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India: 70% want to continue study abroad

The PIE News - Mon, 04/20/2020 - 02:30

Some 70% of prospective international students from India want to continue with their applications to study overseas, a survey by Mumbai-based edtech startup Yocket has found.

While a fifth of respondents said it was “too early to decide”, only 9% suggested they wanted to defer their admission. A mere 1% answered that they wanted to remain in the country and begin their studies in India.

“If the students aren’t able to complete their process they would end up wasting a year. We don’t want that to happen”

“We have seen panic among students looking to study abroad,” Sumeet Jain, Yocket co-founder said in a statement. “Many of the students were in the middle of their applications for the fall 2020 season.”

Yocket has also announced it will begin free advising services to prospective international students. According to the company, many applicants are facing major problems accessing information from universities overs as well as counselling services from faculty.

“If the students aren’t able to complete their process they would end up wasting a year. We don’t want that to happen,” Jain added. “Even if the term starts online or a bit late, they would need to be prepared. We want to be sure that students don’t waste this time in panic.”

Additionally, Yocket – which says it has registered more than 350,000 students at 100+ international universities in the US, Canada, UK & Hong Kong – is providing free webinar services to international universities so they can interact with candidates directly.

“The user can take the services from the website as well as a mobile application where most of the information is available at a DIY level and they can get personalised guidance from experienced counsellors,” Jain noted. 

The post India: 70% want to continue study abroad appeared first on The PIE News.

Beloit redesigns its academic calendar to give itself more flexibility if COVID-19 forces closures

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 04/20/2020 - 00:00

Leaders of Beloit College, a private liberal arts college in Wisconsin, obviously are not alone in trying to plan for the upcoming academic year in a period of great uncertainty. As at almost every other college and university across the country, administrators are having to prepare for various scenarios. Can in-person learning resume in time for the fall, or will students need to start their fall coursework online? If in-person learning does resume, will it need to be suspended again if COVID-19 cases begin to increase?

“We’re making all these weighty decisions about the future and what to do with refunds for room and board, and at the height of all that decision making, it felt a lot like triage, a lot like a defensive posture,” said Eric Boynton, Beloit’s provost. He asked himself, “What is the decisive step that we can take at this moment” to inspire confidence and hope in what the fall will look like?

To that end, Beloit has announced that it is breaking the semester into two modules in which students take two courses each.

“The aspiration is to have a residential learning experience next year, but if COVID rages, this flexibility allows us to have it only affect half a semester, possibly,” Boynton said. “Let’s say it creeps into September, then that first module is online, but if continues to dissipate, then we’re able to bring students at this hinge point. It’s a break in the semester; it’s an obvious time to bring students into residence.”

“It also lessens the disruption in the sense of conducting four online courses at one time is a lot of pressure for faculty, and what we’re finding -- and I think this is not just at Beloit but across the nation -- is that juggling four online courses is a lot for students,” he said. “Limiting the online experience to two courses at a time is better for faculty and staff and student learning.”

Beloit moved quickly in rolling out a module model. Boynton said he had a conversation about the idea with Beloit’s president, Scott Bierman, on March 21. On March 23, the Academic Strategic Planning Committee, which is made up of faculty members, voted to recommend moving forward with the proposal. And by March 25, the modules were approved by the Emergency Academic Authority, a group of faculty members and administrators charged with approving changes to academic programs when “operations of the College and the ability of the Academic Senate to gather are disrupted significantly due to local, regional, or national events, such as but not limited to a catastrophic weather event or a pandemic.”

Matt Tedesco, a professor of philosophy and the chair of the Academic Strategic Planning Committee, said faculty understand the rationale for the change and support it.

“We’ve tried to reach out to faculty pretty thoroughly; we’ve had two separate faculty meetings on Zoom,” he said. “We all recognize this is not a small ask. This does involve significant work over the summer to rethink our courses for the year.”

Tedesco said the idea of moving to modules was discussed as part of an institutional planning process during the 2014-15 academic year, but it never got past the exploratory stage. The public health crisis caused by the coronavirus presented an urgent opportunity to put the idea into action.

“We believe it offers us the best chance to be proactive in a situation where we control so little,” Tedesco said.

Lucie Lapovksy, a consultant and former president of Mercy College in New York, said she was impressed when she read about Beloit’s rethinking of the academic calendar. (She said Beloit is not a client.)

“I thought they were thinking outside the box in a creative way for an unusual situation that may in the long run turn out to serve them really well,” she said. “One of the questions everyone is asking is what are the innovations and the changes brought on by how you’re operating during the virus that you’re going to decide are going to stick?”

Beloit has struggled with enrollment fluctuations in recent years: after enrolling entering classes of 299 students each in 2013 and 2014, it enrolled exceptionally large classes of 392 in fall 2015 and 382 in 2016. Then first-year enrollment fell to 323 students in 2017, to 266 in 2018 and 259 last fall.

Boynton, the provost, said the original target was to enroll 250 to 260 new students this fall.

“We had targets, and now the world is upside down,” he said. “We know -- and Beloit is not the only institution in this situation -- that it’s hard to predict what the incoming class will look like. There are so many variables.”

In addition to rolling out the shift to modules, Beloit has also announced several other changes in response to COVID-19, including freezing tuition costs and matching in-state tuition rates at public flagship universities in the region.

“The Midwest Flagship Match means that for prospective students who are residents of six Midwestern states -- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin -- we’ll make sure that your cost to attend Beloit will match or beat the tuition at your state’s flagship campus,” Beloit promises on its website.

“We’re demonstrating that Beloit is an institution that tackles these problems,” Boynton said.

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Students sue universities for tuition and fee refunds

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 04/20/2020 - 00:00

“Are you a college student who was forced to leave campus? You may be entitled to compensation,” a notice on collegerefund2020.com announces.

The website was created by a law firm currently capitalizing on the growing anger and activism by students -- and indignant parents, too -- who believe they're owed partial tuition and fee refunds for semesters cut short, courses moved online and off-campus, and unused housing and meal plans, among other disruptions that occurred at colleges and universities across the country in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The advertisement by the Anastopoulo Law Firm, which has offices throughout South Carolina, appears to have struck a chord. It is currently representing students in three class action lawsuits filed in the last two weeks against Drexel University, University of Miami and the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado, as calls from students for tuition and fee refunds grow stronger.

The lawsuits claim that online classes don't have equal value to in-person classes and are not worth the tuition that students paid for on-campus classes. The lawsuits also contend that the decision by these institutions to use pass/fail grading systems this semester have diminished the value of the degrees they offer. The lawsuits claim they represent thousands of students enrolled at the universities.

Separate class action lawsuits against the Arizona Board of Regents and Liberty University were filed on behalf of students that attend one of the three institutions in the Arizona university system or the Christian liberal arts university in Lynchburg, Va. The lawsuits claim students paid various fees -- recreation, health services, room and board, and meal plans -- for resources they did not use after college administrators shut down campuses to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Students demanded universities return any "unused" fees, "proportionate to the amount of time that remained in the spring 2020 semester when classes moved online," according to the Arizona lawsuit.

Liberty, which allowed students to return to campus following the university's spring break, is providing $1,000 to students who moved out of its campus residence halls, according to a university spokesman. The lawsuit against the university is “without merit,” Scott Lamb, senior vice president of communications and public engagement, said in a written statement.

“While it’s not surprising that plaintiff class action attorneys would seek to profit from a public health crisis, we don’t believe this law firm or its single client speaks for the vast majority of our students,” the statement said. “Similar class-action suits are pending against other schools, and such claims will no doubt be made against other higher education institutions that changed how they operate and deliver services to students in the face of COVID-19.”

The five universities named in the lawsuits are committing "breach of contract" and receiving “unjust enrichment” from tuition and fee payments that won’t go toward services that benefit students, according to the lawsuits. The universities have failed to deliver on promises of in-person instruction and campus life, which the University of Miami touts as “a world of interaction with other students” and Drexel promotes as “experiential learning,” according to the lawsuits filed in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Charleston division. Grainger Rickenbaker, who attends Drexel, and Adelaide Dixon, a student at Miami, both live in South Carolina, and did not reply to requests for comment sent through Facebook.

Roy Willey IV, a lawyer with the Anastopoulo Law Firm, said in an email that the firm is investigating “dozens” of other potential cases across the country where students claim colleges owe them refunds. The firm created collegerefund2020.com because it is receiving numerous inquiries for legal representation, he said.

“This is a national problem where colleges and universities with endowments in the hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars are passing the entire burden of the pandemic onto students and their families,” Willey wrote. “That is not fair, it is not right, and they should be held accountable.”

He pointed to the significant price differences between some online and in-person classes as examples of the lower costs of providing online instruction. For example, he noted that tuition for Drexel’s online bachelor’s degree program in business administration is 40 percent less than the rate for the on-campus program.

An updated version of the Arizona lawsuit filed on April 15 names eight students. An anonymous student filed the Liberty lawsuit. Matt Miller, an attorney whose firm is representing Liberty and Arizona students​, said the anonymous Liberty student is worried about retaliation from officials for speaking out against the university.

The anonymous student said Liberty’s response to the pandemic is “irresponsible and dangerous” because it offered students the choice to return to residence halls, Miller explained in an email.

Liberty and Arizona’s coronavirus responses were unique among others because they made the “same bad decision” to leave campuses open and left it up to students to decide whether to return, Miller said. Students at the universities Miller is representing are not seeking reimbursement for tuition, rather, they want refunds of any unused fees for on-campus services. He said it is “indefensible” for universities to hold on to fees for services which they are not providing.

“The cases that we have filed, these are not meant to be punitive to the schools,” Miller said. “People have paid for something and you’re not providing it in a very clear way … Colleges are already really expensive. Families are taking on massive debt or pour their life savings into going to college.”

Northern Arizona University, which is part of the state system, says in its coronavirus response posted on the university's website that students who moved off campus by April 16 will receive a 25 percent refund for spring housing and meal plans. A spokesman for Arizona State University said a $1,500 credit will be applied for “eligible” students who moved out of on-campus housing by April 15, but housing remains open and some resources are still being provided, such as telehealth for medical and counseling services. A spokesperson for the Arizona Board of Regents did not respond to a request for comment.

Peter McDonough, vice president and general counsel for the American Council on Education, said while it’s reasonable for students to ask whether they’re getting what they paid for, institutions are also facing financial hardship due to the pandemic. The assumption of "unjust enrichment claims" -- that colleges are saving money by not having students on campus -- is inaccurate, said McDonough, who is the former counsel to Princeton University.

“There’s no way schools are saving a boatload of money now that they’ve sent students home for the remainder of the year,” McDonough said. “A typical college’s expenses weigh heavily toward paying faculty and staff. I hope we appreciate that schools are trying to carry, the best they can, their employees, and particularly the ones that are most economically challenged.”

Colorado faculty members at the system’s four campuses have been working hard to ensure online coursework has the “same academic rigor and high quality” as it did before the pandemic, said Ken McConnellogue, vice president for communication for the system’s president. Colorado and other universities have stressed that students will continue to receive academic credit for their courses taken this semester.

“It’s disappointing that people feel compelled to sue amid a global pandemic, barely a month after we moved to remote teaching to protect the health and safety of students, faculty and staff,” McConnellogue said.

McDonough said he could not predict whether the current lawsuits might prompt more students to seek refunds through legal channels.

“I frankly hope that we don’t have to play all of that out,” McDonough said. “I hope that students and their families will have a look back and [feel] appreciation for everything institutions did do to help them through this.”

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New report says many adjuncts make less than $3,500 per course and $25,000 per year

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 04/20/2020 - 00:00

Nearly 25 percent of adjunct faculty members rely on public assistance, and 40 percent struggle to cover basic household expenses, according to a new report from the American Federation of Teachers.

Nearly a third of the 3,000 adjuncts surveyed for the report earn less than $25,000 a year. That puts them below the federal poverty guideline for a family of four. Another third of respondents make less than $50,000.

Per-course pay varies from less than $2,000 to more than $7,000. About 53 percent of respondents make less than $3,500 per course. Asked about equitable compensation, more than half said they should be paid at least $5,000 per course.

‘An Army of Temps’

“An increase in the per-course minimum to this range would immediately benefit the vast majority of contingent faculty today,” states the report, "An Army of Temps," released today.

“Students are not receiving the best possible education when the instructor in front of them is struggling to decide whether to buy food or medicine, and students’ futures are jeopardized when an inspiring professor who could provide a recommendation or further mentorship is let go as soon as the academic term ends,” the report continues. “To secure the economic and social prosperity and justice that our members, our students and our nation deserve, we must address the problems afflicting higher education.”

That means “immediately seeking to restore and enhance funding for high-quality, affordable, accessible higher education, and reducing institutions’ reliance on contingent faculty premised on poverty wages and exploitation,” the report says. “If we want everything -- these institutions and the democracy they serve -- to go downhill faster, we can instead continue to ignore this perilous state of affairs.”

The survey period ended last June. But with colleges and universities across the country implementing hiring freezes and budget cuts due to the financial upheaval caused the coronavirus pandemic, and the potential for future fluctuations in enrollments, adjuncts' lives are now even more precarious.

Research on adjuncts is hard to pull off, as institutions aren’t always organized or forthcoming with their data on adjunct pay and other details. Adjuncts themselves may be difficult to track down because they often work on multiple campuses to string together something resembling a living. The most comprehensive survey of adjuncts was published in 2012, by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce. That survey found the median per-course pay was about $2,700, or $24,000 per year as a full-time-equivalent employee.

The Service Employees International Union, TIAA and the House Education and the Workforce Committee in the U.S. Congress, among other groups, have also published surveys on adjuncts since then. The AFT contends that its new report is the most thorough to date.

Randi Weingarten, AFT president, said through a spokesperson that the “impact of unstable and contingent work on students is tremendously understudied.”

Students and families take on “severe financial risks when they go to college,” she said, “and it's not well understood outside of academia just how little of that money is going to instruction.”

Many adjuncts are among the most experienced teachers on their campuses. But they often lack institutional support and training, which can negatively impact campus safety. Forty-four percent of instructors said they hadn’t been trained on what to do in the event of a campus emergency, for example. The same share said they had insufficient preparation for dealing with students posing a threat to themselves or others.

Over all, Weingarten said, the survey paints a “vivid portrait of how precarious labor provided by millions of adjunct faculty anchors their institutions' instructional work.”

Weingarten linked adjunct working conditions to growing unionization efforts. She said the AFT continues to fight for additional public funding for higher ed.

Prior to the pandemic, it would have taken $15 billion in additional federal and state investments in higher education over two years to get back to pre-2008 levels of public funding. Now, the “financial holes to be filled -- both in public investment and in the lives of individual adjunct and contingent faculty -- will be even bigger, and more perilous,” the report states.

A ‘Nightmare’

There’s a myth about adjuncts that just won’t die: that most have well-paying day jobs and teach as a hobby. Other studies have tried to disprove that misconception with facts, but the AFT’s data are especially sobering. Just 15 percent of adjuncts said they are able to comfortably cover basic expenses from month to month.

Caprice Lawless, an adjunct instructor of English at Front Range Community College in Colorado and chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee on Contingency and the Profession, said the AFT’s report “accurately describes the nightmare that more than a million teachers face in our country, trying to live on $25,000 a year. You can’t do it -- it can’t be done.”

Fewer than half of respondents have access to employer-provided health care. About 20 percent rely on Medicaid. Some 45 percent of faculty members have put off needed health care, including seeking help for mental health. Two-thirds have foregone dental care in the last 12 months due to the cost.

Just 54 percent of respondents have access to some paid sick leave, while just 17 percent have paid family leave and 14 percent have paid parental leave.

Lawless said she’s had to teach while sick with shingles and on the days of her parents’ respective deaths. Adjuncts at her college now have some sick leave after campaigning for it, she said.

Colleges and universities are increasingly granting adjuncts' requests for yearlong or multiyear contracts, but 41 percent of adjuncts still said they struggle with job security and don’t know if they’ll have a teaching job until one month prior to the start of the academic year. Three-quarters of professors said they only get semester-to-semester or quarter-to-quarter contracts.

As for retirement, some 37 percent of adjuncts said they can’t imagine how they’ll manage. Sixty-three percent are 50 or older. Nearly 40 percent of adjuncts have been teaching for 15 years or more, including as graduate employees.

The AFT’s report uses “adjuncts” to refer to part-time and full-time professors working off the tenure track. Nationally, about 20 percent of the faculty are full-time, non-tenure-eligible, compared to 12 percent of the AFT sample. Seventy-nine percent of respondents were part-timers, and 3 percent each were graduate employees, professional staff or other.

All professors surveyed teach at two- and four-year institutions. Nearly half the sample (46 percent) teach at four-year public institutions. Nine percent teach at four-year private colleges. About 4 percent teach at four-year for-profit institutions. Sixty-one percent of the sample teach at two-year publics. (The numbers don’t add up to 100 percent because many adjuncts teach on multiple campuses. Very small shares of respondents teach at two-year private or private for-profit campuses.)

About three-quarters of respondents are white. Four percent are black, 6 percent are Latinx, 3 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander. Three percent are multiracial, and the rest preferred not to answer. It is well established that underrepresented minorities and women are overrepresented among adjuncts. The AFT sample is 64 percent female, 33 percent male, 1 percent gender nonconforming and 0.1 percent transgender. Three percent didn’t answer.

The Contingent Faculty Movement

Adrianna Kezar, Wilbur Kieffer Endowed Professor and Dean's Professor of Leadership and director of the Pullias Center and of the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success at the University of Southern California, said the AFT’s data on salary, health-care access, job security, notification of courses and retirement parallel other previous findings.

Meanwhile, the AFT survey had “some really interesting new information around the areas of public assistance, training about student needs and food insecurity,” Kezar said. She also called the report “very timely,” given the financial choices institutions are facing this spring in the wake of the pandemic.

Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy organization, said adjuncts don’t face a dearth of information about their working conditions, so much as a “dearth of concern” about how those conditions affect all the faculty as a whole, students and the “integrity of higher education.”

Even more important than new data, she said, is that the “contingent faculty movement ally itself much more closely with all of the other precarious workers and gig economy activists who are working on broad, deep structural change. Solidarity is now more important than ever, on so many levels.” (Kezar's most recent book was about the gig academy.)

Maisto advised contingent professors to apply for unemployment insurance at the end of the semester -- and urged institutions not to stand in their way. Many colleges and universities obstruct access to unemployment benefits in typical years by “disingenuously asserting” that adjuncts have "reasonable assurance" of continued employment, she said. But contingent faculty members have never had “authentic” reasonable assurance of continued employment, “and that is even more obviously the case now.”

Lawless said she’d recently spoken to administrators within the Colorado Community College system and asked them to allow adjuncts to access state unemployment benefits, which in turn grant them access to expanded federal unemployment benefits. Another key request was fast-tracking an accelerated online teaching training and certification course for adjuncts to take over the summer.

The present crisis offers an opportunity to pause and imagine a better way forward, as the adjunct status quo is not sustainable, Lawless said.

“We’re the higher education equivalent of nurses working without masks.”

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Students on campus talk about experiences

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 04/20/2020 - 00:00

Most students have left campus now. Aside from a couple of exceptions, such as the University of Washington and Long Island University, colleges have closed residences to stop spread of the new coronavirus. Students now need permission to stay on campus.

But many students who applied were not allowed to stay, said Chris Sinclair, executive director of external affairs at FLIP National, a nonprofit that supports first-generation and low-income students.

"What they won't acknowledge," Sinclair said, making an example of the University of Pennsylvania, "is nearly everyone who applied to stay in campus housing because they couldn't afford to leave was rejected with no appeals process."

Penn, for its part, has emphasized that students who were not permitted to stay were offered generous financial assistance. "Penn has approved and distributed emergency funds to nearly 500 undergraduate students," a spokesperson for the university said via email. "This funding was targeted specifically to students who were not approved to remain on campus but indicated in their application that they had financial concerns that would prevent their immediate departure." The university bought plane tickets, arranged ground transportation and covered baggage costs. Many students who receive aid from the university are now receiving additional financial assistance to ensure food security and internet service for the rest of the semester, the university has said.

Just how many students were permitted to stay obviously varies by institution. Some are hosting many students. At the State University of New York at Buffalo, 1,500 of the usual 8,000 students have been allowed to remain on campus. International students, as well as students who can't make safe living or dining arrangements, who have limited access to technology, or whose primary residence is campus, were all allowed to stay. The criteria were decided with guidance from the governor and system chancellor. In contrast, at Georgetown University, which has nearly 7,000 undergraduates, dining workers have said the campus is only hosting about 200 students, mostly international.

At Chapman University, the campus was set to house 3,450 students this spring. Now there are only about 230 left, said Dave Sundby, director of residence life. There are some students, he said, who might have been able to go home in early March when the pandemic was just beginning but now have family infected or in vulnerable situations.

Sundby said the administration first pared down applications to stay by asking some students for more information.

"We initially had students who thought, 'This will be great! No classes and I just get to party in the neighborhood all the time,'" he said. "We did tell some people, 'What you've provided isn't really enough information,' or 'If this is your only reason for being here, we're going to need to ask you to move out.'"

But the further information some students provided made it obvious that they needed to stay. Some students didn't have beds to sleep in or lived at home with vulnerable family members.

Still, students at other institutions are concerned that their peers have fallen through the cracks.

Anna Macknick, a junior studying linguistics at Princeton University, said that students have been posting on anonymous Facebook pages about the struggles they faced after leaving campus.

"A lot of people have been posting about going home to abusive families, to toxic environments, to not having reliable Wi-Fi," she said. "People were screwed over by the policies that Princeton made, or failed to make."

Princeton was specific in its criteria for which students were allowed to stay. Originally, only those completing thesis research, facing housing or financial insecurity, or residing in university family housing were allowed to stay, along with some international students and those that have been granted status as independent from their parents. Students can apply for independent status, meaning they are not financially dependent on their parents, if they have experienced documented parental abuse or neglect, or meet other criteria such as being married.

Having a generally strained relationship with family or unreliable internet access were not listed as approved reasons for domestic students to stay on campus.

A Princeton spokesperson said that the university reviewed over 1,000 requests to stay on campus and made decisions prioritizing international students and students with the highest financial need. Those who were denied were given an appeals process. Under 500 students remain on campus.

"While we could not approve every student to remain on campus, we remain committed to supporting students, both in their search for off-campus housing and their broader needs," the spokesperson said via email. "If students are having difficulty while away from campus, either with housing or another issue, they continue to have resources and staff available to help address those difficulties -- they are not alone." Counseling and student life resources are still available to students who have left campus.

Macknick, who is from Wisconsin, is one of the few students who have been able to remain on a campus. Princeton previously granted her status as an independent student.

She complained that university guidance was haphazardly rolled out and sometimes reversed. For example, the university flip-flopped its decision to allow thesis research as an approved reason to stay without properly communicating to students, she said. Individual students shared personal emails from staff in group chats to spread the word.

"There's been a lot of issues with inconsistencies," Macknick said.

Princeton has said the reversal was due to fast-changing state restrictions that closed libraries and research labs. Other institutions similarly found it difficult to stick to one message, with travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders changing daily. Some institutions gave students clear timelines to leave campus and then accelerated those timelines.

Life on Campus

The degree to which institutions are enforcing social distancing has been variable. Many institutions have banned students visiting one another in their dorms. At Chapman University, Sundby said that the administration moved each student staying on campus into their own apartment. Some students had to be moved because they were in buildings that were actually too empty -- a building with only a few students becomes a risk for fire, a target for theft, and can mean more work for a hamstrung facilities staff.

But the administration, Sundby said, is not policing social distancing by checking in on students or threatening penalties.

"We're going to provide you with information and set expectations, but we're going to trust that you're doing that without as much active enforcement."

At Princeton, Macknick said she has no access to common rooms or kitchens and is in a dorm room. The university has told students that they stand to lose their housing if they are caught breaking social distancing guidelines.

"Even if I'm walking by a friend in the dining hall and I want to stop and talk with them, I still have this fear in my head of, 'What if we're not completely six feet apart? What if university public safety sees us? What if we get in trouble?'" she said. "Obviously you want to be taking these things seriously, but having the punishment be eviction when the students who are on campus now are in vulnerable situations with housing generally to start, it's just not the right move."

Princeton has said that it is taking social distancing and public health seriously. "In accepting the offer to remain, students agreed to social distancing and were told that their ability to remain was contingent on compliance with this expectation," a university spokesperson said via email. "Living in a dormitory presents particular challenges for keeping people healthy because of the close proximity and shared spaces. We are serious about the consequences of disregard of these conditions."

Alejandra Gonzalez, a freshman at Cornell University, said the administration there has taken a more relaxed approach. While there are rules, they are not being policed in the same way as at Princeton. Gonzalez said she thought Cornell was doing a great job.

"In every single way, I think they were as accommodating as possible, and they really, really worked hard to make sure that students had everything they needed," she said.

Far from what some administrators and faculty feared when letting students stay, Gonzalez says the campus is definitely not a party atmosphere.

"Not having the student body, it feels kind of like a ghost town. Everything is empty, everything's quiet."

Jon Marlon Mirador, a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, expressed a similar sentiment.

"The city is now dead," he said. Only one of his friends has stayed on campus, and they can see each other occasionally.

Though they've been allowed to stay and say they feel safe, students aren't completely out of the woods yet. Some are grappling with the next uncertainty: summer.

"What happens when the semester ends?" Macknick said. "No one knows if there's going to be summer housing or not."

Her plan if she can't stay is to find a room outside the university, though it will need to be accessible for her disability.

In a response, Princeton said a summer shelter review process will be in place "soon."

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Roundup: Special Q&A, wage garnishments and cat chats

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 04/20/2020 - 00:00

Happy Monday. More states and cities are requiring people to wear masks for trips to the grocery store (or just everywhere), and leaders are planning for how, exactly, the world will work once stay-at-home orders are lifted.

While things don't seem much better than last week, there are always some palate cleansers to cheer us up.

Here is a delightful story on chatting with a cat over FaceTime. I am happy but also sad reading it, as our perfect foster pup, Kane, has found his forever home and left ours empty.

This piece of digital art is not exactly PG, but I think it perfectly captures what some of us are feeling right now.

it's been a particularly stressful week, so I made some art to reflect how I feel: cute, angry, trapped pic.twitter.com/VMBCr8Xrug

— Jenna Stoeber! (@thejenna) April 17, 2020

Below, you'll find our now-weekly Q&A feature. This time I talked with Phil Regier, dean for educational initiatives at Arizona State University and CEO of EdPlus.

Now let’s get to the news.

In general, the economy isn't doing so hot. But, unsurprisingly, a study found that those with college degrees are faring better than those without right now.

Another survey found that black and Latinx students are facing more challenges, like job losses, right now than their white peers.

Technically, wage garnishments for student loan payments are not allowed right now. But some people are still reporting this issue. The Education Department says it's doing what it can to stop this.

Leaders at the Vermont State Colleges are proposing three campus closures as the system feels the financial strain of the pandemic.

Here’s a quick roundup of our latest stories, in case you’ve fallen a bit behind (we don’t blame you):

For-profit colleges got aggressive in recruitment in the last recession. Kery Murakami reports on how some advocates worry history will repeat itself.

College libraries, most of which haven't fully recovered financially from the last recession, are bracing for another round of cuts, Lindsay McKenzie reports.

Elizabeth Redden has a story on a report that estimates enrollment numbers of undocumented immigrants. The population is growing in higher ed.

News From Elsewhere

The IndyStar has a story about what happened to a college town in Indiana as the pandemic loomed larger and larger.

Much is changing because of COVID-19, and the traditional academic calendar could be next, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

The New York Times went to Denmark to see what a postcoronavirus world might look like.

Percolating Thoughts

This is a time when everyone has an opinion. As journalists, we try not to have opinions, but we've gathered some interesting ones from others.

One higher ed expert lays out what people should look for, and when, to determine if their institutions are close to closure.

An assistant professor at the City University of New York discusses how what's happening to the university system lays bare the effects of the coronavirus.

A Temple University student gives a first-person perspective on missing an important rite of passage for many: graduation.

You made it to the end. Here's my conversation with Phil Regier, Arizona State's dean for educational initiatives. It's been edited for length and clarity.

Q: ASU has a big online presence already. Did you encounter any problems in making the switch to totally remote learning?

A: Let me distinguish two types of students. We have ASU Online students. Those students are fully asynchronous. Basically they have no face-to-face requirements. The first time many of them come to campuses is the day they graduate.

The second group of students, of course, is the on-campus student population. We refer to those as technologically enhanced campus immersion environments, where they have the full access to everything from the library to football games.

The asynchronous students had virtually zero change or interruption in what was happening to them. We always support them with success coaching. They reached out to us with problems during COVID, but we didn’t really recognize any marked difference in the enrollment patterns.

For the 75,000 on-campus students, we were able to train our faculty in a very short period of time to take advantage of a whole set of synchronous tools, including Zoom, including Google. We trained about 2,500 of those faculty in the two weeks leading up the switch. We made the switch, students left the campus for the most part. All face-to-face teaching was shut down. They moved into a synchronous, immersive environment.

Q: Do you think this was easier for ASU because of its experience with online learning?

A: I think that’s really important. ASU Online is not a separate entity from ASU, it’s just a different modality. We now have about 230 degree programs, and about 140 of those are at the undergraduate level. We have embedded within almost every academic unit of the university people who are conversant with and comfortable with digital training and learning. For fully synchronous online education, we’ve trained 2,400 faculty over the past five years. That meant 50 percent of faculty had already taught online. They were comfortable with distance education.

In terms of the confidence level, the remaining faculty went into this knowing that we’d already been very successful teaching at distance, and it wasn’t scary, it wasn’t foreign to them. They had observed their colleagues doing it, and they were much better prepared as a group to go ahead.

Q: A lot of attention is being paid to how existing inequities are being exacerbated with the move to remote learning. What have you seen at ASU?

A: I’ll address that in two ways. First off, we were certainly aware of that when we moved to asynchronous education. There was a lot of chatter that online or fully online education would disadvantage low-socioeconomic[-status] students. We really accelerated two things. First off, our research on whether low-socioeconomic students were in fact being disadvantaged. Secondly, putting a set of tools and capabilities in place that would support them. Our objective all along has been to ensure that your zip code or your parents' zip code doesn’t determine whether you get a degree.

In the ASU Online space, over the years we’ve been able to actually do research, and we know now that low-socioeconomic students in our programs perform as well as their wealthier counterparts. But I attribute a great deal of that to the tools and processes that we put in place.

As an example, every online student who comes into ASU Online is assigned a success coach. That success coach is not just an academic adviser; they’re really there to make the student successful in getting a degree. With a low-income student who’s working a job or two jobs and working full-time, and all of a sudden they have to work more hours, they’ll often call up the success coach and go, "What do I do now? I’ve got to drop the classes I’m in."

What we do is work very carefully with the students to ensure that they don’t drop the classes they’re in. We work with students during natural disasters, during wildfires and hurricanes and tornadoes, to make sure the students in those affected areas don’t drop their classes. So in terms of ASU Online, we know that we’re successful.

In terms of the on-campus student population, we’ve worked very carefully over the years to ensure that every student has the same options and the same ability to get through the program as anybody else. We provide a lot of support for low-socioeconomic students at the university.

In terms of when we turned the switch, and all those on-campus students became synchronous, digitally delivered students, we were able to reach out to those who did not have necessary technology, did not have Wi-Fi and other things, and provide them the equipment so they would not simply drop out or disappear. We really work to provide the support for the low-socioeconomic students to make sure that they’ll be successful as well.

Q: How were you able to address those inequities?

A: We had a really robust communication stream to the students. We reached out through advisers and through counselors and through the tutoring center and everybody else to make sure students knew what was going to happen, how to access the technology.

Then we had, centrally, a small group of people in the provost's office who were taking these responses and replies and filtering through them and making sure that whenever students indicated they didn’t have a laptop or they didn’t have a cellphone or anything else, that we would get them those tools so they could continue on their coursework and be successful. I think we only had to distribute about 1,014 laptops and 463 Wi-Fi hotspots. In terms of training, there was a lot of online training that was available for students if they were having those types of problems.

Q: How much of an impact do you think all of this will have on higher education?

A: I have no idea if my forecasts will be right or not, but globally here’s what I think. The coronavirus doesn’t really change anything that would’ve happened in the future, but it is going to accelerate it. I think the transition to creating modalities that are less dependent on being residential, at a campus or university, is going to be accelerated. You’ll have an acceleration of things like ASU Online, online modalities for students who are 30 years old, didn’t receive an undergraduate degree, but they have 60 hours of credit. They’re interested in completing that program, but they have wives and kids and husbands and daughters and parents living at home and full-time jobs, and they can’t go synchronously either digitally enabled or on campus. There are 30 million Americans in that spot right now.

Universities, for the most part, are going to be more aggressive in developing capabilities for students to come into different types of learning modalities in ways that are flexible and convenient for the students rather than convenient for the faculty members, which is basically how too many universities have thought about this in the past. What we need to be looking toward is what do the potential students need in order to advance in their life and in their career, and be providing teaching and learning in whatever modality they need to do that.

Q: Who will be the winners and losers of this?

A: I think a lot of it depends on not just when universities reopen, but when parents and students feel comfortable about moving into a university-type setting. I think that if this extends to January, with a lot of universities not opening in the fall, obviously the fallout is going to be pretty severe. If, in fact, there are only a few dozen schools that don’t open in the fall and everything gets going, I think it will be less so.

But it’s not just whether the university can reopen, it's whether parents and students will feel comfortable going to the university. I think that’s going to take a while.

In terms of who’s going to win and who’s going to lose, I’ll simply say that universities that really focus on the needs of the students and providing a lot of different modalities and a lot of different ways for students to access the faculty and different ways of accessing degree programs, those universities are going to do better because they have a diversified means of production. As one goes down, the other can expand, hopefully.

The other thing I’d say is, fully online programs -- it’s really hard to spin those up overnight. It’s taken us 10 years to build 3,000 online degree courses that we think are very high quality. It’s not simply the case that you can take a half dozen or a dozen instructional designers, sit them down with faculty over the summer and expect to have a 100 undergraduate degrees ready to go next fall.

I also think this is a tremendous opportunity for universities to cooperate and for universities to form alliances and be able to share material. This is something that faculty have been very, very, very reluctant to do in the past. I think the economic and social pressures are going to make that more likely than it’s ever been over the past several decades.

Q: We're seeing some students calling for tuition rebates, unsatisfied with their online education so far. Do you think students will be reluctant to enroll in the fall if it's online?

A: If I am a fairly elite face-to-face private university that never invested any money in online, and then I have to send the students home and I can’t open in the fall and I tell them, "I’m going to teach with Zoom because that’s what I did in the spring" -- I understand where students and parents might be reluctant, because that’s not actually the learning experience they signed up for.

Over time, there’s going to be downward pressure on tuition pricing. I think that is inevitable. I think that we’ve had at least two, if not three, decades of above-GDP-level growth in tuition pricing. Some schools like ASU have made a commit to really limit increases to a percent or so. You’re going to definitely see some downward pricing pressure on tuition.

When you start lowering your prices, you better be able to deliver more efficiently and at the same quality level going forward. Some universities will be able to do that; some are going to have a more difficult time.

Q: There's also a lot of talk about how it isn't actually cheaper to deliver education online. Can it be cheaper to go online, or no?

A: You can deliver online more efficiently than you can deliver face-to-face. I’ll give you one really obvious example. Once you have an online course built, the faculty member doesn’t have to walk into the classroom three times a week and deliver the same lecture over and over and over. That means that faculty members' time can be used in other ways.

You can teach more efficiently by teaching larger groups of students, or you can teach more effectively by focusing on the students who really need the most help and assisting those who are the top students to be challenged even more than they were in the regular face-to-face environment. So there are both efficiency and effectiveness ways that you can teach online.

I think that online can scale in a sense that, if you are really committed to a 20- to 35-student cap in an on-campus setting, it’s difficult to do. Many of the schools that are going to be hit aren’t the pre-eminent liberal arts private schools, but they’re going to be small schools, religiously affiliated schools with small enrollments not being supported by churches, regional public universities with low enrollment.

Q: Your bio says you’re interested in “pushing the boundaries of what is achievable” to “enhance student success.” Has COVID-19 changed how that looks?

A: What I see is, it won’t change, but it’s going to accelerate quickly. In terms of pushing the boundaries, what pushing the boundaries was in January is very different now.

If you just think about something like university alliances, it was almost very difficult if not impossible to put together around teaching and learning, very difficult if not impossible to put together four months ago. I think going forward that type of thing is quite possible. I think what we might have thought of as pushing the boundaries four months ago is going to be a little bit more accepted given the exigencies of the current situation.

Have any percolating thoughts or notice any from others? Feel free to send them our way or comment below.

We’ll continue bringing you the news you need in this crazy time. Keep sending us your questions and story ideas. We’ll get through this together.

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Chronicle of Higher Education: Major Cost-Cutting Begins in Response to Covid-19, With Faculty and Staff Furloughs and Pay Cuts

The long-term economic impact of the pandemic is uncertain. But colleges are taking steps now to offset deep revenue losses.

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Survey: 1000s of students could not access food or healthcare due to crisis

The PIE News - Fri, 04/17/2020 - 06:55

Thousands of international students in Europe were not able to access basic needs like food, sanitary products and even healthcare because of the coronavirus outbreak, while others experienced a spike in instances of racial discrimination, a comprehensive survey by the Erasmus Student Network has revealed. 

The ‘Student Exchanges in Times of Crisis’ report, which was released this month, builds on a survey in which 22,000 international students and trainees in Europe provided information about their experiences of COVID-19 and mobility. 

“Universities and the governments were not prepared to tackle a crisis like this”

Some 37.5% of the respondents reported having significant problems relating to travel, healthcare, basic needs, accommodation and visas. 

“The survey showed that the universities and the governments were not prepared to tackle a crisis like this, which is perfectly understandable, because it is an unprecedented situation. It is challenging for everybody,” Kostis Giannidis, president of the ESN, told The PIE News

“But something that we can take out is that the universities didn’t have the right measures to tackle the situation. I think this is something that we can work on in the future so that the universities have more risk measures in place.”

The survey was open from March 19 to March 30 and addressed the topic of student exchanges in Europe affected by the COVID-19 crisis. 

As part of the research, students were asked whether they had experienced problems in five different areas in an effort to assess the impact of the epidemic. 

The major problems faced by students. Source: ESN

A total of 6,132 students said they had experienced a loss of transportation to return home, while 1,430 said they had no access to basic needs, such as food and sanitary products. 

Accommodation also caused issues, with 1260 saying that their accommodation had been cancelled or closed.  

Some 795 students reported having no access to medical support and 287 had problems with visa or residence permits. 

Other findings of the report include a spike in racial discrimination with 6% of all the respondents reporting that they experienced discrimination based on their nationalities. 

Students who experienced feelings of racism and discrimination. Source: ESN

Out of those respondents who said they had experienced discrimination to either to a great extent or to a very great extent, 24% were Italian students and 19% were Asian students. This marked a total of 2,431 Italian students and 657 Asian students.

Giannidis stressed that this problem was partially circumstantial, in that discrimination was based on if a student had come from a country that was suffering serious problems from the coronavirus. 

“We have to take into consideration when the survey was done it was the end of March. Back then Italy was the worst case when it came to coronavirus. But now it has spread all over Europe. I think that it isn’t about Italian students anymore,” he said.

The psychological impact of coronavirus has been severe, not just on those students who are facing major problems, but also for those who have had to disrupt their studies. 

Overall, 41.2% of the respondents reported that they had experienced anxiety and stress to a great extent or to a very great extent, during the last two weeks. 

A difference in responses was noted depending on the status of the exchanges.

Of those who had not been able to start their exchanges, 31.4% reported that they had experienced anxiety and stress to a great extent or to a very great extent. For those who had stayed in the exchange destination, that number was 30.6%.

By contrast, for those who had not decided whether to stay or return, the number was 47.5% and for those who had returned to their home countries, it was 47.4%.

“My family obligated me to come home, even though I did not want to go”

The report included testimony from a Dutch student, to emphasise the personal impact on those who have had their studies disrupted. 

“When you go home, you just feel like a loser because others are staying,” the student said.  

“My family obligated me to come home, even though I did not want to go. I felt like I was giving up and especially now in the Netherlands, I am like was this it, was this my study abroad… I wish I could do it all over again or at least given the chance.”

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Chronicle of Higher Education: TRACK III: College Admissions

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IIE commits $1m to COVID-19 fund, aims to double it

The PIE News - Fri, 04/17/2020 - 06:30

The Institute of International Education has committed $1 million to aid international students in the US caught in the crossfire of the coronavirus pandemic, and is seeking to raise an additional $1m to double the number of students it can aid.

In what is described as its “most expansive Emergency Student Fund ever” the IIE has launched the IIE Emergency Student Fund: COVID-19 Response to support international students currently studying at IIENetwork Institutions in the US.

“The necessary but abrupt campus closures are devastating for many international students”

An IIE statement explained that to halt the spread of the coronavirus, universities around the US have shuttered residence halls and moved courses online.

“The necessary but abrupt campus closures are devastating for many international students,” it noted. “Some are unable to go home to be with their families—border closures and cancelled flights make it impossible.

“Others made the difficult decision to remain in the US anticipating they might not be able to return when their university reopens.”

As a result, the statement continued, international students are stranded in the US, unable to meet basic living expenses.

“Their employment options are limited by law, and their eligibility for financial aid is even more limited. Their families may be unable to provide funds the students have been counting on. Some students may have fallen ill and need support while they recover,” the statement explained.

To help meet the immediate needs of international students, IIE said it has allocated $1 million to cover approximately 300 emergency grants, and aims “to raise another $1 million and double the number of students we can aid”.

International students in the US can turn to IIE for help by asking their on-campus advisors to nominate them for IIE’s emergency grant assistance.

The ESF: COVID-19 Response will provide grants of $2,500 to selected students who demonstrate a high financial need to cover their living expenses through summer 2020.

“100% of gifts to this fund will be used to assist international students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” added IIE.

For more details about the IIE Emergency Student Fund: COVID-19 Response, visit the program website.

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In the move to online, education must come before technology

The PIE News - Fri, 04/17/2020 - 03:57

As Covid-19 has swept across our world turning the expectations of individuals, countries, businesses and institutions on their heads, 2020 has felt to many of us like a new reality.

Almost every aspect of our lives and communities depends as never before on the ability to connect online. Remote teaching and learning, virtual classrooms, online support and assessment are creating a new normal. The past feels ever more distant. We wonder if we will ever return.

As the Director of the EdTech Lab at Imperial College in London, I’ve been working at the interface between education and technology for 20 years and my company Insendi has supported academic and professional colleagues at leading business schools around the world in their efforts to build high-quality technology-enhanced online programmes.

The move to online education was a strategic choice for a group of students who wanted to learn that way

In the past, those developments happened carefully, closely aligned to academic strategy and with all the rigour you would expect of the institutions involved. The move to online education was a strategic choice for a group of students who wanted to learn that way.

But Covid-19 means online education delivery at scale and across the board, by necessity rather than choice. Is there anything to learn from those who underwent change in another time?

The future of online international education

International education has responded magnificently and at speed to a previously unimaginable scenario. Nobody anticipated that innovation would be fast-forwarded in this way but necessity has been the mother of invention.

Congratulations are in order. Students have continued to learn, to be supported and assessed. International education did not collapse.

In the rush to develop online capacity, the focus has understandably been on implementing technology-based solutions fast. However, not all prior knowledge and experience is obsolete. Teacher support, pedagogy and care for students deserve just as much attention.

Yes – IT infrastructure and support systems need to be reliable and robust, but we need to pay as much, if not more,  attention to helping teachers and students adopt these technologies to best effect. We must remember that education is a profoundly human experience.

One-size-fits-all solutions implemented across an institution will lead to poor experiences for the majority of students. Technology needs to be flexible enough to support the rich tapestry of different teaching activities required across different subject areas and student groups, wherever they are in the world.

Online learning at the top table of university strategy

For this to work best, online learning will need to be where it always really belonged – at the heart of teaching and learning strategy.  The world may not revert to any kind of normal as quickly as we hope. It already looks likely that the present disruption will continue into the following academic year, a significant proportion of course delivery will need to be done online.

Within disruption lies opportunity, however challenging to see at the time

Even once domestic students begin to return, we know international students may find it difficult to travel to their study destinations straight away. Online alternatives will ensure their education is not thrown completely off course by global events beyond their control, and everyone will benefit as a result.

Within disruption lies opportunity, however challenging to see at the time.  The innovation, infrastructure and knowledge gained from this crisis will change the way we teach and how we imagine new models of international education.

In recent years, at almost all universities, investment in the physical campus has dwarfed that put into the virtual campus, often subsidised by international students. The present crisis should lead to reconsideration of this balance given the proportion of learning hours that will be delivered in the virtual campus.

Academic development will need a greater focus on helping teachers rethink how to inform and challenge students in this new environment, how to facilitate online educational communities, how to acknowledge success and surface difficulty.

Teaching strategy, quality assurance,  accreditation, teaching evaluations and other teaching related matters will also need to adapt

Education first

Over time, a teacher who becomes adept at adopting a range of technologies – including the emerging learning experience platforms such as Insendi – will be able to move beyond webinars and lecture recordings to create dynamic, multi-faceted online learning experiences comprising sequences of experiential activities, labs, rehearsal exercises, presentations and ‘real world’ assignments.

Teachers need to be in the driving seat

Our experience has always been that success in online learning means putting teaching first and technology second. Technology is critical , of course, but its role should be to enable rather than determine outcomes.

Teachers need to be in the driving seat and it will be they who are best placed to understand how students will move from A to B and to design learning experiences that will enable them to thrive.

Dr David LeFevre is Director of the EdTech Lab at Imperial College London and the founder of Insendi, a learning platform company recently acquired by Study Group.

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IELTS launches temporary at-home option

The PIE News - Fri, 04/17/2020 - 02:11

Testing provider IELTS has announced an online option – IELTS Indicator – for test-takers currently unable to sit exams due to coronavirus restrictions.

Developed by British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English, IELTS Indicator will be an interim test for students who want to continue with their applications at study destinations that require evidence English language proficiency.

“IELTS Indicator is an online test that can be taken from the comfort and safety of your home”

It remains up to institutions “determine the suitability of IELTS Indicator for their application purposes”, the organisation noted, adding that test-takers are advised to check whether their chosen institution will accept the test before booking.

The test will launch in countries where IELTS testing has been suspended, with bookings opening from April 22.

“IELTS Indicator is an online test that can be taken from the comfort and safety of your home,” the organisation said.

“The test is available for a limited time while IELTS testing is currently suspended due to COVID-19,” it explained, adding educational providers can use IELTS Indicator to help gauge the English language ability of future students while IELTS testing is suspended.

A number of other testing providers have already announced at-home solutions in response to COVID-19.

IELTS Indicator will assess four skills – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking – in a timed test that matches the structure of an in-person test.

It remains reliable, fair and accurate, the provider maintained, and uses standard IELTS marking procedures, and official IELTS Examiners.

“The Speaking test is delivered via video call with a fully qualified and trained examiner, maintaining IELTS focus on assessing conversational English proficiency,” IELTS added.

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Aus: food banks for struggling students

The PIE News - Fri, 04/17/2020 - 01:15

Australian training provider TAFE Queensland has set up food banks at its campuses in a bid to help international students who may be struggling financially due to the global pandemic.

The initiative was launched after a staff member bought struggling international students groceries of their own accord. In the first three days, TAFE Queensland put together care packages for more than 200 international students at its Brisbane campus.

“TAFE Queensland trains more than 2,400 international students and nearly all of them are facing financial hardship”

“State-wide, TAFE Queensland trains more than 2,400 international students and nearly all of them are facing financial hardship, but providing them with food is one worry we can take off their minds,” TAFE Queensland International executive director, Janelle Chapman said.

“For the last three weeks, TAFE Queensland staff have been sourcing non-perishable goods, and I am overwhelmed and so grateful for the response we have received.”

Similar operations have been rolled out at the SkillsTech, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Bundaberg and Cairns campuses.

According to the provider, students enrolled from across the world have found themselves far from their families and are without financial assistance.

The Australian Red Cross has also been named as the charity which will support temporary visa holders – including international students – with emergency relief, funded by the government.

The charity will assist with food and medicine costs when government funds are passed on to the charity. However, the Red Cross urges international students to contact their institutions to see what support they can provide.

The coronavirus pandemic has also caused job losses causing further financial strains.

“Many in our community are struggling to make ends meet right now, and it’s humbling that people are generously sharing what they can to support those in need,” Chapman added.

“We’ve received everything from tinned food to fresh fruit and personal care items, and our hospitality team has also been cooking meals for our international students to take away.”

OzHarvest and StudySunshineCoast helped deliver goodie bags over Easter

Local community groups in Brisbane such as A Touch of Compassion Inc., OzHarvest and Community Friends have also been contributing to the initiative, donating meals and groceries.

IEAA has requested the government to establish a national hardship fund to assist international students.

Meanwhile, some providers have set up funds of their own. The University of South Australia has created a $10m Student Hardship Fund (COVID-19) for all of its onshore students. Melbourne City Council has also pledged financial support for international students, according to the national press.

Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman called the TAFE Queensland initiative a “true example of the Queensland spirit”.

To donate, get in touch with TAFE Queensland.

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Colleges award tenure

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 04/17/2020 - 00:00

Glenville State College

  • Jason Barr, music education
  • Connie Stout, education
  • Matthew Thiele, English

Hudson County Community College

  • Sirhan Abdullah, health sciences
  • Lauren Drew, English as a second language
  • Courtney Payne, culinary arts

Purdue University Northwest

  • Hansung Kim, mechanical engineering
  • Michelle L. Spaulding, biological sciences
  • Scott T. Bates, biological sciences
  • Bir B. Kafle, mathematics
  • George L. Stefanek, computer information technology

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

  • Xiangnan Kong, computer science
  • Kyumin Lee, computer science
  • Yuxiang Liu, mechanical engineering
  • Purvi Shah, business
  • Gillian Smith, computer science
  • Zhongqiang Zhang, mathematical sciences
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New recession sets stage for abuses by for-profits, critics fear

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 04/17/2020 - 00:00

Eight years ago, as senior staffers on the U.S. Senate's education committee, Beth Stein and Carrie Wofford finished a two-year investigation documenting excesses by for-profit colleges during the Great Recession of the late 2000s.

The report described a “boiler room” atmosphere in some call centers run by for-profits, where about 35,000 recruiters nationwide at one point aggressively pursued students anxious for a leg up in finding scarce jobs. And sometimes recruiters were loose with the truth.

Some prospective students were told financial aid would cover their tuition, only to be saddled with thousands of dollars of debt. Others, the Senate report said, were misled about their chances of getting a good job after they graduated.

Now, as the pandemic crisis sends the nation back into another recession, Stein, Wofford and other advocates say they’re worried those tactics will return.

“I can see 2009 happening all over again,” said Stein, who headed the investigation under the committee’s then chairman, Senator Tom Harkin, and is now senior adviser at the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), an advocacy group focused on equity in higher education. “We’ve basically eliminated every protection we put in place.”

Wofford, then senior counsel of the Senate's education committee, said for-profits appear to be stepping up their advertising aimed at veterans of the U.S. military and active-duty service members, a heavily sought group of potential students amid the last recession.

“It’s concerning because of the ugly recruiting we saw in the last recession,” said Wofford, now president of Veterans Education Success, which advocates for student veterans.

Congressional discussions about additional stimulus packages in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are becoming a new battlefield in the running debate over the regulation of for-profits.

In a preview, high-powered lawmakers, including Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, unsuccessfully urged U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last week to use her powers to exclude for-profits from getting any of the $14 billion the last $2.2 trillion stimulus package set aside for higher education.

Veterans' and consumer advocates such as Stein and Wofford are asking Congress in future stimulus bills to again tighten regulations passed during the Obama administration and weakened by President Trump, warning the new recession creates fertile ground for more aggressive student recruiting.

For-Profits See an Important Role in Recovery

But the concerns also come during a pandemic that has seen shortages of critical health-care equipment and workers. Steve Gunderson, president of the for-profit college industry group Career Education Colleges and Universities, said his institutions will play a critical role in producing medical technicians and manufacturing workers who will be important for the nation's ability to recover from the recession and be prepared for the next pandemic.

The mechanics, health-care workers and other students they train will be key to that recovery. And Gunderson said the colleges shouldn’t be hamstrung by regulations they consider to unfairly target the sector.

“I think our schools will be on the front lines of getting America back to work,” said Gunderson.

For example, he cited Pima Medical Institute, a for-profit institution. The institute designed and is offering an online course, in conjunction with Kaiser Permanente and the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West union, which gives California nurses additional training on treating coronavirus patients.

Gunderson acknowledged that the industry grew too fast and focused too much on enrolling students during the last recession. It’s fair, he said, to say for-profits enrolled more students in criminal justice programs after Sept. 11 than there were jobs.

“The criticism is based on the premise that we don't learn from what happened in the past,” he said. “We’re a very different sector than 10 years ago.” He added that many colleges that pushed the boundaries have gone out of business. Indeed, a number of problem institutions, such as Corinthian Colleges and Education Corporation of America, have collapsed since the last recession.

“Are we going to repeat the mistakes of the past? Absolutely not,” he said.

Still, Gunderson knows the industry is under scrutiny.

A guide Gunderson’s group sent to its members Monday urged the institutions to be careful in documenting their use of stimulus money.

“We know our critics are already accusing the proprietary sector of forthcoming fraud in the use of such funds. Only full transparency can answer such allegations,” the guide said. “Your institution should keep track of the staff time involved in the management and distribution of the emergency financial aid grants. Keep track of every hour of staff time and account for how every dollar is distributed.”

The guide from the group also said, "An institution will likely need this level of data for audits and reports later, and certainly, for the sector’s transparency in proving to critics the funds were used properly and wisely."

Gunderson said, “I’m well aware of the environment that we live in -- that there are advocacy groups, the media and people on Capitol Hill who believe our sector shouldn’t exist.”

Environment Ripe for Abuses

Stein cited reasons for concern. Questions loom about the quality of academic programs offered by larger for-profits, in part because of the lag time in the requirement for reporting outcomes.

And the environment is ripe for the sort of aggressive recruiting that happened in the last recession, Stein, Wofford and other consumer advocates warn.

Interest in enrolling in college tends to increase when unemployment goes up. Employers give preference to those with advanced training for scarce jobs.

Some who’ve lost their jobs think, “I’ve been meaning to go back to school, anyway,” Stein said.

Others are worried about being able to find work without a college degree.

“People are scared, and there’s an opportunity to convince people to take out a loan and go to a low-quality school,” Wofford said.

Wofford said she was particularly appalled by testimony from for-profit recruiters in the Senate investigation that some were trained to take advantage of vulnerable prospective students.

Recruiters would ask probing questions to zero in on a prospective student’s "pain" about a dead-end job, inability to support their children, failing parents or relatives, the Senate report said.

“Then, when the prospective student feels vulnerable, the recruiter will offer the prospective student the possibility of a college degree as the opportunity to make that pain go away,” the report said.

Wofford said her group is scrutinizing social media platforms. According to a draft of a report her group is expected to release in a couple of weeks, for-profits have in recent days been running a large number of ads, many of them touting health-care programs. Her group thinks that's meant to capitalize on the positive attention health-care workers are getting during the pandemic. Many of the ads also focus on ease in transferring to universities, which Wofford’s group sees as a response to the closure of colleges during the crisis.

Long-Running Debate

The push to strengthen regulations as part of the stimulus is a continuation of a debate that’s been going on for years, since the Obama administration in response to a series of scandals passed a number of regulations such as the borrower-defense rule, which made it easier for those defrauded -- primarily by for-profits -- to have their federal loans eliminated.

DeVos weakened the rule, making it harder to have loans forgiven in those kinds of cases. She also repealed another regulation, called the gainful-employment rule, which would have penalized institutions whose graduates were unable to find good enough jobs to pay off their student debt. The Trump administration said those rules discriminated against for-profits.

Looking ahead, Wofford said many of the discussed reforms would only penalize colleges after students are hurt. “That’s the problem with most of the rules protecting students,” she said. “It’s only after a school gets caught that a borrower can apply for borrower defense.”

However, one reform, pushed by consumer advocates, aims to lower the incentive on for-profits to recruit veterans and members of the military.

Called the 90-10 rule, the federal regulation bars for-profits from getting more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal student sources. However, military education benefits like the GI Bill do not count toward the 90 percent cap, making the recruitment of veterans and service members a prime way to meet the requirement.

And Wofford fears for-profits that targeted veterans in the last recession are poised to do it again. “They’re going to turn those all on and say, ‘go, go, go,’” Wofford said.

The proposed reforms have gotten some bipartisan support in Congress. Several lawmakers, including Republican senators James Lankford and Bill Cassidy, have proposed removing the incentive by counting military benefits toward the 90 percent threshold.

Advocates also are encouraged that 10 Republicans joined Democrats in March in approving a Senate resolution expressing disapproval in the department's weakening of the borrower-defense rule. Six Republicans also supported a similar measure when it was passed by the House in January.

Anther bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Cassidy and Warren, would make more data on colleges' performance available to prospective students. In addition, Stein hoped Congress would include other ideas in a future stimulus bill, including a provision in the update of the Higher Education Act passed by the education committee of the Democratic-held House. The measure called on the department to begin doing undercover “secret shopper” investigations of for-profits' practices, and would have required more transparency about student outcomes.

However, many of the changes are likely to be opposed by the Trump administration, as well as for-profit colleges, who say both rules unfairly target them.

Meanwhile, for-profits are doing their own lobbying in Congress, and they beat back the attempt to exclude them from the stimulus funds.

For-profits are seeking their share of the stimulus money as Congress considers more stimulus bills and proposals to revive the nation’s economy, said Steve Gonzalez, the for-profit industry group’s senior vice president of government, military and veterans' relations.

“We want them to treat us the same [as other colleges] and not treat us with such disdain,” Gonzalez said.

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