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Amid 'authoritarian resurgence,' George Soros pledges $1 billion toward new university network

Tue, 02/04/2020 - 01:00

The financier George Soros recently announced a $1 billion donation to endow a new international network of universities with a stated aim of promoting “critical thinking, open intellectual inquiry, and fact-based research to strengthen foundations of open society amid authoritarian resurgence.”

The Open Society University Network will also focus on expanding educational access to “neglected and minority populations, such as incarcerated persons, the Roma, and refugees.” The group further plans to start what Soros described as “a massive ‘scholars at risk’ program, connecting a large number of academically excellent but politically endangered scholars with this new global network and each other.”

The network will be co-led by Bard College, in New York, and Central European University, a graduate institution founded by Soros that moved its main campus from Budapest to Vienna last year after essentially being forced out of an increasingly illiberal Hungary.

In a speech last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, announcing the initiative, Soros raised alarms about climate change and rising forces of authoritarianism around the world, including in the United States under President Trump.

“I believe that as a long-term strategy our best hope lies in access to quality education, specifically an education that reinforces the autonomy of the individual by cultivating critical thinking and emphasizing academic freedom,” Soros said.

“Thirty years ago I set up an educational institution that does exactly that. It is called the Central European University, and its mission is to advance the values of the open society … Yet CEU is not strong enough by itself to become the educational institution the world needs. That requires a new kind of global educational network.” Soros said the network will build on an existing system of institutions already developed by CEU and Bard.

Jonathan Becker, executive vice president of Bard and now the vice chancellor of OSUN, said the network will work in areas including critical literacy and the liberal arts, sustainability, inequality, human rights, transnational politics, and arts and open society. It will also be involved in teacher education programs that focus on student-centered learning, early college and micro-college programs that help prepare disadvantaged students for university, programs to help refugees and other displaced people enter or resume college, and civic engagement programs.

Becker, who is also vice president for academic affairs at Bard, said the educational initiatives will include the development of dual and multiple university degree and certificate programs, networked and virtual courses, collaborative research projects, and co-curricular activities including debate, mock United Nations, and mock trial and student newspapers. The network will encourage faculty, staff and student mobility throughout the network.

Becker said many of the network’s activities will adapt and expand on work already underway by Bard and CEU. Bard runs a degree-granting prison education program as well as a network of early college high school programs in urban areas. It also has developed dual degree programs with international partners including Al-Quds University in the West Bank, Central Asia University in Kyrgyzstan, and Smolny College in Russia. CEU, meanwhile, has a Global Teaching Fellows Program that places doctoral students and recent doctoral graduates in international partner institutions; Becker said that program will be expanded across OSUN member institutions.

“We’re continuing a number of programs, we’re expanding on some of them and we’re launching and developing new programs all at once,” Becker said. "Right now, we are still planning many of the projects. We are bringing faculty from member institutions together to discuss and develop projects.”

The initial members of the network include a dozen other higher education institutions, including one other American university, Arizona State University, and institutions in Bangladesh, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, the United Kingdom and Vietnam. The network also includes a number of educational and research organizations such as the Talloires Network, an international association of institutions headquartered at Tufts University in Massachusetts and focused on promoting civic education.

“There are lots of networks out there, lots of higher educational networks,” said Leonard Benardo, the vice president of the Open Society Foundations, the nonprofit organization founded and chaired by Soros. “What makes this distinctive if not unique is that it is imbued with what we think of as an open society ethos, the focus on the open society as it pertains to rights and justice, democracy, inequality, climate.”

Gennady Shkliarevsky, an emeritus professor of history at Bard, criticized the college’s involvement in the network, which he described as promoting a political agenda under the guise of education.

“The only importance Soros sees in education is in advancing the values of open society -- that is, in promoting the political agenda that has been the backbone of the political organization (OSF) that Soros has created for political purposes,” Shkliarevsky said in an open letter addressed to Bard faculty. “When education starts serving political goals, it becomes indoctrination. That’s what lies ahead in Bard’s future if it becomes part of the OSF network.”

Benardo, the OSF vice president, said the notion of the university network being politicized is "wrong-headed."

“If promoting higher education in the service of critical thinking, pluralism and a general democratic ethos is commensurate with politics of any sort, then call it politics, but I will say definitively and unequivocally that it’s the universities themselves that are being supported through this initiative that will have 100 percent control as to the kinds of efforts they would like to advance in the context of this global network,” Bernardo said.

“If Arizona State University or BRAC University [in Bangladesh] or SOAS [part of the University of London] want to use the resources from this initiative as part of the network for faculty mobility, for student mobility, for developing new curricula in specific liberal arts disciplines, if they want to use it for real-time implementation of courses across educational institutions, the Open Society Foundations makes no judgment as to how the resources from this initiative will be deployed,” he said.

Two faculty leaders at Bard said there generally seems to be enthusiasm for the project among professors.

“I could say I think there’s goodwill and there's enthusiasm for the possibilities this brings, and I think that’s true for many of us,” said É​ric Trudel, an associate professor of French and chair of the Faculty Senate. “In the Faculty Senate, I can tell you there's only been interest in this; I haven't heard opposition.”

Swapan Jain, the president of Bard's American Association of University Professors chapter and chair of the chemistry and biochemistry department, said although faculty members have questions about some of the financial details about the network, they generally seem to be supportive of the plans. He described the mission of the network as well aligned with that of Bard's.

"Bard takes part in the Bard Prison Initiative. There are lots of different areas in which Bard has campuses which are in difficult parts of the world and also in parts of the United States: the Bard High School Early Colleges are in urban areas where good-quality education is often missing. Bard has a history of social justice and providing quality education to a lot of times forgotten sects of the society. I personally as a faculty member feel like it’s an excellent opportunity to collaborate," Jain said.

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University flight programs ramp up private partnerships

Tue, 02/04/2020 - 01:00

The new academic center for Kent State University’s College of Aeronautics and Engineering followed a big donation from FedEx. The company pledged $6.5 million to the university to pay for the large new building, complete with new aircraft simulators, briefing rooms and 70-seat classrooms.

Maureen McFarland, associate dean of academic affairs at the college, who ran the flight program for 10 years, said the department previously operated out of trailers at the Kent State airport. “It was very challenging,” she said.

In order to gain financial support for the project from private companies, the university needed to demonstrate its value to them, said Stephen Sokany, Kent State’s vice president of institutional advancement.

“The world of private philanthropy has really evolved over time,” Sokany said. “Most corporations, their first priorities are to their shareholders. So the idea of corporate philanthropy and just making a gift to an institution like Kent State to be a good corporate citizen, those days are pretty much in the rearview mirror.”

University leaders made the case to FedEx that with a new academic center, the college could increase its potential number of graduating pilots by 67 percent.

The promise so far has held true. In three years, enrollment in Kent State’s flight program has increased about 34 percent. Retention in the program is over 86 percent, higher than the university’s overall goal. Students are “soloing” -- flying an airplane alone, an important milestone in aviation -- earlier than ever, officials said.

Other universities also have seen new donations to their flight programs in recent years. For example, gifts from Delta Airlines and the Delta Lines Foundation helped fund a new aviation building at Auburn University -- the Delta Air Lines Aviation Education Building. FedEx also is offering $2.5 million in aviation scholarships at four universities. And Delta and United have both begun accelerated pipeline programs with partnering colleges in the last two years.

Airlines -- both cargo and passenger alike -- need pilots. And with the historical pipeline for pilots constricting, corporations are taking a closer look at what higher ed can offer.

Pilot Shortage?

In 2018, Boeing predicted that the airline industry would need about 790,000 pilots over the next 20 years, double the workforce at that time. Though some analysis has mostly focused on increasing demand -- people are flying more and want more things delivered -- there are simply fewer pilots in the skies today than there were a few decades ago.

Some airlines have blamed increased training requirements from the Federal Aviation Administration. After a plane went down outside Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009, killing 50 people, Congress and the FAA increased the required number of flight hours for commercial pilots from 250 to 1,500.

Since the rule went into effect, regional airlines and airport executives have pointed to an attendant pilot shortage to explain suspended operations and fewer flights to small communities. (The airline pilots’ union has alternatively suggested the new requirements are part of the reason the U.S. hasn’t had a fatal airline crash since 2009.)

For college graduates though, the FAA only increased the hour requirement to 1,000, making grads slightly more attractive employees than their peers without degrees.

McFarland said changes in technology and population have also affected the pipeline.

Major airlines historically drew nearly half of their pilot forces from the U.S. military, said McFarland, who is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. But as technology has advanced, U.S. forces have needed fewer aircrafts and fewer pilots to complete missions.

“Most dual-seat aircrafts or larger [military] aircrafts have now gone down to a single seat,” she said. “One plane can now do 17 different missions.”

As a result, major airlines have had that part of their pipeline dry up and have started looking with renewed interested in collegiate aviation. And on the civilian side, many airline pilots are now bumping up against a mandatory retirement age of 65.

The Air Line Pilots Association, the union that represents pilots, has argued that the pilot shortage is a manufactured crisis and is really a “pilot pay shortage.” A college degree or flight school can both be expensive. And some regional airlines, where passenger pilots start out, pay as little as $30,000 in the first year.

“Special-interest groups have attempted to manufacture a crisis instead of facing the truth,” the organization wrote in 2018, “a lack of a career path combined with rock-bottom pay and benefits by some airlines are the real reasons they have failed to attract pilots.”

Focus on College

The emphasis on a college education by some aviation companies is indeed an intentional choice, as a four-year degree is not strictly necessary to become a pilot. Independent flight schools can help anyone get the legal credentials to fly, and many pilots still lack a bachelor’s.

At many university flight programs, a four-year degree alone won’t even push a student completely over the finish line. Students at Kent State, for example, typically graduate with about 250 flight hours, a good amount short of the required 1,000. (Kent State employs nearly all of its aspiring pilots as flight instructors after graduation, and they earn their remaining flight hours that way.)

But some corporations, like FedEx and Delta, do require a bachelor’s degree for their pilots. Many other airlines, such as United, Southwest, JetBlue and Spirit Air, may not explicitly require a bachelor's degree, but say they prefer one.

“I am flying passengers for Delta on their connecting carrier,” the pilot said, “but without a four-year degree, I’m not even qualified to apply at Delta mainline.”

A spokesperson for Delta said the company requires a bachelor’s because it values the skills learned in college, such as organization, teamwork and analytical and critical thinking.

“Our students don’t just learn how to fly -- they learn leadership, they learn development, all these other softer skills,” McFarland said.

Delta has also partnered with Kent State through the company’s Propel program, which allows promising students to interview with the company and, if selected, guarantees them an accelerated track into Delta a few years after graduation.

The Propel program currently has 11 university partners, though Delta plans to increase that number this year. United and American have started similar training partner programs in the last two years. United's program, called Aviate, features partnerships with four universities.

Some have said the focus on four-year degrees has been to the airline industry’s detriment, contributing to the overall shortage by making aspiring pilots take on increasing debt. (Delta is not experiencing a pilot shortage, according to a spokesperson for the airline.) And from an equity standpoint, a bachelor’s requirement excludes students who couldn’t get to college.

One regional airline pilot, who spoke to Inside Higher Ed anonymously for fear of future career retaliation, said he’d been held back from advancing to the major airlines because he doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree, although he’s logged over 11,000 flight hours.

But regional airlines often have contracts with major airline partners to run shorter routes for them. While the plane you’re in might say “Delta,” it may really be organized by a regional airline and flown by a regional airline pilot without a bachelor’s degree.

“I am flying passengers for Delta on their connecting carrier,” the pilot said, “but without a four-year degree, I’m not even qualified to apply at Delta mainline.”

Still, investment in the profession grows. And with the millions of dollars flowing in, you’re likely to see more Kent State grads in the skies.

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More student loan forgiveness sought for disabled borrowers

Tue, 02/04/2020 - 01:00

The federal government plans to forgive hundreds of millions of dollars in outstanding loan debt for roughly 25,000 disabled veterans in July. But while consumer and veterans’ groups are applauding the move by the U.S. Department of Education, they also don’t think it goes far enough.

They want the department to discharge the student loans of nearly 400,000 other borrowers who have also been deemed too disabled to work by the federal government but don’t qualify for the relief either because they are not veterans or because their injuries were not service related.

Meanwhile, the Democratic chairman of the U.S. House education committee is also criticizing the department for not going further.

“Unfortunately, students with permanent disabilities -- who are entitled to debt relief -- are trapped in a bureaucratic web,” Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia said in a statement Friday. “The Education Department has the ability to implement automatic discharge of these loans. The department should use its power to give these hundreds of thousands of students the relief they deserve.”

The question of how far the Trump administration should go to forgive the debt of those who are too disabled to work comes after the department has tried to address why only a small percentage of disabled veterans have had their loans discharged, which they are entitled to under the Higher Education Act, the law that governs federal student aid.

As an initial step, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2018 began sharing the names of veterans who qualify for the help with the Education Department, which then contacted the borrowers. That led to about 22,000 more veterans getting relief, to the tune of more than $650 million in discharges, according to the department.

But 25,000 more disabled veterans who are entitled to the help still have been left with $168 million in outstanding loans, said the National Consumer Law Center. The problem was that even with more coordination with the VA, veterans were still required to apply for their loans to be dismissed, according to veterans’ and consumer groups. But many still didn’t know they could get the loans discharged.

They might have received a letter from the Education Department saying they were entitled to the relief, said Abby Shafroth, a staff attorney for the NCLC. But “they might be blind and not able to read the letter. They might have dementia,” she said.

So in another step, President Trump in August signed an executive order to simply discharge the loans of all those deemed as eligible by the VA without requiring them to apply. That's expected to start in July, according to interim rules the department released last November to carry out the order. Discharging the veterans' loans would cost $1.3 billion over the next decade, according to the interim rules, between eliminating current loans and discharging others as more borrowers become disabled.

“The department’s interim final regulations are a common-sense solution to ensuring that veterans get the relief they deserve without jumping through confusing, time-consuming and unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles,” the NCLC, the National Student Legal Defense Network and the Institute for College Access and Success, wrote in a joint letter to the department last week. Veterans Education Success and 21 other veterans’ groups also praised the change in a separate letter.

However, the change also raised the question of why the department does not forgive the loans of others who are too disabled to work. According to Education Department numbers reported by National Public Radio last December, more than 375,000 additional borrowers, who have been deemed disabled by the Social Security Administration, wouldn’t qualify for the automatic discharge.

“We are disappointed that the interim final regulations only extend the automatic discharge system to a small subset of [disabled] borrowers,” NCLC and the two other consumer groups wrote in their letter.

Those still owing money face the same problems as the veterans -- they still have to apply for the discharges. But, the letter said, “like veterans, many Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who qualify for loan cancellation are simply unaware of the discharge program. According to the NPR report, only one-third of matched eligible borrowers had even applied for loan discharge."

Many of those borrowers are not veterans. But some are veterans who became disabled after they left the military, or whose injuries were not considered service related even though they were on active duty, said Mike Saunders, legal director for Veterans Education Success. While veterans’ groups did not raise the issue in their letter, Saunders said those veterans also should have their loans discharged.

“We shouldn’t just forget about them,” he said.

Angela Morabito, an Education Department spokeswoman, declined comment while the department is still working on the final rules needed to automatically discharge the loans.

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Colleges start new programs

Tue, 02/04/2020 - 01:00
  • Agnes Scott College is starting a master of science in data analysis and communication.
  • Eugene Lang College of Liberal Art at the New School announced a minor in code as a liberal art.
  • Heritage University is starting a master of education in reading, which prepares teachers to help students overcome dyslexia and other reading disorders.
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Alan Dershowitz finds himself thrust into academe's margins

Mon, 02/03/2020 - 01:00

It’s significant when something stands out in today’s supersonic news cycle. And time seemed to at least slow when Alan Dershowitz offered up his defense of President Trump during the U.S. Senate impeachment trial last week. Part of that defense, in Dershowitz’s words, is that “if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

Those comments were immediately criticized -- including by a number of law professors at Harvard University, where Dershowitz is Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus -- as meaning that a president can do virtually anything, as long as he or she believes it’s in the public interest.

Dershowitz has since said that he was deliberately misinterpreted by his political opponents. He believes that his rivals are smart enough to know what he really meant.

The scale of that opposition -- including some 200 constitutional law scholars who signed on to a letter Friday repudiating his constitutional analysis -- suggests the debate is more complex, however.

What Dershowitz Said (And Didn't)

“I did not say that any president can do anything he wants to get re-elected as long as he believes his re-election is in the public interest,” Dershowitz said in a telephone interview Friday. “Quite the opposite -- I started my talk in the Senate by saying that I strongly supported the impeachment of Richard Nixon, and that was all about a president trying to get re-elected.”

Instead, Dershowitz said he was, in response to a question about motive from Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas, making the following point: that if a president “does anything criminal or criminal-like or impeachable to get re-elected, the fact that he had a decent motive is utterly irrelevant.”

By the same logic, Dershowitz said, if a president’s actions are “completely legal,” and done in what he or she believes to be the public interest, then having an additional, personal motive doesn’t make those actions impeachable.

Does Dershowitz believe that Trump’s actions were “completely legal,” then? Dershowitz said he didn’t appear before the Senate to weigh in on the facts, just the theory.

In fairness to Dershowitz, he did begin his answer to Cruz by saying that “the only thing that would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the ‘quo’ were in some way illegal.”

Even so, Dershowitz’s critics said his explanation left much to be desired.

Unconvinced Critics

“It seems that in these comments and clarifications, Alan is returning to the main points of his Senate presentation,” Charles Fried, Beneficial Professor of Law at Harvard, told Inside Higher Ed. “His clarification goes back to his principal point that a proper impeachment charge requires the violation of some criminal law -- indeed a criminal statute -- and perhaps a federal criminal statute.” Numerous scholars and commentators have pointed out that this is “incorrect,” and that contrary precedents and arguments exist, Fried added.

Even if the critics are wrong, his defense is a “perfect example of an argument which proves too much," Fried said. That is, if Dershowitz were correct, the implications of his arguments would still be “absurd” and incriminating.

Frank O. Bowman III, Floyd R. Gibson Missouri Endowed Professor of Law at the University of Missouri, who helped organize the new letter condemning Dershowitz’s analysis, was less charitable.

“The fact is that Dersh is an attention-seeker,” he said in an email. “Intellectually nimble, and a good performer. But he’s never been a scholar, ever. He’s a defense lawyer with a sinecure at Harvard.”

Part of what’s troubling to scholars, beyond the motive comment, is the rest of Dershowitz’s answer to Cruz. There’s also what Fried referenced: what Dershowitz said earlier in the week on the bounds of impeachable offenses.

‘The National Interest’ and ‘Mixed Motives’

To Cruz, Dershowitz said, “Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest.” President Abraham Lincoln told General William Tecumseh Sherman “to let the troops go to Indiana so that they can vote for the Republican Party,” and “let's assume the president was running at that point and it was in his electoral interest to have these soldiers put at risk the lives of many, many other soldiers who would be left without their company.”

Would that be an unlawful quid pro quo, Dershowitz continued? “No, because the president, A. Believed it was in the national interest,” and “B. He believed that his own election was essential to victory in the Civil War.”

That’s why “it's so dangerous to try to psychoanalyze a president, to try to get into the intricacies of the human mind,” Dershowitz concluded. “Everybody has mixed motives, and for there to be a constitutional impeachment based on mixed motives would permit almost any president to be impeached.”

Earlier in the trial, Dershowitz also said that only clearly defined crimes are impeachable offenses -- not obstruction of Congress or abuse of power, with which Trump is charged.

Taking on the Founders -- and 500 Colleagues

“I will ask whether the framers would have accepted such vague and open-ended terms as abuse of power and obstruction of Congress as governing criteria” for impeachment, Dershowitz said. Eventually, and boldly, he argued that Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Paper No. 65's discussion of impeachment with respect to violations of the “public trust” has been misread by generations of scholars. The implication? Even Hamilton would be against what Dershowitz called an “expanded” take on impeachable acts and, therefore, Trump’s trial.

Those statements, among others, contradicted the analysis of 500 legal scholars who signed on to previous, December letter saying that a president’s conduct “need not be criminal to be impeachable,” as the “standard here is constitutional; it does not depend on what Congress has chosen to criminalize.”

Citing Hamilton (and, based on Dershowitz’s analysis, misreading him) those 500 scholars wrote that impeachment is a “remedy for grave abuses of the public trust.” Trump’s conduct with regard to military aid to Ukraine and the “favor” he sought from that country “is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders” generally feared when they wrote impeachment into the Constitution, the scholars added.

“There is overwhelming evidence that President Trump betrayed his oath of office by seeking to use presidential power to pressure a foreign government to help him distort an American election, for his personal and political benefit,” the letter says, “at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress.”

Unsurprisingly, given that popular opinion, many scholars quickly panned Dershowitz’s speech before the Senate. (He also grabbed op-ed headlines such as, “Dershowitz May Have Argued Himself out of Relevance” (The Washington Post) and “The Dubious Impeachment Proclamations of Alan Dershowitz” (USA Today).

‘A Joke’

Laurence Tribe, Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard and a co-organizer of the Friday letter against Dershowitz’s analysis, for example, wrote on Twitter last week that Dershowitz “just argued that a president who believes only he can fix it -- who thinks his re-election is vital to the nation -- can’t be impeached for abusing his power to corrupt the next election in his favor because by definition he’s doing what he thinks best for the country!!”

Nikolas Bowie, an assistant professor of law at Harvard whom Dershowitz cited during the trial, went on CNN to call his analysis a “joke.” Abuse of power, Bowie said, is in fact a crime, of which people have been recently convicted. And “criminal corruption,” he said, is not comparable to “maladministration” -- a term evoked by Dershowitz but which Bowie said was the 18th-century equivalent of getting a bad performance review.

Fried also publicly commented that Dershowitz had made the “very best argument for getting” former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify before the Senate, to determine Trump's motives and whether they differ from the national interest. Bolton’s testimony probably won’t happen now, after Friday’s close Senate vote against calling impeachment witnesses, but it’s more than likely his appearance wouldn’t have benefited Trump.

And Bowman told the Post that Dershowitz was “essentially alone, and I mean alone,” in his views.

“What Dershowitz did,” he added, “was stand up and be a guy with Harvard attached to his name and spout complete nonsense that’s totally unsupported by any scholarship, anywhere.”

An Official Response

The new Friday letter to the Senate, organized by Tribe and Bowman, says, “[We] write to clarify that impeachment does not require proof of crime, that abuse of power is an impeachable offense, and that a president may not abuse the powers of his office to secure re-election, whatever he may believe about how beneficial his continuance in power is to the country.”

The phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” is British Parliamentary term of art introduced into the U.S. Constitution by George Mason, “who explained the necessity for expanding impeachment beyond ‘treason and bribery’ by drawing his colleagues’ attention to the ongoing parliamentary impeachment trial of Warren Hastings,” the letter notes.

More recently, the first and second articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon approved by the House Judiciary Committee alleged both criminal and noncriminal conduct, and the third alleged noncriminal obstruction of Congress, the letter continues. “Indeed, the Nixon House Judiciary Committee issued a report in which it specifically rejected the contention that impeachable conduct must be criminal.”

As for abuse of power, the letter says, two of the three "prior presidential impeachment crises" have involved it. And even if there were no precedent, constitutional logic on it is “plain.”

Finally, the 200-plus scholars wrote, avoiding mentioning Dershowitz by name, “one of President Trump’s attorneys has suggested that so long as a president believes his re-election is in the public interest, ‘if a president did something that he believes will help get him elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in his impeachment.’”

While it’s true that such a choice is not necessarily impeachable, the letter says, if the president “employs his powers in a way that cannot reasonably be explained except as a means of promoting his own reelection, the president’s private conviction that his maintenance of power is for the greater good does not insulate him from impeachment.”

To accept this argument “would be to give the president carte blanche to corrupt American electoral democracy.”

Dershowitz and Academe

Does any of this challenge Dershowitz’s standing in academe? Is his expert analysis so left of field that he can no longer be deemed an expert, especially one affiliated with Harvard?

Bowman said Dershowitz has never really had such standing, and that he's “never done any serious legal scholarship.” Instead, Bowman said he's focused on op-eds and trying his own cases. (Perhaps most famously, Dershowitz defended O. J. Simpson.)

That Senate Republicans hail Dershowitz as an expert “just shows how desperate they are to find somebody, anybody, to tell them what they wanted to hear,” Bowman added.

Harvard had no comment on the matter of Dershowitz’s status, while Fried said that “even Harvard faculty members sometimes make arguments with absurd entailments.”

Dershowitz, of course, disagrees with his detractors. He says that he’s been intellectually alone often in his career, including in being against the death penalty in the 1960s and, more recently, for the limited use of what he's called emergency "torture warrants." He also said he wasn’t afraid to “impugn” his colleagues in asserting that they would not, in some alternative universe, support the same impeachment case against former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“The burden of proof here is on those who ignore the plain language” of the Constitution on impeachment, which specifically mentions treason, bribery and high crimes and misdemeanors, he said.

“I think professors often allow, consciously or unconsciously, politics to seep into their constitutional analysis,” he added. “I've been proved right more often than not, and I think history will prove me correct here. The next time there’s a Democrat president and a Republican-controlled House, the president will be impeached and all the scholars criticizing me now will be making similar arguments.” (For the record, Dershowitz said during the trial that he voted for Hillary Clinton.)

Dershowitz is currently writing a book on impeachment.

No Misunderstanding

Politically speaking, Seth Abramson, an attorney, assistant professor of digital language arts and professional and technical communications at the University of New Hampshire and a onetime student of Dershowitz, is definitely not a fan of Trump’s: he’s written books called Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America.

That doesn’t disqualify him from having legal opinions about the impeachment, of course -- and he’s got lots of them. As for Dershowitz, Abramson said his biggest error was introducing the nonlegal concept of "mixed motives" into criminal and constitutional law, where, in his view, it doesn’t belong.

In criminal law, Abramson said in an email, no other motive beyond the criminal matters when that is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. And in an impeachment case with implications for national security, the more appropriate preponderance of evidence standard is met if it's “more likely than not that a prohibited intent was present -- whatever other motives it may have been intermixed with.”

Abramson went on to call Dershowitz’s theory of the Ukraine case “radical and dangerous” in that it turns criminal law, constitutional law and “even basic legal precepts like ‘mens rea’ on their heads: he now says a single drop of permissible intent, such as a self-purported desire to fight corruption, purifies an official act entirely.”

Dershowitz’s subsequent explanations about a crime being alleged don’t change much, Abramson added, as House managers did allege during the trial that Trump committed the crimes of bribery and obstruction. Moreover, he said, recalling and challenging another part of Dershowitz’s analysis, bribery doesn’t only occur where there is a transfer of hard currency.

“I don't think Prof. Dershowitz has been misquoted; I think he's been incoherent as a matter of law and his own knowledge of the facts of the impeachment case,” Abramson said.

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Alarm grows about Belmont saving Watkins College of Art

Mon, 02/03/2020 - 01:00

The deal seemed a good one for the Watkins College of Art, a small, private art and design college in Nashville, Tenn. It would be absorbed by Belmont University, also in Nashville, and its faculty could apply for jobs at Belmont. Watkins has fewer than 200 students and has been struggling financially.

But since the deal was announced Tuesday, concerns have been raised about how non-Christian faculty members at Watkins will fare. Belmont is a Christian college and hires only Christian faculty members. At a forum for Watkins students on Wednesday, Artnet News reported that the provost at Belmont, Thomas Burns, said, “We do not hire people who are not Christian … So the ones who are not Christian will not be eligible to work at Belmont. That’s just part of who we are.”

A spokeswoman for Belmont released the following statement: "Belmont and Watkins will be evaluating faculty and staff needs based on the assimilation of Watkins into Belmont. This process will likely take several months, and despite what is being reported, no decisions have been made. Existing Watkins faculty and staff will certainly be given first opportunity to fill any new positions of need. Because we recognize current Watkins employees could not control nor anticipate merging with a faith-based institution, it has been determined that special consideration will be given to current Watkins employees regardless of their position of faith. This exception to Belmont’s hiring policy is only being made due to the nature of merging institutions and out of Belmont’s commitment to care for the Watkins community."

Watkins students have already been talking and rallying against the merger. Opposition to mergers is common -- especially at the college being absorbed -- but the Watkins-Belmont merger has been complicated by the issue of religion.

Quinn Dukes, an artist in New York City who graduated from Watkins in 2007, said she was "really shocked" to learn of the merger plan. Since graduating, Dukes has visited about once a year to meet students. "It's that kind of place," she said.

The idea that Watkins would merge with an institution that would not hire non-Christians is "really disappointing," she said. Dukes said she would have been more open to merging with an institution that hires all kinds of faculty members, and she said that the issue of faculty hiring raised questions in her mind about the treatment of gay artists at the college.

She organized an open letter to the Watkins board questioning the merger. More than 2,800 people have signed the letter.

"The spirit of Watkins is vastly different from that of Belmont University," the letter says. "Students like myself choose Watkins because of its promotion of the individual by immensely thoughtful and skilled faculty. Watkins was a safe and inclusive space for creatives from all backgrounds, preferences, and identities."

The letter raised questions about how current Watkins students would take Belmont's required religion courses, and asked for details about how Belmont planned to treat the faculty members it did not hire.

Steve Sirls, the chair of Belmont's board, posted a response.

"I want to assure you that the board pursued this direction only after careful consideration of the realities facing Watkins now and in the future."

He noted that Belmont has pledged to welcome students and to provide an inclusive environment for "students regardless of age, race, gender or sexual orientation." He did not mention the faiths of faculty members.

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New book examines market stress bearing down on colleges and universities

Fri, 01/31/2020 - 15:22

The appendix of a new book contains everything needed to calculate a score gauging the market stress faced by individual colleges and universities across the country.

It’s a provocative idea that could provide information of use to discerning students and improvement-minded administrators alike. It’s also an idea that’s getting more attention and growing more controversial of late as the higher education sector continues to feel pressure on several fronts and as a small number of institutions announce closure or merger plans every year.

But the authors of the book, The College Stress Test (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020), intentionally didn’t include a list of institutions and their market stress scores -- even though they calculated scores for well over 2,000 institutions. Instead, they spend the book’s pages examining the higher education market, discussing factors that they used to score institutions’ level of stress, and discussing strategies colleges and universities can use to change their trajectory.

“At its core, this effort to identify institutions at greatest risk due to shifting student markets is a quantitative one,” wrote the authors, University of Pennsylvania higher education professor Robert Zemsky, former Penn director of institutional research Susan Shaman, and Middlebury College professor -- and former provost -- Susan Campbell Baldridge. “We wanted to know which institutions were most at risk of closing and why. But we believe it is also important to understand the emotions that inevitably swirl around questions of institutional viability.”

Their findings suggest college closings won’t be as frequent as some soothsayers have predicted. No more than one out of 10 of the country’s colleges and universities face “substantial market risk,” and closings are likely to affect “relatively few students.” Six in 10 institutions face little to no risk.

Those on campus should pause before taking heart, however. The remaining three in 10 institutions seem likely to struggle, and it will probably be very difficult for them to change their fortunes or market position.

“If anything, that market is becoming more rather than less fixed, making it increasingly likely that it will be the richer and bigger institutions that reap the benefits of a consolidating market,” the authors wrote.

Strategies in tuition pricing, like tuition resets, might buy some institutions time, they suggested. But moving important needles, like freshman-to-sophomore retention, is going to require the faculty to produce changes.

The College Stress Test may seek to have a rational, rather than hysterical, discussion about the pressures squeezing colleges and universities. And it may spare individual institutions from having their stress scores set in print. Still, it is not a blanket reassurance to the higher education sector.

“We caution that failing to pay attention to higher education’s increasingly muddled value proposition will yield both institutions at risk and a market that makes increasingly less sense to a public already skeptical of higher education’s core values,” the authors write.

Zemsky answered questions about the book via email. The following exchange has been edited slightly for clarity.

Q: What did you find to be the greatest predictors that an institution might close?

A: To begin with we were measuring risk -- the risk of running out of students more than money, though there is an obvious link between enrollment and finance. The best predictor of market risk or stress was a combination: declining first-year enrollments and increasing market prices over the last 10 years. In short, if an institution is both increasing its discount rate and still having ever-smaller classes of new students, then it is in real trouble. Or, as we wrote: “The really unlucky colleges have suffered a double whammy over the last decade: higher discount rates that yield less tuition income per student coupled with enrollment declines yielding fewer students. Most losers have also experienced financial shifts large enough that budget reductions alone are unlikely to yield sufficient savings to offset losses in revenue.”

Q: Are any types of institution most at risk, and do they tend to serve a certain type of student?

A: Very small institutions are identified at risk more often than larger institutions.

There are actually very few demographic tags identifying students more likely to attend an institution at market risk. The most obvious was African American students.

Q: Can you briefly explain the Market Stress Test Score and what goes into it?

A: The methodology identifies how and when continuing downward slopes (actual and projected) are important: more discounting, smaller first-year or freshman class, more attrition in the first year of enrollment. All the data come from the individual reports accredited institutions submitted to IPEDS 2008-2016.

Q: This book includes everything you need to calculate risk scores for institutions enrolling the majority of undergraduates in the United States. Why not publish a list of them with their scores?

A: Focusing on institutions runs counter to the central finding of the book: it is the market that is shifting institutional futures both up and down. The challenge is for an institution to understand its place in that market and adjust its strategies accordingly. What an institution’s market stress score signals is its place in the market. What our book provides is the context for understanding how that market works.

Q: How much do students have a right to know the risks they're taking on when they enroll in college?

A: There are no secrets here -- my experience with readily available consumer data is that such information, except for rankings, seldom plays much of a role in college decisions.

Q: What surprised you most about your findings?

A: Two things: Colleges and the universities in the middle of the country face greater risks than colleges in New England; and the best indicator of risk for public four-year institutions is consistently declining state appropriations.

Q: What did we miss in this interview?

A: Not much except that the institutions that can benefit most from our analysis are those in the middle of the market -- they may in fact not fully realize how and why they are at risk in a consolidating market in which the rich are getting richer and the big are getting bigger.

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UT Austin, Dell Foundation to tackle the Pell Grant gap

Fri, 01/31/2020 - 13:00

The University of Texas at Austin is partnering with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to expand the Dell Scholars program to all students at the university who receive Pell Grants.

For participants in the program, the university will cover tuition costs, while the scholarship will provide wraparound supports. Pell recipients with an expected family contribution under $1,000 will get an additional $20,000 over four years for basic needs and other education costs.

The Dell Foundation will commit $100 million over a decade to the program.

"We want to provide the opportunity for more students from low-income families to be successful and graduate," said Gregory Fenves, president of UT Austin.

The university is focusing on Pell recipients because, Fenves said, "despite the work that we have done, there are still gaps in degree attainment and graduation."

UT Austin has about 8,000 students, or 20 percent of the undergraduate population, who receive Pell Grants, he said. The program will be phased in one class at a time.

The university's six-year graduation rate is 86 percent for all students, but only 73 percent for Pell recipients. Nationally, the gap is even worse. A 2018 report from Third Way, a left-leaning D.C. think tank, found that Pell recipients graduate at a rate of 18 percentage points lower than non-Pell recipients.

The Dell Scholars program hopes to address this issue by ensuring low-income students get not only funding for tuition and fees but also a bevy of supports to help them through to graduation.

Michelle Dimino, an education policy adviser at Third Way, said this multifaceted approach can greatly help Pell students graduate.

"Data on graduation rates make it clear that many colleges aren't serving their Pell-eligible students well or equitably, so higher ed's completion crisis has an outsize impact on low-income students," Dimino said in an email. "Efforts like this partnership between UT Austin and the Dell Foundation can provide on-the-ground evidence of what works in closing completion gaps, and state and federal policy makers should be paying attention to its results as they think about funding for higher education.”

Mamie Voight, vice president of policy research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, said it's "promising" to see this scale of investment in low-income students. It also hits many issues that policy experts advocate for, like targeting the aid toward the most needy, providing extra money for nontuition expenses and giving students services beyond funding to address barriers to graduation, she said.

Much of this is needed as the Pell Grant has "lost its purchasing power," said Voight, so it can't address all of the needs of low-income students.

"We, as a society, should be investing in low-income students and the opportunities they have to pursue higher education," she said.

The university's goal is to raise six-year graduation rates for Pell recipients to 90 percent. Based on UT Austin's past improvements to its graduation rates, Voight said that goal seems reasonable. It's important for institutions to set goals that "are both stretching them and are reachable," she added.

The Dell Foundation operates the Dell Scholars program nationally; students apply to receive the scholarship. It provides students with wraparound supports and $20,000 over four years.

The program at UT Austin will build upon the success of that model, as well as its own efforts. The Texas Advance Commitment covers tuition for students from families with up to $65,000 in adjusted gross income, which Fenves said appears to be contributing to a nearly 20-percentage-point increase in the university's overall graduation rate over the last couple years.

With the Dell Foundation's funding, students with high levels of need will get the additional scholarship money, and all Pell recipients will receive individualized support from the UT for Me -- Powered by Dell Scholars services. These include financial aid coaching and financial literacy training; graduation planning; guided connections to university resources; peer advising; internship and career planning; a laptop computer; and tutoring and textbook support.

The foundation will employ its own staff to work on advising, mentoring and career planning for the program, Fenves said. The university also has been increasing its student support services staffing.

"One of the reasons the Dell Foundation is working with us as a partnership is the commitment we made as a university to increase financial aid for low- and middle-income students," Fenves said.

Janet Mountain, executive director of the Dell Foundation, said the organization has funded student success initiatives for 16 years. This new partnership, however, provides an opportunity for the foundation to work with a large-scale university and to change the standard way it serves Pell recipients, Mountain said.

"It’s not about incremental progress -- it’s about changing the game and changing how students get help," she said.

The Dell Foundation is also committed to using data to address problems in the program early and often. Once the program establishes relationships with students, it can track the outcomes of different services and see what works, according to Mountain.

While graduation rates are "interesting," she said, they're not very actionable.

"Getting underneath that number is what gives us the information to take action," she said.

Fenves said UT Austin already has begun raising money to continue the Dell Scholars program after the 10 years of funding runs out.

"Our goal should be to give every student who attends UT a chance to graduate," he said.

However, Voight had one critique about the program: the foundation's choice of a university partner. UT Austin is relatively well resourced, she said, compared to institutions like community colleges or historically black colleges and universities, which could greatly benefit from such a large investment. Many low-income Texans are enrolled in less resourced institutions, she said, and might not have access to UT Austin and could use the help.

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Prosecution in China of student for tweets he posted while studying in U.S. raises free speech concerns

Fri, 01/31/2020 - 01:00

News that a University of Minnesota student was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment in China for tweets he posted while studying at Minnesota renewed concerns about whether Chinese students studying in the U.S. enjoy the same freedom as their non-Chinese classmates and signaled a seeming escalation of pressures on Chinese students' and scholars' speech.

“This case is extremely disturbing,” said Kevin Carrico, a senior lecturer in Chinese studies at Monash University in Australia. “It demonstrates all too clearly that the [People's Republic of China] government is not only monitoring students’ speech abroad, but also actively investigating and prosecuting students for exercising free speech. The Chinese state is basically telling citizens who live abroad, ‘We own you.’”

Axios reported on the arrest of the student, 20-year-old Luo Daiqing, upon his return to his hometown in China last July. Axios cited a Chinese court document that accused Luo of having “used his Twitter account to post more than 40 comments denigrating a national leader's image and indecent pictures” in the fall of 2018, “while he was studying at the University of Minnesota.”

The tweets featured cartoon images of Winnie the Pooh -- a character censored in China since Web users began posting satirical images likening the bear to President Xi Jinping -- as well as images of a cartoon villain that bears a resemblance to Xi.

Luo was sentenced in November to six months’ imprisonment for “provocation,” with credit toward that six months for the time already spent in detention.

Luo did not return a message from Inside Higher Ed sent to an email address under his name found in the University of Minnesota's directory. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on Friday that it received an email from Luo's university email address confirming the prison sentence and saying he has been released and is staying in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

U.S. lawmakers have grown increasingly concerned about Chinese government efforts to exert influence over U.S. campus life or export state censorship. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, was among the lawmakers who weighed in on Luo's arrest: “#China has sentenced a student to 6 months in prison for tweets he wrote while he was in the U.S. as a student,” Rubio said on Twitter. “Let that sink in …”

Faculty have raised concerns in the past about Chinese students’ seeming reluctance to speak openly in the classroom about issues that might be considered sensitive in China. A 2018 report on Chinese interference and influence in American higher education from the Wilson Center described several cases in which faculty “said they believe many of their students from the PRC do not enjoy academic freedom in the classroom because they are afraid someone will report them to the authorities if they are seen to engage in sensitive academic activities.”

A report on academic freedom and China from the academic freedom protection group Scholars at Risk released last fall raised similar concerns about efforts by Chinese authorities to punish speech they find displeasing, both within and outside China’s borders. SAR previously reported on a postdoctoral researcher at a Finnish university, Zhan Wang, who was detained last fall upon his entry to China on a personal visit, allegedly for his online expression.

“China has significant ambitions when it comes to higher education, and those ambitions necessitate international exchange, so China is seeking ways to maintain control of information in a global context,” said Clare Robinson, SAR’s director of advocacy. “We’ve been seeing surveillance efforts like student informants and threats to families still in China as a means of punishing those who speak critically, whether it be in an academic context or not.”

Robinson said that in the case of Luo's tweets she doesn’t think the content of the speech -- whether it was in an academic or extramural context -- is what is most important. “I think what’s important is that other scholars and students in and from China will take note of this detention and they’ll think twice maybe before tweeting, but also before publishing a paper, before raising their hands in class, before singing up a class in Politics in East Asia,” she said. “It will impact academic expression or inquiry that could be potentially displeasing to the [Chinese Communist] Party.”

The campus free speech group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education also raised concerns about Luo’s reported imprisonment and the damaging effect it could have on academic environments. “FIRE is deeply concerned by Luo's imprisonment for political comments he posted on Twitter while studying here in the United States,” said Sarah McLaughlin, the director of targeted advocacy at FIRE. “Academic communities flourish when all students, including international students, may speak freely without the threat of surveillance or punishment. No matter where they call home, students should not be forced to choose between peacefully expressing their beliefs and staying out of jail.”

Kris Olds, a professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an expert on the globalization of higher education, said on Twitter that the case raises a number of questions for international universities hosting Chinese students. Among them: “How much do the hard working staff in our International Student Services (& equivalent) units understand about the rise of global reach & ‘network sovereignty’ agendas associated with countries like China and Saudi Arabia?” he asked. “What obligations do our senior leaders … and those overseeing int'l student services have to working with int'l students from countries like China to understand and strategize about this phenomenon[?]”

“How can universities better understand when their int'l students are arrested in their countries of citizenship (for dubious reasons like this case)? Should they share accurate information about the arrests quickly & broadly? If so, who decides when & how[?]” Olds asked. “What obligations do our universities have to provide our arrested students & their families, in cases like this, with resources for legal support & broader political support in relevant contexts here & around the world? … What is the role of formal and informal associations of universities in responding to this phenomenon, recognizing that many universities do not have the scale of legal and area studies resources that the University of Minnesota does[?]”

Finally, he wrote, “Many int'l students have faced political challenges when ‘returning home’ -- this is not a completely new phenomenon. But digital platforms & associated surveillance agendas associated w ‘network sovereignty’ are new(ish). Do we have the capacity & expertise to act wisely[?]”

Carrico, the Monash senior lecturer, said he thinks Minnesota “needs to make a statement condemning this travesty of justice. And universities need to stand their ground and clarify that any intimidation of anyone for discussing China-related issues openly, honestly, even critically will not be accepted.”

A University of Minnesota spokesman, Jake Ricker, confirmed that a student by the name Luo Daiqing was enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts in 2018-19. Ricker said the university only learned of the situation last week after being contacted by media.

"This has been a difficult situation to monitor due to the lack of available, timely or complete information, but we were pleased to hear reports that the individual has been released from prison and returned home," Ricker said.

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Appeals court holds university liable for ineffective Title IX policies

Fri, 01/31/2020 - 01:00

A federal court opinion could put the policies and procedures of colleges and universities in California and the western U.S. under a microscope for their ability to prevent sexual assault.

An institution can be held liable for “pre-assault” claims, which allege that its policies for enforcing Title IX are inadequate, create an environment of “heightened risk” of sexual misconduct and lead a complainant to be harassed or assaulted, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declared in a ruling Thursday. The federal law prohibits discrimination based on sex at institutions that receive federal funding and requires them to investigate reports of sexual misconduct.

Three former students who allege they were assaulted at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2012 initially brought a case against the University of California system’s Board of Regents in 2015 for Berkeley's handling of their individual complaints. When the case was dismissed in district court, the women appealed.

While many of the recent federal court decisions on Title IX have focused on the rights of respondents, the Ninth Circuit opinion is “a big win for victims’ advocates,” especially if other appeals courts follow suit, said Peter Lake, director of the Law Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University.

The ruling by the three-judge panel of the Ninth Circult referenced a 2014 California State Auditor report of Berkeley’s processes under Title IX. The report found that from 2009 to 2013, Berkeley did not notify or give regular updates to parties involved in investigations of sexual misconduct, did not complete investigations in a timely manner and did not “sufficiently educate” staff and students on sexual misconduct prevention, which led cases to be mishandled and compromised student safety, according to the Ninth Circuit opinion.

Berkeley’s use of an “early resolution process” that addressed complaints of sexual assault without formal investigations also came under fire in the court’s opinion. It is standard for institutions to pursue early resolution or mediation between the complainant and respondent only in cases of sexual harassment and when both parties are in agreement, said Jake Sapp, deputy Title IX coordinator and compliance officer at Austin College, in Texas.

The former Berkeley students asserted that only two of the 500 cases of sexual misconduct reported to the university in 2012 were resolved in a “formal process” and that they were coerced into early resolution by the university. This was allegedly done so Berkeley did not have to report assaults under the Clery Act, which requires institutions to disclose crimes on their campuses, according to the students’ lawsuit.

Berkeley was ordered by the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights to revise its Title IX policies after a 2014 investigation by the agency. The university subsequently “enacted many new policies, procedures and services over the last few years,” according to a February 2018 statement from the university.

But the opinion could open other colleges and universities in the California system and elsewhere in the states covered by the Ninth Circuit -- Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington -- to lawsuits that challenge the effectiveness of their Title IX policies, Lake said.

Contrary to other federal court opinions that address an institution’s “deliberate indifference” to or inaction on a report of sexual misconduct after the fact, the Ninth Circuit’s opinion discusses what is known as “before theory,” Lake said.

“If your state system does some analysis and finds inadequacies in terms of response, that’s something that they will take more seriously,” Lake said. “This is a different kind of argument: that the policies themselves shut the door before anyone is able to provide notice.”

The door is now open for plaintiffs to argue “before theory” in the Ninth Circuit. The opinion creates a broader standard than a similar case, Simpson v. University of Colorado, which said that colleges can be liable if there is knowledge of sexual misconduct in a specific program, said Brett Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX Administrators. That case was decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, which covers Colorado.

"It may be easier to establish a causal link between a school’s policy of deliberate indifference and the plaintiff’s harassment when the heightened risk of harassment exists in a specific program," the Ninth Circuit opinion said. "But we will not foreclose the possibility that a plaintiff could adequately allege causation even when a school’s policy of deliberate indifference extends to sexual misconduct occurring across campus.​"

The Ninth Circuit ruling did note that Title IX does not require California “to purge its campus of sexual misconduct to avoid liability” and that “a university is not responsible for guaranteeing the good behavior of its students.”

Sokolow believes most of the higher education institutions in California already hold a high standard for Title IX processes and will be unsurprised by this “progressive” opinion in the Ninth Circuit. But colleges and universities elsewhere might now look more closely at their admissions policies for “special admits” or transfer students, such as athletic scholarship recipients, for histories of sexual misconduct.

“It’s going to not only put individuals in the Ninth Circuit on alert but Title IX administrators across the nation,” Sapp said.

Andrew Miltenberg, a lawyer who represents students accused of sexual assault, said the hope is that colleges do not become “overly concerned” with pre-assault claims and pursue cases that are not strong enough for investigation and disciplinary measures against accused students.

“The hope is that universities will heed this and take measures to ensure that both Title IX complainants and respondents are treated fairly, equitably and given the due process protections that they deserve,” Miltenberg wrote in an email.

The case will now return to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which will decide whether to proceed with the claims against the Board of Regents based on the appeals court’s new standard.

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New system will measure journals' research transparency

Fri, 01/31/2020 - 01:00

A new ranking system for academic journals measuring their commitment to research transparency will be launched next month -- providing what many believe will be a useful alternative to journal impact scores.

Under a new initiative from the Center for Open Science, based in Charlottesville, Va., more than 300 scholarly titles in psychology, education and biomedical science will be assessed on 10 measures related to transparency, with their overall result for each category published in a publicly available table.

The center aims to provide scores for about 1,000 journals within six to eight months of the site’s launch in early February.

Among the measures of assessment are whether the publications ask authors to share their raw data or if they set standards for research design disclosure.

Other categories cover whether journals encourage the replication of studies and whether authors are required to preregister their experiments before data collection.

On data sharing, for example, journals would be given a one-out-of-three score for publishing a data availability statement, two for requiring authors to share data (subject to exceptions) and a full three out of three for providing enough data to enable full replication.

Journals will also receive credit if they offer the option of peer review before any research is undertaken -- a published format known as “registered reports,” used by more than 200 journals, in which assessors focus on research design rather than end results.

The new ranking system comes amid concerns over the difficulty of reproducing some of science’s most high-impact papers owing to large amounts of missing or withheld methodological data. Last week Brian Nosek, the center’s director, told Times Higher Education that a forthcoming paper on cancer research replication would be a “wake-up call” for science given how the weak methodology sections of most papers made reproduction impossible.

David Mellor, the center’s director of policy initiatives, said he believed the new table would “promote those who are doing the most to encourage open science.”

“We want to recognize those who are taking difficult steps to address bad practices,” said Mellor, who hoped journals would “require or reward open science practices that are not as common as they should be.”

Mellor added that he hoped the new scorecard system -- in which scores are decided by the center’s assessment teams based on publicly available information -- would provide an alternative to the current journal ranking system, which is based on citations per paper, known as journal impact.

“There is a clear pecking order based on impact, but this is really about a paper’s novelty or prestige, rather than [adhering to] core scientific values,” said Mellor.

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Q&A with author of book that profiles campus activists

Fri, 01/31/2020 - 01:00

Ever since being inspired by the activism of low-income high school students of color in Philadelphia in 2009, Jerusha Conner, a professor of education at Villanova University, has made youth activist movements the focus of her research.

A decade after she first began working with the Philadelphia Student Union, a youth-led organization that works to empower young people to demand high-quality education in the city's public school system, Conner has taken a new look at student activism on college campuses today.

In her upcoming book, The New Student Activists: The Rise of Neoactivism on College Campuses (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020), Conner reanalyzed a 2016 survey she and fellow researchers conducted among self-identified activists at 120 colleges and universities across the country. Conner used the students' answers to survey questions about who they are and the issues for which they advocate to form a picture of present-day student activists. ​She analyzed their various strategies for change during a period that scholars have described American colleges and universities as drifting from their “civic mission of higher education” and “succumb[ing] to neoliberal pressure to prepare workers for the global economy.”

Q: Who is a “neoactivist” and what role do they have on college campuses?

A: A subset of the new student activists are “neoactivists,” who are characterized by their attention to historical legacies of activism, critical consciousness, intersectional perspective and commitment to assuming collective responsibility for shared public goods. They are “neo” insofar as they are reviving the efforts and modifying the tactics of earlier generations, and the vision and solutions they espouse contrast neoliberalism or market-based solutions that call for individuals to act in their own self-interest. More than half of the respondents in the survey sample targeted campus policies, practices or climate. They raised concerns about their institutions, called for change and worked to hold their schools’ leaders accountable.

Q: What were the most notable differences in strategy you found between student activists advocating for progressive and conservative agendas?

A: A very small share of the sample advocated for conservative causes. Both groups formed and joined campus-based clubs at similar rates, and they described similar levels of social media use, self-care practice and passion for their causes. They were also similarly connected to national organizations that seek to organize and support students. The conservative student activists tended to have fewer marginalized identities than the progressive students, and they embraced significantly fewer causes than their neoactivist counterparts, who supported eight causes on average. The conservative students also tended to focus more on changing individual hearts and minds than on affecting institutional or social policy, compared to their neoactivist peers.

Q: What has been the response of colleges and universities to student activist pressure?

A: In some cases, institutions have chosen to work with the activists: holding high-level or public discussions, inviting them to speak to the Board of Trustees, providing them with funding to attend national conferences. In other cases, institutions have threatened activists with disciplinary sanctions or simply ignored them altogether. One respondent described how her institution sought to placate her and her peers by “talking [the issue] to death,” referring their concerns to committees that never seemed to accomplish anything. Some institutions have made symbolic changes in response to activist demands, while others have made more substantial changes. In general, I found greater institutional support for student activists at smaller, private liberal arts colleges than large public schools, which in some cases were facing budget cuts and political pressure to clamp down on student activism.

Q: What is the role of social media in modern student activist movements?

A: Although only 64 percent of respondents reported using social media regularly for their activism, those who did explained that it was a very useful tool for recruiting new members, mobilizing students for actions, learning from similar groups on different campuses and building a sense of community and solidarity. Several respondents also described developing a stronger understanding of issues or a deeper critical perspective by reading fellow activists’ posts. At the same time, student activists in this study voiced disdain for “hashtag activism,” or activism that was only performed online.

Q: Are modern student activist movements more intersectional than past movements, and has this approach been effective?

A: Neoactivists are attentive to both the multifaceted nature of identity as it relates to power and privilege and the interconnections among issues of injustice. Whereas it might have been more common in the past for a student activist to plant a stake firmly in one social movement or another, more than half of respondents indicated that their activism addressed seven or more interconnected issues. Although an intersectional perspective was certainly present at the periphery of earlier movements, it has moved to the mainstream for the current generation.

Q: Do you believe student activists are the primary agents of social change?

A: I believe that student activists have an important role to play in calling attention to what they see as wrong, proposing correctives and demanding action and accountability from leaders. They often speak with a sense of moral urgency that I find moving. Of the student activists in this book, 93 percent expected to continue their activism beyond college and incorporate it into their careers. The new student activists’ commitment to taking action to address social wrongs runs deep.

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New presidents or provosts: Coppin Kansas Marquette NEO Northland Queensland SIU UND Vanderbilt VCFA

Fri, 01/31/2020 - 01:00
  • Kimo Ah Yun, acting provost at Marquette University, in Wisconsin, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Andrew Armacost, dean of the faculty at the U.S. Air Force Academy, in Colorado, has been appointed president of the University of North Dakota.
  • Barbara Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, has been chosen as provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas.
  • Daniel Diermeier, provost at the University of Chicago, in Illinois, has been selected as chancellor of Vanderbilt University, in Tennessee.
  • Anthony Jenkins, president of West Virginia State University, has been appointed president of Coppin State University, in Maryland.
  • Daniel F. Mahony, president of Winthrop University, in South Carolina, has been selected as president of the Southern Illinois University system.
  • Karl Solibakke, chief operating officer at Northland College, in Wisconsin, has been promoted to president there.
  • Kyle Stafford, vice president of university advancement at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, has been appointed president of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
  • Deborah Terry, vice chancellor of Curtin University, in Australia, has been chosen as vice chancellor and president of the University of Queensland, also in Australia.
  • Leslie Ward, interim president of Vermont College of Fine Arts, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
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MLK Day post turns public attention to Montana

Thu, 01/30/2020 - 01:00

The University of Montana was in the early stages of addressing complaints about the lack of racial diversity on campus when it decided to hold an essay contest marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The contest was seen as an opportunity to engage students of various backgrounds and spur dialogue across the campus about the life and work of the late civil rights leader. But the plans backfired when the university announced, and proudly promoted, the four winning essays -- all penned by white students.

The backlash on social media was swift and searing and, perhaps most interestingly, multiracial.

More than 1,100 commenters, many of them self-identifying as white, took to Facebook to call out university officials for being “tone-deaf” and “shameful” and criticizing the contest as a “colorblind mess.”

The critics questioned how the selection committee could think it appropriate to move forward with the contest after only getting six entries, all submitted by white students.

"Jesus Christ this is shameful and embarrassing, and I say that as a pasty ass white girl," said one commenter. "I’m cringing for you because clearly none of you who ran this contest were raised with the good grace to do the cringing yourselves. You should be ashamed of yourselves."

Another poster said he could "not understand how anyone would think remembering the legacy of MLK Jr. is achieved by giving four white girls a shout out. If the university does not have black voices to lift up on MLK Day, then find them."

Elizabeth Wipperman, a senior majoring in literature, said she was encouraged to write an essay but decided not to.

"I will never truly understand the experiences of African Americans and therefore decided this opportunity was not for me," Wipperman wrote on Facebook. "It’s great that my fellow white people are speaking out against racism, but this is an excellent example of speaking over black voices. It’s gonna be a 'yikes' from me."

The reaction was not quite the unifying exercise that university officials might have wished. Instead, it amplified students' awareness of the social and racial challenges playing out on the campus in Missoula and at other colleges and universities around the country.

"Why was there no curiosity from the panel, the head of the department, or others involved, about the absence of black participants?" a black commenter asked in a Facebook post. "Having grown up in all white spaces, I often avoided events such as this because I knew the purpose was a performative gesture from the administration....Rather than sellout/compromise myself, I would avoid the performance.”​

Some of the fallout turned ugly and caused University of Montana officials to take down pictures it had posted of the four young women who won the contest, along with excerpts of their essays.People had started posting threats against them.

At the majority-white university, where less than 1 percent of undergraduate students enrolled in fall 2019 were black and about 1.3 percent were Asian and 5.4 percent Hispanic or Latino, the contest reflected a lack of representation that many students of color feel on campus, said Marcos Lopez, a member of the Nez Perce tribe and president of the Kyiyo Native American Student Association. (Native American or Pacific Islander students were 3.8 percent of undergraduates, according to the Office of Institutional Research.)

Lopez said students of color struggle to have their voices heard and needs met. He noted, for example, the understaffed American Indian Student Services office, which provides academic and financial aid advising but is often unable to schedule student appointments in a timely manner. The lack of diversity among faculty members and administrators -- the faculty is nearly 90 percent white, according to data provided by the university -- and the absence of a chief diversity officer or an office focused on diversity and inclusion has created a disconnect between students and university leaders who “can’t relate with us in a way that’s meaningful,” he said.

Failed Strategy to Connect

The purpose of the contest was in part to encourage participation across the entire campus, not just by students of color, and to challenge them to ask, "What can I do to fight racism?" said Tobin Miller Shearer, the MLK Jr. Day committee chairman and director of the African American studies program​.

Miller Shearer, who is white, said students of color have told him that the responsibility of addressing issues of racism too often falls to them.

"We were wanting to engage white people and students of color," Miller Shearer said. "It was students of color saying that they did not want to do the heavy lifting."

The deadline for the essay contest was on the final day of the fall semester. The winners were posted on the university's Facebook account on Jan. 20, the national holiday celebrating King.

Lopez, whose organization holds the annual Kyiyo Pow Wow on campus, one of the university’s largest cultural events, said he and others were not even aware of the contest until the winners were announced. Lopez did not see the purpose of a contest about fighting racism if it did not include people of color. He said the contest deadline should have been extended so more people could have entered and that the all-white roster of winners should not have been publicly announced.

“The meaning of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life work isn’t going to be as significant to somebody who is from a privileged background,” Lopez said. “It doesn’t affect the day-to-day lives of white people as much as it does people of color, who historically have faced oppression in their daily life.”

Shaun Harper, executive director of the University of Southern California's Race and Equity Center, said it was a positive sign that white students participated in the contest.

“It is totally fine and appropriate and good for white people to write about the legacy and impact of Martin Luther King Jr. and their understanding of King’s contributions to social justice,” Harper said. “I would go so far to say I wish we had more white students in college who would and could take the time to articulate King’s impact on social justice.”

The center's research includes campus climate studies in which white students report a lack of opportunities for them to develop an understanding of racial justice.

“We send millions of white college students into the world without the study of racial justice and equity topics,” Harper said.

Although the MLK Day committee's efforts were well intentioned, Miller Shearer said the group considered tossing out the contest when they saw the results. He said the decision to post the winners was a “judgment call” made by the committee, comprised of five people of color and four white people, including the presidents of the Black Student Union and the Latinx Student Union. They were disappointed with the pool of six white applicants and knew the ethnicity of the winners would be “problematic,” Miller Shearer said.

“Whether we made the right decision or not is certainly open to debate,” he said. “What we finally decided was that even though this would be uncomfortable, it is to a degree a reflection of the university and it would create a base to work from.”

The “unfortunate profile” that was created of the essay-writing contest on social media overshadowed many of the other ways students of color celebrated King, Miller Shearer said.

Reassessment and Repercussions

Lost in the debate over the contest is that it “was but one opportunity among many to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King” and “several students of color chose to direct their efforts in other quarters,” said Murray Pierce, a student affairs official who serves as adviser to the BSU and mentor to black students. He noted that some of those students participated in a youth rally in the Missoula, Mont., community or attended a discussion on King’s legacy led by Meshayla Cox, a Montana alumna and outreach coordinator for the Montana Racial Equity Project.

BSU members are also preparing for their third annual Black Solidarity Summit scheduled for Feb. 15, where they will host students from BSUs across the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere in the U.S. to discuss and plan how to “move the dial” on issues of diversity and inclusion on college campuses, Murray said. Natasha Kalonde, the BSU president, did not respond to requests for comment.

Judith Heilman, executive director of the Montana Racial Equity Project, said the University of Montana's failure to mention these other initiatives and events in its MLK Day Facebook post focused attention on the efforts of white students and excluded the activities of students of color.

"The post should’ve been about lifting the voices and the unity of the Black Student Union and black students on campus," said Heilman, who is African American. "The writing contest was a very small part of what UM was doing for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but the other parts of it weren’t shared."

Rosemary Lytle, president of the Colorado, Montana, Wyoming State Conference of the NAACP, criticized the decision to move forward with "a poorly advertised, poorly publicized" contest "with no targeted marketing of any kind to black students or students of color."

Lytle said the excuses committee members provided for the low participation in the contest did not "ring true" because there were many indicators that it would not be representative of the university.

"The university, which has a nonblack director of African American studies, decides that there must be an MLK essay contest despite the fact that students of color and black students specifically are overcommitted during this time, where observances and celebrations of black life, black achievement are plentiful," said Lytle.

The committee is examining how the essay question, which had separate entry categories for students, faculty members and staff and asked how they are “implementing Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy” on campus, may have contributed to the low participation by students of color, Miller Shearer said.

Mariah Omeasoo, a member of the Blackfeet tribe and vice president of Kyiyo, said she decided not to participate because she isn’t black.

"I felt like it wasn’t my place," she said, adding that she understands King would likely lift up the voices of other people of color, not just African Americans.

Lawrence Ross, who speaks widely about racial issues on college campuses and is author of Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses (St. Martin's Press, 2016) said the university erred by using a contest format to engage a diverse group of students with vastly different perspectives.

“Sometimes when people view contests like this, they’re thinking there’s a universality around writing an essay. Maybe there’s not,” Ross said. “How the black students express themselves is completely different from the Native American students and the Latinx folks. That should be the focus -- how do we come together from our various perspectives?”

Lopez, the president of the Native American student association, noted that the university did not make a direct effort to make students in Kyiyo aware of the essay contest. A university spokesperson said the contest details were sent to all students in a weekly email newsletter.

But if the intention is to engage a diverse group of students, a universitywide email is not good enough, Harper said.

“It would be a huge missed opportunity for this university to see this as an isolated incident and focus all its effort on getting more applicants next year,” Harper said. “It would shock me if this was the only space where there was woeful participation, or in this case no participation, of students of color in a space.”

Students of color have formed their own communities on campus through student organizations in which they feel listened to and understood, Lopez said.

“African American and Latinx students face the same issues,” Lopez said. “There’s something comforting about being around each other, so we certainly get together as much as we can. It’s a struggle when there’s not a lot of our identities reflected in the institution.”

Work in Progress

Seth Bodnar, the university's president, has heard suggestions from a Diversity Advisory Council to hold meetings with students and determine what resources a student-centered diversity and inclusion office or director would provide, Paula Short, director of communications, said in a university statement. Discussions about creating such a role or office are scheduled to begin this week between student affairs officials and organizations that represent students of color, Lopez said.

The university is also in the process of creating a new position for a diversity, equity and inclusion specialist in the human resources department to focus on recruiting more diverse faculty and staff and providing sensitivity training to current faculty members, Short said.

“We recognize that we have much more to do,” Short said. “In response to calls for institutional attention to issues related to diversity, President Bodnar is working to better understand the current diversity and inclusion landscape at Montana and to identify needs and gaps.”

Lopez said students will turn to activism if there is no progress on addressing these issues.

“Through those conversations, hopefully something comes about if we go in and present our feelings and what we’ve experienced,” he said. “But if we go in there and nothing happens, then yeah, we’re going to protest.”

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Endowment returns' 10-year average rises, but leaders see clouds on the horizon

Thu, 01/30/2020 - 01:00

College and university endowment returns averaged 5.3 percent, net of fees, in the 2019 fiscal year, according to an annual study released today by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

The 2019 average return dipped from an average 8.2 percent return in 2018 and 12.2 percent in 2017, reflecting generally lower equity market returns. But it was still enough to push the 10-year average return to 8.4 percent. That’s because 2009, when endowment returns cratered amid the financial crisis, dropped out of the 10-year average.

“That represents a very strong recovery period after an almost 19 percent drawdown that occurred in fiscal year 2009 as a result of the global financial crisis,” said Dimitri Stathopoulos, head of U.S. Institutional Sales at Nuveen, which is owned by the NACUBO study’s sponsor, TIAA, during a conference call to discuss the results.

An increase in the 10-year average is important to colleges and universities because institutions generally use returns over the previous decade to gauge whether their endowment spending levels are appropriate. Endowments are not designed to function like checking accounts to be drawn down over time -- they are structured to exist into perpetuity, with spending offset by growth in asset values. Experts often recommend managers look most closely at 10-year averages because year-to-year investment performance can vary significantly.

Endowment spending fell safely under rates of return. The average spending rate was 4.5 percent in 2019, according to the study, known as the NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments. That’s virtually identical to 4.4 percent in each of the previous two years. Average spending rates have ranged between 4.2 percent and 4.6 percent over the last decade.

Endowments must also offset the cost of inflation to keep their purchasing power from waning over time. Inflation came in at 2.5 percent in 2019, as measured by the Higher Education Price Index, meaning endowment spending plus that inflationary index was 7 percent. Over the last decade, endowment spending plus HEPI has not exceeded 7.8 percent, meaning the measure has consistently slotted in below the average 10-year return.

“I’m actually very happy to see the spending rates in the mid-4s,” said Kevin O’Leary, CEO of TIAA Endowment and Philanthropic Services. “Speaking with institutions, they have been looking to see how they can lower that spending rate even further, if possible. The reason for that is that 8.4 percent 10-year average is reflective of the incredible bull market that we’ve had coming out of the great financial recession. As we move forward, especially looking at where the industry is engaging capital returns, it is going to be harder and harder to continue to get those types of returns.”

Indeed, institutions have been lowering their long-term return objectives. They set spending objectives of 7.7 percent as of 2010 but have since slowly moved objectives down to just 7 percent in 2019.

“What this is telling you is that institutions -- their expectations and their budgeting for expected future returns -- has been moving lower since the great financial crisis,” Stathopoulos said.

Looking back further into the past to examine periods that include both up and down years reveals somewhat lower rates of return. The 15-year rate of return is 6.7 percent, and the 20-year rate of return is 6.2 percent.

Endowment spending is a major part of many college and university operating budgets, said Liz Clark, vice president for policy and research at NACUBO. Leaders need to take past results and the foreseeable future into account when setting spending rates.

“They have to budget and plan not just for the current year but for years out, and it can be difficult to manage an institution’s budget if endowment spending is constantly moving up and down,” she said.

None of this means institutions are spending less on average in dollars than in the past. Total endowment withdrawals rose by 8 percent, or $1.6 billion, to slightly less than $22.7 billion in 2019. The average endowment withdrawal increased by 6 percent, or about $1.7 million, to $30.4 million.

Nearly half of spending from endowments in the study, 49 percent, went to student financial aid. Another 17 percent went to academic programs, 11 percent went to endowed faculty positions and 7 percent was dedicated to the operation and maintenance of campus facilities. The remaining 16 percent of spending was categorized in a catch-all “other purposes” bucket.

That breakdown is in line with spending in last year’s study, the first in the series of annual studies to delve into how endowment dollars are spent.

Large Endowments Return More Over Time

Investment returns varied substantially over time between the largest and smallest endowments. This year’s study divided endowments into seven different segments based on size. The largest endowments, valued at more than $1 billion, outperformed endowments of all other sizes over one-year, three-year, five-year and 10-year time frames. In 2019, the smallest endowments, those valued at $25 million or less, came closest to matching the largest endowments’ performance with an average return of 5.8 percent.

Average One-, Three-, Five- and 10-Year Returns Net Annualized Return Total Institutions Over $1 Billion Over $500 Million-
$1 Billion Over $250 Million-
$500 Million Over $100 Million-
$250 Million Over $50 Million-
$100 Million Over $25 Million-
$50 Million $25 Million and Under One-year (FY19) 5.3% 5.9% 5.1% 5.0% 5.1% 4.9% 5.5% 5.8% Three-year 8.7% 9.6% 8.9% 8.9% 8.5% 8.3% 8.3% 8.3% Five-year 5.2% 6.1% 5.1% 5.3% 5.0% 4.9% 4.9% 5.5% 10-year 8.4% 9.0% 8.5% 8.4% 8.3% 8.2% 8.4% 7.7%

Source: 2019 NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments

Large endowments’ performance can be explained in part by the fact that they have greater access to buyout and venture capital investments than smaller endowments do. Such investments were among the highest performing in 2019.

Small endowments, on the other hand, tend to invest more heavily in U.S. bonds and equities than larger endowments do. That may have helped their performance in 2019, as those asset classes did well during colleges’ 2019 fiscal year.

Allocations to Asset Classes, 2019 Fiscal Year Net Annualized Return Total Institutions Over $1 Billion Over $500 Million-
$1 Billion Over $250 Million-
$500 Million Over $100 Million-
$250 Million Over $50 Million-
$100 Million Over $25 Million-
$50 Million $25 Million and Under U.S. Equities 14.1% 11.2% 20.7% 21.1% 28.4% 31.6% 37.8% 45.7% Non-U.S. Equities 14.5% 13.9% 17.1% 16.7% 15.7% 14.9% 14.6% 12.2% Global Equities 6.6% 6.2% 7.5% 9.1% 9.1% 8.1% 5.3% 2.7% Other Equities 39.0% 43.2% 30.3% 27.1% 18.1% 14.8% 10.1% 5.6% Fixed Income 11.7% 10.1% 14.4% 15.7% 19.5% 23.1% 26.5% 29.7% Real Assets 12.3% 13.5% 9.2% 8.4% 7.1% 6.0% 4.6% 3.2% Cash/Other 1.7% 1.8% 0.8% 1.8% 2.0% 1.5% 1.1% 0.9%

Source: 2019 NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments

Asset allocations over all were little changed from the 2018 fiscal year.

Size and Scale

A total of 774 U.S. colleges, universities and related foundations took part in the NACUBO study. Their endowment assets totaled $630 billion as of June 30, 2019. The median endowment size came in at $144.4 million.

About 38 percent of participants, 294 institutions, were public colleges, universities, systems or their foundations. Their assets totaled $202.6 billion, or 32.1 percent of all assets reported. Private colleges and universities were the remainder, meaning 62 percent of institutions held 67.9 percent of assets.

Looking at all institutions, public and private, assets were sharply concentrated in 107 endowments each valued at $1 billion or more. They held $493.8 billion, meaning 13.9 percent of institutions held a whopping 78.3 percent of endowment value.

The 10 institutions with the highest endowment values held just under $224 billion, about 35.6 percent of all assets in the study. For comparison’s sake, the pension fund for New York State, the third largest in the country, was valued at about $210.5 billion in March 2019.

Below are the 25 largest endowments in the country and their changes in size between the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years. Change in size is not the rate of return referenced throughout this article. It includes several additional factors that can affect endowment size in additional to investment gains and losses: withdrawals, gifts and contributions, and management and investment fees.

Top 25 Endowments by Value, 2019 Fiscal Year Institution 2019 Endowment Funds (in $1,000s) 2018 Endowment Funds (in $1,000s) Change in Market Value (percent) Harvard University 39,427,896 38,298,087 2.95 University of Texas System 30,958,239 30,886,018 0.23 Yale University 30,314,800 29,351,100 3.28 Stanford University 27,699,834 26,464,912 4.67 Trustees of Princeton University 26,116,022 25,917,199 0.77 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 17,569,328 16,529,432 6.29 University of Pennsylvania 14,649,762 13,777,441 6.33 Texas A&M University System 13,514,528 13,524,947 -0.08 University of Michigan 12,448,817 11,901,760 4.60 University of Notre Dame 11,268,365 10,727,653 5.04 Northwestern University 11,091,516 11,087,659 0.03 University of California 11,008,035 11,797,543 -6.69 Columbia University in the City of New York 10,950,738 10,869,245 0.75 DUMAC Inc. (Duke University) 8,609,004 8,524,846 0.99 University of Chicago 8,263,868 7,928,485 4.23 Washington University in St. Louis 7,953,986 7,594,159 4.74 Emory University 7,872,381 7,292,165 7.96 Cornell University 7,328,241 7,230,291 1.35 University of Virginia 7,058,235 6,856,309 2.95 Rice University 6,481,102 6,277,506 3.24 Johns Hopkins University 6,275,939 4,190,520 49.77 Vanderbilt University 6,270,877 4,608,461 36.07 University of Southern California 5,732,101 5,549,556 3.29 Dartmouth College 5,731,322 5,494,204 4.32 Ohio State University 5,256,759 5,211,434 0.87

Source: 2019 NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments

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Virginia governor looks to curb state aid for online courses

Thu, 01/30/2020 - 01:00

“The Democrats are anti-life, anti-Second Amendment, anti-liberty and even anti-business,” Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. said in a news conference Tuesday. “Now they’re doing even more damage by making it more difficult for the most needy college students in the state to finance their education.”

That speech ended with Falwell inviting the conservative counties of Virginia, where Liberty is located, to secede from the state and join West Virginia, which has more conservative leadership.

Falwell has gained attention before for his comments on more typical conservative fare -- President Trump's comments, guns, abortion and immigration -- but this part of his speech was focused on a more niche issue: the proposal by Ralph Northam, Virginia's Democratic governor, in his 2020 budget, to tighten eligibility requirements for the state’s Tuition Assistance Grant program to exclude Virginia students who take classes online.

The grant program typically gives tuition assistance to Virginia residents who choose to attend private, nonprofit universities within the Commonwealth, including Liberty. Students taking online classes have been eligible to receive the same amount of grant money as residential students.

Liberty’s enrollment includes about 100,000 students in online programs, though not all of those are students are Virginia residents. Falwell said the proposal would affect about 2,000 Liberty students.

In an interview earlier this month, Falwell said the issue was an example of Democrats in Richmond punishing Liberty for its openly conservative leadership.

Northam’s office said the issue is instead about the different costs for online and residential programs. For residential students, Northam wants to expand the program by increasing annual grant awards from $3,400 per student to $4,000.

“The purpose of the TAG program is to help address and offset the cost of college, notably brick-and-mortar costs associated with attending college,” a spokesperson for Northam's office said via email. “Online programs, by their very nature, do not incur the same myriad of brick-and-mortar costs.”

The governor’s office stressed that the budget proposal invests in other programs to help underrepresented students finance college.

“Governor Northam has made it a top priority to expand access to affordable, high-quality education,” the spokesperson said. “That's why his budget includes significant investments in tuition-free community college, need-based financial aid for college students and support for Virginia's historically black universities and colleges.”

Stephanie Hall, a fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that has been critical of online learning in the past, said tuition assistance shouldn’t go toward subpar programs.

“Governor Northam’s proposal signals that his office wants to ensure state money is directed at quality, vetted programs,” she said via email. “Despite receiving the most TAG money of all private institutions in Virginia, Liberty University spends the least on instruction -- just 26 cents for every tuition dollar taken in. Other private colleges in the state, with smaller endowments, manage to spend more on instruction as a proportion of tuition revenue.”

If the proposed budget goes into effect as written and Liberty’s enrollment holds steady, the university still will be the largest recipient of state tuition assistance grants.

At Regent University, another Christian university located in Virginia, about 70 percent of credit hours earned by students are completed online.

Officials at Regent expressed gratitude for the expansion of the grant program for residential students but said the governor’s rationale for excluding online students doesn’t take into account the fact that online students often face greater economic challenges than their residential peers.

“The tuition pricing for online may be lower for a number of reasons,” said Gerson Moreno-Riaño, executive vice president for academic affairs at Regent. “But that does not mean that that population does not face significant economic challenges based on their demographic and social background.”

Liberty has said that 26 percent of its students are from minority groups, with 65 percent from low-income backgrounds.

The plan would hurt military, minority and lower-income students the most, Falwell said. “The Virginia students who the elitist Democrats are attacking are the people who need the help the most.”

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Bipartisan group calls for more financial aid spending

Thu, 01/30/2020 - 01:00

In the 12 years since Congress last managed to renew the Higher Education Act, colleges have grown unaffordable, more graduates face stifling student debt and many do not graduate. The 2008 law has grown obsolete and does not deal with today's problems, say two lawmakers who played a leading role in the last reauthorization.

In a series of recommendations released Wednesday, a panel of former lawmakers and education experts, chaired by the top Democrat and Republican on the House education committee that helped write the last reauthorization law, called for billions more in student aid. The group, assembled by the Bipartisan Policy Center, would pay for it by phasing out education tax credits.

In addition to spending $90 billion more over 10 years to increase the maximum Pell Grant award and make more middle-income students eligible for the program, the task force, led by former California Democratic congressman George Miller, who chaired the Education and Labor Committee in 2008, and Howard McKeon, also of California, who served as the panel’s top Republican, proposed the creation of a $5 billion annual federal matching fund to encourage states to increase their own spending on higher education.

Though different in its details, and containing about $25 billion less over 10 years, the concept, in which states could get the federal grant only if they increased their own higher education spending, is similar to the federal-state partnership called for in the College Affordability Act, approved by the Democratic majority on the House education committee last October.

Along with concerns about price and student debt, the task force, in a 139-page report after 18 months of discussions, also lamented a lack of accountability of institutions. It criticized “an institutional accountability and quality assurance system that is insufficient and largely disconnected from the challenges” the system faces. The report called for a number of changes including requiring institutions to pay a fee based on how much their graduates owe.

The wide-ranging set of 45 recommendations also called for restructuring aid programs to better target those who most need it, including barring the wealthiest students from getting Pell Grants. “A disproportionate share of overall federal investment in higher education -- including the cost of tax incentives and loan forgiveness -- ends up flowing to higher-income individuals,” the report said.

In a call with reporters, Miller and McKeon acknowledged the uncertainty over whether a partisan Congress, embroiled in the impeachment trial, will be able to update what they see as an obsolete law, much less agree to the package of changes the task force wants.

The group included university leaders like F. King Alexander, president-elect of Oregon State University, and former New Mexico State University chancellor Garrey Carruthers, as well as political leaders such as former Vermont governor James H. Douglas, a Republican, and former Washington governor Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, both former chairs of the National Governors Association.

“It’s difficult to navigate the Congress of the United States at this period of time,” Miller said. “Whether a bill is ready to go or not to go, this conversation has to be had because it’s critical to families.”

McKeon said during the call, “There’s lots of good people in Congress, and they’re on both sides of the aisle. And there are some jerks, and they’re on both sides of the aisle,” adding, “I’m just hoping some statesmen will step up.”

The maximum Pell Grant now only covers 28 percent of the average tuition, the report said. Meanwhile, state appropriations for higher education fell from $7,146 per student in 1992 to $6,991 in 2018.

The task force’s members, however, were divided over whether the federal government should spend even more, on top of the $100 billion it already spends annually on student aid. It instead sought to make its recommendations budget neutral, proposing phasing out federal tax credits for educational expenses and student loan interest, saying they primarily benefit people with higher incomes. The move would save the federal government $200 billion over the next decade, which would pay for increasing spending on Pell Grants and the new matching funds for states.

In addition, the task force recommended a number of changes aimed at better targeting student loans to lower- and middle-income students, including limiting Pell Grants to the neediest students.

It also proposed making it harder to get other forms of aid or reducing the amount available through those programs. The report said Parent PLUS borrowers in the bottom income quartile have an average loan balance of $16,824, about twice their average salary of $7,748. The task force recommended making it tougher for parents to get loans by beginning to examine their ability to repay them. The task force instead proposed allowing low-income students to borrow more, saying they have a better chance of repaying loans than their parents do. The task also recommended the U.S. Department of Education examine capping Grad PLUS loans.

Tiffany Jones, Education Trust’s senior director of higher education policy, praised the idea of increasing Pell Grant spending and the creation of the state matching fund. “But restricting federal borrowing at a time of ever-increasing college costs could bring about negative consequences for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds,” she said in an email.

She worried also about putting institutions on the hook for their graduates' unpaid loans, saying it “could lead to reduced enrollment of students viewed as financially risky: students from low-income backgrounds with greater financial need and students of color who face discrimination in the labor market.”

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Colleges start new programs

Thu, 01/30/2020 - 01:00
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Colleges restrict university travel to China in response to coronavirus

Wed, 01/29/2020 - 01:00

American universities and colleges have announced new restrictions on travel to China in response to upgraded travel advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of State related to the continued spread of coronavirus.

The restrictions were announced this week and Tuesday by Arizona State, Duke, Northwestern and Texas A&M Universities and the University of Michigan, among others, due to growing concerns about the outbreak of the respiratory illness caused by the novel virus first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The CDC expanded its travel advisory for China on Monday to recommend against nonessential travel to the entire country (previously the warning applied only to Hubei Province, where Wuhan is located). The warning notes that Chinese authorities "have closed transport within and out of Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province, including buses, subways, trains, and the international airport" and says that "additional restrictions and cancellations of events may occur." The advisory also describes "limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas."

The U.S. Department of State also recommends reconsidering travel to China due to the virus.

As of Wednesday, China reported more than 130 deaths from the virus and 5,974 confirmed cases. Five cases have been confirmed in the U.S., including one involving an individual affiliated with Arizona State University.

As the virus has spread, U.S. colleges have been grappling with how to prepare for its possible arrival on their home campuses and measures their health centers can take. But the rapid spread of the virus also has implications for U.S. colleges’ operations in China.

China is the leading country of origin for international students in the U.S. and the seventh-leading destination for Americans studying abroad. Large numbers of colleges have campuses, centers or programs of various sorts in China. The coronavirus stands to affect not just student and research travel, but university business and recruiting travel as well. Bloomberg reported Monday that China's National Educational Examinations Authority had canceled February test dates for the IELTS, TOEFL, GRE and GMAT, potentially disrupting some prospective students' plans to study in the U.S.

"The degree to which many colleges and universities are intertwined with China, whether it be through robust incoming exchange programs and outbound students, joint degree programs, collaborative research projects, short-term travel, language learning -- there are just a lot of different ways in this day and age in which we are connected to China," said Julie A. Friend, director of the Office of Global Safety and Security at Northwestern University. "When something like this happens, we have to think very broadly about the impact to current students studying abroad, future students who are looking to study abroad and individuals from China who are in our U.S.-based communities. How are they being impacted by this? Do they have families who are impacted? Do they need support?"

Northwestern announced Tuesday that it was prohibiting university-sponsored undergraduate travel to China in light of the U.S. advisories. A university statement encouraged "all members of the Northwestern community to consider postponing travel to China at this time, given the uncertainty about how rapidly the virus is spreading, as well as the possibility of travel disruptions due to new areas in China that are under quarantine. Keep in mind that Lunar New Year holidays, between now and Feb. 3, is a busy travel period during which the virus could spread further throughout China and other countries in the area."

New York University has communicated information about the travel warnings to its schools, programs and offices, a university spokesman said. The university is delaying the start of the spring semester at its Shanghai campus until Feb. 17 and is moving “many” classes online to give students the opportunity to complete classes remotely.

"Our academic planning has centered around two issues: 1) contingency planning for NYU Shanghai to address students' academic progress if circumstances prevent classes from going forward on Feb. 17, and 2) planning to address academic progress for students who are unable to resume their studies because of travel restrictions (e.g., from affected areas in China)," said John Beckman, a NYU spokesman.

"With respect to No. 1 -- we have communicated with NYU Shanghai students about the delay and about our contingency plans to ensure that students can continue to make academic progress, which emphasizes online coursework but also includes the possibility of study at other NYU sites. We have advising staff standing by to assist students," Beckman said. "With respect to No. 2 -- we have communicated directly with students who were from regions where travel restrictions are in effect to let us know if they are unable to return to school. We have reached out to faculty who, our records reflect, have students in their classes who may be affected by the travel restrictions, and giving them guidance and options about how they can enable the students who may be stuck in China to participate in the class."

Duke University has also postponed the start of the semester at its campus in Kunshan, China, until Feb. 17 and has restricted access to the campus. On Tuesday Duke announced it was immediately restricting all university-funded travel to China by students, faculty and staff. The university said that individuals "who are engaged in research or clinical activities in China and need to travel there urgently in the next several weeks should contact their dean, department chair or unit director to activate the process for an exception to this travel restriction."

Johns Hopkins University said its center in Nanjing, China, was already scheduled to be closed until late February for the Lunar New Year break. The university has three students who were scheduled to start study abroad programs in Shanghai in February, said Karen Lancaster, a university spokeswoman.

“Those programs have been canceled, and we are working with the students to identify alternate programs,” she said.

Arizona State University also announced that it was restricting all university travel to China.

"Arizona State University has issued a travel restriction to China for all university faculty, staff and students, effective immediately," the university announced Tuesday. "No institution-related travel, such as study abroad or other academic program visits, to China will be authorized or approved by the university. This travel restriction is similar to restrictions many businesses and organizations across the U.S. have implemented."

Texas A&M University announced Tuesday that it was suspending all university-sponsored travel for undergraduates and that it was urging all faculty, staff and graduate researchers "to give serious evaluation before requesting travel to China as it will require pre-approval and only be granted for essential travel."

"Travel to China is considered high risk and no precautions are available to protect against the identified increased risk," Texas A&M said in its announcement.

The University of Michigan also announced new restrictions on student travel: undergraduates cannot travel to China, and graduate students can only do so with a university-approved safety plan.

The study abroad provider CIEE said on Tuesday it was suspending all programming in China in part due to the upgraded travel warnings from CDC and the State Department. "Those escalations, combined with our institutional partners in China indefinitely delaying the start of their classes, has prompted us to suspend all current programs in China, including our Open Campus block program in Shanghai that has already begun," the organization said in a statement on its website.

"At this moment, our worldwide staff is exploring feasible academic options for our current and future students, and will be communicating additional details to both students and home universities very shortly. Until all current CIEE participants in China have left the country, our on-site staff will be there to support their health and safety," the organization said.

Robert L. Quigley, senior vice president and regional medical director of International SOS, a medical and travel security company, said that colleges that already have students, staff and faculty in China need to be aware of local laws and restrictions, including strict transportation restrictions that are in place for the Wuhan area, which is essentially on lockdown.

He said he would recommend "universal precautions, avoiding public arenas, washing your hands, and if you are developing symptoms, see a doctor, but the health-care infrastructure is overwhelmed at present," Quigley said.

“We haven’t seen any massive exoduses out of China, but that’s today,” Quigley said Tuesday. “That could be different tomorrow and could be different the day after that. The verdict is not in yet whether this is going to be another bad flu bug or whether it has the virulence to be something that’s comparable to something like MERS [Middle East Respiratory Syndrome] or SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome].”

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Trustees growing increasingly worried about the future of higher education in the U.S., polling shows

Wed, 01/29/2020 - 01:00

Trustees have grown significantly more concerned about the future of higher education in the last year, according to new polling released today that points to financial sustainability and the prices students pay as top sources of anxiety.

And trustees aren’t just worried about the sector as a whole. A majority are also concerned about the future financial sustainability of their own institutions or systems.

The data also seem to indicate college and university trustees will need to raise their level of performance, according to experts at the membership organization that released the survey, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. They lamented stark differences in the number of hours board members report working on corporate boards versus college and university boards.

Those on corporate boards report spending nearly two and a half times as many hours on board work as do their counterparts on higher ed boards. But higher ed board members have equal fiduciary responsibilities and are facing a swiftly changing market.

“It requires a considerable investment of time to stay abreast of change and challenges in the business model and changes in student needs and expectations,” said Merrill Schwartz, AGB senior vice president. “I’ve been working at AGB for over 20 years, and I’ve seen a real change over this period of time from trusteeship being an honorific position for many to a serious commitment and calling.”

More than four in 10 trustees, 42 percent, said they were very concerned about the future of the higher education sector in the United States over the next decade, according to the polling, which AGB commissioned from Gallup. That was 14 percentage points higher than in 2018, when only 28 percent of trustees reported being very concerned about higher ed’s future.

The share of trustees showing concern by marking either a 4 or 5 -- indicating they were somewhat or very concerned -- rose from about 74 percent in 2018 to about 84 percent in 2019.

A smaller share of trustees expressed more concern about the financial future of their own institutions or systems than about the future of the sector on the whole. Still, more than half of respondents said they were concerned about the future financial stability of the colleges, universities or systems for which they served on a board.

Concern was higher at private nonprofit institutions, where 60 percent of respondents said they were concerned or very concerned. But public institutions weren’t far behind, with about 55 percent expressing concern.

“It’s not just general concern,” Schwartz said. “Trustees are usually more concerned about the sector over all than about their own institution. This was quite significant.”

Asked what concerned them most about the future of higher education in the U.S., trustees were most likely to cite institutions’ financial sustainability and higher education’s price for students and families. Financial sustainability was cited by 38 percent of all respondents and 42 percent of those at private nonprofit institutions. The price of higher education for students was cited by 25 percent of all respondents, with little difference between public and private institutions.

Which of the following concerns you most about the future of higher education in the U.S.? (Source: The AGB 2020 Trustee Index) Rank Public Private nonprofit 1 The financial sustainability of higher education institutions (25%) The financial sustainability of higher education institutions (42%) 2 Price of higher education for students and their families (24%) Price of higher education for students and their families (25%) 3 Decrease in state funding of higher education (10%) Public perception of the value of a college degree (7%) 4 Public perception of the value of a college degree (9%) Student debt (7%) 5 Relevance of higher education in helping graduates obtain a better job/career (8%) Relevance of higher education in helping graduates obtain a better job/career (5%) 6 Student debt (7%) Other (5%) 7 Incoming students' preparedness for college (6%) Equal access to higher education among different demographic groups (4%) 8 Other (6%) Incoming students' preparedness for college (3%) 9 Equal access to higher education among different demographic groups (5%) Decrease in state funding of higher education (2%)

Other factors may also be contributing to heightened fears about the future.

“With increased exposure of the sector to partisanship and general polarization, numerous abrupt institutional closures and mergers, fresh proliferation of student activism, and a precipitous decline in traditional-age students looming on the horizon, the degree of board member concern is little wonder,” Henry Stoever, AGB president and CEO, wrote in a letter at the beginning of a report on the polling. “What they are doing -- or not doing -- about it is more insightful. Fully 25 percent or more of trustees assert their board spends too little time on 10 of a possible 14 higher education challenges.”

Those challenges were technology, board development and succession planning, marketing, employer relations, strategic planning, new academic programs, educational quality, public policy, fundraising, and development or succession planning for presidents.

Corporate board members reported spending about 245 hours annually on governance activities. Members of higher ed governing boards averaged just over 100 hours of trustee work per year.

“It seems apparent that many boards that aspire to overcome the challenges they face will need to raise expectations around trustee service,” Stoever wrote. He predicted larger commitments of time and energy, a commitment to learning, and a commitment to board assessment, performance and accountability will be essential.

Trustees spent the most time at board meetings, Schwartz pointed out. But many colleges and universities are exceedingly complex. She compared running one to running a city and said work outside of board meetings is important.

“The rule of thumb for students is you spend about three hours of prep time for every hour of class,” Schwartz said. “I think that’s a good rule for board meetings as well.”

Schwartz called for appointing authorities and those tasked with recruiting new board members to be transparent about expectations and make clear to trustees what they will need to do to fulfill their responsibilities.

Another organization focused on trustees, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, emphasized a cultural change of “informed engagement” for trustees. Its president, Michael Poliakoff, called for trustees to apply their skills because they have the expertise that is well suited for discussing institutions’ program portfolio, academic rigor and skills needed to promote graduate success in the workplace.

“ACTA has long warned that the financial outlook for many colleges is bleak,” Poliakoff said in a statement. “That trustees are now realizing it is an important first step. But real culture change requires bold leadership. Above all, this means prioritizing instruction in resource allocation while trimming unnecessary expenditures in administrative, student services, and maintenance and operations categories to push down the cost of college.”

Other Findings

AGB’s polling indicates a gap between the way the public sees student debt and the way trustees see it. Just 23 percent of trustees said they thought the general public has an accurate understanding of the current debt situation in the country. Only 30 percent said the same about prospective students, and 34 percent said the same about policy makers.

On the other hand, far more trustees -- 83 percent -- felt that university administrators accurately understand the U.S. student debt situation.

Trustees largely think it’s important that they themselves communicate “accurate information about the current student debt situation to the public.” Almost six in 10 thought it was very important, with another three in 10 saying it was somewhat important.

Another notable survey finding is that the percentage of trustees agreeing that U.S. college graduates have “the skills they need to be competitive in the global economy” has fallen about 10 points since 2017, to 35 percent. Only a quarter or so, 26 percent, agreed that “colleges and universities in the U.S. have a strong understanding of what employers look for in job candidates.”

It’s notable because many college and university trustees come from the business world.

“They are mostly very successful businesspersons themselves, and have, I think, a realistic perspective of what’s needed,” Schwartz said. Trustees are also concerned about the speed at which higher education is adapting to changing workforce demands, she added.

A majority of trustees, 59 percent, said the admissions process is fair for all applicants. But their responses also indicated they might see admissions as more fair for some than for others -- 64 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that applicants who have wealthy parents are more likely than others to gain acceptance to selective colleges or universities.

Nine out of 10 trustees reported their own institutions are good places for students who are members of minority racial or ethnic groups. Fewer, seven out of 10, said the same about LGBT students, although the difference is largely because more trustees said they didn’t know.

Asked about the importance of increasing board diversity, trustees were most likely to say it is very important to diversify the boards on which they served based on members’ skills and abilities, with about six in 10 trustees at both public and private nonprofit institutions saying so. Far fewer felt diversifying based on political perspectives is important -- 29 percent of trustees at public institutions and 18 percent of trustees at private nonprofit institutions said so. Trustees also diverged significantly when it came to diversifying based on race and gender (as shown in the graph below).

It’s the third year AGB has surveyed governing board members. AGB randomly selected 10,000 of its members, representative of its overall membership, for the polling. A total of 919 completed surveys.

About one in five trustees surveyed were at public institutions, while almost eight in 10 were at private nonprofit colleges or universities. Trustees surveyed were 60 percent male and 84 percent white. Roughly equal numbers identified as conservative and liberal -- about three in 10 each -- with the remaining trustees identifying as moderate.

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