the timing and lack of communication from the agency.

“Even on a good day, when everything is working right at IRS, obtaining tax transcripts is an arduous and difficult process,” said Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. “That’s why we lobbied for this.”

Education Department officials announced at the Federal Student Aid conference last year that the agency would release new federal guidance giving aid administrators more options to verify family incomes. The release of that guidance became even more urgent this month as the problems with the regular IRS process became apparent to college officials.

J. Noah Brown, president and CEO of the Association of Community College Trustees, said the group appreciated the fix for students filing FAFSA applications this semester but added that a bigger solution was needed to cut down on income verification checks.

“Over the longer term, the Department of Education and lawmakers in Congress should streamline FAFSA verification requirements to ensure that community college students have access to financial aid and to ease administrative burdens on community college financial aid offices,” he said. “The current requirements are overly burdensome to both students and institutions, and they can create unnecessary barriers to students’ pursuits of postsecondary education.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Event focuses on global higher ed and recruitment challenges in changing times

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 10, 2019 - 7:00pm

WASHINGTON -- How can colleges seize control of their international strategies at a time when international student enrollments are falling at many American colleges and when federal immigration policies and public attitudes may be working against institutions’ internationalization goals?

“We used to talk very clearly about this internationalization imperative” as if global involvement was an irresistible or unavoidable force, Kevin Kinser, head of the education policy studies department at Pennsylvania State University, said at an Inside Higher Ed-organized event, Global Higher Ed in Changing Times, Tuesday. “There are a lot of people who disagree with that assumption, that presumption.”

“I’m an optimist going through a very pessimistic phase right now,” Kinser continued. “I’m not sure the idea of internationalization resonates with as broad a population as I thought.”

One theme that emerged Tuesday was the growing divide between haves and have-nots as international student enrollments have fallen at some institutions and increased at others.

Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor to the president at the Institute of International Education, presented data from the latest annual Open Doors report that found a 6.6 percent decline in new international students at American colleges in fall 2017.

A separate survey of about 500 colleges IIE conducted in fall 2018 with nine other higher education associations found a continuing 2 percent decline in international students at U.S. institutions. However, enrollment trends varied across institutions, with about half of colleges reporting declines and the other half reporting increases or flat international enrollments. Associate and master’s-level institutions, less selective institutions, and colleges in the Midwest reported the steepest declines, while research universities reported increases in international students.

The top three factors survey respondents cited for the declines were the visa application process or visa delays or denials (cited by 83 percent of respondents), the social and political environment in the U.S. (60 percent cited this), and competition from institutions in other countries (59 percent). The top three factors cited for increases were more active recruitment efforts (58 percent), growing reputation and visibility abroad (48 percent), and more active outreach to admitted students (47 percent).

Rahul Choudaha, executive vice president of global engagement and research for the online recruitment platform Studyportals, highlighted in his talk what he has characterized as three waves of international student mobility, with the third and current wave “triggered by the political climate we are in.”

“This couldn’t have come at a worse time,” Choudaha said, referencing stagnating demand from China, the scaling back of a massive Saudi government scholarship program and the price sensitivity of students from India. “This is the first time, actually, we can’t let international student recruitment be on autopilot riding on the wave of demand growth from China, Saudi Arabia or any other country. This is our time to seize control. It won’t happen by itself anymore.”

As far as recruitment solutions go, Choudaha proposed an acronym, HOPE, with the “H” standing for higher value institutions can offer students -- as in the case of Eastern Michigan University, which reduced tuition for international students to the in-state rate, the “O” standing for outreach, the “P” for partnerships with third-party providers and other entities, and the “E” for investments institutions make in improving the experience of international students so they will return to their home countries as solid “brand ambassadors” for the institution.

Jill Welch, deputy executive director for public policy at NAFSA: Association of International Educators, said she would add another "P" to the discussion -- the political. Advocates for international education have been deeply concerned by some of the visa and immigration policies pursued by the Trump administration, including changes to how “unlawful presence” is calculated for international students, new restrictions on the duration of visas for Chinese nationals studying for advanced degrees in certain high-tech fields and the travel ban, which continues to restrict entry to the U.S. for nationals of multiple Muslim-majority countries.

The Trump administration has also signaled its intent to at some point overhaul programs that let international students stay in the U.S. to work after graduation, and at one point reportedly considered a proposal to ban students from China from coming to the U.S. altogether.

“What we need to understand is perception is reality,” Welch said. “When this administration even floats an idea that would make us less [welcoming] to international students, other countries are able to highlight immediately their certainty and their policies, and it creates a ripple effect around the world about how the U.S. is viewed.”

While the U.S. has seen falling new international enrollments, other competitor countries -- including Canada -- are reporting significant growth. Anne-Marie Vaughan, the president of Loyalist College, an institution in Ontario about two hours outside Toronto, said the percentage of international students at her institution grew from 3 to 30 percent in three years, as the number of international students jumped from about 85 to 1,000. The growth has come primarily in students from India, many of whom already have degrees and are coming to do postgraduate diplomas with an eye toward staying to work in Canada. Vaughan said Loyalist has more applications from international students now -- 4,000 -- than the college has students.

Nor is Loyalist an outlier. "I don’t think there’s a single college within our province that hasn’t seen a pretty robust growth in international students over the past five years," Linda Franklin, the president and CEO of Colleges Ontario, said in a follow-up phone interview.

Franklin said one driving factor "is Canada simply has a great reputation for postsecondary education. The other one is that Canada is still seen as immigrant-friendly and our immigration policies actually welcome foreign students, who, if they complete education in a public postsecondary institution, have a relatively straightforward path to work permits." Franklin said two immigration policy changes in particular -- streamlining of the visa approval processes for Indian students, and changes to the Express Entry immigration system to give an advantage to graduates of Canadian higher education institutions when they apply for permanent residency -- have been key to driving the increases.

Tuesday’s event on global higher education in changing times did not focus solely on international student enrollment trends. College leaders speaking at the event highlighted their institutions' internationalization activities more broadly. Joseph Aoun, the president of Northeastern University -- which has the third-largest international enrollment of any university in the U.S. -- discussed Northeastern’s development of campuses in Toronto and Vancouver and its planned acquisition of the New College of the Humanities in London. Northeastern students go to countries around the world to complete internships through the university’s signature co-op program.

“The notion of cultural agility, the notion of global ease and global proficiency are important,” Aoun said. “We did surveys of employers -- employers are very interested in this aspect. They want students who are global, who have global experiences, not an academic touristic experience.”

For all the focus on the global, presidents also emphasized the importance of outreach to their local communities. "The community needs to understand why you exist," said Ahmad M. Hasnah, the president of Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar. "You need to find that your program, your research is really able to impact them. I think they need to feel that impact."

And while much of the event focused on the importance of internationalization, a panel discussion Tuesday afternoon highlighted the complexities of working in parts of the world where human rights are not respected.

Cornell University's labor college recently withdrew from a partnership with Renmin University of China over academic freedom concerns, and many colleges were prompted to re-evaluate their ties to Saudi Arabia after the killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Turkey in a crime that the Central Intelligence Agency has determined was ordered by the Saudi crown prince. (One of those universities prompted to review its Saudi ties, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, subsequently issued a report recommending that the institute keep its Saudi relationships.)

Liz Reisberg, an independent consultant in higher education and research fellow at the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, has written for Inside Higher Ed's "WorldViews" blog, which she edits, about her choice to continue working on a project with the Saudi Ministry of Education after the killing of Khashoggi.

"The Saudi project has been difficult for me, and in the process of soul-searching, I really had to think about what internationalization is. As institutions we have to make a choice: Are we going to isolate ourselves, are we only going to collaborate and mix with countries that share our values -- and good luck finding those countries -- or are we going to try to understand different worldviews?" Reisberg asked during the panel session on human rights and international higher education.

Rowena Xiaoqing He, a scholar with the Institute for Advanced Study who has written about the experience of pro-democracy activists who were exiled from China after the Tiananmen Square massacre, said she wouldn't want to recommend that colleges cut off contact. But she said that administrators have a responsibility and that before they set up campuses in certain parts of the world they should "think twice and then ask, 'Can we make sure that we have the intellectual freedom?'"

They should ask, “Why are we doing this, what’s the point of us doing this?” He asked. And if they can't guarantee intellectual freedom, "we should think twice, because we are not helping our students and we are harming our universities in the long run."

GlobalEditorial Tags: International higher educationForeign Students in U.S.Study abroadU.S. Campuses AbroadImage Caption: A panel at Tuesday's conference, with (from left) Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik, Penn State's Kevin Kinser, Dickinson College's Margee Ensign and Ahmad M. Hasnah of Hamad Bin Khalifa University, in Qatar. Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
Categories: Higher Education News

After student death, University of Maryland deep cleans dorm rooms

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 10, 2019 - 7:00pm

A viral outbreak at the University of Maryland, College Park, campus that resulted in the death of a student has prompted university officials to disinfect every residence hall while most students are away for winter break, a laborious effort far beyond a typical cleaning.

This deep clean, which began Monday, coincides with questions of whether mold either caused or exacerbated student illnesses, though the university said that there is no connection between the adenovirus and mold exposure.

Administrators have confirmed at least 40 cases of adenovirus with campus health professionals or outside physicians as of Tuesday.

Adenoviruses are prevalent year-round and usually are the cause of common colds. But tests conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show at least 10 College Park students contracted a strain, adenovirus 7, that causes much more severe sickness. University health centers typically don't test for adenovirus because it is so common, and College Park officials weren’t aware that the virulent strain was spreading until a student died in November.

Olivia Paregol, 18, died from pneumonia, an adenovirus-related illness. Paregol, a first-year student, lived in Elkton Hall, where mold was so severe that students were forced to evacuate to hotels this fall. The death of Paregol, who suffered from Crohn's disease and a compromised immune system, led to concerns about whether the mold was to blame.

University officials said students who live off campus have contracted adenovirus and that the CDC told them that “it is not aware of evidence to suggest an increased risk of adenovirus infection associated with exposure to molds,” university spokeswoman Katie Lawson said in an email. David McBride, the university’s health center director, told The Washington Post that the institution hadn’t been able to pin down a pattern of who has contracted the virus, but there wasn’t a “consistent connection” between students who lived in Elkton and those with adenovirus. Students there had contracted the virus, but cases were also scattered in residence halls across campus.

One student was hospitalized from an infection in December, according to a university statement. At least eight students had been admitted to the hospital at some point due to the virus.

CDC representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

Adenovirus usually “flies under the radar,” said Michael Deichen, executive director of student health services at the University of Central Florida and chairman of the American College Health Association’s Emerging Public Health Threats and Emergency Response Coalition.

Most people who contract adenovirus are unaware they have it and simply get better, Deichen said. But he said the type of outbreak that occurred at College Park tends to be more common in nursing homes, where residents live in closer quarters and typically aren’t as healthy as undergraduates. He said he was unaware of another campus that experienced an outbreak like the one at College Park.

At least 11 children with weakened immune systems and other medical issues have died in connection with adenovirus outbreak at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in New Jersey as of November, and 23 other children at the center became sick.

Deichen urged campuses to follow “non-pharmaceutical methods” -- actions students and staffers can take in lieu of a vaccine -- to lower their chances of catching the virus. Among them: consistent hand-washing, covering coughs and cleaning their rooms. The College Park provost has advised faculty members at least twice to accommodate students who have been sick to make sure they’re not coming into the classroom and infecting others.

Contractors or university workers are entering almost every residential room on campus to disinfect anything that is frequently touched, such as doorknobs, desk and dresser tops, drawer fronts, countertops, light switches, faucets, and bed frames. This usually happens during the academic break in the public areas of residence halls, but the university escalated its efforts in an attempt to eradicate the virus.

The university first received word from a local hospital about a student being infected in November. Around that time, officials had started their usual campaign around cold and flu season for prevention methods. Once the outbreak was more visible, they began working with Maryland’s Department of Health and the Prince George’s County Health Department. Those agencies also contacted the CDC to confirm that mold wasn’t causing the virus, and were provided documents to that effect, which they shared with College Park officials. But those papers haven’t been made public.

College Park also plans to improve air-conditioning and ventilation in Elkton and another residence hall to fix the mold problem. An investigation of the two buildings found that the air-conditioning system wasn’t equipped to control humidity inside, a problem compounded by a season of extreme temperatures.

Outbreaks of other serious illnesses on campus are not unusual, particularly meningitis. Campuses in the eastern U.S. recently have experienced outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease, which causes fever, sore throat and a rash. Johns Hopkins University had at least 120 cases of the viral infection in October, and Lehigh University reported more than 100.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 10, 2019 - 7:00pm
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Categories: Higher Education News

Colleges move to close Chinese government-funded Confucius Institutes amid increasing scrutiny

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 9, 2019 - 7:00pm

At least 10 American universities have moved to close their Confucius Institutes in the past year as political pressures over the Chinese government-funded institutions for language and culture education have intensified.

The Confucius Institutes have long been controversial. The centers vary somewhat across different campuses, but they typically offer some combination of Mandarin language classes, cultural programming and outreach to K-12 schools and the community more broadly. They are staffed in part with visiting teachers from China and funded by the Chinese government, with matching resources provided by the host institution. The number of U.S. universities hosting the institutes increased rapidly after the first was established at the University of Maryland College Park in 2004, growing to more than 90 at the peak.

In earlier years the main criticism of CIs, as the institutions are known, came from professors and centered on concerns about academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Concerns about the importation of Chinese state censorship -- as in the case of the reported censorship of materials at a Confucius Institute-sponsored conference in Europe in 2014 -- dominated the conversation. Emblematic of this strain of criticism, the American Association of University Professors issued a report in 2014 urging colleges to close their CIs or renegotiate the agreement to ensure academic freedom and control. The AAUP report asserted, "Most agreements establishing Confucius Institutes feature nondisclosure clauses and unacceptable concessions to the political aims and practices of the government of China. Specifically, North American universities permit Confucius Institutes to advance a state agenda in the recruitment and control of academic staff, in the choice of curriculum, and in the restriction of debate."

Largely the concerns of the professors were ignored by institutions, which continued existing institutes or started new ones up. But over the last year and half, the locus of the debate over Confucius Institutes has shifted from academe to the political sphere as the CIs became tied up in a larger narrative in Washington about Chinese government-influenced activities and espionage-related threats on American campuses.

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Christopher Wray, told a Senate panel last February that the FBI was concerned about the institutes. The most prominent critics of the CIs in Washington -- U.S. senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas -- have come from the Republican Party, but Democrats have also raised concerns, as in the case of U.S. representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, who has called on Tufts University and the University of Massachusetts Boston to close their CIs.

Some universities have closed the institutes in direct response to concerns voiced by lawmakers. This was true in the case of Texas A&M University, which promptly announced the closure of institutes on two of the system's campuses last April after two Texas congressmen called for them to be shuttered, characterizing the Confucius Institutes as a “threat to our nation’s security by serving as a platform for China’s intelligence collection and political agenda.”

Other universities that have moved to close their Confucius Institutes over the past year cite various reasons related to changing strategies, low enrollments in Chinese language classes or budgetary constraints. University leaders have also expressed concerns about the implications of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law last August, which prohibits the Defense Department from funding Chinese language programs at institutions that host Confucius Institutes except in cases in which the institutions have obtained a waiver. At least one institution -- the University of Rhode Island -- has opted to close its Confucius Institute so as not to jeopardize funding for its Defense Department-funded Chinese Language Flagship program.

Marshall Sahlins, the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Chicago and the author of Confucius Institutes: Academic Malware (Prickly Paradigm Press, 2015), a book critical of CIs, said he thinks the main reason for the closures is “pressure from the American right, including the National Association of Scholars [which issued a critical report of CIs in 2017], as well as lawmakers, and from security agencies of the U.S., notably the FBI: a coalition of political forces responding distantly to the developing Cold War with China -- raising even older terrors such as Communism and the Yellow Peril -- and proximately to drumbeat rumors that CIs are centers of espionage. Those that give other, face-saving reasons are probably protecting their academic cum financial relations to China, such their intake of tuition-paying mainland students.”

“Apparently the tide is beginning to turn, though for the wrong reasons,” Sahlins said. “As I said in my Inside Higher Ed op-ed last year, we are now in a pick-your-poison, lose-lose situation: either keep the CIs or allow the U.S. government to interfere in the curriculum -- mimicking the Chinese [Communist] Party-State.”

Gao Qing, the executive director of the Confucius Institute U.S. Center, said misinformation about the CIs “has complicated both the public’s understanding of the issues and the universities’ responses” to the growing political pressures.” The CIs, he said, represent partnerships between American universities and Chinese universities “established for the mutual benefit of joint educational and cultural exchange.”

Gao said they are directed by a faculty or staff member appointed by the host institution with the help of an associate director from the Chinese partner university. "Individual CIs’ curriculum are built and evaluated by their American host universities with complete autonomy," he said. "CIs adhere to the same principles of governance and academic freedom applicable to all institutes and departments in the university. The Chinese instructors sent from Chinese partner universities are invited, vetted, and supervised by American host institutions as visiting scholars."

“In the past year, we have seen growing pressures and allegations on Confucius Institutes and their host universities based on those misunderstandings and misinformation but not valid evidence,” Gao said.

Pressure From Washington

In Florida, three of the four colleges and universities that host Confucius Institutes -- the Universities of North, West and South Florida -- have announced closures of their institutes since their home state senator, Rubio, sent a letter urging them to do so last February (the fourth, Miami Dade College, confirmed that its CI is still operating and that there has been no change to its status). West Florida -- which said it made its decision to close its CI prior to receiving Rubio's letter -- cited inadequate student interest in the institute's programs. North Florida said only that a review found the classes and events offered by the CI “weren’t aligned” with the mission and goals of the university.

South Florida shuttered its Confucius Institute at the end of the calendar year, having undertaken an internal audit after receiving Rubio’s letter. “One thing that was very clear right away was that our CI was being run appropriately, that we had appropriate methods in place to maintain the integrity of the work, and that we felt our Confucius Institute, which this year is 10 years old, was doing what was asked of it. In a way that was the problem,” said Roger Brindley, the vice president for USF World.

Brindley pointed to a couple of main reasons for closing the CI: first, he said it had become clear that the CI’s focus on Chinese language teaching was out of step with USF’s increasing research-focused orientation. Second, he said, enrollments of USF students in Mandarin courses had fallen, from 191 in fall 2013 to 65 this past fall: “We’ve got some work to do there,” he said. “We’d like to see a robust Mandarin language program at USF, but it does mean that the Confucius Institute teachers who were coming over to us from our partner institution, it was problematic how we used them effectively.”

But while Brindley said issues of mission and enrollments were paramount to the decision, he acknowledged that the scrutiny CIs are coming under was a factor. “There are two things we won’t deny,” he said. “The first is that we can’t speak for the other 100 CIs in the United States -- we did a vigorous audit of our CI -- but if there is behavior going on elsewhere in the United States that could fall foul of federal law, frankly we did not want to be associated with that.”

"The other piece of course that we don’t deny is the National Defense Authorization Act. As a research-intensive university, we're concerned [about that]. It’s not necessarily clear what the implications are of the provision that limits federal funding to colleges with Chinese ties."

USF doesn't have a Defense Department-funded Chinese Language Flagship program, but others who host both a Flagship program and a CI may be forced to choose between them if they can't obtain a waiver under the terms of the act. A University of Rhode Island spokeswoman said in a statement that after a review of the law, “we determined there are too many challenges to overcome in order to renew the agreement with the Confucius Institute” and that it would dissolve the CI before May 31.

“We have learned that continuing with the Confucius Institute could jeopardize federal funding for the university’s Chinese Language Flagship Program, which is a highly successful language academic program funded by the U.S. Department of Defense,” the Rhode Island statement said.

Several other institutions with both Chinese Language Flagship programs and Confucius Institutes -- Arizona State, San Francisco State and Western Kentucky Universities and the Universities of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and Oregon -- told Inside Higher Ed they have applied for waivers to allow them to keep both programs.

A Defense Department spokeswoman said that all institutions that host Defense-funded National Security Education programs in Chinese and a Confucius Institute have been given the opportunity to submit requests for waivers in order to be eligible for funding for the current fiscal year. She said the requests are currently under review.

Other Closures

Other institutions that have announced closures of Confucius Institutes within the last 12 months include the Universities of Iowa, Michigan at Ann Arbor and Minnesota at Twin Cities and North Carolina State University. In addition to these institutions, Tufts University has charged a committee with reviewing its CI, and a decision on whether to renew the CI agreement when it expires in June has not been made yet pending receipt of the committee’s recommendations.

The recently announced closures follow on closures of the CIs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in 2017; Pennsylvania State University, in 2014; and the University of Chicago, where more than 100 faculty members had signed a petition calling for the closure in 2014. North of the border, in Ontario, McMaster University closed its CI in 2013 after a visiting instructor from China claimed the university was “giving legitimization to discrimination” because her contract with Hanban -- the Chinese government entity that sponsors the institutes -- prohibited her participation in the religious organization Falun Gong.

Of the recent closures, Iowa announced last summer it would close the CI along with six other centers on campus as a budget-reducing move in response to state funding cuts. Downing A. Thomas, the associate provost and dean for international programs at Iowa, said the decision to close the CI upon the expiration of the contract this July was “entirely a budgetary one. It stems from the generational disinvestment in public higher education that we are experiencing in Iowa, and is no way a reflection on the value of the outreach programs in language and culture that our Confucius Institute has conducted over many years.”

The institute at Minnesota’s campus, which will close at the end of the academic year, focuses heavily on K-12 outreach, working with a network of slightly more than a dozen “Confucius classrooms” in K-12 schools across the state. Meredith McQuaid, the associate vice president and dean for global programs and strategy alliance, said that over the CI’s 10-year history it received about $3 million in funding from the Chinese government and that the university contributed about $2 million.

McQuaid said that after 10 years, now was a good time to re-evaluate the CI and see if resources could be invested elsewhere. Minnesota is one of a handful of schools that has both a CI and a Defense-funded Chinese Language Flagship program, and McQuaid said that while that the National Defense Authorization Act was “a factor” in the decision to close the CI, “it wasn’t the factor.”

“Our Confucius Institute was dedicated to the K-12 community, and over the course of 10 years we have introduced Chinese language and culture through CI programs that have now become part of the fabric of the schools,” she said. “They have had Chinese language teachers and now know themselves if it’s important enough to hire their own or if they want to share with another district.”

“In a time of limited resources at every university campus, can we use the resources we have invested in a K-12 strategy in a different way?” McQuaid asked, “recognizing that the schools have benefited greatly over the past 10 years.”

At Michigan, the CI has a very different focus, focusing on Chinese visual and performing arts rather than language teaching. James Paul Holloway, Michigan’s vice provost for global engagement and interdisciplinary academic affairs, said the decision not to renew the contract for the CI when it expires this year was driven by a desire to bring Chinese arts programming into the university’s regular academic units. The decision means the university will forfeit about $300,000 annually in Chinese government funding -- which it matched with its own $300,000 -- but Holloway said that while the funds were greatly appreciated, “in the context of the University of Michigan as a whole, that is not an amount of money that determines whether we can or can’t do something.”

“The Confucius Institute here was never meant to be forever -- it’s a series of five-year agreements -- and we really wanted to use the Confucius Institute and the support the Chinese government was providing to foster and grow the interest on our campus in the study of Chinese visual and performing arts,” Holloway said. “We’re at a point now where if we want our regular academic units to continue our engagement and that interest, they in some sense need to regularize it; they need to decide as part of their regular academic work that they’re going to pursue that.”

A spokeswoman for North Carolina State University, which will close its CI at the end of June, referred Inside Higher Ed to a written statement about the closure and to the provost’s comments in a Raleigh News & Observer article. “What we really wanted to do was develop a China/Asia strategy that was independent, that was not funded by the Chinese government, that was consistent with our strategy in other areas of the world, and refocus on our core mission of opening opportunities for our faculty and our students,” North Carolina State’s provost, Warwick Arden, told the News & Observer.

Some have praised universities for forgoing the Chinese government funding, which they say has come at an unacceptable cost. “Now, colleges and universities are waking up to the fact that they may have permitted the Chinese government to purchase a piece of their curriculum -- or at least they realize the political winds have shifted and it is no longer convenient to advertise such a cozy relationship with the Chinese government,” Rachelle Peterson, the author of the National Association of Scholars report critical of CIs, wrote in an article about the North Carolina State closure.

Others lament the loss of a major source of funding for Chinese language instruction and cultural programming at a time when such resources are hard to find.

“To me, it’s a big loss to faculty and students,” said DeYu Xie, a professor of plant and microbial biology at North Carolina State and a member of the CI advisory board there. The 2018 annual report from North Carolina State’s CI estimates that the institute has served more than 35,000 individuals, including more than 12,000 NC State students, with Chinese language courses, and that more than 920,000 people have attended Chinese cultural events over the institute’s 12-year history.

Ryan Allen, an assistant professor of educational studies at Chapman University, said that even absent the political pressures, he would expect to see some CIs closing. “They expanded so fast and so quickly that it’s almost like throw everything at a wall and see what sticks -- of course some of things are going to fall down,” he said.

Political pressures aside, Allen, who did his master’s thesis research on the CIs, said for years there have been questions about the long-term financial sustainability of the CI model, which depends on matching resources from the host institutions. He emphasized that political and financial pressures on the institutes can be interconnected.

“Go to an administrator, or go to a university president, or anyone dealing with their budget and say we have to dedicate any money at all, just a little bit, it doesn’t matter, to this Confucius Institute,” Allen said.

“‘What -- those things that I see on TV that Marco Rubio is criticizing?’” Allen imagined the administrator asking.

“‘Yeah, those things.’”

“So, what is the question,” Allen continued, of the hypothetical administrator’s reaction. “That’s the first thing to go. It’s not necessarily, ‘Oh, I’m listening to Marco Rubio’; it’s ‘this made the decision much easier.’ If there’s any kind of criticism, well, there are already issues with budgets, things are already tight, spaces on campus [are] tight, administrators’ time is tight, professors are already teaching as many classes as they can, there aren’t really that many students taking these classes. It’s an easy answer what gets cut first.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

A year after tax law changes, new guidance still rolling out for colleges

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 9, 2019 - 7:00pm

When President Trump at the end of 2017 signed a Republican-backed tax-reform package into law that included significant changes for colleges and universities, higher ed leaders were left waiting for answers.

They wondered about rules for calculating a new tax on endowments. They sought guidance regarding a tax on parking and transportation benefits for employees. Questions circulated about a new tax on highly compensated nonprofit employees that had drawn criticism while the tax law was still being drafted.

And leaders also wondered about the tax law’s effects on human behavior. For instance, how would an increase in the standard deduction affect donor behavior? Would alumni newly covered by the larger standard deduction be less likely to give to colleges and universities because they wouldn’t be itemizing their taxes?

About a year later, some answers have become clearer, while others remain clear as mud -- and still others can be addressed by mucking around with pages of guidance from the Internal Revenue Service.

The Treasury Department and IRS have been rolling out interim guidance giving colleges an idea of how to handle technical issues like how to group separate lines of business subject to a new unrelated business income tax or how to handle parking and transportation benefits subject to taxation.

Broadly, experts say the guidance is in many cases helpful, even though it hasn't addressed every question raised. So it is possible today to take stock of key developments on tax reform issues that captured attention.

The guidance issued so far could also prompt some interesting behavior and unexpected effects. For instance, don’t be surprised if some colleges pull up signs designating parking spots for employees or redraw the lines in lots in order to dodge the parking tax.

In some cases, though, college leaders still have little choice but to wait for more information.

“It’s still early days,” said David Shapiro, a partner and tax chair at the law firm Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr in Philadelphia. “We won’t really see how it shakes out until we’re through at least one fiscal year.”

Below are brief discussions about some of the major tax reform issues and how they have changed over the last year.

Excise Tax on High Compensation

As 2018 ticked toward its close, new interim guidance came out on a 21 percent excise tax that tax-exempt entities and their related organizations must pay on employee compensation of more than $1 million, spelling out what wages and benefits count toward the tax trigger. Experts are still digesting the guidance but flagged some notable developments.

Related organizations share the costs of an excise tax. So if a university and its foundation both pay a president who earns more than $1 million, they would each pay some tax.

An example given in the guidance document has one organization paying an employee $1.2 million, or 60 percent of his or her total compensation, and another paying $800,000, or 40 percent of total compensation. The total excise tax would be $210,000, or 21 percent of the compensation in excess of the $1 million tax trigger. The first organization would pay 60 percent of the tax bill and the second would pay 40 percent.

That’s important because highly paid university employees sometimes receive compensation from more than one related entity. Think, for instance, of football coaches.

“It’s not always the university president who’s going to be affected here,” said James Finkelstein, a professor emeritus of public policy at George Mason University who studies presidential compensation. “It may be the vice president of the medical center or the dean of the medical school. It could be the athletic director or football coach or basketball coach.”

The new guidance also spells out that licensed medical professionals’ compensation is not subject to the excise tax when it covers “direct performance” of medical services, nursing services or veterinary services. But compensation for other duties they perform, like administrative, research, teaching and management duties, generally is subject to the tax.

Some public colleges and universities have been recognized as 501(c)3 organizations, and some have not. Those not set up as 501(c)3s are not subject to the excise tax on compensation, and those that do have 501(c)3 status may relinquish it so the tax does not cover them.

“My guess is you’re going to have public institutions that have at some time in the past elected to get their 501(c)3 status get rid of it,” said Dan Romano, partner in charge of tax services, not-for-profit and higher education at the consulting firm Grant Thornton.

But 501(c)3 status comes with some benefits for institutions. For instance, giving money to a college from a donor-advised fund is easy to do if the institution has the status and is listed in the IRS master file. It’s harder and requires more due diligence for others.

Also of interest, it appears institutions will need to track their five highest-paid employees regardless of whether they owe one cent under the excise tax on compensation -- and they will need to continue tracking those employees, plus anyone who displaces them in the top five, into the future. “Those employees continue [to] be covered employees in all future years and may be paid excess remuneration or excess parachute payments in a future year,” according to the guidance.

The excise tax could leave some institutions with an unexpected tax bill for employees who receive “parachute payments” when they are terminated, experts say. Some also take issue with the fact that the tax allows for no grandfathering of employee contracts signed before it was passed into law. It is hard to plan for possible future tax payments when you don't know the rules under which those payments will be due, they point out.

Many think the excise tax will become just another cost of doing business, though. It will be folded into the already high cost of hiring top employees, along with search fees, salaries and benefits packages.

Parking and Transportation Benefits

Also in December, interim guidance addressed some key questions about parking and transportation benefits and costs that are being taxed as unrelated business income. Taxed parking benefits have received particular attention after reports emerged last year that churches and other tax-exempt organizations would have to pay a 21 percent tax on such fringe benefits to employees.

Notable among the new guidance were steps employers can use toward measuring employee parking expenses at lots colleges and universities own or lease. The first is determining the number of spots reserved for employees as a percentage of total parking spaces, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers. That percentage is considered for unrelated business income that is taxable.

The second step is to count the remaining spots. If more than half of spots can be used by the public, none of the parking facility's expenses are taxable income. The third step is to count spots reserved for customers and other nonemployees, which are also not taxable.

Finally, spots left over after the first three steps must be checked for “employee use during normal business hours on a normal day.”

Employers with reserved employee spots still have time to remove them before the tax kicks in. They have until March 31 of this year to remove the reservation and have the change be retroactive until Jan. 1 of 2018.

Experts hope Congress will pass legislation removing the parking tax entirely. In the meantime, they say institutions are likely to take action to avoid having to pay the tax at all. Some have joked that colleges will redraw lot lines to add more spaces.

“In the university world, unless it’s a small institution with a limited number of students, they should have ample spots to prove it’s primarily for student and other use,” Romano said. “It may be a matter of them doing away with reserved parking.”

NACUBO noted in December, however, that the guidance didn’t address transit benefits.

Endowment Tax

The so-called endowment tax, a 1.4 percent excise tax on net investment income at private colleges and universities with at least 500 tuition-paying students and assets of at least $500,000 per student, has generated intense pushback, particularly from the wealthy colleges most likely to have to pay it.

No one is quite sure yet how many institutions will have to pay. Estimates anticipate dozens in early years. But the tax kicks in on the first tax year that starts after Jan. 1, 2018.

“For most colleges and universities, that will be the year ending in June 2019,” said Mary Bachinger, NACUBO’s director of tax policy, in an email. Colleges and universities are in the middle of that year now.

Guidance and draft tax forms have given experts more insight into the nuts and bolts of how net assets will be measured and how the tax will be calculated. Broadly speaking, calculating assets seems to be in line with rules for private foundations, Romano said.

Colleges and universities could need to track the starting value of assets they are given. That could cause headaches and change behavior.

“If the donor doesn’t know what their basis was, that’s hard for the university,” said Alexander Reid, a partner at the law firm Morgan Lewis. “If it’s really a low-basis, high-value stock, the university is going to want to say, ‘Why don’t you give that to a donor-advised fund not subject to this tax?’ And then they’ll sell it and they don’t have to pay this tax.”

Opportunity Zones

Opportunity zones are one part of the tax law receiving plenty of attention in the business world, but not necessarily from higher education leaders.

That's because the zones are intended as an economic development tool focused on investors. They seek to attract private capital by offering significant tax benefits to those who put money into partnerships or corporations investing in the zones.

The zones have received plenty of criticism as giveaways to the wealthy or for being set up in areas that are already growing, instead of the distressed communities in need of a boost. But the fact remains that they have been set up in parts of all 50 states, and some zones could be of interest to universities.

“It’s not university specific, but there has been this trend where universities aren’t necessarily developing the areas around their campuses by themselves,” said Shapiro, at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr. “They’re looking to outside funding, and a lot of universities are in or adjacent to opportunity zones. In terms of building additional student housing, expansion of research facilities and things like that, we are seeing a lot of interest around developing opportunity zone financing.”

Colleges or universities looking to take advantage of an opportunity zone wouldn't be receiving the financial benefits directly. They'd have to set up another entity to develop the property and attract investors, who would then receive the financial benefits. But doing so could attract sources of capital for a college-supported project that would have otherwise been harder to finance.

“This is really about attracting investment from the taxpaying public,” Shapiro said. “The value to the university is in their ability to attract private capital to make the investment.”

The zones won't likely allow colleges and universities to take a bad project and make it good, he added. Instead, they'll make decent projects more attractive.

Human Behavior

Donor behavior remains hard to predict. December is considered the most important month for fund-raising in part because it is at the end of donors' tax years. With the month so recently closed, no one is quite sure how last year shaped up yet.

“The verdict’s not in,” said Peter Lake, chair and director at the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University. “This year is the real test year to see what might happen.”

Even after that's known, few expect to be able to say for certain how the new tax laws will warp donor behavior in the long run. Donors could tweak their plans in the future after they've evaluated the tax returns they will file by April.

“Until people start to do their tax returns and until you get a year under the new law, it’s probably a little early to draw direct dollars-and-cents effects,” said Marc Berger, national director for nonprofit tax services at BDO, a tax and financial advisory firm.

Confounding variables will also make it hard to draw a direct line between donor decisions and the tax law. Stocks' volatility to close 2018 and open the new year likely set on edge some donors who had been feeling flush during the bull market.

“The psychological impact of what is turning out to be extreme market volatility in the month of December, when people have their checkbooks out -- at the margin, it’s going to have an effect,” said Debashis Chowdhury, president of Canterbury Consulting, an investment advising firm for endowments, foundations, health care organizations and families. “If one is not feeling as wealthy as one did in, say, September, it’s likely to have a negative impact. So there’s a lot of small cuts.”

Fragile sentiment extends to college and university investment committees, he said. They are worried about both volatility and regulatory uncertainty.

The tendency is then for leaders to become paralyzed or hunker down. Canterbury's higher ed clients are small- to middle-market institutions. So the uncertainty is often an additional concern on top of mounting enrollment pressure.

If major donations stopped flowing, it could become a big problem for some institutions. Some are skeptical that the wealthiest donors will stop giving because of the new tax laws, though. They weren't taking the standard deduction before, and they still aren't taking it.

“At the higher end, the law is the same for everybody,” said Paul Roy, who is counsel to the private client and tax teams at the international law firm Withers. “The client that is $50 million or $100 million in net worth, they’re not really worried about this sort of adjusted gross income limit on deductions.”

On the margins, someone who is well-off but not wealthy is likely still interested in the tax benefits in question and may be affected by the increased standard deduction. Still, strategies are emerging that could give such donors tax benefits, like bunching their donations so they give larger sums of money less frequently than they had before.

“In the last year, there’s been a lot of creative thinking going on within the development department, the athletic department and the lawyers trying to deal with these new requirements,” said Julie Miceli, a partner with the law firm Husch Blackwell’s higher education group and former deputy general counsel for higher education and federal student aid at the U.S. Department of Education. “But it’s just been a year now of trying to get their brains wrapped around them.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

In learning styles debate, it's instructors vs. psychologists

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 9, 2019 - 7:00pm

A couple of years ago, the science writer Ulrich Boser wondered: Do educators still believe in learning styles?

The idea that some students are auditory learners, while others flourish by having information presented visually, through motion or otherwise is nearly a century old. It grew in popularity in the 1950s, then again in the 1970s, but for much of the past decade scientists have warned that it has little merit.

Boser, founder of the Learning Agency, a Washington consulting and communications group, had long followed the field. He was researching a book about learning strategies and knew that scientists had debunked learning styles, most notably in a widely discussed 2009 paper -- in it, they said building instruction around the concept was an “unwise and a wasteful use of limited resources.”

So he set up a Google alert for the term. He found that, far from being dead, learning styles were perhaps as popular as ever. “It is incredible how much it pops up,” he said recently.

Educators continue to invoke the idea, he said. Last October, as she embarked on a four-state “Rethink School” tour, U.S. education secretary Betsy DeVos said she planned to visit schools that are “working to ensure all children can have access to the education that fits their learning style.” During her 2017 confirmation hearing, DeVos thanked Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, for displaying a chart in the hearing room that she could refer to during testimony, calling herself "a visual learner" -- despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Education has discouraged the idea. It even funded a teachers' guide that warns, "Education research debunks the myth that teaching students in their preferred styles (e.g. 'visual learners,' 'auditory learners') is an effective classroom practice."

But interviews suggest that the two sides these days may be closer than they seem: even learning-styles devotees, who view the "debunkers" with suspicion, are beginning to consider teaching strategies that learning-styles critics would support.

Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at Barnard College who wrote about the topic last month for Scientific American, calls learning styles an example of a "neuromythology" -- a popular idea that endures despite little evidence supporting it. This particular myth, he said, “is paved with good intentions, but that still doesn't mean it can't be harmful to students.”

Kaufman wrote that, paradoxically, catering to learning styles in the classroom “can actually foster a fixed mind-set, not a growth mind-set. This should create quite the cognitive dissonance for teachers who generally love both growth mind-set theory and learning styles.”

Even the mock-newspaper humor site The Onion has lampooned learning styles, publishing a satirical article in 2000 with the headline, "Parents Of Nasal Learners Demand Odor-Based Curriculum." Accompanying the piece was a photo of a forlorn girl, identified as a "nasal" learner, struggling to understand an "odorless" textbook.

Despite The Onion's coverage, the styles are generally defined by three -- in some cases four -- adjectives: visual, aural or auditory, “read-write” (a preference for writing and reviewing carefully produced notes) and kinesthetic (a preference for moving around). The quartet are sometimes referred to as VARK.

A recent posting on Kansas State University’s Division of Biology website reminded students: “You like this page because the emphasis is on words and lists. You believe the meanings are within the words, so the talk was OK, but a handout is better.” It also advised kinesthetic learners, “Use all your senses to take in the information in the studio classroom. Volunteer for demonstrations or to answer questions using the visual presenter at the podium. Be active in setting up the experiments at your table (e.g. pipetting the solutions into the tubes, finding the cells in the microscope). Pay close attention to the demonstrations (e.g., pH, respiration, relative size of organelles) and go up and examine these when you have time during class.”

The department advises students to complete a VARK questionnaire, developed in 1987 by a New Zealand researcher named Neil Fleming, who says on his website that he works not just with schools but with "elite sports coaches" and business clients.

In an email, Robbie Bear, a Kansas State biology instructor, said the department offers students who take introductory coursework "the ability to assess their learning using the VARK test. However, we do not put much emphasis on the students completing it."

Bear said the department is in the process of updating its website "to better reflect how the VARK relates to our teaching philosophy. Our basic philosophy is [that] if one way of presenting material does not work, try another. Once you have an understanding of the material in one format, try to understand it in a different format. In short, the best learners are multimodal thinkers."

Bear said the department uses VARK "because a good number of our students have seen this terminology before." That helps inform students as to "why we present information in many different formats and not just the traditional lecture. Getting students to 'buy in to' the studio format of learning is very important in making it all work effectively." Though he has no data on whether this helps student performance, in general, he said, students who take the introductory course -- which asks them to consider learning styles -- score "about a letter grade higher" in upper-level courses than those who transfer in.

But Daniel Willingham, a cognitive psychologist and professor at the University of Virginia, said the categories themselves “haven’t been shown to mean anything.” Nonetheless, recent surveys have found that about 90 percent of Virginia students believe in them.

While it’s true that some students may possess a better visual or auditory memory than others, Willingham said, that is in a sense a distraction for teachers, who want students not simply to ingest material but to make meaning out of it. Willingham has written widely on the topic, urging educators to focus on teaching different kinds of content in their best modality, rather than teaching different students in their perceived best modality. "All students learn more when content drives the choice of modality," he writes.

He and others said the persistence of learning styles likely stems from the fact that they're adjacent to a bedrock tenet of psychology: differences matter. People have different abilities, talents, goals, life experiences and motivations -- including better working memory or persistence -- and these play a key role in learning.

“The idea that people differ in their abilities is almost certainly right,” Willingham said. “I think that gets confused with learning styles.”

Kaufman, the Barnard psychologist, said one key issue is that while paying attention to these differences "comes from a place of caring for the students,” teachers may misinterpret how to help students with different abilities flourish. Add to that a general “discomfort with differences that are perceived as immutable,” he said, and you have the ideal environment for something fuzzy like learning styles to flourish.

Boser, the science writer, agreed: “There’s something in America in general, and in education in particular: we don’t like to talk about how people are different,” he said. Teachers like to believe in students’ unlimited potential, and anything that places constraints on it is problematic.

But he admitted, “Intelligence is a real thing.” Different people have different levels of it. Talking about that “makes educators uncomfortable.”

David Kraemer, a cognitive neuroscientist in Dartmouth College’s education department, said decades of research have made one thing clear: "What seems to be true, and is not in dispute, is that people differ in different domains," performing better in English class than in math class, for instance. “To me, that’s where some of these intuitions come from.” Teachers want to tailor instruction to students' strengths. But that could be counterproductive. “The point of school isn’t just to cater to what you do well already,” he said.

His research has shown that even people who believe that they better understand things one way -- spatially as opposed to detail oriented, for instance -- perform better in weak areas if they're given strategies to improve.

But his students continue to ask him about learning styles. “I definitely tell students who come to me [that] it is more myth than reality -- and there isn’t really evidence to support those ideas, in terms of study strategies or pedagogical approaches.”

Richard Felder, a professor emeritus of chemical engineering at North Carolina State University who has written in support of learning styles, said psychologists have spent decades working to debunk the theory. “On the other side are literally millions of people who have used learning styles to design instruction” and to help students become better learners, he said.

Advocates who understand learning styles insist that they represent “preferences,” not hard and fast lines that can't be crossed, he said. “The debunkers paint it as a black-and-white thing, that you’re either this or you’re that.” Meanwhile, good instructors “don’t heavily overload on one side or the other of any of these dimensions.”

"The idea is balance," Felder said.

Asking students to consider their own strengths and weaknesses is different from teaching solely to their strengths. Actually, he said, much of the research finding that catering to learning styles is ineffective begins from that mistaken premise: "The learning-styles debunkers are starting with their own definition of what learning styles mean and then debunking that -- but their definition of what learning styles mean is wrong.”

He admits that educators in the past "did go overboard" in specializing instruction based on student preference, but no longer. Actually, Felder said, if most of his colleagues were still teaching auditory learners, for instance, solely in ways that play to that strength, "I’d be on the side of the debunkers."

‘Astounding Capacity to Learn’

What good teachers understand, experts say, is that the different senses each have their own strengths and weaknesses. “We’re all visual learners,” Boser said. “Our vision is the best system to take in data.” Likewise, we’re all auditory learners -- when the material calls for it. Consider the advantages of hearing a story via audiobook: sequential information is ideal for this “style” of learning. But “auditory learners” who want to get better at soccer still lace up their cleats, run onto the field and practice their moves, Boser said. “You would never just listen to podcasts all day.”

Scientists have long struggled to help educators understand this larger context. In 2009, a group of cognitive psychologists commissioned by the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest assessed learning styles and found “only a few fragmentary and unconvincing pieces of evidence” that would validate them.

The group, led by University of California, San Diego, psychology professor Hal Pashler, noted that all humans, “short of being afflicted with certain types of organic damage,” are born with “an astounding capacity to learn, both in the amount that can be learned in one domain and in the variety and range of what can be learned.”

They concluded that the widespread use of learning-style measures in educational settings “is unwise and a wasteful use of limited resources.” While the researchers agreed that instruction deemed “optimal” for a given student makes sense, assuming that people are “enormously heterogeneous” in their instructional needs could draw attention away from solid teaching practices.

“Given the capacity of humans to learn, it seems especially important to keep all avenues, options, and aspirations open for our students, our children, and ourselves,” Pashler and his colleagues wrote. “Toward that end, we think the primary focus should be on identifying and introducing the experiences, activities, and challenges that enhance everybody’s learning.”

Willingham said the findings have made few inroads into the classroom. He likens learning styles to atomic theory -- a notion that most people take on faith, since they haven’t seen protons and electrons firsthand.

Boser, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, noted a 2017 survey that the group conducted, which found that an "overwhelming share of the public" -- nearly 90 percent -- believe in "myths about teaching and learning" such as learning styles.

The topic has occasionally been the subject of serious if controversial research. Last summer, Canadian researchers found that surgical trainees' "learning styles" may affect their ability to acquire laparoscopic skill proficiency -- but the study had only 19 subjects. In 1995, researcher Rita Dunn of St. John's University published a meta-analysis supporting so-called "modality effects," but other researchers who examined her research found that only one of the studies Dunn cited had appeared in a peer-reviewed journal. The rest were unpublished doctoral dissertations -- 21 of them from St. John's, Dunn's home institution. Dunn passed away in 2009.

UVA’s Willingham said more needs to be done to “inoculate future teachers against this idea when they are in teacher preparation programs.” While education psychology textbooks don’t propagate the idea of learning styles, he said, “I would also argue that they’re not doing enough to say, ‘There’s nothing to support this idea.’ When there’s something that you know is widespread misinformation in teacher professional development, I think that’s part of a psychologist’s role, part of a scientist’s role.”

Howard Gardner, a longtime professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, who in the 1980s popularized the idea of “multiple intelligences,” has said the re-emergence of learning styles -- and a few educators’ insistence on lumping them in with his work -- has “driven me to distraction.”

In a 2013 op-ed in The Washington Post, Gardner called learning-style theory “incoherent” and said he had proposed a very different scenario, one that said different parts of our brains compute different kinds of information -- linguistic, spatial, interpersonal, musical, etc. He has estimated that most people have seven to 10 “distinct intelligences.” Learning styles, he said, are different. If teachers say a student’s learning style is “impulsive,” does that mean he’s impulsive about everything he learns?

Gardner also said there’s no clear evidence that teaching to a student’s learning style produces better outcomes than a “one-size-fits-all approach.” Insistence on learning styles, he said, “may be unhelpful, at best, and ill conceived at worst.” Strength or weakness in one kind of intelligence “does not predict strength (or weakness) in any other intelligences,” he wrote. “All of us exhibit jagged profiles of intelligences.”

Gardner suggested that educators individualize teaching as much as possible, teach important materials “in several ways” (through stories, works of art, diagrams and role-playing, for example), and drop the term “styles” from their vocabulary.

“It will confuse others,” he wrote, “and it won’t help either you or your students.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

High demand from retirees to live on campus at Arizona State University

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 9, 2019 - 7:00pm

New housing under construction at Arizona State University isn't slated to be completed until 2020, but the university president has nonetheless dubbed it "the world's coolest dorm," and future residents have already secured their spots.

The residents won’t be typical college students, however -- they’ll be people in their 60s, 70s and up. The housing complex on the university’s Tempe campus will be a retirement community with a twist -- the residents will be able to take classes, make use of campus facilities such as the library with university-issued ID cards and immerse themselves in university life as much, or as little, as they like. They'll also be encouraged to mentor and build relationships with younger students.

“There’s no reason everyone can’t be a college student and engaged in what this community has to offer for the entirety of their lives,” ASU president Michael Crow said at a groundbreaking ceremony for the complex, called ASU Mirabella, in February 2018. “We’re excited that we’ll have on our campus several hundred new learners, new teachers and new experts,” he said.

Crow said he wants to reconceptualize "lifelong learning," a popular talking point among university leaders who promote the important role of higher education in helping adults prepare for new career opportunities. Retirees are often left out of the equation and have not been a significant part of those efforts, said Todd Hardy, managing director of innovation zones at ASU. While they don’t need degrees or certificates to show to future employers, many retirees do want to keep learning and feel engaged, he said.

“We want these residents to be part of our community and to be fully integrated into everything we do,” Hardy said “We’d like them to be guest lecturers, advise us on start-up companies, be docents at our art gallery and performance hall. We’d love them to engage in ways that appeal to them.”

Mirabella residents could even help shape academic programs and research at ASU, he said. Areas of collaboration might include art therapy, Alzheimer’s treatment, nursing and online education. ASU is even considering whether students could work with Mirabella residents as part of their coursework.

ASU is part of a growing trend of privately owned retirement communities being built on or near college campuses.

Ramona Meraz Lewis, a faculty coordinator at the College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University who has conducted research on older learners, said ASU Mirabella is an “innovative take on a somewhat established idea.”

While some of these retirement communities may lease or buy college-owned land, such as Kendal at Oberlin, which has close ties to Oberlin College in northern Ohio, and Vi at Palo Alto near Stanford University, very few are actually situated on a campus, she said. Some communities, such as Oak Hammock at the University of Florida or University Commons at the University of Michigan, have deep connections to the universities and were even founded by former faculty. But neither community is directly managed by the universities.

Lasell College, a private institution in Auburndale, Mass., shares a 13-acre site with a retirement community called Lasell Village. To be a resident at Lasell Village, residents must commit to taking at least 450 hours of learning and fitness classes each year, including attending lectures with regular students pursuing degrees.

“With the U.S. on the brink of an ‘elderly boom,’ finding ways to engage older learners in the life of campus is a smart idea,” said Lewis.

“Demographic changes have led many retirees and senior citizens to rethink the postretirement life phase. The new trends suggest older learners have a great interest in staying active, intergenerational opportunities and lifelong learning.

“The human resource in terms of energy, experience and time that older adults are often willing to contribute is a win-win for the individual, the campus and the students,” she said.

Still, Lewis said higher education leaders could do a lot more to promote “age as a function of diversity.”

“One of the most important factors in quality of life as we age is avoiding social isolation. If our campuses can be a part of this in ways that enrich the lives of our students, our alumni, our retirees and our larger communities -- then we should be open to those opportunities,” she said.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, just 0.3 percent of students pursuing a degree are aged 65 and over. And education programs targeting those aged 55 and older rarely generate significant long-term revenues, according to Jim Fong, founding director of the University Professional and Continuing Education Association’s Center for Research and Strategy.

“The target market is conditioned to not want to pay for much in terms of educational programming,” he said.

However, demand for educational programs from older learners is increasing, said Rovy Branon, vice provost for the University of Washington's Continuum College in Seattle.

Many universities provide enrichment opportunities for older learners, such as free lectures, but Branon said he's seeing “a trend towards more serious academic pursuits."

"Older people aren’t necessarily interested in getting a degree or diploma, but they are interested in doing serious study as part of their retirement, and some are even retooling for a third or fourth-act career," he said.

As Americans' life spans increase and people stay healthier longer, universities need to adapt, said Branon, who described the challenges and opportunities of the “60-year curriculum” -- a concept coined by Gary Matkin, dean of the Division of Continuing Education at the University of California, Irvine, which describes a continuous learning program from high school to retirement -- in an op-ed column he wrote for Inside Higher Ed in November.

Seth Meisel, associate dean of academic affairs at Northwestern University, said although many university administrators are starting to talk more about the 60-year curriculum, they will need to carefully consider the specific needs of older learners -- an area of pedagogy known as gerogogy. Classes "need to be in a location that is accessible and flexible," he said. Older learners also often have a lot of experience and want that to be acknowledged. "They want a learning environment that builds upon their experience," he said.

The National Resource Center for Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes -- a network offering lifelong learning opportunities to senior citizens -- is based at Northwestern. The 122, soon to be 123, college and university-based institutes offer noncredit courses for affordable prices. These courses "are not generally cash cows," said Meisel. But the network is growing and is popular with older learners. "There is an influx of retired people looking for meaning and purpose and engagement in their lives," he said.

"They're not looking for the validation of a degree -- in many cases, they're interested in areas they feel were neglected in their education," said Meisel. "There are engineers who want to learn about the humanities and arts, or vice versa."

Back to College, Again

Tom and Pat Gagen, a married couple in their 60s and future residents of ASU Mirabella, said they became interested in living on a university campus after seeing an ad for ASU Mirabella in a newspaper.

“We wanted a style of living that would provide for continued learning, for social encounters, worry-free living arrangements, and access to several levels of health care should we need it,” the Gagens said in a joint email.

The Gagens retired in 2012 and currently live in Scottsdale, Ariz. They don’t have any formal connection to ASU but are women’s softball season ticket holders and enjoy attending other events on campus.

Tom, a former health-care executive who was CEO of the Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento, and Pat, a former geriatric social worker who later worked in the insurance industry, both said they don't want to earn any more degrees, but they are interested in auditing classes and mentoring students.

“We are very excited about being in a learning environment with access to the university and its many resources. We want to take full use of the arts, the sports, the lectures and special events, and the whole campus environment,” they wrote. “We want to experience others our age and learn from their lives as well as from students.”

Activities that mix students and seniors “strengthen us as a community and help to minimize some of the wrong impressions that both the young and seniors may have,” they wrote. They would like to see other universities make more effort to engage with seniors.

“First, we still have a lot to offer. Second, we still have a lot to learn,” they said.

Living at ASU Mirabella doesn’t come cheap. Residents pay a “buy-in” fee starting at $378,500 for a one-bedroom unit and up to $810,200 for a two-bedroom penthouse. Residents also pay a monthly fee of between $4,195 and $5,570. When residents die, 85 percent of the buy-in fee is refunded to their heirs.

Despite the high cost, ASU Mirabella has already sold out. Residents like the idea of being part of a university community, even if they don’t have any connection to the institution, said Paul Riepma, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Pacific Retirement Services, an Oregon-based nonprofit that is leading the development of the complex.

The 20-story building will contain 304 apartments and cater to residents with varying health needs -- from independent living to round-the-clock care. In addition to fine and casual dining rooms, the complex will have a cocktail lounge, a fitness and aquatic center, an art studio, an art gallery, a beauty salon and spa, a library, an auditorium, several game rooms, a woodworking shop, and classroom space.

Riepma noted that “10,000 people turn 65 every day -- the graying of America is upon us.” Baby boomers have “higher expectations of what life can be like” in retirement than the generation before them, and “not everyone wants to live on a golf course surrounded by people just like them,” he said. Universities don’t have to cater only to people aged 18 to 22, and Riepma is hopeful that the model will expand to more universities. “People of all ages can benefit from an environment of lifelong learning,” he said.

Although ASU will receive some money from Pacific Retirement Services for the lease of its land, the incentive for the project is not financial and the university has not invested in the $270 million building, said Hardy, ASU's managing director of innovation zones. He did not say how much money the university would receive for the land. The East Valley Tribune reported that ASU would receive an up-front rent payment of $7 million from Pacific Retirement Services.

“We want to build an intergenerational experience and benefit from each other,” he said. “That’s the main reason we’re doing it.”

Space on campus is at a premium, and there were many other things that could have been done with the land -- but Hardy said ASU wanted to do something different.

“I don’t think it’s occurred to many people that they could do this,” he said. “In fact, when they first hear that we’re going to have this project right on campus, they’re more than curious about it. They ask, ‘Why would you do that?’”

Image Source: Charlie Leight/ASU NowImage Caption: Future residents and guests watch the groundbreaking ceremony of ASU Mirabella in February 2018. Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Arizona State University-Tempe
Categories: Higher Education News