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Canada mourns victims of Iranian plane crash

The PIE News - Fri, 01/10/2020 - 09:40

The Canadian higher education community is reeling after discovering students and staff were among those killed when Flight 752 from Iran crashed on January 8.

All 176 people onboard the flight were killed when the plane, headed for the Ukrainian city of Kyiv, crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport.

Among the victims were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians including nine crew, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Britons and three Germans.

“Universities across the country are working to support the families and friends of those who perished”

In a statement, Universities Canada said the nation’s universities join in mourning the crash victims.

“We are deeply saddened by this loss of life and potential,” it said.

“Universities across the country are working to support the families and friends of those who perished, many of whom were students, faculty and others connected to the university community.

Victims connected with at least 17 Canadian HEIs are believed to have died in the tragedy, including from the University of Alberta, University of Toronto and Western University.

“It is with profound sadness that we have learned that several members of our University of Alberta community died in last night’s tragic aeroplane crash of Flight PS752 in Iran,” the university’s president and vice-chancellor David H. Turpin said in a statement.

“Words simply cannot express the loss I know we all are feeling. On behalf of the University of Alberta, I wish to extend our deepest condolences to the families, friends, colleagues and loved ones of the victims of this tragedy.”

Roja Omidbakhsh, a first-year student at the University of Victoria on Canada’s west coast, was one of the victims of the crash.

“Roja was very positive and had a keen interest in marketing. She was on the pathway to complete a bachelor of commerce,” her professor Mark Colgate said.

Struggling to think of a tragedy that has affected Canadian PSE more widely than Flight 752. Watching universities across the country report the loss of their students and staff – we’re up to seven now that I have seen, I think, maybe more – is just incredibly sad.

— Alex Usher (@AlexUsherHESA) January 9, 2020

“We’re heartbroken that this happened and our condolences go to her family and classmates.”

Iranian citizens headed for Halifax in Nova Scotia were also onboard the flight.

Dalhousie University master’s student Masoumeh “Masi” Ghavi was travelling with her younger sister who was coming to begin studies of her own in the area.

International graduate and member of the faculty of dentistry, Sharieh Faghihi, was also on the flight, as were Maryam Malek and Fatemeh Mahmoodi who were Saint Mary’s University students.

Six students of the University of Toronto appear on the flight manifest. Flag are being flown at half-mast at institutions across the country.

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King’s House School to open in Pakistan

The PIE News - Fri, 01/10/2020 - 09:00

King’s House School and Nursery is the latest UK independent school to announce a branch overseas, with classes to begin at its location in Pakistan in September 2020.

Based in the diplomatic quarter of Islamabad, the preparatory school will start by teaching approximately 60-70 pupils aged 4-5.

“Schools need to look at alternative revenue sources”

King’s House School is also seeking to open branches in Morocco, Ghana and later China, its headmaster Andrew Cook told The PIE News, which the school hopes to open within the next five years.

The recruitment of staff, as well as a headteacher for the school in Pakistan’s capital, is underway, he explained.

“Schools need to look at alternative revenue sources,” Cook told The PIE.

Like other providers, King’s House School wants “to spread [its] wings” internationally.

In 2019, Rugby School announced a school in Japan and Malvern College said it would open a pre-school in Hong Kong. Kent College also announced a school in Hong Kong in 2018.

The school in Luton, UK, has been approached by an increasing number of potential partners to set up locations in a number of countries, Cook said.

Working with reliable partners, King’s House hopes to increase revenue streams, which will not only benefit the school, but also the UK economy.

The countries the private education provider is planning on teaching in are “stable and [have] open arms to British education”, he added.

“There has been growing demand for UK education in these countries.”

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Chinese gov’t boost int’l school support

The PIE News - Fri, 01/10/2020 - 04:15

China’s Ministry of Education is planning to provide more support and resources for Chinese international schools abroad, local media have reported.

As more and more Chinese people – many of whom are involved with the Belt and Road Initiative – head abroad for work, demand is increasing for schools with Chinese as the medium of instruction that follow the domestic curriculum.

The government is also hoping that the schools will appeal to overseas Chinese and those of Chinese descent.

According to the country’s MoE, there are currently around 20,000 schools abroad offering some form of Chinese education and 60 million Chinese stationed and living around the world.

“Our… expansion is in line with the fast-growing demand for quality Chinese education overseas”

Many of these schools work closely with the MoE and local Chinese embassies for support in delivering their curriculums and supplying resources.

The ministry has said it will increase financial support for such institutions. Ideas around equipping some already existing training centres and Confucius Institutes with facilities for teaching Overseas Chinese have also been mooted.

Zhuge Academy, part of Beijing-based Lanxum Inc, currently has two international schools – one in the US and one in Canada. Its head of international business, Shang Mei, told China Daily that the company has plans for greater expansion, particularly in Asia and the Middle East.

“Our quick overseas expansion is in line with the fast-growing demand for quality Chinese education overseas,” said Shang.

“Some Chinese have strong cultural anxiety since they moved abroad. They don’t have an environment to learn Chinese history and culture. Some are afraid that their children will abandon the culture.”

Several countries also have bilingual or Chinese-medium schools unaffiliated with the Chinese government.

Malaysia, whose population is just under a quarter ethnically Chinese, has a number of Chinese-medium schools, although schools geared towards specific ethnic groups in the multicultural country do attract criticism.

The UK’s first bilingual prep school teaching in both English and Mandarin, Kensington Wade, opened in 2017, charging a hefty £17,925 a year.

“An increasing number of English schools are starting to offer a modest amount of Chinese language teaching,” wrote headmistress Jo Wallace on the school’s website.

“But given the nature of the Chinese language and the demands of the existing curriculum, the time and energy devoted to learning Chinese is insufficient to learn both the language and the culture properly.”

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Navitas shifts to student and partners focus

The PIE News - Fri, 01/10/2020 - 01:40

Global education provider Navitas has flagged its ambitions to shift focus towards students and higher education partners, in a bid to improve learner outcomes and increase value from its established relationships.

The ambitions, outlined by new chief executive Scott Jones, mark Navitas’ first strategic change of plan after being taken over by a consortium led by BGH and co-founder Rod Jones.

“We need to listen and learn a bit more to shape where it needs to go”

“Relationships are always stronger… if you’re willing to support one another,” Jones said.

“Transactions come and go and that’s not what we want to be as an organisation. We want to be a relationships focussed business, we want to work closely with our partners and we want to support those growth initiatives through the good and bad.”

Speaking at Navitas’ annual conference in Kuala Lumpur, Jones said the company wanted to work with its university and higher eduction partners as well as students to stay ahead of upcoming change in the education space.

“Too often we feel like we’ve got the solutions without actually asking the questions,” he said.

“We can try and make those decisions, be at the forefront, but we need to listen and learn a bit more to shape where it needs to go.”

Among the changes identified, Jones said digital literacy needed to improve in the classroom, as well as pedagogy and better plans for student mental health and wellbeing.

His comments came shortly after his first 100 days in his new role, and Jones said the shift in Navitas’ focus stemmed from meeting with partners around the world leading to three guiding principles of strategic planning, agent focus and effective sales and marketing.

“We’re seeing these sophisticated and mature markets becoming more of an import market… than an export market,” he said.

While Jones highlighted potential opportunities to develop further TNE partnerships in addition to those already in Singapore, Dubai, and Sri Lanka, he said the company would remain solely within the higher and tertiary education, rather than looking to new areas of study

The change in outward focus will also be coupled with more internal work, Jones added, including additional professional development opportunities for staff, the development of a corporate responsibility plan, and continued work within its education trust to assist developing countries.

Jones added the company wanted to shift its aim form being “one of the best” to “the best”.

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SNHU steps up state-level competition

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 01/10/2020 - 01:00

Students at Pennsylvania’s 14 public community colleges can now easily pursue an online degree at Southern New Hampshire University, thanks to a new credit-transfer pathway.

An articulation agreement announced Wednesday will enable students to transfer up to 45 credits toward an associate’s degree -- which requires a total of 60 credits -- or up to 90 credits toward a 120-credit bachelor’s degree at SNHU. Pennsylvania students transferring to SNHU will receive a 10 percent discount on their tuition.

All community college students transferring to SNHU are offered a 10 percent discount, a SNHU spokeswoman said. But SNHU's degrees will nonetheless undercut ​most universities in Pennsylvania on price. At $288 per credit, including the 10 percent discount, SNHU is significantly cheaper than Pennsylvania State University's World Campus, which charges transfer students upwards of $576 per credit.

The credit-transfer agreement could put pressure on Pennsylvania’s four-year public institutions to lower their prices. Public universities in Pennsylvania are some of the most expensive in the nation, charging nearly twice the U.S. average of $6,368 for tuition and fees in 2019. Other states could soon feel the same pressure, as SNHU hopes to reach similar deals across the U.S. -- expanding the institution's impressive national reach. SNHU currently enrolls more than 130,000 students online.

Statewide agreements are unusual, as such deals are usually struck between a single community college and a university on a program-by-program basis, said Russell Poulin, director of the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, which focuses on technology-enhanced learning in higher ed.

“This is kind of a wake-up call for Pennsylvania’s public institutions,” said Poulin. “They may be struggling, but they need to make sure they’re meeting the needs of the state.”

Poulin predicts that the statewide agreements could be the first of many not just for SNHU, but other large online institutions operating at a national level.

“In some states four-year institutions are not always willing to transfer credit from community colleges,” he said. “If there’s a smoother path being offered by SNHU or other online institutions, that would be very attractive to students.”

The statewide deal is the third of its kind for SNHU. The online behemoth also has partnerships with community college systems in Kentucky and Massachusetts. Melanie Plourde, a SNHU spokeswoman, said the university will be pursuing more statewide partners. ​

Western Governors University, another large online nonprofit institution, also has a strategy for partnering with community colleges at the state level. WGU has satellite branches in eight states. Two of these state branches, WGU Indiana and WGU Washington, have transfer agreements with state community college systems. Students at these colleges receive a 5 percent discount on WGU tuition.

The movement of SNHU into markets traditionally dominated by regional players, “really illustrates the tension between the traditional and nontraditional space,” said Josh Pierce, CEO of Acadeum, a company that helps colleges share online degrees.

“Traditionally these two segments of the market would have attracted very different students; the markets were very regionalized. That’s not the case anymore,” said Pierce. “It’s becoming increasingly competitive at the margins to find students.”

State institutions may find it challenging to compete with SNHU’s pricing, Pierce said. “SNHU is competing at a national level,” he said.

SNHU’s willingness to accept up to 90 credits is a smart move for an institution focused on attracting adult students, Pierce said. It’s not uncommon for community college students to enroll in programs that don’t fit a particular degree path, sometimes racking up more credits than they need in order to achieve an associate’s degree, he said. With SNHU’s generous credit-transfer policy, those excess credits won’t go to waste if the student pursues a bachelor's degree.

Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor for online learning at the University of Illinois Springfield (and an Inside Higher Ed opinion columnist), said many universities will only accept up to 60 transfer credits for bachelor’s degrees. Systemwide transfer agreements, especially ones that offer a discount on tuition, are “highly unusual and will certainly have an impact in Pennsylvania and other states where they are implemented,” he said.

Both Schroeder and Pierce agree that with unionized state institutions and budget constraints making it hard for public institutions to start charging students less, it seems unlikely that a price war will emerge in Pennsylvania. Pierce added that many state institutions are on “difficult fiscal ground” and would find it challenging to compete with SNHU on price.

On Twitter, Trace Urdan, managing director at the investment banking and consulting firm Tyton Partners, asked why a state-subsidized system would encourage students to complete their degrees at an out-of-state institution. “From the taxpayers’ perspective, this is idiotic,” he said.

According to the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, which drew up the agreement with SNHU, nearly 500 community college students transferred to SNHU in the 2018-19 academic year, and SNHU awarded 166 Pennsylvania community college students bachelor’s degrees.

“Thousands of articulation agreements are already in place with higher education partners here in Pennsylvania to help students realize their postsecondary achievement goals and we fully expect those longstanding partnerships to continue,” Elizabeth Bolden, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, said in a press release.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, a system of state-owned institutions that does not include well-known publicly supported universities such as Penn State or the University of Pittsburgh, provided a statement, which said the system has a “rich history of community college partnerships that expand educational and career opportunities for students right here in Pennsylvania.” Of 5,885 students that transferred to Pennsylvania’s public universities in 2018, almost half, 2,795, transferred from the state’s community colleges.

Gloria Oikelome, interim vice president of academic affairs at Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania, said she welcomed the SNHU agreement. Her institution previously had credit-transfer agreements with SNHU, but they were limited to three degree programs. Now the options for students are much broader, she said.

A lot of the students at Montgomery County are working adults who would appreciate the opportunity to study fully online, she said. But online education won’t be the right fit for every student, as some will want to study on campus at an institution they know.

Oikelome doesn’t believe the SNHU agreement will necessarily result in fewer students opting to complete their degrees in state. “The more options we can offer our students, the better,” she said.

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Jersey City economic development drives changes at Saint Peter's University

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 01/10/2020 - 01:00

Saint Peter’s University has long embraced its reputation for having an efficient approach to education.

Until five years ago, when it formally went from being a college to a university, the private Jesuit institution in Jersey City, N.J., was known for providing students a solid, no-frills academic foundation and sending them on their way. The process was efficient and unexceptional, but it worked and seemed a good fit for an institution located in a gritty factory town.

University leaders were fine with that model for many decades, but then things began to change in Jersey City and, over time, also at Saint Peter’s. Developers started rebuilding the city’s waterfront about a mile and half from the campus, spurring the start of an economic revival over the last two decades that is slowly but steadily making its way to other parts of the city. The city’s downtown has rapidly gentrified in the process, bringing in new companies and jobs and white-collar professionals to inhabit new housing in a city once mostly populated by working-class residents.

Saint Peter’s was also undergoing transformation during the city’s growth period, expanding and creating new degree programs and experiencing increased enrollment as a result. University administrators are now focused on preparing students to enter Jersey City’s still diversifying workforce and meeting the education and training demands of new employers.

In the process, Saint Peter’s and the city's fortunes have become intertwined, and together they tell a larger story about how local or regional economic revitalization can affect a university, and how a university can, in turn, contribute to that revitalization.

Eugene J. Cornacchia, Saint Peter’s president, says the changes on campus are generating “lots of excitement among alumni and donors.” He’s capitalizing on this trend to keep the university on its upward trajectory.

Last September, a donor gave the university $10 million to expand its school of business and “significantly bolster business programs and establish new initiatives.” That donation followed another $10 million gift by a different donor in fall 2018. The donations are the two largest Saint Peter’s has received in its nearly 150-year history, and administrators say the gifts reflect not only new investments in the university and its students but also confidence and support for the direction in which the institution’s leaders are taking it.

“There is a lot of momentum,” Cornacchia said.

Cornacchia, who started his career at Saint Peter's as an adjunct professor in the political science department and is the institution's first lay leader, set the goal of turning it from a college into a university when he became president in 2007. He described the Saint Peter’s College of decades ago as a very different place than modern-day Saint Peter’s University.

“It was a sleepy school. It didn’t do a lot of exciting things, but it educated and shaped students,” he said. “With the world of higher ed changing and the world itself changing, we had to do something different. Now we have more innovation on campus. We’re more forward-thinking. We’re asking, ‘What are the new fields we have to invest in? Where do we have to go to next?’”

Cornacchia said the university has established relationships with members of Jersey City’s growing business community to help administrators determine the path forward. He said the university also plans to involve business leaders, along with faculty, students and community members, in the process of developing the institution's next strategic plan.

"Board members and alumni will come on board, business executives and people from other industries," and will be tasked with helping administrators "start thinking outside the box" and answer important questions such as, "What are the skills that students are going to need, not next year or the following year, but for the next five years and beyond?"

Advisory groups of business executives are already helping the university shape the curriculum to meet the workforce needs of local industries and employers. The business school now has a Bloomberg terminal room, a rarity for a nonelite institution and an investment recommended by the business advisers.

“Those are the things we didn’t do in the past. We sort of implied what their needs were, rather than asked them,” Cornacchia said of employers.

“A lot of those changes were so critical in showing the community we live in that the institution remains a viable partner in the community and is committed to sustaining the community,” he said. “I really believe that as long as an institution is embedded in the community where it is located, it has an ethical responsibility to assist the community in prospering.”

Joseph A. Panepinto, a Saint Peter’s alumnus and member of the university’s Board of Trustees, seemed to endorse those very sentiments when he gave the university $10 million in 2018. Half of the donation will be used for scholarships and capital improvements.

“As a native of Jersey City, it has long been my aim to help in the revitalization of this city,” Panepinto, a lawyer and president and chief executive officer of Jersey City-based Panepinto Properties, said in a university press release announcing the gift that year. “Some of the most important parts of our community are its charitable and nonprofit institutions. Education is certainly a very important one. Therefore, by supporting Saint Peter’s, we are supporting the future growth of our community.”

Frank L. Fekete, chair of the Board of Trustees and also an alumnus, said at the time that Panepinto’s gift would help Saint Peter’s play a leading role in the revitalization of the city.

Frank J. Guarini, the other big donor to the university, is a Jersey City native and former U.S. congressman. He did not attend Saint Peter’s, but he grew up across the street from the campus and served on the university’s Board of Regents. He is a longtime supporter of the university whose gifts include the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership, a nonpartisan forum for discussion of key public policy issues, and the Guarini Center for Community Memory, which is located in the university’s main library and houses his congressional papers and other special collections. He also donated the president’s residence, Guarini House. The business school has since been renamed the Frank J. Guarini School of Business.

“Our business school will open the door to new experiences for tomorrow’s leaders,” Guarini said in a press release announcing his gift last September. “They have a bright and challenging future in this beautiful and complex world. Our young men and women will undoubtedly be benefited by the outstanding education they receive here at Saint Peter’s.”

While both gifts attracted attention -- the first $10 million donation led to a bump in alumni giving -- the gift to the business school generated “a lot of buzz among alumni,” Cornacchia said.

“Our alums are electrified by it,” he said. “It has really started to make people say, ‘You know what, there’s a lot going on at the school.’ And they’re proud of it.”

A $10 million gift is a pittance compared to the donations to powerhouses such as the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania or Harvard Business School. A single donor gave Wharton $50 million in 2018, as part of a $1 billion fundraising campaign. Harvard University, which raised $9 billion during its most recent campaign, received the largest gift in its history, $400 million, in 2015 from a graduate of the business school.

"A gift to Saint Peter's will go farther and would be a lot more appreciated," said Paul Grimes III, a member of the advisory board for the university's Center for Career Engagement and Experiential Learning. He noted that many Saint Peter's students are the first in their families to go college and have to work part-time to help pay tuition.

Grimes, a district manager for the Sherwin-Williams paint company, has volunteered his time and business expertise and also taught classes and recruited employees on campus over a 20-year period.

"If you give to universities like Saint Peter's, you're really enabling them to give back to the communities they serve," he said, adding that the university does a great job preparing students for the workforce. "And their diverse student population is also great for me as an employer."

Cornacchia said there’s also a flip side to the newfound largess.

“One of the things we worry about is people saying, ‘Well, you just got $10 million -- what the heck is my $100 gonna do?’”

Apparently a lot. Open-access institutions such as Saint Peter’s are more dependent than ever on donors as enrollment drops at colleges and universities across the country, revenues shrink and federal funding decreases. At the same time, however, some of these institutions are also increasingly being recognized for the solid education they provide at relatively affordable rates even as tuition rates climb over all nationally. (Saint Peter's tuition for the 2019-20 academic year is $37,660, but most students pay only about $14,000 after receiving financial aid from the federal government, the university and other sources.)

“We’re not in a tony suburb and we don’t have a sprawling campus with lakes and things like that,” said Leah Leto, Saint Peter’s vice president for advancement and external affairs. “We were going unrecognized for a number of years, but now people are seeing the value in the things that schools like Saint Peter’s do.”

She cited academic outcomes such as rising graduation and retention rates as among the university’s notable achievements. The six-year graduation rate went from 53 percent in 2016 to 54 percent in 2018, and the retention rate for first-year students went from 77 percent in 2016 to 82 percent in 2019. She also noted the increased numbers of minority and low-income students served.

"If you consider the disadvantages that our students are carrying, we’re very proud of those statistics," she said. "They often come to us with deficiencies, but we see potential in them and put a lot in them to ensure that they can succeed and graduate on time, get out there and get jobs."

Such outcomes are seen "as the return on such a costly investment," she said. "People see what we’re doing is important and want us to continue."

Leto noted that both Guarini and Panepinto were visionaries involved in the development of Jersey City.

"They have been anchors in Jersey City and partly responsible for the renaissance occurring now," she said. "They see us as being part of the advancement that is needed."

Of the 2,600 undergraduates enrolled at Saint Peter's, the majority (94 percent) are traditional students, ages 17 to 22, pursuing more than 50 majors with the largest concentrations in the sciences, business and criminal justice, while also studying the liberal arts as part of the core curriculum. (There are also 800 graduate students and 300 adult learners enrolled in the School for Professional and Continuing Studies.) Approximately 54 percent of all full-time students are first-generation students, 48 percent are Hispanic, 22 percent are African American and 9 percent are Asian, according to the university. Ninety-eight percent of the students receive financial aid.

Despite all the talk of change, the neighborhoods surrounding the university have not experienced the same economic development as the city's trendy waterfront now dotted with expensive high-rise apartments and condominiums.

"Our neighborhood is still not quite there -- it's evolving but still a little gritty," Leto said. "We're trying to think about what it will be like 10 to 15 years from now."

Leto said the gift to the business school will help it "deepen and advance what we’re already doing," such as teaming up students with local entrepreneurs, small and micro-business owners, advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations to help them grow their businesses or organizations, develop websites, do critical analytics and develop marketing plans. The students get important work experience in exchange. The project is an initiative of the Ignite Institute, a center founded on campus in 2014. The institute was "designed to spark the spirit of entrepreneurship through education, business planning, community-partnered programs and research both on campus and regionally," according to a university press release, and it "currently serves as a hub for entrepreneurial empowerment in Jersey City and beyond." The institute holds an annual Local Living Economy Summit, which brings together local government agencies, business development organizations, anchor institutions, nonprofit organizations, entrepreneurs and businesses "to stimulate practical solutions" that can help "create an economy that is fair and equitable for all."

A university task force has been created to replicate the effort in other departments across the campus, Leto said.

"It's one of the goals of our strategic plan, a big step and a real rethink. We always assumed we were engaged in the community, but we're now being more strategic and more holistic about the way we do that."

Despite the many changes the donations have allowed Saint Peter's to implement, Leto said the university has no plans to stray too far from its core mission.

"Every school has aspirations and wants to be better, but we’re not trying to become something different or serve a different demographic," she said. "We just want to become stronger and better and more resilient, and our donors recognize that."

Eileen Poiani, special assistant to Cornacchia and a professor of mathematics, who has been at the university for 52 years​, said the changes taking place on campus and in Jersey City feel like a natural progression.

"In many ways, the university has kind of been a fixture in Jersey City, and as the city has changed, so have we," she said. "We are a very small school -- we're only on 25 acres -- but we’ve made an incredible impact on the area. We're also a significant consumer in the area."

Poiani​, who was formerly vice president of student affairs, noted that the university agreed in 2011 to take over St. Aedan's Catholic Church, which is now a university and parish church that serves area residents of all backgrounds. The university also opened a Campus Kitchen in 2014 that serves free meals to community members in need.

"We really are part of the fabric of the city," she said.

 Jersey City mayor Steven M. Fulop, who received an honorary degree from the university in 2014, agrees. ​

"As we continue to see positive growth in every corner of Jersey City, Saint Peter’s University remains at the forefront of education and institutional research and maintains a prominent presence attracting a competitive student body from all over the region," he said in an email. 

As enthusiastic as he is about the growth of the university and the city, Cornacchia still wishes more donors could look beyond the lofty image of certain colleges and universities and see the vast potential of nonelite institutions as local and regional economic engines.

“It would be nice if someone wrote us a $100 million gift check, but how often does that happen?” Cornacchia said.

“If donors just would take a step back and look at our kinds of institutions, they would understand that we’re the ones educating the vast majority of people and we have the least resources. If people want to have an impact, they should give to these institutions,” he said.

Cornacchia said philanthropists with business backgrounds, in particular, should keep this in mind.

“Joseph Panepinto gets it -- he understands what we’re doing here,” Cornacchia said of the donor who gave Saint Peter's its first $10 million gift. “He lit the match to the development of Jersey City many decades ago. He has a deep affection for the university and sees it as important to the city and the county. He wants Jersey City to be a viable community for young people.”

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Evergreen addresses enrollment decline with academic changes

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 01/10/2020 - 01:00

For decades, students at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., have had the power to forge their own paths of study. The college has no majors, no academic departments and no grades. The emphasis for “Greeners” has always been on interdisciplinary, self-directed learning.

But Evergreen’s enrollment started dropping after the end of the financial crisis. To be sure, many colleges are dealing with low enrollment because of declining birth rates that have resulted in fewer Americans of traditional college age. But at Evergreen, enrollment has dropped by 1,000 students since 2017, to about 2,900, indicating something else might be at play. Of course, the strong progressive bent on campus might be a turn-off to some, especially after student protesters made national news in 2017 for occupying the president's office and calling for a professor to be fired.

But some of the enrollment drop preceded those events, officials said, leading them to believe there were other factors leading to the decline. This year, the college is making some academic changes the administration hopes can help recruit students and -- crucially -- retain them.

Now courses have been reorganized around 11 “paths of study,” with themes like political economy, math and computer science, food and agriculture, and Native American and indigenous programs. All courses will now be marked with their level, from introductory to advanced. The college, which has traditionally had a curriculum that changes every year, will now commit to a five-year plan of offerings. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation contributed grants totaling $800,000 to carry out the changes.

New Students, New Preferences

George Bridges, president of the college, said the student population at Evergreen now wants different things out of college than students who may have attended Evergreen in past decades. Evergreen’s acceptance rate is about 97 percent. The student population now has a high number of first-generation college students and military veterans. About half of all students are transfers from community colleges.

“They have a very different vision of what college would be and have different needs,” Bridges said. “They want to leave Evergreen with a degree they can use in a career, in a market,” and that’s explicable to employers. Students who attended in past decades grew up in a different economic climate, he said, and weren't seeking such specific outcomes.

Of students who were leaving the college before graduation, a majority left after only one year. When the administration surveyed those students, many expressed uncertainty over the curriculum. They were unsure if the courses they wanted would be offered, and if they could get into those courses to pursue advanced study in a particular area.

Bridges traced some of the career anxiety to the Great Recession, saying that students who watched their families be put out of work were in particular wondering what their college education could provide them.

“We’re living and working in a world where the liberal arts have declined in favor among those attending higher education,” Bridges said.

Planning the curriculum in advance will give students some certainty that they can achieve their goals, he said. The paths, which students are not at all required to follow, will allow those who want to specialize and those who want to explore to both achieve their goals. The changes do not mean that Evergreen is moving away from its roots or its mission, he emphasized. The college is still a space for students to self-direct learning and synthesize different disciplines. Team teaching, where faculty of different disciplines collaborate on a course, is still very common.

Jennifer Drake, Evergreen’s provost, who came on in 2017, said increased predictability and learning pathways are part of a commitment to equity for the college. Students now more likely to be balancing work and personal commitments, she said.

Similarly, creating pathways to advanced work, she said, can ensure equitable access to “high-impact practices,” meaning immersive experiences like research, internships or study abroad.

“Students from underrepresented groups benefit substantially from those experiences and don’t always have equitable access to those experiences,” Drake said, drawing from national research.

Officials said that many ideas for the changes came from the faculty, who recognized an imperative to listen to student concerns and understood that fewer students meant continued budget cuts. The college has cut 34 positions in the last two years, The Olympian reported last month.

The academic changes were incorporated into the faculty’s collective bargaining agreement, and faculty voted in favor of the contract 62 to 8, said Laurie Meeker, an Evergreen professor in media studies and communication coordinator for the union.

“This wasn’t that controversial from our point of view as a union,” Meeker said. “It’s a way of providing students with curricular clarity and coherence.”

Meeker and Drake both stressed that that Evergreen will still be providing a wholly liberal arts education, and that the liberal arts has always been strong preparation for a career.

Ed Wingenbach, president of Hampshire College, a similarly experimental institution which has itself suffered major enrollment and financial problems, agreed, drawing on national data showing employers value the skills imparted by a liberal arts education.

But he indicated that the two colleges, while both strong in their commitment to self-directed learning, differ in how they’ve chosen to try to communicate the value of that to students. While Evergreen is moving one inch closer to traditional education, Hampshire, which is also reorganizing its curriculum, is moving further away.

“[At Evergreen, it appears] they need to be able to make what they’re doing look more like what is recognizable to prospective students as a major, as a way in which a structured education leads down a path to an outcome that is clearly defined,” he said, “which is perfectly fine.”

“Rather than trying to take the self-directed, self-designed model at Hampshire and make it look more like a traditional pathway, we’re trying to make it even less like that.”

Hampshire’s curriculum will be reorganized this fall into four thematic areas, including “time and narrative,” “media and technology” and “in/justice.”

“It’s important to communicate to changing populations of students why a liberal arts education prepares you for the world that you can’t know,” Wingenbach said. “The best way to make that case isn’t by doubling down on what people already do.”

Over all, Evergreen officials stressed, the changes provide more clarity and transparency and were what students had requested.

“Responding to student input is essential,” Drake said. “Its an ethical imperative.”

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Recent court decisions could expand bankruptcy for student debt

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 01/10/2020 - 01:00

A decision this week by a federal judge in New York illustrates how some courts have in the past few years made it easier for people with crippling student loan debt to file for bankruptcy, say consumer advocates and legal experts.

But while advocates like John Rao, a National Consumer Law Center bankruptcy expert, see the trend as positive, they still believe federal laws need to be changed to make it easier to discharge student loans through bankruptcy.

The issue has risen in prominence as the number of Americans with student debt has grown to an estimated 45 million, with many unable to repay their loans. Advocates as well as some lawmakers, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who is seeking her party's presidential nomination, have said changes in federal law and legal interpretations by the courts have made it notoriously difficult to get student loans discharged through bankruptcy.

Before changes to federal law in 1998, those unable to repay student loans had been able to file for bankruptcy after five years without proving the debt posed an “undue hardship.” But after changes by Congress, those seeking relief through bankruptcy for student loans, unlike other forms of debt, have to show they meet the hardship standard regardless of how old the loan is.

Congress, however, has never defined what undue hardship means and didn’t delegate to the U.S. Department of Education the ability to do so. The courts have been left to establish a three-pronged test of whether hardship exists: that borrowers could not maintain a minimal standard of living if they had to repay the loans, that the situation would continue to exist and that the borrower had made a good-faith effort to pay the money back.

But as Cecelia Morris, chief judge for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York, noted in a decision Tuesday, the courts have set a high bar for meeting those tests. So much so, she wrote, “that most people (bankruptcy professionals as well as lay individuals) believe it is impossible to discharge student loans.”

For example, some courts have required people to prove that they will face hardship in perpetuity, an obviously high bar. "That there’s no chance they’ll ever win the lottery," for example, said Matthew Bruckner, an associate law professor at Howard University.

But some judges in the past five years have been taking a more expansive view of the hardship standard to allow bankruptcy, as they find more people coming to court who are unable to pay student loans, Rao said.

Morris, in granting a former law student, Kevin Jared Rosenberg, summary judgment to be able to file for bankruptcy, interpreted hardship in a number of significant ways. She found, for instance, that Rosenberg didn’t have to prove that repaying the loan would be a hardship forever, but only for a significant portion of the repayment period. That period ended when the Educational Credit Management Corporation called in the $221,385 Rosenberg still owed after earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona and a law degree from Yeshiva University's Cardozo Law School. Clearly, Rosenberg couldn’t pay.

The impact of the ruling has its limits. Other bankruptcy judges do not have to follow Morris’s lead.

“It’s binding on no one,” Rao said. He also expects the decision to be appealed. Neither the ECMC nor its attorney, Kenneth Baum, immediately returned emails.

However, Rao said the decision could be significant because it is one of several in the last five years that have taken a broader view of meeting the hardship standard. Other judges who have wanted to allow people to file for bankruptcy because of their student loan debts could see decisions like this latest one and see that they, too, can take a more expansive view.

In another case, he said, a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled in 2013 that a 52-year-old unemployed woman who lived with her mother couldn’t repay her student loans and could file for bankruptcy.

A lower court had denied her petition saying that even though the woman -- who lived on public assistance and couldn’t afford to pay even $1 a month under a repayment plan -- might be able to make her payments if her prospects improved someday. But the appeals court ruled that if that were the standard, no one could ever file for bankruptcy because their prospects could improve one day.

Still, there appears to be some political momentum for changing the standards. The Education Department in 2018 signaled it might tweak the hardship standard when it sought public comments on the threshold.

“That’s all well and good,” Rao said. But even with a new standard, he said borrowers would still need to go to court to prove they met the threshold. And those who are struggling with student debt and considering bankruptcy generally can't afford a lawyer.

Rao’s group instead told the department that loan holders should not be allowed to oppose bankruptcy discharges in certain cases, like when borrowers are receiving Social Security, have been declared unemployable by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or are caring for an elderly, chronically ill or disabled family member.

NCLC also supports a bipartisan bill proposed last May. The bill, which Warren co-sponsored, would remove current restrictions on student debt in bankruptcy and treat student loans like other types of consumer debt.

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 01/10/2020 - 01:00
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Chronicle of Higher Education: When Colleges Frown on Kids on Campus — or Even Ban Them

Academics take to social media to insist on the virtues of bringing their children to work.

Action needed to avert the crisis in UK language learning, report warns

The PIE News - Thu, 01/09/2020 - 12:53

A new Higher Education Policy Institute report has lambasted the UK’s current approach to learning foreign languages, revealing that just 32% of 16-to-30-year olds in the UK feel confident reading and writing in another language, compared to the rest of the EU’s 89% average.

According to the report, ‘A Languages Crisis?’  the UK total is less than half the level in the second-placed EU country Hungary (71%), and far behind France (79%), Germany (91%) and Denmark (99%).

However, the country is no stranger to being criticised for its lack of foreign language skills as studying a language at GCSE level has not been compulsory in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since 2004.

“Brexit means it is more urgent than ever that we re-evaluate our attitudes towards languages”

Author of the report and third-year classics undergraduate at the University of Oxford, Megan Bowler, described it as a big mistake to scrap compulsory foreign languages at GCSE.

“Rather than continuing to present languages as not suitable for everyone, we need to include a broader range of pupils learning through a variety of qualifications geared to different needs,” said Bowler.

“Given the shortage of language skills in the workforce, we should safeguard higher education language courses, particularly those involving less widely-taught languages, and prioritise extra-curricular language learning opportunities for students from all disciplines.”

The report also calls for more flexible study options, varied course content and an increase in teachers including listing all language teachers on the Home Office’s Shortage Occupation List, where currently only Mandarin Chinese tutors make the cut.

“The cultural and political implications of Brexit mean it is more urgent than ever that we re-evaluate our attitudes towards languages,” continued Bowler.

Commenting on the findings of the report, HEPI director Nick Hillman described the decision to make GCSE languages voluntary as probably the single most damaging education policy implemented in England so far this century”.

“The problems this has caused are now hitting university Languages Departments hard.

“Student numbers for French and German have almost halved since 2010 and, for Italian, they have fallen by around two-thirds,” he said.

Fewer than half of GCSE pupils now take a foreign language, compared to 76% in 2002, with notable socio-economic and regional divides that led the British Council to warn last year against a “growing socio-economic division in language teaching”.

Most state schools offer language courses in either one or a mix of French, German and Spanish. However, the variation between schools means that in some areas there is no guarantee that the language can be continued at A-Level when a student transfers from secondary school to sixth form.

By contrast, more and more private and independent schools are offering courses in Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and Russian.

The report was released the day after an announcement that British MPs had voted against a motion requiring officials to negotiate continuing full membership of the Erasmus+ program, which offers exchange opportunities abroad for students.

“The assumption that ‘the rest of the world speaks English’ hinders new international collaborations”

Those that voted against it include former education secretary Michael Gove, current education secretary Gavin Williamson and minister of state for universities Chris Skidmore.

Despite the failings of the education system, there remains a demand and desire among British citizens to learn foreign languages.

According to an article in 2019, more than half of UK adults wish they had kept up the foreign languages they learned in school and regret not making the most of studying languages when they had the chance, while 77% believe language skills increase employability.

The report concludes that if the UK is to thrive outside the EU, language skills cannot be ignored.

“The assumption that ‘the rest of the world speaks English’ hinders new international collaborations and overlooks cultural and cognitive enhancement developed by learning. Political developments mean change is more pressing… the UK must address educational declines.”

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Chronicle of Higher Education: Tufts Report on Sackler Giving Offers Cautionary Tale for Dealing With Controversial Donors

Seasoned fund raisers who have read the independent report say they are surprised that the university courted the Sacklers even as Purdue Pharma’s legal troubles mounted and it signed an agreement t

read more

A crude attempt to stifle what’s left of Venezuela’s democracy

Economist, North America - Thu, 01/09/2020 - 08:50

ON SUNDAY JANUARY 5TH Juan Guaidó found himself perched unsteadily atop the ornate wrought-iron railings outside Venezuela’s national assembly, being pushed back by the riot shields of the National Guard. Since Mr Guaidó is the speaker of the assembly and was due to be re-elected to the post that day, the image said everything about the assault on the last vestiges of Venezuela’s democracy by the regime of Nicolás Maduro, who rules as a dictator. It underlined that a year after Mr Guaidó proclaimed himself “interim president” of the country, on the grounds that Mr Maduro’s election for a second term was fraudulent, he has legitimacy but no power. And it suggested that Mr Maduro has no interest in negotiating a solution for Venezuela’s long agony.

In December 2015 the opposition triumphed in a legislative election, the last fair contest the country has seen. It won 112 of the 167 seats in the assembly, a two-thirds majority and thus enough to change the constitution and appoint new judicial and electoral authorities. Mr Maduro’s regime went into action. The puppet supreme court barred three opposition legislators from taking their seats. In 2017 the regime set up a parallel “constituent assembly” of loyalists, which rubber-stamps its actions. The courts have stripped 29 opposition parliamentarians of their immunity. Two are in jail....

Justin Trudeau’s less ambitious second term as Canada’s prime minister

Economist, North America - Thu, 01/09/2020 - 08:50

JUSTIN TRUDEAU returned from his Christmas break in Costa Rica with a new look. Canada’s prime minister has sprouted a salt-and-pepper stubble, making him look slightly less youthful. His makeover hints that he intends to govern differently in his second term, which began late last year. He has plenty of reasons to change his approach. The election on October 21st was a close shave. Mr Trudeau’s Liberal Party won 1m fewer votes than it had four years before and lost its majority in Parliament. He now leads a minority government dependent for support on other parties, especially the left-wing New Democrats (NDP) and the Bloc Québécois, which advocates independence for Quebec. The Liberals won no seats in the western prairie provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Mr Trudeau interprets this setback as a rebuff to his governing style rather than to his policies. He was a global cheerleader for every progressive cause, from welcoming refugees to expanding transgender rights. This grated on some voters. Ethical lapses, especially demoting the justice minister after she refused to help a big engineering firm avoid prosecution for bribery, compounded the damage.

Mr Trudeau’s first-term policies are easier to defend. They included legalising cannabis; a new child benefit, which cut poverty and lifted middle-class incomes; a...

Guatemala’s new president, Alejandro Giammattei, outlines his plans

Economist, North America - Thu, 01/09/2020 - 08:50

ALEJANDRO GIAMMATTEI, who will become Guatemala’s president on January 14th, did not have an easy ride to the top. The 63-year-old developed multiple sclerosis in his youth and walks with forearm crutches. His only previous government job was a brief stint a dozen years ago as head of the country’s prisons, which ended in his own incarceration. He spent ten months in jail during the investigation of the killing of seven inmates. Charges were dropped. He has a 20-year record of losing elections to be president and mayor of Guatemala City, the capital. This time, more popular rivals were disqualified.

The country he is about to lead is also bruised. Crime is high, corruption is unchecked and hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans a year seek better lives in the United States. Mr Giammattei’s answer, etched in English on a Guatemala-blue bracelet that he wears, is “hope”.

His predecessor, Jimmy Morales, failed to provide it. A former comedian and political outsider, he won the presidency in 2015 in a protest vote against corruption. But he sent home a UN-backed anti-graft agency, the International Commission against Impunity (CICIG), which had investigated allegations that he had violated campaign-finance laws (which he denies). After handing power to Mr Giammattei, Mr Morales will scurry across town for a same-day swearing-...

UK parliament votes down Erasmus+ clause

The PIE News - Thu, 01/09/2020 - 08:32

UK members of parliament voted against a clause which would have required the government to seek to negotiate continuing full membership of the EU’s Erasmus+ program.

News of the vote was met with ire online, however, the UK’s minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Chris Skidmore, said that the vote did “not end or prevent the UK participating in @EUErasmusPlus after leaving the EU”.

“Without continued access to the Erasmus+ program, 17,500 students a year could lose out”

“We remain open to participation and this will be part of future negotiations with the EU- we highly value international student exchanges,” Skidmore wrote on Twitter.

Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International, said the organisation was pleased that the Universities minister has confirmed that the government is still open to participation in the program, and that it will form part of future negotiations with the EU.

Last night’s vote- game playing by opposition parties- does not end or prevent the UK participating in @EUErasmusPlus after leaving the EU. We remain open to participation and this will be part of future negotiations with the EU- we highly value international student exchanges

— Chris Skidmore (@CSkidmoreUK) January 9, 2020

“Without continued access to the Erasmus+ program, 17,500 students a year could lose out on the opportunity to gain international experience. Because Erasmus+ placements are funded, the students who stand to lose the most are those who cannot afford to travel without financial support,” she added.

Incoming Erasmus+ students in 2017 generated £420 million in income for the UK, UUKi said.

“The government must commit to continued study abroad funding, either through full association to the Erasmus+ programme or through a national replacement scheme,” Stern noted.

“The public response to last night’s vote, and to UUKi’s #SupportStudyAbroad campaign, shows just how important the Erasmus+ program is to thousands across the country and we urge the government to consider this as it moves forward.”

Emma Meredith, international director at the Association of Colleges said that despite “understandable concern” it was “worth noting it’s not game over yet for UK participation in Erasmus+”.

Point 11 of the political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom notes that the parties will “establish general principles, terms and conditions” in EU programs including in areas such as science and innovation, youth, culture and education.

Non-EU member states that participate in the program currently include Norway, Turkey and Iceland, while it also has partner countries neighbouring the EU, as well as partners across other continents.

Talks on the possibility of the UK’s future involvement are expected to take place in March 2020.

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US: 65% of students from emerging markets look beyond political climate

The PIE News - Thu, 01/09/2020 - 06:26

The current US political climate has little effect on the interest of more than half (65%) of prospective students from emerging markets in Africa, Central America, and South America when considering the country for study abroad, a survey has found. However, students have raised concerns around visas and support services at US institutions.

Surveying 12,300 international students from emerging markets including Nigeria, Mexico and Brazil, the Intead/ FPP EDU Media ‘Know Your Neighborhood Emerging Markets Fall 2019’ report sought to understand the motivators, concerns, influencers, and areas of interest of prospective students.

Some 9% of respondents said they were “more interested in studying in the US” due to its current political climate, while one in four (25%) stating that they don’t like what they see happening in the country.

“There are Euro-American perspectives on the current administration’s rhetoric, and then there are others”

However, the US brand remains “strong, and students continue to apply and enrol”, the report read.

Speaking with The PIE News, Intead CEO Benjamin Waxman noted that there is “more acceptance of both the Trump administration and US violent crime reported in the news” by those students surveyed.

“After three years of the Trump administration, there just might be a level of recognition that, overall, the US and global systems of governance have withstood the initial shock and are for better or worse, continuing on,” he said.

Particularly in the case of some emerging markets, prospective international students may be more accepting of the current political climate in the US, Waxman indicated.

“There are Euro-American perspectives on the current administration’s rhetoric, and then there are others.

“In general, it appears that those who live in countries with higher rates of authoritarianism, corruption or crime may be taking the current US administration in stride more easily than others,” he explained.

While students noted safety concerns as influencing their study abroad decisions in earlier versions of the Intead report, there was more concern with being able to access visas in the latest findings.

US visa regulations have tightened in the past and then loosened again, Waxman said.

“The current administration is interpreting the rules in a much stricter way, and a larger percentage of student applications are being denied than in the past,” he told The PIE.

“That does not stop ambitious students from pursuing their dreams. However, it does stem the flow of international students in the near term.

“The economic and civic power of education can only be squelched for so long. The current visa scenario will change,” he added.

Given the US administration’s rhetoric and activity, it makes sense that students from countries such as Tunisia and Morocco have some of the highest concern for visa success.

Difficulty obtaining a visa was raised by 64% of Moroccan respondents and 62% of Tunisians, the report showed.

The survey also noted that despite students expressing less inclination for US studies in previous surveys, students “did not actually follow through” with what they said.

The 8% dip in Mexican students coming to the US between 2017 and 2018, although significant, was a “far cry” from the 80% of students who used the 2017 survey to voice their discontent.

Additionally, the report highlights the need for US institutions to be effective in their messaging to prospective students.

“Messaging is important [to students] and it must be presented creatively to stand out”

As well as staying on top of issues students are likely to care about such as immigration, work visa policies and currency exchange rates, it is essential for messaging to “acknowledge political realities”, as ignoring the political climate may be read as an agreement with certain attitudes.

“Messaging is important, and it must be presented creatively to stand out from all the others institutions seeking to do the same,” Waxman explained.

“There are many motivating factors that prompt prospective students to take the leap,” he said, adding that effective examples include Northeastern University’s response to the US Administration’s travel ban orders in 2017-2018.

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Ireland: European coding network opens campus

The PIE News - Thu, 01/09/2020 - 04:30

Major European coding institution, Wild Code School, has announced it is opening a school in the Irish capital Dublin with plans to expand to other parts of the country at a later stage.

Founded in France in 2014, Wild Code School operates campuses in 24 locations across Europe, all offering five-month coding bootcamps aimed at meeting skills gaps in the tech sector.

“In the wake of Brexit, I believe even more opportunities will open up in Ireland”

The company plans to eventually expand to Irish counties Cork and Galway and increase its student intake from 45 to 300 by 2025.

Speaking at the opening of the Dublin campus the organisation’s international founder, Anna Stépanoff, said the city was selected because of the ongoing growth in demand for skilled tech employees in Ireland.

“Ireland has been established for a number of years now as a hub for international tech companies, and that brings with it huge demand for workers with up-to-date tech skills,” she said.

“In the wake of Brexit, I believe even more opportunities will open up in Ireland for those with the skills that leading employers need.

“That’s why we’ve selected Dublin as the location for our newest Wild Code School campus, and why we have set ambitious targets for growth across Ireland in the coming years,” Stépanoff continued.

Since it was established in France, Wild Code School has trained over 2,000 developers across Europe.

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Chronicle of Higher Education: Can a Different Approach to Testing Help Students Remember What They Learn?

An accounting professor, who has long worried about how much students forget after taking an exam, trades midterms for weekly quizzes and additional homework.  

Proposed split of United Methodist Church over LGBT issues is welcomed by Methodist college leaders

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 01/09/2020 - 01:00

Leaders of Methodist colleges welcomed a recent proposal to split the United Methodist Church as a possible resolution to conflict over whether to remain affiliated with the church after it moved last year to strengthen prohibitions on the ordination of LGBT individuals and the performance of same-sex marriages.

The proposal to separate the church, announced on Friday, would allow for the spinoff of a “traditionalist Methodist” denomination while enabling a new U.S. regional conference of the UMC to repeal the LGBT-related prohibitions.

Methodist colleges and seminaries broadly oppose the restrictions on LGBT clergy and same-sex marriages. Three institutions, Baldwin Wallace University, Randolph College and the University of Mount Union, formally disaffiliated, describing the church’s stance on LGBTQ issues as incompatible with their own institutional values of inclusion and nondiscrimination.

If the separation protocol is approved at the church’s general conference in May, it will likely prevent other colleges from also disaffiliating from the UMC, Methodist college leaders said.

"There is widespread hope among Methodist college presidents that this proposed resolution will be adopted," said Rock Jones, president of Ohio Wesleyan University. Ohio Wesleyan previously requested a postponement of its decennial site visit by the church's University Senate -- a condition for continued affiliation -- "in hopes that a resolution would be achieved that would preserve the United Methodist Church as a fully inclusive institution and thus one that Ohio Wesleyan would wish to remain affiliated."

"This proposed resolution seems to do that," Jones said.

Jones added, however, "The anxiety that I hear is among presidents who are in regions of the country where the majority of Methodists would choose to not remain United Methodist but move away with the traditionalist denomination, and presidents of colleges in those regions are feeling an anxiety that the rest of us don’t feel as strongly."

Methodist college leaders have publicly spoken in a unified voice in calling for more inclusive policies within the church. The 93 college presidents in attendance for a meeting of the National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church (NASCUMC) in January 2019 unanimously issued a statement opposing the church’s adoption of new restrictions on LGBT+ clergy and same-sex marriage.

The leaders of the 13 theological schools also unanimously opposed the restrictions, which were approved by a vote of the church’s general conference last February.

“The presidents feel like the action of February 2019 put us in a situation of making a determination regarding affiliation with the church,” said Scott D. Miller, president of Virginia Wesleyan University and of NASCUMC. “The feeling was that the policies and the penalties that were associated with it really were a form of discrimination, and United Methodist higher education stands for inclusiveness and fair treatment of all.”

Miller said that in addition to the three institutions that disaffiliated, at least 12, including his own, put their relationship with the church on hold in hopes there would be an amicable resolution at this year’s general conference.

At their meeting on Jan. 4, 85 NASCUMC college presidents signed a statement endorsing the creation of a U.S. conference of the Methodist church, which is one aspect of the proposed separation protocol. Miller said this step would "bring renewed hope to our schools for a future United Methodist Church that supports the kind of open and inclusive environment that’s so vital for our campuses and the work that we do to shape principled leaders of the future."

“A lot of things can happen between January and May,” when the church's general conference meets, Miller said. “But we are very much encouraged and supportive of the protocol that came from the mediation.”

Miller noted, however, that if a separation is reached, the church that emerges will be smaller, and Methodist-affiliated colleges will likely receive less financial support from the church.

And while it's clear that Methodist higher education institutions, as a whole, support more inclusive church policies, Miller said about five Methodist-affiliated institutions may choose to depart the United Methodists and affiliate with the "traditionalist Methodist" denomination after its establishment.

“While the presidents of those institutions are strongly aligned with us on the NASCUMC statement and position, they understand that some of the characteristics of their own institutions may lead them to be with the new denomination,” Miller said.

It's unclear if some colleges that disaffiliated in protest of the church's stance on same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy may choose to affiliate with the United Methodists again in the future.

A spokesman for Baldwin Wallace, Shawn Smith Salamone, declined to comment on whether the university might choose to reaffiliate if the proposed separation becomes a reality. He noted the absence of a final decision.

"At the current time, we continue to believe that we can best support our values and the active faith lives of our community as an independent university," Salamone said.

W. Richard Merriman Jr., president of the University of Mount Union, which also disaffiliated, said it’s probably too early for the university’s Board of Trustees to consider reaffiliating with the United Methodists. However, he said a university committee on ministry and mission will recommend next week to the board that Mount Union rejoin NASCUMC, the Methodist college group. NASCUMC member presidents voted on Jan. 4 to open membership to colleges that are formally affiliated with the church as well as colleges that have been historically related to the church.

Meanwhile, Southern Methodist University, which in November amended its bylaws to make clear that its Board of Trustees, and not the church, is the university's sole governing authority -- the subject of an ongoing lawsuit -- said it would not revisit that action.

"The Board of Trustees’ action was taken to bring SMU into compliance with state law and our own policy of nondiscrimination," said Dianne Anderson, a spokeswoman. "SMU is committed to maintaining close connections with the church, including all branches of Wesleyan theology."

Presidents of two theological schools -- which train future United Methodist Church ministers -- praised the proposed separation plan as good for Methodist higher education.

"The younger generation will not want to continue to be involved in a church that continues to discriminate against the LGBQIA community," said the Reverend Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, the president of Claremont School of Theology. "This will allow for our seminaries to focus on our mission in training leaders regardless of human sexuality."

Lallene J. Rector, the president of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, said the institution's LGBT students "have been very anxious about whether they would have a place to serve as ordained persons in the church."

“I am so heartened by the prospect of getting this resolved in a way that is respectful and that leaves the United Methodist Church intact with a capacity to keep educating and being part of higher education without this horrible blanket of worry," she said. She added that the reputations of church-affiliated colleges have been hurt by the ban on gay marriage and ordination.

"With regard to the higher education institutions, in particular, I do think that if indeed this process plays itself out, such that the protocol winds up being adopted and implemented … that would likely stem most further action regarding disaffiliation by educational institutions," said Mark Hanshaw, associate general secretary for higher education at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, a UMC agency. He said specific details still need to be ironed out.

"The protocol provides some broad-brush guidance around the future structure of the denomination, and there will need to be a lot of work done to further define the details that flesh that structure out, so we will have to see how that plays out," Hanshaw said. "But I will say that the denomination has really been divided over the issue of human sexuality since 1972. That was the year in which exclusivist language related to LGBTQ individuals was inserted into the Book of Discipline.

"This issue has really been a point of contention within the denomination ever since, and it has taken a lot of energy out of the denomination, energy that could have been well spent in other places," Hanshaw said. "So I don’t think anyone is excited or happy about the prospect of seeing a portion of the community break away. However, I think on almost all fronts there is a desire to try to figure out how to move past this issue in a way that can allow individuals to continue to work together and to continue to support projects that have been important to the denomination, like educational accessibility."

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