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UK immigration system is “not meeting Scotland’s needs” says minister

The PIE News - Tue, 01/28/2020 - 03:42

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has proposed a new visa to address the country’s depopulation and skills gaps, following the release of a policy paper calling for an overhaul of British visa law. However, the UK government has indicated having a separate visa for Scotland would not be a viable option.

The Scottish visa would give the country a “tailored approach” to migration by permitting Scotland to have its own powers over immigration policy after the UK leaves the European Union on January 31.

“[It would] attract and retain people with the skills and attributes we need for our communities and economy to flourish”

The current immigration system is “not meeting Scotland’s needs”, according to the paper.

More trust should be placed in colleges and universities to recruit international students on the basis of academic ability, the document read, following “unnecessary administrative burdens” introduced as part of the UK government’s ‘hostile environment’ measures.

Those measures include “excessive compliance bureaucracy” introduced when the UK government stated that 100,000 students had overstayed their visas when it was fewer than 5,000.

The bureaucracy for institutions, introduced as a response to perceived systematic abuse, should also be rolled back, the document detailed.

“Excessive” application fees and the £300 immigration health surcharge for students should also be scrapped, due to the fact that it “makes Scotland a less attractive destination” for international students.

“Migration to Scotland supports economic growth and the delivery of public services and helps to address the serious issue of long term demographic change – as well as enhancing and sustaining our communities,” said Sturgeon.

“Yet the latest proposals from the UK government to control immigration and end freedom of movement would be disastrous for our economy and society and would risk acute labour shortages.

“Migration is an issue which is crucial for our future, but the Scottish government doesn’t currently have the powers needed to deliver tailored immigration policies for Scotland,” she added.

A Scottish visa would allow Scotland to “attract and retain people with the skills and attributes we need for our communities and economy to flourish”, Sturgeon noted.

The paper criticises the UK government for its reaction to the 2014 investigation into TOEIC exam fraud.

The “overreaction” to the TOEIC investigation resulted in 35,870 visas being revoked.

Although around 3,700 people accused of cheating have won appeals, an estimated 11,400 people caught up in the scandal have subsequently left the UK, the paper noted.

The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts highlighted the design of the Tier 4 visa system left it open to large-scale abuse, according to the policy paper.

“The UK government rushed to penalise students without establishing whether it had reliable evidence of cheating and that it has not acted to put right these wrongs,” it stated.

While welcoming the UK’s new post-study work visa, the policy paper suggests that the UK government brings forward the “long overdue” step so that students in the UK due to graduate next summer can also benefit.

The paper also raised concerns around e-gates for short-term students.

Although the “positive step” of permitting visitors from certain countries to use e-gates, the change has “created a potential issue for students coming for short-term courses of study being issued with the wrong visa if they do not speak to a Border Force officer on arrival”.

The paper states that the UK government should consider removing short-term visas and permit study on short courses under standard visitor rules.

Director of Universities Scotland, Alastair Sim, noted that the attraction of talent to Scotland was “central to our nation’s success, and the success of our universities”.

“Our universities have always been international and open to talent of all backgrounds”

“We welcome this thoughtful contribution from the Scottish government on how migration can and does contribute to Scotland’s success,” he added.

“We are pleased to see mention of the unnecessary administrative burdens currently placed on our members as well as what could be achieved with the reintroduction of the post-study work visa.

“Our universities have always been international and open to talent of all backgrounds. We hope the UK Government will give this paper serious consideration and reflect on what actions it can take in its immigration policy to allow Scotland’s universities to draw international talent to our nation,” Sim concluded.

On January 27, the UK government announced a Global Talent visa, as it gears up to introduce an Australian-style points-based system at a later date.

However, immigration will remain “a reserved matter”, a Home Office spokesperson said.

“The UK government will introduce a points-based immigration system that works in the interests of the whole of the UK, including Scotland.”

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Georgetown Law debates punishments for disruptive protesters

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 01/28/2020 - 01:00

Georgetown University law students are worried school administrators will restrict their right to protest guest speakers on campus after a loud demonstration by students and faculty members interrupted a speech by a Trump administration official last year.

The protesters ultimately prevented Kevin McAleenan, former acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, from giving the keynote address last October during the school's annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference.​ By denying audience members the opportunity to hear McAleenan's speech, the protesters violated the university's written policies for speech and expression.

Administrators responded by reconvening the law center's Speech and Expression Committee to consider limitations and disciplinary measures against demonstrators at future speaking events.​The committee made up of students, faculty members and senior staff was created in 2017 to examine how and where speech is expressed on campus.

William Treanor, dean of the Georgetown University Law Center, asked the committee to recommend whether to implement more specific guidelines for speech and expression on campus by spring 2020, according to a Jan. 16 email to law students. The email was signed by Mitch Bailin, the dean of students, and Peter Byrne, a professor and faculty director of two programs at the law school.

The committee was tasked with considering whether the law center should control who is invited to speak at the campus and who may invite them, what the law center’s response should be to “disruptive protests” during speaking events, and if “possible disciplinary or other administrative action” should be pursued against student and faculty member “disrupters” in the future, according to the email sent to law center students.

Students and faculty opposed to the Trump administration's controversial immigration policies made no secret of their objection to McAleenan's participation in the conference. They wrote a letter to Treanor on Sept. 30, calling on him to disinvite the acting secretary. The law school anticipated the protest and had additional staff members and security present. It also set up a designated area for demonstrators to gather outside the auditorium so as to not disrupt the speech or other classes and activities occurring in the building, a law school official said.

A group of more than 30 protesters gathered in the designated protest area, a hallway near the lobby of Hart Auditorium, where McAleenan was speaking, while others who had registered to attend the event sat in the audience and shouted the names of migrants who had died at the U.S.-Mexico border, said Cora Metrick-Chen, a third-year law student who participated in the “ICE-free GULC,” or Immigration and Customs Enforcement-free Georgetown University Law Center. (“ICE” is the acronym for the federal agency responsible for apprehending, detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants in the U.S.) The protesters, including some from outside community organizations who held banners in the auditorium, were opposing DHS’s immigration policies, specifically the separation and detention of migrant children and their parents at the border, Metrick-Chen said.

“By hosting Kevin McAleenan on campus as a keynote speaker, the school gave him an additional platform to speak on his policies,” Metrick-Chen said. “The school, as a top law school, has a powerful reputation, and inevitably by inviting him, it lends credence to his reputation and looks like an endorsement of his policy … I thought it would be shameful and perpetuating if there wasn’t a public response from students and from community members in opposition to that.”

McAleenan was “drowned out by the protesters’ chants” and “shouted down,” and he ultimately walked off stage, according to media reports. In a statement to Fox News the next day, Treanor expressed “regret that the audience did not get to hear from the secretary” and reaffirmed that the law school “is committed to free speech and expression and the ability of speakers to be heard and engage in dialogue.”

Georgetown’s current policy states, “It is a violation … to curtail the free speech rights of others. Actions that violate this policy include disrupting events to prohibit other students from hearing the views of an invited speaker.”

By preventing McAleenan from speaking, protesters were already breaching the free speech policy and should be punished, said a first-year law student who identified as a libertarian. He said he was disappointed by Georgetown's response and said it should have been prepared to remove disruptive protesters from the audience.

“I’m not arguing for any change, because as they’re written, they’re fine,” the student said of the current speech policy. “This is a factual disagreement, not a policy disagreement … A majority of the audience was there to listen, and there were four or five people who did not want to listen, and they got their way. That runs counter to the idea of free speech.”

Students and faculty members who participated in the protest are now worried their own free speech rights will be diminished by the recommendations of the Speech and Expression Committee, according to a letter written by some of the student protesters and signed by more than 130 other students, organizations and faculty members as of Jan. 24, Metrick-Chen said.

She said although the protest was "partisan" in nature, it addresses an issue that impacts all law students, regardless of their political leanings. Students fear administrators could “make it much harder or much riskier to protest” in general, Metrick-Chen said.

“Punishing protesters flies in the face of the law school’s commitment to free expression,” the law students wrote in another letter to Treanor this month. “We urge you to reject these changes … One does not have to support the cause of a specific protest to know that punishing peaceful protesters would have a chilling effect on free speech and expression across campus.”

Bailin said punishing students is not the driving force behind the re-evaluation of the protest policy.

"The committee’s work is completely prospective," he said in an interview. "We’re looking at how to address protests and potentially disruptive protests moving forward. We are not looking at disciplinary approaches and responses from students who protested Secretary McAleenan. It’s not our charge and it won’t be in our report, and I think members of the community have been confused by that."

Georgetown’s current policy allows faculty members and student groups to invite speakers to campus, and those who oppose a speaker may “protest peacefully in a manner that does not interfere with the audience’s right to listen,” said a statement from the law school.

“Georgetown Law is committed to upholding the values of free speech and expression and serving as a forum for the free exchange of ideas, even when those ideas may be difficult, controversial or objectionable to some,” the statement said. “The purpose of the process is not to punish past behavior, but to think through for the future how to best balance the competing concerns of the right to speak and the right to protest.”

The Speech and Expression Committee hosted its first "listening session" on Jan. 24 to discuss the committee's work and get input from students.

The first-year libertarian law student, who did not want to be identified, attended the session and said some students present supported punishing the protesters, but a majority opposed any punishment.

“There were some students who did not speak because of the fear of backlash from the protesters,” the student said. “They’ve already demonstrated themselves to be uncaring about others’ opinions. If they speak out against these protesters who have power on campus, they will come after them and disrupt the lives of others.”

Students opposed to the committee’s deliberations are asking for more transparency and that all law students be invited to all guest speaker events, which is not current practice. Faculty members are currently permitted to invite speakers to a particular course or program and limit attendance to only students enrolled in that course or program, a law school official said.

Metrick-Chen said​ Georgetown “seems to be sneaking people in when it’s controversial.”

The student protesters also oppose academic sanctions or disciplinary action against students or faculty members who participate in protests, and want administrators to stop the practice of designating specific spaces for protests, she said.

“Personally I think it’s complicated to juggle the role of a protester and the role of a law student who cares about the expressive health of the institution … I believe that the school should let its speakers speak,” Metrick-Chen said. “The responsibility is on the authority in place to ensure that free speech happens. It doesn’t stop protesters from protesting.”

Editorial Tags: Free speechImage Source: Win McNamee via Getty ImagesImage Caption: Students and faculty members protest former U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions's visit to the Georgetown University Law Center in 2017.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Georgetown UniversityDisplay Promo Box: 

Northeastern University launches $100 million research center in Maine

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 01/28/2020 - 01:00

A new research institute focused on the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the digital and life sciences will open in Portland, Me., this spring.

But the institute will not be led by a Maine-based university.

Northeastern University, a private nonprofit institution with its main campus in Boston, was selected by technology entrepreneur David Roux to lead the institute. Northeastern will offer graduate degrees and certificate programs at the new institute about 100 miles north of its Boston campus.

Roux, a Maine native, told attendees at a launch event yesterday that he and a small team of colleagues selected Northeastern to lead the project after a two-year search because it is an “elite university that’s not elitist.”

The institute’s mission will be to create a tech hub in Portland -- the largest city in Maine, a rural state with an aging population and colleges that are struggling to attract new students. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be to Boston what San Jose is to San Francisco,” Roux said yesterday. “We live today in an innovation economy.”

The Roux Institute will be funded with a $100 million gift from Roux and his wife, Barbara. David Roux is co-founder, former chairman and co-chief executive officer of Silver Lake, the world’s largest technology-focused private equity firm. He has previously made large financial gifts to other institutions in Maine, including $10 million to Bowdoin College, a private liberal arts college, and $5 million to the Jackson Laboratory, a nonprofit biomedical research institution where Roux is chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Roux reportedly selected Northeastern after a two-year search process to find the right university to lead the institute. That's noteworthy in higher education, according to experts. “Often gifts are given to institutions where there is already a relationship that’s existed for a long time,” said Larry Ladd, senior consultant at AGB Consulting. “Here’s a case where the donor is acting more like a foundation -- they ask for proposals and they have certain objectives.”

It would appear that Roux, who was born in Maine and still has a holiday home there, picked the location of the institute. Ladd doesn’t see a problem with Roux saying how he wants his money to be spent. But he notes this is part of a growing trend of donors, particularly with backgrounds in tech, “being much more prescriptive about how their gifts should be used.”

Ladd said the $100 million gift is a “good start” but will not be sufficient to launch and run a research institute -- Northeastern will need “more resources to achieve what they are trying to do.” The good news is that it is easier to raise money when you start out with a large gift. “It helps donors know they are giving to something that has a high likelihood of succeeding,” Ladd said.

Roux might have picked the location and the focus of the institute, but Northeastern would not have agreed to set up shop in Maine if they didn’t think it could work, Ladd said. Northeastern has already established regional campuses in Charlotte, N.C.; San Francisco; Seattle; Silicon Valley and Toronto, in addition to its Boston flagship campus. Unlike the Portland location, these satellite campuses are not research focused but do offer graduate degrees in subject areas aligned to the needs of the regional economy.

Linda Durrant, vice president of development at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, agreed that Northeastern likely did a lot of research to ensure the Portland location was viable. “I am sure a great deal of due diligence was done before accepting this gift so that the university was absolutely certain it was the right location and the right way to launch the center,” she said in an email.

Perhaps surprisingly, Maine’s public universities welcomed Northeastern’s expansion into the state, at least publicly. “The Roux Institute at Northeastern University brings a new vision, critical investment and proven research capacity to the Portland region,” said Dannel Malloy, University of Maine system chancellor, in a statement. “It can be a game-changer for Maine’s participation in the innovation economy and create new opportunities for Maine’s students and entrepreneurs.”

The Roux Institute will provide an opportunity for students to pursue advanced degrees in rapidly changing fields, said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, president of the University of Maine. “Pathways programs for UMaine students and faculty fellowships for UMaine and Northeastern faculty are being considered as the first steps in partnering,” she said in a statement.

Many of Maine’s higher education institutions are focused on undergraduate education and won’t be competing directly with Northeastern for students, said Ladd. “They can feed them good students,” he said. “If they can offer a five- or six-year program, where students are automatically enrolled in a master’s program at Northeastern if they get good enough grades, they could actually boost their own enrollment.”

Michael Thomas, president and CEO of the New England Board of Higher Education and an adjunct professor and dissertation adviser at Northeastern, described the announcement as a “big bet and a big investment” by Roux. But it's a bet he thinks he will pay off.

“Portland has the capacity to make something like this happen,” said Thomas. He described the city as a “creative and fun” place that makes sense as a tech hub and won’t have trouble attracting talented faculty.

Thomas sees some similarity between the Roux Institute and the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute on Roosevelt Island in New York City -- a joint academic venture between Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology that aims to produce entrepreneurial engineers who will go on to launch their own job-creating companies. Both institutes are trying to energize the local economy, he said.

The organizers behind the Roux Institute have gained impressive support politically and with local business leaders and companies, said Thomas. They include outdoor retailer L.L. Bean and global software company PTC. “It’s one thing to announce an initiative and then try and go out and get that support,” he said. “It’s another to have it already. They did that work to get people involved.”

James Dlugos, president of Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, a private liberal arts college located about 20 miles northwest of Portland, said there was a very warm reception to the Roux Institute at a launch event yesterday. “We all see this as a tremendous opportunity for cooperation and collaboration,” he said. “There is a lot of energy.”

Saint Joseph’s College is in the process of creating a new data science concentration for its undergraduate students, which could become a funnel for students looking to study with Northeastern in Maine. The team behind the Roux Institute has been very supportive of the efforts, said Dlugos.

“We’re all committed to growing the workforce,” said Dlugos. “Maine needs more people, and it needs skilled, trained people. This is a great chance for us.”

Editorial Tags: Business issuesResearchImage Source: Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern UniversityImage Caption: Joseph Aoun, president of Northeastern University (left), walks with Barbara and David Roux in Portland, Me.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Northeastern UniversityDisplay Promo Box: 

Maine university system moves ahead with unified accreditation

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 01/28/2020 - 01:00

Faced with declining enrollment and a tight budget, the University of Maine system’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Monday to try to become the first in the nation to have its seven campuses accredited together instead of separately.

Trustees and university leaders called the move, more than 30 years in the making, “historic” and “revolutionary” and said it will give the system more flexibility to deal with its issues. But the work is just beginning.

The vote by the trustees gives the go-ahead to figuring out detailed answers to questions like how to share resources while ensuring the quality of education at distinctly different campuses. The plan will then be submitted for approval to the system's regional accreditor, the New England Commission of Higher Education.

While faculty and students expressed support for the idea of unified accreditation, David Townsend, an oceanography professor and chairman of the University of Maine’s Faculty Senate, noted at a meeting of trustees before the vote that “the devil is in the details.”

The idea has its roots in the Maine system’s origins. When it was created in 1968 -- bringing together the University of Maine and its five campuses with five independent state colleges -- Gorham State College, Farmington State College, Aroostook State College, Washington State College and Fort Kent State College -- the idea was in part to make it easier for the institutions to collaborate and combine resources.

But each of the system’s campuses was required to be accredited separately, which officials of the Maine system says ties the system’s hands in dealing with problems familiar to higher education leaders around the county -- the inability of state funding to keep up with rising costs and steeply declining student numbers, which are projected to continue.

The Maine system, like public universities in many states, has seen state support decline from funding two-thirds of costs to a third, said James B. Thelen, its chief of staff and general counsel, in a phone interview. At the same time the number of college-bound students in the state is projected to decline from 7,562 in 2020 to 6,894 in 2036.

The idea of unified assessment has been around for years, first raised by a statewide commission on higher education in 1985, which found the system wasn't evaluating how its campuses coordinated programs. The idea was never acted upon, as the problem continued to grow.

"Facilities aged and costly-but-necessary maintenance was deferred. Enrollments failed to grow at the pace predicted by the 1985 commission. State appropriations did not keep pace with inflation or the System’s rising expenses, and tuition rates climbed higher than Maine families could reasonably afford. Every System campus budget was strained to varying degrees by some combination of all three of the preceding factors," noted a September 2019 report by Maine system chancellor Dannel P. Malloy and Thelen recommending unified accreditation.

As an example of the problems posed by the current accreditation system, Thelen pointed to collaboration between the system’s two small rural campuses. The University of Maine at Presque Isle began offering education degrees at the Fort Kent campus after many of Fort Kent’s faculty members retired. The University of Maine at Fort Kent also began offering its nursing program at Presque Isle.

However, the regional accreditor, the New England Commission of Higher Education, has informally questioned if the campuses could separately meet its accreditation standards under the arrangement.

In a situations where so many professors retire that a single campus would not have enough professors in certain fields, unified assessment would give the system options other than having to close programs, Thelen said.

Thelen said unified accreditation would remove a barrier to create more offerings. While every campus in the system has experts in geospatial mapping and data analytics, no campus has enough to be able to offer a concentration in the field. Being able to draw on the instructors from throughout the system would let it offer the concentration.

It’s unclear whether other systems will follow. Thelen said the Maine system has the advantage of already having public funds go to the system, which disperses it to the individual institutions.

There have been other efforts. The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system is proposing consolidating the state's 12 two-year institutions for the second time after NECHE rejected the plan in 2018.

Paul Gaston, professor emeritus at Kent State University, an expert in higher education reform, noted in an email that the University of Alaska’s governing board considered consolidating the accreditation of the system’s three universities but backed off in December because of concerns over maintaining the distinctiveness of each.

The Maine proposal could face similar concerns from accreditors, he wrote in an email. “Similarly, within the University of Maine, the differences between the flagship at Orono, the ‘rural university’ at Fort Kent, and the regional comprehensive, the University of Southern Maine, are conspicuous. And then there are the institutions at Farmington (the public liberal arts college), Presque Isle, Augusta, etc. In fact, the University of Maine is remarkable for the diversity and singularity of the missions of its constituent institutions,” he said.

“It is difficult to understand how such differentiations would not call for discrete accreditor evaluation as well,” he said.

Peter Ewell, president emeritus of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, said Maine’s effort could “be very significant, and many university systems would want to emulate it because of both cost and the benefits of having a single financial aid eligibility.” But he predicted NECHE might be reluctant to allow it. “The campuses making up the system are quite different with their own strengths and weaknesses, and accreditors would want to allow these differences to come out,” he said.

Despite the greater efficiency, he said, “the main drawback is not providing a clear picture of what are the attributes of a set of very different institutions. Accreditation is supposed to aid student choice, so collective accreditation would not provide any useful information of that kind. It is also supposed to provide early warning of potential difficulties for a campus, also hard to do if you are accrediting a system with quite different constituent entities. All in all, I don't think it is a very good idea and kind of negates the whole purpose of accreditation.”

However, NECHE president Barbara Brittingham said in an interview that she’s “optimistic” the accrediting commission will grant a substantive change approval, letting unified accreditation move forward and setting off a two-year evaluation of the change.

She said, though, that the commission will want to see in the upcoming plan how the change will benefit the state and its students. A key will be to see how the plan would enhance the individual campuses’ programs, she said.

NECHE has also been working with the Maine system after questioning in 2015 whether it was allowed only to accredit individual universities. In 2018, NECHE and the Maine system jointly retained Jay Urwitz, former legal counsel at the U.S. Department of Education, to look into whether a unified Maine system could be considered an individual higher education institution. Urwitz said it could. And in discussions, the U.S. Department of Education said it was open to recognizing a unified system if it is accredited by NECHE.

Thelen acknowledged a number of details still need to be worked out before the system submits its plan seeking approval for the idea in June, including how to assess quality at campuses of different sizes and resources, and how to create a system of faculty leadership. A key, he agreed, is showing how the quality of each campus will be preserved.

Still, the move generated some excitement among trustees about the changes it could bring the system. “The main obstacle is fear of change and degradation of quality,” Trustee Samuel W. Collins said at the meeting. But it will bring about “an engagement of the brightest people in the system,” he said.

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Study finds large share of parents struggle to repay federal PLUS loans

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 01/28/2020 - 01:00

A new study adds to growing concerns about a federal program that allows parents to take out loans to help finance their children’s undergraduate education.

Roughly 3.6 million parents had taken out $96 billion in outstanding loans under the federal Parent PLUS program as of late last year, the study from Trellis Research said. Parent PLUS loans now account for about a quarter of total federal lending for undergraduates, a share that grew from 14 percent in 2012-13.

An increasing portion of parents also are struggling to pay off these loans. For example, the five-year default rate grew to 11 percent for parents who took out PLUS loans in 2009, up from 7 percent for the 1999 cohort, research has shown.

The feds eliminated annual and lifetime borrowing limits for Parent PLUS loans in 1993, allowing parents to borrow up to the cost of attendance. And the program features only minimal credit checks.

“The program enables parents to incur substantially larger amounts of education debt than their college student children even though the parents, unlike their children, receive no direct economic returns on the investment,” Trellis Research said in the new study.

The research from the nonprofit group includes data on 59,096 parents whose children attended a Texas college and who entered repayment on their Parent PLUS loans during a roughly six-year period before September 2010. The data set is based on the federal loan portfolio of the Trellis Company (formerly TG), a student loan guarantee agency based in Texas.

Also included in the research are qualitative data Trellis collected from 49 Parent PLUS borrowers. And the study specifically examined borrowing and repayment outcomes for parents whose children went to historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions.

Over all, less than half of parents in the sample (45 percent) were successfully repaying their Parent PLUS loans with uninterrupted payments. The study found that seven years after entering repayment, 8 percent of parents had defaulted, 12 percent had consolidated their loans and 7 percent had not reduced their principal balance.

“Increasingly, low-income families with no adverse credit experiences rely on Parent PLUS loans to access higher education amid rising costs and stagnant wages, although the debt may become especially challenging to repay,” the report said.

Among parents who were successfully repaying their loans, 30 percent had delinquencies, deferments or forbearances at some point within their first seven years of repayment. Roughly 40 percent had at least one delinquency, with 12 percent of parents experiencing three or more.

Roughly 22 percent of the 59,096 parent borrowers had children who attended minority-serving colleges.

These parents were less likely to have uninterrupted payments (40 percent) and more likely to default (10 percent) and to not reduce their loan principal balance (8 percent) compared to parents whose children did not attend minority-serving institutions.

The median cumulative amount parents borrowed in the sample was $12,304. Parents whose children attended minority-serving institutions borrowed less on average, with a median amount of $10,000.

However, as research on other forms of student debt has found, parents with smaller loan debt balances were more likely to default, Trellis found. They also took out the lowest average number of loans.

For example, parents who were in delinquency and default took out a mean of 1.27 loans with a median debt of $6,500. In comparison, parents who were successfully repaying loans without interruption took out 1.82 loans at a median of $11,629.

Federal Fixes?

The Obama administration in 2011 raised credit standards for Parent PLUS loans. The move was unexpected, and loans subsequently were denied to thousands of families.

Families with students who attend historically black colleges and universities were most likely to be affected by the credit change. Due to the steep wealth gap between black and white families, Parent PLUS is viewed as an important tool for college access for black students. And historically underfunded HBCUs often are unable to meet the financial needs of students.

Many HBCU leaders were upset with the Obama administration over the decision, which led to steep enrollment and revenue declines in the sector.

“No one consulted the HBCU community,” said Lodriguez Murray, UNCF’s senior vice president of public policy and government affairs. The sector’s total enrollment dropped to 290,000 from 330,000, he said. “It terribly impacted these students.”

Arne Duncan, the first education secretary under Obama, later apologized for the credit change. And the administration in 2014 created a looser credit standard for the program.

Since then, Republicans in the U.S. Congress have called for new lending limits for Parent PLUS. And congressional Democrats have proposed making the loans eligible for income-driven repayment plans.

Those policy fixes would be “treating symptoms rather than the cause” of the problems with the loan program, said Clare McCann, deputy director for federal higher education policy with New America's education policy program.

Last year New America and the Urban Institute published a report on Parent PLUS loans. The report recommended that lending should be limited to a family’s expected family contribution. It also said loan limits should be increased for undergraduate students whose parents would no longer qualify for PLUS loans.

A primary policy goal should be “preventing very low-income parent borrowers from taking on a lot of debt,” McCann said.

Officials with the Education Department last month said the agency plans to release program-level data on Parent PLUS debt, default and repayment later this year. But until then, the Trellis data are helping to fill a hole.

“We have a huge dearth of information” about Parent PLUS, said McCann, who called the new study a “public service.”

Roughly two-thirds of the parents interviewed by Trellis for the study said they have struggled to repay their Parent PLUS loans, with almost half describing it as a regular, frequent or constant issue.

The interviews also revealed college financing gaps that parents had not anticipated. For example, almost a quarter said living costs for their children in college were much higher than expected.

The effect of repaying Parent PLUS loans on parents’ ability to save money and make major purchases varied widely among respondents. But, not surprisingly, parents whose children attended minority-serving institutions and those who defaulted were more likely to describe a large impact.

Murray said his organization would be closely watching policy discussions about Parent PLUS. "We don't want to see the doors of higher education closed."

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Colleges add academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 01/28/2020 - 01:00
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Chronicle of Higher Education: Maine Moves Ahead on Plan for Systemwide Accreditation

Unifying the accreditation for seven campuses is seen as a response to years of dwindling enrollment, and a way to save — or even build — academic programs.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Can ‘White Resentment’ Help Explain Higher-Education Cuts?

A new study is part of an emerging trend to explore how racism may affect state higher-education policy.

Chronicle of Higher Education: When Microsoft Eats Your Documents

Archivists and authors say software glitches and autosave failures are gobbling up their work. But are the scholars taking adequate precautions?

Novel coronavirus disrupting international study across the globe

The PIE News - Mon, 01/27/2020 - 11:04

With many cities in China on lockdown due to novel coronavirus which broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan last month, international students have found themselves unable to get to courses abroad while classes in-country have been postponed until mid-February.

The spread of the disease will be exacerbated by bad timing. Chinese New Year is a peak time for travel as an estimated 3 billion individual trips are made both within the country and internationally.

“The university is providing financial support to international and Chinese students who wish to return home”

Universities and schools around the world are trying to make plans in the face of new or returning Chinese students – one report says private schools in Sydney are asking for medical certificates from returning students.

Other Chinese students already abroad are being advised not to return home for holidays. A statement from UK guardianship organisation Bright World explained that it had has taken the decision to advise all Chinese students under their care to remain in the UK for their half-term holiday.

“Bright World takes care of a number of students from Hong Kong and mainland China, many of whom had planned on returning home during the February half term when their boarding school closes,” the company explained.

“In light of the travel restrictions and following advice from Public Health England, a number of UK Boarding Schools have issued similar advice to parents, thus to avoid any difficulties in students returning back to school after their holiday.”

In China, a spokesperson for Duke Kunshan University in Jiangsu province, said it is postponing all its classes until February 17 and restricting access to the campus to essential personnel only.

“All other members of the Duke Kunshan community – students, faculty who do not reside on campus, and staff – and outside visitors will not be permitted to enter before February 15,” the spokesperson said.

“The university is providing financial support to international and Chinese students who wish to return home until classes restart.”

Education companies have additionally reported cancellations from Chinese clients

Both Macau and Hong Kong have also delayed students’ return to school. The latter has banned all citizens from Hubei province from entering the city as of January 26.

Chinese students heading abroad have been debating whether to risk taking their flights, worried that they will be stopped at the border upon arrival.

Several Chinese students from Wuhan – including two heading to Macleans College in Auckland, New Zealand – have been unable to get to school.

Education companies have additionally reported cancellations from Chinese clients and expressed worries that the disease will have a similar impact on the industry as the SARs outbreak in 2003.

Chinese government spokesperson Geng Shuang sought to reassure the international community at a recent press conference.

“Acting with openness, transparency and a high sense of responsibility to global health security, Chinese authorities will continue to share information of the epidemic with the WHO, relevant nations and China’s Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan regions in a timely manner,” he said.

Meanwhile, many have taken to social media to share messaging around school closures and other precautions being taken to limit the spread of the virus.

Peking Univeristy sends virus precaution messages to all international students. The messages include questions on students’ meetings with Hubei residents in recent weeks. Students are asked not to leave their dormitory rooms without masks. @TomaszSajewicz #coronavirus #china pic.twitter.com/7GgnrOlsrf

— Paulina Uznanska (@PUznanska) January 25, 2020

A student in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province where there have so far been 151 confirmed cases told The PIE News that the government are handling the outbreak “very well”.

“They brought measures immediately across China. Masks are mandatory if you go outside, but we’re advised to stay indoors unless we absolutely need to leave,” the student added.

Every area of China has now reported cases of the disease, with the exception of Tibet.

The first overseas case was identified in Thailand on January 13  and there are now also cases in Japan, South Korea, the US, Vietnam, Malaysia, Nepal, France and Australia.

Meanwhile, governments have been making plans to help citizens in the worst-hit areas, with the UK foreign office said it was “working to make available an option for British nationals to leave Hubei province”.

Around 100 schoolchildren from Australia are reported to be among those in Wuhan amid the “lockdown” on international flights.

The post Novel coronavirus disrupting international study across the globe appeared first on The PIE News.

Minister backs UK edtech sector – Bett 2020

The PIE News - Mon, 01/27/2020 - 10:33

The UK edtech sector can play a “fundamental role” in the country’s educational exports, the UK universities minister Chris Skidmore has said.

Speaking at the 2020 Bett Show in London, the minister reiterated the importance of edtech in raising the profile of UK education at a global scale as it featured as a key component in the UK’s international education strategy, released in 2019.

“I believe that edtech can play a fundamental role in increasing the profile of UK education”

“For us, Brexit represents an opportunity: a new era of global collaboration,” he said.

“We’ll be looking to forge even closer ties with partners across the world in all areas. But especially in edtech, so that we can learn from each other and drive innovation forward everywhere.

“I believe that edtech can play a fundamental role in increasing the profile of UK education abroad, and that is why edtech features so prominently in the education strategy,” he added.

The minister praised edtech as a method to counter essay mills, which “have the potential to undermine the wider integrity of higher education right across the world”.

He cited university partnerships with companies such as US company Turnitin, which develop plagiarism detection software while Nottingham Trent University’s wellbeing dashboard is also helping to “spot students who may be struggling in the new environment”.

Technology like this could make a “real difference”, Skidmore explained.

In the UK, UCL’s six-month mentoring and consultancy EDUCATE program has “worked tirelessly over the past three years” to help edtech startup develop products that will improve teaching and learning in schools.

It has helped 270 companies in the UK up until now, and in 2020 it will begin franchising the program to international universities, Skidmore noted.

“They will be building an impressive new digital edtech support community that I believe will benefit everyone involved,” he said.

The minister also praised UK edtech for opportunities it offers for some of the most marginalised countries in the world.

The UK’s department of international development has been working on a number of projects, including an app for teachers in northern Nigeria to offer advice, support and free classroom materials.

Skidmore added that the UK government’s EdTech Hub in collaboration with the World Bank, British universities, global education experts and the Gates Foundation forms the “largest-ever edtech research and innovation projects”, and ensures that the UK is “helping these communities in the best way we can”.

“So, as you can see, the UK is doing a number of things on a variety of different levels to lead on the world stage—and to forge ever-closer ties with other countries so that we can make the most of the technological revolution together,” he added

The post Minister backs UK edtech sector – Bett 2020 appeared first on The PIE News.

Aus: U of Adelaide moves into Melbourne

The PIE News - Mon, 01/27/2020 - 02:57

South Australia’s University of Adelaide has announced it will expand into the state of Victoria, with plans to open a dedicated “international” campus in Melbourne this year.

The campus, located in Docklands on the city’s western fringe, will offer classes from July 2020 and is offering 11 undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs in accounting, finance, commerce and IT.

“The Melbourne campus will broaden the reach of a University of Adelaide education in areas in which we excel”

It is being delivered in partnership with Kaplan and the programs will initially only be open to international students, supporting one of the university’s strategic aims of “an expanded cohort of students from overseas more representative of the world’s cultures”.

The academic programs being offered will be designed by the university and taught by academic staff from Kaplan.

“The new campus consolidates and extends the long-term partnership between our two educational institutions,” said Kaplan managing director, Rob Regan.

“Kaplan has operated a pathway college to the University of Adelaide since 2007 and became the Preferred Pathway Provider in 2016.”

Currently, 37% of the 27,000 strong student population are from countries other than Australia, predominantly China (4,233).

University vice-chancellor, Peter Rathjen, said the institution is seeking to attract several hundred students to the new campus in coming years and expand its offering.

It is also the first time in its 146-year history that the University of Adelaide has opened another campus in Australia outside of its home state.

“While modest in size compared to our existing campuses, the new Melbourne campus will broaden the reach of a University of Adelaide education in areas in which we excel,” he said, “and provide us with an entry point into the eastern states.”

The campus will also have the capacity to expand its offerings in the future to showcase areas of specialist knowledge, including wine and artificial intelligence.

“We believe students will be attracted by our international reputation, seeking access to the specialised knowledge we offer and the opportunities our University opens for them,” said Rathjen.

The post Aus: U of Adelaide moves into Melbourne appeared first on The PIE News.

UK: uncapped fast-track visa for int’l scientists

The PIE News - Mon, 01/27/2020 - 01:51

The UK government has announced a new, fast-track visa scheme to attract the world’s top scientists, researchers and mathematicians into the country. The Global Talent route has no cap on the number of applications and will open as of February 20 – mere weeks after the UK leaves the EU.

The route replaces the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route and, for the first time, UK Research and Innovation will endorse applicants from the scientific and research community.

It will provide for a new fast-track scheme which will enable UK-based research projects that have received awards, including from the European Space Agency and the Japan Science and Technology Agency, to recruit global talent.

“This announcement signals that the UK remains open to talent from around the world”

Ministers explained that it would also double the number of eligible fellowships which enable applicants to be fast-tracked, and provide an “accelerated path” to settled status for researchers who are endorsed on the route.

The reforms to the Global Talent route coincide with an investment of up to £300 million to fund experimental mathematical sciences research over the next five years.

Commenting on the announcement, prime minister, Boris Johnson, said that to lead the field and face the challenges of the future “we need to continue to invest in talent and cutting edge research”.

“That is why as we leave the EU I want to send a message that the UK is open to the most talented minds in the world, and stand ready to support them to turn their ideas into reality,” he added.

President of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of Brunel University London, Julia Buckingham described the Global Talent visa as a positive step towards this for UK universities.

“Universities are globally connected and this announcement signals that the UK remains open to talent from around the world,” she said.

The immigration rules to bring the visa changes into effect will be made on January 30, and come into effect on February 20.

The post UK: uncapped fast-track visa for int’l scientists appeared first on The PIE News.

China’s Greater Bay Area failing to draw HK students

The PIE News - Mon, 01/27/2020 - 01:49

China’s plans to create the Greater Bay Area, an international business and economic hub encompassing Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in neighbouring Guangdong province, is proving unpopular with Hong Kong youth, according to a new study published by the Hong Kong Guangdong Youth Association.

Following months of protests against Beijing that have seen increased interest in studying outside of the city, the majority of young Hong Kongers interviewed said they had no interest in moving to other parts of the Greater Bay Area for either work or study, listing among their reasons concerns about the recognition of Chinese university qualifications.

Since the release of the Greater Bay Area development plan in February 2019, the respective local governments have introduced new measures and projects to promote exchange and integration.

“Universities in Hong Kong have been building up close collaborations with elite HE institutions in the Greater Bay Area”

“Universities in Hong Kong have been building up close collaborations with elite higher education institutions in the Greater Bay Area,” a spokesperson from Hong Kong’s education bureau told The PIE News.

“In the 2018/19 academic year, our publicly-funded universities had 292 and 32 research collaborative projects with institutions in Guangdong and Macao respectively.”

New regulations have also given the children of Hong Kong and Macanese parents the same access to education as those born in Guangdong in the hopes of encouraging more residents to work there.

According to the spokesperson, they are also “exploring the feasibility” of offering schools and classes in the Greater Bay Area using the Hong Kong curriculum.

The study also suggested not just dislike of going elsewhere in the area, but of students coming in, while over half of respondents believed Hong Kong universities should not welcome mainland Chinese students.

In the last academic year, 1,755 students from Guangdong and 127 students from Macao studied in publicly-funded programs at undergraduate and postgraduate level in Hong Kong. The most recent data from China’s Ministry of Education, from 2017, said almost 8,000 Hong Kong students were studying in Guangdong.

But while Hong Kongers may not be interested in the Greater Bay Area, according to Beijing-based consultancy Venture Education, other countries very much are. By 2022, there will be 13 independent British schools in Guangdong province, more than in both Beijing and Shanghai.

The post China’s Greater Bay Area failing to draw HK students appeared first on The PIE News.

Some colleges report possible coronavirus cases; experts emphasize importance of planning

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 01/27/2020 - 01:00

The coronavirus has come to U.S. campuses. Arizona public health officials announced Sunday that "a member of the Arizona State community who does not live in university housing" had tested positive for the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The person had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, where the virus originated.

Baylor University announced that one of its students was being tested by public health officials. Baylor said the student had recently traveled to China.

A student at Wesleyan University who developed a cough and fever after traveling through an airport where a patient identified to have coronavirus traveled is also being tested, the Hartford Courant reported.

A Tennessee Tech University student who was tested for the virus tested negative. A Texas A&M University student who was tested also tested negative.

Meanwhile, in China, Duke Kunshan University, which is located in a city almost 500 miles from Wuhan, has announced that it will suspend classes in all programs until Feb. 17.

As of Sunday evening there had been five confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., including the case of the individual connected to Arizona State. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says those infected with the virus experience mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, coughing and shortness of breath. CDC officials believe the symptoms can manifest as few as two or as many as 14 days after exposure.

The CDC said it considers the virus a serious public health threat and that outbreaks of novel viruses are always a cause for concern. Nonetheless, the agency considers the immediate risk to the American public to be low at this time.

The agency recommends against nonessential travel to China's Hubei Province, including the city of Wuhan.

At least 80 people have died from the virus, and Chinese authorities reportedly announced Sunday that Wuhan, a city of about 11 million people, may have 1,000 more cases. China has imposed strict travel restrictions for residents of Wuhan and at least 12 other cities in Hebei Province. The CDC last week began screening incoming travelers from Wuhan at five American airports.

With colleges being international hubs, home to internationally mobile students or faculty, it is possible they may see more cases from students or scholars who traveled to affected regions in China during the winter break.

China is the biggest country of origin for international students in the U.S., and Wuhan is the 18th-largest city of origin, according to data from 2008-12 compiled by the Brookings Institution. At that point there were about 8,000 students from Wuhan in the U.S.

Asked if there are special precautions colleges should take to screen faculty or students who have recently traveled to affected areas in China, James R. Jacobs, the chair of the American College Health Association’s Emerging Public Health Threats and Emergency Response Coalition, said that foremost is to follow the advice of the CDC and local health departments.

“At a minimum, health-care workers should inquire about travel history whenever evaluating a patient with fever,” said Jacobs, the executive director of Vaden Health Services at Stanford University.

“Coincidentally, we are in the middle of influenza season in the U.S., so institutions should already be in aggressive flu-prevention mode (hand washing, cough etiquette and so forth),” he added. “Further, institutions should continue to encourage seasonal flu vaccine for those who have not already received it, as anything that can be done to reduce the number of flu-like illnesses on campus will help to limit confusion if coronavirus illness begins to spread.”

"Many strains of coronaviruses are ubiquitous and are often responsible for symptoms that we attribute to the 'common cold,'" Jacobs said. "Similarly, coronavirus 2019-nCoV seemingly causes no or mild symptoms in most people infected by it." 

Jacobs said guidance for pandemic planning is available on ACHA’s website. "[T]he World Health Organization has not declared spread of coronavirus 2019-nCoV to have reached pandemic status, but the work of pandemic planning done by most campuses during the past 20 years for other respiratory viruses, such as SARS, H5N1 and H1N1, will be useful in preparing to respond to the appearance of 2019-nCoV," he said.

Other experts also emphasized the importance of planning. "I would be thinking about communication plans to keep everyone appraised of the nature of the respiratory threat and where to get advice, and where to get health care if their signs and symptoms meet that advice," said Gregory C. Gray, a professor of infectious disease at Duke University. "I would be thinking about trying to allay the fears that might cause the worried well to seek care unnecessarily."

In addition to a good communications plan, Gray emphasized the need for “a good strategy for how you would handle a high volume of people in your clinic,” including strategies for triage and for safely transporting individuals to hospitals as needed.

“I think that your student health service ought to be asking any student who comes in with a respiratory infection two questions: Have you been in China recently, and if not, have you had close contact with anybody who’s been in China recently? It’s low-tech, no-cost, but it’s terribly telling in selecting individuals who might be possible cases,” said William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University.

Schaffner also said that educational outreach is critical. “In general, let the student body know about this and if you’ve been to China or had close contact with somebody who’s just returned from China that at the very first sign, don’t tough it out. Students have a tendency [to say], ‘Oh well, I’ll see how I feel in the morning.’ Don’t do that. Come [to the student health center] immediately and let us know in advance that you’re coming.”

"I would recommend to people that they stay ahead of the game," said Ron Waldman, a professor of global health at George Washington University. "This is a rapidly evolving situation; it could go south, and colleges should be prepared to implement the next step."

"We have the benefit of not being at the very front end," he added. "In China, they’ve basically cordoned off huge metropolitan areas."

As a final note, Waldman cautioned against potentially stigmatizing international students from China. “No stigma and no panic,” he said. “This is a call for caution, vigilance and surveillance.”

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One year in, 'Contingent Magazine' is going strong

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 01/27/2020 - 01:00

Historian Erin Bartram had no plan B when she published her painfully honest “quit lit” essay in early 2018. She was sick of being on the crappy tenure-track job market, sick of making $28,000 as a visiting assistant professor and, perhaps most of all, sick of people telling her how good her work was, to keep researching and writing no matter what.

“‘But your work is so valuable,’ people say. ‘It would be a shame not to find a way to publish it,’” Bartram wrote at the time. “Valuable to whom? To whom would the value of my labor accrue? And not to be too petty, but if it were so valuable, then why wouldn’t anyone pay me a stable living wage to do it?”

Two years later, Bartram’s plan B is taking shape: she’s got a part-time job that she loves designing and delivering education programs at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Connecticut. And while she doesn’t have a full-time job that supports her academic research (that work is “DOA,” she said recently), she’s helped create a venue for -- and which values -- another kind of writing. 

That venue is Contingent Magazine. The online history publication, now beginning its second year, is written primarily by trained historians working off the tenure track or outside of academe altogether. Its target audience is those who appreciate and enjoy history, but not necessarily academics: the magazine has some interesting traffic sources, such as high school history course websites (in additon to college and graduate school course sites). Articles are edited by historians but not peer reviewed in the traditional sense.

Contingent is funded entirely by readers, most of whom are graduate students and contingent academic historians pledging small donations. Some 210 are monthly sustainers and receive a few extra benefits. The site had 23,000 views in December. And, central to its mission, the magazine pays every single contributor, from $25 for short “postcards” from conferences, up to at least $500 for features.

Published pieces include those in a series on the historical underpinnings of Star Wars, the enduring meaning of Forrest Gump, food, immigration, colleges closing and Watergate. There have been articles on addiction, political candidates, the Civil War and revisionist history. Anything good goes. Sometimes contributors write up “field trips” to museums and historical sites, all of which reveal something about the process of doing history. Lists of books and journal articles published by non-tenure-track historians in 2019 were especially popular, and even resulted in some extra sales for book authors. And Contingent answers readers’ varied questions about the discipline of history.

A recent “Mailbag” column -- that’s Contingent-speak for answers to reader questions -- tackles, for instance, the historical cliché “Don’t we have to judge people by the standards of their time?”

“Not all historical inquiry is explicitly about judgment, and not all historical judgments are about good and bad, but neither are these things outside the boundaries of historical practice,” reads part of the Contingent primer. “Some discomfort with the idea of judgment seems rooted in the notion that judging the goodness of someone else’s choices is somehow unfair, especially if it’s lacking in understanding. But historical judgment isn’t inherently knee-jerk or ill-informed.”

Instead, the piece reads, “it can be, and most of us would say it should be, about learning, understanding and assessing.”

Bartram wrote that one up. And she doesn’t just write for the magazine -- she co-founded and edits it, along with two fellow historians: Bill Black, visiting professor at Western Kentucky University, and Marc Reyes, a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Connecticut. A web designer, Emily Eston, Judaica Digital Humanities Project Coordinator at Penn Libraries, also maintains Contingent, as does a larger board of directors.

A Magazine Is Born

Contingent’s origin story is worth telling, since not everyone was initially sure that the concept would work. In the middle of 2018, as Bartram was making good on her promise to leave academe, Black -- whom she knew primarily through Twitter -- messaged her about an idea: Shouldn't there be a place for historians to publish that isn't a blog, an academic journal, or all about political "hot takes"?

Bartram was interested. Then she thought Reyes, whom she’d met in her doctoral program at Connecticut, as a possible third partner. Discussions followed over email, Twitter and Skype, as did some sink-or-swim work on establishing a nonprofit organization and fundraising. There was an initial pledge push to fund the building of a website, some early content and the creation of a logo that purposely eschewed stereotypical “history” images of old books and the like.

Looking ahead, the editors put out the call for more pitches, including over social media. Historians answered.

Around the same time, last January, Bartram -- armed with Contingent stickers -- attended the American Historical Association meeting. The site had just gone live for a soft launch.

“We were not publicly known outside of a small circle” at that point, Bartram said. “A number of scholars said to me, ‘Wouldn’t it be easier to get it off the ground if you didn’t pay people?’”

But paying people was always nonnegotiable.

“I had been in three years of [visiting] positions without any research support,” Bartram said, “and I think it’s deeply unethical to ask people to share the research that they spent their own money without paying them. It’s a Ponzi scheme, where you are paid to do one part of your job and you pay to do the other.”

Bartram said that the magazine is also an opportunity -- even a challenge -- for anyone who’s ever wanted to “do something” for adjuncts. That is, they can donate and give non-tenure-track scholars a kind of “second life.”

At this year’s AHA meeting, earlier this month, Bartram heard different things -- mostly congratulations and “I didn’t think it would work!”

Conferencewide, there was much talk about how historians need to do more to engage the public in their work, to demonstrate its value.

As Contingent is aimed at the public, do its editors consider themselves to be leading the field in some, even small, way?

Bartram was neutral, saying she’s focused on what she can do to advocate for a field she loves, and not on the bigger, structural problems it faces (think adjunctification and devaluation of the humanities).

“What can I do? I can start a magazine with my friends and edit and pay scholars for their work,” she said. “I don’t necessarily think it will change things structurally, but it matters to the people who get $250 per piece.”

Black, Bartram’s co-founder, had a similar take.

“We wanted this to be a grassroots effort. If this was based out of a university department or think tank or something like that, the vision of what it was going to be would have been polluted by different kinds of incentives. This was going to be a thing we did for us.”

At the same time, Black said, “We very much hoped when we were starting Contingent up that we would be a model for other folks to follow and pick up on.” It’s “one thing to say that historians should write more with public audiences in mind, and what we want to stress is that that call can’t exist in an economic vacuum. It has to make economic sense for people to do that work.”

Even tenure-track professors, who are compensated for research, don’t always have the incentive to do public outreach, Black noted, due to the traditionally research-heavy values of promotion and tenure committees.

In any case, he said, “It’s a wild time. It certainly seems like there’s a lot in the air right now.”

One Team

Reyes, Bartram’s and Black’s co-founder, said there’s a strong sense of collaboration among the editors even though they work remotely -- Reyes most of all, as he was until very recently a Fulbright fellow in India.

He’s also “proud of the types and topics of the articles we have run so far,” from features to photo essays to a cartoon. One of Reyes's wishes for the future is that Contingent continues to attract such interesting, diverse pitches from contributors.

Speaking of contributors: Reyes said the best part of Contingent is working with them, as “seeing their work go from pitch to publish is such an exhilarating and rewarding experience.”

Looking back on a year of articles, one that sticks out to Black is “Mr. Kay,” published in April. The piece details not only the life of Mr. Kay, an “Issei,” or Japanese immigrant who came to the U.S. around the turn of the 20th century, but also what it feels like to “fall in love” with someone, something or some time from the past while doing archival research.

“How do we, as historians, care for those we meet in those manila envelopes?” preserved in those archives, the article asks. “How we do understand the emotions the work of history provokes within us?”

Black’s historical sensibilities run romantic, judging by his short list of favorite articles and the way he talks about them. But beyond being romantic, if tragic (Kay always hoped to return to Japan and never did, dying poor and alone in Chicago) the “Mr. Kay” story embodies what Contingent is all about: making transparent the work -- process-wise and personal -- of doing history.

There is no need to separate the historian from the history here. That, in turn, reminds any reader who ever fell in love with history why they did so in the first place. Indeed, if there’s any thread running through all of the pieces on Contingent, it’s a deep affection for history and all that it comprises.

The author of “Mr. Kay,” Sonia C. Gomez, an associate member at the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago and a senior associate at the executive search firm Isaacson, Miller, said she started writing parts of it back in her second year of graduate school, in 2012. It look eight years to find Kay (a pseudonym) the right home, she said recently.

“I had some ideas and feelings about the materials I had uncovered, but I had no clear objective when I visited the building where he once lived and started to write about him,” Gomez said. She always knew, however, that a “traditional academic outlet was not where I wanted to go with his story and the other stories he represented.”

Gomez was immediately interested in Contingent when she heard about it on Twitter, and she even donated to the start-up fund.

“The idea of contingency in academia deeply resonated with me” at the time, Gomez said, as she was then a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and “keenly aware of my itinerant status.”

In addition to recognizing contingency, Gomez said the magazine fills “several gaping holes in academic history.” There's the history-is-for-everyone piece, she said, “which is incredibly important for many reasons -- including the continued existence of history as a discipline in the 21st century.” And circling back to the essence of Mr. Kay, Gomez said, “There’s the piece about demystifying the historian's craft, peeling back the curtains to show how we, historians, actually do history.”

For the record, Gomez said the process of working with Contingent also was pleasant.

“The editors were so very supportive and their questioning really pushed me to think more analytically about the story I wanted to tell.” Gomez is “grateful for the opportunity to have worked with them and have Mr. Kay out in the world.”

Stephenie McGucken, an adjunct instructor of art and design at the University of Tampa who earned her Ph.D. in art history at the University of Edinburgh in 2018, wrote a piece on medieval relics in Star Wars for Contingent’s series on those films and fandom. She also said recently that she’d been thinking about such a piece for a while (“medievalism and Star Wars really go well together,” she added). So Contingent’s call was the push she needed.

“I thought it was a great venue to explore those ideas for a more general audience that has intersecting interests.”

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Discussion about the future of the academy

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 01/27/2020 - 01:00

David Staley believes the university's future has yet to be determined.

While punditry about higher education suggests otherwise, said Staley, director of the Humanities Institute and an associate professor of history at Ohio State University, the academy has the power to imagine a different future from the headline-grabbing innovations of online learning, upskilling and mega-university models.

“Ours is a particularly fertile moment to imagine something new,” he said to a packed room Friday at the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities in Washington.

Staley and others were discussing what the “college of the future” might look like. Johann Neem, chair of the history department at Western Washington University, said a key piece of that imagining is to separate the academy from the university.

“Instead of the universities getting rid of professors, what if we got rid of the university?” Neem said.

People have an innate curiosity and desire to learn and build a community, he said, which is why they go to yoga studios and join book groups. What if the academy set up shop in a similar fashion?

“We're afraid that, unless there’s a credential with a degree, nobody’s going to want to learn from me,” said Neem, author of the recently published book What's the Point of College? Seeking Purpose in an Age of Reform (Johns Hopkins University Press). “We insult people when we pretend that the only way they’re going to develop their intellect is because we force them to.”

To create something new, higher education will inevitably have to change. One piece is the departmentalization of college campuses, which Kathleen Fitzpatrick, director of digital humanities and an English professor at Michigan State University, said is one reason university structures today are quite rigid.

Instead, Fitzpatrick said universities should be looking for ways to convene groups who are interested in particular issues, an approach that doesn’t align with departments.

Chad Wellmon, professor of German studies at the University of Virginia, said a “college corporate body” should give faculty members the responsibility of creating curricula, rather than pushing strategies like student-centered learning.

Staley said students seem to want an ability to design majors around an idea rather than a specific department. For example, one of his students said he is interested in happiness, which doesn’t have its own department but has been examined by philosophers, psychologists, writers and more.

And, while “breaking down silos is great,” he said faculty members then go back to their departments, where they are promoted and seek tenure.

Technology inevitably will be a factor in the future of higher education, but the panelists cautioned attendees against using it in the wrong way.

“I get super, super nervous when developers of technology like extended reality start talking about technology as an easy path to empathy,” Fitzpatrick said. “You can step into somebody else’s shoes in [virtual reality], but you’ve still got your own feet.”

While people often point to literature and reading as a way to build empathy, Fitzpatrick said that ability actually is developed in the discussion of reading, where people wade through what the words meant and how they each read it differently. She added that “shortcuts” to building community don't exist.

And the absence of such communities is a problem now, the panelists said. The future, Neem said, should center on how to build communities around shared pursuits of knowledge, and then upward from there.

Wellmon shared a similar vision, adding that "the academy is in a precarious position" right now, so protecting it -- through writing, teaching and researching -- is his focus.

“I’m no longer in the business of defending the university,” Wellmon said. “I'm here to defend and argue for the academy.”

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Independent bookstores mount inclusive access lawsuit

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 01/27/2020 - 01:00

Inclusive access programs, where students are automatically billed for their course materials, are increasingly big business for leading textbook publishers and college bookstores.

But for independent, off-campus bookstores, inclusive access programs could spell a death knell.

In a class-action lawsuit on Thursday, four companies representing independent bookstores accused publishers including Pearson, Cengage, McGraw-Hill Education and bookstore chains Barnes and Noble Education and Follett of trying to push them out of business.

In court documents, the independent bookstores describe inclusive access programs as a “conspiracy” whose “end goal and result is eliminating competitors and raising prices.”

“The defendants’ illegal actions have and will ultimately result in a total monopoly,” the suit says.  

In statements, both Cengage and Pearson said they were aware of the lawsuit and stand by the inclusive access model, which they maintain has increased affordability for students. “This complaint is entirely without merit,” said the Cengage statement. McGraw-Hill Education and Barnes and Noble Education declined to comment.

This lawsuit is not the first to challenge the inclusive access model. In 2019, Trident Technical College, a public two-year institution in Charleston, S.C., was sued on anticompetitive grounds by the Virginia Pirate Corporation, a company that owns a secondhand textbook store down the street from the college.

To automatically bill students for course materials, U.S. Department of Education regulations say colleges must offer these materials below a competitive market rate and must also give students a way to opt out of the program. Trident Tech was accused in the lawsuit of fulfilling neither of these requirements, which the institution denies.

Though unrelated, the two lawsuits raise similar issues. Opting out of an inclusive access program is not straightforward for students. “The ‘opt-out’ process, when there is one at all, is opaque, confusing and difficult if not impossible to execute,” said the plaintiffs in the most recent lawsuit. They add that some students who have asked to opt out of inclusive access programs have been told that there “is no opt-out available” or that they will be de-enrolled from a class if they opt out and seek substitute materials.

Kaitlyn Vitez, director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s Campaign to Make Higher Education Affordable, said students should have multiple options for purchasing course materials, and that inclusive access programs have stifled competition. “The direction that the market is moving, especially with the proposed merger of Cengage and McGraw-Hill, is to dramatically reduce student choice,” she said.

Nicole Allen, director of open education at SPARC, harbors similar concerns about inclusive access programs. “Publishers are systematically eliminating choice, and this complaint highlights many of the ways this does harm,” she said.

“We’re on the verge of the textbook publishing industry becoming a duopoly, and you have to wonder how much worse it is going to get.”

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