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Updated: 1 year 3 months ago

Colleges award tenure

Fri, 04/10/2020 - 00:00

Hood College

  • Georgette Jones, biology
  • April Morris, art history and archaeology

University of Hartford

  • Matthew Costello, psychology
  • Karen Cook, music history
  • Carrie Koffman, instrumental studies
  • Theodore Sussmann, civil, environmental and biomedical engineering
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For-Profit Colleges and Stimulus Funds

Fri, 04/10/2020 - 00:00

Four powerful Democratic senators, led by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, yesterday wrote to the U.S. Department of Education requesting clarification on whether it will allow federal stimulus funds to be allocated to for-profit colleges and universities.

And today the University of Phoenix pledged that any federal stimulus money it receives will go directly to students. Making a similar commitment today was Strategic Education, Inc., the parent company of Strayer and Capella Universities.

The Democratic senators argued that the “most legally sound interpretation” of the CARES Act, which includes $14 billion for higher education, would entirely exclude for-profits. They encouraged the department to target the money to public and nonprofit institutions.

“If the department determines that for-profit colleges are eligible for this funding, we urge the department to include in such a determination strong accountability policies to support students and protect taxpayers,” the Senate Democrats wrote, “including policies to prohibit for-profit colleges from using such funding for any purposes beyond those which directly support student instruction, emergency financial aid to students and student support services central to schools’ educational missions.”

The announcement from the University of Phoenix described how the large for-profit will use every dollar from the CARES Act as direct financial assistance for students who were not exclusively studying online before the COVID-19 pandemic. The university said it made this decision weeks ago, and said in communication before the CARES Act was enacted that it supported a requirement for the money to go to students.

The stimulus requires colleges to use at least 50 percent of their funds to directly assist students. Phoenix said it would exceed that requirement to help relieve students’ financial burdens.

“University of Phoenix is unequivocally committed to using every penny of CARES Act funding for direct financial assistance to our students -- many of whom are nurses, members of the military and veterans who have stepped up on the front lines fighting COVID-19 -- to help them navigate these difficult times,” a spokeswoman for the university said in a statement. “We strongly believe that every higher education institution should devote the majority of these federal funds to direct financial assistance to students and that the federal government should provide close and careful oversight to ensure that happens.”

Karl McDonnell, Strategic Education's CEO, said the company would direct all of its share of stimulus funds to students.

“Any funds we receive as a result of the CARES Act will go completely to our students to address any challenges they face as a result of this pandemic, and to support the continuation of their educational journey. We don’t intend to retain any funds from this stimulus package to support our universities or other operations," McDonnell said in a statement.

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Stimulus Money Coming Soon, DeVos Says

Fri, 04/10/2020 - 00:00

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos gave colleges and universities some assurance they will soon get their share of the coronavirus relief package, telling reporters the department is working to make available more information on the release of the money in two weeks.

"The department, at the secretary's urging, is working to make funds available as quickly as possible," an Education Department news release said.

DeVos also announced the department is immediately releasing $6 billion contained in the package to institutions to pay for emergency grants to students.

However, DeVos left up in the air a key question institutions are anxious to have answered: How can they use their share of the package?

The $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package set aside $14 billion for higher education, with half going to help institutions with the cost of dealing with the epidemic. The other half will go to emergency grants for students who need help with costs like computers for online learning, food, housing and transportation.

But institutions have been anxious to know if they can use their share of the money to reimburse what they’ve already spent to help students or on other coronavirus-related costs as virtually all have shifted to online learning.

“It is critical for the department to provide campuses with as much flexibility as possible for distributing these funds on campus, both for emergency grants to students and to help cover institutional refunds, expenses and other lost revenues,” Ted Mitchell, the American Council on Education's president, wrote to DeVos last week on behalf of other higher education associations and groups.

During a call with reporters, DeVos said the department is still mulling those details.

"At the end of the day, [do] we wish the money [for institutions] was coming out now? You bet. But the department is doing the best it can," said Terry Hartle, ACE's senior vice president for government and public affair​s.

DeVos also was vague about possible requirements on how institutions dole out the emergency grants. But she said the department wants the money to first go to “the most disadvantaged with the greatest needs for support.”

She declined to say when the department will issue the much-anticipated and controversial Title IX rule, which will change how institutions handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment. College leaders and Democratic lawmakers have urged DeVos to hold off on issuing the rule at a time when institutions are busy dealing with the pandemic.

“We are sensitive to the situation,” DeVos said. “But we also have to acknowledge that Title IX investigations continue to happen.”

Higher education groups did not have an immediate reaction to DeVos’s remarks on the stimulus funding. They have been frustrated that the department hasn’t been able to say when the money would be available. A Republican Senate education committee aide said the measure only recently passed and characterized the complaints as "whining."

Mitchell in his letter urged DeVos to get the money to campuses quickly. “This crisis is causing massive disruption to students, institutional operations and institutional finances. On some campuses, it is creating an existential threat, potentially resulting in closures … I fear this funding will be for naught for many institutions unless the department can act very quickly to make these funds available,” the letter said.

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Higher Education's Role in a Federal Jobs Bill

Fri, 04/10/2020 - 00:00

Another 6.6 million Americans filed unemployment claims last week, the Labor Department reported, bringing the unprecedented total job loss amid the pandemic to 17 million in less than a month.

As federal lawmakers mull another stimulus plan, some are advocating an ambitious jobs bill. Mary Alice McCarthy, for example, calls for a 21st-century version of the Works Progress Administration, which put millions back to work during the Great Depression.

"The WPA employed nearly nine million Americans over its eight-year tenure and is widely credited with bringing unemployment under control during the Great Depression," writes McCarthy, a former official at the Labor and Education Departments during the Obama administration, and currently director of the Center on Education and Skills with the education policy program at New America. "Growing the ranks of the public sector workforce by that number today may not be politically feasible, but a well-crafted federal infrastructure investment that channels money to state and local governments and, through them, to local businesses and nonprofits, could stem the tide of mass unemployment and its many negative effects on individuals, families and communities."

The last recession showed that new jobs typically required higher levels of education, McCarthy said. But many displaced workers were unable to enroll in a college or another postsecondary training program before going back to work.

A new jobs bill could help solve that problem, she wrote.

"A direct federal investment in new jobs could integrate education and training with paid work, by subsidizing apprenticeships or paying the wages of new hires while they attend college," McCarthy said. "Educational investments, including much-needed funding for higher education and federal student aid programs like the Pell Grant, could then be targeted squarely on helping Americans who want to complete a college degree, afford it."

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Colleges announce furloughs and layoffs as financial challenges mount

Fri, 04/10/2020 - 00:00

First came the hiring freezes. Now come the furloughs.

Several colleges announced furloughs and layoffs this week and warned of potential additional staff reductions in the weeks to come. As colleges field unexpected expenses and lost revenue due to the coronavirus outbreak, paying employees -- especially those who are unable to do their jobs remotely -- is becoming more difficult.

MaryAnn Baenninger, president of Drew University, announced via video message on Sunday that a group of about 70 employees would be furloughed through at least the end of May. A smaller group will be laid off permanently. Furloughed staff members were notified Monday.

“I can’t guarantee that some of these furloughs won’t transition to permanent layoffs in the future,” Baenninger said in the video. According to the Drew website, furloughed employees will be updated by May 26 on the status of their furlough.

Staff reductions had been on the table for weeks while the Drew virtual team -- the group appointed to bring Drew online and weather the outbreak -- considered how to balance the needs of the university and what was best for employees.

The decision was, in part, an equity issue, Baenninger said.

“There were people who were working harder than they ever worked … and there were people for whom we wanted to have work, but we didn’t,” she said.

The financial picture Baenninger painted for Drew is similar to those at many other colleges and universities. She cited lost revenue from events, conferences, catering, summer camps and other operations, diminished endowment returns, and reduced giving from alumni and donors.

“On the expense side,” she continued in the video, “we will need to be prepared for potential changes in student financial aid, likely increases in health insurance costs, and we have had significant unexpected increases transitioning to a virtual environment, responding to the myriad changes brought on by COVID-19 and the potential need if called upon by the state of New Jersey to prepare our campus to house first responders and displaced medical patients.”

When colleges are forced to consider budget cuts, administrative costs such as travel and expense funds are typically the first to go, according to Ken Rodgers, director at S&P Global. Hiring freezes come next, which result in "a reasonable amount of savings," he said. If that's not enough, pay reductions, furloughs and layoffs become viable expense-saving options.

Baenninger and her team are considering salary reductions.

"We were pretty certain that salary reductions wouldn’t preclude a furlough, but maybe a furlough would prevent some salary reductions," she said in an interview.

Drew had already experienced financial struggles in recent years. But it is not alone in feeling increased pressure that forces furloughs amid the coronavirus.

The University of New Haven -- which is expecting a $12 million to $15 million in revenue loss due to issuing student refunds and credits -- announced across-the-board pay reductions for faculty and staff two weeks ago. Last week, the university announced that some employees would be furloughed.

Furloughs are sometimes used as defensive measures, Rodgers said. They can better position colleges should their financial situations get worse, “i.e., this fall, if it turns out that students, for whatever reason, don't come back.”

Guilford College in North Carolina has furloughed 133 people, more than half of its nonfaculty employees.

“Many of the jobs that we were looking at were really the jobs that couldn’t be done from home, because they involved direct contact with students,” said Jane Fernandes, president of Guilford. “We decided that just to help -- not to solve anything -- but to help our budget get to the end of the year, we would furlough staff.”

Marquette University announced Wednesday it would furlough approximately 250 employees beginning in mid-April. Bob Jones University, a private evangelical university in Greenville, S.C., also announced Wednesday that about 50 employees would be furloughed, with the potential for more down the road.

The furloughs don't appear to be cutting into faculty ranks at this time, although faculty numbers are likely to be affected by already announced hiring freezes, reductions in pay and other actions at colleges and universities around the country.

The first round of furloughs and layoffs is typically operationally easier on colleges, Rodgers said.

“Those initial layoffs and furloughs typically are -- you have to be careful when you say this -- not too difficult for the university to administer,” Rodgers said. “If you get into the situation where a lot of students choose not to come back to campus and you have to implement a more broad-based reduction, that would be more challenging for any university to implement … because then you have to cut into core programming.”

Employees who work on campuses for third-party vendors that contract with colleges are also being laid off. Bon Appétit Management Company, which provides dining services to many colleges around the country, has furloughed many of its employees. Contract workers are not usually considered employees of the college they work at, and they face an uncertain future until students return to campus.

Colleges are borrowing money to bolster their cash positions, but not to support recurring operations, including payroll, Rodgers said.

“We view unfavorably any organization that borrows money to support recurring operations, including for payroll purposes,” he continued.

June is likely to be a key decision point on future furloughs and layoffs, Rodgers said, because the June 30 end of the fiscal year will be approaching. Colleges will be working out their budgets for the new 2021 fiscal year.

“They’re trying to see how this is going to impact their fiscal '21 budget,” he said. “They’re having to make assumptions that may be very difficult to make as far as what enrollment to anticipate under scenario one, scenario two, scenario three.”

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Feds begin distributing emergency grants for students affected by campus closures

Fri, 04/10/2020 - 00:00

The Education Department is beginning to disperse the $14 billion set aside for higher education in the stimulus package passed by Congress two weeks ago, beginning with $6 billion in funds for institutions to give students through emergency grants.

In addition, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told reporters the department is working on releasing billions more in stimulus funds to help defray the costs to institutions of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The department on Thursday also released how much each institution will get based on a complex formula set by Congress that is weighted toward institutions that enroll the greatest number of low-income Pell Grant recipients. Arizona State University, for example, will get $63 million.

However, DeVos didn’t answer a key question colleges have been asking: How exactly will they be allowed to use their share of the money?

DeVos told reporters the department is working through that question, including whether institutions can use the money to pay for what they’ve already spent to help students or on other coronavirus-related costs as they’ve closed campuses and shifted to online learning.

The $2 trillion coronavirus relief package Congress passed set aside $14 billion for higher education, with half going to help institutions with the cost of dealing with the epidemic. The other half must be used by institutions for emergency grants to students to help pay for costs like food, housing and transportation.

In a news release, DeVos said the department prioritized getting that money out the door.

"What's best for students is at the center of every decision we make," she said. "That's why we prioritized getting funding out the door quickly to college students who need it most. We don't want unmet financial needs due to the coronavirus to derail their learning."

In a letter to college and university presidents on Thursday, DeVos noted the stimulus package, called the CARES Act, gives institutions considerable discretion on how to distribute the grants for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus. But she said, “I would like to encourage the leadership of each institution to prioritize your students with the greatest need, but at the same time consider establishing a maximum funding threshold for each student to ensure that these funds are distributed as widely as possible.”

She suggested using the same maximum for the grants as the $6,195 limit for Pell.

David Baime, the American Association of Community Colleges’ senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis, praised the department for giving colleges discretion to decide how to disperse the emergency grants. But he said colleges will be disappointed it does not appear the department will allow them to use the money -- at least for the grants -- to reimburse what they have spent already to help displaced students.

The department said colleges will have to certify they’ll use the money for the grants as intended before being able to draw the funds. Higher education stakeholders, who were on a separate call with DeVos and other senior department officials, said after that’s done, the money for the grants could start flowing next week.

Less clear is when the institutions will be able to get their share of the stimulus they’ve been clamoring for, as they deal with unexpected costs from the epidemic like returning money for room and board after closing campuses and residence halls.

Craig Lindwarm, the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities’ vice president for governmental affairs, praised the department for making the funds for emergency grants available. But "institutions are anxious to receive funding to address the urgent needs before them," he said.

“This crisis is causing massive disruption to students, institutional operations and institutional finances. On some campuses, it is creating an existential threat, potentially resulting in closures,” Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, wrote DeVos last week on behalf of other higher education groups.

“I fear this funding will be for naught for many institutions unless the department can act very quickly to make these funds available,” the letter said.

DeVos told reporters more information will be available within two weeks. "The department, at the secretary's urging, is working to make funds available as quickly as possible," she said.

Reaction From Higher Ed Groups

Terry Hartle, ACE's senior vice president for government and public affairs, said, “At the end of the day, [do] we wish the money [for institutions] was coming out now? You bet. But the department is doing the best it can.”

Still, higher education associations have been hoping for more certainty on how they can use the money, particularly to get back what they’ve already spent to help displaced students and shift from classroom education to online learning. Even though institutions are not able to use the emergency grants to reimburse themselves for help they've already given students, education lobbyists still are hoping they will be able to use the other half of the money to pay back some of what they have spent already.

“It is critical for the department to provide campuses with as much flexibility as possible for distributing these funds on campus, both for emergency grants to students and to help cover institutional refunds, expenses and other lost revenues,” Mitchell’s letter said.

In addition, the associations have said the $14 billion for higher education in the package is not nearly enough to cover their costs related to the epidemic. They had asked for $50 billion and said in a letter to congressional leaders Thursday that they need an additional $47 billion.

Representative Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat and chairman of the House education committee, said in a statement that more funding is needed. He called the last stimulus package a "down payment on the immediate and substantial relief that displaced students and cash-strapped institutions need to cope with this crisis."

Scott continued, “While I am pleased that the first $6 billion in emergency funding is now being made available, we must recognize that is just one step in a long and challenging effort to maintain access to education for students across the country.”

DeVos during the call with reporters was asked about a letter four powerful Democratic senators, led by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, sent to the U.S. Department of Education Thursday, requesting clarification on whether it will allow federal stimulus funds to be allocated to for-profit colleges and universities.

The Democratic senators argued the “most legally sound interpretation” of the CARES Act would entirely exclude for-profits. They encouraged the department to target the money to public and nonprofit institutions.

DeVos, though, said nothing in the law precludes those students from getting help.

Meanwhile, she declined to tell reporters when the department will issue the much-anticipated and controversial Title IX rule changing how institutions handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment. With DeVos believing the process for the cases is slanted against the accused, the rule is expected to increase their rights, including requiring that the accused be able to cross-examine accusers.

College leaders and Democratic lawmakers have urged DeVos to hold off on issuing the rule at a time when institutions are busy dealing with the pandemic. “We are sensitive to the situation,” DeVos said. “But we also have to acknowledge that Title IX investigations continue to happen.”

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Listing funds each college can expect to receive under the federal stimulus

Fri, 04/10/2020 - 00:00

The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday released how much each college and university will receive under the $14 billion set aside for higher education in the stimulus package Congress passed recently.

Funding levels are based on a complex formula weighted toward institutions enrolling large numbers of students who qualify for Pell Grants. The chart below reflects data the department released. It can be searched to find how much any individual college or university is expected to receive. Or click on the headings to sort the data.

Please note that the department excluded from this data institutions with no calculated allocation.

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Next-level precarity: non-tenure-track professors and COVID-19

Fri, 04/10/2020 - 00:00

COVID-19 poses the greatest health risks to the most vulnerable. Non-tenure-track professors -- academe’s most vulnerable faculty members -- are asking their institutions not to mimic the virus’s cruelty by balancing vanishing budgets on their backs.

“I will almost certainly be unemployed on July 1 with no health insurance for me and my family,” said Alex Corey, a lecturer in history and literature at Harvard University since 2017. That’s if Harvard doesn’t extend non-tenure-track contracts, as a new petition demands.

The petition -- one of several of its kind concerning different institutions -- asks Harvard to stretch current appointments and renewal limits for all instructors teaching off the tenure track by at least a year. It notes the unlikelihood of instructors finding outside work amid institutional hiring freezes and the faltering economy, as well as the costs of losing Harvard-backed health insurance during a global pandemic. The petition also warns against cutting instructors out of students’ orbit during such a time. Harvard has announced faculty pay freezes, tenure-track faculty search suspensions and a partial hiring freeze.

Perhaps most significantly, the document argues that Harvard’s administration “has a moral responsibility to protect the vulnerable members of its community and to mitigate the dangers of the pandemic, which are unequally distributed.” Non-tenure-track professors already are precariously employed and vulnerable to unemployment, lack of medical insurance or care, and housing insecurity, it says, and the pandemic only makes these “difficult conditions all the more frightening and dangerous.”

Without appointment extensions, the petition reads, “the university will be putting some of its most dedicated and celebrated teachers at great risk.”

Case in point: Corey has chronic asthma that requires expensive medication and two children under age 3. Beyond that, Corey's ongoing research and mentoring become harder if not impossible to continue without institutional shelter.

Beyond Harvard

Across academe, non-tenure-track professors often work on semester-to-semester or year-to-year contracts. So they are used to the specter of not being renewed for another term. But the widespread hiring freezes announced during the pandemic present unprecedented uncertainty to these instructors, who make up the majority of teaching faculty. If one institution simply drops them due to a blanket hiring freeze, there may be nowhere else to apply for years. Even for a demographic used to precarity, this is next level.

Stirred by such prospects -- and in some cases galled by hiring freezes announced by institutions with multibillion-dollar endowments -- non-tenure-track professors beyond Harvard are speaking up. Instructors at Yale University and Smith College circulated their own petitions for one-year contract extensions, for example, and lecturers within the University of California system are planning a Zoom news conference today.

Terence Renaud, a lecturer in history who co-wrote the Yale petition, said Yale -- like nearly all other institutions -- is heavily dependent on non-tenure-track labor, especially since the 2008 recession. Beyond any "ethical argument" for supporting these instructors, he said, Yale has a "practical interest in maintaining the number and quality of its teaching faculty. A new class of undergrad students has already been admitted for the upcoming year.”

With the recently announced hiring freeze, through 2021, he said, “How will Yale staff its existing courses?” Will tenure-track and tenured faculty members do it all, at the same level of instruction?

“We are all ready to continue upholding Yale's reputation as a leading teaching and research institution during the hard times ahead,” Renaud said. “But we fail to see how that will be possible if the university applies austerity cuts to its most vulnerable faculty.”

Vanessa Adel, a lecturer in sociology at Smith College on and off since 2007, said her current contract ends on June 30. She was offered a position for next year but hadn’t yet signed her contract when Smith announced a hiring freeze. She thinks her offer will be officially rescinded but doesn’t know yet. Beyond all the concerns her colleagues share, Adel said she's worried about a brain drain from academe and possibly even the U.S.

“Most contingents are academics who are working hard to secure tenure-track jobs,” Adel said. With so many of those searches frozen, many instructors "face long-term unemployment and will have to retool their careers.” Some international professors teaching off the tenure track who were hoping to continue working in the U.S. also will be forced to return to their home countries, she added.

Adel underscored that the Smith petition challenges the college to be a leader in offering support to economically vulnerable instructors who have already contributed to campus life.

“The national trend is to cut people off,” she said. “For colleges and universities like Smith, who have the financial means to reallocate budget priorities, honoring their commitments also means following through on their mission and educational values.”

What Institutions Can -- and Should -- Do

Adrianna Kezar, Wilbur Kieffer Endowed Professor and Dean's Professor of Leadership at the University of Southern California, who studies the faculty and student success, helped draft a statement on what colleges and universities should be doing for non-tenure-track professors during COVID-19. It includes offering them instructional and technical support, as well as additional compensation, for moving their courses online and suspending teaching evaluations for the semester. Assure in writing that renewal decisions will not be negatively affected by the disruption, the document also advises, and agree not to contest unemployment insurance claims by contingent faculty members for the coming summer and fall terms.

Institutions “really should think twice about the continued absorption of budget cuts on faculty,” including non-tenure-track professors, Kezar said this week. “We've got decades now of data showing that [negatively] impacts student persistence, student development, student graduation and their success postcollege.”

National surveys of alumni identify faculty as the most important part of their college experience, Kezar also said.

“Long term, institutions are going to hurt financially when alumni don't give back when their experiences are compromised due to the lack of investment in faculty."

Lecturers within the California system are holding a virtual news conference today to voice their concerns about job security and accommodations for instructors. Differing slightly from instructors at single-campus institutions, the California faculty members are seeking a strong systemwide response to their concerns. Campus actions thus far have been patchy, they say.

John Gavin Branstetter, a lecturer in political science at the Los Angeles campus, had some promising leads in the tenure-track job market until it short-circuited last month. On top of that stress, he said the California system has handled the transition to online courses in a way that puts "maximum burden on its non-tenure-track faculty.” He teaches two courses of about 140 students each and moved them both online without the help of teaching assistants.

The recent quarterly exam period was “especially tough, because we kept receiving contradictory guidance from the department and the university levels about how to grade and what accommodations we should make,” he said. “I ended up spending a lot of time talking to students and trying to figure out what the best policy was rather than actually doing the grading or giving them feedback.”

The result was many extra uncompensated hours of work. Salt in that wound is the extra expenses related to the transition, Branstetter said. He’s bought extra books he couldn’t access on campus and a scanner app to put them online, plus a webcam. His department offered $200 in reimbursement, which he appreciatively accepted, but the up-front costs stung -- especially as his wife was recently laid off.

Branstetter also needs a new personal computer, or least a new screen to see his students well on Zoom, he said, but said he was prevented from putting the reimbursement fees toward a purchase that exceeds $200. Still, he said he is at least better off than some lecturers who have allegedly been encouraged to teach from campus if their home setups aren’t conducive to teaching remotely.

How should the system respond? Branstetter said that “we need some promise that we are not going to lose our health insurance in June,” as the university has said it will not lay off any employees through June 30. “Some kind of guarantee that current lecturers' appointments will be extended through the summer, at least, would help us all weather the storm.”

Alison Black, a lecturer in education overseeing education students who must in turn adapt to remote K-12 instruction, applauded the system's commitment to no layoffs in the short term, but said "this pandemic is clearly going to need more long term foresight." She said he hoped the system will "set the standard by committing to ensuring stability of employment to see all its workers" through the crisis.

Branstetter thinks lecturers should also receive compensation for the extra work they’ve done to go remote, to take the edge off their financial anxiety, and for buying home office equipment and furniture, too.

“If we are really essential workers, we should be paid like it,” Branstetter said.

What Institutions Say -- and Advice for Adjuncts

The California system president's office said that it committed to no layoffs through June 30 because "keeping staff employed with pay and health and welfare benefits during this period will allow UC employees to more effectively care for themselves and their families during unprecedented, challenging times."

The office noted that union contract negotiations with the lecturers' American Federation of Teachers-affiliated union are ongoing. The previous contract expired in January.

"We believe our AFT-represented lecturers deserve a comprehensive contract that provides fair and appropriate compensation, benefits, position responsibilities, professional development and performance evaluation," it said. "We hope that we can address joint concerns and resolve outstanding differences quickly to meet the needs of lecturers and the UC community who depend on them."

Smith administrators pointed to previous COVID-19 communications to its campus, including a letter from President Kathleen McCartney and David DeSwert, vice president for finance and administration, announcing a hiring freeze. While Smith is in “strong” financial shape generally, they said, the pandemic dropped a $8 to $10 million punch already, in the form of room and board refunds to students who have left campus.

“Going forward, we must hope for the best but plan for other possibilities,” they wrote. “As we turn our attention to next year, it is probable that our revenues will decline, for all the reasons we have outlined, but again it is difficult at this point in time to know by exactly how much.”

Harvard said in a statement that its lecturers and preceptors “play a very important role in carrying out our teaching mission. We are deeply grateful to these members of our community for all they are doing, particularly during this unprecedented and challenging time.”

Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy group, said, “I’m afraid it's anybody's guess” as to whether contract extensions will be granted, “given the uncertainty and the financial pressures that are even endangering supposedly secure jobs.”

Echoing others' guidance, Maisto said that colleges and universities should agree “not only to cover their unexpected costs related to shifting to online teaching, which is much more labor intensive, but also to extend health-care coverage, childcare benefits and to pledge not to contest unemployment claims.”

Maisto advised adjuncts to document all the extra hours they’ve spent working this semester and use that to support their right to employer-provided health care under the Affordable Care Act.

“Teaching online now assuredly puts them at or beyond the threshold,” she said. They should also “absolutely apply for unemployment when the current term is over, since if they are not given classes they will get retroactive unemployment insurance.”

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Colleges move summer classes online; some consider tuition reductions, technology fee waivers

Fri, 04/10/2020 - 00:00

A flurry of colleges has made the formal, if inevitable, announcements in the last 10 days that summer sessions -- or at least the first scheduled sessions for those that have multiple summer start dates -- will be online-only due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For colleges that already had extensive online summer course offerings, the transition may be relatively smooth, but those that didn’t may face questions about quality and tuition pricing from skeptical students.

Lucie Lapovsky, principal at Lapovsky Consulting and a former college president, said private college leaders she talks with are discussing incentives such as two-for-one course pricing or reduced tuition.

“When I’ve talked to students, they’re saying, ‘If I’m going to be online, I don’t need to pay the price of my institution,’” she said. “I think you will see shopping, so I think for the more expensive schools you’re going to see discounting or deals, so to speak.”

Various colleges have already announced discounts. Florida Gateway College, a community college, is letting current students enroll in two three-credit online summer courses for the price of one. Winthrop University, a public university in South Carolina, cut tuition for summer classes by 12 percent, which comes on top of an already 20 percent lower in-state tuition rate for summer classes compared to those offered in the spring and fall. American University, a relatively pricey private university in Washington, D.C., is offering a 10 percent discount on summer classes, which the university says translates into about $1,000 in savings on an average summer schedule of two courses.

“With there likely being few options for college students in the summer in the way of internships, summer jobs, etc., we hope this provides an avenue for American University’s students to stay on track with meeting their goals,” American said in a press release.

Carla Hickman, vice president for research for the enrollment management consulting firm EAB, noted that many colleges have long had tuition discount structures in place -- unrelated to COVID-19 -- to incentivize students to enroll for a robust course load in the summer. She said tuition pricing for online courses varies. Some colleges actually charge more for online classes than for in-person classes. In many cases colleges charge a separate technology fee for online course enrollments. Hickman said many colleges are waiving these technology fees through the summer, but that college leaders she’s spoken with don’t feel they can continue to offer those waivers next fall if classes continue to be offered remotely.

Hickman said colleges might consider offering a more limited catalog of summer classes online and “Use the summer as a laboratory to get a better-designed online learning experience together.”

“The patience that our students and faculty have had with courses that are not the ideal online learning experience, I don’t think that’s go into extend into the fall -- so people should use the summer to test things out” in case periods of remote instruction are necessary come autumn.

Bob Atkins, CEO of the higher education consulting firm Gray Associates, echoed the less-is-more advice.

“Cut it down, teach it well, run extra sections of the courses that you keep, but the trick here is to lower costs at the same time you’re driving the revenue you need,” he said. “Having a thousand course offerings over the summer is probably not the way to do that. Having more sections of the courses people have to take to finish their major probably makes sense.”

Atkins recommended caution about tuition price discounts for the summer. “I’d be really thoughtful about taking price down and ending up in a place where you make your financials worse. They have suffered a pretty heavy hit already,” he said.

At some colleges, the shift online for the summer session will not be a dramatic one. For example, at Ball State University in Indiana, which announced this week that all its summer classes would be online, about three-quarters of its summer classes are already offered online, and the transition will affect the other 25 percent.

For other universities, the transition to an online-only summer session will represent a more marked change. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York state originally expected to have between 1,300 and 1,400 students on campus for summer courses. Most of these students would have been rising juniors participating in the mandatory Arch program, which requires students to spend the summer after their sophomore year on campus taking junior-level courses and preparing to spend either the upcoming fall or spring semester off-campus either studying abroad or at another U.S. institution, participating in an internship or co-op experience, engaging in research or a civic engagement project, or designing their own study or entrepreneurship project.

RPI has decided to keep the Arch session mandatory, even though it’s being moved online due to coronavirus concerns. The tuition rate has not changed. RPI administrators said its student and academic support services will be fully operational to support students studying remotely.

“It's part of our regular academic calendar,” Prabhat Hajela, RPI's provost, said of the decision to keep the Arch session mandatory. “We are staying true to our academic calendar to make sure that our students progress in a satisfactory manner to make sure that they are where they need to be academically to be prepared to go on to graduate school or their professional careers.”

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Roundup: Unemployment, worried students and virtual showcases

Fri, 04/10/2020 - 00:00

Welp, it's Friday.

Let's get to the depressing news first: unemployment due to COVID-19 continues to rise. If some economists are to be believed, the percentage of unemployed Americans could be double what it was in the Great Depression.

After the virus hit places like New York City and Seattle, potential hot spots for the virus are now popping up in D.C. and Colorado.

But there are some bright spots. Infection rates are slowing down in some areas. More testing sites are popping up. More states are enforcing stay-at-home orders, increasing the likelihood that people practice social distancing.

For our palate cleansers, a couple more bright spots.

Faculty at the University of Toledo’s College of Arts and Letters are posting weekly desk sets where faculty will share things that bring them joy, like music.

Here is a story on ridiculous things people are doing during what is supposed to be a quarantine. ​

Now, on to the news.

Betsy DeVos, the U.S. education secretary, told institutions that stimulus funding for the higher ed sector is coming soon. At least $6 billion will be released immediately to go toward emergency relief funds for students.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers are arguing about whether for-profit institutions are eligible for the funds. Some Democratic senators say they aren't.

Higher ed advocates also are pushing Congress to pass an ambitious jobs bill to address the country's rising unemployment numbers.

A recent survey found that students are nervous about the quick switch to remote learning. Those who have experience with online courses feel more confident, but many say they worry about staying disciplined.

The University of Arizona is withdrawing funding packages to accepted graduate students who have not yet committed to attending the institution.

Here’s a quick roundup of our latest stories, in case you’ve fallen a bit behind (we don’t blame you):

One of the biggest questions on everyone's minds: Will students show up come fall? Scott Jaschik has some insight.

Lilah Burke has a story on the latest unemployment numbers, and what those out of work are looking for in education.

I compiled responses from community college faculty about how they're doing in the switch to remote learning.

News From Elsewhere

Will credit hours still matter after all this? Education Dive gives some insight as to what could be next.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a report on how colleges were among the first institutions to react to the coronavirus pandemic.

As institutions wait for federal funds, students are taking up the task of helping each other and their communities, The 74 reports.

Percolating Thoughts

This is a time when everyone has an opinion. As journalists, we try not to have opinions, but we've gathered some interesting ones from others.

The president of the American Council of Learned Societies makes the argument for changing how higher ed determines who gets tenure.

Here's a handy breakdown of where the federal stimulus funds will go, from an expert at the Center for American Progress.

"Confessions of a Community College Dean" has a post about grading during a pandemic.

Have any percolating thoughts or notice any from others? Feel free to send them our way or comment below.

We’ll continue bringing you the news you need in this crazy time. Keep sending us your questions and story ideas. We’ll get through this together.

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Arizona Withdraws Funded Graduate Offers

Thu, 04/09/2020 - 00:00

The University of Arizona is withdrawing funding packages to accepted graduate students who have not yet committed to the institution. The philosophy blog Daily Nous first reported the news, as it pertains to Arizona’s philosophy department.

Chris Sigurdson, university spokesperson, said via email Wednesday evening that the policy applies to the entire institution. Given the “unanticipated financial pressures brought to bear by the coronavirus crisis, we wanted to give potential graduate students who had not yet accepted our offer the opportunity to make other plans if they chose,” he said.

The policy does not apply to funding based on grants or scholarships. Accepted students may still choose to enroll, but with limited or no financial support.

“Our goal to protect our current graduate students from potential losses of funding and we needed to limit outstanding financial offers to ensure that,” Sigurdson said.

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Community college faculty members adjust to remote learning

Thu, 04/09/2020 - 00:00

As the novel coronavirus spread, colleges around the country were forced to quickly close campuses and move learning online to help flatten the curve.

But not all at once. Colleges with fewer resources (and smaller endowments) stayed open for weeks after many highly selective institutions made the switch. Some cited concerns for their students, many of whom rely on campus services like food pantries and computer labs to be successful.

By now, though, instruction nearly everywhere has gone virtual. Inside Higher Ed asked faculty members at community and technical colleges how the shift to remote learning is going at institutions that often have less federal and state funding support while serving some of higher education's most vulnerable students.

Some were optimistic they would get through this with their students, despite difficulty learning how to adapt to online instruction. Others are using a plethora of virtual tools to keep students connected and learning. Those who teach hands-on skills face the most challenges, from finicky technology to concerns for how to grade students' understanding of the lessons.​ Their emailed responses, which have been edited for length and clarity, are below.

David Shapiro, founding faculty member of philosophy at Cascadia College in Washington

I have been a classroom teacher of philosophy for more than a quarter century, and I am, if I do say so myself, pretty good at it.

I know how to engage students in the questions, I’m skilled in techniques for fostering dialogue and discussion, and I have countless exercises in my bag of teaching tricks for creating a vibrant community of inquiry in the classroom.

I have developed my abilities over the course of my teaching career thanks to some excellent classroom teachers of my own, lots of hard work, hours of professional development and decades of trial and error. It’s taken a long time to get to this point, and every day in the classroom I learn something new that can help me be better tomorrow.

Now, however, I’ve been thrown into the world of online teaching and have had all of one week of “extended spring break” to convert my spring quarter classes to the virtual environment. I’m committed to doing the best job I can, but it’s ludicrous to imagine that the learning experience for my students will be anywhere near as rich as what they would get in the “face-to-face modality.”

My heart goes out to them; they had been expecting their professor to be an experienced educator; what they’re getting is something more like the graduate student I was the very first time I TAed -- that inexperienced person in front of the classroom with the deer-in-the-headlights look in their eyes.

We’ll make the best of it, I’m sure, but I feel bad about how bad I will be at teaching online. I suppose the positive takeaway is that I’ll learn from the experience. A quarter century from now, I might be pretty good at it.

Christian Moriarty, professor of ethics and law and academic chair of the Applied Ethics Institute at St. Petersburg College in Florida

Our move to remote learning was, fortunately, a relatively smooth one. Just under half of St. Petersburg College (a state community college in southwest Florida with an enrollment of about 45,000 students) was already [using] online modalities, with all of the infrastructure and staff to support it. There was significant behind-the-scenes scrambling in the short period of time after spring break, both from the administrative and academic sides of the house, but we have a great team who got everything together. Particularly our Online Learning Services folks, who have been nothing short of miracle workers.

We have synchronous meeting and proctoring software up and running to be available to anyone to wants it, students and faculty alike. There are pockets of issues here and there, such as science lab classes and clinicals, but we’re getting them handled to where both our accreditors and our students are as happy as they can be under the circumstances.

A challenge we’re facing head-on is our students who are suddenly finding themselves in a full-remote atmosphere when they did not originally plan for it. After we conducted a survey, a significant contingent reported that they are feeling economic impairments due to the responses to COVID. Not only may they be out of work, but they may also be taking care of family and children at home, making them unable to concentrate as fully as they would otherwise like to on school.

We’ve addressed this challenge in three major ways: bringing to bear the full attention and care of our faculty to our students and establishing a sense of normality in addition to academics, collating and distributing information and assistance on learning effectively and shifting to an online environment, and the St. Petersburg College Foundation putting the Student Emergency Fund into high gear. While we have always had the fund, focusing on helping students through tough economic situations, I’m incredibly proud of the community who have stepped up their giving to these scholars in their time of need. We’re happy to help them with what we can, such as bills, food and whatever else that can establish stability and finish the semester strong.

Jeff Elsbecker, lead instructor in the digital modeling and fabrication program at IYRS School of Technology & Trades in Rhode Island

Because most of my program's faculty are adjunct, we already conducted most of the communication outside of class by way of email and a digital classroom. In addition, a major part of the curriculum is CAD, which is done on computer and can be shared digitally. Finally, the bulk of our hands-on instruction had been completed. Some of the groundwork was already there, so the transition to online was not cold turkey. We've had to redefine final projects to a largely digital outcome.

Some challenges include students' loss of a daily routine, which created a noticeable drop in productivity, and students' loss of access to the studio equipment, as this is still a program about making things.

To help overcome some of these, we've been holding regular individual check-ins with students and morning video meetings. We've also been extending deadlines somewhat.

Each student has a 3-D printer they took home with them. They are able to do a good deal of prototyping at home. Some faculty are still on duty in the studio. Students are able to send proven digital files, which we can put on our more advanced machines. They can pick these up curbside.

Nels Larson, lead instructor of marine systems at ​IYRS School of Technology & Trades in Rhode Island

Remote learning was new to me and personally not the way I would like to learn on a full-time basis. I always found tutorials helpful in a subject that I was familiar with. For those reasons I chose to do our presentations live. To achieve this we presented our lectures live in the classroom with no changes or preparation for one to two hours a day. This did keep the attention of the students and was well received for one and a half weeks. The problem we started to have was getting the hands-on presentations and the hands-on experiential learning needed to continue the class. It will take a substantial investment to prepare and deliver that type of material.

We prepared a pre-record[ed] demonstration and presented it to the students. The lesson was using a volt meter and ampacity of wire. We physically burn a wire. This demonstration is dangerous and necessary to understand the lecture. We recorded, and it took three different takes before we were ready to present. The presentation was good but did have some inaccuracies. This would be acceptable in the shop. At that point we determined all record[ed] demonstrations need to be of a high standard. We also felt the students who needed to ask questions did not ask them. I believe that remote learning will not work with students who have no experience in the topic being taught. The amount of material needed to learn in a six-month period cannot be delivered remotely.

Technical trades can only be taught remotely in tutorials to students who have a technical [background] and in small doses.

AnneMarie Garmon, instructor of criminal justice at Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina​

My approach to remote teaching was to focus on maintaining a high level of learning and connection while also minimizing stress for my students. I knew that all of the unknowns of our current situation were causing a lot of anxiety for me personally, and when I thought about what my students might be feeling, I realized that their mental health was also very important to our collective success. I have made communication the No. 1 focus, because if we can talk with each other, about not just academic topics but also life challenges, we can begin to feel as if we have a little more control of the “new normal.”

Some items that I’ve implemented to help keep communication open include Google Hangouts, WebEx teams/meetings and Calendly (which students can use to schedule one-on-one virtual meetings). I also have given my students a phone number they can text through Google Voice. Because we have so many ways to reach out, I wanted to capitalize on as many options as I could to appeal to the students’ preferences as well. The last thing I’m considering adding is a platform on social media, like Facebook, for a more informal way to socialize.

One of the most effective tools that I have used in teaching, which fosters great communication for both academic topics and current events, is Packback. A platform for online discussion, Packback allows the students to discuss topics and issues that are subject-related while also not overburdening me as the instructor. The use of AI in the platform also gives students feedback to help them create thoughtful questions and responses, and not just the typical “I agree” that we see in discussion boards. I added this tool to my classes that went from seated to online, and thus far it has been easy for the students to use.

Now that we have settled into the online environment with our traditional students, I hope to keep adding tools to help us continue social interactions virtually. I am also going to organize some optional activities for the students, like using Zoom to have a coffee meeting or using Kast to host a watch party online. I believe that learning can take place in these settings just as easily as the classroom -- we just have to adjust and accept change.

Hans Scholl, instructor of boat building and restoration at IYRS School of Technology & Trades in Rhode Island

The predominant part of our curriculum is hands-on shop work, restoring wooden boats, and is not transferable to nor replaceable by remote learning.

For the part that teaches theory, we spent one week preparing for remote teaching. Half of that week was implementation, training and testing of technical options, mostly using Zoom. The other half was preparing content and preparing the students in one-to-one phone calls for the upcoming remote teaching.​

We are currently holding two classes every morning, with the afternoons spent on documentation, one-to-one phone interaction with students, where needed, and mostly with preparing content for next days’ classes.

Because we can directly demonstrate practical skills in the shop during regular class, we had little incentive in the past to create videos of these demonstrations. On the other hand, these videos would be good to have in the current situation.

We have started to film in the shop but have not had the time nor resources to get very far. The session we filmed was done by one instructor in the shop, taking video with his phone, which was then part of the Zoom recording. Though the result was commendable to be used in the current situation, any results obtained in this fashion remain inferior to a dedicated video, filmed by a second person with professional video-photography and editing skills, good lighting and a dedicated camera, where the instructor is free to fully focus on content and not also taking video.

​We have encountered mostly technical problems, such as the low bandwidth of Zoom, which makes it not feasible to stream video and results in choppy audio and pixelated video in general. At times, not even screen sharing of text was possible, leading to early termination and rescheduling of one class.​

Platforms other than Zoom had similar issues. The best option for small student groups and coordination between instructors has been Apple’s FaceTime.

During a typical school day, student understanding of the theory taught is mostly verified during the subsequent hands-on work on restoring boats, where subjects that were not clearly understood by the student become visible during their application and can then be retrained and practiced.

This approach is not feasible during remote learning. We reverted to more discussion to obtain student feedback, which was often compromised by the technical problems and low audio quality. Some students have no video capability, which makes us miss visible cues that we would get face-to-face. We plan on testing understanding through quizzes but haven’t had any time to prepare, administer, correct and follow up with students yet.

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Americans are losing income and preferring online education

Thu, 04/09/2020 - 00:00

Six in 10 Americans have lost jobs, hours or income from the coronavirus pandemic, according to results of a new survey from Strada Education Network, a nonprofit that researches and funds education and employment pathways. These results are the second weekly batch in a multiweek longitudinal study. The share of respondents who have lost income is up 15 percentage points from the previous week's results.

Strada's data suggest that degrees and credentials are not insulating Americans from the economic effects of the pandemic. Two-thirds of associate or vocational degree holders and 63 percent of bachelor's degree holders reported lost income, compared to only 54 percent of participants with some college experience but no degree.

"Although this is hitting everyone really hard, in some ways that population was a little bit less impacted by losing jobs or income," Nichole Torpey-Saboe, Strada's director of research, said in reference to the participants with some college credit but no degree, noting that in the future the organization may want to look at the industries where those respondents are employed.

About a third of respondents said that if they were to lose their job, they believe they would need additional education or training to maintain their same income, consistent with the previous week's results. Of those, 64 percent said they would look for a job in a different field.

The Strada respondents also demonstrated a large preference for online instruction. Over half said that if they were given $5,000 to invest in their education, they would spend it on online education, as opposed to in-person education or employer-provided training.

Torpey-Saboe said that while a person's level of education affected what degree level they would choose to pursue in that situation (bachelor's degree holders aren't looking at community colleges, for example), the preference for online was felt at all education levels.

"We haven't seen any sort of pattern that stands out for level of education," she said.

The survey did not address how consumers believe they will pay or would like to pay for any future education. Dave Clayton, Strada's senior vice president for consumer insights, said that when the dust settles and government stimulus bills have been completed, that may be a better time to ask the question.

Andrew Hanson, director of research at Strada, said that while the survey did not look at exactly how this downturn is affecting employment pathways, there is definite concern in that area.

"Access to things like internships and other options that employers provide are of concern I would think going forward, but it's probably too early to tell," he said.

In the 2008 recession, he noted, more recent employees were usually the first to be let go.

"No reason to anticipate that will be different this time," he said.

The latest survey was conducted with 1,000 respondents over the age of 18 and was representative of the general population in terms of age, gender, region and race.

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Roundup: Emergency aid, budget cuts and a rhyme

Thu, 04/09/2020 - 00:00

The novel coronavirus continues to upset our worlds. But it's possible we're getting closer to a vaccine, as those who had the virus donate their blood and plasma for research.

In possibly more disturbing news, apparently we are all having the same nightmares, fueled by anxiety around COVID-19.

To ease that anxiety, here are some palate cleansers.

First, a roundup of funny memes and videos to ease your mind.

Here's a nice rhyme to send your would-be Passover Seder guests during this time.

pic.twitter.com/G2wv3BOu8W

— Prof Dynarski (@dynarski) April 8, 2020

And, if you're bored, here's a handy guide to at-home bird watching.​

Let’s get to the news.

New York is on a roll. Andrew Cuomo, the state's Democratic governor, announced New Yorkers who have private student loans will get some relief, including the ability to defer their loan payments for 90 days. Advocates have called for Congress to extend some of its federal student loan relief conditions to private borrowers, but that wasn't included in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package.

The City University of New York has started an emergency relief fund for students who are struggling because of COVID-19. It hopes to eventually raise $10 million for the fund and will initially give $500 each to 14,000 students.

Law graduates who can't take the July bar exam because of the coronavirus may still be able to practice law. The American Bar Association's Board of Governors passed a policy resolution urging state licensing authorities to let recent graduates practice in a limited capacity.

Here’s a quick roundup of our latest stories, in case you’ve fallen a bit behind (we don’t blame you):

Institutions are changing how much they weigh students' evaluations of instructors due to the ongoing health crisis. Doug Lederman explores what that could mean for the common tool.

Many colleges have agreed to offer dorm room space for first responders to the coronavirus pandemic. This can require them to clean out students' belongings -- which doesn't always go smoothly, Greta Anderson reports.

In the midst of all this, an annual survey from the American Association of University Professors found that faculty pay is flat, as it has been for the past few years, Colleen Flaherty reports.

Scott Jaschik wrote about another study that found minority enrollment decreases at colleges in states where affirmative action is banned.

News From Elsewhere

Education Dive has a piece on online proctors, which are in high demand now that higher education has gone virtual.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid and Administrators wrote about expected budget cuts in states, including cuts to higher education.

The pandemic-induced recession is hitting the higher education industry unevenly, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Small colleges are particularly concerned.

Percolating Thoughts

This is a time when everyone has an opinion. As journalists, we try not to have opinions, but we've gathered some interesting ones from others.

The president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities makes the case for a national coalition aimed at retaining at-risk students and building digital infrastructure.

Higher Learning Advocates, a D.C. think tank focused on nontraditional students, asks institutions to not "waste a crisis."

A professor and a dean discuss how to teach labs online in the age of coronavirus.

Have any percolating thoughts or notice any from others? Feel free to send them our way or comment below.

We’ll continue bringing you the news you need in this crazy time. Keep sending us your questions and story ideas. We’ll get through this together.

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Dispute in Ireland over academic freedom and internationalization

Thu, 04/09/2020 - 00:00

A fight between scholars and senior managers at an Irish university has highlighted the ongoing tension between internationalization and academic freedom.

A working group established by the academic council at University College Dublin last month proposed an addendum to the institution’s statement on academic freedom, in which it explained that it was important for "a university with a large international footprint, to consider and appraise the risk of tension arising between the obligations regarding academic freedom and the strategic imperative to internationalize higher education."

The draft addendum added that “there is little firm ground (including case law) on which to rest an agreed definition of what academic freedom means” and pointed out that “learning about and engaging with other traditions of academic freedom is a valuable component of such international partnerships.”

It said the university should establish “whether divergent approaches to academic freedom can be reconciled or accommodated” during partnership negotiations.

The working group revised its recommendations this week just hours after academics signed a petition claiming that the addendum “amounts to a serious weakening of [a] crucial academic value” and Times Higher Education approached the institution for comment. Some scholars had also raised concerns that the draft addendum and a survey on the subject were shared with staff when they were distracted by the COVID-19 crisis.

However, academics said they were still concerned that the initial proposals had been considered, and they speculated about whether the university would attempt to reintroduce them at a later date.

The revised recommendations suggest that UCD should introduce measures to ensure that scholars are informed about “the specific context applying to academic freedom in other jurisdictions where they may be required to teach.” They add that academic freedom should be “addressed in the initial stages of all international partnership negotiations with the aim of promoting the tradition and ethos of academic freedom as articulated in the UCD Statement of Academic Freedom.”

Wolfgang Marx, associate professor in musicology at UCD, who started the petition, said the original proposals would have “relativized” and “downgraded” academic freedom from a basic principle to “a legal nicety that needs to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis and can be sacrificed if it stands too much in the way of … the acquisition of lucrative fee-paying students, and the setting up of joint programs and campuses.”

While Marx described the university’s U-turn as a victory for academics, he added that the increasing financial pressure on universities as a result of the coronavirus crisis might result in other institutions considering changes to their academic freedom policies in a bid to secure more international partnerships.

Patrick Paul Walsh, full professor of international development studies at UCD, said it was “quite concerning” that the university “would even consider trading off” academic freedom “to profit from internationalization of education.”

“A lot of governments are not open to the idea that academics can talk absolutely freely … Maybe we just shouldn’t be setting up partnerships in these countries,” he said.

Grace Mulcahy, chair of the academic freedom working group at UCD, said it had “revised its recommendations in response to the feedback received from faculty.”

“The objective of the working group was to provide additional protections to strengthen academic freedom,” she added.

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CUNY Starts Emergency Fund for Coronavirus Relief

Wed, 04/08/2020 - 13:05

The City University of New York has launched an emergency relief fund for students who need financial help due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Chancellor's Emergency Relief Fund will distribute grants of $500 each to thousands of CUNY students. The Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation and the James and Judith K. Dimon Foundation have provided initial gifts of $1 million each for the fund, which is the first of its kind at CUNY. Several other corporate sponsors have given an additional $1.25 million.

CUNY hopes to raise $10 million over the next few months for the fund.

About 275,000 CUNY students come from households with median annual incomes of about $40,000, and 38 percent come from families earning less than $20,000. Nearly half of CUNY students work while attending college.

Students will begin receiving the grants the week of April 20. They will be chosen by lottery from a group of about 14,000 students who met financial need and academic criteria. CUNY hopes to provide more grants in the coming months as it raises funds.

“The coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating economic impact on many of our students, and this unprecedented emergency fund will provide rapid-response financial support to those who need it most,” Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, CUNY's chancellor, said in a statement.

CUNY has also bought 30,000 computers and tablets for students who need them to participate in distance learning. About 1,600 CUNY community college students received $400 for food, and 117 foster-care students in a CUNY initiative will receive $425 emergency grants.

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Law Schools and Coronavirus: Bar Exemptions and More

Wed, 04/08/2020 - 10:39

The American Bar Association's Board of Governors passed a policy resolution this week urging state licensing authorities to allow 2019 and 2020 law graduates who can’t take the July bar exam to practice law in a limited capacity. Some jurisdictions already have canceled the July administration of the test due to COVID-19.

Graduates of ABA-approved law schools may practice “under the supervision of a licensed attorney if the July bar exam in their jurisdiction is canceled or postponed due to public health and safety concerns arising from the coronavirus pandemic,” the ABA announced, summarizing the policy recommendation. The proposal applies only to first-time bar takers and would enable them to practice through 2021 without taking the exam.

“By justifiably postponing bar examinations, states are protecting law students and the public’s health, but the lives and careers of law graduates are being adversely affected,” Judy Perry Martinez, ABA's president, said in a statement. “This guidance for an emergency law graduate rule will not only help the recent law graduates work within the legal sector in a meaningful way, but also will add more people to help address the increase in legal needs for individuals and businesses caused by this pandemic.”

How are law schools handling the transition to remote instruction? The Primary Research Group published a survey of law school faculty and staff members on distance legal education. Forty-three percent of faculty members surveyed preferred to deliver course content using Zoom or other group meetings, while 31 percent preferred course management systems. Fifteen percent of professors delivered lectures through downloadable video links, asynchronously, and 22 percent set up a chat forum for their classes.

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Debt Relief for 300,000 Private Borrowers in N.Y.

Wed, 04/08/2020 - 07:02

Andrew Cuomo, New York's Democratic governor, announced the state will offer relief to 300,000 borrowers who took out private student loans. Those borrowers were excluded from the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus bill, which allowed most other student loan borrowers to avoid making payments for six months, without interest. Senator Elizabeth Warren and 11 of her colleagues this week wrote to private student loan companies to call on them to offer help to borrowers.

In an agreement the state reached with Navient, Nelnet and other lenders that comprise 90 percent of private student loan lenders, borrowers who face financial hardship due to the pandemic may contact their student loan servicer to defer payments for 90 days and receive other relief, including no late payment fees and no negative data reported to credit bureau agencies.

As many as 300,000 New Yorkers may get help with loans under the agreement.

“At a time where many are suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19 it is imperative that all regulated industries work with consumers to provide relief,” Linda A. Lacewell, superintendent of the state's Department of Financial Services, said in a statement. “We appreciate the largest student loan servicers and lenders in New York and the nation stepping forward with a thoughtful plan to help New York student loan borrowers.”

The announcement follows New York's move to temporarily halt collection of student debt owed to the state and referred to the attorney general for collection, for at least a 30-day period.

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Universities store student items left in dorms over the summer

Wed, 04/08/2020 - 00:00

When students who'd evacuated their dorm rooms at Virginia Commonwealth University discovered personal belongings they'd left behind were being packed and removed from their rooms to accommodate non-COVID-19 hospital patients, it was through a video on social media.

The video posted on Facebook by a moving company employee on March 25 showed movers going into the rooms and preparing to clear them. The response from surprised students was immediate.

"I want an answer as to why y'all are literally stealing my stuff right now," one student tweeted at the university.

After being told to leave campus and retrieve belongings by March 22 in the wake of the coronavirus public health crisis, the students were angered to learn that strangers would be going through and packing up their stuff.

They replied to the video, which now has more than 110,000 views on Twitter, and demanded answers from VCU. The university posted an apology the next morning in a tweet, explaining that the Honors College residence hall was being converted into a potential hospital for overflow patients from the university's hospital to make room for people with COVID-19.

"There are many moving parts to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic," Michael Porter, associate vice president for public affairs, wrote in an email.​ "VCU and the VCU Health System have worked closely with state and local officials to prepare for an expected surge in patients that could exceed the total capacity at the VCU Medical Center … We apologized to the affected students. And while they expressed disappointment at the lack of advance notice, many students also offered feedback acknowledging their support of VCU's role in helping our community during this unprecedented public health emergency.​"

While VCU’s hired contractor began packing items in dorms before telling students, “nothing was moved until after students were notified,” Porter said.

As colleges are being asked to provide residence hall space for patients, health-care workers, or first responders, students who live in campus residence halls are being told belongings will be boxed, moved and stored at private off-campus facilities. Affected students say notifications about these processes has been inadequate, and plans do not account for the needs of students who live far from their campus or in other states or those unable to afford the cost of having their belongings shipped to them.

Some commenters on social media urged VCU students to think less about their “mini fridges” and more about the people suffering with illness or risking their lives to care for others in the deadly pandemic. But the idea that dorms were being cleared out wasn’t what upset students, it was the lack of communication about how personal items were going to be handled and removed, said Kaylin Cecchini, a senior political science student at VCU who wrote an opinion article about the situation for RVA Magazine, a Richmond, Va., publication. Students were given limited or no time to return to campus to retrieve belongings because of the various travel restrictions issued by states.

“They’re dedicating their space to health-care needs -- that’s not the criticism,” said Cecchini, who did not live in the dorm that will be used for patients. “The problem wasn’t about the property, it was about, ‘why is my property being moved in a viral video.’”

George Washington University students were under the impression they would be returning to the Washington, D.C., campus in early April after two weeks of online classes and left many belongings behind, said Amelia Larkin, a junior. Once the university announced it would continue remote instruction for the remainder of the semester, students on break were encouraged to abide by social distancing recommendations from public health officials and told not to come to campus to get their belongings and formally move out.

“They told us not to come back to campus, but that was before the whole country shut down,” said Larkin, who's now living back home near Boston. “There was time for us to go feasibly get our things, and they weren’t open to that.”

George Washington later told students in an email that private moving companies would pack up and store their belongings. “Non-essential” items will be stored in a facility until the fall semester, and if students want to retrieve belongings before then, they "may have options to pay" to have them shipped to them, the university said in a message to students on April 6. The University of Virginia has a similar process; students' belongings will be stored and inaccessible until Virginia lifts its stay-at-home order that is in place until June  10, Allen Groves, dean of students, wrote in a series of tweets on April 5.

UVA students who want to retrieve items from the storage site before the order is lifted will be charged $65 to $100. There was some confusion over initial messages from the university that implied students would also have to pay to retrieve items after the order is lifted, said Ellie Brasacchio, a senior whose term as Student Council president ended this semester. There was also a cost for shipping items to students, she said. Several students, including Brasacchio, who does not live in one of the affected residence halls, attempted to move out weeks ago, but the office of housing and residential life had changed locks and access codes to the buildings, she said. A UVA spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

“I understand why they don’t want students coming back and infecting people,” Brasacchio said. “I think students understand that they need to move stuff out to make space for workers. The issue is the lack of clear communication and paying to get stuff out.”

Larkin said she left belongings in her dorm at George Washington that she will need for the foreseeable future -- textbooks for a spring class, professional attire for a summer job, an iPad and a custom-made bicycle she uses as a nationally ranked triathlete. It’s “frustrating” to have to leave behind items she didn’t anticipate needing, Larkin said. Private movers have been using FaceTime to call students who were roommates to determine what items in a single room or apartment belong to whom, Larkin said.

“First learning how to do online classes, being at home and studying, then to add this on top of it, there’s been a lot of anxiety,” Larkin said. “I’m fortunate enough that when it starts warming up, my parents will be able to buy me a new wardrobe. There are students who won’t be able to afford it … It’s those students who I really feel for.”

Larkin called it a “logistical nightmare.” George Washington anticipates having to clear the belongings of 5,000 to 6,000 students from residence halls to make living space for medical personnel who work at the university’s hospital, said Seth Weinshel, assistant dean of students, who oversees student housing. He said the university is working on mailing needed medications, academic materials and “high-value items” to students.

Weinshel said GW, like many other colleges and universities across the country, is balancing the safety and needs of students with those of its health-care workers, who will be housed in a residence hall one block away from the hospital to limit the risk of exposing their families to the coronavirus. He added that the university's response to the crisis has been evolving as recommended safety measures have changed.

“A good portion of this is, how do we go about keeping our students safe, and we’ve done that by keeping them away,” Weinshel said. “We get that students are upset and stressed and dealing with the ever-changing environment. We’re doing the best we can to care and support each other, and that is what we will continue to do as we go through this.”

The needs of students who live far from their colleges have gone by the wayside, said António Guia, a San Diego resident whose daughter is a junior at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. Guia's daughter has had to coordinate with her roommate to go through items left in their dorm, and she has a friend who lives near the university who is willing to store her belongings over the summer. Each student who signed up for move-out was given a three-hour time slot to do so, which in the roommates' case, meant packing and moving twice the amount of stuff in this limited period, Guia said.

“Students have scheduled staggered move out appointments to ensure that residents and their helpers will be able to practice social distancing while moving belongings out,” Dory Devlin, senior director of university news and media relations for Rutgers wrote in an email. “Access to residence halls is available to individuals only during scheduled appointment times to ensure a move out that is orderly and as safe as possible.”

Devlin said the university is “accommodating students who cannot come to campus by storing their belongings for future retrieval.” This was news to Guia and his daughter, who said they contacted the Rutgers residence life office several times about possible alternatives to having to move stuff on their own and were not offered temporary storage.

“Rutgers has really dropped the ball on all the out-of-state and international students,” he said.

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Professor pay is flat -- again

Wed, 04/08/2020 - 00:00

Faculty members may be working harder than ever, but their pay has “barely budged” in four years, according to the American Association of University Professors’ annual Faculty Compensation Survey.

Average salaries for full-time professors increased by 2.8 percent this year over last, but consumer prices grew 2.3 percent over the same period, the AAUP notes in a preliminary report on the data: “Following the Great Recession of the late 2000s, nominal salary growth remained below consumer price growth until 2015-16 and has remained flat ever since.”

By institution type, average salaries for full-time professors at doctoral institutions this year increased 2.8 percent, before adjusting for inflation. Average salaries at master’s and associate’s institutions increased 1.2 percent and 1 percent respectively, meaning that they decreased by about 1 percent when adjusted for inflation. Salaries at baccalaureate institutions increased by 2.3 percent on average, matching the annual inflation rate.

Next year will be no better, it's all but certain: already colleges and universities have announced hiring freezes and, in some cases, pay cuts to address the financial impact of the COVID-19 disruption. But the AAUP’s data, collected before that disruption, will serve as important benchmarks when institutions look at faculty pay in reassessing their budgets.

Glenn Colby, senior research officer for the AAUP, said the association continues to study how institutions have responded to past economic crises. This time around, he said, “we may be in for a rough ride,” if some of the most dire predictions about unemployment rates become reality.

In such a scenario, “many institutions will need to make adjustments to balance their budgets,” and some discussions may be framed in terms of financial exigency, Colby said.

Some colleges and universities may respond by reducing faculty salaries, Colby added, as was common during the Great Depression. Others may terminate faculty appointments or reorganize -- “hopefully following AAUP’s recommended standards and procedures.” (Few institutions actually cut nominal salaries during the Great Recession.)

In any case, he added, “this year’s results will provide some benchmarks to help characterize how institutions respond to the changing economic conditions.”

The association's more detailed report on the data is expected in May.

Variation in Pay and Benefits

Other significant, preliminary findings include those on gender. Mirroring the national overall pay gap, average faculty salaries for women were 81.4 percent of those for men. Across all institution types, male full professors make about $146,600, while female full professors make about $127,600. Among assistant professors across institution types, men make about $86,500 and women make $78,900.

“Despite shifts in distributions between men and women in terms of faculty rank, the gender pay gap has not budged over the last ten years,” the AAUP’s report notes.

Beyond gender, full-time faculty salaries vary by rank and institutional affiliation or type. The average salary for a full professor at a private doctoral university is nearly $203,000, while the salary for a full professor at a public baccalaureate college is just over $99,000.

On benefits, the AAUP found that about 97 percent of full-time professors earn contributions toward their retirement plans from their employers or state or local governments. The average expenditure is 10.7 percent of average salary.

Some 94 percent of full-time professors receive medical benefits in the form of institutional contributions to premiums for insurance plans, according to the report. The average expenditure there is 11.9 percent of the average salary.

This year’s survey includes information from 928 institutions, from community colleges to research universities. Data pertain to nearly 380,000 full-time professors and 96,000 part-time instructors, along with many senior administrators. Collection ended in February.

Adjuncts

The AAUP’s report has included more information about part-time professor pay in recent years. Probably unsurprisingly to any adjunct, this year’s survey found that per-course pay varies widely -- but that pay was still “appallingly low.” The average rate was $2,263 per section at public associate’s degree-granting institutions to $4,620 per section at private doctoral institutions.

Most faculty members who are paid by the course do not receive either retirement or medical benefits. Some 38 percent of reporting institutions contribute to retirement plans from some or all part-timers, according to the AAUP, and 37 percent help with premiums for medical insurance plans. Adjuncts are doctoral universities are most likely to receive benefits, with 52 percent of these reporting institutions contributing to their retirement and 60 percent to medical insurance plans.

While full-time professor pay data are from 2019-20, part-time professor pay data are from 2018-19, to ensure more accurate pay records for the latter group.

Presidents

Presidential pay continues to be a thorn in the AAUP’s side, as it typically outpaces growth for faculty pay across institution types. At doctoral and master’s degree-granting institutions, presidents’ salaries increased 6 percent year over year. Presidents’ pay at baccalaureate and associate’s degree-granting institutions increased by 3 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Median presidential salaries in 2019-20 range from around $230,000 for public associate’s institutions to nearly $800,000 at private, independent doctoral universities, according to the report.

“Ratios of presidents’ to full professors’ salaries range from just over three to one in public associate’s institutions to over five to one in private-independent doctoral institutions,” the AAUP notes.

Chief academic officers make about $383,000, on average, at doctoral institutions. At community colleges, they make $135,694. Pay for chief financial officers is very similar to their academic officer counterparts.

Who Earns Most, Where

In additional to its overall analysis, AAUP publishes institution-specific data each year. As usual, colleges and universities in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and West Coast make the most.

Below are lists of some of the highest-paying colleges and universities, by rank and type. All the lists look the very similar to last year's, with Columbia University offering the highest average full professor pay, the University of California system dominating the publics in terms of pay, and Barnard College being the highest-paying liberal arts college for full professors. The final list, concerning assistant professor pay, has a new No. 1, however: Babson College. Stanford University held that spot for 2018-19.

Top Average Salaries for Full Professors at Private Universities, 2019-20

1. Columbia University

$268,400

2. Stanford University

$261,900

3. Princeton University

$255,000

4. Harvard University

$253,900

5. University of Chicago

$246,100

6. Yale University

$242,200

7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

$240,400

8. University of Pennsylvania

$237,300

9. Duke University

$221,500

10. New York University

$221,000

 

Top Average Salaries for Full Professors at Public Universities, 2019-20

1. University of California, Los Angeles

$225,000

2. University of California, Berkeley

$213,100

3. University of California, Santa Barbara

$200,200

4. Rutgers University at Newark

$192,200

5. University of California, San Diego

$191,500

6. University of California, Irvine

$189,200

7. New Jersey Institute of Technology

$187,300

8. University of Virginia

$185,100

9. University of Texas at Austin

$183,800

10. University of California, Davis

$182,600

 

Top Average Salaries for Full Professors at Liberal Arts Colleges, 2019-20

1. Barnard College

$181,600

2. Claremont McKenna College

$177,200

3. University of Richmond

$164,200

4. Wellesley College

$162,700

5. Pomona College

$161,200

6. Wesleyan University

$160,200

7. Swarthmore College

$158,400

8. Harvey Mudd College

$157,300

9. Colgate University

$156,500

10. Williams College

$152,800

 

Top Average Salaries for Assistant Professors at All Institution Types, 2019-20

1. Babson College

$141,600

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

$138,800

3. Stanford University

$138,800

4. Harvard University

$138,600

5. California Institute of Technology

$137,200

6. University of Pennsylvania

$136,500

7. Columbia University

$135,700

8. University of Chicago

$135,300

9. Bentley University

$128,300

10. Duke University

$123,500

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