Higher Education News

New presidents or provosts: Benedictine CCNY Crowder Haverford Lehman LSU Martin Mines St. Thomas Virginia Tech

Inside Higher Ed - News - February 4, 2019 - 7:00pm
  • Cyril Clarke, interim executive vice president and provost at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Glenn Coltharp, vice president of academic affairs at Crowder College, in Missouri, has been selected as president there.
  • Charles W. Gregory, interim president of Benedictine University, in Illinois, has been appointed to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Stacia Haynie, interim executive vice president and provost at Louisiana State University, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Richard C. Holz, dean of the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences at Marquette University, in Wisconsin, has been selected as provost at Colorado School of Mines.
  • Sean L. Huddleston, vice president for inclusion and equity at the University of Indianapolis, in Indiana, has been chosen as president of Martin University, also in Indiana.
  • Tony Liss, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the City College of New York, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Jeremy L. Moreland, provost and chief academic officer at University of the Rockies, in Colorado, has been appointed as provost and chief academic officer at St. Thomas University, in Florida.
  • Peter Nwosu, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Clark Atlanta University, in Georgia, has been selected as provost and senior vice president of academic affairs and student success at Lehman College of the City University of New York.
  • Wendy Raymond, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty at Davidson College, in North Carolina, has been chosen as president of Haverford College, in Pennsylvania.
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Hampshire College won't admit additional students

Inside Higher Ed - News - February 2, 2019 - 11:58am

Hampshire College announced Friday night that it will admit as new students for the fall only those who were admitted early decision or who were admitted last year and deferred enrollment for a year. Beyond those groups, the college will not admit new students.

Two weeks ago, the college announced that it would decide by February 1 whether to admit new students. The college cited serious economic challenges making it unsure that it could provide a full four-year college experience to new students. The college also announced at that time that it was seeking partnerships that might allow Hampshire to continue in some form.

For nearly 50 years, Hampshire has operated at a college where students could lead their own educations, without the constraints of traditional departments. But last month's announcement said that the model was not working financially.

The students that Hampshire said it would enroll include 41 who were admitted early decision and another 36 who deferred enrollment a year ago. But Hampshire has released early decision applicants from their pledge to enroll if admitted, so it is unclear how many will enroll. A typical class of new students at Hampshire in recent years has been about 300.

In explaining the outcome on Friday, board leaders wrote to the campus that "we reached our decisions after considering many factors, including heartfelt and passionate discussions with the wider Hampshire community. The board believes in Hampshire. We believe Hampshire holds a special place in higher education, now and into the future. We believe that by enrolling a small fall 2019 class of early decision and gap-year students, the college will continue to be an experimenting and dynamic environment as we proceed with our plans for a partnership. The students who enroll this fall will benefit from the rigors and joys of the Hampshire experience."

A college spokesman said that there was no information available on possible partnerships.

The board leaders' statement said that "there were multiple, complex issues that had to be considered in making this decision, including ... our moral and ethical obligation to the students whom we had already accepted as well as to our current students, and two, state of Massachusetts higher education regulations and the college’s accreditation."

The board statement pledged to support current students, but noted difficult times ahead for many employees.

"To our current students: We continue to be committed to supporting you on your academic path until you complete your education here. We’ll provide the advising, guidance, and the resources you need," the statement said. "To our faculty and staff: We recognize there will be inevitable hardship as we move forward. We have charged the senior leadership team with developing plans -- as swiftly as possible, to minimize uncertainty -- to treat every employee with dignity and respect through this transition."

Campaigning for a New Class

In the days leading up to the decision, alumni and other supporters campaigned for a new class to be admitted. Some argued that the college hadn’t given supporters enough time to raise money or take other action to support its future -- and that trustees should vote to accept an incoming class or put off the decision until more fund-raising efforts could be completed. More than 2,100 signed a petition calling for a decision-making process that would be more transparent and involve faculty and staff members. Students protested and staged sit-ins.

Supporters wrote about their own experiences at Hampshire and the college’s unique history. Jon Krakauer, the author of Into the Wild, wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times that when he enrolled in 1972, his father was angry enough to stop speaking to him. But Krakauer wrote glowingly of academics at the college.

“Creative problem solving was emphasized,” he wrote. “Our professors encouraged us to consider the big picture and the long view, and embrace risk as a life strategy. Failing spectacularly in pursuit of an ambitious goal was thought to be salutary, and the shellacking instilled some humility. Whatever success I’ve had is rooted in those lessons.”

Krakauer went on to detail how Hampshire has no majors and awards no grades. Instead, he wrote, each student devises his or her own course of study, and “attaining a bachelor’s degree might require four years of study, or six. Or three, for that matter.”

Hampshire was and is “too avant-garde” for many prospective students, Krakauer wrote. Still, its alumni include Ken Burns, the filmmaker, actors Lupita Nyong’o and Liev Schreiber, economist Heather Boushey and theoretical physicist Lee Smolin.

Krakauer called the University of Massachusetts at Amherst “perhaps the best fit” as a merger partner. It is part of the Five College Consortium that allows students to take classes or use resources from any of its members. But a merger would lead to staff and faculty job losses, and there is “emphatic disagreement” with Nelson’s actions, according to the author.

“Hampshire’s iconoclastic educational model is widely admired and deservedly praised,” he wrote. “Given what lies ahead, however, it is not at all clear how much of the Hampshire philosophy -- to say nothing of the Hampshire soul -- will survive.”

The college posted information addressing some of the concerns. A majority of its board members, 21 of 29, are alumni. A quarter are or have been parents of Hampshire students, and a faculty, staff and student trustee are all voting members of the board.

On Jan. 23, leaders on the Board of Trustees had written in support of Nelson, calling the moment pivotal for the college.

“We write to the entire Hampshire community today to say we’re confident in Hampshire’s future and in the prospect that we’ll be able to preserve, in any partnership, what we revere about this institution -- its singular educational model -- while addressing our long-term financial challenges,” they wrote.

 

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Professor is suspended for using the N-word in class in discussion of language from James Baldwin essay

Inside Higher Ed - News - February 1, 2019 - 7:00pm

Augsburg University in Minnesota suspended a professor for using the N-word during a class discussion about a James Baldwin book in which the word appeared -- and for sharing essays on the history of the word with students who complained to him about it.

The case concerns academic freedom watchdogs on campus and off. The professor is just one of several to recently be sanctioned -- unofficially by students or officially by administrations -- for using the N-word in class. So one might also ask if there is ever reason to use a word so loaded.

Even now, Phillip Adamo (at right), the suspended professor of history and medieval studies at Augsburg, answers yes.

“I see a distinction between use and mention,” Adamo said Thursday. “To use the word, to inflict pain or harm, is unacceptable. To mention the word, in a discussion of how the word is used, is necessary for honest discourse.”

What Happened

In an honors seminar called the Scholar Citizen, Adamo introduced Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. In Adamo’s retelling, a student in the class quoted this sentence from early in the book: “You can really only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a n-----.” (Baldwin uses the full word, as did the student in class.) Students were shocked, Adamo said, and he asked whether, in an academic context, quoting from an author’s work, "it was appropriate to use the word if the author had used it.” In so doing, he used the word, not the euphemism.

Class discussion lasted about 40 minutes, he said, and ended in consensus that the word was too fraught to use going forward.

A similar discussion happened in a section of the course later in the day, Adamo said. After class, he sent all students a short email with links to two essays that he said pertained to the day’s talk. The first, by Andre Perry, David M. Rubenstein Fellow at the Brookings Institution, says to “choose to only use the N-word judiciously, reminding ourselves of its gravity by not using it loosely.” The second essay, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, formerly of The Atlantic, appeared in The New York Times in 2013, and has what Adamo called a “provocative title” -- “In Defense of a Loaded Word." But it concludes that “N----- the border, the signpost that reminds us that the old crimes don’t disappear. It tells white people that, for all their guns and all their gold, there will always be places they can never go.”

Adamo said some students told him that they interpreted the email as “forcing” his opinion on them. Then, he said, several nonenrolled students attended the next class session, saying they were there to observe, as leaders within the honors program. Students in the class then asked Adamo to leave to discuss the situation. Adamo suggested there was work to do, but he eventually agreed to step outside. One of the nonenrolled students began to film him discussing the word with students. That recording, which is mostly audio, was shared online under the title, "Phil Adamo Justifying Use of N-Word." Adamo's tone throughout is deferential to students. 

After class, Adamo informed his provost what had happened. She suggested that he write a note to the students in the honors program, he said. That letter says, in part, that the classroom “is a place where any and every topic can be explored, even those topics considered to be taboo. This is how I understand academic freedom, which is a precious thing to me and other professors. It is the currency that allows us to speak truth to power.”

Yet, Adamo continued, “I also understand that this point of view is available to me because of my privileged position. I am now struggling to understand how it may be better not to explore some taboo topics, and to weigh the consequences of absolute academic freedom versus outcomes that lead to hurt, racial trauma, and loss of trust.”

Adamo wrote a separate email to the honors student leaders. Praising them for their defense of the program’s values, he also noted his concern about their “methods,” including showing up to class unannounced and filming him without permission.

Sudden Suspension

Following the October incident, Augsburg’s provost “unilaterally” removed Adamo from teaching and his duties as honors program director for the fall semester. He then went on medical leave due to stress.

Augsburg has since moved to a formal review process and extended Adamo’s suspension to the current semester. His suspension letter, dated last month, cites an unspecified "range of issues" raised by students, falling into the following categories: bias and discrimination, respect for students, teaching competence and program leadership.

Asked about previous incidents, Adamo said he taught Baldwin last year and that students at the time said the content made them uncomfortable. But he discussed the matter with them and believed any outstanding concerns had been resolved, he said.

The American Association of University Professors recommends that professors only be suspended from teaching prior to a faculty review when they pose an imminent, namely physical, threat to the campus. The group doesn’t weigh in on whether specific words are right or wrong for the classroom. But it’s reached out to Augsburg on Adamo’s behalf, writing in a letter to the university president that the suspension “appears to have been primarily based on classroom speech that was clearly protected by principles of academic freedom.”

Quoting its statement "On Freedom of Expression and Campus Speech Codes," the AAUP wrote that “rules that ban or punish speech based upon its content cannot be justified,” since an institution of higher learning “fails to fulfill its mission if it asserts the power to proscribe ideas -- and racial or ethnic slurs, sexist epithets, or homophobic insults almost always express ideas, however repugnant.”

By “proscribing any ideas,” AAUP says, “a university sets an example that profoundly disserves its academic mission.”

Is Academic Freedom a Valid Defense of the N-Word?

Some of Adamo’s colleagues have made similar public statements in support of his academic freedom. Other faculty members disagree that academic freedom is a shield for saying a slur in a pedagogical context. Three Augsburg professors wrote in an op-ed in the student newspaper, the Echo, for example, that claiming academic freedom “in defense of language that harms students turns the very principle that makes true learning possible into a mechanism for enforcing institutional racism.”

The incident illustrates “the urgent need for many of our faculty to be more self-critical in their positions of power and racial (as well as gender and other forms of) privilege,” the professors wrote. It "underscores the very real power of words to cause damage and trauma.”

The university said in a statement that it began receiving bias reports about the incident and “inclusiveness of specific program areas at the university” in October. Augsburg immediately initiated its process for investigating such situations, it said, and that review “raised a variety of issues relating both to the particular classroom incident as well as to student experiences and concerns that go beyond that specific event.”

A resolution process followed the review, as outlined in the Faculty Handbook, the university said. It determined that an informal resolution process was not sufficient or appropriate for the “scope of complexity” of the problem.

At the same time, Augsburg’s chief academic officer charged a team of faculty, students and multicultural student services staff to review the program areas about which concerns had been raised. That review is expected to conclude in late spring. Other institutionwide climate reform efforts are under way.

“We know that the work of fostering an inclusive learning environment is ongoing, and we are fully committed to it,” said President Paul C. Pribbenow. “We are grateful to the students, faculty and staff who have spoken courageously to raise campus awareness, who have engaged in actively listening to the issues being expressed, and who have called for changes that advance our equity work.” He added, “Augsburg will address this important topic like it has many other critical issues in our 150-year history: we will acknowledge and engage the topic, not shrink from it, and work together to make the university better.

Adamo’s Augsburg faculty page notes that he was named Minnesota Professor of the Year in 2015 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. He says he’s also worked hard to recruit and retain students of color in the university's honors program, noting that such programs are recognized to suffer from a “whiteness problem.” 

Why Professors Keep Using the N-Word

But what about the N-word?

Robert Cowgill, professor of English at Augsburg and a member of the Minnesota AAUP’s Executive Committee, said he sees “no contradiction between supporting the students in their effort to express their discomfort and defending academic freedom.”

As a professor who often teaches novels and stories that deal with “difficult matters,” he said, “I believe academic freedom gives us the protection to teach potentially difficult texts in good faith and perhaps to make a mistake, if you will, in the presentation of those difficult texts.”

The difficulty may be in “how we discuss language, or in the text's racial representation,” he added via email, or “it may take the form of how we refer to gender or class.” The point is that "all participants' speech is protected in the legitimate classroom environment -- including, of course, the students’.”

Jonathan Friedman, project director for campus free speech at PEN America, said that especially in a political climate "where hate crimes and hateful speech have appeared more mainstream,” it’s "understandable why this classroom conversation garnered concern. Words with such loaded, heinous meanings have come to be heard as extremely offensive, no matter the context.” 

Still, he said, "intent here matters and we should not allow the profound difference between a racial slur and a quote for pedagogical purposes to be elided.”

Faculty members "can work to acquaint themselves with how this word is heard and understood, and they have a responsibility to create inclusive learning environments,” Friedman said. "But they also have an obligation to teach difficult and painful subjects, and their speech is protected by academic freedom. We should be extremely wary of creating a climate in which professors and students fear repercussions for their speech, in violation of that principle."

Jelani Cobb, a professor of journalism at Columbia University who has written about the N-word for The New Yorker, where he is a staff writer, said the short answer to the N-word in the classroom question is no.

“I’ve taught courses on hip-hop where the word is ubiquitous, and it’s always a stumbling block,” he said in a Twitter message. “By using the term, even in a quote, you’re essentially asking students, particularly black students, to take it on faith that this is not a vicarious thrill or a kind of ventriloquism that allows access to an otherwise forbidden term.”

In many instances, he said, “it will not be. In some instances it will.” Either way, the student is “almost always going to puzzle over that moment like a Rorschach test.”

So while it’s important question to debate, Cobb added, “the potential downsides of actually saying it are large enough, and the likelihood of derailing conversation high enough, that it’s not worth saying even if you have the most purely pedagogical motives.”

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American Library Association criticized for response to racism complaint

Inside Higher Ed - News - February 1, 2019 - 7:00pm

A scholarly communications librarian at New York University set off an uncomfortable debate among fellow librarians about the racial views and values of the American Library Association after sharing that she was verbally attacked by a white colleague at an ALA meeting this week. 

What's more, the librarian, April Hathcock, said a formal complaint she made to the organization was met with intimidation by the ALA’s legal counsel, who told her to keep quiet.

On Twitter, many librarians expressed outrage at the ALA’s treatment of Hathcock, one of few black women in a profession that is overwhelmingly white.

And some called for the organization, which says on its website that equality, diversity and inclusion are “fundamental values of the association,” to take a deep look at its culture and policies with regard to diversity.

The ALA has since apologized to Hathcock.

“It seems I will never be able to attend an American Library Association meeting without encountering some kind of racist, sexist trauma,” Hathcock wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. “ALA just isn’t a safe space in our profession for me. And I’m not the only one.”

Hathcock, who did not respond to requests for comment, wrote that she was confronted by a fellow ALA council member during a small, informal discussion at the ALA’s midwinter meeting in Seattle earlier this week. This council member, a white man whom Hathcock chose not to name, “verbally attacked me,” she said.

Just had a fellow council member, a white man, verbally attack me in the middle of council forum. Ended his verbal tirade by saying I “give him nightmares.” I’m curled up in my room shaking in sobs rn. I feel so unsafe & attacked. And no one stopped him. No spoke up.

— April (@AprilHathcock) January 29, 2019

“He accused me of being a hypocrite, for doxxing people and making ‘racial innuendos’ on my blog. He accused me of being uncivil and unprofessional (yes, he accused me of this in a tirade in a public forum amongst our colleagues). Then, he ended by claiming that I gave him ‘nightmares.’”

About 30 people were in the meeting, including prominent members of the library profession, but “no one said a thing,” Hathcock wrote. “I ran to my room to curl into a ball and cry in terror. At some point, I realized I needed to report the incident and get it through official channels.”

Hathcock wrote in her blog post that she received a phone call at her hotel room the day after the incident occurred. It was an ALA representative named Paula asking if they could meet to discuss the incident.

“I gladly agreed, impressed that things were being handled so swiftly,” Hathcock wrote. “Boy, was I naïve and wrong.”

According to Hathcock, Paula was, in fact, ALA’s legal counsel, and she was there to warn Hathcock against posting about the incident on social media, as she might be held liable if anything happened to the man who confronted her. ALA president-elect Wanda Brown also joined the meeting.

“As a lawyer I knew full well what they were trying to do. I made it clear in no uncertain terms that I would not be intimidated into silence,” Hathcock said in the blog post.

In a subsequent conference session, Loida Garcia-Febo, ALA president, briefly acknowledged what had happened. Hathcock said the session could have been an opportunity to talk about systemic racism in the organization, but what followed was “about 15 minutes of gaslighting and victim-blaming that left me paralyzed in my seat.”

Some people who had witnessed the exchange between Hathcock and the other council member said they had not spoken up because they didn’t know the history between the pair.

“I don’t see how any of that mattered,” said Hathcock. “I barely know this person. But even if there were history, there was no excuse for that behavior and others’ complicit silence.”

In a statement published yesterday, the ALA executive board said that the organization does not accept “harassment, bullying or discrimination of any kind.”

“We established a code of conduct because we take the responsibility of being respectful to each other very seriously,” the statement says. “We send our sincere apologies to Councilor April Hathcock for what she went through at Council Forum, which is unacceptable and doesn’t align with our core values.”

The executive board also addressed the meeting between Hathcock and the ALA’s legal counsel, saying they met with Hathcock to "share some nonpublic information about events after the incident in question." The board added it was "not the intent of the attorney or ALA to threaten Ms. Hathcock in any way." 

The statement said the ALA will be reviewing its current code of conduct for complaint processes and forming a working group to find ways to make council meetings “a safer space.”

The councilor who said Hathcock gave him “nightmares” has resigned, the ALA said. Transcripts of the meeting have not been made public, and Inside Higher Ed was not able to reach anyone who would confirm what was said in the meeting, nor whether they perceived what was said to be racist. One council member, Chris Corrigan, announced on the ALA Listserv this week that he would be resigning, but he did not state why. Corrigan did not respond to requests for comment, but several commenters on social media alleged that he was the person who confronted Hathcock.

Anita Kinney, an ALA member who was not at the meeting, said via email that she has known Corrigan for several years and worked with him in his capacity as an ALA councilor. She said Corrigan is widely respected among his peers and is categorically not a racist. 

Kinney said few people are willing to come forward to defend Corrigan because they are afraid of the backlash on Twitter from Hathcock’s followers.

“The people who want to stand up for Chris are unable to do so for fear of professional repercussions,” she said. “If I were employed as a librarian, I doubt I’d be speaking up. The fear of becoming a target for cyberbullies has silenced more witnesses than we will ever know.”

ALA Council Forums are informal gatherings, and “their lack of structure is a known issue,” said Kinney. “It is disquieting that Chris is being singled out when conflicts like this have been happening at Forum for years,” she said. She noted that people judging Corrigan may not be in possession of all the facts.  

Though she is “sorry to see how this situation has unfolded, I am glad people are finally taking an interest in enforcing the code of conduct at these events.”

Meredith Farkas, president of the Association of College and Research Libraries-Oregon, said she was very concerned about how the ALA handled Hathcock’s complaint.

“When you hear the first thing they did in response to the complaint was try to silence someone from talking about it on social media, you have to wonder if they’re acting in good faith,” Farkas said.

She said inappropriate conduct has “always been going on” at the ALA and other academic meetings, “but now people are reporting it on social media.” Earlier this year, for example, a meeting of classicists in San Diego was derailed by racist comments -- a major setback for a field that is trying hard to become more inclusive.

Farkas was not present at the meeting, but said she hoped those who were there “now feel tremendous guilt” for not speaking up to defend Hathcock.

“Some people say it wasn’t an attack,” said Farkas, but she believes Hathcock is telling the truth.

Brown, ALA president-elect, said in an interview that Hathcock’s experience was not representative of the organization as a whole. The ALA is "totally committed to equal treatment, equal respect and is making strides towards becoming more inclusive."

Karim Boughida, dean of libraries at the University of Rhode Island, disagreed.

“It is representative,” he said. “ALA leaders need to take a stand.”

The ALA has failed for years to address systemic racism and will lose members in the future as a result, said Boughida. “Our field is so white, and though we’ve been talking about diversity and inclusion for 40 years, no one really wants to deal with it.”

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NCAA punishes Missouri in blatant case of academic fraud

Inside Higher Ed - News - February 1, 2019 - 7:00pm

A former tutor at the University of Missouri at Columbia performed academic work -- including taking three full online courses -- for a dozen athletes, helping to keep many of them eligible to compete, the National Collegiate Athletic Association found Thursday.

The NCAA's Division I Committee on Infractions imposed a stinging set of penalties on the university, including a ban on postseason competition in football next season and in baseball and softball this spring and fines of 1 percent of the annual budgets in those sports. Missouri officials blasted the NCAA for what Chancellor Alexander Cartwright called its "harsh and inconsistent" decision, and vowed to appeal them.

The NCAA committee said the penalties could have been worse had the panel concluded that the tutor was acting either at the encouragement or with the knowledge of other university officials, as she asserted was the case.

The former mathematics tutor, Yolanda Kumar, whose November 2016 confession to Missouri administrators brought the case to the university's (and the NCAA's) attention, had asserted that athletics administrators pressured her to make sure her tutees passed, and that supervisors had "approved and rewarded her for her conduct," the NCAA wrote. (Kumar was not identified by name in the NCAA's infractions report, as is the association's custom. But she put herself into public view by taking to social media and, in 2017, offering to share confidential details about the case in exchange for $3,000 so she could pay a university debt and get her transcript from Missouri.)

"But the investigation did not support the allegation that her colleagues directed her to complete the work for the student-athletes," David M. Roberts, special adviser to the president of the University of Southern California and head of the NCAA panel that heard Missouri's case, said during a media call Thursday.

According to the NCAA report's findings, the tutor was told by an athletics department official in 2015 that a male basketball player "needed to pass" an applied statistics course over the summer to graduate. The tutor told the NCAA that she interpreted this interaction to mean that she should do whatever was needed to ensure the athlete's success, and that she "resorted to completing work" on his behalf.

She wound up, over the next 18 months, completing work for six athletes in University of Missouri math courses, including a self-paced online applied statistics course for which she completed and in some cases submitted assignments on the athletes' behalf.

She also helped athletes fulfill some of their university math requirements through online courses offered by other colleges, which the NCAA asserts that "a significant portion of the [Missouri] student population" does because "Missouri's math courses are historically difficult." (A university spokesman did not respond to requests for information about how commonly that actually happens.) The tutor completed course work for four athletes enrolled in an algebra class at a "local non-NCAA institution" that the report does not identify. Two other athletes took an online algebra course offered by Adams State University, in Colorado.

The NCAA concluded that the tutor had also helped two athletes score high enough on Missouri's (unproctored) math placement exam to place out of remedial math. They ended up playing for Missouri before ultimately being found guilty of cheating under the university's honor code.

As is true for just about every college sports case involving academic wrongdoing that has unfolded in the last few years, the NCAA's response to the Missouri situation brought repeated comparisons to the association's handling of the long-term academic wrongdoing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which evaded NCAA penalties in 2017 in part because the university aggressively fought the charges and in part because the wrongdoing didn't technically violate the association's rules because the academic fraud also benefited hundreds of students who were not athletes.

Many commentators (especially sports columnists from nearby cities) struggled to reconcile UNC's escape from penalties with the harsh penalties imposed on Missouri (including fines of more than 1 percent of the annual budgets of the football, baseball and softball programs) for the actions of what many characterized as a "rogue" tutor.

"As it turns out, honesty isn’t always the best policy," The Athletic said.

There is something to that critique, as the infractions panel indirectly acknowledges in its public report. Explaining why the Missouri and North Carolina cases are "distinguishable," the committee said that "UNC stood by the courses and the grades it awarded student-athletes," asserting that "although courses were created and graded by an office secretary, student-athletes completed their own work." In the Missouri case, by contrast, the university "acknowledged that the tutor completed student-athletes' work and, in most instances, this conduct violated its honor code."

While the infractions panel praised Missouri for its cooperation, and generally found its officials not to be culpable, the NCAA did not hold it blameless. "In the [committee's] past academic cases, [it] has consistently held both the institution and the institutional employee who engaged in the unethical conduct accountable for their actions," the panel's report said.

The potential penalties against Missouri were actually mitigated, the NCAA committee said, by the fact that the university disclosed the violations to the NCAA as soon as it learned of them. But institutions are also responsible for "self-detection" of violations, a responsibility the panel concluded Missouri did not fulfill. "The offending conduct continued for one year. But for the tutor's decision to come forward with her conduct, Missouri would not have known that the tutor was completing student-athletes' academic work," its report stated.

Missouri's explanation was that it has a "robust" program in place for educating its employees and a "culture of compliance" that encouraged the tutor to come forward. "Missouri is correct in that those are examples of well-functioning compliance systems," the panel wrote, but "its application to this case … is a stretch. The record did not demonstrate that Missouri failed to monitor, but it also did not demonstrate that Missouri had systems in place designed for prompt self-detection associated with this mitigating factor (e.g., spot checking metadata on submitted assignments)."

In addition to the postseason bans and monetary fines, Missouri's football, softball and baseball teams face recruiting limitations and the vacation of victories in which the ineligible athletes competed.

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Brookings report on potential impact of dropping so-called 90-10 rule

Inside Higher Ed - News - February 1, 2019 - 7:00pm

A Brookings Institution report examines what would happen if the U.S. Congress dropped a federal regulation that limits the share of federal revenue for-profit colleges can receive.

The paper, which was released this month, examined the effects of the so-called 90-10 rule on for-profit, private and public colleges. The rule requires 10 percent of federal aid-eligible for-profit institutions' revenue to come from nonfederal sources. But the cap doesn't apply to revenue from U.S. military and veteran student benefits.

Enacted by Congress in the '90s, the rule's intent is to be a market-based form of quality control by requiring for-profit programs to attract some students who pay out of pocket, and to prevent for-profits from relying solely on federal aid revenue.

However, congressional Republicans recently have challenged the fairness of the rule because it only affects the for-profit sector. The Trump administration has echoed that call with its broad effort to eliminate regulatory differences in the way for-profit and nonprofit colleges are treated.

Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate's education committee, wrote last year that what the rule "really measures is the socioeconomic status of students enrolled at the school, not the quality of the institution," adding that "students who have the resources to contribute personal or family funds or secure private loans to cover the full cost of higher education are a small minority."

Democrats, meanwhile, have pushed to close the military-benefits exclusion "loophole" by counting those benefits toward the cap on federal revenue.

The Brookings report found that nixing the rule entirely would have a serious impact -- a negative one.

“The rule seems to be a real limitation on the ability of certain for-profit schools to expand, especially the large chains,” said Adam Looney, a senior fellow in economic studies at Brookings and a co-author of the report. “If the 90-10 rule is eliminated … more students would be going to these large for-profit chains, and more of them would have relatively worse outcomes when it comes to student loans.”

Likewise, a Congressional Budget Office report released last year estimated that repealing the rule would cost taxpayers $2 billion in federal financial aid and student loans over the next 10 years.

The Brookings analysis also found that if military student benefits were included in the cap, for-profit institutions that served 24 percent of all students in the sector would have failed the rule in 2015. Institutions that served more than 30 percent of students at four-year for-profits also would have failed, the report found.

A spokesman from Career Education Colleges and Universities, which represents for-profit institutions, said in an emailed statement, “The 90-10 rule is not a measure of institutional quality. It is a financial calculation that is a measure of the socioeconomic position of the student population served by that institution.”

Public and nonprofit colleges, many of which also enroll large numbers of low-income students, mostly would not fail the regulation if it applied to them. That's because substantial chunks of their revenue comes from students paying out of pocket and from state and local government funding, according to the analysis.

More than 97 percent of public and nonprofit institutions would comply with the 90-10 rule if it applied to those sectors, the report found, citing federal data.

CECU opposes including military aid revenue in the 90-10 rule.

“Military benefits are earned benefits and that entitles servicemembers and veterans to use those benefits as they see fit,” the group said. “This is distinctly different from federal student aid and thus should be calculated differently.”

The analysis also examined lowering the federal revenue threshold to 85 or 80 percent. Some large for-profit companies have committed to a lower threshold on their own. DeVry University, for example, in 2016 introduced a self-imposed cap of 85 percent.

But many for-profit institutions would fail the rule if the threshold were lowered, the analysis found. If the rule were changed to 85-15 -- which it was until 1998 -- the report said 13 percent of for-profit colleges would have failed in 2015. An 80 percent cap would result in 27 percent of for-profit colleges failing, according to the report.

Looney said for-profit institutions should be able to stay below the 90 percent threshold.

"There are a lot of for-profit schools that easily comply with the 90-10 rule because students pay for it out of pocket," he said.

Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research for savingforcollege.com, argued in a 2013 paper that state appropriations and grants should count toward the cap on government aid. If those funds were counted, 98 percent of community colleges and 77 percent of public, four-year institutions would run afoul of the rule, according to his paper, which Alexander cited.

The exclusion of state funds in the calculation undermines the argument that the rule creates "skin in the game" for students, Kantrowitz said via email.

"Why does one get to pick and choose which type of government funding is included and which is ignored?" he said. "The reality is that without federal and state support, the higher education system would collapse."

-- Paul Fain contributed to this article.

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With new leadership in House, expectations build for college transparency legislation

Inside Higher Ed - News - February 1, 2019 - 7:00pm

When California governor Gavin Newsom offered his inaugural state budget, it included a proposal that was familiar to participants in one of the longest-running debates over higher ed policy in Washington.

Newsom, who was elected in November, called for investing $10 million in a data system that would track outcomes in K-12, higher education and the work force. Such a system would allow the state to monitor the success of individual schools in getting students to and through college and into well-paying jobs. His proposal was the latest illustration of how state leaders are looking for workarounds for the current federal ban on collecting student-level data -- a prohibition that has a strong chance of being overturned in the new Congress.

“This proposal out of California is another demonstration of the hunger for higher-quality data to improve decision making and to help students make better choices,” said Mamie Voight, vice president of policy research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

Voight and other supporters of a federal student data system to track college outcomes say that demand should inform members of Congress. And after Democrats took the House in November, the prospects of undoing the ban appear much stronger. Some key lawmakers and college groups still have reservations that could create other roadblocks for legislation. But the most influential opponent of a federal data system, Representative Virginia Foxx, is no longer running the House education committee after holding the gavel for the past two years. In 2008, it was Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, herself who wrote the current ban into federal law.

The new chair, Representative Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat, last year introduced a proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act that would do away with the ban. Supporters say that would allow students to get information on earnings and employment outcomes for colleges and individual programs.

Amy Laitinen, director for higher education at New America’s education policy program, said Democratic control of the House changes the calculus for committee Republicans who were quietly supportive of ending the ban but didn’t want to disagree with the chair.

“I think it makes it easier for those members,” she said.

Foxx and other opponents of a federal data system, which have included private colleges as well as civil libertarians, have raised concerns about student privacy. Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate education committee, has expressed similar concerns about tracking information of millions of students who have never applied for federal student aid, although not to the same degree as Foxx and other critics.

“It is clear that students need better information on whether or not college is worth their time and money,” a spokeswoman for Alexander said. “It is very important to develop a consensus on the most appropriate ways to improve information about colleges and universities so students can make more informed decisions about higher education with relevant data and without infringing on their privacy.”

But biggest recent momentum behind legislation to track student outcomes has been in the Senate. A bipartisan group of senators in May 2017 introduced the College Transparency Act, which would direct the National Center for Education Statistics to coordinate with other federal agencies to track graduation, employment and other outcomes for colleges.

Its chief co-sponsors included Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren, Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy, and Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. Fifteen total members eventually signed on, including Texas Republican John Cornyn, until this year the second-ranking GOP senator, and Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, the minority whip. In the House, 33 members are backing identical legislation.

Although Hatch has since retired from the Senate, Cassidy has made it clear the college transparency bill is his top priority in a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

And opposition to expanded federal data collection from within higher ed appeared to soften last year as well. The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities said it was open to legislation requiring colleges to collect and submit more student data to the federal government, although it remains opposed to a student-level data system.

Craig Lindwarm, assistant vice president for congressional and governmental affairs at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the higher ed group most active in pushing for student-level data, said Scott taking the top spot on the education committee would help the prospects of the College Transparency Act -- especially in light of Foxx’s position on the ban.

“That’s true especially considering where Ranking Member Foxx has been on the bill previously,” he said.

Lindwarm said an update to the Higher Education Act provides the most natural legislative vehicle for the College Transparency Act. But he said if political circumstances allow for the bill to be moved independently, that’s something sponsors would push for.

“The momentum behind the bill is undeniable,” he said. “Everyone recognizes the great need to empower students as consumers so they can make more informed decisions.”

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - News - February 1, 2019 - 7:00pm
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College endowments returned 8.2 percent in 2018; annual survey adds some insight into how funds are spent

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 31, 2019 - 7:00pm

Just under half of all spending from endowments goes to supporting student financial aid, according to data included for the first time in an annual survey of college and university endowments.

Now the question is whether that’s high or low -- and whether it provides any meaningful insight into colleges’ and universities’ priorities.

The annual study of endowments, released today by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the financial services company TIAA, includes the headline finding that endowment returns fell by about a third to 8.2 percent, net of fees, for the year ending in June 2018. That rate lifted the 10-year average return to 5.8 percent, which falls short of a 7.2 percent target set to keep endowments' purchasing power intact in the face of spending and the cost of inflation over time.

But this year's survey also includes an enticing bit of data about how colleges and universities spend the money their endowments generate. On average, 49 percent of total endowment withdrawals go toward student scholarships and financial aid programs. Another 16 percent of endowment spending goes toward supporting academic programs, 10 percent supports faculty positions and 7 percent supports campus operations.

The remaining 18 percent falls under a category covering all other purposes. It would include any number of functions, like hospital operations, patient health care or community services.

In the past, the survey has not included information on how institutions allocate the money they spend from their endowments. And the data released today didn’t include much in the way of context.

NACUBO doesn’t have previous years of data on where spending goes, making it impossible to compare this year’s numbers against the past. The business officers’ association didn’t give survey participants specific definitions for each spending category, meaning respondents reported spending by categories based on what they felt was the best fit, so accounting could differ from institution to institution.

A NACUBO researcher said an analysis breaking down spending destinations by endowment size won’t be possible before a full report is released in March. Differences in the way institutions may have interpreted the question and in the number of institutions in each size segment that answered the question would make an apples-to-apples comparison difficult.

The only information the association would release was that, in general, institutions with larger endowments tended to report dedicating lower percentages of their endowment spending to financial aid than those with smaller endowments. But those wealthier institutions still spend more on financial aid when measured in dollars, because their endowments generate so much more money.

“This is not a surprise once you consider that schools with big endowments tend to have a greater number of endowed chairs/faculty research slots, while schools with smaller endowments tend to have fewer endowed chairs,” said Ken Redd, NACUBO senior director of research and policy analysis, in an email. “But this general sense cannot yet be proven with the data we have, given the possible effects of non-response bias once we try to generate statistics by endowment sizes.”

Nonetheless, NACUBO clearly thought the spending information was important -- it was the fourth of 14 slides in a presentation for reporters. In addition, the question of how colleges and universities spend the money generated by their endowments has grown more and more politically contentious, with the issue coming to a head about a year ago when Republicans passed a tax reform package that included a tax on endowment earnings at the wealthiest institutions.

Higher education associations and wealthy institutions have fought desperately against the tax, saying endowments represent a significant source of revenue and that students gain the most from the financial resources.

“In fact, across our institutions, endowments support a significant and growing portion of our operations; for many, endowments provide almost half of annual revenues,” read one letter that 49 wealthy institutions sent last year to congressional leaders. “Students are the leading beneficiary of these resources with each of us committed to significant efforts to enhance affordability.”

Yet a large-scale accounting of how colleges are spending their endowment earnings has remained elusive. Individual cases have cropped up over the years providing insight into how much endowment spending is going to student aid at some colleges and universities, but a wider look at spending across hundreds of institutions remains conspicuously absent.

“There’s no good guidance on how much money colleges have in their endowments for different functions and then how they choose to use the dollars that are unrestricted,” said Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University.

The new study addresses that question only up to a point. It includes survey responses from 802 colleges and universities. But it doesn’t get into key details that would shed light on institutional priorities. It’s not clear how much money being spent on student aid is need based or non-need based. Also unclear is how much of the spending on student aid -- or any other category -- comes from unrestricted funds and how much is required to be spent in certain ways because of agreements with donors.

As a result, higher ed experts and economists weren’t sure how to categorize the statistic.

It is “eye-catching” but “practically meaningless,” said Jonathan Meer, a professor at Texas A&M University who researches charitable giving and the economics of education.

Finding the percentage of institutions' total expenditures devoted to financial aid would be more meaningful than focusing on endowments, said Charles Clotfelter, a professor of economics and law at Duke University, in another email. Money collected from endowments has the same ability to pay for scholarships as money from other sources, like state appropriations or tuition, he added. So endowment spending alone isn’t a full picture of college and university priorities.

The 49 percent number is highly confusing, said Art Hauptman, an independent public policy consultant who specializes in higher education finance. Institutions with large endowments likely use more money to keep the sticker price of tuition lower than the cost of educating their students, while not dedicating nearly as much toward financial aid that would buy down the sticker price students pay. Most private institutions don’t have substantial endowments, though, so the bulk of the student aid they provide comes in the form of discounts off their sticker prices.

Only 10 percent of spending going to endowed chairs across the higher education sector also seems low, he said.

“On the other hand, if it is really true that half of endowment income (and annual gifts?) is used for financial aid, that is a scary thought,” Hauptman said in an email. “That would mean that institutions are being incredibly aggressive in their pricing -- usually virtually nothing to keep tuition below spending per student -- and that any increase in tuition gets eaten up almost entirely by financial aid.”

Advocates for spending more on financial aid for low-income students agreed more context is necessary.

“To some extent, we know that higher numbers are probably better than lower numbers,” said Andrew Nichols, senior director of higher education research and data analytics at the Education Trust, who co-wrote a 2016 report arguing that small changes in endowment spending at wealthy institutions could significantly increase aid for low-income students.

“I think it’s difficult to say in aggregate what it means,” he said of the NACUBO spending data. “It would be easier to tell if we were looking at institutional data and were able to see what other outcomes were.”

NACUBO and TIAA leaders thought the statistic meant something. They said in a conference call with reporters that the 49 percent figure shows colleges and universities are dedicated to student affordability.

“This was the largest single area of endowment spending as reported by survey participants,” said Susan Whealler Johnston, NACUBO’s president and chief executive officer. “This underscores the essential nature of endowments to student access and success as well as to college and university long-term planning and goals.”

Returns Fall in the Short Term, Rise in the Long Term

The annual endowment study’s primary focus has not been on how endowments spend, of course. It’s been what they earn, how they invest and how they’ve grown.

On those points, the study shows endowments posting a strong fiscal year in 2018 -- but not as strong as in 2017. Returns also weren’t high enough to keep endowment watchers comfortable that the funds will be able to maintain their spending power over the long term.

Breaking the data down further shows a continuing divergence between the wealthiest institutions and everyone else. The rich have been getting richer faster, earning more on their investments in the process.

The 802 colleges and universities taking part in the study reported endowment returns averaging 8.2 percent, net of fees, for the fiscal year that ended in June 2018. That was down from 12.2 percent for the 2017 fiscal year but still much higher than -1.9 percent in 2016.

Lower performance in U.S. and international equity markets depressed endowment returns in the most recent year. U.S. equities returned 13.6 percent in 2018, down from 17.6 percent the previous year. Non-U.S. equities returned 6.8 percent after previously returning 20.2 percent.

Two other asset classes also returned less in 2018 than in 2017. Fixed income returned just half a percentage point after returning 2.4 percent in 2017. Short-term securities, cash and other investments returned 1.3 percent, down slightly from 1.4 percent the year before.

Only one asset class saw better returns in 2018 than in the year before: alternative strategies. The broad asset class, which includes investments like hedge funds, private equity, noncampus real estate, distressed debt and commodities, returned 8.3 percent. That was up from 7.8 percent in 2017.

The largest endowments invest much more heavily than others in alternative strategies. While parts of the asset class have struggled, some segments, like private equity and venture capital, have offered the potential for greater return.

Therefore, it’s no shock that large endowments posted the best performance in 2018 when endowments are broken down by size.

“The overwhelming trend is still the larger the endowment, the easier it is to outperform,” said Kevin O’Leary, chief executive officer of TIAA Endowment and Philanthropic Services, during the conference call.

Endowments with assets of over $1 billion returned 9.7 percent -- a full percentage point higher than the next best return when endowments were broken down by size.

Net Annual Endowment Returns, Fiscal Year 2018 (percent) All Institutions 8.2 Over $1 billion 9.7 $501 million to $1 billion 8.7 $251 million to $500 million 8.5 $101 million to $250 million 7.9 $51 million to $100 million 7.7 $25 million to $50 million 7.5 Under $25 million 7.6

Larger endowments have outperformed smaller endowments over time, including over spans when alternative strategies did not perform as well as some other asset classes. In part, this could be because smaller endowments generally put more into fixed-income investments, which are considered less risky than other types of investments that may have more upside.

More important to college and university endowments than returns for a single year is how they are performing over time. The average three-year net annualized return across institutions for the period ending in 2018 came in at 6.2 percent. For five years, it was 7.3 percent.

And the average 10-year net annualized return -- perhaps the most important as colleges and universities look at long-term performance while setting spending rates -- notched 5.8 percent.

Last year, the 10-year return was 4.6 percent. This year’s 10-year average rose in large part because the year that dropped off, 2008, was a year of poor returns. Endowments returned -3 percent on average that year.

That dynamic could be good news for next year’s 10-year average. The 2009 fiscal year, which covers the depths of the Great Recession, saw net endowment returns plunge to -18.7 percent. When that negative number drops from the 10-year average next year, the metric will likely look better than it does today.

Three-, Five- and 10-Year Net Returns For Period Ending June 2018 (percent)   3-year 5-year 10-year All Institutions 6.2 7.3 5.8 Over $1 billion 6.8 8.2 6.0 $501 million to $1 billion 6.2 7.4 5.6 $251 million to $500 million 6.1 7.3 5.7 $101 million to $250 million 6.0 7.1 5.6 $51 million to $100 million 6.0 7.0 5.7 $25 million to $50 million 6.0 7.0 6.1 Under $25 million 6.2 7.5 5.8

The fact remains the 10-year marker stands at 5.8 percent currently. The number concerns O’Leary because it’s below a 7.2 percent targeted rate of return endowments should earn over time to cover their average spending and inflation.

“The average return was not able to crest the long-term return objective at any time in the last decade,” he said. “Further, if you believe that we are entering into a rising interest rate environment, the long-term return objective should increase with those rates in inflation. This headwind will make it even more challenging for schools to hit their targets, especially considering increases in endowment spending.”

Other Findings

Two-thirds of colleges and universities in the study increased endowment spending, and the median increase was 6.6 percent. Spending increases outpaced the rate of inflation, which was 2.8 percent according to the Higher Education Price Index. Endowments are now funding 10 percent of an institution’s operating budget, on average.

The average is likely skewed by a small number of large endowments, however. Harvard and Yale, which have the two largest endowments among private universities, use endowment spending to cover more than a third of their budgets, for example.

Meanwhile, endowments’ average effective spending rate didn’t change between 2017 and 2018. The effective spending rate is the distribution marked for spending divided by the endowment market value at the beginning of the fiscal year. It clocked in at 4.4 percent across all institutions and has not risen higher than 4.6 percent in a decade.

The largest endowments reported higher effective spending rates than endowments of most other sizes, with one exception. Endowments of more than $1 billion had an effective spending rate of 4.6 percent, matched only by endowments with between $51 million and $100 million in assets.

One notable difference between the two groups: endowments with more than $1 billion spent 4.6 percent after ticking down by two-tenths of a percent from the previous year, while those with $51 million to $100 million hit the mark after inching up by one-tenth of a point.

Average Annual Effective Spending Rates, Endowments
and Related Foundations (percent)
Size of Endowment 2018 2017 All Institutions 4.4 4.4 Over $1 billion 4.6 4.8 $501 million to $1 billion 4.2 4.6 $251 million to $500 million 4.4 4.4 $101 million to $250 million 4.4 4.6 $51 million to $100 million 4.6 4.5 $25 million to $50 million 4.1 4.2 Under $25 million 4.1 4.0

Public institutions reported lower annual effective spending rates than private institutions, 3.8 percent versus 4.7 percent.

Just over three-quarters of respondents, 76 percent, grew the real value of their endowments in the 2018 fiscal year, largely because of positive market returns. New gifts also contributed to endowment sizes, totaling $9.9 billion among survey participants.

The median gift level rose from $3.2 million in 2017 to $3.7 million in 2018.

Public institutions had a higher median gift value than private institutions, $5 million versus $3.1 million. Gifts ranged in size much more widely when looking at institutions by their wealth levels. The median gift at small institutions was $376,000. At institutions with more than $1 billion in endowment assets, the median gift was more than $50 million.

The 802 colleges and universities taking part in this year’s study held a total of $616.5 billion in endowed assets. The median endowment was about $140.2 million, but that’s skewed upward by large endowments at the top. A significant portion of study participants, 41 percent, held endowments of $101 million or less. And 9.1 percent had endowments valued under $25 million.

Number of Respondents and Total Endowment Market Values
by Endowment Size, 2018
Size of Endowment Number of Respondents Percent of Total Total Endowment Value (in 000s) Percent of
Total Total (All Institutions) 802 100 $616,525,591 100 Over $1 billion 104 13.0 474,167,902 76.9 $501 million to $1 billion 85 10.6 62,402,093 10.1 $251 million to $500 million 88 11.0 31,501,369 5.1 $101 million to $250 million 195 24.3 31,879,088 5.2 $51 million to $100 million 154 19.2 11,491,008 1.9 $25 million to $50 million 103 12.8 3,899,779 0.6 Under $25 million 73 9.1 1,184,352 0.2

A total of 104 participants, or 13 percent of the entire pool, counted endowments totaling more than $1 billion. They held a whopping $474.2 billion -- 76.9 percent of all endowed assets covered by the study.

The top 10 largest endowments held a total of $217.7 billion -- 35 percent of the total assets covered by the study. The largest endowment in the country, Harvard, had $38.3 billion -- 6 percent of all assets covered in the study.

Looking at public versus private institutions produced splits that were much more in line with what could be expected if institutional share were to equal share of total assets. Public institutions made up 37.9 percent of the total survey pool and held 33.2 percent of all assets -- $203.8 billion. Private colleges and universities were 62.1 percent of the pool and held 66.8 percent of assets.

Below are the 25 largest endowments in the country and their change in size between 2017 and 2018. The change in size is not the rate of return referenced throughout the article above. Instead, it includes net changes from withdrawals, management and investment fees, gifts and investment gains or losses.

Institution FY18 Endowment Funds (in 000s) FY17 Endowment Funds (in 000s) Change in Market Value (percent) Harvard University $38,303,383 $36,021,516 6.3 University of Texas System 30,886,018 26,535,095 16.4 Yale University 29,351,100 27,176,100 8.0 Stanford University 26,464,912 24,784,943 6.8 Princeton University 25,917,199 23,812,241 8.8 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 16,529,432 14,967,983 10.4 University of Pennsylvania 13,777,441 12,213,202 12.8 Texas A&M University System and Foundations 13,524,947 11,556,260 17.0 University of Michigan 11,901,760 10,936,014 8.8 Northwestern University 11,087,659 10,436,692 6.2 University of California 11,008,035 9,638,705 14.2 Columbia University 10,869,245 9,996,596 8.7 University of Notre Dame 10,727,653 9,352,376 14.7 Duke University 8,524,846 7,911,175 7.8 University of Chicago 7,928,485 7,523,720 5.4 Washington University in St. Louis 7,594,159 7,130,514 6.5 Emory University 7,292,165 6,905,465 5.6 Cornell University 7,230,291 6,757,750 7.0 University of Virginia 6,953,380 6,393,561 8.8 Rice University 6,277,506 5,814,444 8.0 University of Southern California 5,544,267 5,130,520 8.1 Dartmouth College 5,494,203 4,956,494 10.8 Ohio State University 5,211,434 4,253,459 22.5 Vanderbilt University 4,608,461 4,136,465 11.4 Johns Hopkins University 4,325,020 3,844,918 12.5 Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: Business issuesEndowmentsFinancial aidImage Source: 2018 NACUBO-TIAA Study of EndowmentsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Endowment Returns SlowTrending order: 2
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Higher ed groups call for major changes to DeVos Title IX rule

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 31, 2019 - 7:00pm

Top higher education groups are lodging major criticisms of new regulations proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos dealing with campuses’ handling of sexual misconduct allegations. The DeVos Title IX rule, those groups say in comments submitted by Wednesday's deadline for feedback on the new rules, would impose a quasi-legal system on colleges that would raise new issues involving fairness, cost and liability for institutions.

Many college officials had welcomed a reset by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights under President Trump after years of complaints about overreach by the office under President Obama. And for the past two years, the office has narrowed its approach to overseeing investigations of civil rights violations on campuses.

But college groups say the Title IX sexual misconduct rule released by DeVos late last year would prescribe their responses to complaints at a level of detail never before attempted by the department.

Survivor advocates and other activists have been critical of the secretary's approach to Title IX from the beginning and blasted details of the proposed rule after they leaked last year.

Now the associations representing colleges and universities, which have so far remained quiet, have also come out hard against the new regulations and urged DeVos to make serious changes.

Most organizations submitted detailed feedback only in the last week ahead of Wednesday's deadline. The department will be tasked with reviewing tens of thousands of those submissions before issuing a final rule.

More than 96,000 comments were submitted by the deadline -- many of them from advocacy groups long critical of DeVos. But the position from the higher ed lobby could be especially influential in the shaping of a final rule.

DeVos embarked on the process of writing the rule in 2017 after declaring that previous guidance from the Obama administration had resulted in a failed system for students, particularly those accused of misconduct.

“We need to move to a place where we are educating and ensuring those horrible situations don’t occur,” DeVos said Wednesday. “But when they do, we need to have a process and a framework that is fair for everyone and results that can be counted on by everyone involved.”

The proposed rule she released in November would add new requirements designed to protect the rights of accused students, including a right to a live hearing with the ability to cross-examine accusers -- a major demand for groups that pushed for more protections for accused students.

Language in the proposal also would limit the types of cases colleges would be required to investigate. They would be responsible only for misconduct that occurred within campus programs and only when officials at an institution had received a formal complaint, a significant departure from guidance under the Obama administration.

The rule would also allow colleges to set their own standard of evidence for findings of misconduct -- as long as it is consistent with standards used for other kinds of campus-based misconduct. The Obama administration had recommended colleges use a standard known as "preponderance of evidence," while its critics argued a tougher "clear and convincing" standard was more appropriate for findings of serious misconduct.

Activists have said the rule would weaken protections for victims of sexual assault or harassment. The college groups say that it would also infringe on institutions’ expertise and create new potential liabilities while conflicting with existing state laws.

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, wrote in a letter signed by 60 organizations that the rule makes the faulty assumption that colleges are a reasonable substitute for the criminal and civil legal systems.

The rule, Mitchell wrote, “consistently relies on formal legal procedures and concepts, and imports courtroom terminology and procedures, to impose an approach that all schools -- large and small, public and private -- must follow, even if these procedures, concepts, and terms are wildly inappropriate and infeasible in an educational setting.”

The imposition of live hearings for all misconduct cases, ACE argued, would significantly draw out the time to complete investigations. And the requirement for cross-examination would create a “trial” atmosphere that could potentially violate procedural fairness for accused students as well as deterring survivors from pursuing complaints, the group said.

Mitchell wrote that a broad standard requiring that any evidence directly related to alleged misconduct be shared with both parties is impractical, could violate privacy and would lead to litigation. And he said the new hearing systems could lead to a “cottage industry” of student advisers either hired by students or appointed by colleges who would treat misconduct hearings as an adversarial process.

Current federal guidance allows colleges to use multiple models to adjudicate misconduct complaints, including the use of outside investigators who interview both parties and any witnesses before making a recommendation to campus decision makers. That kind of model would be banned under the proposed DeVos rule, but ACE and other college groups urged the department to maintain that flexibility for campuses.

The proposal, said Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities, “subjects universities to an unprecedented amount of federal control when it comes to how to investigate and adjudicate allegations of sexual harassment. This approach stems from a faulty premise: that the entire existing adjudication system has failed students.”

Eloy Oakley, chancellor of the California Community Colleges system, said in a letter to the department that the proposed rule would create new barriers for victims and make campuses less safe.

"Taken together, they will have a significant chilling effect on sexual harassment victims’ ability and willingness to bring forward allegations of sexual harassment," he wrote. 

What Colleges Say the Rule Gets Right

Higher ed groups didn’t entirely pan the proposed rule. ACE praised the proposed removal of a requirement in previous federal guidance that institutions resolve Title IX complaints within 60 days. Colleges rarely complete investigations that quickly anyway, but the higher ed group called the timeline “arbitrary and inflexible.”

And the group said language stating that a college is required to investigate only complaints where it has “actual knowledge” of alleged misconduct would provide more clarity about when institutions are required to act.

Those are major points of disagreements with survivor advocates, who say those changes would slow down resolutions for students and make the campus process more difficult to navigate.

Sage Carson, executive director of Know Your IX, said an investigative process that takes many months to reach a conclusion is detrimental to both survivors and respondents.

“I understand the colleges feeling pressed by the need to wrap things up within 60 days. What is problematic to me is there is no alternative timeline,” she said. “Just removing it altogether is not good for anyone involved in this process.”

And Know Your IX said the “actual knowledge” standard could allow colleges to dodge liability by making the reporting process more burdensome for students. Carson said that oftentimes the first person a student tells about an assault is a teacher, coach or resident assistant. And those officials should take action to report misconduct.

But Carson said it was a positive development to have college groups push back on other major provisions of the proposal.

“The higher education lobby, colleges, students, survivors and their families are all aligned in saying this isn’t appropriate,” she said.

DeVos will need to make major changes to the rule to win over higher ed organizations. But groups that had pushed for more protections for accused students argued the regulation hit the mark in balancing the rights of survivors and respondents.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education had pushed for tougher evidentiary standards for misconduct findings and for the inclusion of cross-examination rights. Joe Cohn, FIRE’s legislative and policy director, and Tyler Coward, the group’s legislative counsel, argued in public comments that those changes made the rule a marked improvement over previous federal guidance.

“The proposed rules take the rights of both complainants and accused students seriously, and they make important strides toward ensuring that complaints of sexual misconduct will be neither ignored nor prejudged,” they wrote. “Though not perfect, the proposed regulations will go a long way towards restoring meaningful due process protections to campuses -- to the ultimate benefit of both complainants and respondents alike.”

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Homeland Security creates fake university to lure undocumented immigrants seeking to stay in U.S.

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 31, 2019 - 7:00pm

U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents created a fake university in suburban Detroit, complete with bogus social media accounts and a fake facility in an office park, to lure undocumented immigrants who were trying to stay in the United States, unsealed federal indictments revealed Wednesday.

The investigation dates to 2015, The Detroit News reported, but it intensified in early 2017, after President Donald Trump began cracking down on illegal immigration.

Eight people from across the United States, ranging in age from 26 to 35, were charged with participating in a conspiracy to help at least 600 foreign citizens stay in the U.S. illegally, according to the indictments. Steve Francis, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations office in Detroit, said the eight suspects "aided hundreds of foreign nationals to remain in the United States illegally by helping to portray them as students, which they most certainly were not."

Federal investigators invented the fake University of Farmington using a website illustrated by stock photos of students studying and talking. They also set up a facility in a commercial building in Farmington Hills, northwest of Detroit. On its “About Us” page, Farmington said it “traces its lineage back to the early 1950s, when returning soldiers from the Second World War were seeking a quality and marketable education.” Its "Admissions" page notes a "rolling admission process" and says the university encourages students "to apply early to ensure a smooth transition to UF."

The university also claimed to be accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, a real accrediting agency based in Arlington, Va.

"ACCSC is aware of the school in Michigan and upon request from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security assisted DHS in its operation by listing the school as being accredited by ACCSC," Michale McComis, the national accrediting agency's executive director, said via email.

The university's fake Facebook page noted a Jan. 28 outreach event in Fremont, Calif., and links to a video purporting to show workers expanding the university's parking lot. A Twitter page with 477 tweets but only 21 followers said classes were canceled on Jan. 23 due to an overnight ice storm. (The social media profiles appeared to have been taken down on Wednesday evening.)

But authorities said the university had no staff, no instructors, no curriculum and no classes. The sting included Homeland Security agents posing as university officials from February 2017 to the end of the investigation earlier this month, The Detroit News reported. Suspects allegedly used Farmington as a “pay to stay” scheme that allowed others to stay in the United States, posing as full-time students earning a degree. It wasn't immediately clear whether any further arrests had been made, or if any deportations of applicants had taken place.

Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor, told The Detroit News, “It’s creative and it’s not entrapment,” adding, “The government can put out the bait, but it’s up to the defendants to fall for it.”

The federal government previously has conducted similar stings. In 2016 federal prosecutors said they set up a sham institution called the University of Northern New Jersey as part of an elaborate operation that led to the indictment of 21 people on visa fraud-related charges. Federal officials said the defendants, many of whom worked as recruiters or consultants serving international students, fraudulently obtained or attempted to obtain student or work visas for approximately 1,000 foreign nationals from 26 different countries.

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Author discusses his new book about landing grants in the humanities and social sciences

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 31, 2019 - 7:00pm

Many graduate programs train Ph.D. students in the physical and biological sciences on how to apply for and manage grants. But many humanities and social science scholars have to teach themselves. A new book provides guidance, on everything from thinking of a project to identifying potential sources of funding to the application process. How to Get Grant Money in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Yale University Press) is written in encouraging language that doesn't assume the reader has already been through the process. The author is Raphael B. Folsom, associate professor of history at the University of Oklahoma. He responded via email to questions about the book.

Q: What prompted you to write this book? Have you had success winning grants?

A: When I was in graduate school at Yale, my adviser, Gil Joseph, ran an informal dissertation prospectus workshop that doubled as a grant-writing workshop. It was very successful. It is the main reason I’ve been able to get funding for my research (which I’ve since received from the Fulbright-Hays program, Mellon Foundation, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, the SSRC and others). When I got to the University of Oklahoma, where I now teach, I realized that graduate students here needed the same kind of help I got -- particularly because OU does not have near as much internal research money as Yale does. I ran a grant-writing workshop for graduate students in history and related fields at OU that was based on the one I had taken, and it too has been pretty successful. My wife suggested I turn the syllabus for that workshop into a book. When I mentioned the idea to Laura Davulis, the editor of my first book, who was then at Yale University Press, she liked it. She asked for a proposal, I wrote one and the rest is history.

Q: Many professors report that their institutional research offices tend to focus on helping those with in the biological and physical sciences, since potential grants tend to be much larger than those in the humanities and social sciences. Is this a problem?

A: I think that is probably true. Often federally funded grants are how research is measured by administrations and legislatures, and it is only logical that institutional research offices would focus on high-dollar grants. I think that is part of the reason why the demand for a book such as mine, which offers guidance to grant seekers in the humanities and social sciences, both exists and has yet to be adequately met. Institutional support for grant getting in the humanities, social sciences (and the arts, as I’ve recently discovered), is generally not strong.

Q: You advocate a process in which you start by thinking about the topic and framing it to win funds. This contrasts with many people first coming up with a topic absent the funding process. You also outline a very methodical process to seeking funds. Why is this crucial?

A: Great point. Most of us who go into the humanities and social sciences, and persist through years of graduate studies, do so because we love the subject matter. Money is often the last thing on our minds when we think about the books, ideas, problems and questions that we are passionate about. That passion is a sine qua non of excellent scholarship. But at a certain point most of us confront the question of how we will fund our research. You have to eat. You need shelter. You often have to travel abroad. When the time comes to answer the question of how to pay for all of the above, many younger scholars are at sea. What I hope my book does is give readers an idea of how to frame the ideas that motivate their work in such a way that a funding agencies will take the risk of investing in it.

Q: What are the main mistakes people in the humanities and social sciences make in seeking grants?

A: The varieties of error and inadequacy and poor preparation are infinite. Here are three misconceptions that I think are pretty common:

  1. Most applicants think getting rejected is a bad thing. They think it means their ideas and/or scholarship are inferior. That usually isn’t true. In reality you have to get rejected quite a lot in order to get the funding you want. Getting used to rejection, and more importantly, learning from rejection, improving your work and applying again is the most direct path toward funding.
  2. People think that their most important audience is within their field. One’s field is very important, and you have to speak to colleagues in your field in ways they respect. But the trick to getting funding in the humanities and social sciences, particularly the most prestigious grants, is to speak both to those in your own field and those outside of it. It is very hard to do. But it is critical to remember that those with the power to grant or deny your application are almost always extremely smart and learned people who know nothing about your area of research.
  3. People undervalue good writing. It is only by writing well that you can impress people both within and outside of your field. I recently read an article that gave empirical proof that proposals that met various criteria of clarity and fluency were more likely to be funded. (Ironically, the article itself was a nigh-impenetrable mishmash of jargon and meaningless abstraction. So the problem abides.)

Q: Your book is appearing at a time when parts of the federal government (including the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities) were recently closed for weeks because of the stalemate between President Trump and Congress. We have also seen in recent years Republican attempts in Congress to curtail funding of political science and other social sciences. Do you think federal support is viable in the social science and humanities?

A: This is somewhat beyond my ken. But I do remember anxiously reading reports about the administration’s plan to zero out the NEH. It didn’t happen. I suspect that this is so because the programs are tiny in comparison to the budget as a whole. The relatively low cost of research in the humanities and social sciences may allow us to fly under the radar. My best guess is that support, federal and otherwise, for the kind of research we do is viable in the long term, because ours is a deindustrializing service economy that confers big rewards on high education. That means there are millions of people out there who depend for their living on, and are just curious about, the history and social structures and aesthetic achievements of humanity.

Q: Graduate students in the physical and biological sciences frequently learn about grant seeking and grant management from their doctoral advisers and from working in grant-supported labs. Should doctoral programs in the humanities and social sciences spend more time on these issues?

A: I think this is the traditional method by which graduate students have learned about getting grants. But some advisers are less focused on it, or are less gifted at training graduate students to do it, than mine was, and so graduate students fail to learn grant-getting skills. I do think that universities should take a programmatic interest in helping scholars in the humanities and social sciences get grant money. Since so few of them do it, I think a relatively small investment could yield a disproportionate return. One way for doctoral programs to get started on this project would be for them to buy a short guide to the topic, preferably in large quantities, and distribute it to their profs and graduate students. I understand that one may soon be published.

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Chicago mayoral candidate pitches plan to merge K-12 and community colleges

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 31, 2019 - 7:00pm

An unusual free college proposal has emerged from the crowded and contentious race for mayor in Chicago.

Bill Daley, one of 14 mayoral candidates vying to lead the country’s third-largest city, wants to merge Chicago's public school system with the city's two-year college system to allow public high school graduates to continue on to community college for free.

By combining Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, and City Colleges of Chicago, or CCC, Daley's so-called K-14 plan would ostensibly help students attend college without accumulating debt from tuition and fees.

A merger between the two systems would be a massive undertaking and create the first prekindergarten through community college system in the nation. CPS has more than 361,000 students, 36,400 employees and a nearly $6 billion budget. City Colleges is the largest two-year system in Illinois. It has a $436 million budget and more than 80,000 students and 4,000 faculty and employees across seven colleges.

“To keep Chicago strong and growing, we need to rethink our public education system to get more young people the skills they need to succeed at a price they can afford,” Daley said in a news release.

Daley, the son and brother of two former Chicago mayors, said two studies helped him and his policy team come up with the idea. One is a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce that says two-thirds of new jobs today require some college education. The second report, also from Georgetown, says there are 30 million jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.

The idea was also driven by the low academic performance in college by Chicago students, said Peter Cunningham, communications director for Daley’s campaign. The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research estimates that only 19 percent of CPS students who were freshmen in 2017 will earn a four-year degree within 10 years. And the three-year graduation rate for students attending City Colleges institutions was just 22.9 percent in 2018, although that number has been disputed by faculty who believe it is lower.

“We know that cost can be a barrier for many people even though tuition is low in Chicago City Colleges,” Cunningham said. “We basically decided to remove the barriers and make City Colleges enrollment free and automatic for all CPS grads who want it.”

Tuition for city residents is $146 per credit hour, or $1,752 for 12 credits or more.

Many CPS graduates choose to enroll at four-year colleges; 47 percent attend a four-year institution immediately after high school and 20 percent enroll at a two-year college, according to the consortium. Another 20 percent of CPS graduates delay attending college, although they eventually enroll in a two-year college.

The Daley campaign believes the merger would also save the city an estimated $50 million, which would then fund the free college program. About 20,000 students graduated from city public schools in 2016, and 3,600 of them enrolled in City Colleges institutions. Daley’s proposal would expand Chicago’s Star Scholarship program, which covers tuition for CPS graduates who had at least a 3.0 grade point average and don't need remedial math or English in college.

Daley is the only mayoral candidate who has proposed and supports such a merger. None of his opponents have supported the idea.

Gery Chico, a former school board president and City Colleges chairman also running for mayor, told The Chicago Sun-Times that a merger to save $50 million isn't “worth the monumental effort it would take to accomplish.”

Daley’s proposal would still require adult learners and students who didn’t graduate from CPS to pay tuition at City Colleges institutions.

CPS administrators did not respond to requests for comment on the potential merger. City Colleges officials declined to comment.

The Chicago Teachers Union, which endorsed candidate Toni Preckwinkle in the mayor’s race, said in a statement that Daley’s merger plan was “one of the more ridiculous ideas we’ve heard in recent memory.”

The teachers’ union said Daley's plan would be a failed experiment that would cut already strained school budgets and lead to school closings.

"His plan to combine Chicago Public Schools and the City Colleges of Chicago is the kind of tone-deaf proposal you hear at thousand-dollar-a-plate dinners frequented by the donors supporting his campaign and would add multiple layers of bureaucracy to two systems already struggling under their own weight," the union statement said.

City Colleges faculty also are against any proposed merger with CPS. The faculty members are preparing for a possible strike as contract negotiations have stalled between the union and the college system's administration.

“Daley’s proposal to merge City Colleges with Chicago Public Schools is misguided at best and is reckless and damaging at worst,” Tony Johnston, president of the Cook County College Teachers Union, said in an email. “It is not clear at all what the reasoning is behind this proposal, except to eliminate positions of CPS or CCC employees.”

He noted that state education laws governing and funding the community colleges and the school district would have to be changed, and both large systems would have to hammer out an intergovernmental agreement.

“The legal and political steps to merge these two systems would make the effort a waste of time and resources,” he said.

Johnston said making community college free is the one positive aspect of Daley’s plan.

Davis Jenkins, a senior research associate with the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College, said he couldn’t imagine the benefits of such a merger.

“I don’t see how merging City Colleges into the CPS would be possible,” said Jenkins, who is a Chicago resident. “They both have completely different state and local governing bodies and funding structures.”

A merger could also present accreditation and federal financial aid challenges, he said. City Colleges is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, which does not accredit school districts, and CPS is accredited by AdvancED.

Jenkins said there are better and easier pathways to college for CPS students, such as early-college high school or dual-enrollment programs.

Would a Merger Work Elsewhere?

While Daley’s proposal aims to make college affordable and improve graduation rates, some education experts say that other programs are already meeting that goal across the country without undergoing a substantial merger of public school and college systems.

“One model that fits all isn’t happening around the country,” said Louis Soares, chief learning and innovation officer for the American Council on Education. But if it did, it would have to fit the governing structure of its state, county or city and meet the needs of both K-12 and community college environments, he said.

Thirty-two states have different versions of early-college high school programs that allow students to take high school and college courses simultaneously. These programs are easing students’ transition to college and making it more affordable, Soares said.

Martha Kanter, executive director of the College Promise Campaign and a former under secretary of education in the Obama administration, has been a longtime proponent of making the first two years of college free.

She followed and studied more than 300 different types of tuition-free programs as they emerged across the country and said Daley’s proposal is unique because it allows the mayor to exert influence over both the school and community college systems.

But Kanter warns that while such a merger would help more students access college, it could also lead to educational inequity by limiting or closing off other educational options that exist outside of a community college.

“To ensure that students and families have the maximum choice regarding the range of higher education opportunities available to them, the public and eligible private four-year universities would need to be part of this initiative to protect against tracking and other unintended consequences,” Kanter said.

Tracking involves students being sorted into different academic programs based on their perceived academic ability.

Historically many of the country’s community colleges emerged from K-12 school systems that were providing vocational and technical education, said Elisabeth Barnett, a senior research scientist at the Community College Research Center.

“If you go back far enough, there was a precedent for all of this,” she said. “But it’s really hard to tell … if money would be saved or bureaucracy decreased by a merger.”

K-12 systems and colleges have been trying to work together for years to help increase student achievement, so there could be potential benefits in merging the two, Barnett said.

A merger, for example, could eliminate questions about whether high schools are adequately preparing students for college, she said.

“It’s a huge transition that students go through moving from high school to college, especially first-generation students,” Barnett said. “If they’re all in one institution, there is potential for a much smoother transition.”

A potential merger could also eliminate the cumbersome and sometimes costly college application process, and also make filing for federal financial aid easier. Colleges could also have more data about their students from as early as kindergarten if they’re sharing information with high schools under one system, she said.

But Barnett said there are just as many problems that prevent many K-12 and college systems from merging, such as active resistance by faculty and unions. State and federal laws are also different for each sector.

Whether the Daley plan goes from mere proposal to actual policy depends on who wins the election on Feb. 26.

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Categories: Higher Education News

New effort in Britain tries to remove bias from faculty recruiting

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 31, 2019 - 7:00pm

CVs and interviews are being removed from university hiring processes under a new approach to “de-bias” academic recruitment being pioneered in Britain.

The Recruiting for Difference approach, billed as an attempt to address biases around gender, ethnicity and university background, is led by the recruitment firm Diversity by Design, co-founded by the writer and broadcaster Simon Fanshawe, former chair of council at the University of Sussex.

Fanshawe, a founder of the LGBT equality charity Stonewall, said the aim was to “de-bias” to the greatest extent possible, explaining that, under this approach, “what you don’t use in the short-listing process at all is CVs.” He argued that stripping out CVs allowed universities to see the true qualities of the people they were considering for jobs.

The application process allows applicants to state which journals they have published in and the roles they played in these papers. But candidates’ names do not figure in the short-listing process -- thus their gender and ethnicity are not revealed -- and at no stage of the hiring process is it disclosed at which universities candidates have worked or studied.

Fanshawe asked, “Why do [those hiring] want to know what university [applicants] went to?” One explanation is that those doing the hiring “are simply biased and … think if people went to Cambridge, they are better,” he added. “Well, that’s not a good reason for knowing which university they went to, because it may not be true.”

So far, the approach has been used to recruit to two posts in the University of Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering, both of which were taken by women. Fifteen percent of applicants and 35 percent of those short-listed were women.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has awarded a grant to a project led by Nottingham, on which Diversity by Design is a partner. This will include the development of “software, training and accreditation” for the de-biasing recruitment approach, said Fanshawe.

Nottingham initiated another innovation, Fanshawe said -- removing traditional interviews from the hiring process. Interviews do not reflect what academics do in their jobs, which is teach, “present their research” and “discuss their research with their peers at a high level,” he added. The interview has been replaced by three “simulations” of these aspects.

While there are “tons of initiatives” on diversity in higher education, these are not tackling “one of the big roots of the problem -- which is the … level of supposition, or bias, or preference, or whatever you want to call it, which is built into the way in which … academics … are recruited,” he said.

Asked how universities would benefit from more diverse recruitment, Fanshawe said that in teaching and research, it would lead to “new areas of inquiry,” with combinations of “different insights” bringing “higher quality results.”

Universities are also teaching to a “much more diverse group of students,” and lecturers can “fuel ambition” for students by serving as role models, he said.

Fanshawe -- whose firm is currently working with Newcastle University to recruit an engineering materials professor -- cited the research of Iris Bohnet, the Harvard University behavioral economist, as a key influence on the approach. Her research showed that diversity training and work to address unconscious bias “doesn’t do it,” Fanshawe said. “We can’t train ourselves out of these habits. We have to design the processes to enable us to make better decisions.”

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New research says relatively simple interventions are effective in addressing faculty workload imbalances and inequities

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 30, 2019 - 7:00pm

Faculty work is not one-size-fits-all. Even within departments and among professors of the same rank, some faculty members tend to do more work than others -- or at least more of certain kinds of work. Women tend to do more service work than men, and underrepresented minorities tend to do more mentoring of the students of color who look to them as role models, for example.

Ideally, it all balances out. But many times it doesn’t, especially because mentoring, service and other tasks are typically underrewarded within academe. And that can cause major problems, such as lost morale and lost research time -- and the professional consequences that come with them, up to faculty attrition.

If the consequences of faculty workload inequity are grave, there have been few to no widespread interventions to address it. But a promising new study suggests that change is possible.

The study, which is ongoing, involves 17 departments and an additional 13 control departments across different institution types in Maryland, North Carolina and Massachusetts. For 18 months, researchers helped put in place four interventions against workload imbalances: increasing faculty awareness of implicit bias, making data on work activity transparent, sharing organizational practices to encourage equity and providing individual professional development to help faculty members align their time and priorities. Those latter two factors are what lead author KerryAnn O’Meara, professor of higher education and an associate dean at the University of Maryland at College Park (and an occasional opinion columnist for Inside Higher Ed), recently called “allies of work equity.”

More specifically, the interventions included a workshop on how implicit bias can shape faculty workload allocation and guidance on how to collect and share transparent annual faculty work activity data in a "dashboard." Researchers also showed departments how the dashboard could identify equity issues and provided a variety of sample organizational practices to address them. They helped programs develop an action plan by adopting the organizational practices that they thought would address the issues revealed in their data. And faculty members took part in an optional four-week individual time management and planning webinar. Teams of three to five professors within each department were responsible for putting the interventions in place. But all materials were offered to all participating department members.

Comparing outcomes from participating departments and the controls, the researchers found that the interventions made a positive difference on the faculty experience of workload fairness across demographic groups. Pre- and postintervention surveys of faculty members in participating departments also reveal, for example, that professors now feel more aware of implicit bias and are more comfortable protecting their time, saying no to requests and asking for more resources. 

“We aimed to improve: transparency in what faculty are doing, accountability, clarity in roles and expectations, and flexibility to acknowledge different contexts,” reads the first phase of the study, which was published recently in PLOS ONE.  Attributing their results to a "spillover effect" from the workload dashboard in particular, the authors wrote that transparency "increases sense of accountability and trust between members and leaders, facilitates perceptions of procedural and distributive justice, and leads to greater organizational commitment. Departments that routinely make data on faculty activities accessible are likely to promote perceptions that workloads are transparent and fair.”

In other words, the study says, "as participants saw members of their department were serious about improving equity in division of labor, and recognized their workload relative to others due to the transparent dashboards, they felt greater permission to likewise self-advocate and take steps to ensure their own workload was fair."

O’Meara said that national surveys, interviews and focus groups have for decades shown that faculty are “dissatisfied with workload” and, in some cases, even leave their institutions because of it. That’s especially true for women and underrepresented minorities, “who often do a greater share of mentoring, advising and campus service work,” she said.

Sometimes the problem is that the amount of work in certain areas, such as campus service, diversity work or advising, isn’t shared, O’Meara explained. In other cases, “the process used to assign more coveted roles is not transparent,” she said, and sometimes the equity issue is that some work is not visible or credited. There’s additional talk about faculty “free riders.”

Still, there’s been no “laser-like” cross-department or cross-campus focus on workload equity, as there has been on issues such as inclusive hiring or leadership development, O’Meara said. Workload has rather been “embedded in attempts to improve department climates and into mentoring rubrics and department chair training.”

Kiernan Mathews, director of the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, is among those who have praised the study’s methodology and relevance. Asked why it’s valuable, Mathews said the workload problem has “grown only more acute since COACHE began studying faculty.” Why? For presidents and provosts who want their institutions to move in a new direction, he said, “the levers ultimately come down to money and time -- and nobody seems to have any money.”

More than that, Mathews said the research takes an equity approach -- one that’s much needed in academe, where inequities abound, especially in “foggily” negotiated workload assignments (to borrow O’Meara’s often employed term). The study is large-scale, long-term and experimental, he said, testing four interventions instead of one. Mathews also praised the publishing journal, saying it’s “high-impact” and outside the “usual higher ed suspects,” lending “authority to an area of study -- faculty development -- that doesn’t typically get this kind of treatment.”

O’Meara and her team plan to collect more data going forward, to test their hypothesis that the interventions will have differing effects. In the fifth and final year of their project, they hope to share resources and materials created for the project with other institutions so that professors have better work experiences -- both in “perception and reality,” O’Meara said.

Mathews said he’s looking forward to the rest of the data.

“I can’t wait to see what’s still to come from this study.”

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Shutdown deal doesn't mean end of uncertainty for research universities

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 30, 2019 - 7:00pm

The longest-ever federal shutdown may be over, putting a stop to financial bleeding for many research universities covering the costs of ongoing research, but colleges across the country aren't declaring victory.

The deal reached between congressional Democrats and the White House last week means at least a three-week reprieve from the shutdown. But it's not yet clear whether lawmakers will reach a new spending deal for agencies like the National Science Foundation or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or pass another continuing resolution.

And the impact of the standoff will likely linger for institutions that rely on federal support for their research enterprises.

"We're going to feel the effects of this shutdown for many months," said David Conover, vice president for research and innovation at the University of Oregon, at a meeting Monday of research vice presidents at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. “I worry mostly about our youngest faculty who are on the tenure track and their career depends in part on their ability to attract federal funding. When there's such a huge delay that is really going to last for months in terms of impact, it's really hard to put it into numbers.”

Officials from more than a dozen institutions visited Capitol Hill for meetings with lawmakers and their staffs. And the uncertainty over federal funding promised to be a top issue in those discussions.

The shutdown means reviews of new grant proposals at federal agencies are delayed for at least a month, and likely more. And it resulted in delayed selection for graduate research fellowships at NSF. That means careers of younger scientists are negatively affected, along with progress on potential research advances.

Sandra Brown, vice chancellor for research at University of California, San Diego, said the shutdown has taken a toll on the morale of graduate students and postdocs.

“This is part of the long-term impact for the U.S.,” said Brown, who chairs the APLU’s Council of Research.

For institutions themselves, the open-ended shutdown posed questions about how long they could fund research on their own. Universities typically put up their own money to pay for investigations and then invoice federal agencies. While the shutdown was ongoing, they burned through millions of their own funds to keep labs open.

The University of Virginia spent about $2.6 million over the past month to back research supported by NSF. The University of Maryland Baltimore County spent about $3 million.

The federal government should reimburse those funds now. But there would have been "truly great consequences" on those institutions' finances if the shutdown lasted another week, said Cynthia Sagers, vice president of research at Arizona State University, as the capacity of colleges to shoulder the cost of research enterprises without affecting other operations would be pushed to the limit.

And the uncertainty over funding has hampered long-term planning for scientific projects, top officials said. During the shutdown, resources that would have been used to recruit new graduate students were directed to those already pursuing work on campus, said Melur Ramasubramanian, vice president for research at the University of Virginia.

"Priorities have shifted to a short-term, immediate focus," he said.

Congressional lawmakers passed and sent to the president's desk spending bills for most federal agencies last year. But they didn't pass legislation to fund a quarter of agencies, including NSF, NASA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture before a December deadline -- largely because of a standoff over money for a border wall. Numbers negotiated at the end of last year would boost NSF spending by nearly 4 percent, to $8.075 billion. That's less than what APLU had recommended to Congress but much more than the $7.47 billion requested by the White House. Even if a deal is reached soon to resolve the border security fight, however, the stalemate will have long-term effects.

With the shutdown over, those top research leaders are counseling patience with academics on campus hoping to make contact with officials at agencies that back their work.

"Imagine how many people want to talk to each program officer," said Conover.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Author talks fraternity hazing and stamping it out in upcoming book

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 30, 2019 - 7:00pm

Hazing by fraternity members is long-standing and ubiquitous, despite institutional attempts by some colleges and states to curb such dangerous rituals. Colleges and universities (and court systems) are cracking down on hazing more, but will this help eradicate it from campus chapters? Despite these efforts, fraternity members continue to die alarming and preventable deaths. Alexandra Robbins, a New York Times best-selling author and journalist, explores these issues in her new work Fraternity: An Inside Look at a Year of College Boys Becoming Men (Penguin Random House). Robbins, who has written about Greek life before, followed two fraternity brothers for the book and interviewed hundreds of other fraternity members. Robbins did not identify the chapters or any institutions.

Robbins answered questions about Greek policy and her book, which is out Feb. 5, via email.

Q: What basic rules and policies must be in place for a fraternity to function in a healthy, hazing-free environment? Why do so many chapters lack these boundaries?

A: I think most fraternities technically have the rules and policies in place on paper. The variation is in the national offices’ and universities’ enforcement and the willingness of the undergrads to follow them. Jake, one of the students I followed for a year, was terrified of hazing before he rushed, but was reassured because his college advertised itself as a nonhazing campus and the school’s Interfraternity Council echoed the sentiment during a prerecruitment meeting. But just days later, multiple campus chapters were hazing -- including Jake’s chapter, whose national headquarters is vehemently antihazing. The adult supervision just wasn’t there. Meanwhile, Oliver, another student I followed, belonged to a fraternity with an involved, engaged alumni board; devoted undergraduates committed to maintaining a healthy productive environment; and an embrace of diversity of all kinds -- race, socioeconomics, interests, expressions of masculinity. Those three factors are key. That was the case in the hazing-free chapters for many of the brothers I interviewed nationwide.

Q: Why, in your opinion, do alcohol bans not work for fraternities, though they’ve been tried at some major institutions?

A: Outright bans don’t address the psychology behind why students are drinking. I talked to countless students about drinking. Drinking is often a strategy rather than simply a pastime. Just a few of many examples: guys might drink for the “liquid courage” to be able to talk to girls; to suppress emotions they’re socialized to believe they’re not supposed to express; to cope with being stressed, uncertain or lonely; to prove their masculinity; or because, as a New England student told me, “It’s societal in that we’re told this is how you’re supposed to behave in college. When you see college depicted in movies and pop culture, everyone has a Solo cup in their hands.” Banning alcohol doesn’t get to the root of these issues, and colleges aren’t providing replacements for the rewards students believe alcohol provides.

Q: What should fraternities do to avoid participating in the “rape culture” for which they are often known? With guidelines around Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 changing, is this at all significant or important?

A: Battling rape culture is always significant and important. The brothers I spoke with want to change campus rape culture, and I believe that enlisting fraternities to help lead campus efforts at sexual assault prevention and awareness would go a long way toward improving the problem. Here’s a piece of the puzzle that research and the media miss: on many campuses across the country, students unofficially rank fraternities and sororities, labeling them as top-tier, middle-tier or bottom-tier chapters. Sororities’ tiers are often determined by sisters’ looks and their willingness to party. Fraternities are often ranked by “looks, partying hard, money and hookups,” a brother told me. Many students consider the rankings important because they believe that the higher their rank, the better their recruitment season and the higher a tier their next Greek Week or homecoming sorority partner will be (and vice versa). So they might emphasize mixers, matches and interactions with opposite-gender chapters partly because they feel pressured to couple up. As Jake explained to me, he thought he had to “help the fraternity out by getting the girls. The fraternity would look better if I was more available. You’re better able to throw a big party if guys are willing to socialize.” Part of “being social” in his fraternity, he said, meant that guys were “willing to hook up.” So there is a deep-rooted systemic problem here that universities and national organizations need to solve.

Also, research shows that consent and bystander intervention trainings work. Universities should mandate these programs for all students -- not just one sexual assault prevention lecture a year, but several workshops and seminars that hammer home the meaning of consent and how bystanders can help.

Q: Despite campaigns, why do hazing rituals continue? More often, institutions and courts are punishing for hazing harder -- does this have an effect?

A: Not really. Many students don’t realize they’re being hazed, feel they can’t speak out against the weight of decades of tradition or think they want to be hazed in order to “earn the letters.” But there are ways for pledge classes to bond through hard work that doesn’t involve hazing, and I spoke to plenty of brothers whose chapters, like Oliver’s, were adamantly against hazing. They believed their brotherhoods were stronger than those that hazed. Some of the nonhazing pledge activities brothers described include organizing a community service project, taking classes on how to write a résumé and learning etiquette. A Pennsylvania chapter requires its pledges to join at least one other campus organization. A New York chapter has its pledges cook and serve a three-course dinner for brothers’ girlfriends. A Virginia chapter put pledges in charge of a major annual philanthropy event, which “involved us dividing up tasks based on our strengths, meeting with local business owners and actually running the event,” a brother said. “While some of these assignments were stressful, they emphasized the importance of teamwork. We were never allowed to leave someone behind or let someone do all the work. It really pulled us together as a family, and we learned a lot about each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Q: How does a fraternity chapter separating from an institution influence the culture? Should universities do more to try to stamp out these unaffiliated fraternities, which sometimes (because they are unregulated) see more bad behavior?

A: Because these groups have no accountability to a national group or to a university, they largely aren’t supervised, although theoretically they’re expected to follow their school’s code of conduct. We can’t assume that all nonnational Greek groups are bad agents, though. In 2015, a Brown university chapter disaffiliated from its national organization because the undergraduates didn’t think nationals was serious enough about sexual assault prevention. They are recognized by the university and listed on the university’s website -- and they should be; they’re a good group. When unaffiliated groups cause trouble, universities can still discipline the offenders; in 2017 American University expelled 18 members of an underground chapter that engaged in disturbing behavior. Some colleges have banned participation in underground groups, but because students have freedom of association rights, administrators might believe they are limited in how they can regulate them. But schools can prevent recognized groups -- such as the sororities whom undergrounds might want to party with -- from partnering with them for social functions.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Colleges and students respond to polar vortex bringing record cold temperatures to Midwest

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 30, 2019 - 7:00pm

Students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison know a thing or two about snow. Last year, after a blizzard, some of them built an igloo. The same students are at it again this year (see photo above, courtesy of Nate Moll, social media manager at the university).

On Tuesday, Madison announced that it would shut down classes and many other operations after 5 p.m., until Thursday. Colleges and universities such as Madison, which don't shut down for a few flurries, are responding because of projections that temperatures today could go down as far as -50. The University of Chicago will be closed today. So will the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Lansing Community College and many other institutions. This cold front is wide-reaching -- Georgia State University closed down Tuesday.

Some colleges in some of the coldest parts of the country are not telling students to stay home.

Tim Schroer, associate dean of students at St. Olaf College, said via email that students finished classes for the January term on Tuesday and were ready for finals, which start today. "Life continues to move forward here on campus in spite of -35 looming in the near future," he said.

Schroer shared the photo at right.

On some campuses, students have complained about their administrators not calling off classes as speedily as have other institutions nearby.

Grinnell College will be closed today, in anticipation of dangerously cold air in Iowa. At left, courtesy of Justin Hayworth, a college photographer, a student walking through campus this week.

The University of Michigan announced Tuesday afternoon that there would be no classes held today. But the announcement didn't come until after students circulated a petition criticizing the decision to hold classes Tuesday, specifically noting that severe weather hits some people more than others.

"Our demand: The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor must close campus during harsh weather conditions -- not just in extreme circumstances. A refusal to do so is classist and ableist, with disproportionate effects on workers, low income community members, and community members who are not able-bodied," the petition said.

Purdue University announced Tuesday that it would call off classes on Wednesday. But it also did so after circulation of a petition. One student who signed seemed concerned that President Mitch Daniels should know that while some kinds of freezing are popular with the student body, others are not.

"The tuition is frozen, but I don't want to be," he wrote.

For some colleges, the timing is perfect for a cold front. Rochester Institute of Technology is holding its 2019 FreezeFest, starting Thursday, with ice carving, curling and snowboarding -- plus some indoor activities.

Elsewhere in New York State, Union College's president, David Harris, shot the photo at right of the iconic Nott Memorial, dusted and surrounded by snow.

But of course it is in the Great Plains and Midwest that campuses are currently at the record cold temperatures. Below are a sampling from those institutions.

From Buena Vista University:

From the University of Northern Iowa, photo shot by its geography department's drone:

And from Dakota State University, in South Dakota:

Northwestern University's Martin Tanner sent the following from the Evanston, Ill., campus:

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Categories: Higher Education News

Green Mountain College tried numerous strategies but is still closing

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 25, 2019 - 7:00pm

Draw up a list of characteristics putting a college at risk of shutting down, and Green Mountain College would check almost every box.

Small private college? Green Mountain enrolled fewer than 500 undergraduates last year. Tiny endowment? Funds totaled less than $3 million in 2017. Rural location? The college is in Poultney, Vt., a town on the border of upstate New York in a county where the population has been declining -- and where just 63.5 people live per square mile, on average.

Now, draft a list of the popular strategies private colleges are using to try to stave off closure. Green Mountain would check an awful lot of those boxes, too.

That’s a sobering fact for higher education observers who have watched small private colleges post one shutdown announcement after another in the last year.

Leaders, especially those in the Northeast, have known for some time that demographic changes leave them recruiting from a smaller pool of the students who have traditionally attended college in large numbers -- and who have been able to pay substantial sums for tuition. But those leaders felt they could still take steps to bolster their standing with a subset of existing students, add new programs to attract new types of students and strengthen their balance sheets to set themselves up to succeed in the face of headwinds.

Green Mountain’s closure would seem to call that into question.

The college had carved out a niche, focusing on what it called the environmental liberal arts. Developing a niche or signature program is often identified as a smart way to differentiate a campus and grab the attention of students.

Green Mountain started offering online graduate master’s programs in 2006. And it had come to rely on graduate programs for a substantial number of its students -- by the fall of 2017, more than 35 percent of its enrollment was graduate students, according to federal data. It had 256 graduate students and 468 undergraduates.

More recently, the college refinanced its debt in April, taking out a $19.5 million, 35-year loan with a low 3.25 percent fixed interest rate through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program. USDA lending has become a go-to source of cheap capital for pressured small colleges in rural areas that need relief from high debt costs and don’t have many other borrowing options. Such loans can beat financing terms available elsewhere and, more importantly, free up substantial sums of money within tight annual budgets.

It apparently wasn’t enough. Green Mountain didn’t respond to requests for comment after announcing on Wednesday that it would close at the end of the spring semester. But a statement posted online from its president, Robert W. Allen, noted that the college had been through a “tireless pursuit of multiple options” that included seeking partnerships and reorganizing its finances.

Financial challenges are hitting liberal arts institutions across the country, Allen’s statement continued. He pointed to major changes in demographics and cost structures as being behind Green Mountain’s decision to close.

His comments echo those of other college leaders, in the Northeast and elsewhere. But New England has experienced a striking number of liberal arts college closure announcements of late.

In Massachusetts, Hampshire College said this month it is considering not enrolling freshmen in the fall and it is seeking a partner in the face of what its president called “bruising financial and demographic realities.”

Hampshire’s news came on the heels of Newbury College saying in December that it would shut down its Boston-area campus at the end of the spring 2019 semester. Also in the last calendar year in Massachusetts, Wheelock College merged into Boston University and Atlantic Union College announced closure plans. Notably, Mount Ida College also grabbed headlines with a sudden closure last spring that left students surprised and unsure where they could finish their degrees.

The spate of colleges closing their doors -- and Mount Ida’s collapse -- has led Massachusetts regulators to explore ways to make sure students are protected when a college’s finances force it to close. Just this week a working group came out with recommendations that the state’s Department of Higher Education will use to try to establish a system that would screen colleges for problems and give students advance notification that finances are failing.

“My goal isn’t to be a national leader,” said Chris Gabrieli, chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. “My goal is to do the right thing for Massachusetts. But I can’t believe this isn’t an issue in other states.”

Demographic trends being what they are, more closures are in fact expected in the region.

“From all external indications, it’s going to get bad, and very bad for these smaller, tuition-dependent institutions without a strong brand name,” said Larry Ladd, national director for the higher education practice at the consulting giant Grant Thornton, who is based in Boston.

Small colleges don’t have a broad base to draw upon when times get tough, Ladd said. They generally have fewer donors to tap than would a larger institution, and they enroll fewer students from whom to draw tuition revenue or fees.

Indeed, auditors flagged Green Mountain’s fund-raising concentration in a 2017 report, writing that a significant portion of contributions receivable were due from one donor. The college was also giving back 50 cents for every dollar it collected from students in tuition, counting more than $9 million in financial aid and scholarships against $18.3 million in tuition revenue. A 50 percent discount rate isn't shockingly high compared to undergraduate discount rates at many small private liberal arts colleges, which sometimes spike into the 60 percent range, but the numbers in the auditor's report would also include graduate tuition collected, which could skew the percentages. Nonetheless, many other institutions may still have a higher overall discount rate, although Green Mountain's small size may have given it less room to work with when trying to attract students through discounting.

While it had other sources of revenue, like conferences and room and board, they weren’t making enough profit to stuff the balance sheet. Conference revenue totaled just over $602,325 versus expenses of $287,090 for the year ending in June 2017. Room and board revenue was $4.5 million against dining hall and dormitory expenses of $4.8 million.

There simply weren’t many other sources of money in a budget that totaled $18.5 million. Green Mountain managed to eke out an operating surplus of about $150,000 in 2017, but it lost money in the prior year.

Finding a niche by emphasizing the environment seems to be something that would be a smart step for a college like Green Mountain, Ladd said. But such a move can come with drawbacks. While it hopefully increases the intensity of interest from some students, it can also narrow the pool of interested students. Finding those students can in turn be costly.

For a very small, isolated college in Vermont, even small drawbacks to sound strategies can add up, especially when demographics turn south.

And demographic trends very clearly have gone south for colleges in the Northeast. Vermont in particular is in the midst of a prolonged decline in the number of high school graduates, according to projections from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. That’s before slicing the data to see which students are still likely to be graduating and whether they can be expected to enroll in higher education -- or in small private liberal arts colleges.

Nathan Grawe, a professor of economics at Carleton College, conducted some of those analyses for his book Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education (Johns Hopkins University Press). In part, he projected declining demand from students across the Northeast for virtually all types of college through 2029.

Even before birth rates fell across the country during the Great Recession, births lagged deaths in Vermont.

“In 2007, when the country was experiencing the birth boom, the state with the lowest fertility rate was Vermont,” Grawe said in an interview. “They weren’t coming anywhere near close to the replacement-rate level of fertility.”

If the discussion leaves college leaders feeling pessimistic, Grawe offers the reminder that demographics do not have to be destiny.

“Is demographic change going to lead to closure throughout the industry?” he asked. “That’s hard to know. It depends in part on how people respond to the challenges we face.”

What has become clear is that for at least one small college in Vermont, a set of common responses to industrywide challenges didn’t work.

At this point, it’s hard to say exactly why they didn’t work at Green Mountain -- or whether any other courses of action would have allowed the college to keep its doors open.

“Whether they executed them well or did it too late, I don’t know,” Ladd said.

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Liberal education advocates discuss ways to reclaim conversations about academe

Inside Higher Ed - News - January 25, 2019 - 7:00pm

ATLANTA -- Don’t. Say. Liberal. Arts. But by all means, do preach the value of a “universal” education to anyone and everyone.

Smash the false dichotomy between that universal education and job-ready training, while you’re at it, rhetorically and via the curriculum. Give students the opportunity to practice what they’re learning in a real-world setting before they graduate. And throw in a well-earned credential along with their degree.

Those are all ideas pitched by speakers here Thursday during the opening plenary and additional sessions of the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ annual meeting. The AAC&U has long advocated for students of all backgrounds to get the broad educations that will prepare them for careers and not just first jobs, taught through evidence-based practices. To AAC&U leaders, that means taking general education seriously, not just as boxes to check.

In recent years, however, AAC&U also has focused on reclaiming the narrative on the value of higher education, which was, not coincidentally, this year’s meeting title. The plenary, meanwhile, was called “Code Switching: Making the Case for Liberal Education Amidst Critics, Skeptics and Trolls.”

It’s no secret that colleges and universities have a public perception problem, especially if you call them colleges and universities: people tend to associate them with Animal House or political indoctrination. Higher education, meanwhile, sounds more credible -- even though its confidence rating has declined significantly in the era of truthiness and fake news. That’s what the polls say, at least, said Brandon Busteed, president of Kaplan University Partners, formerly of Gallup. And if one gathered all the brightest minds in the marketing business, locked them in a room and told them to come up with the worst possible term for the kind of life-changing education that AAC&U promotes? It would probably be “liberal arts,” he said.

Why? Too few people understand what the liberal arts means, and instead think it refers to politics or art. Busteed said he didn’t pretend to have a far better term, but that “universal” education might be a start. “Soft skills” is another poorly chosen term for an important concept, he said.

“We have a marketing and branding problem,” he said. “Words can damage our case because there’s too much baggage around them.”

Beyond language, Busteed said research demonstrates that liberal arts graduates who had a job or internship in college that required them to apply what they were learning have postgraduation outcomes similar their peers in science, technology, engineering and math. That’s the “equalizing force” in an undergraduate education, he said. And institutions and the public alike need to stop seeing “careerism and the liberal arts as mutually exclusive.”

There’s widespread desire for more efficient, less expensive and more work-aligned pathways through college, Busteed added, “and we can make this happen in the liberal arts.”

Of course -- and to additional speakers’ points that institutions need to do a better job of telling their stories -- this kind of work is already happening in higher education.

At a session on bridging the liberal arts and business education, for example, institutions shared how they’ve blended preprofessional training with more universal themes. Melinda Zook, a professor of history at Purdue University and leader of its Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts program, discussed her Teagle Foundation-funded initiative: a 15-credit undergraduate certificate project focused in liberal arts disciplines for highly concentrated degree programs in engineering, management and nursing. First-year students in the program enroll in a two-semester sequence called Transformative Texts that uses a Great Books approach to engage students with what Teagle describes as "enduring questions" while building writing, research and presentation skills. Students then take 200- and 300-level courses organized into five themes, including science and technology, environment and sustainability, and management and organizations.

At the end of their studies, students get a certificate saying “Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts.”

Zook said following the session that she spends "a lot of time talking to employer groups about Cornerstone and to our preprofessional advisers who help our graduates with their applications to law and medical schools," so that they all understand what the certificate signals.

She added, "We want to make Cornerstone part of the Purdue brand for our STEM and management students." The idea is that these graduates "understand engineering or computer science or management, but they also have the communication, interpersonal and team-building skills and broader vision of the world that your typical liberal arts major has imbued."

Service learning is another way many institutions have tried to help their liberal arts students acquire some job-ready skills, practical and “soft,” however poor a term it is. Widener University, for example, is working with Project Pericles, a consortium of colleges and universities that promotes civic engagement, on an initiative in this area, Creating Curricular Coherence. This campus Sustainability and Civic Engagement thematic pathway involves high-impact teaching practices, starting with an interdisciplinary first-year seminar. Next is a is a series of general education gateway, pathway and linked syllabus courses designed by professors from different disciplines. Sustainability is a key concept. Community-based and problem-based courses, as well as study abroad at Widener's global hub in Costa Rica, all play a part.

Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York, said that liberal education is alive and well at her institution, which has one of the biggest philosophy programs in the U.S. Her college enrolls students from 160 countries speaking 110 languages, she said, and many of them are driven by a desire that they can’t quite articulate -- to grapple with life’s big questions and ultimately lead a better existence. She urged those present to take teaching more seriously and to begin thinking about higher education, and, by extension, liberal education, as an “ecosystem,” in which most students will not attend a private, four-year institution.

Even nursing requires philosophical grounding, Mellow said, relaying a classroom incident in which a LaGuardia professor of nursing warned her students that they might see dead bodies during their training and then joked that dead bodies “can’t hurt you.” One student argued back that they indeed could, saying that in her home country corpses must be handled in a precise way to avoid that, Mellow recalled. The professor asked about other students’ cultural beliefs about death, and the conversation morphed from one about more basic nursing skills to one that would possibly inform the students’ ultimate success in their careers.

Mellow’s call to see higher education as an ecosystem was echoed by other speakers throughout the day. Some said that institutions and associations spend much time promoting themselves and not enough time promoting a clear set of contributions of higher education in general to society.

Mary Schmidt Campbell, president of Spelman College, said during the plenary that conversations about liberal education should be about what the liberal arts do “in our country for our conscience and our ideas.” Spelman was founded just about 20 years after the Civil War, and local women working as laundresses and in other similar positions saw it as a place where they could “profoundly change their lives.”

Spelman still holds that promise today, Campbell said, adding that it affords students “the innovation for them to think of themselves as scientists, as leaders.”

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Categories: Higher Education News