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Chronicle of Higher Education: Big Donors to Colleges Increasingly Focus on Ways to Spur Social Mobility

Michael Bloomberg topped The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s just-released rankings of the donors who gave the most in 2019, in part because of his gift to aid students at the Johns Hopkins University,

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Coventry pioneer memorialised for global legacy

The PIE News - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 11:22

The pioneering work of Don Finlay, international dean of Coventry University’s business school, in helping to push Coventry into a leading position for global engagement will be commemorated at a memorial service for him in the university this Friday 14 February.

Finlay died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 63 on arrival in Chongqing to further develop the highly regarded partnership he established with South West University of Politics and Law.

Coventry University and the city council will pay their respects to his 30 years of commitment and recognise the lasting legacy he leaves. In a rare honour, an Illuminated Address signed by the Lord Mayor of the City on behalf of the Council leadership will be presented to his wife, Judy Finlay, who also works for the university.

Finlay was a leader in developing academic relationships in India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam along with France, Poland and Denmark but his greatest contribution was in China, where he helped set up a number of partnerships for Coventry.

A memorial service was held in Hangzhou in October, with members of the higher education from across Asia and some coming from as far afield as the US to pay respects.

Coventry’s vice chancellor John Latham spoke, as well as leaders of Chinese universities and other partners including the British Council, who remarked on his creativity and commitment, energy and enthusiasm, and kindness to young staff whom he mentored and supported.

Don Finlay

David Pilsbury, deputy vice chancellor international, commented, “Don’s legacy is not just based on achievement but also in the way he developed partnerships – his depth of understanding of the academic process, his innovativeness and his respect for the contribution of international partnerships all came together to establish a way of working that is now embedded in the university.”

Other achievements included the development of Coventry’s summer schools, outward mobility programmes, links with industry and the introduction of “international champions” in his faculty.

Judy Finlay, Don’s wife, said she had been overwhelmed by the outpouring of respect and support. “I do not think Don would believe it,” she told The PIE News.

Don originally met when Judy was an international student in the UK. As she put it, his drive and vision were what attracted her.

“Not many people would have the same vision, and the skills and tenacity to turn that vision into reality,” she told The PIE. She added that she felt compelled to “continue his work” in China as Coventry seeks to further deepen its already strong links in the country.

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Monash U to open Indonesian campus

The PIE News - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 10:07

Australia’s Monash University has announced it will establish the first overseas university campus in Indonesia – Monash Indonesia – following a 2019 agreement between Indonesia and Australia signalling offshore branch campuses to be given the go-ahead.

Monash Indonesia will be a postgraduate campus in the country’s capital Jakarta, offering masters, PhD degrees, executive programs and micro-credentials.

“The physical establishment serves as a symbol of Monash’s commitment to Indonesia”

“Monash has a long history of engagement in Indonesia and a desire to build deeper links with a thriving and innovative community with great ambitions for education and research,” said Margaret Gardner AC, president and vice-chancellor of Monash University.

The “research-intensive and industry engaged” campus will join Monash’s global network, with its branch campus in Malaysia, as well as partnered campuses in Suzhou with SouthEast University and Mumbai with Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.

“The opening of Monash Indonesia, the first Australian university based in Indonesia, will enable us to work in and with Indonesian people and their organisations to realise their future opportunities,” Gardner added.

“The physical establishment also serves as a symbol of Monash’s commitment to Indonesia and the wider Asian region, as well as stronger research and education links between Indonesia and Australia.”

Monash Indonesia represents a deepening of the bilateral relationship between Australia and Indonesia, according to the institution – a sentiment echoed by Indonesia’s minister for Education and Culture.

The institution would “help accelerate the strengthening of our education system and deepen the social, economic and technological links between Australia and Indonesia”, Indonesian education minister Nadiem Makarim said in a statement.

“This partnership will be the first out of many other partnerships to come,” he added.

In addition to the long-term education, research and industry collaboration benefits, it will facilitate the two-way flow of students and scholars, and innovative ideas and technology, according to the institution.

Short executive programs will begin on the campus later in 2020, while Monash plans to welcome the first intake of master’s students for quarter four 2021.

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Coronavirus: UK ELT schools fear losses due to missed bookings

The PIE News - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 05:15

UK-based ELT schools are bracing themselves for serious financial problems because of coronavirus, with providers already reporting lost business from both China and other countries around the world. 

The main concerns centre around timing issues with group bookings and nervous parents not wanting to send their children abroad. ELT schools have expressed concern that summer programs will be cancelled as a result. 

“Coronavirus could have a massive impact, not just through missed bookings from China or East Asia”

It is just one of the fallouts of the deadly virus that has killed as many as 1000 people in mainland China to date. 

During English UK’s Marketing Conference 2020, an ELT school executive told The PIE that ELT businesses will be seriously affected if the situation doesn’t improve by March. 

“I think the coronavirus could have a massive impact, not just through missed bookings from China or East Asia, where it seems to be developing, but also from markets that aren’t affected but that may well become affected. 

“There are lots of markets that are zero risk tolerant, Italy and Japan in particular. Groups are paying deposits over the next two months, for most people, some people go as late as May 1, and those groups will be struggling to recruit those students, the parents of those students will be hesitating to put down money.”

The executive said that if coronavirus is still top of the news agenda going into March, then companies will have to tighten their belts and exercise force majeure clauses with partners.  

The nervousness of parents in certain key markets like Italy has already had an effect on businesses like the Twin Group. Global Sales director at the Twin Group, Simon Baker, told The PIE that a group from Italy had decided not to come because of the virus. 

“The parents wanted them [students] to come to the UK but they decided that they were worried about coronavirus in general,” he said. 

“So we’ve had an Italian group decide not to come based on coronavirus. Which I was surprised at. The agent had a meeting with the school and the parents decided that they were just generally anxious.”

Lawrence Jackson, head of sales at International House London, said that a key point is if and how the Chinese holiday period is rescheduled. 

“So there is talk about a shift in the pattern of when it would be that Chinese schools would have their summer holidays.

“If the virus continues to grow and there is no immediate vaccine or solution, then the knock on effect could be that the dates of delivery are simply not compatible with the dates of travel.”

Jackson explained that if the situation is not contained by mid-March then the majority of the UK schools can look at having a huge drop off in terms of their summer business from China. 

“That might be in some cases a good 40% of some peoples’ businesses. Broadly speaking it’s a dominant part of the UK summer business at many schools. 

“This year could be a “white-wash” for a lot of UK providers if the situation does not improve very quickly.” 

The British Council has published a blog post on the likely scenarios facing UK higher education as a result of the coronavirus. 

Likely scenarios for UK HE in face of coronavirus. Photo: British Council

The best case scenario outlined by the British Council would involve normal business activity resuming by the end of February. 

This in turn would result in minimal near-term exchanges being disrupted, flights altered regionally as excess capacity spills onto alternate hubs, delays to UK applications and the cancellation of some summer programs. 

The worst case scenario (if normal business activity resumes by the end of August or later) would see “all activities disrupted with significant impact on mobility to the UK.” 

Fraser Deas, head of education services (China) at British Council, said during a talk at the English UK conference that the chances of the best case scenario are very low. 

“I think we can pretty confidently say that that is not going to be the case, which means there is going to be some disruptions. 

“We really thought that the baseline is the end of March, and to be honest if it gets to the end of March we will see a lot of cancellations for summer programs. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. 

“And obviously if it goes on to the end of April, May and even stretches out to the end of June, that will be a real challenge.”

Deas said that the British Council is advising ELT schools to trust and listen to their agents as much as possible. 

“It’s a very challenging and to be frank, distressing time in China, and whilst if it does mean losses (and course that’s challenging and stressful for you) I think the healthier you can keep your agent relations the better it will be in the long term.”

The post Coronavirus: UK ELT schools fear losses due to missed bookings appeared first on The PIE News.

AMBA: course fundamentals “must change”

The PIE News - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 03:13

More than three-quarters of global business school leaders believe the fundamentals of the MBA will change within the next five years, and more than two-thirds think the content could be improved, research from the Association of MBAs and Business Graduates Association has revealed.

The AMBA & BGA business school leaders survey, which polled 358 decision-makers at business schools across the world, showed that a quarter of survey participants do not think their campus is being run as efficiently as it could be.

“These findings demonstrate that… there is scope for improvement in MBA delivery”

As part of the survey, business school leaders were asked how likely or unlikely it is that the fundamentals of the MBA are likely to change within the next 10 years.

Some 77% said they think that it is likely, including two in five (40%) who think that it is ‘very likely’.

Two thirds (67%) agreed that the delivery or content of their MBA program could be improved, although more than half (53%) stated ‘tend to agree’, suggesting that most leaders recognise some scope for improvement.

Slightly more than half (54%) agreed that ‘my business school’s campus is being run as efficiently as it could be’. Conversely, a quarter (25%) disagreed.

‘These findings demonstrate that most leaders believe that MBA delivery methods are likely to evolve over time and that there is scope for improvement in MBA delivery,” said Research and Insight manager at AMBA & BGA, Will Dawes.

Leaders were also asked how important various pieces of technologies would be in running business schools in the next 10 years.

Big data is perceived to be the most important of these technologies, with 95% of business school leaders stating that it is important, followed by experiential learning (94%), digitalisation (93%) and AI (86%).

When asked about the introduction of automation almost half (47%) said their school is prepared, while the same proportion (47%) said they are not prepared.

When asked about some technologies, most leaders said that their institutions are not prepared to embrace the technology: three in five said that their school is unprepared for the introduction of augmented reality (63%) and virtual reality (60%).

Leaders in India said they are particularly confident that their schools are successful in delivering technological change, and were more likely to strongly agree that their business school has developed new and innovative ways of delivering programmes (63% versus 25% of leaders worldwide).

They are also more likely to agree that their business school is fully prepared for opportunities that the fourth industrial revolution will offer (63% vs. 35% overall).

Other regions where leaders are more likely to agree that their business school is fully prepared for opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution include China (71%) and Africa (50%).

“Some schools do not necessarily believe that they are as advanced in their journey to introduce new technology”

It is important to note that leaders from no single region held significantly negative perceptions of technology delivery, the research paper explained.

However, leaders from North America and the Caribbean and Europe (excluding the UK) are more likely to think that their business school is not doing well at ‘using new technology to deliver teaching and learning’ (50% and 37% respectively versus 32% overall.)

“These results are further evidence of mixed levels of confidence in whether MBA curricula meet the needs of the biggest tech employers,” said Dawes.

“Leaders are broadly optimistic about the future of the sector… [but] some schools do not necessarily believe that they are as advanced in their journey to introduce new technology into their institutions as they could be.

“Yet it is also clear that schools are gearing themselves up to introduce new technological concepts and see the opportunities that this presents,” he added.

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Trump budget would boost career education spending but cut funds for college aid, research programs

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 01:00

WASHINGTON -- President Trump on Monday called for a $5.6 billion, or 7.8 percent, cut in Department of Education funding and reductions for most core funders of academic research, but also proposed a nearly $900 million increase in career and technical education funding that U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called “perhaps the largest increase in CTE ever.”

In proposing education cuts, as he has every year of his presidency, Trump reproposed several ideas that have been rejected by Congress, including eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant programs, and giving campus financial aid administrators greater latitude to limit loan borrowing by individual students.

The proposal, however, did offer some new ideas, including capping graduate student and Parent PLUS loans.

However, the proposal is just that, a proposal, U.S. Education Department officials acknowledged during a briefing on the budget.

Congress each year has passed a budget spending far more than Trump proposed, including last year when Congress spent $72.7 billion on education, compared to the administration’s $64 billion proposal, said Jim Blew, the department’s assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development.

Democrats who control the House didn't seem inclined to go along with Trump's proposals. Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat who chairs the House education committee, said in a statement the proposal "makes college more expensive for students by eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and cutting vital sources of financial aid for students from low-income families."

In blasting the proposal, James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access & Success, noted the near certainty the proposal will not be approved by House Democrats, who are proposing to increase the size of the maximum Pell Grant and make community college free.

"Students can console themselves that this budget is here today, gone tomorrow," he said. "In fact, Congress is now considering substantial increases in student aid. The deep cuts proposed in this budget should be quickly forgotten."

According to an analysis by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, the administration would cut more than $2 billion next year in federal student financial support, mostly by bringing back proposals to eliminate programs like subsidized Stafford Loans, freeze the maximum Pell Grant for the next decade and cut $630 million from the federal work-study program.

Among the new ideas were two intended to set “sensible annual and lifetime loan limits for graduate and parent borrowers,” a budget document said. It would limit Parent PLUS loans for undergraduate students to $26,500. Dependent undergraduate students would be eligible to borrow an additional amount, up to $57,500, depending on the parents' eligibility for additional borrowing.

In 1992, Congress removed caps on lending, allowing parents to borrow up to the full cost of attendance after passing a minimum credit check. A report last April by the Urban Institute and New America found the loan program frequently issues debt to parents with little chance of successful repayment, and functions as a “no-strings-attached” revenue source for many colleges.

Graduate students, under the proposed budget, would also not be allowed to borrow more than $50,000 annually, or $100,000 in aggregate. The proposal would also consolidate graduate student borrowing under one loan program with the same terms as Graduate PLUS loans.

In addition, the budget proposal would make incarcerated prisoners eligible for Pell Grants. But Monique Ositelu, senior policy analyst for higher education at New America, said only prisoners due to be released within five years would be eligible. She said in a Twitter post that the five-year limit would disproportionately exclude younger men of color.

The Outlook for Science Research

The Trump administration, in budget documents, touted increases in some types of federally funded research, including an additional $830 million, or 70 percent, in National Science Foundation funding for artificial intelligence-related grants and interdisciplinary research institutes. But associations representing public and private research universities and medical colleges criticized proposed cuts in other research areas.

“The administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget request falls far short of the investment needed to secure the U.S.’s position as the world’s preeminent economic power,” Association of Public and Land-grant Universities president Peter McPherson said in a statement. “At a time when our global competitors are doubling down in investments in education and research, we can’t afford to fall behind,” he said.

The proposal would cut overall research funding to the NSF by 7 percent, 17 percent from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and 7 percent from the National Institutes of Health.

“While the president’s proposed FY21 budget prioritizes some areas of research -- such as artificial intelligence -- it also contains deep funding cuts and policy proposals that could harm America’s position as the world’s leader in research, science, and higher education,” echoed Association of American Universities president Mary Sue Coleman in a statement.

In proposing the increase in funding for technical and career education, the administration said in a budget document it would support a "commitment to preparing students to succeed in today’s competitive, rapidly changing economy, and answer the ever increasing needs of a booming economy." Touting it at the briefing, Scott Stump, the Education Department’s assistant secretary for career, technical and adult education, said CTE funds have only increased by an average of 1.6 percent annually over the past four decades.

Kermit Kaleba, managing director of policy at the National Skills Coalition, though, called the budget proposal “a mixed bag for our nation’s workforce.” The increase in CTE funding “will go a long way towards helping more students, including adult learners, get the skills and credentials they need to succeed in a 21st century economy,” Kaleba said in a statement. He also praised a proposal to expand Pell Grants to short-term programs.

But he criticized proposed cuts to food stamps and welfare funding, as well as the imposition of a work requirement to receive Medicaid.

Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate education committee, in a release, praised aspects of the budget proposal, including the increase in CTE funding.

But he called them "budget suggestions," and noted that “under the Constitution, it is Congress’s job to set spending priorities and pass appropriations bills.”

Advocates for the humanities and the arts were almost certainly finding relief in that constitutional power-sharing arrangement Monday. The administration's budget proposed giving the National Endowments of the Humanities and of the Arts just enough money ($33 million and $30 million, respectively) to begin winding the agencies down.

Congress has ignored those requests in recent years and actually gave the agencies increases last year.

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UC Santa Cruz grad assistants strike for living wage in tough rental market

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 01:00

Graduate student workers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, escalated their ongoing grade strike to a general strike Monday, saying they can’t afford to live where they’ve been recruited to work and study.

Hundreds of students gathered on campus throughout the day for rallies, talks and solidarity. Faculty members and undergraduates visited to offer support. Graduate students don’t know how long they’ll keep agitating, but they’re prepared for a fight.

“We organized for a local rent control measure that failed, and we’ve worked very hard to support the university, but now it’s time for the administration to work hard to support us,” said Yulia Gilichinskaya, a graduate assistant in film and digital media studies at Santa Cruz.

Graduate student instructors, readers and graders across the university system -- from inland Merced down to San Diego -- all get about $2,400, pre-tax, per month for nine months out of the year, based on their United Auto Workers-affiliated union contract. While the deal passed statewide last summer, Santa Cruz students voted down it down by 83 percent and have been looking for ways to address their specific cost-of-living concerns since. Now they are protesting for $1,400 more per month.

California is an expensive place to live in general, but Santa Cruz residents face one of the tightest, most expensive housing markets in the country. Many graduate students have a horror story about trying to find a place to rent and a worse one about trying to pay for what space they eventually find. 

To change that, Santa Cruz graduate assistants are now seeking a campus-based increase in pay -- what they call a cost-of-living adjustment. Their calculations suggest that the extra $1,400 would enable many of them to spend a relatively reasonable 30 percent of their pay on rent, instead of the 50 percent or more many spend now. 

“It’s my fourth year in Santa Cruz, and I’ve had to move four times -- this is the first time I feel safe in my housing situation,” said Gilichinskaya, 31. Prior experiences with older, live-in male landlords and other concerns forced her to seek out a more secure, quiet space. And now that she’s living alone, she can’t really afford it: she says 79 percent of her pay goes toward rent.

Jane Komori, a third-year Ph.D. student studying in the interdisciplinary history of consciousness program, said she shares a room with someone, in a house with three other roommates, for $600 per month. Utilities and other fixed expenses add up to another $150, she said, making her own squeeze of a situation barely affordable.

“And I have it really good compared to a lot of people on campus,” added Komori, 25.

Seeking to force Santa Cruz’s administration to discuss a COLA, graduate student instructors launched a grade strike in December, even though their UAW contracts have a no-strike clause. Some 12,000 undergraduate grades were withheld, and many of the assistants who withheld them received letters of reprimand this month. Those who went a step further and deleted their grades from the university network received student conduct summonses.

The statewide union has said it will assist graduate students who face disciplinary action. It also told the university that withholding grades is an employment-related issue, and that concerns should be addressed through the union, not as student conduct violations.

Yet as the statewide union offers its support, Santa Cruz’s administration says that its hands are tied due to the statewide contract.

“UC Santa Cruz is in no position and has no authority to separately change an already agreed-upon, system-wide labor contract with the UAW,” the university said in a statement. Graduate students “play an important role in the educational mission of UCSC and this escalation of their wildcat strike will only impact our undergraduate students further.”

Of the ongoing grade strike, in particular, the university said that it is “extremely disappointed some graduate students are planning to continue to withhold grades” and that such actions “can have a profound, and perhaps unexpected, impact on our undergraduate students, including loss of financial aid, ability to graduate, declare a major, or apply to other programs including graduate school.”

Gilichinskaya said she’s all too aware of the consequences of the strike, as her participation puts her own legal status as a student at risk. But students are fighting for survival.

While the university hasn’t responded to the COLA request, it announced two new graduate student programs in January. The first is guaranteed five-year funding at half-time appointments, at minimum, for all new and continuing teaching and research assistants in good standing. The second is a need-based annual housing supplement of $2,500 until more campus living space becomes available.

Graduate students say these responses are inadequate, however, as need-based supplements aren’t available to international students. It's also unclear to them as of now who will otherwise qualify for housing assistance. Santa Cruz says that only students with "sufficient need" will get help. It defines need as the gap between the cost of attendance and students' expected contribution, based on their federal financial aid applications.

Students also say that the university continues to frame the problem as one of mere supply, and that building more rentals won’t necessarily prevent students from getting priced out of the local market.

As for the university’s position that it cannot negotiate with students on one campus during an ongoing contract, students take a different view. Agreement letters can be added to current contracts, they say. Fellowships could be announced. There are ways to get creative.

“We don't have to reinvent the wheel,” Gilichinskaya said.

Komori suggested that going forward, the university could fund students based on the local rental market, mirroring the way some federal agencies compensate their employees.

Gilichinskaya said that if the university doesn’t do it that way, then everyone in the system needs to be paid a living wage based on the most expensive campuses -- not the most affordable.

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California pilot encourages students to give back to community

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 01:00

Eight universities in California are embarking on an experiment to help students pay for college through public service.

The Civic Action Fellowship, announced Monday, will award students up to $10,000 to put toward their college costs in exchange for one semester working with a local nonprofit or government office.

Students will tackle a range of regional and local community challenges, such as reducing homelessness. The challenges each institution will address will be selected by the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, and form part of a statewide initiative to encourage more citizens to give back to their communities.

Rather than making students work on weekends or over the summer, the public service commitment will take the place of classes for one semester. Staff members at each institution will work with local partners to ensure the student placements tie into the academic curriculum and are substantive.

The participating institutions are a mixture of public and private nonprofit universities. California Lutheran University, Dominican University of California and University of the Pacific are the independent institutions; California State University's campuses at Los Angeles and Stanislaus and San José State University and the University of California campuses at Berkeley and Merced are the public universities in the pilot.

California Volunteers, a California state agency, will lead coordination of the program and distribute $3.2 million to the eight institutions to cover administrative costs. An additional $677,000 in scholarship funds will be allocated to participating students following completion of their fellowship. The nearly $4 million in funding, a mixture of federal and state funds, will cover the pilot from March 2020 through June 30, 2021.

Representatives of institutions participating in the pilot, described as a “first-in-the-nation” program in a California Volunteers news release, said the program would help them to graduate students with real-world job experience and an engrained commitment to civic engagement. Approximately 250 students will participate in the program starting in fall 2020. The fellowship is supported by an AmeriCorps grant, and students will be required to sign up as AmeriCorps Fellows to participate.

“We hope this new partnership with universities will become a model for calling on young people to serve, while helping them pay for college,” said California chief service officer Josh Fryday in a statement.

The Civic Action Fellowship was inspired by a program at Dominican University called Reimagining Citizenship. In this scholarship program, students work with the government of the city of Novato over two sequential summers while earning credit toward Dominican’s minor in community action and social change.

Mary Marcy, Dominican's president, said Fryday -- then mayor of the city of Novato -- was instrumental in creating the Reimagining Citizenship program in 2018. The new Civic Action Fellowship will be modeled on Dominican’s program, but with some important changes. For example, students will no longer work over their summer vacation, as some need to work full-time during that period to make ends meet, said Marcy. Dominican will continue to offer its Reimagining Citizenship program in addition to the new Civic Action Fellowship, she said.

Each of the eight institutions participating in the fellowship already encourages students to give back to their community through public service, said Marcy. “I was really heartened by the number of campuses that said yes. Conceptually this makes a lot of sense. We have a natural cohort of institutions that already engage with their communities.”

Navigating the different governance structures in state government, community partners and public and private institutions of varying sizes makes the fellowship program “very complex” to organize, said Marcy. “But there’s a collegiality and interest shared by everyone involved to make it work,” she said.

Given the administrative challenges involved, it isn’t clear how much the fellowship can scale, acknowledged Marcy.

Dominican plans to start with 33 students this fall and see how things progress from there, she said. Both Marcy and Ana Bertha Gutiérrez, a senior director at Jobs for the Future, said Newsom would like to see the fellowship become truly statewide, with potentially thousands of students participating each year.

“It makes sense to connect these systems and create these pathways into state service,” said Gutiérrez. “California is seizing on upon the opportunity and the convening power of the current administration to try this out and set something up.”

While she fully supports the idea behind the fellowship, Gutiérrez said there are a “lot of institutional and administrative challenges that will come up. Higher education institutions aren’t designed to offer internships at scale. They aren’t used to partnering in this nuanced way. They’re going to have to adapt and change, and that is going to be where the real work is going to take place.” She added, “We know all these systems are connected and interdependent, but how do we get them to talk with each other?”

Participants hope the fellowship won’t just improve communication between universities and community partners, but also between participating institutions. Mojgan Behmand, associate vice president for academic affairs and dean of the Dominican Experience, said she anticipates that sharing results between institutions may be one of the more challenging aspects of the fellowship, but it will be essential to helping it scale.

“Aligning with each other, sharing best practices will be challenging but valuable. We want to connect students across institutions, share syllabi, use our planning grants to train each other and share what we are doing with our colleagues. It’s that alignment between different institutions that will be really valuable and make the initiative pervasive throughout the state. But it’s going to be hard to organize,” said Behmand.

At the institutional level, Behmand said Dominican is focused on creating meaningful work placements that benefit not only students, but also the institution’s community partners. “It has to be reciprocal,” she said.

Dominican has developed a two-semester academic sequence to prepare students for their fellowship. Fellows will take two courses in their first semester to learn how to identify community need and understand key theories in community engagement and social advocacy. In the second semester, fellows will complete 450 hours of on-site service for 10 units of credit. Dominican’s pilot will focus on three key areas: education, economic opportunity and healthy futures. Depending on where they are placed, students will provide services including health and nutrition education, financial literacy, and housing advocacy and support.

A spokeswoman for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that manages AmeriCorps, said the Civic Action Fellowship is an innovative use of AmeriCorps funding. “We don’t have anything that looks like this. The scale and scope are quite unique,” she said. Though AmeriCorps already works with higher education in many ways, there are opportunities for that bond to be strengthened, the spokeswoman said. “Connecting higher education and public service is a natural partnership. Programs like this have the potential to have a tremendous impact on students’ lives, their community and beyond.”

“The new Civic Action Fellowship is an encouraging step toward maximizing federal funding to help California students afford college and find meaningful employment upon graduation,” said Audrey Dow, senior vice president of the Campaign for College Opportunity. “Ensuring college affordability more broadly, however, requires a larger statewide strategy that ensures all high school students complete the FAFSA, take up federal work-study, when available, and of course, a redesign of our current Cal Grant program so that all low-income students can afford tuition and cost of living.”

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A Lutheran college in Portland will close after the spring 2020 semester

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 01:00

Concordia University in Portland, Ore., will close at the end of the spring 2020 semester, yet another in a string of private nonprofit colleges in the Portland area to close.

The private, nonprofit Lutheran institution's Board of Regents voted last Friday to cease operations at the 115-year-old institution, according to a Monday announcement.

Students who have not completed degree requirements will get "extensive information outlining pathways" at partnering institutions, said a section of the college's website devoted to information on the closure. Students' credits "may be considered for transfer" to another regionally accredited university, but accepting transfer credits is "always at the discretion of the receiving institution," the website said. Concordia is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The university is also working to create transition plans for faculty and staff in each department. It will work with the office of Oregon's attorney general as it closes to determine a plan for its assets.

A spokesperson for the university said the announcement was "certainly a surprise to many."

"The Board’s decision came after years of mounting financial challenges, and a challenging and changing educational landscape," the university said in a statement to Inside Higher Ed.

A statement from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod cited the "difficult environment confronting small private universities, not least religiously affiliated ones," as a reason for the closure.

"Colleges and universities nationwide continue to face challenges, even those whose contributions to their communities and the world are laudable," it said.

The university's strategic plan, called Vision 2024, stressed core themes of being Lutheran, rigor and creating servant leaders. It planned to "expand its physical campuses," "develop, expand and diversify strategic partnerships," and "ensure good stewardship of its resources."

Concordia follows in the footsteps of Marylhurst University and the Oregon College of Art and Craft, both small institutions in the Portland area that shut down within the last few years. Small religious colleges across the nation have been closing and consolidating at a steady clip as demographics change and students seeking affordability look elsewhere.

While enrollment over all has been up at Concordia since 2010, it peaked in 2014, according to federal data. And that growth was largely due to graduate students. Total undergraduate enrollment increased from 1,244 students in fall 2010 to 1,501 students in 2018. Graduate enrollment jumped from 870 in 2010 to 6,178 in 2014 before dropping back down to 3,841 in 2018. The current sticker price of tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates is about $31,000, up nearly 3 percent from last year.

Revenue was down. Concordia's 2018 annual report shows the university had about $113.2 million in revenue in 2018, down from $116.5 million in 2017. More than 80 percent of its revenue was coming from tuition and fees. Expenditures outpaced revenue in 2017 by about $8 million, then expenses came in just below revenue in 2018 due largely to nearly $12 million in expense cuts.

"The university’s current and projected enrollment and finances make it impossible to continue its educational mission," a university spokesperson said.

The six-year graduation rate for a bachelor's degree at Concordia was 47 percent for the cohort that started in fall 2012. Nationwide, the average six-year graduation was 60 percent for those who started in 2011.

Juliana Smith, an associate professor at the university and chair of the Executive Faculty Committee, Concordia's version of a Faculty Senate, deferred a request for comment to the university's spokeswoman.

The university employs 63 full-time and 172 part-time faculty members, according to federal data.

The university also ran into trouble with the federal government in 2015. The U.S. Department of Education alleged the university illegally outsourced some of its online programs to a private contractor, HotChalk Inc., according to The Oregonian. Online education led to Concordia becoming one of the nation's largest providers of education master's degrees. The university paid out a $1 million agreement to settle the claim while denying wrongdoing.

Monday's news comes after the university held its ninth annual Victor Atiyeh Leadership in Education Awards event last week, according to The Oregonian. It raised $355,000 for student scholarships for the 3toPhD program, a collaboration between the university, local public schools and health institutions to provide support for children from "the first three trimesters of life" to earning a Ph.D. -- from prenatal care services to early childhood education to college academics.

"At that point the Board had not voted to close the college, therefore it was business as usual," the university said in a statement when asked why the fundraiser was held. "The donations made through this event go to support scholarships for students in the 2019-2020 academic year and the 3toPhD program."

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 01:00
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Chronicle of Higher Education: Concordia U. at Portland Will Close at Semester’s End

The university was battered by fierce competition in the online-education market, its interim president said.

Family in US takes in student from Wuhan; global efforts made to quell wider anxiety

The PIE News - Mon, 02/10/2020 - 09:39

A heartwarming tale about a US host family which offered to take in a Chinese student from Wuhan as he underwent a period of self-isolation has been a welcome antidote to general concerns being documented in the industry about Chinese student anxiety in the wake of the coronavirus fallout.

Yidi arrived in the US at the end of January, just as authorities were realising the true global threat posed by the airborne virus.

He was a student enrolling with UTP High Schools and Beth Drake, chief operating officer at UTP, explained to The PIE News that she made the decision to restrict Yidi – along with Bo, his Chinese roommate – to a period of isolation before joining classes with the rest of their group.

“I had the uncomfortable phone call with the host to ask if she would consider hosting this student when he did come from Wuhan, and she would be technically living with him during an incubation period,” Drake explained.

“She embraced the challenge and has been exceptional.”

The students now have the all clear and have rejoined their group in classes at Saint Anthony’s, where 300 international students are within the school as part of their UTP program.

Drake acknowledged that UTP had worked with Saint Anthony’s and their student body of nearly 3,000 high schools students and their parents.

“We have worked in lockstep with our faculty and administrators to make sure our Chinese students feel welcome and safe,” she related. “Across the entire student body we have worked to inform as best as possible during this rapidly evolving situation.”

The story is set against a backdrop of growing concerns over Asian students fearing they may be victims of negative profiling on school campuses.

As concerns over the novel coronavirus continue to mount, education providers have implemented a range of contingency measures to help discourage such instances of racism and xenophobia.

His Asian Canadian friends had been told to move away or cover their mouths

In the UK, UKCISA’s chief executive, Anne Marie Graham, confirmed that there had been cases of abuse against Chinese students, with the organisation directing students to use their student advice phone line.

At Arizona State University, which counts more than 3,000 people from Chinese among its student body, ASU president Michael Crow told local media there are concerns about students feeling racially profiled as a result of “uninformed behaviour” after one confirmed case of the virus was confirmed there last month.

In Canada, a Chinese-Canadian student at the University of Toronto told the CBC his Asian Canadian friends had been told to move away or cover their mouths. “[It’s] this idea of ‘yellow peril,’ of this Chinese horde coming to destroy Western civilisation,” the student explained.

Universities Canada has asked its members to “remain mindful” that the risk of infection remains relatively low.

“Universities across the country are collaborating with public health agencies and communicating widely with students, staff and faculty to share the most up-to-date information and health advice… while remaining mindful that the risk associated with the virus remains low for Canada and Canadian travellers,” it said in a statement.

In Ireland, Douglas Proctor, director of UCD Global at University College Dublin, told The PIE that with 1,200 students in China via their TNE activity, there is “significant engagement” in the country and they had been working with government agencies and partners.

English UK reminded its member centres to focus on “goodwill” in its business dealings with Chinese study travel businesses

“We are alert but not alarmed, and putting in all of the necessary contingency plans” he said, adding that with no travel ban currently in place in Ireland, or a start to a new academic year, there have not been the same dimensions to contend with as in other countries.

Referencing reports from other countries of Chinese students feeling anxious about being targeted because of their nationality, he said the situation was more muted in Ireland. “We have not needed to remind the UCD community about tolerance and inclusion,” he said.

In the UK, English UK also reminded its member centres to focus on “goodwill” in its business dealings with Chinese study travel businesses, as cancellations would be inevitable as the travel ban in China continued.

A Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group meeting on the coronavirus situation was held, during which traveller-facing organisations have been urged to refund cancelled Chinese trips if possible.

Huan Japes, English UK’s membership director, who attended the TIER meeting, said: “We have a very strong message that while small businesses such as language schools may have certain sunk costs which make refunds more difficult, everyone is strongly encouraged to start by offering credit and moving to a refund if necessary.

“It’s important for the members of all tourism associations, including English UK, show compassion, goodwill and understanding and consider everyone’s long-term as well as short-term interests. We should all remember that Chinese business is relationship-based and it has taken a long time and a great deal of hard work to get us to this point.”

He said it was particularly important for English UK members choosing to cancel booked Chinese students to explain the reasoning clearly and with sensitivity and provide a refund.

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ICEF Secondary Education event a “success”

The PIE News - Mon, 02/10/2020 - 07:41

The first annual ICEF Secondary Education event which took place from January 20 to 22 has been described as an “overwhelming success” by those in attendance.

Directed at international providers and student recruitment agents of secondary, boarding, high school, academic summer camp, foundation and junior programs, the inaugural event welcomed 417 participants from 313 organisations to Long Beach, California.

“It was great to have a high school agent-focused event for my sector”

Markus Badde, CEO of ICEF, explained that due to the demand for foreign higher education qualifications, the market for secondary studies abroad has grown steadily over the past decade.

“Most major study destinations continue to report strong growth in enrolment for foreign diploma-seeking students,” Badde noted.

“A number of our secondary education customers – providers as well as secondary focused agents – have been asking us for quite some time now to organise a specific ICEF event catering to this market.”

The seminar program included sessions on the emotional wellbeing of international students and a panel discussion comparing secondary education systems across the world, as well as the education markets in Canada and New Zealand.

The event also facilitated over 4,000 one-to-one business meetings, as well as ample networking opportunities and a formal dinner.

“I really liked the length of the one-to-one meetings, [and] there was time to have a good chat and make notes to follow-up,” commented Rachel Fenton of Auckland Grammar School.

“It was great to have a high school agent-focused event for my sector, lots of new opportunities to explore further.”

Commenting on his experience, Evan Barnhart of Redwood Christian Middle School & High School in San Francisco said: “Apparently this was a first-time event for ICEF, but you would never have known it.

“Quality agents, combined with an excellent venue, creates an opportunity for growth.”

In subsequent years, the event will be held around the world to showcase different regions and secondary education destinations, with the 2021 event scheduled for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The post ICEF Secondary Education event a “success” appeared first on The PIE News.

Erasmus+ “10m participants and counting”

The PIE News - Mon, 02/10/2020 - 04:21

Over the last three decades, more than 10 million people have participated in a potentially life-changing Erasmus+ experience, with some 470,000 students, trainees and staff spending a period abroad during the 2017/2018 academic year alone, a new European Commission report has revealed.

The Erasmus+ Annual Report 2018, which covers the fifth year of the European Union’s flagship Erasmus+ program, highlighted “yet another record year” in 2018, with a budget of €2.8 billion marking a 10% funding increase compared to 2017.

“[Erasmus+] is one of the EU’s most tangible achievements”

According to the report, in 2018 Erasmus+ funded more than 23,500 projects and overall, it supported the mobility of over 850,000 students, apprentices, teachers, and youth workers.

“Nearly 10% of the 470,000 students, trainees, and staff in higher education who received a grant during the 2017/2018 academic year, travelled to and from partner countries across the world,” the report read.

In addition to university students and staff, Erasmus+ “supported 40,000 teachers and school staff, 148,000 vocational education and training learners, 8,400 adult education staff, and 155,000 young people and youth workers”.

The report also noted that work on the digitalisation of administrative processes associated with Erasmus+, in particular regarding higher education, also continued throughout 2018.

The Erasmus+ Mobile App  – described as a “digital one-stop-shop for students” – provides a range of services that eased student’s periods of mobility, such as allowing them to sign learning agreements online and access Erasmus+ Online Linguistic Support, an online language course in 24 EU languages.

“Students and other Erasmus+ participants have downloaded and installed the Erasmus+ mobile app more than 73,000 times since its launch in mid-2017,” the report explained.

“More than 530,000 people have benefitted from online language training since 2014, among them almost 8,000 newly arrived refugees.”

In May 2018, the Commission presented its proposal for an ambitious new Erasmus program, seeking to double the budget to €30 billion in the EU’s next long-term budget for the period 2021-2027.

Speaking at the opening of a stakeholder event on the new Erasmus+ program, commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, said it has become “a gateway to Europe and to the world” for younger generations.

It is “one of the EU’s most tangible achievements: uniting people across the continent, creating a sense of belonging and solidarity, raising qualifications, and improving the prospects of participants,” Gabriel added.

In terms of participating countries, France was the top sending country of higher education students in 2017/18 with 47,811, followed by Germany (42,398), Spain (40,226), Italy (38,682) and Turkey (17, 957) rounding out the top five.

However, Spain was the most popular receiving country with 51,321 higher education students in 2017/18, followed by Germany (34,539), the UK (31,877), France (29,833) and Italy (27,945).

Despite the popularity of the UK as an Erasmus+ destination – and the number six HE student sending country in 2017/18 – the country’s future participation in the program was called into question earlier this month when members of the UK parliament voted against a clause that would have required the government to seek to negotiate continuing full membership of the program.

But while prime minister Boris Johnson has downplayed fears, stating that “there is no threat to the Erasmus scheme”, the University Council of Modern Languages has highlighted that some UK universities have made financial guarantees to reassure worried students and European partners.

“The students who stand to lose the most are those who cannot afford to travel without financial support”

According to a report by The Guardian, Newcastle University has earmarked £1.4 million to underwrite Erasmus+ exchanges for the 400 students who will study abroad during the 2020/21 academic year, and said it will continue to receive European students in that year regardless of what happens politically.

Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK said that 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.

The post Erasmus+ “10m participants and counting” appeared first on The PIE News.

US SEVP data shows slight int’l student decrease in 2018

The PIE News - Mon, 02/10/2020 - 03:27

The latest US Student and Exchange Visitor Program data has revealed that despite a slight decline in the number of visa-holding international students in 2018, the total number of records for active students in the country was more than 1.5 million, with 75% “calling Asia home”.

According to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, in 2018 international students on F-1 or M-1 visas for both academic and vocational studies hailed from 232 countries and pursued 1,347 different primary majors in the US.

However, overall student records were down 1.7% in 2018, reaching a total of 1,551,373.

“Only the continents of South America and Australia/Pacific Islands saw growth in the student population”

The data, released in a report and via an interactive map, showed Asia remained the top continent of origin for international students with 75% (1,165,483) of the total in 2018 but marked a 1.9% decrease on 2017 figures.

SEVIS data showed that China (478,732), India (251,290) and South Korea (88,867) sent the largest number of students in both 2017 and 2018.

Of these countries, only the number of students from India increased from 2017 to 2018 (4,157), while the number of students from China (-147) and South Korea (-6,403) decreased over the same period.

Rounding out the top five sending countries were Saudi Arabia and Japan, both of which sent fewer students (-10,879 and -2,138 respectively) in 2018.

While Europe was the second most popular continent of origin with 129,407 records in total, like Asia, it saw a decrease in the number of students studying in the US (-3,474 on 2017 figures).

However, there was fluctuation across different European countries, with enrolments from Germany (-600), Sweden (-536) and the UK (-461) declining, while numbers from Spain (141), Greece (83) and Albania (116) increased.

North America saw the largest proportional decline in the number of student records in 2018, decreasing by 2,736 from 2017 to 2018, resulting in 90,249 students studying in the US in 2018.

Africa also saw a drop in student numbers (-110), marking a total of 67,731 students in 2018.

“Only the continents of South America and Australia/Pacific Islands saw growth in the student population, increasing by 2,703 (3.2%) and 102 (1%) records respectively,” noted a report on the data.

The number of students coming into the US from South America reached 88,338, with “growth from Brazil (3,927), Peru (211), Colombia (154) and Chile (142) helped to counterbalance the decrease in enrolment from Venezuela (- 1,977)” according to the report.

Meanwhile, there were 10,008 active student records from the Australia/Pacific Islands, with 96% of these enrolments hailing from Australia (7,257) and New Zealand (2,324).

SEVIS noted that the majority (85%) of international students on F-1 or M-1 visas pursued higher education degree programs in 2018, equating to about 1.3 million records, which is on par with 2017 numbers.

A total of 145,564 students that reported working via optional practical training in 2018 (a 5% decrease on 2017) and 69,650 in STEM OPT (up 8%), while 151,525 (up 14%) were engaged in Curricular Practical Training as part of their studies.

Overall, California hosted 302,073 students – the largest percentage (19.5%) of any US state.

New York, Texas and Massachusetts each hosted more than 100,000 students and rounded out the top states for enrolment in 2018.

Assistant dean, International Strategy and Programs at San Diego State University World Campus, Eddie West told The PIE News that the state’s proximity to Asia is one of the key reasons that California remains one of the most attractive international student destinations in the US.

“The data shows that the vast majority of international students in the States are from Asia, and from cost of flights and time to travel-perspectives, the West Coast is appealing to students in the Pacific Rim,” he said.

“Also, California is home to big immigrant populations from Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and India – and so there are many family and friend connections here in the Golden State that serve as natural pull factors.”

West told The PIE that the sheer number of multi-cultural and inclusive communities in California are a big draw for international students the world over.

“San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego are known to be open, inclusive and diverse places”

“It’s an unfortunate reality that with the political climate in the States being what it is many international students and parents are rightly concerned about their safety and whether they might be the targets of anti-immigrant sentiment while here,” he noted.

“San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego are known to be open, inclusive and diverse places, and I don’t think we should underestimate the importance of that today.”

With regards K-12 programs of study, SEVIS revealed that 84,840 students were enrolled, with about 92% in secondary school programs (grades 9-12).

China sent more K-12 students (42,122) than any other country – comprising about half of the K-12 international student population in 2018 – with South Korea, Vietnam, Mexico and Brazil rounding out the top five.

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East Carolina trustees reprimanded over student election meddling

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 02/10/2020 - 01:00

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors voted on Friday to censure a trustee of East Carolina University, one of its constituent institutions. Another trustee resigned.

The two men in question, Phil Lewis, who resigned, and Robert Moore, who was censured, were both accused of meddling in student government elections at ECU by offering campaign contributions to a former student government president if she ran again and agreed to support them. The student government president is a member of the ECU Board of Trustees. Their goal was to shift the board's leadership.

Censuring Moore was the strongest action the Board of Governors could take, as he was appointed as an ECU trustee by the state Legislature and could not be removed by the Board of Governors. The news was first reported by North Carolina paper The News & Observer.

Chair of the Board of Governors Randy Ramsey expressed disappointment at the events. “Personally, if I could remove the entire board today, I probably would,” he said at a meeting Friday, The News & Observer reported. “This has got to end.”

Moore said at the meeting that he and Lewis acted with good intentions. Meeting with student candidates is the norm, he said, especially when there's a divided board.

Jeff Popke, a professor of geography and chair of the faculty at ECU, said that the actions of the trustees and the recent commentary around the university -- with one editorial calling the college “a great embarrassment” -- have taken an enormous toll on university morale.

“It is difficult to overstate the level of outrage that was expressed on our campus, and there is a clear sense among faculty that their behavior not only violated UNC System policy, but also runs counter to the values of our community and the minimal expectations for responsible and ethical Board conduct,” Popke said via email.

He said that the governing boards should focus on fiduciary oversight and long-term strategy rather than political agendas and micromanagement.

“Our faculty have lost confidence in the ability of our governing boards to play a constructive role in support of our work and ECU’s mission,” Popke said via email. “This begins with the Board of Governors, which under the current Republican legislature has become increasingly partisan and meddlesome, and has in turn tended to appoint trustees cut from the same cloth.”

The scandal follows a string of high-profile incidents in the UNC system. The system’s Board of Governors has shown itself willing to be political and clash with administrators. Early last year, Carol Folt, chancellor of UNC at Chapel Hill, had her resignation accelerated by the board when she announced she would be taking down the remnants of Silent Sam, a Confederate soldier monument abhorred by outspoken students. Margaret Spellings, former U.S. secretary of education and president of the UNC system, left office that same month. Cecil Staton, then-chancellor of ECU, announced last March he was departing in a resignation he "did not initiate."

Many have called for the Board of Governors, which has some hand in electing trustees for the constituent institutions, to reform its practices and be less influenced by state politics. The North Carolina General Assembly appoints all governors to the board, a practice some have said must change.

Erskine Bowles, former president of the UNC system and White House chief of staff under President Clinton, and Richard Vinroot, Republican former mayor of Charlotte, together wrote an opinion piece in The News & Observer decrying the process and calling for reform.

“There seems to be a feeling now among some in the General Assembly and on the UNC Board of Governors that the Chapel Hill campus in particular, and the UNC ‘system’ in general, are infected with a liberal bias and that university leaders and students, for that matter, need to be ‘taught a lesson’ with more heavy-handed oversight,” Bowles and Vinroot wrote. “Republican lawmakers have named conservatives of their own party to the Board of Governors and changed the governance rules to diminish any appointive authority in the governor’s office. This type of action risks turning the Board of Governors into a purely political organization doing the bidding of our legislative leaders.”

A campaign website, Reform UNC System Governance, currently lists 1,767 supporters.

Popke said he agreed the system needs to change. “Faculty and students across the system have a right to expect that their governors and trustees will be selected based upon their qualifications and not their political fealty, their potential contributions rather than their campaign contributions,” he said via email. “We deserve better.”

David Powers, chair of the governing committee within the Board of Governors, said that the next meeting would include a review of board policy on self-governance, including discipline of board members.

“The committee plans to begin reviewing the board’s policy on sanctions of Board of Trustee members, including procedures for how to request actions be taken by the board,” Powers said in a statement. “I will also form a working group, in consultation with Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey, composed of student body presidents, chancellors and members of Board of Trustees and Board of Governors to review student election procedures and ensure adequate anti-tampering procedures are in place.”

"While our policy allows for a petition to the BOG to remove a campus trustee that the BOG appoints," Powers said via email, "the procedure for such actions is vague. Furthermore, the only disciplinary measure outlined in the current policy is removal and does not explicitly describe other available alternatives such as reprimand or censure."

Powers said examining student elections is important to prevent any inappropriate interference. Student presidents are voting members of their respective institutions' boards.

Lewis, the trustee who resigned, had complained that due process had not been upheld before his meeting with the Board of Governors. The ECU board chairman originally asked the two men to resign. When they didn't, he filed a complaint with the governors.

David Green, a professor of law at North Carolina Central University and chair of the UNC system Faculty Assembly, said he was pleased with Powers's leadership.

"Powers has regularly shown a commitment to the principles of shared governance and inclusiveness in decision making,” Green said via email. “Moreover, I was pleased that in forming a working group regarding student election procedures, he is including student leaders, chancellors, members of Board of Trustees and Board of Governors.” Powers has also reached out to the system faculty assembly for discussion, Green said.

UNC’s reputation, many have said, will depend on this reform.

“It should not be too much to ask that our board members be individuals of high character who will put the interests of the institutions that they serve above and beyond personal or political agendas. But in recent years, we at ECU have not always seen this,” Popke said via email.

“The resulting governance dysfunction is, I am afraid, doing lasting damage to the UNC System and its constituent institutions.”

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Faculty members at Lee College object to new, one-year contracts

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 02/10/2020 - 01:00

Faculty members at Lee College, outside Houston, don’t have tenure. But longer-serving faculty members did have the job security that came with renewable three-year contracts.

No more. Last summer, when many instructors were away from campus, the community college’s then-president, Dennis Brown, notified instructors via email that the Board of Regents would be considering moving to one-year faculty contracts at its next meeting. The note came just one month before the vote. Also proposed was a move to eliminate academic division faculty chairs and replace them with associate deans.

Faculty members universally opposed a move to one-year contracts. They mobilized to fight that proposal, contacting individual board members and organizing who would speak on which of their arguments in favor of three-year contracts at the meeting.

It was a losing battle. At that August board gathering, members voted unanimously for single-year appointments. Most members also voted in a favor of budgeting for a reorganization of division chairs into a system of deanships -- presumably a consolidated one.

How and if that restructuring would happen was left up to the college’s incoming president. The proposals’ exact origins remain something of a mystery to faculty members, who say that they’ve heard different rationales at different times by different regents and administrators. But Brown pushed both proposals forward just as he planned to retire.

Instructors at Lee now hope that the arrival of President Lynda Villanueva this term will bring a return to the kind of shared governance they say they once enjoyed. Even so, the change to one-year contracts is a done deal, and one that faculty members say has already weakened their morale.

“I’m not afraid to speak openly about anything that’s happened to me at this college, and primarily I’m very proud that we’ve had shared governance for the majority of the time I’ve been here,” said Jerry Hamby, an English professor who is retiring this year after 31 years at Lee. “But that has changed dramatically over the past six or seven years,” during Brown’s tenure.

Hamby said the move to one-year contracts didn’t influence his decision to retire. Yet the timing is good for him -- just not his colleagues, who will be moving to one-year contracts as soon as their current three-year terms expire.

“I think it’s a travesty. I think it’s a terrible thing to do a faculty member,” Hamby said. “My contribution to the college isn’t valued as much as it once was -- that’s what this says to me.”

The American Association of University Professors would probably agree. The group says that faculty members who have served the length of a typical tenure probationary period merit the due process protections of tenure, even if they don't have technically have it. Administrators at Lee note that faculty members there have the right to appeal contract non-renewals. But the professors say that one-year contracts make it that much easier to get rid of an unpopular or outspoken instructors for any alleged policy violation.

Were he younger and staying on at Lee, Hamby said, “I’d pick up and move, or consider it.” He’s done it before: Hamby began a career at Lamar University on one-year contracts, but says he moved to Lee instead, as it provided some sense of employment security.

Citing a common argument against tenure and continuing contracts -- that they don’t exist outside academe -- Hamby said the “business community doesn’t have to deal with academic freedom issues.” Academic freedom is misunderstood, he said, but it's simply “the freedom to teach your content in good faith and not have to be scared of petty reprisal. But with one-year contracts, that safety net is gone.”

Lee says that it’s simply aligning its own policies with many of its peers. At the August board meeting, Brown cited an internal study of 50 state colleges and community college districts. According to that study, 38 have one-year contracts. Four have two-year contracts, seven have three-year contracts and one college has no contracts. Tenure is possible at 11 of the 50 institutions. 

Brown assured faculty members that the change had nothing to do with the college’s past financial crisis, which resulted in it having to take out a $4.8 million loan from a local bank in 2017 to temporarily cover regular expenses, including payroll. As of August, Brown said then, the college was in the strongest financial position he’d seen it in, with steady enrollment and cash reserves at $14 million and growing.

Mark Hall, board chair, said in an interview that flat enrollment amounts to good news in oil country in a strong economy, as student numbers tend to rise and fall inversely with available -- and high-paying -- jobs. Enrollment hovers under 8,000 students.

“I know a kid, well, a 23-year-old, who dropped out of school in seventh grade, and I can’t get him to get a G.E.D. because he’s working on pipeline construction for $100,000 a year,” Hall said. “That’s the reality here."

Hall said that the board voted as it did primarily based on the study of other colleges. Echoing Brown’s comments at the August meeting, Hall also said that administrators recently moved to one-year contracts, and that faculty contracts are now aligned. The president's contract is still for three years, however.

Another faculty member who did not want to be named, citing fear of retaliation -- especially now that contracts last just a year -- said that multiyear contracts and even tenure remain at peer institutions, just not the majority. So the change feels like “More of a way to say, ‘Shut your mouth’” than anything else.

Hall said there’s “always a tension between what you offer faculty and trying to stay financially prudent, and we’ve always tried to say within the top 10 in terms of pay at Lee College.” Faculty members have never been laid off, either, he said, and there is no plan to eliminate positions now. Yet the new contract system provides the college more “flexibility” to respond to various changes. As an example, he cited the possibility of having to carry faculty members through three-year contracts in the event of a closure for a catastrophic hurricane.

Weather events are a very real threat on the Gulf Coast. Asked whether the college could declare financial exigency in such an event, or whether it had any other protections, Hall said he didn't know.

Hamby said the proposal to eliminate division chairs is just as controversial as one-year contracts, in that chairs, unlike deans, are faculty members. Chairs supervise their colleagues to some degree, but they are disciplinary peers who understand the work their fellow instructors do, he said. By contrast, deans serve at the will of the administration.

“If that person [a chair] is not there, in my mind, faculty have no advocate and no voice, and are totally at the whim of administrators."

Veronique Tran, vice president of instruction, and two deans also opposed moving forward with the restructuring plan immediately, according to a letter obtained by faculty members through an open records request. The August letter from Tran to Brown said that faculty and staff members and administrators “have not had the opportunity to provide input,” that national searches for qualified associate deans would take time, and that the change could result in negative publicity for the college.

Tran said that if division chairs are eliminated, then the “burden of managing all departments falls on the two deans while the associate dean search is ongoing.” She also expressed concern about adequate program coordination as required by the college’s regional accreditor, and so proposed the inclusion of program coordinators where appropriate in any plan.

Hamby has served on Lee’s representative Faculty Assembly in some form for most of his time at the college. The campus president is a full member of that body, which has made for a strong tradition of communication and shared governance, he said. And while there were no major confrontations between the faculty and Brown, Brown’s leadership style was guarded.

In particular, Hamby and other instructors said, assembly members were concerned as to how the college fell into the recent financial crisis.

“Personally, I never found that satisfactory answers were given,” Hamby said. Brown could not immediately be reached for comment. The college has since adopted a financial plan with multiple layers of budgetary oversight. 

Villanueva, Lee’s new president, said that the college has “no plans to eliminate faculty chairs.”

“The board determined, prior to my tenure, to provide the fiscal resources to determine the most appropriate organizational structure to achieve our mission,” she said. “To that extent, I am working with the Faculty Assembly president to design new pathways that provide the best-quality education to our students and the community we serve.”

As for the current financial state of the college, Villanueva said that it now has $34 million in unrestricted cash and that an audit recently gave it the highest rating of “unqualified opinion.”

Karen Guthmiller, an instructor of kinesiology and Faculty Assembly president, said she'd asked the board to delay any changes until the arrival of a new president. As for the other proposal, which the board did leave up the new president, she said, “We have no plans to eliminate faculty chairs."

“Our new president supports faculty chair positions” and “made it clear that they are integral to a college’s ability to respond to the needs of its students,” she said in an email. “Dr. Villanueva has repeatedly stated this in her presidential interview, college convocation and our faculty meetings, and I believe her.”

Guthmiller added, “She has consistently stated she will work with the college community to find ways to better support student learning, which will include faculty chairs, and so far her actions have unequivocally shown her to be a person of her word.”

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Rural Minnesota community colleges plan to merge

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 02/10/2020 - 01:00

Five small community colleges in Minnesota plan to merge by 2022 as higher education in the state over all suffers enrollment declines.

The Northeast Higher Education District, which includes Hibbing Community College, Itasca Community College, Mesabi Range College, Rainy River Community College and Vermilion Community College, already shares a president, business services, summer academic programming and more.

While rural community colleges nationally are struggling with enrollment, one advocate says the plan in Minnesota is unique for rural institutions and could be a good model for others to follow suit.

Uniting the colleges under a single accreditation will be the largest change under the merger, according to Mike Raich, interim president of the district and a former dean and provost. Budgets, academic programming and enrollment management systems will also be shared, but sports teams will stay independent.

"The process has been evolutionary," Raich said.

The decision comes as the system tries to right itself against falling enrollments.

Over all, the Minnesota state system has lost about 20 percent of its enrollment over the past decade, according to Bill Maki, interim vice chancellor for finance and facilities at the system. While officials work to improve recruitment and retention, the system's persistence rate has been relatively flat over the past decade.

The majority -- 28 -- of the 37 institutions in the system also showed operating losses last year, but Maki said that is just one measurement, which happens to include noncash items like depreciation of facilities.

Measured on a cash basis, the system is "very stable," he said.

At the Northeast Higher Education District, the enrollment drop has been more precipitous, with a decline in full-time-equivalent students of about 35 percent since 2011.

The main reasons for the decline are the district's rural locations and its demographics, the strong economy, and the low unemployment rate, Maki said.

"It’s tight for our rural schools," said Randy Smith, president of the Rural Community College Alliance. "When we take a chart and list the issues that rural colleges face, financial challenges are always going to be No. 1, and enrollment management is always going to be No. 2."

Smith believes the merger will help the district financially. The district has already successfully balanced sharing services while maintaining the individual institutions' identities, he said, so this could also serve as a good model for other colleges facing similar challenges.

The single accreditation will make the Northeast Higher Education District more efficient, Raich said. While it's doing well financially on a cash basis, he said the enrollment loss has been challenging.

After merging accreditation, staff will have single databases to look at student records, bills and personnel lists, as opposed to having to toggle between five databases. Raich didn't say that the district is planning staff cuts, but rather that it wants to be more efficient with the staff it already has. He added that staffing levels will depend on enrollment, and the district would utilize attrition and retirements rather than layoffs if cuts were necessary.

It will also be easier for students to transfer within the district, and the colleges will no longer be competing with each other for students.

The plan to merge started at the grassroots level, according to Maki, who was previously president of the district. While enrollment and finances played a role, the district also wanted to make the experience easier for students and create closer relationships with employers and the K-12 systems.

"Having five separate accreditations created many internal barriers to move between institutions, so by merging, many of those barriers will be removed," he said.

As far as opposition, Raich said there was "not as much as I would've expected."

While there is concern about maintaining local pride, he said having the district work together through the changes has helped bring people around to the idea of a merger.

"We’ve really come to the realization that we’re talking about a vision for our future," he said. "A vision that we’re stronger together."

Aaron Brown, a full-time speech communications instructor and chair of the academic affairs and standards council at Hibbing Community College, said it "hasn't been as contentious as many thought it might be because it's been coming for a long time."

"The reality is, our declining enrollments have really forced our hand institutionally to figure out a different way of surviving," Brown said. "Because we're already collaborating, all this does is further formalize the arrangement, and it allows us to do things like share students."

Brown is hopeful that the merger will allow the colleges to maintain their existing ratio of full-time instructors to adjuncts.

While faculty members at Hibbing aren't excited about the arrangement, he said, they know it's necessary and that they could either come together to help students or "whine and complain."

It helps that faculty have a good relationship with the current administration, Brown said, and that faculty members have been involved in the process.

Matt Williams, president of the Minnesota State College Faculty union, provided a statement saying, “Obviously, the merger of five schools is a significant change and change of this magnitude brings a range of emotions. We’ve communicated to the Minnesota State System our desire that all members of these campus communities -- faculty, staff, administrators, and even students -- are treated with dignity, respect, and compassion throughout this process.

"Right now there are a lot of questions and uncertainties regarding the implementation of this merger, and we will continue to work to ensure faculty feel supported and their concerns are heard as the path forward comes into focus.”

Sharing resources while maintaining local identities and commitments to the college's local communities will be a key part of the merger's success, Smith said.

Rural colleges tend to shy away from mergers because they don't want to lose their identities, according to Smith, and the rural communities tend to want more independence.

But the financial challenges these colleges are facing "are certainly there, and I don't see them going away any time soon."

"I think other rural communities can take this model and learn from that," Smith said. "The financial challenges are going to be an issue, and [the colleges] are going to have to think about this."

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Leaders of Wayne State University Press fired

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 02/10/2020 - 01:00

Wayne State University fired three leaders of the university's press -- including the editor in chief -- on Friday.

The reasons for the dismissals are unclear.

Annie Martin, who had been editor in chief, did not respond to a request for comment.

A statement sent by the university to the press's faculty editorial board, and obtained by The Detroit News, said the decision to let the leaders go was "reached only after careful and deep consideration at every level … We believe, moving forward, our future can be created through leadership and staff collectively committed and open to new ideas, deeper community connectivity."

A statement from the university said, "As has occurred with other long-running and distinguished university presses, the host university, Wayne State, recently considered a new path of support for the press, believing the reporting change will help create a sustainable business model that leads to future successes."

The statement apparently refers to a switch in reporting structure. In the fall, the university press would report to the libraries, not the provost, as had been the case.

The press publishes 35 to 40 books a year and 11 journals. It is known for books on Detroit and Michigan, Jewish studies, film and media studies, African American history and culture, and folklore.

The Detroit News article quoted Kathy Wildfong, who was interim director before retiring in the summer, as saying that presses are built on close relationships between staff members and authors. "I am very concerned that this is a first step in closing or changing in some really profound way what the press is and what it does," Wildfong said. "I'm terribly worried about my former colleagues, both those who are staying and those who've been let go."

Matt Lockwood, a spokesman for the university, said via email to Inside Higher Ed, "There were some personnel moves, but not involving the interim director. Wayne State remains committed to its press and it will continue to operate and publish books as it has for more than 75 years."

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Chronicle of Higher Education: Are the Humanities Really in Crisis?

Neal Lester thinks that’s a cliché. The real question is, How do we communicate the value of the humanities without getting bogged down by defining it?