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American University of Afghanistan faces uncertainty over future U.S. government funding

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 01:00

The American University of Afghanistan opened its doors in 2006, in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion of the country three years earlier. In a country still marked by conflict and stark gender inequalities in educational opportunities, the private, coed, nonprofit institution stands out as an outpost for American-style education.

The​ university currently enrolls about 850 students -- 42 percent of whom are women -- across its undergraduate and graduate programs. It offers undergraduate degrees in law, business, political science, public administration and information technology, as well as a master's program in business. It also offers professional development programs.​ It has more than 1,000 graduates and has produced 97 Fulbright scholars to date.

Despite such successes, the future of the university may be at stake.

AUAF is highly dependent on U.S. tax dollars, which, according to the university's president, David Sedney, account for about 70 percent of its budget. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has contributed more than $110 million to the university since its inception, and additional funding has come from the Departments of Defense and State. It's unclear whether USAID funding for the university will continue after the current funding term ends May 31, as was initially reported by CNN.

The uncertainty over future funding comes after officials at USAID raised serious concerns about AUAF’s governance and fiscal controls. A joint investigation by USAID's Office of Inspector General and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) concluded that AUAF could not account for more than $63 million in U.S. government funds, according to SIGAR’s Oct. 30 report to Congress.

A separate SIGAR report, from April, faulted AUAF for "a history of mismanagement, lack of controls, and financial instability." The report said that examinations of financial documents found that the "university was not sustainable in its present form, financially or programmatically, due to poor governance and management." It also alleged failures of oversight and conflicts of interest on the part of the university's board.

Details about the alleged conflicts of interest by university board members were not disclosed in the SIGAR report to Congress. SIGAR denied a Freedom of Information Act request by Inside Higher Ed for specific documents relating to SIGAR and USAID's investigations of AUAF.

Sedney disputes the allegation of missing or unaccounted-for funds and described SIGAR's characterizations of AUAF as "inaccurate and misleading."

“Every dollar that we’ve spent from the U.S. government has been fully accounted for in our monthly, quarterly and yearly reports,” he said. “In cases where the contracts are over, we have done final reports that have been approved by the issuing agencies. All of those documents are available to SIGAR and the U.S. government.”

Sedney said U.S. government funding is necessary for the security of the university, which in August 2016 sustained an attack by the Taliban that killed 15 people. Several weeks before that attack, two AUAF professors were kidnapped. The professors -- Kevin King, an American, and Timothy Weeks, an Australian -- were freed from Taliban custody just this past November, after more than three years in captivity.

Sedney said the attacks on the AUAF campus and the abductions of its professors compelled the university to increase spending on security, which accounts for about $7 million out of the university’s overall $28 million budget.

“All of that security spending is paid for by the U.S. government,” Sedney said. “Unfortunately, given the security situation in Afghanistan and the very clear intent of the Taliban to continue attacking us, we have to spend that money on security. Continued U.S. government funding is vital to our continued operation, because there’s no one else besides the U.S. government that will pay for security. Various donors we've talked to are not in a position to pay for security, because it brings with it a range of potential legal liability issues that only a sovereign government can accept.”

Future of Federal Funding

A USAID spokesperson said that additional funding for AUAF past May “is subject to a competitive process and contingent upon the university’s continued compliance with the terms of the Administrative Agreement (AA) that AUAF signed with USAID’s Suspending and Debarring Official in 2018.”

The spokesperson said the administrative agreement "was the result of a referral from the Office of the USAID Inspector General and the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, which found significant weaknesses in the university’s operations, fiduciary oversight, and internal controls."

The spokesperson said USAID's leadership has "strongly encouraged the university to diversify its funding sources" and to apply for competitive grant funding through the Advancing Higher Education for Afghanistan's Development (AHEAD) program, which is administered by USAID. Sedney said the university has applied for the funding.

“AUAF’s Board, not USAID, has the fiduciary responsibility to make decisions regarding the future of the university, which is an independent entity,” the USAID spokesperson said. “The U.S. government has emphasized regularly to the management of AUAF and its Board of Trustees that they must exercise this responsibility, to ensure the university’s overall financial health and sustainability, as is the case with any other nonprofit organization.”

Thomas Barfield, the president of the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies, a scholarly group that has its Kabul headquarters at the AUAF campus, discounted the talk of competitive funding.

"It's hardly that they’re waiting to see if there another great university that also has a large campus and program and they’ll decide between the two," said Barfield. "This is an American flagship project, and they either fund it or they don't."

Barfield, who is also a professor of anthropology at Boston University, said AUAF, which was backed by First Lady Laura Bush in its early years, "probably lost much of the political clout it had earlier on, and it became one of [US]AID's projects. If you have the first lady behind you, that’s really different than if you are just one of [US]AID'S educational projects."

Barfield said the accounting problems at AUAF described by SIGAR are common for American projects in Afghanistan. But unlike with many other projects, he said he has not seen evidence of waste, abuse or fraud at AUAF. He thinks it would be a mistake if funding for AUAF were allowed to lapse.

“This has been one of the major projects of the U.S. government on the soft side, the largest and most visible project,” he said. “If you're willing to pull the plug on that, is that an indication that you’re willing to pull the plug on Afghanistan, too? That has implications that go well beyond a year’s funding for a particular aid project.”

Ahmadullah Azadani, a member of AUAF's student government association, has called for the U.S. government to continue funding AUAF.

"Many think the university is being politicized, linking the recent news regarding funding troubles with the Trump administration’s efforts to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and shrink the financial expense called for by involvement in Afghanistan," Azadani wrote in an opinion article in The Diplomat. "But cutting money without providing alternatives for educational purposes will damage the United States’ reputation gravely. It will demonstrate U.S. irresponsibility and faithlessness, leaving AUAF dangling."

Sedney said AUAF administrators and board members are actively working to ensure funding is in place for 2020 and beyond.

“We continue to reach out to a wide range of funders, and we continue to get support both from the U.S. and internationally, as well as Afghans,” Sedney said. "We do get support, but it’s unfortunately not at the scale that is necessary to cover the cost of operations and security."

He said university administrators were continuing discussions with American government officials.

"We remain optimistic that we will get the funding that we need to continue, as we have for the last 13 years," Sedney said.

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Arbitrator says UC Berkeley owes its computer science TAs $5 million

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 01:00

The University of California, Berkeley, must pay $5 million to teaching assistants it improperly denied tuition remission and other benefits, an arbitrator said this week after reviewing a union grievance.

Berkeley says it’s disappointed with the decision but that it will cooperate.

The case concerns about 1,000 students, including many undergraduate teaching assistants in the department of electrical engineering and computer science. Enrollment in these kinds of courses has swelled nationally in recent years, contributing to a major computer science faculty shortage. At Berkeley, for instance, an introductory computer science course now attracts 1,800 students, compared to about half that in 2014. Berkeley, which also has too few graduate student instructors to meet that need, has responded by appointing more and more undergraduate TAs to lead discussion sections and perform other teaching-related tasks.

That’s not necessarily a problem for the United Auto Workers-affiliated student employees' union, as these TAs are covered by the contract and receive pay of around $30 an hour, depending on appointment type, not considering tuition remission. But the union says that the university is putting far too many students on eight-hour appointments, which do not qualify them for tuition remission, and too few on 10-hour appointments, which do qualify them for a big break on tuition and childcare benefits. Graduate students on these 10-hour appointments are also entitled to health-care benefits.

In negotiating the 10-hour threshold for tuition remission during contract negotiations, the union says it understood that eight-hour appointments would be used only sparingly. And they were used that way for about a decade. Since 2015, however, non-remission-eligible appointments have surged from about 2 percent of assistantships to 12 percent.

The allegation here is that Berkeley is deliberately trying to keep students under the 10-hour threshold to avoid having to remit their tuition, thereby dramatically decreasing their potential compensation. It’s akin to employees accusing an employer of keeping them just below the threshold of full-time work in order to avoid having to give them full-time benefits.

Nathan Kenshur, an undergraduate math tutor and head steward for the union, said Wednesday that the electrical engineering and computer science department's practice now is to employ hundreds of workers per semester as eight-hour TAs, in "a transparent attempt to dodge the contractually negotiated tuition benefit."

Not everyone who's served as an undergraduate TA in the department thought their terms were unfair. Barak Gila, who has since graduated, held that position in 2015 and 2016. He taught discussion sections, wrote and graded midterms, helped monitor online discussions, and, as head TA in his final semester, helped lead the TA program. He did receive tuition remission.

In Gila's experience, pay was good, and even it it hadn't been, he said, “undergrads were freely choosing to accept jobs.”

"I’m not sure why it's illegal for professors to choose to hire more eight-hour TAs, rather than cut their class sizes almost in half," Gila added. By that, he meant that departments with given budgets for a course may either hire more TAs on smaller appointments and offer more sections, or have bigger sections with fewer TAs on 10- to 20-hour appointments.

The arbitrator’s decision was not immediately made public. Information that the department shared at a town hall around 2016 show that undergraduate TAs on eight-hour appointments cost $4,000 per term, while 10-hour appointees cost $11,000. In-state tuition remission accounts for most of the difference between the two figures. 

Kenshur said he understands that some TAs don’t feel the grievance was necessary, but that this is about even more than the 1,000 students affected.

“Undermining the collectively bargained labor contract between student workers and the university threatens the benefits and rights of every worker on this campus,” he said. The TA practice could have spread and “eroded tuition waiver rights across the board.”

Jobs, Kenshur noted, “can still be exploitative even if workers are willing to do them.”

Janet Gilmore, a university spokesperson, said the university and the department “believed that appointments should be kept at 20 percent,” or eight hours per week or less, “in order not to interfere with student academic performance.”

The union, of course, argued that the university's reasoning was mostly financial, not pedagogical. And the arbitrator agreed with the union, directing the electrical engineering and computer science department to “cease and desist making both graduate and undergraduate appointments below 25 percent,” or the 10 hour-per-week, benefits-eligible level.

Berkeley is now required to provide retroactive fee remission benefits to students who were not provided them around the time the grievance was filed, in 2017, Gilmore said.

The union has said that each affected student who taught in the department in 2017 or later is entitled to $7,500 per term taught. The university, however, says that it’s not yet clear how many students will get how much.

“Identifying which group of students qualify for lost compensation, which could include partial fee remission, childcare assistance and health benefits, will take some time,” Gilmore said.

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New presidents or provosts: Atlanta Metropolitan Ave Maria CNMCC Concordia Eckerd HWS Minnesota Moody Western Nebraska Yale

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 01:00
  • Mary L. Coffey, senior associate dean at Pomona College, in California, has been selected as provost and dean of faculty at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, in New York.
  • Rachel Croson, dean of the College of Social Science at Michigan State University, has been chosen as executive vice president and provost at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.
  • Damian J. Fernandez, chancellor of Pennsylvania State University's Abington College, has been named president of Eckerd College, in Florida.
  • Tracy Hartzler, vice president for finance and operations at Central New Mexico Community College, has been appointed president there.
  • Christopher P. Ice, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph, in Missouri, has been chosen as president of Ave Maria University, in Florida.
  • Georj Lewis, interim president of Atlanta Metropolitan State College, in Georgia, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Dwight Perry, dean of faculty at North Park Theological Seminary, in Illinois, has been appointed as Moody Bible Institute, also in Illinois.
  • Carmen Simone, vice president and dean at the University of South Dakota Community College for Sioux Falls, has been chosen as president of Western Nebraska Community College.
  • Scott A. Strobel, vice provost for science initiatives and Henry Ford II Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University, in Connecticut, has been appointed provost there.
  • Michael A. Thomas, executive director of the Lutheran Institute for Theology and Culture and professor of religion at Concordia University Portland, in Oregon, has been  selected as president of Concordia University Irvine, in California.
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science and engineering indicators tk

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 01:00

The U.S. share of global science and technology activity has shrunk in some areas even as total activity has continued to grow, as China and other Asian countries have invested in science and engineering education and increased their research spending.

That’s one of the main takeaways of the 2020 State of U.S. Science and Engineering report, published by the National Science Board on Wednesday. The report has been historically been published every other year, but is TRASNSITIONING TO A NEW FORMAT

“Our latest report shows the continued spread of S&E capacity across the globe, which is good for humanity because science is not a zero-sum game,” said NSB Chair Diane Souvaine. “However, it also means that where once the U.S. was the uncontested leader in S&E, we now are playing a less dominant role in many areas

The report examines recent trends in science and engineering education, the attraction of foreign talent, the science and engineering workforce, publication output, and research and development spending amounts and funding sources, among other topics. Here are some of the main findings:

Doctoral Degrees

When it comes to the number of science and engineering degrees awarded, China has caught up quickly, and on some measures outperforms the U.S.

U.S. universities awarded about 40,000 doctorates in science and engineering fields in 2016, second to the combined total of the 28 countries of the European Union, whose universities awarded 77,000.

China started from a low base -- its universities awarded fewer than 10,000 doctorates in science and engineering in 2000 -- but the country has quickly gained ground. In 2015, Chinese universities awarded about 34,000 doctoral degrees in science and engineering.

China produces more doctoral degrees in the natural sciences and in engineering fields – basically, all science fields excluding the social and behavioral sciences – than the U.S. does.  In 2015, Chinese universities awarded 32,000 doctorates in natural sciences and engineering while U.S. universities awarded 30,000. China first surpassed the U.S. on this measure in 2007 and has retained its leading position ever since.

Associate and Bachelor’s Degrees

At lower educational levels, the U.S. awarded 93,000 associate degrees in science and engineering fields in 2017, and another 133,000 in science and engineering technologies.

Close to half (47 percent) of all students who earned bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering fields between 2010 and 2017 did some coursework at a community college.  Nearly a fifth (18 percent) earned associate degrees.

The U.S. awarded close to 800,000 “first-university” degrees (broadly equivalent to a bachelor’s degree) in science and engineering fields in 2016.  China awarded 1.7 million, a number that has doubled over the last 10 years. Degrees in engineering account for close to 70 percent of China’s first-university degrees in science and engineering fields.

International Students

The U.S. remains the leading destination worldwide for internationally mobile students.

Although total numbers of international students in the U.S. have declined since 2016, the report describes a “mixed picture” when it comes to international enrollments in science:  “Between 2016 and 2018, the number of international students studying science rose at the undergraduate level and declined slightly at the graduate level; the number of those studying engineering declined at both levels," it says. "Among the two largest source countries, the number of Chinse S&E graduate students at U.S. institutions increased during this period, whereas the number of those from India declined.”

Even with declines, international students account for substantial shares of doctoral students in science and engineering fields. Students with temporary visas earned 34 percent of all science and engineering doctoral degrees awarded in 2017, and they made up more than half of all doctoral degree recipients in the fields of engineering, mathematics and computer sciences, and economics.

Since 2000, students from three countries -- China, India, and South Korea -- have accounted for more than half (54 percent) of all  international students earning U.S. doctoral degrees in science and engineering.

Stay Rates

The U.S. has historically retained most international graduates of its science and engineering Ph.D. programs. Between 2003 and 2017, between 64 and 71 percent of international students earning doctoral degrees in science and engineering remained in the U.S. five years after completing their degrees.

However, the proportions of students from China and India who stay in the U.S. after earning their science and engineering doctorates have declined. In 2003, 93 percent of Chinese students stayed, a figure that fell to 84 percent by 2013. The proportion of students from India who stayed declined from 90 percent, in 2003, to 85 percent in 2013. In both cases, the stay rate remained flat between 2013 and 2017.

By contrast, the stay rate for students from South Korea increased, from 36 percent in 2003 to 57 percent in 2017.

Scientific Workforce

The report finds that employment in science and engineering has increased more rapidly than the for the workforce overall, and now accounts for 5 percent of U.S. jobs. The median annual salary for science and engineering occupations in 2017 was, at $85,390, more than double the median for all U.S. workers ($37,690).

Women accounted for just 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce in 2017, up from 26 percent in 2003. Underrepresented minorities made up just 13 percent of the scientific workforce in 2017, up from 9 percent in 2003 but below their share of the college-educated workforce.

Foreign-born workers account for 30 percent of all individuals employed in science and engineering-related occupations.

Publication Output

The number of science and engineering-related publications produced by scientists sin China has grown tenfold since 2000, and now exceeds that of the U.S. China trails the U.S. and the E.U. in terms of citation impact – a measure of how frequently publications are cited --  but has improved rapidly on this measure.


Scientists from the E.U. and U.S. produced more publications in the biomedical and health scientists in 2018 than China did, while China produced a larger volume of engineering publications. Chinese scientists produce more than twice as many engineering-related articles than their counterparts in the U.S.

Scientific collaborations are increasingly international. The proportion of scientific articles with authors from at least two countries grew from 14 percent in 2000 to 23 percent in 2018.

Research and development

The NSB report states that research and development expenditures have more than tripled since 2000, growing from $722 billion in 2000 to $2.2 trillion in 2017. The U.S. and China together accounted for nearly half of all research and development spending -- 25 and 23 percent, respectively -- in 2017. Research and development spending has grown especially rapidly in China, which accounted for 32 percent of worldwide growth in R&D between 2000 and 2017.

In the U.S., businesses performed almost three-quarters (73 percent) of R&D in 2017, followed by higher education institutions (13 percent) and the federal government (10 percent). About 17 percent of R&D funding goes toward basic research, while the remainder goes toward applied research or experimental development.

Higher education institutions perform the largest share of basic research, and the federal government remains the largest source of funding for it. However, the share of basic funding research that comes from businesses has increased.

The report finds that businesses account for most of the growth in R&D in the U.S. since 2000. Although levels of federal funding have risen, the share of total R&D funding provided by the U.S. government declined from 25 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2017. The share of all basic research funded by the federal government declined from 58 to 42 percent.

At higher education institutions, the share of research and development funded by federal sources declined from 57 percent, in 2000, to 51 percent in 2017. 


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Landmark College expands online courses for students with learning disabilities

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 01:00

Landmark College, the first college in the United States for students with learning disabilities, is growing enrollment in its online courses. The rural Vermont college is designed exclusively for students who have diagnosed learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, autism spectrum disorder or ADHD.

“These are bright students, intelligent students, but often they have not succeeded in traditional classroom settings,” said Rick Bryck, dean of Landmark’s school of educational research and innovation.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities estimates that one in five children in the U.S. has learning or attention issues, although only a small portion of those are identified in schools. Only about 71 percent of students with specific learning disabilities leave high school with a regular diploma -- trailing the national rate by about 10 percentage points. Students with learning disabilities are half as likely as their peers to enroll in a four-year college and twice as likely to be jobless when they reach working age. The gap widens for African American, Hispanic and Native American students with learning disabilities -- only 65 percent of whom leave high school with a diploma.

To address these problems and hopefully enable students with learning disabilities to succeed, Landmark employs some different pedagogies and structures in both its online and on-campus classes.

Much of Landmark’s philosophy revolves around a concept called universal design for learning. The framework asks instructors to provide students with multiple options for learning material and multiple options for demonstrating their learning. Learning through video or audio might be better for some students than text, the framework suggests. Writing papers or taking an exam might not be best for everyone.

“We can best serve all of our range of students with learning differences by starting from the beginning with good design principles,” Bryck said.

Landmark also focuses on providing students with “executive function support.” Executive function refers to mental skills like short-term memory, self-control and flexible thinking, which many students with learning disabilities struggle with. Poor executive functioning might mean a student has trouble getting to class on time or starting work in advance.

In Landmark classes, executive function support means breaking learning down into “microunits,” Bryck said, and being explicit in instructions. Outside the classroom, on-campus students have access to executive function coaches who use questioning and reflection to help students achieve their goals, while online students have access to similar advisers.

Meghan Whittaker, director of policy and advocacy at the National Center for Learning Disabilities, said that the curriculum, courses and trained faculty Landmark offers are certainly helpful for students with learning disabilities. But getting those supports and services into every college should be the real goal for higher education, she said. Persistence in college can be a major problem among students with learning disabilities as they struggle to get the accommodations they need. Many faculty members at traditional colleges are subject matter experts, Whittaker said, but they are often not trained in teaching, potentially adding to problems for students with disabilities.

“What schools like Landmark offer is that students learn to self-advocate but are in an environment that is much more welcoming and inclusive of their needs,” Whittaker said. “The unfortunate part is that it's only available for students that can afford it.”

Of Landmark’s population of first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students, only about 36 percent graduate, which in this context means completing their associate degree in three years or their bachelor’s degree in six years.

But in 2018 only 33 percent of students who entered Landmark counted as first-time, full-time, meaning that they arrived straight from high school and are taking a full course load. Internal findings by the college say 83 percent of Landmark college students achieve their goals, though those goals may not include getting a degree from Landmark.

Whittaker noted that colleges exclusively for students with learning disabilities often act as a sort of bridge into traditional higher education.

While the college attracts over 450 students to campus, its online courses for students with disabilities are available only to high school or gap-year students. In many cases students can earn college and high school credit simultaneously.

Part of the goal in focusing on younger students was to help them transition into college, a move that can be more fraught for students with learning disabilities. "They’re not only earning college credit," said Tabitha Mancici, director of customer relations and outreach for Landmark, "but we’re also helping to scaffold and build the skills they need for successful transition into higher education."

Landmark officials say they try to migrate their philosophy into an online classroom. The online dual-enrollment classes keep student numbers small (12 to 14 students) and limit the amount of text students are required to read.

Online courses at Landmark are offered in a wide range of disciplines and are $1,000 per course. The majority of the 100 or so students who participate each semester are from public or private high schools that have partnered with Landmark, some of which focus on students with learning disabilities. The college also deploys “liaisons,” modeled after on-campus executive function support, to help online students succeed. A liaison might be a designated employee of one of these partner schools, or otherwise an employee of Landmark’s. Although liaisons are taught Landmark’s philosophy, approach and technology systems, they are not required to be special educators.

The Challenges of Online for Students With Disabilities

Whittaker said that generally there have been concerns around both online programs and dual enrollment for students with learning disabilities -- ones she is hopeful a place like Landmark can mitigate.

“By and large, we have not seen online programs do a good job for students with disabilities,” she said. “In online programs it’s much harder for teachers to read student cues, to know if they’re falling behind, to know if they’re struggling.”

Dual-enrollment programs for high school students at traditional colleges can sometimes result in students with learning disabilities not being accommodated.

“The student who is enrolled in a dual-education program is still a K-12 education student,” Whittaker said. “The high school the student is enrolled in is still responsible for providing that student’s [individualized education program] and accommodations and special education services.”

But the college and faculty are under different legal obligations, making the responsibility for accommodations in those cases unclear.

“We are mixing two different laws, two different obligations, and neither is really addressing this responsibility,” she said. “The Department of Ed has really not answered questions about who is responsible for what and under what circumstances.”

If students cannot find accommodation in dual-enrollment programs, they might choose not to participate, Whittaker said, setting them even further behind their peers.

“I’m glad to see that Landmark, as a school that specializes in [learning disabilities], is getting involved in the dual-enrollment program,” Whittaker said, “because I think they could be a great partner.”

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Author discusses her new book on first-generation students

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 01:00

First-generation students (those whose parents lack a college degree) can succeed in higher education, but they need support. Laura Nichols, an associate professor of sociology at Santa Clara University, makes the case in The Journey Before Us: First-Generation Pathways From Middle School to College (Rutgers University Press). The book is a mix of interviews with students and analysis of their stories.

Nichols responded to questions about the book via email.

Q: How did you find the first-generation students you interviewed?

A: Given the research that finds that academic tracking and inequities start early in students’ educational trajectories, I focused on aspiring first-generation college students from low-income families who attended a middle school that is part of a network that have as their mission “breaking the cycle of poverty through education.” The school, located in California, started preparing students for academic success early and worked to get students admitted to the best private and public high schools in the area and continued to support them in high school and college. I interviewed alumni of the school when they were young adults about their experiences in middle, high and post-high school graduation. I also analyzed data on the educational trajectories of all of the graduates of the school as well as national, state and school-level data.

Q: Some in higher education might not see the relevance of middle school to college-going. Can you explain why it matters?

A: Early on we are losing students who could be very successful college students and professionals in needed careers. The students I spoke with were very hardworking, driven, and did very well academically, but their trajectories were often interrupted, usually for nonacademic reasons. What emerged from the data was the need to focus on the longer educational trajectory of students, if colleges and states really want to increase their numbers of students who would be the first in their families to go to college.

Middle school students need structure, space and extra support when tackling rigorous curricula and are learning how to be students. Parents working low-income, unstable jobs with irregular hours in the service economy often cannot provide what students need, and they don’t have the financial resources to pay for tutoring or after-school programs or summer camps. Further, the schools that most aspiring first-generation students attend tend to be large public schools that have a high proportion of students from low-income families. Such schools usually don’t have enough advisers and teachers for the large number of students who need help with being college ready, applying to college and filling out complex financial aid applications.

Students who have a parent who went to college are more likely to be able to get help through their transitions to different schools and to make sure that they are taking the appropriate courses to be college eligible. I found that while parents of aspiring first-generation students are extremely supportive of and want their children to attend college (and this is backed up by national data), parents often don’t understand what is important in keeping their kids on track to a college degree such as college preparatory coursework, the role of Advanced Placement or honors courses, taking the ACT or SAT, etc. Even when students had a very supportive adviser, mentor or teacher in high school, once they graduated, it was assumed they were on their way to college because they had been accepted. But many students had to change their plans, typically because financially they could not figure out how to pay for school and continue to help their families with rent and other expenses. The transitions between schools and the first year at the new school mattered the most for the success of students in staying on the college-going path.

Q: You focus on transitions -- from middle school to high school and from high school to college. What can go wrong (and right) in those transitions?

A: I was able to talk to students who had good and bad transitions, and they revealed some main areas we can focus on to improve educational trajectories in the U.S. for all students. Students need opportunity and access to quality, inclusive schools and college preparatory curricula through their whole trajectory as well as access to people who are affirming of their ability to be on the path to college. If they moved from having that at one school and not another, students could fall off track. And students had to spend time at each new school making sure that they could find those who could help them navigate the new terrain to make sure they were getting what they needed to be able to ultimately apply to college. Students also needed stability at home, including the economic, emotional and physical well-being of their family members to be able to make school, and being a student, their main focus. When hardworking students had the benefit of attending schools that provided what they needed to be college eligible and this was combined with their families' stable housing and economic situation, they were able to graduate from college.

Q: What are the primary challenges of first-generation students in college?

A: I found that the challenges depended on the type of college that students attended. Most first-generation college students enroll in large, public two- and four-year colleges. Such schools often don’t have the advising staff to help students with choosing courses, majors and any financial aid snafus that might come up. Students could get off track, thinking that one bad grade meant that they weren’t “college material” or that they couldn’t complete their desired major. They often tried to figure all this out on their own.

The challenges at private, primarily residential colleges were a little different. First-generation students at such colleges are often a small percentage of the student body. Many first-generation students found the adjustment to such schools difficult and doubted their ability to succeed at such schools. They usually needed to find supportive staff and faculty who could help them with the culture shock [and] remind them that they belonged there and to access the resources that existed.

For students at both types of schools, rising tuition and fees, including books, meant that the majority worked long hours off-campus, and there was little job flexibility as their class schedules changed. The first-generation students I interviewed were also helping their families financially as well as with other needs. We really need to find ways to help students navigate work and going to school, especially when they first start working in high school or even earlier. And we need to create great schools where first-generation students live so they can manage their many responsibilities.

Q: What can colleges do to make first-generation students welcome and succeed?

A: There is great work, such as that by Anthony Jack, about what elite colleges can do to welcome and graduate more low-income and first-generation students. These include addressing cultural biases as well as consistently reminding students that they belong at the school, are welcome there and are as qualified as students who come from college-going families. The first-generation students in my study pointed to a number of other issues across the range of postsecondary paths. Students needed help navigating complex degree requirements, financial aid and how to continue school when there were setbacks. Their experiences also showed that we must do more to bolster our public two- and four-year colleges if we are to grow the completion rates of first-generation students.

At a time when we have increasing numbers of high school graduates going to college, we really need to think about students’ trajectories over the long haul. The experiences of first-generation students show us how we need to address issues in education beyond individual schools or types of schools for all of our students, first generation or not. We have designed the path to college to move students on rather than take the journey with them, and states and communities would do well to consider how we can imagine education more broadly and comprehensively.

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Colleges start new academic programs

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 01:00
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Long-term look at return on investment reveals positive indicators for liberal arts

Tue, 01/14/2020 - 01:00

It might take a while. But in the long run, an education at a liberal arts college, particularly at one of the most selective ones and those with large numbers of science, technology, engineering and math majors, pays off more than an education at other colleges, finds a study released today by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

In the short term, the return for liberal arts institutions “starts out rather low,” the study found, because it takes time for students at four-year colleges to graduate and begin earning money.

After 10 years, the return on investment at liberal arts colleges was $62,000, about 40 percent less than the $107,000 median ROI for attending all colleges, found the study, which used data made available on the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard to calculate the net present value of degrees and credentials from different colleges over short and long time frames.

But 40 years after enrollment, the return at liberal arts colleges reached $918,000, more than 25 percent higher than the $723,000 median gain at all colleges.

Today's report follows up on another study by the center in November that examined the return on investment at 4,500 public, private nonprofit and private for-profit colleges awarding bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees and certificates. The new study differs in that it focused on how 210 liberal arts institutions compare with other types of colleges. It has a similar foundation as the earlier study in that it measures ROI using net present value, which discounts future projected cash flows to adjust for the fact that people generally value things they currently possess more than things they might gain in the future by taking a risk.

Particularly surprising in the new study was how well liberal arts colleges compared to other institutions, said Anthony Carnevale, a research professor at Georgetown and director of the Center on Education and the Workforce. The study found that liberal arts colleges were the third most lucrative among 14 types of colleges, as defined by the Carnegie Classification system. They trailed only doctoral universities with the highest and second-highest amounts of research activity -- including well-known ones like the California Institute of Technology, Duke University and Harvard University, many public flagship universities, and institutions with strong pre-professional programs like Chapman, Hampton and Villanova Universities.

The gain after 40 years at the top tier of research institutions was $1.14 million. At the second-highest tier of research institutions, it was $938,000.

At the most selective liberal arts institutions -- like Carleton College, Kenyon College, the University of Richmond, Wesleyan University and Williams College -- the gain was about the same, $1.13 million for students after 40 years.

The finding was seen as an affirmation for liberal arts colleges at a time when more students are turning to specialized training in fields like computer and information services. It comes also at a time of political rhetoric questioning and at times mocking the value of higher education and the liberal arts.

“Given these challenges, it is worth asking: How do students who attend the 210 or so liberal arts colleges in the United States actually fare financially once they enter the labor force?” the study said. “It turns out that they fare quite well.”

The most selective colleges tend to have large numbers of students from affluent families. And the study found significant caveats that point to inequities in education, experts said.

Colleges with smaller numbers of students receiving Pell Grants also tend to have higher ROI. An example is Harvey Mudd College, a private residential undergraduate science and engineering college in Claremont, Calif. Only 13 percent of students there receive Pell Grants, and the college had a long-term ROI of $1.85 million.

But at Talladega College, a private historically black college in Talladega, Ala., where 93 percent of students receive Pell Grants, the ROI after 40 years was only $432,000.

However, the study also noted variations even among institutions with similar percentages of low-income students. About 8.7 percent of students at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., receive Pell Grants. The university had an ROI of $1.58 million after 40 years. Oberlin College had about the same percentage of students receiving Pell Grants, 8.8 percent. But its 40-year ROI was only $763,000.

The study found that liberal arts institutions with high graduation rates tended to have higher returns than those with low graduation rates. Harvey Mudd, with a graduation rate of 95 percent, had a 40-year gain in net present value of $1.85 million. In comparison, East-West University in Chicago, with a graduation rate of 11 percent, had a gain of just $456,000, the study found.

“The value of the report is that it shows the persistent economic challenges for the students who have been underserved,” said Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. “The disparity for the institutions with high numbers of Pell students is a cause for concern.”

Still, she welcomed data showing the value of a liberal arts education “amid the national rhetoric that breeds mistrust in higher education.” Critical thinking stemming from a liberal arts education “is more valuable than ever,” she said. “The jobs of the future haven’t been invented yet. [Those getting the education] are adaptable and flexible in the face of change.”

Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges, praised the study for looking at the long-term picture.

“We applaud this study for its focus on lifetime ROI, rather than immediate post-graduation earnings. This study also emphasizes the importance of graduation rates, which we know have career-long implications,” he said in a statement.

”The strong graduation rates and ROI outcomes of private liberal arts colleges, documented in this study, make it clear that states’ plans to increase educational attainment should include independent higher education,” Ekman said.

The study also found that colleges with a high percentage of students majoring in STEM fields tend to have a higher gain than others because they tend to lead to higher-paying jobs.

Those in the top third of colleges in terms of the percentage of students with STEM majors have a return at the 40-year mark of $992,000, the study found. That was $179,000 more than institutions in the bottom third of having STEM majors.

But not all STEM fields pay the same. The median earnings for engineering majors, for example, are higher than for those who major in biology and natural resource sciences. That leads to differences between some institutions.

Engineering, for instance, is the most popular major at Lafayette College, a private liberal arts college based in Easton, Pa., where more than 40 percent of students major in STEM fields. The college has an ROI after 40 years of $1.4 million.

Ursinus College, a private liberal arts college in Collegeville, Pa., that is more focused on natural resources and biology, offers no engineering major. While 42 percent of its students major in a STEM field, its long-term ROI was slightly less -- $1.1 million.

Geography also makes a difference, because students tend to find jobs close to their institutions, according to the study. Colleges in higher-paying regions in the New England and Mid-Atlantic states have higher median ROIs than those in the lower-paying Southeast and Southwest.

While the ROI was $1.08 million and $1.03 million in New England and the Mid-Atlantic respectively, it was only $781,000 in the Southeast and $708,000 in the Southwest. Carnevale noted the comparison doesn't take into account the differences in cost of living.

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Leader of California's new online community college resigns after less than a year

Tue, 01/14/2020 - 01:00

The president and CEO of the new online venture started by California's community college system has announced her resignation less than a year into her tenure.

Heather Hiles, Calbright College's first CEO, will step down effective March 31 and will be on leave until that time, according to a news release from Tom Epstein, president of Calbright's Board of Trustees.

The board voted unanimously Monday to accept a separation agreement with Hiles. The board plans to hire an interim CEO while searching for a permanent replacement. It has not yet announced who will fill the interim role.

The quick departure of its first official leader is another setback for the state system's new venture, which has faced criticism after a significant infusion of state funds.

"I think it's big news, and it definitely was not expected," said Phil Hill, an education technology consultant and blogger. Hill said he's watching to see what further information the college releases, as well as whom the board picks as Hiles's replacement, to determine what might have gone awry.

Others say this news could just be a sign of the growing pains that frequently accompany new endeavors.

"This type of turnover is not uncommon in this type of start-up," said Russ Poulin, executive director of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) Cooperative for Educational Technologies. "It is really difficult to do these things at the start."

Poulin cited other now-established start-ups, like Western Governors University, which had interim leaders for a time before naming a permanent president.

At the same time, Poulin said the lack of leaders with higher education experience is a concern at Calbright. While the president doesn't necessarily need to have that experience, someone on the team should, he said.

"It’ll be interesting to watch how they spin this and how different the institution itself will be," he said, adding that the choice of the next president will be "very important."

The Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, which has from the start criticized the creation and funding of a new institution as unnecessary, expressed its continued skepticism of the venture, no matter the leadership, in a statement Monday.

“We wish Heather Hiles the best in her future endeavors. FACCC and other faculty groups have not been shy about sharing concerns about Calbright since its inception. We continue to question the value of Calbright," the statement read, adding, "Unfortunately, new leadership alone will not fix this inherently flawed use of state resources."

Hiles was hired last February to lead the new college on a four-year contract with a base salary of $385,000, according to EdSource. The college opened in October and has since enrolled about 300 students in its three program pathways. Its goal was to enroll about 400 students in its first class, according to Education Dive.

She faced a series of challenges leading the venture. The initial funds -- about $100 million for start-up costs and an annual investment of $20 million -- were set aside by former California governor Jerry Brown. The plan was to create an online-only community college that would provide job-specific training and nondegree options for adults. Brown envisioned it as a connector to degree-offering community colleges for students who wanted to continue their education.

Hiles did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In a statement provided to California-based journalist Mikhail Zinshteyn (an Inside Higher Ed contributor), she said now that the college is operational, it's time for her to step down and pursue other work she was engaged in before starting Calbright.

Critics, which included the Community College Council of the California Federation of Teachers, previously told Inside Higher Ed that Calbright "shouldn't exist" and that its money should instead go to the state's 114 existing community colleges, many of which have workforce-related programs.

The choice to hire Hiles further set the online college apart from traditional higher education initiatives. It was her first full-time position at a college or university. She had most recently started an online learning platform and served as a deputy director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and had founded four other ventures in the past.

In a statement, Epstein said the board "appreciates the leadership provided by Ms. Hiles during her tenure."

"We look forward to working closely with the public officials who entrusted us with oversight responsibility of Calbright to make the college a success," he said in the statement. "We welcome the input and involvement of all stakeholders in the community college system."

The college did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Me Too was a major theme at this year's Modern Language Association meeting

Tue, 01/14/2020 - 01:00

SEATTLE -- Donna Rotunno, attorney for Me Too-era symbol of predation Harvey Weinstein, recently told Vanity Fair, “I feel that women may rue the day that all of this started when no one asks them out on a date, and no one holds the door open for them, and no one tells them that they look nice.”

Academics who study gender were quick to poke fun at the Nostradamus-of-chivalry-style declaration. Me Too-era philosopher Kate Manne, associate professor at Cornell University, for instance, responded on Twitter, “We’ll chance it.”

Quips aside, a deep critique of Me Too is happening in academe. Case in point: several sessions at the Modern Language Association’s recent meeting here were dedicated to the movement. Me Too was also the subtext for numerous other panels on gender and race in literature and on academic culture.

The message? Me Too has a literary and cultural history. It has implications for how feminists of different “waves” understand each other, and for criminal justice. It’s not all good -- or bad. And it's already changed academe.

During a panel on historicizing Me Too, for example, Courtney Chatellier, a lecturer of language at New York University and scholar of women's intellectual history, discussed Victoria Woodhull’s “late-Victorian call-outs.”

Woodhull, the first woman in the U.S. to run for president, was arrested along with her sister in 1872 for publishing pamphlets that sought to expose sexual indiscretions and abuses by powerful New York men, including Henry Ward Beecher. Woodhull’s goal was not to punish Beecher, whom she accused of adultery, Chatellier explained, but rather to demonstrate his alleged hypocrisy in not joining her for calls for a sexual revolution.

Women who named men during the Me Too movement have faced legal threats, and Woodhull, too, faced charges -- of obscenity, in the case of the Beecher article. Woodhull was not found guilty, but Chatellier explained that she faced major backlash, with critics employing many of the same arguments that Me Too detractors make now: that “men’s lives matter,” Chatellier said, and that -- in the words of writer and accused harasser Stephen Elliott -- “These people on the left aren't liberals at all, actually.”

“What I find interesting is the way that over and over we see how these accusations against powerful men are recast as affronts to liberalism,” Chatellier continued, citing the attacks on Anita Hill as another historical example. “The women and, in some cases, the men driving the Me Too movement inaugurated by [Woodhull] of going outside the structures of the criminal justice system -- structures that have failed victims of sexual harassment and assault over and over -- seek acknowledgment, justice and change."

Yet rather than "attacking the pillars of liberalism, as their critics charge," she said, "these women have revealed and continue to reveal the hollow promises of liberalism," or what historian Emily Owens has called the “fantastical imaginary of American liberalism in which equality simply exists.”

During the same panel, Jennie Lightweis-Goff, an instructor of English at the University of Mississippi, criticized the “wave” schema of feminism -- think second wave and third wave -- which she said parses feminism into generations instead of ideas.

Me Too has exposed these rifts, she said, such as when writer Katie Way squared off with journalist Ashleigh Banfield over Way’s interview with the anonymous woman who shared an uncomfortable -- but not criminal -- sexual encounter with the comedian Aziz Ansari. Banfield called Way “reckless,” and Way allegedly wrote to Banfield’s producer via email that Banfield is “someone I am certain nobody under the age of 45 has heard of.” Way also hoped that “the 500 retweets on the single news write-up made that burgundy lipstick, bad highlights, second-wave feminist has-been really relevant for a little while.”

Lightweis-Goff also highlighted the spectrum that is Me Too, in which allegations of criminal assault have been lumped together with accounts of men being uncriminally bothersome. She said that campaigns such as the Hollywood-based Time's Up and its legal defense fund have driven the movement toward the “carceral” -- something that should be interrogated in an era of mass imprisonment and its intersections with race.

“How might Me Too activists respond to anti-prison critiques of black feminist thinkers?” Lightweis-Goff asked. She noted that that she has taught in prisons, worked toward prison reform and always been skeptical of “easy punitive solutions.” 

The “one thing that trickles down in America is not money,” she added. “It’s punishment.”

Lightweis-Goff acknowledged the complexity surrounding extralegal means of addressing Me Too, however, saying that sexual offenders are often unwelcome in restorative justice circles. She noted, too, the consequences that remain for women who speak out against their offenders. Christine Blasey Ford, she said, was forced to move out of her home after speaking out against Brett Kavanaugh, while he sits on the U.S. Supreme Court.

A separate session on theorizing Me Too touched on some similar ideas, including whether Me Too is -- in the words of panelist Joseph Fischel, associate professor of women's, gender and sexuality studies at Yale University -- "revitalized feminism, a reinvention of sorts, or a sex panic." Fischel's short answer was "yes, and possibly." His longer answer drew heavily on the work of feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon and concluded with a lament that we don’t have better ways to talk about bad sex -- but not rape -- beyond simple notions of consent and non-consent.

"This is serious feminist problem that we don’t really have the granular vocabulary to talk about," Fischel said.

Several of Fischel's co-panelists noted that the original coiner of the phrase "Me Too," activist Tarana Burke, never intended it to be punitive -- or even a hashtag, as in #MeToo. Rather, Burke has said it was conceived as a way to build empathy and connection among those affected by harassment and assault.

Another panel called “Grown-Ass Women”: Understanding and Teaching Angry Texts in Several Genres, didn’t have Me Too in its name -- just its DNA. This included a discussion of texts including Phoebe Gloeckner’s Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures and Marie Calloway’s What Purpose Did I Serve In Your Life, and works by feminist Audre Lorde and writers Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Soraya Chemaly.

Speakers noted that women who are angry have, over millennia in life and in literature, been silenced -- by physical means (think Philomela’s tongue), institutionally (the hospitalization of “hysterical” women) or linguistically (an angry woman is a “bitch”) and more. And while teaching fundamentally “angry” texts is politically and pedagogically risky, they said, it is a way of ending that silence and -- hopefully -- exposing the "irrational" connotations surrounding women's anger. Men’s anger, meanwhile, is typically seen as rational, speakers said -- possibly because it is backed by power, or at least the perception thereof, and attendant fear.

Kenna Neitch, a Ph.D. student and instructor in English at Texas Tech University, for instance, made the case for “teaching texts that are fiercely and unapologetically angry,” specifically texts by women of color. This risks summoning stereotypes about anger, gender and race, she said, but there is a “legacy of powerful literature that transmits and validates anger and that also shows us the costs of when it's only those with the most privilege whose anger we are taught to hear.”

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Market for rights to college athletes' name, image, likeness is emerging

Tue, 01/14/2020 - 01:00

Companies are moving quickly to capitalize on a market that does not yet exist based on the prospect of college athletes being able to earn compensation for the use of their name, likeness and image.

Officials in the National Collegiate Athletic Association are still in the early stages of discussion about permitting athletes to profit from their personal celebrity, sponsorship deals and other benefits of using their name, image and likeness, or NIL. The association’s division leaders and a working group exploring new guidance and policies will not report updates to the NCAA Board of Governors until April. The NCAA has also said that any updated guidance should be “consistent with the collegiate model,” which doesn’t suggest much significant change to the current structure, said Audrey Anderson, litigation counsel for the law firm Bass, Berry & Sims, who specializes in athletics department issues.

But two companies noted in Sports Illustrated’s “Sports Business Predictions for 2020” have already developed business models based on potential NIL benefits.

Without knowing what future NIL guidance -- or state and federal laws -- will look like, the companies are nonetheless betting on the potential for future profits, Anderson said.

“Everybody’s breathless” waiting to see what NCAA leaders will propose, she said. ​“The entrepreneurs are obviously going to be entrepreneurial, but it’s still risky to try and figure out how the rules are going to settle.”

One company,, is a new crowdfunding platform similar to that will allow anyone -- college sports fans, alumni and large companies -- to donate funds to a specific collegiate athletic program or player position. The company’s founder, Zachary Segal, said will “democratize” the college sports economy and compared the process to making political campaign contributions. All donations, listed by institution and sports team, will be made public on the website, he said.

He said a $10,000 donation has already been made by, an auto repair insurance company, to 10 Division I football teams for each of their starting quarterback positions, including Louisiana State University, Clemson University and the University of Oklahoma.

One athletics department -- Minnesota State University at Mankato -- last month requested its institution be taken off the website due to concerns about how prospective donations could impact the eligibility of players under current NCAA rules for NIL benefits, according to a letter to Segal. Segal said it may have been a misunderstanding on Minnesota State’s part, and he assured the university's athletics department that the funds would be held in, an online payment processing system, until there were rules or laws that permit college athletes to be paid.

“While the NCAA name/image/likeness concept is under review at both the association level in addition to various state laws that have been passed, the fact remains that current NCAA legislation has not been altered to the point that this would be a permissible activity for student-athletes to benefit from,” said a Dec. 13 letter from Shane Drahota, associate athletic director of compliance and student services at Minnesota State. “Therefore, it has the potential to cause eligibility issues for our student athletes.”

Drahota and other officials from the university's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics declined to comment further.

Oklahoma’s athletics department will monitor the site to be sure that players are not receiving the funds and violating current NCAA bylaws or state law, said Jason Leonard, executive director of compliance. But Leonard said he saw no reason to send a cease-and-desist letter to the site because it does not use athletes’ names or Oklahoma trademarks.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Leonard said. “They aren’t using any of our students’ name, image and likeness at this time, and why someone would contribute to this is beyond me.”

The site had raised a total $103,333 as of Jan. 13. College teams and athletes won’t be obligated to accept money offered to them once NIL rules permit it, but if they do, players will make a video or social media post in exchange for endorsing an advertiser, company or itself, Segal said. He noted some uncertainty about how each contribution will work and said the endorsements will vary on a case-by-case basis.

“Athletes will be required to promote and a few other advertisers as well,” Segal said. “Those other advertisers will vary by team, sport, school state, a number of criteria … This is a centralized place to make it easy for the athlete to understand what funding opportunities will be presented at different universities.”

Larger institutions with larger fan bases may have an advantage, but allegiance to an athletic program can also motivate contributions, Segal said. He’s excited to see what opportunities could bring to smaller or lesser-known college sports programs. Segal said will make most of its profit from advertising dollars made on the site, and “when someone contributes to the athlete, the money will be going to the athlete, not us.”

If and when NCAA rules allow athletes to accept sponsorship deals, Segal said he worries agents hired by athletes “can strike all kinds of deals and they could be highly unfavorable for the student athlete, given the intense time commitment of being a student athlete, and that’s before even considering being a student.”

“We’re really hoping that this does make it so that the student athletes don’t feel compelled to spend their time off the field running around and getting endorsements that take away from the college experience,” Segal said.

Another company,, that would provide legal representation to athletes, was recently started by Dustin McGuire, a family practice lawyer in Illinois and former Division I men’s basketball player for Saint Louis University. His company could help athletes navigate sponsorship deals and provide other opportunities to profit from their NIL, such as fan autograph exchanges and social media advertising. McGuire does not believe the NCAA’s October 2019 decision to allow players to benefit from NIL will change much about how the collegiate model operates. He says state or federal law will more likely prevail.

Governor Gavin Newsom of California signed the Fair Pay for Play Act into law in October. The legislation supersedes NCAA guidelines and allows college athletes in the state to profit from their NIL beginning in January 2023. Several other states and a handful of federal lawmakers drafted or proposed similar legislation in 2019.

“The NCAA is not going to give rights -- those rights are going to have to be fought for,” McGuire said. “They’ve already indicated that those laws would be challenged on a constitutional basis … I decided to go ahead and introduce the website because California did pass its law.”

The NCAA declined to comment.

The motivation of firms and agents who want to represent college athletes in sponsorship deals has been a concern of NCAA leaders and legislators drafting bills to push the association to allow NIL rights.

Ensuring students are represented “fairly and honestly” will be one of the main questions asked by former and current NCAA stakeholders who want a say in how the new guidelines are written, said Walter Harrison, a former president of the University of Hartford who chaired the NCAA’s Board of Governors for three years. Harrison is co-chairing the Student Athlete Issues and Education Committee for the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which plans to deliver recommendations to the NCAA in early April, he said. The commission met on Jan. 13 to discuss what it plans to report to the NCAA, Harrison said.

“I don’t want to be overly paternalistic, but I would hope that student athletes would not be exploited and would actually be able to benefit from their name, image, likeness -- that’s something we’re all thinking about with this,” Harrison said. “I’m one of those people who believes that if you open a market, there are going to be all kinds of people who want to come into the market … If they’re not represented by somebody, are they even more likely to be taken advantage of by companies?”

McGuire rejected the suggestion that he, as a representative of college athletes, would try to take advantage of them, but he said that in any industry there will be bad actors.

“That’s all the more reason that agents are needed -- there are professionals like myself out there to help,” McGuire said.

Some university and NCAA officials assume that when agents want to help represent athletes, they are acting nefariously, "and it doesn’t have to be that way," McGuire said.

“It is a very large opportunity -- athletes need to realize that they’re a business,” McGuire said.

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New presidents or provosts: Centenary Concordia Jacksonville LSU-Alexandria Methodist SBCC Stetson Wichita Wilson Wright

Tue, 01/14/2020 - 01:00
  • Paul Coreil, interim chancellor at Louisiana State University at Alexandria, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Susan Edwards, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost of Wright State University, in Ohio, has been promoted to president there.
  • Wesley R. Fugate, vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Randolph College, in Virginia, has been appointed president of Wilson College, in Pennsylvania.
  • Jay Golden, vice chancellor for research at East Carolina University, in North Carolina, has been chosen as president of Wichita State University, in Kansas.
  • Utpal K. Goswami, president of the Longview district of Metropolitan Community College, in Missouri, has been appointed superintendent/president of Santa Barbara City College, in California.
  • Suzanne Blum Malley, senior associate provost and English professor at Columbia College Chicago, in Illinois, has been selected as provost at Methodist University, in North Carolina.
  • Bruce Murphy, consultant with the Registry for College and University Presidents and former president of Nicholls State University, in Louisiana, has been selected as president of Centenary University, in New Jersey.
  • Christopher F. Roellke, dean of the college emeritus and professor of education at Vassar College, in New York, has been named president of Stetson University, in Florida.
  • Christine Sapienza, interim provost at Jacksonville University, in Florida, has been chosen as senior vice president of academic affairs and provost there on a permanent basis.
  • Michael A. Thomas, executive director of the Lutheran Institute for Theology and Culture and a professor of religion at Concordia University Portland, in Oregon, has been appointed president of Concordia University Irvine, in California.
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MLA discusses professors' ethical responsibilities for training graduate students

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 01:00

SEATTLE -- The humanities’ dismal tenure-track job market has laid bare some of the profession’s other ugly truths -- namely that power imbalances are too often used against graduate students. The Me Too movement has, of course, revealed abuses of a sexual nature in academe. Yet graduate students also increasingly refuse to accept other forms of mistreatment and malpractice as they face poor faculty job prospects. 

Put another way, if the status quo isn’t a means to an end, then graduate students want graduate school to be more of an end in itself -- and an equitable one.

The Modern Language Association is listening. A fair number of the 700-plus sessions offered at its annual convention over the weekend centered on improving graduate education, not just structurally but culturally. And a large share of the association’s Delegate Assembly meeting focused on a new report from the MLA’s Task Force in Ethical Conduct on Graduate Education.

‘Faculty Hold Considerable Power’

As a number of adviser-advisee abuse cases came to light around 2018, the MLA’s Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee surveyed members about what’s wrong with graduate education -- especially where it concerned power differentials between faculty members and students.

Survey results were never made public. Generally, they involved student concerns not only about the job market and sexual harassment but also mental health, program transparency, favoritism and bias, and exploitation of labor and emotions. They prompted a major discussion at last year’s MLA convention.

Troubled, the MLA’s Executive Council charged a task force with considering the student comments and recommending related guidelines. The charge here was different than that to the task force behind the MLA’s 2014 report on doctoral study in modern language: whereas that report focused on program design and timelines, this one was about preventing abuses of power.

The new task force, led by Simon Gikandi, MLA president and Robert Schirmer Professor and chair of English at Princeton University, wrote in its eventual report that “the relationship between faculty and graduate students is a special one” that’s ideally “intellectually stimulating, long-lasting, and reciprocally rewarding.” Within that relationship, however, the report reads, “faculty hold considerable power over the graduate students they teach and advise."

Faculty members “give or withhold not only professional licensure in the forms of grades and approvals, but also their time,” the report says. They also grant or withhold “various forms of patronage, including collaboration and recommendations for coveted fellowships or teaching opportunities.” They fail, for example, “to return dissertation chapters for many months, to answer crucial emails, or to submit letters of recommendation in a timely fashion,” and they ask students to proofread their papers without compensation, collect their laundry or house sit their pets.

There are also “subtler forms of neglect, bias, or abuse,” and “pressure on students to choose them as their dissertation advisers or discriminat[ion] against students on the basis of race, ability status, age or gender,” the report continues. All of these behaviors -- on top of inadequate funding packages, lack of childcare or mental health benefits, or appropriate job counseling or training -- increase the “precarity felt by graduate students and impede their timely progress toward the degree.”


Ultimately, the task force made nine recommendations, including adopting collaborative or “networked” advising instead of the single-adviser model. Such an approach will “increase the range of professional possibilities for graduate students, reduce stress caused by reliance on single mentors and provide a check on faculty abuses of power,” the report says.

Networked or collaborative advising was discussed at several other panels at the convention. Jenna Lay, associate professor of English at the Lehigh University, offered some practical strategies during a separate panel on graduate student mentoring: encouraging students to serve on campus committees, do informational interviews with staff members and alumni in other kinds of jobs, and pursue graduate assistantships outside of one’s immediate campus home, along with other kinds of professional networking.

Lay’s co-panelist and former graduate student Emily Shreve, now associate director of academic transitions in the Academic Success Center at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, also served on the mentoring panel. At Lehigh, she worked as a graduate assistant in the Office of the First-Year Experience, participated in a committee linking different humanities programs, managed the summer reading program and developed a weekly newsletter for first-year students. That experience interacting with peers and faculty and staff members across the university, outside the classroom, helped lead her to her current position. Even so, Lay noted that this kind of experience is beneficial to all students, as those who pursue faculty jobs still need to understand service roles and the inner workings of the university.

Other task force recommendations include rejecting “all forms of sexual harassment and discriminatory behavior,” such as through the establishment of department guidelines “for treating all students fairly.” When sexual harassment claims are lodged, for example, “faculty must refrain from public comment on such matters while they are adjudicated by university bodies charged with this task.” Departments and programs also should train professors on “bystander responsibility” and the need to guard not only against impropriety but also the appearance of impropriety.

“Promote transparency to reduce bias and favoritism” was another recommendation. Faculty members should publicly set, revise and apply, in a fair and professional way, clear criteria and procedures for all matters that affect graduate students and their progress through a program. Wherever possible, graduate students should be included in department meetings and decisions that affect them.

The task force also advised “clear rules for faculty accessibility and responsiveness,” with regard to responding to papers, dissertation chapters and drafts, and requests for letters of reference in a timely fashion -- including when professors are on leave.

Other recommendations: offer students training without “exploiting” them, such as by giving them workloads that prioritize timely program progress; meet the distinct needs of master’s students, who are not “Ph.D. students lite”; provide mental health-care coverage and services and supports for work-life balance; and fund students sufficiently and pay them on time, so that they don’t need to take on second jobs.

Realities of the Job Market

Offering professionalization opportunities in line with the “new realities” of the job market was the task force’s other recommendation. Delegates selected it as the most pressing issue facing their profession during the assembly meeting.

“Graduate schools and departments -- in collaboration with offices of career services, development and alumni relations, and other institutional offices -- should offer workshops and training for diverse humanities careers as well as for the varied possibilities within the academic job market,” the report says. “Students must be supported, and not stigmatized, when they explore diverse career paths.”

In another session on graduate student admissions -- what moderator Leonard Cassuto, professor of English at Fordham University, guessed was the MLA’s first such panel -- speakers said that career diversity should start with who gets into graduate school. Citing Julie Posselt’s study of graduate school admissions, Inside Graduate Admissions: Merit, Diversity and Faculty Gatekeeping, Cassuto said that too often “we default into what [Posselt] calls ‘homophily,’ which is the love of same. In other ways we seek to replicate ourselves.” Applying to graduate school and reviewing applicants is a “ritual dance” with prescribed steps, Cassuto continued. Regardless of what they actually hope to do with their degrees, “candidates need to present themselves as prospective researchers.” Faculty readers, meanwhile, “especially want for candidates to demonstrate what kind of scholars they’re going to be.”

This has consequences for diversity of all kinds, including intellectual, Cassuto said. And if “we’re going to reconceive the guiding assumption that Ph.D.s are going to become professors and nothing else, then we have to do that from the bottom up.”

Cassuto’s co-panelist John Guillory, Silver Professor of English at New York University, as a thought experiment suggested that the MLA might also help oversee a staggered moratorium on admissions to humanities programs, in which one-third to one-fourth of departments don’t admit graduate students every year. More realistically, perhaps, Sara B. Blair, Patricia S. Yaeger Collegiate Professor of English at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, said that programs must first and foremost study and make public data on outcomes for past graduate students (Michigan has been leader on this front). 

Seemingly agreeing with Cassuto on the value of admitting students with diverse goals, Blair said that there is “no shortage of talent, serious expansive talent, among real-time and often nontraditional potential aspirants for doctoral programs.”

This “doesn’t mean that the Ph.D. in English or the humanities more broadly isn’t still -- but in familiar and new ways -- a highly valuable project,” she added. The world needs “well-trained, critically adept humanists to not only to teach college students of all sorts,” but also to “make richer sense of the world we inhabit.”

During yet another panel on what professors owe their students, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, director of digital humanities and professor of English at Michigan State University, said that a more “generous” academic culture starts with how faculty members interact with other scholars and their work. “I’m not asking us not to disagree, not to push new ideas forward, not to think critically," she said, recalling that a group of graduate students early in her teaching career had come to class prepared with brutal critiques of a reading but shallow understandings of what it was actually about. "But I am hoping that we might find ways to remember that critical thinking requires deep understanding and even generosity as prerequisite.”

Fitzpatrick asked “what we and our students might gain by slowing the whole process down, from emphasizing the believing game before leaping to the doubting came,” when engaging with others’ ideas. “Generous argument” might make us better listeners and help "spring ways of thinking that focus on higher education as a means of fostering community rather than providing individual benefit," she said.

All of this entails moving away from a “hyperindividualistic, competitive mode of achievement in which all outcomes are understood to be individual and therefore assessed at that level,” however, she added -- a tall order. At the same session, Lay of Lehigh and Shreve of Nevada promoted the idea of "professionalism" over professionalization, with Lay defining the former as oriented on the "pedagogical missions and ethical responsibilities that we see as essential to a thriving academic community."

Paula Krebs, executive director of the MLA, said during the delegate meeting that these recommendations, along with MLA member input, will now go back to the governing council for further consideration. It’s possible that the recommendations will inform guidelines for departments on the ethical treatment of graduate students, she said. And while some of the MLA’s existing guidelines for departments in other areas aren’t widely followed, she said, some have real "teeth."

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MIT puts professor on leave over new revelations about his ties to Jeffrey Epstein

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 01:00

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology said Friday that Seth Lloyd, Nam Pyo Suh Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Physics, is on paid leave for deliberately failing to report donations from the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Lloyd also was found to have received $60,000 from Epstein in 2005 or 2006, which he acknowledged he deposited into a personal bank account without notifying MIT.

The revelations come from a new fact-finding report commissioned by MIT to better understand Epstein’s interactions with MIT before and after his conviction in 2008. (Epstein faced additional sex-trafficking charges prior to his death in federal custody last summer.) MIT committed to the external review following the resignation of Joi Ito as director of the Media Lab in September over reports that he’d deliberately concealed donations from Epstein.

Epstein gave Lloyd two $50,000 donations in 2012 and $125,000 in 2017, according to the new report. Allegedly knowing that these gifts would raise red flags, Lloyd let midlevel administrators process them without discussing the move with senior administrators first.

Goodwin Procter, the law firm behind the investigation, also found that Epstein had visited MIT’s campus nine times since 2013.

Alan G. Spoon, a member of the MIT Corporation, the university’s governing board, said during a news conference that he found the campus visit information to be “very disturbing.”

Fellow board member Denis A. Bovin said that MIT allows its professors to invite whomever they wish to campus, but that that may change. The question, he said, is “where do you draw the line?” Noting that the courts deemed Epstein a Level-3, or highest-level sex offender, Bovin suggested that that was a good place to start.

MIT, working with faculty members, also plans to review its various donor policies. The new report says that the Epstein donations violated no university policy on controversial donors because no such policy exists. But the report accuses those involved in hiding the donations of exercising poor judgment. It recommends a review of conflict of interest and other gift guidelines.

President Rafael Reif has faced internal and external scrutiny over the Epstein case -- including questions about how much he knew, when. The report found that while some of Reif’s vice presidents knew about the donations and tried to cover them up, he did not. Two of those colleagues left MIT several years ago, and the third, Israel Ruiz, previously announced that he is stepping down as executive vice president and treasurer.

Reif had already admitted that he signed a standard gift acknowledgment letter involving Epstein in 2012. The report determined that he did not know who Epstein was at the time. 

Spoon said the board retains “full confidence” in Reif’s leadership.

Reif said in an all-campus memo Friday that “if we can face the institute’s flaws with honesty and build on its great strengths, we can not only make our community stronger, more equitable, more inclusive and more effective, we can offer a model for deliberate self-assessment, growth and change.”

Underscoring recommendations from the MIT Corporation’s executive committee, Reif pledged action on creating guidelines on controversial donors and encouraging whistle-blowers to come forward. He also promised to keep the campus safe from visitors who may pose a threat, to support the Media Lab that accepted Epstein funds via Ito in its path forward, and to work on broader campus climate issues.

Via email, Lloyd said he couldn't comment at the moment but planned to later this week. Spoon and Bovin said he is facing the standard faculty disciplinary process. 

Under mounting pressure, MIT said last year that Epstein had made donations totaling $800,000 and that it would donate the same amount to sexual abuse survivors. It also pledged to provide more details after a full review. 

Goodwin Procter’s investigators found that Epstein’s donations in fact totaled $850,000, starting with a $100,000 gift in 2002 to Marvin Minsky, a professor who died in 2016. Nine other donations were made after 2008, according to the report, amounting to $525,000 to the Media Lab and $225,000 to Lloyd.

The Media Lab reportedly rejected a $25,000 gift from Epstein last year, as he attracted more media attention.

Epstein reportedly said in 2014 that he’d arranged major donations to MIT from Bill Gates and Leon Black of Apollo Global Management. But the report found no evidence to support that. The Gates Foundation also denied the claim.

Those MIT administrators involved in concealing Epstein’s donations reportedly developed an acceptance “framework” that involved smaller, unpublicized donations. But Epstein repeatedly ignored that requirement, the report found, and even claimed credit in 2014 for gifts he did not make to MIT.

Investigators also determined that Ito in 2016 tried to get Robert Millard, chair of the MIT Corporation, to woo him as a donor. Epstein invited Millard to dinner, but he declined.

MIT is working with faculty members to determine where it will donate the new figure of $850,000 to abuse survivors. 

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Florida lawmakers launch investigation into 'foreign meddling' at state research universities

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 01:00

Florida lawmakers are launching an investigation into the "extent of foreign meddling in taxpayer-funded research" at the state's research institutions, in what seems to be the first inquiry of this sort at a state level. The state-level probe is happening in parallel with similar inquiries by Congress and national research agencies into the threat of intellectual property theft by foreign actors.

Florida’s House Speaker, José R. Oliva, a Republican, announced a new committee that would lead the investigation in December. He cited in his announcement “recent revelations” regarding the freestanding Moffitt Cancer Center.

Moffitt’s CEO and the center director resigned in December for what the cancer center described as “violations of conflict of interest rules through their work in China.” Moffitt said that its compliance review “also prompted separation of four additional researchers.”

Moffitt said it launched its review into researchers' ties with China after the National Institutes of Health warned of efforts by foreign actors to influence or compromise U.S. researchers. The cancer center's review focused on individuals’ participation in the Thousand Talents program, a Chinese government-sponsored recruitment program for scientific talent.

"We don’t want to be in a position where the Florida taxpayer is inadvertently subsidizing research and development for a foreign country," said Chris Sprowls, the Speaker-designate and the chair of the bipartisan committee, which holds its first hearing later this month.

Most taxpayer-funded research dollars flowing into universities come from the federal government, but Sprowls argued that states have an important oversight role.

“These institutions have been created and funded by the state of Florida, so we have an oversight role in making sure that the funds we are investing in these institutions are going to research, are things that are there to benefit Floridians, benefit Americans, and not to subsidize intellectual property development for foreign governments," Sprowls said.

He added, “I think it’s a unique opportunity for the state and federal government to work together, to figure out what is the state in a best position to do that maybe the federal government is not, and try to fill those gaps and come up with a plan that makes sure these institutions have the level of vigilance we want them to have.”

Congressional bodies, federal research agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have all been looking into these issues as well.

In November, a U.S. Senate subcommittee released a report about the Thousand Talents Plan, which it described as one of about 200 talent programs run by the Chinese government that "incentivizes individuals engaged in research and development in the United States to transmit the knowledge and research they gain here to China in exchange for salaries, research funding, lab space, and other incentives."

The subcommittee found that some participants in the program "willfully failed to disclose their affiliation with China’s talent recruitment plans to U.S. institutions and U.S. grant-making agencies. In some cases, TTP members received both U.S. grants and Chinese grants for similar research, established 'shadow labs' in China to conduct parallel research, and stole intellectual capital and property. U.S. government agencies also discovered that some TTP members used their access to research information to provide their Chinese employer with important information on early stage research."

The NIH has also been cracking down on researchers for failing to disclose foreign ties. As of October, the agency reported that it had investigated at least 180 scientists at more than 65 institutions for violating policies requiring disclosure of foreign ties. The NIH's investigation also focused on the Thousand Talents Plan.

University officials say they have taken proactive steps in response to concerns voiced by the NIH and other federal agencies. Steve Orlando, a spokesman for the University of Florida, said that the university "maintains a robust and vigilant program to safeguard our technology and intellectual property from undue foreign influence." He said that while "longstanding programs and processes have been in place to manage these challenges," the university has recently taken a number of additional steps in response to concerns from the NIH, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense and members of Congress.

Orlando said these steps include outreach and communication efforts focused on disclosure obligations. Florida also developed a new international risk-assessment process that Orlando said "provides for screening of activities with foreign institutions, as well as an assessment of conflicts of interest or commitment, and provides approval or denial for the activity."

"Since implementing this process, with few exceptions, the university does not approve participation in foreign talent programs as an outside activity," Orlando said.

"Universities really want to do the right thing," said Gary K. Ostrander, the vice president for research at Florida State University. "We want to protect the intellectual property. Faculty develop inventions, they disclose the inventions, the universities get patents. Universities certainly lose if their patents and their technology are disclosed to foreign governments inappropriately, and then there’s no market from any company for their technology. There’s no resistance that I’m aware of on the part of research universities to working with the federal government, with state governments, with anyone that's concerned about this, in a positive and productive way."

"The concern," Ostrander added, "would be that state agencies might be very well intentioned and put in place additional layers of bureaucracy that would perhaps be redundant with what the federal agencies are already doing, and it could make it very hard to do the work, to do the research."

Indeed, as Florida launches its probe, national association leaders warned of potentially duplicative oversight at the state and federal levels.

"As state governments consider their role in supporting public universities in this endeavor, we encourage state legislatures and agencies to carefully consider the guidance and directives that have already been provided by federal agencies, Congress, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy," said Peter McPherson, the president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. "We respectfully caution against new state oversight that could be duplicative and conflicting with federal processes."

Tobin Smith, the vice president for policy at the Association of American Universities, said it’s the prerogative of Florida state lawmakers to look into this issue. He added, however, "It would be my hope that they try to understand what is already being done at the federal level, what the universities are doing in this space, and the work that’s happening with key agencies such as NIH and NSF and other funding agencies."

"And the other important point about Moffitt is the system was working effectively," Smith said. "The awareness has been heightened … Going forward I think you will see that researchers will think twice about whether certain relationships are ones they want to enter into."

At the same time, Smith emphasized the value of reciprocal collaborations and the importance of U.S. science continuing to benefit from foreign talent. "I just hope -- like we are encouraging with at the federal level with members of Congress -- that as they look closely at this, they do no harm," he said.

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SNHU steps up state-level competition

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Evergreen addresses enrollment decline with academic changes

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

New Students, New Preferences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recent court decisions could expand bankruptcy for student debt

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Colleges start new academic programs

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 01:00
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