Higher Education News

California bills targeting for-profits and bundled services exception advance

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 3, 2019 - 5:00pm

A package of seven interrelated bills proposing tighter regulation of for-profit and private colleges in California moved closer to becoming law this week -- but not fully intact.

One of the bills, a proposal to create the nation’s first state-level gainful-employment rule, was watered down to require only the collection and disclosure of data around employment outcomes of graduates at for-profit colleges.

Another bill, which proposed to toughen the 90-10 rule in California -- a regulation that allows for-profit institutions to claim up to 90 percent of their revenue from federal financial aid -- was delayed. It is possible the bill will be considered again by the committee next year.

Robert Shireman, director of higher education excellence at the Century Foundation and a former Education Department official during the Obama administration, helped to draft the language of the seven bills. In an emailed statement, he expressed disappointment that the California Senate committees failed to adopt these “critical protections for students.”

“At a time when veterans are at significant risk of being ripped off by for-profit colleges, and just days after [Education] Secretary [Betsy] DeVos shamefully repealed the federal gainful-employment rule, these two bills in California were desperately needed to fill the void that the Trump administration is currently widening,” he said.

“Still, taken together the five bills advanced out of committee represent a positive step forward for California students and, if enacted, would be the strongest for-profit college regulations that any state has passed,” said Shireman. “It is yet another sign of the growing recognition across the country that for-profit colleges, by design, are inherently different and pose greater risks to consumers and taxpayers.”

Bills Seeking Tighter Regulation of For-Profits in California

  • AB 1340 -- California-style gainful-employment rule similar to the one developed by the Obama administration.
  • AB 1341 -- Prevents for-profit colleges from evading oversight by posing as nonprofit.
  • AB 1342 -- Requires California attorney general to review and approve all sales of nonprofit colleges to for-profit companies.
  • AB 1343 -- Would mandate that no more than 85 percent of a school’s revenue could come from federal or state sources.
  • AB 1344 -- Requires out-of-state institutions enrolling California students in online courses to comply with all California consumer protections.
  • AB 1345 -- Prohibits colleges from setting recruitment quotas and entering tuition-sharing agreements.
  • AB 1346 -- Would allow students who have been victimized by for-profit institutions that have closed to recoup costs outside of tuition.

Though most of the bills in the legislative package are still under consideration, many for-profit colleges in California will be pleased to hear that the proposed changes to the 90-10 rule have stalled.

The California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools (CAPPS), which largely represents for-profit institutions and actively opposed the package of bills, previously told Inside Higher Ed that proposed changes to the 90-10 rule would lead to the closure of an estimated 130 institutions in the state. The bill proposed capping taxpayer-funded revenue at 85 percent or requiring that colleges spend at least 50 percent of their revenue on instruction.

For institutions such as Ashford University, which is currently in the process of converting from for-profit to nonprofit status, the remaining bills could still represent a challenge. One bill designed to detect “covert for-profits” could give California’s attorney general the power to decide whether an institution claiming to be a nonprofit is truly a nonprofit -- potentially contradicting decisions made by the IRS and regional accreditors.

Another bill could place restrictions on private for-profit institutions’ ability to partner with academic service providers and online program management companies by prohibiting tuition-sharing arrangements.

This latter bill, known as AB 1345, is significant because it signals increasing political scrutiny of higher education institutions’ partnerships with online program management companies, though Shireman admits this was something of an unintended consequence of the bill. He does, however, believe that the legal basis on which OPM companies operate is somewhat flimsy and would benefit from a review.

In 2011, the Education Department issued a Dear Colleague letter outlining a “bundled services exception” that allows institutions to enter into tuition-sharing arrangements with third parties. AB 1345 could potentially eliminate this exception for some for-profit colleges operating in California.

Anthony Guida Jr., a lawyer and partner at Duane Morris, testified in California this week as a representative of Ashford University. He confirmed that the institution is hoping to make changes to the language of two of the bills. For example, instead of the California attorney general reviewing the nonprofit status of an institution, Ashford proposed that the California Franchise Tax Board conduct the review. Ashford is also hoping to ensure that federal and state law on the bundled services exception is aligned.

“I’m hopeful that we can work the language out,” said Guida. He added that it “didn’t seem like there was a huge gap” between the changes desired by those in support of the bill and those in opposition.

The Senate Committee on Education and the Committee on Appropriations will be re-reviewing the bills later this month.

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Survey finds colleges narrowing health benefits for domestic partners and retirees

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 3, 2019 - 5:00pm

As states across the country have responded to a 2015 Supreme Court decision by passing laws to allow same-sex marriage, colleges and universities have increasingly reined in their health-care benefits for domestic partners, be they of the same or different sexes.

That is among the findings of a biennial survey by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources on the health-care benefits offered to campus employees. CUPA-HR releases the health care benefits survey in odd-numbered years and a survey of other, non-health-care benefits in even-numbered years.

As seen in the chart below, "this year's survey marks the first time since 2005 that there has been a decrease in health care benefit offerings -- both for same-sex (10-percentage-point decrease since 2017) and opposite-sex (six-percentage-point decrease since 2017) partners," the survey's authors wrote.

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the 365 institutions surveyed still offered health-care benefits to same-sex domestic partners, while the comparable figure for opposite-sex partners was 45 percent. The gap between the two groups shrank to 18 percent from 22 percent in 2017.

The 2019 survey also showed a continuing decline in the number of colleges and universities offering health benefits to retirees and to part-time employees. A minority of colleges now offer such benefits to retirees under the age of 65, while barely a third provide health-care benefits to retirees 65 or older. And even fewer offer them to part-time employees (32 percent to part-time staff members, and 30 percent to part-time faculty members).

Among other findings in the survey:

  • The proportion of institutions currently offering wellness programs stayed flat (60 percent versus 59 percent in 2017), while the percentage planning to create such a program dropped to 25 percent from 29 percent in 2017. More notably, fewer institutions than in 2017 said they dedicated funds (55 percent, down from 60 percent) or staffs (28 versus 35 percent) for wellness programs, and the median budget amounts fell to $27,500 from $35,000 in 2017.
  • There was little to no change in the percentages of institutions offering preferred provider organization plans (the most popular type), about 85 percent of institutions, followed by about three in five institutions offering high-deductible health plans.
  • The vast majority of surveyed colleges and universities offered dental plans, while about three-quarters offered vision and fewer than a third offered long-term care insurance.
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NCAA slams former UConn coach for lies during investigation of minor rules violations

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 3, 2019 - 5:00pm

A former University of Connecticut head men’s basketball coach who broke lesser National Collegiate Athletic Association rules will nevertheless be essentially unemployable by a team for the next three years for lying during an NCAA investigation. The punishment seems to reflect officials’ growing intolerance for unethical behavior among head coaches.

Kevin Ollie, who took over the UConn team in 2012 from high-profile head coach Jim Calhoun, was fired more than a year ago after the program’s possible violations of NCAA policies became public.

The NCAA’s Division I Committee on Infractions on Tuesday imposed a three-year show-cause order on Ollie, which will severely limit his ability to be hired as a coach by an NCAA institution. This stems from Ollie giving false information to NCAA investigators during an interview in March 2018. Ollie refused to participate in follow-up interviews, which also contributed to his punishment.

A trainer, whom Ollie described to the NCAA as a “good friend” and “like family,” worked with three athletes both on campus and in Atlanta in 2016. The trainer worked with the players on campus without being paid. Later, the players traveled and stayed with the trainer in his home in Atlanta, receiving free meals and free training sessions. Ollie denied knowing about the workouts, but the NCAA noted this was unlikely, given Ollie’s close relationship with the trainer and other testimony that he gave. Ollie later admitted that the workouts had occurred.

Ollie also comped tickets to multiple men’s basketball games for the trainer in 2016 and paid for his lodging at a campus hotel. At the time, the trainer’s son was a prospect for the UConn football team.

Ollie also apparently arranged video calls between two former UConn basketball stars, Ray Allen and Rudy Gay, and a recruit. The NCAA said Ollie lied to investigators about his role in facilitating at least one of the calls.

Given the seriousness of Ollie’s actions (the NCAA considered his false statements a Level I infraction, the most severe of rules violations), he could have been hit with a show-cause order for between three years and a decade. Joel Maturi, chief hearing officer for the infractions panel and former University of Minnesota athletics director, did not explain why the NCAA went with the lower end of the scale in a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

Maturi said on the call that in recent years the NCAA has put greater emphasis on the responsibilities of head coaches, and that being “candid” and “honest” are important factors to preserving the collegiate model.

“Failing to give the enforcement staff truthful information significantly harms its ability to conduct a thorough and timely investigation,” the NCAA’s report on the case states. “The conduct was contrary to the standards of ethical conduct that the membership expects of athletics staff entrusted to set an example for student-athletes.”

After the university fired Ollie, in part an attempt to avoid more NCAA sanctions, it also self-imposed certain penalties, including reducing the number of basketball scholarships in the coming academic year from 13 to 12, as well as a $5,000 fine and restrictions on recruitment.

The NCAA on Tuesday also placed the university on two years of probation and ordered that the games in which ineligible athletes competed be vacated. The latter is a fairly meaningless punishment, as it will not affect the Huskies’ championship win in 2014 and the team had poor showings in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, which are the two that are expected to be vacated.

UConn said it would accept the NCAA’s decision.

"As we anticipated, this validates UConn's actions and decision making in this case from the outset in early 2018 based on our knowledge of NCAA rules and matters of compliance," Susan Herbst, the university's president, said in a statement. "However, this is a serious matter and nothing about it merits celebration. This is an unfortunate chapter in the history of UConn men's basketball, but it is time to move on. We look forward to the bright future of this program with excitement and optimism."

The NCAA also found that over four years, former men’s basketball student managers attended preseason pickup games. The games counted as impermissible athletic activity mostly because the managers kept statistics that they distributed to coaches.

The team’s former video coordinator reviewed plays with and answered questions for athletes on and off the court, which the NCAA considered to be a coaching duty. Because of this, the program exceeded the number of allowable coaches. Both of these violations were deemed Level II, on a scale of one to four.

Ollie remains embroiled in a major legal battle with the university after it refused to pay him the remaining $10 million on his contract, saying he was not entitled to the money after the violations. The lawsuit states that the university was racially biased and treated him differently from his predecessor, Calhoun, who was suspended from three Big East conference games in 2011 after violating recruitment rules, but kept his job.

UConn recently announced it will rejoin the Big East after several years in the American Athletic Conference.

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Categories: Higher Education News

New presidents or provosts: Arkansas St. Azusa Brenau Delgado Huntsville Idaho Pittsburgh Tech Sul Ross Tri-County

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 3, 2019 - 5:00pm
  • Darren Dawson, dean of engineering at Kansas State University, has been chosen as president of the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
  • Galen DeHay, senior vice president at Tri-County Technical College, in South Carolina, has been promoted to president there.
  • Paul Ferguson, founding dean of the School of Science, Technology and Health at Biola University, in California, has been named president of Azusa Pacific University, also in California.
  • C. Scott Green, global chief operating and financial officer of Hogan Lovells, in New York, has been appointed president of the University of Idaho.
  • Alicia B. Harvey-Smith, executive vice chancellor of Lone Star College, in Texas, has been chosen as president of Pittsburgh Technical College, in Pennsylvania.
  • Robert Kinucan, associate provost at Sul Ross State University, in Texas, has been named executive vice president and provost there.
  • Larissa Littleton-Steib, chancellor of Baton Rouge Community College, in Louisiana, has been selected as chancellor of Delgado Community College, also in Louisiana.
  • Anne A. Skleder, senior vice president and provost and professor of psychology at Wilkes University, in Pennsylvania, has been chosen as president of Brenau University, in Georgia.
  • Alan Utter, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Texas Woman’s University, has been appointed provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at Arkansas State University.



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Universities and students to benefit under new government

University World News - July 2, 2019 - 9:57pm
Higher education in Denmark looks set to benefit from the election of Denmark's youngest ever prime minister, Mette Frederiksen (41). Her left-leaning government plans to roll back the former gove ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Universities overhaul sexual harassment rules after outcry

University World News - July 2, 2019 - 6:20pm
Universities are to bring in root and branch changes to the way sexual harassment cases are dealt with on campuses by the beginning of the coming academic year, after Singapore's education ministe ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Guilford College is changing the way it does most everything

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 2, 2019 - 5:00pm

It's hard to overstate the change happening at Guilford College right now. Come fall, the North Carolina institution is launching not only a new academic calendar but a vastly different curriculum. It's also expanding the new team-advising program it added this past academic year.

Faculty members and administrators alike are nervous. Few curricular revamps are of this scope. And, as at most small, tuition-dependent liberal arts colleges, the stakes of the game are high: Guilford's enrollment has been dropping steadily each year for a decade.

But talking to those on campus, the mood is more eager and enthusiastic than anxious. They want this -- really. Guilford, which started as a Quaker school in 1837, operates on a consensus model of shared governance. So the new curriculum, the Guilford Edge, wouldn't be happening if the vast majority of the faculty hadn't approved it.

"There are positives here for faculty and students, and for faculty, it's going to force us to be creative and think more outside the box, to get out of the traditional academic classroom -- and that can be scary, but also super exciting," said Kami Rowan, an associate professor of music. "I'm jumping in feet first."

A New Curriculum

It's true: Rowan is currently working with a team of three other professors to create an interdisciplinary, three-week intensive course for when their cohort of first-year students hits campus in the fall. The experience, called Initiate, is possible under Guilford's new calendar of three-week and 12-week sessions in the fall, followed by 12- and then three-week sessions in the spring.

While first-years will focus solely on Initiate for the first three weeks of the year, the new calendar allows other students to engage in "Learning Collaboratively" experiences in each of the intensive, three-week sessions. These are real-world engagement-driven classes designed to enhance and inspire students' other course work. Possibilities include research with faculty members, internships for credit and travel to, say, Hawaii and Japan with expert professors to explore collective memory and identity after World War II, or to Norway to compare its prison system with that of the U.S. These are not hypotheticals: this fall alone, students will be traveling to not only Norway, but to Spain, India, the United Kingdom, Germany and elsewhere in the southeastern U.S.

In addition to the three-week intensives, Guilford students must now engage in a Collaborative Quest -- something between an independent study and a minor. Students, with the help of nonfaculty advisers, or "guides," design a sequence of courses to help them explore their interests. So, a student majoring in political science who is particularly interested in poverty, for example, would handpick a group of courses to take to develop some expertise in that area.

Students will be required to reflect on what they're learning in their quests via special reflection seminars. And they'll be asked to apply it in some real-life way before they graduate.

In some ways, it's like Guilford is putting in place structures to help all students get out of their college experiences what only the most informed, empowered students often do.

An Intentional Quest

Kathryn Shields, associate professor of art history and associate academic dean, worked closely with the new Guilford guides. She said that when she talked with students as part of the curriculum revision process, they mentioned things that "indicated to me personally that there were more things that they were learning than they were accessing in that moment." Some students, for example, mentioned that they liked getting to pick their own classes. That's certainly a perk of being in college -- but not special to Guilford in any way. They could talk about their majors, Shields continued, but they didn't necessarily know how all their courses related to it.

So, the Collaborative Quest demands that students think in real time about what their passions and career goals are -- and, in general, what they're learning in college and why -- in ways that the prior curriculum didn't. And the nonfaculty guides, who have met with students three to five times on average per semester in their first year on campus, are there to ask the right questions. These guides also are prepared to help students with the kinds of nonacademic issues that may overwhelm faculty members, such as general anxiety and more specific mental health concerns.

"In our first year of having these guides, we're learning more about why and how students are struggling. And the more we know, the more responsible we are for that," Shields said. "It's the zeitgeist."

Guilford students will still have majors, but to start, they'll pick one of four disciplinary pathways: social and linguistic sciences; artistic and human studies; natural sciences studies; and management, math and technology.

To give students more room to explore, Guilford reduced its required number of credits from 128 to 120 (most courses are four credits). A five-area disciplinary breadth requirement was reduced to three: one course each in the social and behavioral sciences, arts and humanities, and natural sciences and math.

Professors are also expected to have more time to plan and teach the three-week intensives and otherwise work with students on high-impact experiences, as Guilford's new guides are on the front lines of first- and second-year academic advising now.

Faculty members will still supplement the advising students get from their guides, of course. And students will round out their schedules with other requirements. Those are two courses in a modern language, up from one course under the prior curriculum, and historical perspectives and writing requirements carried over from that curriculum.

There's a new "embodied and creative engagement" requirement, as well as a "numerical and symbolic" engagement course. The former means hands-on manipulation of the physical world, such as lab science, art, fieldwork or sports studies. The latter is a more typical quantitative requirement.

Two courses in sociocultural engagement are expected, along with one in evaluating systems and environments. The latter here is, in part, an updated diversity requirement.

Chaos and Cohesion

The change didn't happen fast. Conversations about rethinking the curriculum started in earnest five years ago.

At the time, the idea wasn't to shake everything up. Guilford was simply overdue for a curriculum revision. Its previous general education program, which had an interdisciplinary first-year experience and breadth and "perspectives" requirements -- including those in social justice and environmental responsibility, U.S. diversity, and intercultural studies -- was pretty novel when it went live in 1998. By 2014? Not so much.

A more basic revision to the curriculum didn't pass the consensus threshold. Around the same time Guilford's administration said it was moving to the new calendar, it got its first provost, too, and said it was moving toward the new, more holistic advising system.

The moving parts collided -- and then they gelled when the faculty conceived of and ultimately backed the new curriculum. Each part of the puzzle makes the others work.

Kyle Dell, an associate professor of political science and another associate academic dean, said, "We've had all these changes in two years -- you see some schools doing one thing, but to do all of them at once … does seem crazy." But that creates opportunity that Guilford has come together to optimize, he said.

Rowan, the professor of music, said the faculty is more united now than it was two years ago.

"The train has left the station," she said.

Leaning In to the Mission

So far, the train is running on schedule. Guilford says that most of its recent lost enrollments were adult learners who were adversely affected by state aid cuts for that age group. And as Guilford Edge is aimed at traditional-age students, Guilford's early fall enrollment figure is up 14 percent this year over last. More students are expected to sign on.

Jane K. Fernandes, Guilford's president, said the institution has a responsibility to ensure the curriculum "provides the return on investment they need and deserve." The world "has changed and is changing in dramatic ways at a remarkable pace," she added. "Status quo in how we design and deliver their higher education experience simply won't cut it any longer."

At the same time, Fernandes said that Guilford is "leaning in" to its mission: developing critical thinkers and problem solvers to promote positive change in the world. Students will graduate with a "major and a passion," she said, and be encouraged to "leverage their gifts," starting with the admissions process.

"Our commitment to providing uncommon engagement in real-world learning for every student, every semester, appropriately sets the bar much higher for what defines excellence in higher education."

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Westminster Choir College sale scrapped, but Rider University returns to campus consolidation plans

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 2, 2019 - 5:00pm

Rider University has dropped a controversial plan to sell Westminster Choir College to a for-profit company based in China and instead is resuscitating efforts to relocate the choir college.

The decisions, announced Monday, put Rider back where it was at the end of 2016, when students and alumni fought against the idea of relocating Westminster from its own campus in Princeton, N.J., to Rider’s main campus seven miles away in Lawrenceville, N.J. Rider’s administration responded a few months later by taking the unusual step of trying to sell the nonprofit choir college. The sale efforts sparked another round of intense opposition after Rider revealed plans in February 2018 to sell Westminster along with its facilities, campus, programs and endowment for $40 million to Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co.

“Throughout this process, we have continually sought to preserve and enhance Westminster’s legacy as a world-class institution, and we made every effort to maintain the college in Princeton,” said Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Rider’s president, in a statement. “Given the enormous complexity of the transaction, it became increasingly clear that partnering with an outside entity, even one as well-intentioned as Kaiwen, was not feasible on a viable timeline.”

With the sale scrapped, Rider now plans to operate Westminster in Princeton for the upcoming academic year and then move Westminster to the university’s Lawrenceville campus by September 2020. Operating two separate campuses so close together isn’t financially prudent, according to university leaders.

“The board and the administration appreciate the special connection that Westminster has to Princeton, which is why we went to extraordinary lengths to seek a future based in that community,” said Robert S. Schimek, Rider’s Board of Trustees chair, in a statement. “Now that it is clear that transferring Westminster Choir College to an external partner is not possible, it is our continuing responsibility to enact a plan that serves the best interests of the entire university. It is not financially feasible to allow Westminster to continue on its present course as a separate, fully operational campus seven miles apart from Rider’s Lawrenceville campus.”

The university’s change of plans did not appease those who opposed the sale. They vowed to continue fighting against relocating the choir college from its longtime home in Princeton, arguing that the Lawrenceville campus does not have the facilities necessary to support the choir college. A move by next year would be rushed, they said. Further, they argued it would violate the terms of agreements under which Westminster’s campus was donated to the choir college and under which Westminster merged into Rider in the early 1990s, reiterating some arguments made in lawsuits that have been filed against the university.

“Basically, we’re still in a position where Rider’s actions would severely damage Westminster,” said Bruce Afran, a lawyer representing one group suing Rider, the Westminster Foundation. “It would be destructive of Westminster’s academic mission to dismember it and move it to Lawrenceville. No court is going to allow this.”

Afran is preparing filings that will have faculty members joining existing lawsuits against Rider’s plans for the choir college.

Rider described new relocation plans as going “beyond the consolidation option” proposed in 2016. The new plan would take the Westminster College of the Arts -- which is made up of Westminster Choir College in Princeton plus the School of Fine and Performing Arts in Lawrenceville and the multilocation Westminster Conservatory -- and expand them, according to a university spokeswoman. The Westminster College of the Arts would be re-envisioned to create “a world-class arts program.”

The new plan also calls for examining the possibility of Rider and Westminster retaining a footprint on the Princeton campus that would in part be reserved for the conservatory.

“The plan has the potential to realize the goal of a strong and thriving Westminster College of the Arts that builds on both existing and proposed programs and facilities and most effectively serves 21st-century students,” Marshall Onofrio, dean of the Westminster College of the Arts, said in a statement. “It is my hope that students, faculty, staff and alumni will unite around this opportunity and participate in creating a new chapter in Westminster Choir College's illustrious history.”

Faculty members were not uniting behind the plan Monday, however. Rider's faculty union, which represents Westminster Choir College faculty members, has been opposed to the university's sale plans. Faculty members have also said the way the administration handled the Westminster situation is indicative of a broader lack of consultation and shared governance.

Still, faculty members weren’t surprised to see sale plans dropped, said Jeffrey Halpern, an associate professor of sociology at Rider and the contract administrator for Rider’s American Association of University Professors chapter. They believed the energy driving the sale dropped after New Jersey’s attorney general earlier this year voiced significant reservations, making the sale’s completion by a June 30 deadline unlikely. Then they saw an announcement on a Chinese news website Saturday indicating the sale was dead.

The consolidation plans generated new concern, though. Halpern criticized them as an example of Rider’s administration deciding what to do before ever offering an idea up for discussion.

He called instead for students, faculty, alumni, donors, administrators and the Board of Trustees to come together to discuss Westminster’s future.

“This should be a year where everybody takes a step back and really thinks about an open-ended agenda of what’s possible and what’s not possible,” Halpern said. “You’re never going to have a resolution that everybody thinks is perfect, but you’re certainly not going to get close if the board talks to itself and a few administrators and then announces a new plan -- and particularly a plan that, on its face, seems impossible.”

Westminster requires specialized equipment and a certain amount of space, Halpern said. The choir college needs space for pianos, organs and performances that isn’t available in Lawrenceville on short notice, or even in one year. Existing performance spaces in Lawrenceville are already heavily utilized by theater and dance programs and wouldn’t be able to accommodate additional performances currently located in Princeton.

“Our concern is that this is just another way of destroying the program,” Halpern said. “So you say this is going to be a music school that doesn’t do performances? In which case, what are you saving?”

Rider’s pivot away from sale plans had at least one positive in faculty members’ eyes. The university rescinded layoff notices that had gone out to about 35 full-time Westminster faculty members, according to Halpern.

Even after the sale’s collapse, Kaiwen and Rider aren’t fully breaking off contact. They’ve formalized an agreement under which the two institutions can work together on academic and artistic efforts for three years. Details have yet to be determined but are set to include Westminster faculty members traveling to Kaiwen academies and Kaiwen faculty members and students coming to New Jersey.

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Little progress in diversifying faculty ranks, study finds, particularly at research universities

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 2, 2019 - 5:00pm

Despite more universities placing an emphasis on attempting to diversify their faculty ranks, a new study shows very little progress, particularly at research universities. And much of the success in faculty diversity has been in untenured positions.

According to the study, which was published by the Hispanic Journal of Law and Policy from the South Texas College of Law, Houston, colleges in recent years have not seen substantial growth in racial diversity among faculty members.

The study is based on federal data from 2013 to 2017. One of its authors, Julian Vasquez Heilig, the incoming dean of the College of Education at the University of Kentucky, said the motivation for the research came from his wondering if increased discussions of diversity and faculty recruiting programs had been successful in creating a more diverse professoriate.

“We wanted to test this hypothesis -- whether we in higher ed were improving diversity in those particular areas,” Vasquez Heilig said. “A lot of times faculty, when we have these discussions, talk like we’re reinventing the wheel. We have these ideas and these gut feelings of what might work. But I think we need to be more empirical and data driven on diversity.”

Diversity issues were shown to be particularly prevalent at doctoral-status institutions, a category representing universities with the heaviest research focus, where the number of black tenured faculty members grew by only one-tenth of a percent from 2013 to 2017, to comprise 4 percent of the total tenured faculty. The number of Hispanic and Latino tenured faculty members also grew by less than 1 percent (0.65 percent) in that time, and in 2017 was 4.6 percent of tenured faculty. Faculty positions filled by Asian Americans saw the largest amount of growth at doctoral-status institutions, with a 1.2 percent increase to make up 12.8 percent of all tenured faculty.

At master’s-level institutions, black faculty members made up a larger percentage at 5.6 percent of tenured faculty. But the group saw smaller growth during the years studied, with an increase of less than a tenth of a percent (0.07 percent). Hispanics and Latinos, who were 5 percent of tenured faculty at these institutions, in 2017 saw a 0.64 percent increase.

The study revealed moderate progress for gender diversity during the 2013 to 2017 period, with a 1.7 percent increase in the amount of women serving in faculty positions at doctoral-status institutions. The share of women serving in any faculty position is roughly on par with men, the study found, but women still only make up 32 percent of tenured positions.

“Despite concerted efforts, we really haven’t moved the needle that much in terms of ethno-racial and gender diversity,” Vasquez Heilig said. “Especially when you consider the growing population of communities of color in the United States, you haven’t resultantly seen the growth in faculty especially at the doctoral levels. Many institutions that are making the most noise -- the brand-name institutions -- have had some of the worst progress.”

The study also examined previous research regarding the positive effects of a diverse faculty on students, and how colleges and universities should continue to work to break down barriers that prevent more diversity among faculty members.

“It’s good for students to have role models who are people of color; it’s good for students to have faculty members with different backgrounds,” Vasquez Heilig said. “The majority of professors are still male. We need to continue to make the case, not only to our own institutions but to our broader communities at large, that diversity is good for students and that it’s an important part of the educational mission.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Iowa governor accused of disenfranchising college students with special election date

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 2, 2019 - 5:00pm

Students on two Iowa campuses are accusing the state's Republican governor of trying to suppress the college vote -- which tends to swing liberal -- in an upcoming special election for a state seat.

This is the latest in a series of voter suppression allegations against GOP politicians nationwide over the last few years. Particularly before the last midterm election, which was viewed as a chance for Democrats to reclaim offices that have been controlled by conservatives both in the states and federally, Republican lawmakers were denounced for trying to limit college students’ voting rights, through legislation and otherwise.

Iowa governor Kim Reynolds now faces such criticism after she scheduled a special election on Aug. 6 to replace former state representative Lisa Heddens, a nine-term Democrat who left the Legislature last month for a seat in a county government.

The election date occurs before Iowa State University students -- who would be voting in the open district -- return to campus for classes, and so many of them will likely not be able to participate.

In a rare joint editorial, the editorial boards at the Iowa State student newspaper, The Iowa State Daily, and The Daily Iowan, the University of Iowa paper, blasted the decision.

“Whether it’s an intentional effort by GOP politicians to suppress students’ mostly Democratic votes or simply a failure to account for the demographics of their constituents’ legislative districts, Reynolds’s election proclamation is just the latest in the state Legislature’s efforts to suppress students’ votes and silence their voices on the issues they care about most,” the students wrote.

A spokesman for Reynolds did not respond to requests for comment, but the governor has shrugged off such criticism in the past. Earlier this year, Reynolds set a special election date for a state senate seat formerly held by a Democrat for mid-March, when University of Northern Iowa students -- who would be voting in that district -- were on spring break. When the Associated Press asked if she was aware of that fact, Reynolds said, “It doesn't really matter.”

The race was quite prominent. After State Senator Jeff Danielson resigned, at least 10 potential or declared presidential candidates publicly advocated for Eric Giddens, the Democratic contender to replace him. U.S. senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and Democratic former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke stopped into Waterloo to canvass for both Giddens and themselves (Iowa is considered a key state in presidential contests).

Giddens, then a local school board member, eventually won the seat.

Reynolds told AP prior to the election that students could request an absentee ballot or vote in a county auditor's office the week before the election.

The student editors wrote in their essay that perhaps the timing of elections could be chalked up to “blissful ignorance,” but noted other measures that Iowa politicians have tried to pass to apparently disenfranchise college students.

A Republican lawmaker introduced a bill this past legislative session that would have banned state-owned buildings as satellite voting centers, meaning public universities couldn’t set up early voting locations on any of their campuses. State Senator Roby Smith, the bill's sponsor, argued that it would have increased polling efficiency. It did not pass.

A federal judge in Florida had ruled in 2018 that that state's prohibition of early-voting centers on campuses was an unconstitutional and deliberate attempt to discriminate against student voters.

In 2017, the Iowa Legislature got through a bill that requires voters to show government-issued identification, which many civil advocacy groups consider to be a major barrier for impoverished citizens or minority voters, but also college students, who may be voting for the first time. Students are also transient and may be entering college from another state, and likely would be unfamiliar with their new home state's processes.

Republican politicians maintain they are trying to protect elections from fraud with voter ID laws.

“You have a state where the same political party as recently instituted a strict voter ID law that excludes student IDs attempted to pass a bill to prohibit early-voting sites on colleges and university campuses and scheduled two special elections in districts with very large student populations when school is not in session,” said Mike Burns, national director for the Campus Vote Project, a nonpartisan offshoot of the Fair Elections Legal Network. “That is a strong theme of purposefully suppressing student voting.”

College-age students in Iowa are voting in record numbers, too. Nearly 40 percent of registered voters ages 18 to 34, which encompasses the traditional age for college students, participated in the 2018 midterm election, according to the Iowa secretary of state.

This is the highest turnout since at least 2002 -- voter turnout in that age range never surpassed 30 percent in midterm elections since that year. These are voters that tend to identify on the political left. According to the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds considered themselves Democrats or leaned Democrat.

“These numbers are a very positive sign, but we can do better,” Paul Pate, the secretary of state, a Republican, said in a statement. “Young people traditionally are the least likely to vote, and that trend continues, but these numbers show substantial improvement over previous elections. My office will continue its outreach initiatives to high school and college students, encouraging them and all eligible Iowans to engage in the electoral process.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Colleges start academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 2, 2019 - 5:00pm
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Academic asylum in universities under threat once again

University World News - July 2, 2019 - 4:02pm
Five distinguished academics, among them two former education ministers and a former Greek and European ombudsman, have signed an open letter calling for the abolition of academic asylum in Greek ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Democratic contenders draw contrasts on free college, student debt

Inside Higher Ed - News - June 28, 2019 - 5:00pm

Candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for president offered contrasting visions on college affordability and student debt in two debates this week.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, both have introduced campaign proposals for free public college and student debt cancellation.

Warren's plan would cancel up to $50,000 in student debt for borrowers with incomes under six figures, as well as provide more limited debt relief for higher earning borrowers. The Sanders proposal, released this week, calls for canceling all $1.5 trillion in outstanding U.S. student loan debt.

"I believe we must make public colleges and universities tuition free and eliminate student debt, and we do that by placing a tax on Wall Street," Sanders said at the second Democratic debate, on Thursday.

Other candidates, however, have argued for targeted college affordability measures and limited fixes for student borrowers.

Pete Buttigieg​

The South Bend, Indiana, mayor said he and his husband, a teacher, hold six-figure student loan debt. Buttigieg supports giving borrowers the ability to refinance their student loan debt. He also said he wants to double the size of the Pell Grant, which will give students a maximum of $6,195 in the 2019-20 academic year.

"I support free public colleges for low-income and middle-income families," he said. "I just don't believe it makes sense for working-class families to subsidize tuition even for billionaires. The children of the wealthiest of Americans can pay at least a little bit of tuition."

Buttigieg also said he wants to enact policies, such as a $15 minimum wage, that will assist non-college graduates.

"Yes it needs to be more affordable in this country to go to college, but it needs to be affordable in this country not to go to college," he said.

Amy Klobuchar​

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she supports free community college and a maximum Pell Grant of $12,000 a year. But she rejected calls for free four-year, public college.

Klobuchar also backs an option for borrowers to refinance their student loans.

"You have so many people that are having trouble affording college and having trouble affording their premiums," she said. "So I do get concerned about paying for college for rich kids.'

Klobuchar said both her father and sister got their first degrees from community colleges. "There's many paths to success, as well as certifications," she said.

Joe Biden

Biden, the former vice president and Delaware senator, said he backed free community college and debt relief for borrowers making less than $25,000 a year.

Elizabeth Warren

In closing remarks Wednesday, Warren told a personal story about how affordable tuition had opened a path to her for a college education.

"By the time I graduated from high school, my family -- my family didn't have the money for a college application, much less a chance for me to go to college," she said. "But I got my chance. It was a $50-a-semester commuter college. That was a little slice of government that created some opportunity for a girl. And it opened my life."

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Elizabeth Warren has been criticized and praised for sounding like a professor

Inside Higher Ed - News - June 28, 2019 - 5:00pm

As a woman running for president, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a Democrat, was bound to encounter the likability bias: assert yourself as a man and you're seen as a boss, yet assert yourself as a woman, and you're seen as bossy.

But a recent dig to Warren's likability came from a somewhat unexpected source, at a somewhat unexpected angle. In an interview with MSNBC, former Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, another Democrat, suggested that Warren was struggling with being "in command of the policy" and still being "relatable."

Then McCaskill defined Warren's fundamental "challenge" like this: "[F]rankly, sometimes she comes very close to that professor I just wanted to be quiet."

Beyond sounding like a professor, Warren is one -- the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law, emerita, at Harvard University. But is sounding like a professor -- whatever that means -- a liability in politics? McCaskill has publicly supported former Vice President Joe Biden, another presidential candidate, in the past. So her comments may have been politically motivated. But in a political environment that is decidedly anti-academic, is she on to something?

Historically speaking, no. Nearly a quarter of all presidents served as teachers or professors (mostly of law) before assuming office. Woodrow Wilson was president of Princeton University before he ran the country. Many other policy makers teach before or after their terms.

Still, criticizing politicians for sounding smart -- if that's what sounding "like a professor" means -- isn't new. President Barack Obama, who taught law at the University of Chicago before he was president, was often criticized for being "aloof and cerebral," as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board once put it.

Tom Nichols, University Professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and author of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, said that "professorial" is "not a compliment."

To most people, he said, it means "long-winded gasbag pontificating on things that don't have a lot of relevance to the ordinary person."

Politics, meanwhile, "requires connection with a spectrum of people, not the ones that have self-selected to sit in your classroom. Unlike your students, they don't have to listen to you, and you have no ability to make them let you finish a thought."

No matter how educated one is, Nichols added, "voters hate politicians who come across as superior or better educated, or knowing more. That's just the nature of democracy in the U.S."

President Bill Clinton played down his Yale University and Rhodes Scholar past, for instance, Nichols said. And Warren and others have been known, he said, to "start droppin' their 'g' and tryin' ta sound like ordinary folks." 

Today, someone who sounds like John F. Kennedy or Franklin Roosevelt "probably wouldn't stand a chance."

Warren, as a woman and a professor, might face a double-bind -- something like what female professors of color report facing in personnel decisions and in student evaluations of their teaching. That is, women in academe are judged more harshly in certain ways than are their male peers, and being underrepresented adds another layer of bias.

Does talking "like a professor" mean talking too much? McCaskill seems to define it that way. And Nichols said a TV news anchor once told him that the program didn't like to "use professors," because "professors talk in long paragraphs and answer the questions they prefer, not the ones they were asked."

Among those who thought that Warren talked too much at Wednesday night's first-round debate for Democratic presidential hopefuls was the sister of another candidate, Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Vrindavan Gabbard wrote on her sister's Twitter account during the NBC-sponsored debate, "It's clear who MSNBC wants to be president: Elizabeth Warren. They're giving her more time than all the other candidates combined. They aren't giving any time to Tulsi at all."

That wasn't true, at least not by the evening's end. According to NPR's accounting, both Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey and Beto O'Rourke of Texas talked more than Warren. Booker got just about 11 minutes, O'Rourke got 10, and Warren got 9 minutes and 20 seconds.

Elizabeth Warren "Facts"

At the same time, during the debate, Warren was getting love on Twitter for being a professor, and someone who kept to her allotted time. It started with this tweet from Patricia Matthew, an associate professor of English at Montclair State University:

Elizabeth Warren has never gone over her allotted time at a conference. Not even once.

-- tricia matthew (@triciamatthew) June 27, 2019

Soon others began to offer their own idealized guesses at to what kind of teacher, mentor and conference-goer Warren is. The threads got tongue-in-cheek fast, with Warren being portrayed as a kind of academic unicorn, or even an academic Chuck Norris. (Recall the Norris "facts" from the 2000s: "There is no theory of evolution, just a list of creatures Chuck Norris allows to live," or "There is no chin behind Chuck Norris' beard. There is only another fist.")

Based on the threads, Warren as a professor and supremely decent human being never asks conference questions with a comment, only uses "Reply All" when necessary, defends the Oxford comma, pays for graduate students' meals and looks at the audience, not her PowerPoint slides. She brews a fresh pot of coffee when she takes the last cup, stands to the right on escalators, always rewound VHS rental tapes -- you get the idea.

Elizabeth Warren has never asked a question that was addressed in a previous email.

-- Mama H (@MamaH2000) June 27, 2019

Elizabeth Warren uses "less" and "fewer" correctly. She also supports the use of the Oxford comma because why would you want to be ambiguous?

-- Valerie Catrow (@ValerieCatrow) June 27, 2019

Elizabeth Warren doesn't put text on her slides; just images and figures, and she walks you through them in detail while making sure even the students attending the colloquium understand what she's saying.

-- John Christoph (@JohnMChristoph) June 27, 2019

Elizabeth Warren always remembers your birthday, but never remembers your age.

-- Di on a clear day can see forever (@fourthlettr) June 27, 2019

Then someone who once worked with Warren weighed in to say that the fantasy wasn't far from reality:

@ewarren runs committee meetings with an agenda circulated days in advance, starting precisely on time, with coffee, and finishing one minute early.
This is a great thread, but I'm really not kidding. I served on one of her committees: https://t.co/hYPNv5xmQs

-- Jed Shugerman (@jedshug) June 27, 2019

What was it all about? Matthew said that despite Warren's "elite credentials," she's "always been struck by how [Warren] talks to folks as if they are smart, reasonable people who just need more information. And she respects our time." Warren "doesn't have time to waste on puffery because we have urgent problems that need fixing," Matthew added.

So maybe sounding like a professor means sounding substantive? Warren's go-to phrase is "I have a plan for that," after all. And Mark Schmitt of the New America Foundation wrote a New York Times op-ed this week called, "To Back Warren Is to Treat Politics as a Matter of Substance."

Jessica Calarco, an associate professor of sociology at Indiana University, said that, given her own background, she loves Warren's "approach to data-driven policymaking. And I especially love that she recognizes, calls out and is interested in developing policies to address the underlying structures of inequality, rather than just looking for a quick Band-aid fix."

Calarco said Warren's "good" professor "vibes" have the potential to speak to a larger audience, too.

"They give people the sense that she is kind," Calarco said. "That she genuinely cares about others and making their lives better -- that she's not just in this for herself or what she can gain from being president. They give people the sense that she is smart but not pretentious."

Matthew Gabriele, chair of the department of religion and culture at Virginia Tech, said the "knee-jerk reaction when people say, 'Don't be a professor' means that people don't want to be talked down to."

Like Nichols, Gabriele said that people "have this image of professors as obnoxious blowhards" in tweed jackets in ivory towers. So the pro-Warren threads are reminders that "there are good, kind professors, too." The kind who aren't afraid of saying you're wrong but who then say, "I'll help you understand it better. You can do this, too."

As for McCaskill, Matthew said she was "disappointed" that she'd fallen "into the likability conversation. It's never a good idea and it's so short-sighted." Instead, Matthew said McCaskill "should be finding new ways to talk about this election cycle, ways that require the media to break the bad habits of how they talk about women."

Matthew foresees similar challenges for Warren ahead. But so far, Matthew said, "she's dealing with it the way most of the women I know deal with these judgments, by letting our work speak for itself."

Does sounding like a professor mean sounding prepared? Maybe. Dan Hirschman, an assistant professor of sociology at Brown University, said that there is "nothing inherent about being a professor that makes someone less -- or more -- relatable," he said. Some professors are bad at public speaking and others are good. But at their best, he said, professors are "passionate, dynamic, engaging and skilled at translating difficult and complex topics into something understandable by whatever audience they are speaking to."

As for the threads, Hirschman said the comedy is about Warren being "prepared, considerate and respectful of rules" in the debate -- even though he said that idea, too, is gendered.

"I think we academics are deploying the meme to make fun of inconsiderate things some academics do, while non-academics are taking it in other directions," he said. Over all, the threads suggest that "part of how Warren is relatable is that she is considerate and prepared and we all have fond memories of times we interacted with someone who was considerate, versus someone who was not."

Calarco said she has heard concerns, mostly from Democratic friends outside academe, that about "Warren being seen, especially in the general election, as too elitist. They worry about her Harvard pedigree."

That's a risk, Calarco said. "But I don't think it's as big a risk as McCaskill makes it out to be. And I don't think it's a reason to discount Warren's chances in the general election."

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Coaches influence athlete medical decisions, survey finds

Inside Higher Ed - News - June 28, 2019 - 5:00pm

Most college and university athletics trainers say they have autonomy to make medical decisions for their players. But some report they do not -- and that coaches try to influence them.

Those were among the key findings of a new survey from the Intercollegiate Council for Sports Medicine, which is part of the National Athletic Trainers' Association. The survey yielded responses from nearly 1,800 athletics trainers at colleges across the country. About 43 percent of the trainers who responded worked at Division I universities, which are generally larger and more affluent than their peers.

The survey comes after multiple athlete deaths in recent years. One of the most high-profile was Jordan McNair, a 19-year-old University of Maryland, College Park football player. McNair died last year from heatstroke. A university-commissioned investigation found that Maryland did not follow procedures in treating McNair, including giving him a cold-immersion bath. He had collapsed after running 110-yard sprints, began cramping and eventually had a seizure.

Another football player, Braeden Bradforth at Garden City Community College in Kansas, suffered a heatstroke death last August.

More than 76 percent of trainers who responded to the survey said they had medical autonomy, which the association said is the "unchallengeable authority to determine medical management of athletes."

This is a key part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's guidelines on medical care for athletes, which stresses that trainers should have independence in their jobs and be free from the influence of coaches or others. Yet nearly one in five of the trainers who took the survey said a coach had played an athlete who had been deemed medically ineligible.

"In the interest of the health and welfare of collegiate student-athletes, a student-athlete's healthcare providers must have clear authority for student-athlete care," the NCAA guidance said.

More than 48 percent of the trainers reported that their institutions were not completely following the NCAA guidelines. For example, almost half said their college or university had no formal policy in place that described a health model that their athletics programs should use.

Roughly 500 athletic trainers answered questions about whether they had been pressured in their medical decisions by non-medical personnel.

Of those 500 trainers, about three in five said they had been pressured at some point. Among those who reported being pressured, almost 29 percent said it happened at least twice a month. About 3 percent said it was a daily problem.

Even so, the trainers' group "believes the pendulum is shifting in a positive direction," Tory Lindley, the association's president, said in a written statement.

"It is absolutely appropriate and expected for coaches as well as other relevant athletic personnel to ask questions," Lindley said. "What is not acceptable is when the inquiry is laced with an expectation to influence, dictate, coerce or challenge the athletic trainer's autonomous authority to make medical decisions in the sole interest of student athlete health and wellbeing."

The NCAA did not respond to a request for comment. But Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA's chief medical officer, told ESPN that all institutions are "obligated to comply" with the rules around medical decisions for athletes. Those that don't should self-report an NCAA violation, he said.

The survey also found that about one-third of the athletic trainers said coaches had some influence over the employment of the sports medicine staff, which is again counter to the NCAA's recommendations.

"An athletic trainer's professional qualifications and performance evaluations must not be primarily judged by administrative personnel who lack health care expertise, particularly in the context of hiring, promotion and termination decisions," the NCAA guidelines state.

About 30 percent of the trainers reported that their degree of dependence depended on the sport they were assigned to -- trainers in certain sports said they had more latitude than others. The report did not include results for specific sports.

"Student athletes and their parents should feel confident that decisions about health and safety are based solely on medical information and judgment and are not influenced by personnel who are not trained and experienced in that area," Lindley said.

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After earlier court wins, student advocates sue DeVos over loan relief claims

Inside Higher Ed - News - June 28, 2019 - 5:00pm

Lawyers for student borrowers have filed myriad lawsuits against Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education.

They've successfully argued that the Education Department should be required to carry out a 2016 borrower defense rule. And they managed to block a plan to offer partial loan cancellation to former Corinthian College students who previously were approved for debt relief.

Now those lawyers are aiming to force the department's hand on a massive backlog of claims from borrowers who say they were misled by their colleges. This week they filed a lawsuit in a California federal court that seeks to have delays in deciding on those claims ruled unlawful.

The total number of pending claims now stretches well over 150,000 -- most of them from students who attended programs operated by for-profit college chains like Corinthian, ITT Tech and DeVry. And many were filed as far back as 2015.

Federal statute gives student borrowers who were misled by their college the chance to argue that their federal loans should be cleared in a process known as borrower defense. The Obama administration approved nearly 30,000 borrower defense claims. But reviews have slowed to a complete stop under DeVos -- a development plaintiffs argue has caused borrowers to default on loans and has limited their ability to make major financial decisions or even apply for jobs.

"They've been clear in saying that not only do they not have any timetable for resolving cases. They haven't looked at them," said Eileen Connor, a lawyer and director of litigation for the Project on Predatory Student Lending, which filed the lawsuit. "That's really unfair, because these students have valid claims."

Connor and the lawyers arguing the case also say the delays violate the Administrative Procedure Act's requirement that federal agencies make prompt decisions. Unlike other lawsuits brought against the department, the plaintiffs aren't seeking a court ruling that the department should cancel borrowers' debts. Instead, they're asking that the Trump administration start issuing decisions on the outstanding claims.

DeVos has attributed delays to ongoing litigation involving the department's partial loan relief formula, which a judge blocked last year.

In a statement to The Washington Post this week, Liz Hill, department press secretary, said, "the only thing stopping the department from finalizing thousands of these claims is the constant stream of litigation brought by ideological, so-called student advocate special interests."

Those arguments, Connor said, are a "total smokescreen" and don't explain the department's inaction.

Legal Battle Over Loan Forgiveness

One of the first steps DeVos took as education secretary was to delay the Obama administration's 2016 borrower defense rule, which the Education Department promulgated in the wake of Corinthian's closure and the thousands of new loan forgiveness claims that followed. The rule established a uniform federal standard for borrower defense claims for the first time. But DeVos said it didn't properly account for concerns of institutions.

State attorneys general and the Project on Predatory Lending sued, and a federal court ruled last year that the rule must take effect. The decision didn't lead to more decisions on borrower defense claims, however.

Federal data show that the department hasn't approved or denied any claims in more than a year. Connor said the fight over the 2016 rule never prevented the Trump administration from taking action on thousands of earlier borrower defense applications filed before July 2017, which alleged violations of state law.

"The department always had the obligation to review these applications and decide where there's a meritorious claim under state law," she said.

Those claims include the one submitted by Alicia Davis, a former Corinthian student in Orlando. Davis, 36, attended an Everest College criminal justice program for two years before transferring to Valencia Community College. Despite assurances from Everest, her credits didn't transfer to the new institution. And Davis alleged that Everest deceptively took out more than $20,000 in federally backed loans on her behalf.

She eventually enrolled at the University of Central Florida, where she received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree. But her debt from Everest continued to balloon. After filing a borrower defense claim in 2015, and again the next year, she defaulted on her loans.

"I can't buy a car. I can't buy a house. I don't qualify for any of that," she said. "It's ruined me financially."

The defaulted loans have also blocked Davis, a crime analyst with a local law enforcement agency, from applying for jobs with the federal government.

She said she's received several threats from the Education Department that her wages could be garnished and her tax refund offset. But Davis never received any update on the status of her claim from the department except for an acknowledgment that her application was received.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit say they've delayed marriage or plans to have children because of the uncertainty surrounding their student loans.

Individual borrowers have previously filed lawsuits against the department over delays in reviewing their claims. The department has settled a handful of those cases this year -- in one instance, by allowing a borrower to clear her student loans through bankruptcy.

Yet the lawsuit filed this week is the first time that advocates have sued the department on behalf of all borrowers with pending claims. The Project on Predatory Student Lending also has asked borrowers to submit affidavits online about how they've been affected by the wait for a decision. More than 270 had submitted statements to a website by Thursday.

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University that vowed not to consider journal quality in hiring does just that

Inside Higher Ed - News - June 28, 2019 - 5:00pm

A university that pledged not to judge professors on the journals in which they publish has apologized for posting a job advertisement calling for a postdoc who had published in a title such as Nature or Science.

ETH Zurich is a signatory to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, known as DORA, which says that journal "impact factors" should not be used as a proxy for the quality of scholarship.

But its Institute for Chemical and Bioengineering posted an advertisement for a postdoctoral position in sustainable process systems engineering that said researchers must have published in a journal with an impact factor above 10.

"A specific requirement for this position is to have published as main author or co-author (at least one journal article) in a high-impact journal (impact factor above 10, e.g., Nature, Science, Nature Communications, Nature Energy, Nature Sustainability, Nature Climate Change, PNAS, Energy & Environmental Science, etc.). Applications not fulfilling the latter requirement will get a rejection," the advertisement said.

Only a limited number of titles have such a high impact factor, and they typically have a very high rejection rate. More significantly, critics of journal impact factors point out that where a paper is published is not necessarily an accurate reflection of its quality, and that selection of papers in highly selective periodicals is shaped by editorial biases and networks.

The postdoc position was for an initial period of one year, and a maximum of three. The advertisement also stated that the successful candidate "will communicate the results through regular publications in high-impact journals."

The advertisement was for a role in the group of Gonzalo Guillén-Gosálbez, who issued an apology on Twitter after widespread criticism. "I apologise to ETH and the whole research community and will change requirements," he said, adding that he had "reflected deeply" on comments from peers.

Stephen Curry, chair of DORA and assistant provost for equality, diversity and inclusion at Imperial College London, said that he was "disturbed" to see an advertisement from a "signatory organization that was obviously contrary to the letter and spirit of DORA."

Curry, who has written to the president of ETH Zurich, said that the university had already taken action and was "very committed to implementing DORA."

"We recognize that in any large organization it is always a challenge to ensure that everyone is aware of the obligations that come with signing DORA," he added.

Lynn Kamerlin, professor of structural biology at Uppsala University, Sweden, said that if she had used the same recruitment criteria as the ETH ad, she would have missed out on many "outstanding candidates who performed extremely well in my group."

In her advertisements, she asks for "publications of a high scientific standard, assessed according to the DORA principles."

However, with every job application being "an investment of a candidate's time and hopes," Kamerlin said the "tough question is, if this is the filter that would be used, is it not more honest to actually put it in the advertisement to stop people from wasting their time?"

An ETH spokeswoman said that the "sensitivity to primarily consider qualitative criteria in recruiting is enormously high" at the university, and that it "fully supports" DORA.

ETH "dissociates itself from the requirements expressed by the professor in question and has since sought dialogue with him," the spokeswoman added.

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West Virginia requires students take drug test to qualify for free tuition

Inside Higher Ed - News - June 27, 2019 - 5:00pm

Starting in July, students in West Virginia seeking to take advantage of the state's new tuition-free community college program will have to submit to a blanket drug test. The policy makes West Virginia's free-tuition legislation unique nationwide.

In March, the state Legislature passed West Virginia Invests -- legislation allowing students in the state to attend public colleges with qualifying certificate and associate degrees tuition-free. However, among the eligibility requirements to receive this benefit is passing a drug test, including for marijuana use, before the beginning of the semester.

John Bolt, a spokesman for the state flagship West Virginia University, said the policy won't affect admissions at the main campus -- even for students receiving need-based financial aid to attend the university. The policy will affect the university's affiliate campus at Potomac State College, which Bolt said primarily offers two-year programs.

The drug tests won't deem a student ineligible for prescription medicines, which could include medical marijuana, according to local media reports.

Mitch Carmichael, president of the West Virginia State Senate, was the architect of the legislation. Carmichael told WVNews the reasoning behind the drug testing requirement was that West Virginia Invests is meant to be a program preparing students for the workforce, where they'll likely have to take drug tests anyway.

Carmichael also said the program was meant for individuals not using drugs. Carmichael did not respond to requests for comment from Inside Higher Ed.

Eligibility requirements aren't new for state free-tuition programs.

Many states have standards related to minimum grade point average or family income to enter the program. Some states require students to pledge to remain working in their respective state after completing the program, with the hopes of supporting economic growth. However, Morley Winograd, president of the Campaign for Free College Tuition, said his organization recommends that programs should have the least rigid eligibility requirements possible.

"Our overall advice to states considering making college tuition free, which of course we're very much in favor of, is to make the program -- if you really want it to have impact -- as universal and as limited in its eligibility requirements as possible," Winograd said. "States that have done that have been able to generate much higher rates of enrollment increase, which is of course the whole idea."

Winograd said his organization advises states on the broader concept of offering free college options, and tries not to intervene heavily when the issue involves more specific state political issues -- which often arise, he said, when states debate legislation such as this.

"When you get into the politics of each state, and it really doesn't matter the political makeup, in our experience, a lot of local or at least statewide politics issues come to the forefront," Winograd said. "In the case of West Virginia, the idea for free college tuition, which was championed by State Senator Carmichael, gained overwhelming support in the legislature because of its focus as a solution to West Virginia's employment issues and having a workforce that had the skills that employers in West Virginia were saying were lacking in the workforce."

Drug testing for free college may be uncommon, but it is not uncommon for government benefits or entitlements in general. Many states have administered drug tests for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). However, drug testing all those applying for eligibility has been challenged frequently in the courts. In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a ruling that said a Florida law requiring all TANF applicants to be drug tested violated the Fourth Amendment.

In higher education specifically, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that the State Technical College of Missouri may not require all students to submit to drug testing prior to enrollment. The college, formerly Linn State Technical College, argued that the drug tests were meant to foster a drug-free environment on campus, but the court ruled the test was a search under the Fourth Amendment.

Winograd said there could be a variety of reasons why West Virginia lawmakers were particularly interested in this policy, but that one could be continued concern for drug-abuse issues in the state.

"It's not an uncommon thing to have in workplaces, but I think people are thinking about substance-abuse drugs, but in West Virginia they could've easily been thinking about opioid addiction, which is a huge problem in that state," Winograd said.

Rosye Cloud, vice president of strategy and innovation for the College Promise advocacy group, said in an email that each state must determine its own criteria for eligibility when creating programs such as this.

"We support student access and success through promoting and expanding Promise programs," Cloud said. "We understand that each state or community must determine their criteria for participation along with financial models that ensure long-term sustainability of the programs."

Students seeking eligibility for West Virginia's new program will be able to start taking drug tests as early as July.


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UC Davis is latest institution to adopt a reference check policy to stem faculty misconduct

Inside Higher Ed - News - June 27, 2019 - 5:00pm

Last year, the University of Wisconsin System very publicly launched a new policy against "passing the harasser" on to unwitting institutions: It said it would disclose substantiated misconduct findings when contacted for employee reference checks. The system also put checks in place to guard against being passed someone else's harassers.

Around the same time, the University of California, Davis, more quietly established its own pilot policy on faculty reference checks. Experts say this kind of policy is still extremely rare in academe -- but that that will soon change.

A year into its pilot, Davis officials are ready to talk about it. Philip Kass, the university's vice provost of academic affairs, who recently testified about the policy during a Congressional hearing on harassment in the sciences, said Wednesday that he and colleagues sought ways to prevent and otherwise address issues of sexual misconduct on campus. 

And they started thinking about how it's "possible for faculty to move between universities without the incoming university knowing about substantiated findings and discipline for any reason at a prior university."

K-12 school districts already are "well aware" of this problem, Kass said. But colleges and universities are another story -- even though examples abound of professors disciplined for misconduct moving on to new campuses to harass more students or colleagues. Ultimately, Davis adopted a new reference check program to "help prevent us from hiring faculty without the ability to evaluate such historic infractions."

The policy centers more on advance warning than disclosure. Job ads say that Davis will conduct reference checks into misconduct. Applicants for tenured and continuing lecturer positions must consent to having a reference check. Those who don't consent don't move forward as candidates.

Davis contacts the former institution or institutions of finalists who do consent, and asks whether there have been substantiated findings of misconduct that would violate the California system's Faculty Code of Conduct -- including sexual assault and harassment.

This process is separate from criminal background checks, which are governed by system policy and don't turn up internal findings of misconduct.

Davis will also share any substantiated findings of misconduct with institutions that ask about its own employees, past or present, provided those institutions present a signed waiver from the candidate consenting to the reference check.

Since last summer, 14 candidates for jobs at Davis have required reference checks. Nine have been completed, with 23 institutions contacted. Nineteen responses have been provided. None included information about candidates receiving discipline.

Were the institution to receive pertinent information, academic affairs personnel and the relevant dean and department chair would conduct an individualized assessment to see if the candidate was still eligible for the job in question. They'd consider the nature of the conduct, the length of time passed, discipline or corrective action taken, and the applicant's explanation.

Kass said that his office received no complaints from applicants or institutions about the policy this year. How many applicants have self-selected out of applying to Davis is impossible to know. But Kass told Congress during the hearing on harassment in the sciences that "potential applicants for faculty positions who have been disciplined, upon reading UC Davis's requirement for a signed authorization in order for their application to be considered, will be dissuaded from applying."

He added that Davis's reference check program "is an intervention for reducing the incidence and negative consequences of sexual harassment in both the STEM and non-STEM workforces, [for both] students and trainees."

Quinn Williams, general counsel for the Wisconsin system, praised Davis's efforts and said he was unaware of other institutions adopting similar policies.

Why? Institutions tend to fear the possible legal repercussions of sharing negative information about job candidates, he said. But Wisconsin's own study of the legal risks of disclosure found that fear to be "oversold." That's largely because the truth is strong defense against defamation claims.

Williams said that "we can't catch everything, and we don't think we can catch everything." But putting applicants "on notice early and often" that questions like this will be asked -- not only of them but of their prior employers -- is an effective and legally sound practice, he said.

What if institutions aren't forthcoming in their references? Williams said that Wisconsin makes clear that candidates who lie in the hiring process and are later found out can be dismissed for cause.

Kass said that academic affairs may consider extending this policy to tenure-track faculty members going forward. It didn't ask for the Academic Senate's approval of the policy, and Kass said that faculty applicants are not yet members of the Senate.

Still, general criminal background checks have historically proven controversial among professors. Some raise questions about the implications for rehabilitation, privacy and even academic freedom.

The American Association of University Professors takes the position that "blanket criminal background checks of faculty before appointment are a disproportionate invasion of privacy relative to the potential benefit," Hans-Joerg (Joerg) Tiede, senior program officer for academic freedom, tenure, and governance, said.

The association's relevant policy recommends that institutions should at the very least inform candidates of the proposed background check and get their written authorization, and give then give them a full copy of the report. No adverse action may be taken unless and until the employee has had an opportunity to contest or clarify its accuracy, the AAUP also says.

Institutional investigations, of course, are not criminal reports. And academic misconduct proceedings are not always perfectly executed. To that point, Tiede said the AAUP would "certainly be concerned if administrations reported findings of misconduct and impositions of sanctions in which they did not provide adequate academic due process."

Even so, Williams said he thinks this kind of reference check will spread going forward.

Kass does, too. "The concept of doing reference checks at universities is relatively new, and I suspect that some faculty may be concerned about the concept until they better understand it because it does have the capacity to exclude applicants from being considered for faculty positions, or may dissuade individuals from applying," if they don't want their references to be checked, he said.

Nevertheless, he said, "I firmly believe that as universities talk to each other" through professional organizations, "such reference checks will inevitably become institutionalized in their hiring practices."

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Categories: Higher Education News

Rural areas lag in degree attainment while urban areas feature big racial gaps

Inside Higher Ed - News - June 27, 2019 - 5:00pm

A new analysis of U.S. Census data at the county level shows that rural areas tend to have low college-degree attainment levels, and that urban and suburban areas often feature wide gaps across racial lines.

The report from the Center for American Progress was inspired in part by maps of the 2016 presidential election and by studies on "education deserts," or commuting zones that lack more than one broad-access postsecondary education option, said Colleen Campbell, director for postsecondary education at the center.

"The intention is to make people think about the bubbles they live in," she said.

Just under 40 percent of Americans over the age of 25 have earned an associate, bachelor's or graduate degree, according to the report. About 35 percent of white adults hold at least a bachelor's degree, compared to 18 percent of adults from underrepresented groups. And just 8 percent of bachelor's degree holders live in rural counties.

The center's analysis breaks down degree attainment in each of the nation's 3,220 counties, by using data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. An accompanying interactive map includes the locations of roughly 12,000 college campuses.

Fully 84 percent of the counties in the bottom 10 percent on degree attainment rates are mostly or completely rural, the group found. And just 16 percent of the counties in the top 10 percent are rural. Counties with low attainment rates are most heavily concentrated in the South, running from the borders of Oklahoma and Texas to the Atlantic Ocean.

Proximity to a college campus is a major driver of the rural attainment gap. Rural counties are home to 14 percent of the nation's campuses, the analysis found, even though these areas cover 97 percent of land area in the U.S.

"Furthermore, disparities exist between well-resourced flagships and lower-resourced regional and community colleges, which tend to be the only ones in rural areas," the report said.

Children in education deserts may not see postsecondary education as an option, making it unlikely that they will earn a college degree, and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

For example, Lee County in Arkansas is majority black and has a 13 percent overall degree attainment rate. It is home to twice as many residents without high school credentials as those with college degrees.

The nearest community college is 18 miles from the county seat of Marianna. The next closest option is a for-profit beauty school that is located 40 minutes away. And the closest in-state, public, four-year college is a four-hour round trip from Marianna.

Big Cities and College Towns

In contrast, 93 of the top 100 U.S. counties on degree attainment are either urban or suburban.

Yet high-attainment counties, particularly urban ones, also feature some of the nation's largest gaps between white adults and those from underrepresented groups. Urban areas with particularly yawning gaps include many of the nation's biggest cities, including New York City (56 percentage points), Denver (47), San Francisco (44), Boston (42), Atlanta (41), Los Angeles (35) and Chicago (32).

Washington, D.C., is a prime example of racial inequality in degree attainment, the report found. Three times as many white adult residents in the nation's capital hold a bachelor's degree or higher compared to black adults, a gap of 62 percentage points.

"Those without a degree have not shared in the economic boom that has occurred in the District over the past decade. This is in part due to the huge influx of college-educated young adults into the District, most of whom are white," the center said. "Washington also has extremely low access to affordable colleges, especially those that are open enrollment."

Large racial and ethnic gaps on degree attainment also exist in college towns, particularly those that include flagship public universities. Examples include counties that are home to the University of Virginia (50 percentage points), University of Colorado at Boulder (40), University of Texas at Austin (37) and the University of California, Berkeley (36).

"High attainment rates in these places are not driven by students, as most are not over the age of 25," the report said. "Rather, these colleges tend to be large employers, and faculty and staff very often are white bachelor's and graduate degree-holders."

Deep, systemic inequities have long pushed people of color out of postsecondary education, the analysis concluded. And both state and federal policy makers should better support educational options for adults, particularly those who dropped out of high school or college.

"State legislators really need to think about the geographies of their states. Do they want college to be accessible to everyone in their state?" said Campbell, who added that traditional colleges can't be the sole solution. "We need multiple pathways. A lot of this is about operating outside of higher education."

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