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Governors Call for Quick Distribution of Stimulus

Sat, 04/04/2020 - 09:25

The National Governors Association wrote to Betsy DeVos, the U.S. secretary of education, to ask for the Education Department to within two weeks distribute the $30 billion of education stabilization funds in the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus, of which $14 billion is allocated to higher education.

The Education Department should grant “maximum flexibility” to states for how to use the money, wrote Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor of Arkansas and chair of NGA’s Education and Workforce Committee, and Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington and vice chair of the committee.

“States need time to establish both structures to evaluate student needs and processes to rapidly deploy these funds,” they said. “That work cannot begin until the department provides guidance about how and when it will send funding to the states. We urge the department to act quickly to distribute these funds.”

Specifically, the letter called for the department to allow flexibility to reimburse costs already incurred during the COVID-19 crisis by states, local governments and higher education entities.

In addition, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released estimates of the amounts of education stimulus each state will receive. The funding will vary widely, the group said, in part due to the share of Title I and Pell Grant students that attend institutions in each state.

For the $14 billion for higher education, the group said:

“Some 90 percent of this amount will be distributed directly to public and private colleges and universities based primarily on their share of Pell Grant recipients. Another 7.5 percent will go to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other institutions primarily serving students of color. The Secretary of Education will distribute the remaining 2.5 percent to those institutions the secretary determines have been particularly harmed by the virus and economic downturn.”

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Alabama System to Open $250M Lines of Credit

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 14:21

The University of Alabama System is moving to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in credit lines as a financial backstop against issues caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Executive Committee of the system’s Bord of Trustees approved securing $250 million in credit from two banks, Al.com reported.

“The resolutions passed today by the Board of Trustees Executive Committee give our System the capacity to provide an additional $250 million in liquidity if it were to be needed at any future point,” a system spokesperson told Al.com. “We consider this to be a form of insurance to assist our campuses and the UAB Health System as we respond to the COVID-19 crisis.”

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College Board Offers At-Home AP Exam Details

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 13:55

The College Board will offer at-home test taking for its 2020 Advanced Placement exams, beginning on May 11. 

Students will be able to take the open-note exams on any device. They will be able to type or write and upload answers to one or two free-response questions for most exams, the College Board said in an email to AP instructors on Friday. Students worldwide will take each subject’s exam at the same time, and most will have 45 minutes to complete them, the email said. 

Scoring will continue to be on a scale of 1 to 5, and students cannot earn points for “content that can be found in textbooks or online,” the email said. The College Board is “confident that the vast majority of higher ed institutions will award college credit as they have in the past” and said the at-home test taking has support from hundreds of colleges.

“We want to give every student the chance to earn the college credit they’ve worked toward throughout the year,” Trevor Packer, senior vice president of AP and Instruction for the College Board, said in a statement. That’s why we quickly set up a process that’s simple, secure, and accessible.”

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Immigration Lawyers Sue to Keep Foreign Nationals in Lawful Status

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 13:46

The American Immigration Lawyers Association filed suit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today seeking the immediate suspension of immigration benefit deadlines and the maintenance of status for individuals on nonimmigrant visas, a group that includes students and exchange scholars and foreign healthcare workers with temporary visas.

“This Court should declare that the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes [extraordinary circumstances] beyond the control of U.S. employers and foreign [nationals] seeking immigration benefits, including their legal representatives, and order USCIS to toll deadlines and the expiration dates for any individual’s lawful status, including the expiration dates for employment authorization where applicable,” the complaint states.

“In doing so, USCIS should ensure that all foreign nationals remain in lawful status, including but not limited to conditional lawful permanent residents, students, nonimmigrant workers, recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and those [with] Temporary Protected Status.”

A USCIS spokesperson declined to comment, saying it is the agency’s policy not to comment on pending litigation.

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Survey on Changes to Grading, Transcripts

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 13:05

More than a quarter of colleges and universities (27 percent) are not making any changes to grading or transcript practices in response to the COVID-19 crisis, according to the results of a new survey from  the American Association for Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO). The group surveyed its members and received responses from officials at more than 600 colleges, with 94 percent representing U.S. institutions.

Among respondents, 81 percent said they have moved to entirely online or remote classes for the remainder of the current term. And 23 percent have moved to online or remote classes for the summer, with an additional 38 percent considering such a move. Other highlights from the findings include:

  • 79 percent anticipate that degrees will be posted to students’ records in the normal timeframe.
  • 47 percent have canceled graduation ceremonies with no alternative -- 14 percent rescheduled for another date and 12 percent moved to a virtual option.
  • 44 percent are adhering to current policy on academic standing for the term -- 6 percent are suspending academic standing calculations for this term.
  • Most institutions are either giving or considering giving students the choice to change one or more of their courses to pass/fail or another institutional equivalent.

AACRAO is planning rapid-response surveys on admissions, transfer and international students.

“The responses will help us develop guidance on a range of topics to support institutions as they review and adjust practices in light of the impact of this unprecedented situation," Michael Reilly, the group's executive director, said in a statement.

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Northern Arizona Now Offering Room and Board Rebates

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 12:45

Northern Arizona University is offering students a 25-percent credit for their spring housing and dining charges if they move out by April 16, the university's president announced today.

Arizona’s universities have canceled in-person classes and moved to online learning. Many students balked at a lack of refunds, signing petitions and, in at least one case, filing a class-action lawsuit demanding reimbursements against the state’s Board of Regents.

Northern Arizona is the last public institution in the state to take the step, according to the Arizona Daily Sun. Over a week ago, the University of Arizona offered 10 percent of housing costs, and Arizona State University said this week that it would offer $1,500 in nonrefundable credits for students.

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‘Massive’ Increases in LMS and Synchronous Video Usage

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 10:10

Learning management system and synchronous video tool usage saw their two biggest coronavirus-related spikes on March 23 and March 30, according to the blog Phil on Ed Tech. Canvas LMS usage increased more than 60 percent in terms of maximum concurrent users in the past two weeks, and video uploads surged. D2L Brightspace’s Virtual Classroom saw 25 times more activity. Blackboard’s Learn LMS log-ins increased fourfold, and its Collaborate virtual classroom activity increased by a factor of 36. Moodle and MoodleCloud as well as Schoolology were far busier than normal.

Significantly, synchronous video and virtual classroom usage have increased even more than LMS usage. Consultant Phil Hill’s analysis is that this reflects a "preference of teachers to first try to replicate their face-to-face class in virtual environments.” That preference is the defining feature of Phase 1 of the transition to remote teaching and learning, Hill said, citing a huge jump in Zoom videoconferencing overall (Zoom doesn’t share education-specific numbers).

Hill’s post includes a fascinating graphic of how the remote learning transition will progress, through 2021. One specific prediction? "I would expect to see a reduction in synchronous video usage" as professors realize its limitations, including for disadvantaged students, "and a further increase in core LMS usage," he said. At the same time, Hill said LMS providers will experience growing pains as they accommodate more and more users on existing subscriptions without gaining any corresponding revenue.

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Survey: DACA Recipients Face Job Loss and Other Stresses

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 08:32

The Dream.US, an organization that provides scholarships to immigrant students known as Dreamers, released a survey Friday on the impact of COVID-19 on its scholars, the majority of whom are enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides work authorization and temporary protection against deportation to undocumented young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. More than 1,600 Dreamers completed the survey, representing a 44.6 percent response rate.

Of the 76 percent of respondents who work while in school, 80 percent reported loss of income due to reduced work hours or temporary or permanent job losses. Half of respondents said they’d temporarily lost their jobs, and 7 percent said they’d permanently lost them.

Fifty-eight percent of Dreamers said they needed mental health support. Dreamers said their top needs are help with rent or utilities (65 percent cited this) and help with food or meals (cited by 48 percent). About a fifth of scholars -- 21.8 percent -- said they need help with free or low-cost wireless internet access, and 13.6 percent said they needed a free, borrowed or low-cost computer.

Candy Marshall, the president of TheDream.US, said in a news release that the survey “not only reminds us that Dreamers are facing heightened health worries and economic anxieties due to the impact of Covid-19, but are doing so while their own futures remain uncertain due to the precarious state of DACA,” the future of which is under consideration by the Supreme Court.

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Survey: Library Employees at Community Colleges Less Likely to Work Remotely

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 07:25

Primary Research Group Inc. has published data from a survey of 70 academic library directors and deans at U.S. institutions, including community colleges and four-year institutions. The survey, which was conducted during the last week of March, asked directors to describe how their libraries were adjusting to remote working, assisting in distance learning efforts, disinfecting library materials, teaching information literacy, altering materials spending and distribution to the new online audience, among other questions about challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Among respondents, roughly 96 percent said their institutions had moved all or most courses online until further notice. The rest said courses were canceled.

No libraries reported that an employee had been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the survey.

Community colleges and smaller institutions were more likely to be struggling with remote-work arrangements, the survey found. That finding squares with reporting by The Washington Post about community college libraries remaining open for students to use library computers and other technology they can't access elsewhere.

For example, only 35 percent of employees at community colleges were working remotely, compared to 75 percent of library employees at research universities. And the larger the college in terms of student enrollment, the greater the percentage of library employees were working remotely, the survey found.

At colleges with fewer than 1,500 students (full-time enrollment equivalent), only 44 percent of library employees were working from home. But 80 percent of library employees were working from home at colleges with enrollments of than 10,000 students.

The survey found that a plurality of respondents (about 50 percent) did not plan any major changes in their materials expenditures policies over the next six months. Primary Research Group said the survey was the second in a series, with a follow-up planned for release in May.

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Ivy League Won’t Extend Eligibility

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 07:10

The Ivy League announced yesterday that it will not give an extra year of eligibility to athletes who play spring sports and had their seasons cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

That decision does not align with one made by the NCAA earlier this week to provide an extra year of eligibility. But it is in line with existing Ivy League policies, as the league has not allowed athletes to take part in sports as graduate students, the Associated Press reported.

“After a number of discussions surrounding the current circumstances, the Ivy League has decided the league’s existing eligibility policies will remain in place, including its longstanding practice that athletic opportunities are for undergraduates,” the league said in a statement.

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Faculty face uphill battle adapting to needs of today's students

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 00:00

Faculty are crucial for students. They serve as instructors and mentors. They connect students with a network that will help them succeed and get good jobs in the future.

But they can also get in the way.

As the student population shifts away from the traditional 18-year-old heading off to live in a dorm to students who are older and lower income, institutions and their faculty members are struggling to find mutually agreeable ways to support nontraditional students.

That means colleges and universities struggle with how to motivate faculty to serve different students. And some faculty members struggle with how to adapt.

“When I hear a faculty member complaining about students all the time, I know that’s a signal for discussing retirement on the horizon,” said Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C.

While the big-name colleges still enroll plenty of stereotypical students, the institutions that serve the bulk of students have seen changes.

The numbers are clear: 37 percent of today’s students are older than 25, according to information collected by Higher Learning Advocates. Almost two-thirds, 64 percent, work while in college. Another quarter or so are parenting. About half, 49 percent, are financially independent.

Almost one in three, 31 percent, live at or below the federal poverty level.

And those were the numbers before the novel coronavirus shattered the country's economy. The full effects of the virus aren't yet clear, but it seems likely to add financial pressures on students in the coming months and years.

The issue of aligning faculty skills with students' needs goes beyond the stereotypical trope of an old, cranky professor who doesn’t like change, though. Challenges to overcome can be as simple as the hidden language of academia and faculty assuming all students have the same understanding of common terms on campus.

How does a student know the meaning of office hours if the student has never before heard the term?

The issue might be carelessness or thoughtlessness -- like assuming students don’t have responsibilities outside of their coursework. It might also be unintentionally carrying on one mode of teaching for years without analyzing why students are dropping out of courses.

The answer to this is not simple. Getting faculty to adapt to the times takes planning, buy-in and, most importantly, money.

But it’s necessary. For faculty who seem unwilling or unable to adapt, McGuire tends to have conversations about whether they still feel excitement about teaching. If professors don’t want to explore new pedagogies or approaches to teaching, that’s a sign they’re worn out, she said.

Some policy experts, institutional leaders and advocates believe higher education must change the way it trains, hires and promotes its faculty. Others say the blame is misplaced and instead point to structural issues like declining numbers of tenured positions, the importance of leadership and the need for more investment in teaching and learning.

Whatever the case, institutional change is now a necessity, as the demographics for students and the general population shift. The number of white students is decreasing as the number of Hispanic students increases, among other changes.

Higher education is facing an enrollment cliff by 2026, when the full impact of a declining birth rate will hit colleges. The last decade was a precursor to these changes. Enrollment across postsecondary institutions has been falling since 2010.

To combat this, institutions are turning to certain segments of the population that seem like potential enrollment gold mines. About 36 million American adults have some college credit but no degree, prompting marketing companies to sell services to colleges designed to target this demographic. Make no mistake -- most teens still plan to enroll in college. But many will bring with them different life experiences from the traditional college students of yore, who tended to rely on family for support instead of working full-time themselves.

However, the majority of faculty are privileged. Most are white men. Those who are on the track for tenure are older than the average American worker, placing them further away from the modern-day experiences of their students. While there have been some gains in diversity, most of them stem from contingent faculty.

This challenge is now more important to understand than ever, as the novel coronavirus upends higher education, leaves many students unemployed and takes away services like childcare.

‘Hidden Culture’

Some faculty don’t recognize how the demographics, and thus the needs, of students are changing, according to Davis Jenkins, a senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University.

When Jenkins works with faculty and advisers to map out a student’s journey through a college, “it’s just shocking how many barriers the student faces,” he said.

At issue is a gap between many professors’ own experience and that of their students.

“You have professors, potentially, who make the assumption that your schooling is the same as my schooling,” said Sean Morris, director of the Digital Pedagogy Lab at the University of Colorado at Denver. “Even within a generation, that’s changed.”

It’s something all types of institutions will have to address, Jenkins said, as enrollments decline and too many students leave college without degrees.

Some colleges have already recognized the need to change. Since the 1980s, Trinity Washington has been catering to what McGuire calls post-traditional students.

“Over time, we’ve learned a couple of things,” she said.

Those include hiring faculty “who are capable of teaching the students we have, not the students they wish they had.” They are willing to teach outside of typical daytime hours and can work with students who may need leeway at times.

The last piece is “compassionate rigor,” McGuire said.

When students set foot on campus, they encounter a hidden culture.

“For adult students, you have the added dimension of stresses from work and family life,” she said. “At the same time, students need to be disciplined, so what’s the balance between helping and being taken advantage of?”

An example could be giving students one free pass for redoing an assignment or retaking a test.

Beyond understanding the external obligations students have, faculty need to understand what may pose challenges inside the academy. Colleges as a whole often take for granted that students will arrive on campus already knowing how things work, said Anthony Abraham Jack, assistant professor of education at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

Sometimes, it’s an unintentional systemic issue. For example, a college dean once told Jack about a student who thought office hours were a time for professors to work and not be bothered.

“When students set foot on campus, they encounter a hidden culture,” Jack said. He will often train faculty and staff to recognize this when giving talks on campuses.

Other times, the words are more personal. Students who are also parents will hear their professor tell the class that they can take on extra work because they don’t have “real” responsibilities. Or professors will get angry with students for not buying all of the -- often expensive -- books for a course.

“The gap in understanding is still prevalent,” Jack said. “You have to have a cultural shift in conjunction with a structural shift, especially in the context of the changing student body.”

Some blame the reluctance to change on what they call deficit thinking. If faculty expect students who don’t fit traditional molds to fail, then they are much more likely to fail.

“A lot of times, faculty don’t think about where students are coming from,” said Audrey Dow, senior vice president of the Campaign for College Opportunity. If faculty see a student falling asleep in class but don’t know that student just worked a 10-hour shift, they might assume the student isn’t college-ready. But that student might just need support, Dow said.

“When we look at students and say, ‘Gosh, they’re showing up, they want an education, how do we help them get it?’ that’s when success can happen,” she said.

Supporting Faculty to Support Students

Some say higher education must look at structural issues before it places the blame on faculty. They balk at the idea that faculty are the primary problem.

“I think that that is a very dangerous framing of what is a very real challenge that needs to be addressed,” said Alison Kadlec, a founding partner at higher education consulting firm Sova Solutions. “From what we know from our work, as well as from research in related areas, the people who are closest to students are [faculty]. In any institution, they are also the single greatest reservoir of commitment.”

One of their biggest obstacles is the conditions faculty work under, she said, because those conditions can easily preclude them from being truly effective. Systematic adjunctification, for example, makes faculty feel devalued and makes it difficult for them to go the extra mile because of low pay and instability.

For faculty who work contingently, it can be hard to do creative work, said Jesse Stommel, a senior lecturer of digital studies at the University of Mary Washington and executive director of Hybrid Pedagogy, a journal for digital pedagogy. The stresses from that precarious job position, which often provides little security and doesn’t pay well, make experimentation with pedagogy and teaching difficult.

“When we defund public education, when we make the work of teaching increasingly precarious, we make it extraordinarily difficult to do this work,” he said.

Institutions should help faculty understand who their students are, said Sherri Hughes, assistant vice president of professional learning at the American Council on Education. But faculty still hold responsibility for teaching them.

Saying “we shouldn’t put it all on the faculty member,” she said, “suggests that nontraditional students are a burden, and I don’t think that’s true.”

Understanding the different practices, tools and approaches to teaching is important for teaching all students, not just nontraditional students, she added.

At Trinity Washington, the university has won grants to support those kinds of efforts. A Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant to support women of color in science, for example, provided resources for science faculty to revise their curriculum and get training.

The reaction so far has been positive, according to Cynthia DeBoy, associate professor of biology at Trinity Washington and a director of the grant programs. A training about motivating students held on a Saturday attracted all science faculty members, and they stayed until after 5 p.m. It led to the creation of mentor moment courses at the university, which focus on different life skills, like self-advocacy and applying to internships, for each year of a student’s time in college.

Ultimately, colleges need to hire more full-time faculty, according to Adrianna Kezar, director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California. Those who are full-time can do what many contingent faculty don’t have the supports to do: hold more office hours, stay after classes to have conversations with students and support outside activities like clubs.

“Research shows, for first-generation, low-income and underserved minority students, that faculty members who are supportive are by far more important than things like advising,” Kezar said. “Just at a time where the student body really needs the faculty, we’ve really taken away the ability for faculty to support them.”

‘We’re the Ones on the Ground’

Large-scale changes that could improve student success at scale often face opposition from faculty members, policy experts say.

One of the most obvious examples is the battle over developmental education reforms. In several states, faculty unions have fought against legislation to adopt models like corequisite courses.

“What happens in the classrooms could be most critical for students,” said Wil Del Pilar, vice president of higher education policy and practice at the Education Trust. “Faculty need to be willing to change their pedagogy based on students, or be more flexible.”

In California, legislation that allowed more community college students to skip remedial courses and instead take courses that would transfer with credit to four-year institutions was met with opposition by some faculty.

Faculty lamented what they call legislative intrusion. The reason why is simple, said Susan Holl, professor emeritus at California State University, Sacramento, and chair of a subcommittee of the Faculty Senate.

“We’re the ones on the ground,” she said. “All educational strategies don’t work for all students.”

It’s frustrating to see legislators think they know best, Holl said, especially when they push for change very quickly. The faculty she works with are very committed to student success, she added.

“The pushback comes from people telling faculty how best to do their business, when we know how to create programs and curricula,” she said.

Holl suggested that advocates go to faculty governance bodies first with proposals for significant changes, such as developmental education.

“Although we appreciate that people are well meaning,” she said, “we would like any legislators, any people who hold the purse strings, before they make any rules or legislation or listen to advocacy folks, to make sure they work with the faculty at whatever level to understand what the real issues are on the ground.”

The pushback can also be unintentional. It’s unfair to vilify faculty who teach using lectures, because it’s often an issue of awareness, said Josh Eyler, director of faculty development at the University of Missouri.

“We have a ton of research on how people learn and the teaching strategies that are most effective in maximizing that learning,” Eyler said. “To the degree that we can send that message and spread that word and shift the culture of the university toward teaching strategies rooted in that evidence, the better we’ll be.”

To that end, institutions should incentivize and support faculty in learning more about their craft, Eyler said.

Stommel thinks faculty should engage students more in their courses. The surest way to do so is to not design courses ahead of time, but rather ask students to help construct them.

“When we lock that stuff in stone before we’ve interacted with the students, then we’re not actually building a learning experience for the students we actually have,” he said. “We’re building a learning experience for an imaginary student.”

While some might assume this model takes the rigor out of college, Stommel said it can do the opposite. If students take ownership of their learning, they will put in more effort and be more engaged, he said, whereas it can be easier for them to “go on autopilot” while following someone else’s goals and trajectories.

A Small but Vocal Group

Many higher education experts said they believe the issue of faculty being a barrier to student success arises from a “small but vocal group” of professors. “And they have tenure,” said Morris, the professor from CU Denver.

Morris studies pedagogy and learning, and he contends that the typical way college faculty teach -- lecture style -- won’t work with the “new traditional” student.

“There’s a divide between teachers and students in the classroom, and that needs to start to break down,” he said. “Traditionally, the teacher is a taskmaster.”

If learning were more cooperative and collaborative, then nontraditional students could bring their life experiences into the class, Morris said. When this can’t happen, faculty have to take special measures to know what’s going on in their lives and what challenges they may have.

Most faculty also never learn how to teach, according to Del Pilar. Institutions, he said, tend to value faculty’s ability to be content experts rather than teachers.

“They are not trained to meet the different learning outcomes or style of everyone, or the unique needs of students,” he said. “They’re trained on, ‘How do I get the information across? Here’s how I learned it, here’s how you’ll learn it.’”

Achieving the Dream, a nonprofit network of community colleges focused on student success, is working to address this issue by encouraging its members to invest in centers focused on teaching and learning, said Karen Stout, the organization’s CEO and president. These centers can teach faculty how to empathize with the myriad of experiences today’s students bring to the table, as well as raise awareness about nonacademic supports on campus so faculty can correctly refer students.

There’s a divide between teachers and students in the classroom, and that needs to start to break down.

Both Morris and Stout said most faculty want to learn about effective teaching methods.

“If you engage them in conversations about relational teaching, they eat it up,” Morris said. “Because they go into a room and their students are staring at them, and they have to try to make learning occur.”

At Miami Dade College, a community college in Florida that won the 2019 Aspen Prize for College Excellence, faculty have access to the Center for Institutional and Organizational Learning.

Julie Alexander, vice provost of academic affairs at the college, cited hundreds of opportunities for training each year. Academic affairs also has personnel dedicated to the long-term strategy for faculty development. Adjunct faculty are paid to attend mandatory training, and some voluntary opportunities are also paid, Alexander said.

“One thing that I hear a lot from students is that they feel like this is a very receptive environment, and that the faculty are aware of not only their capacities, but also that there are challenges outside of academia,” she said.

Some also question the focus of tenure and the reward structure on which it’s built. For example, at institutions with a heavy research focus, faculty members can lack incentives to strive to perfect their teaching strategies.

It’s difficult to quantify effective teaching, said Sally Johnstone, president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, while it’s “easy to count publications.”

Still, if institutions want more effective teaching, they have to promote it from the top down. When Morris was a graduate student teaching a class at the University of Colorado at Boulder, he said he was told by his department chair to not worry about the teaching, but instead focus on his own studies.

“I was teaching 50 undergrads who needed a teacher, but I was told not to care,” he said.

While it’s easy to assume research universities would emphasize research over teaching, and vice versa with community colleges, Johnstone said the focus varies across colleges.

“It has to do with the leadership of the institution and how committed they and the board are to really having the focus on student success,” she said. “If that’s there, then there are other things they can do for all students to be successful.”

Changes Done Right

Many colleges are starting to make changes to address these issues as the current environment forces them to innovate or risk failure.

There are different approaches to how to involve faculty in that change.

“When you talk to people who are trying to create institutional change, engaging faculty in that change makes it more sustainable, but it also makes it a longer game,” Del Pilar said. “Do you implement what you can today to help students now, or play the long game to help students in six years? I think the answer is both-and.”

At Georgia State University, administrators took this approach and first addressed issues that didn’t require faculty involvement.

“When we launched these efforts over a decade ago now, the focus was on the university trying to correct the problems that the university itself was creating,” said Tim Renick, senior vice president for student success at Georgia State. “We wanted to ask how we were the problem.”

Some of the first big projects included improving academic advising, changing the distribution of financial aid and launching a chat bot to help students more immediately with problems, he said.

While those initiatives were done without faculty, Renick said, it didn’t create resentment. Rather, he said, it showed “that this was not an attempt to attack them. It was an effort to show that we all have to address issues.”

Do you implement what you can today to help students now, or play the long game to help students in six years? I think the answer is both-and.

Because the changes started by looking at the problems at the university level, rather than shoving blame onto faculty, Renick said it encouraged faculty to spearhead their own projects.

There still was pushback, he said. But it tended to come from a small group.

“I think most faculty come into higher education, and certainly most faculty come to a place like Georgia State, because they care about making a difference,” Renick said. “In many cases, the university deadens that idealism because it’s such a big bureaucracy, and younger faculty want to change things, but they can’t.”

Once faculty saw how the changes -- like moving to low- or no-cost materials or using predictive analytics -- helped improve the graduation rate, they once again had hope that they could make things better, he said.

The approach has worked, according to Michelle Brattain, chair of the Senate Executive Committee and chair of the history department at Georgia State

“The university has not demanded anything. They’ve persuaded [faculty],” Brattain said. “I think if the university put all the responsibility for student success on faculty, it wouldn’t have gotten buy-in.”

Use of data analytics also convinced faculty members to take the administration’s work seriously, she said. The administration’s willingness to help with problems students face also sets the tone for the university overall.

For example, Brattain said, one student broke his glasses and couldn’t afford new ones, and he couldn’t do work because of it. She emailed a vice president at the college for help, and that staff member found a grant for the student to get new glasses.

“No problem is too small for them to be concerned about it,” she said. “It makes a huge difference.”

Many believe that including faculty in student success initiatives is key. Stout, of Achieving the Dream, said she sees faculty leading the change in many places.

“I don’t believe that faculty are the barrier for nontraditional student success,” Stout said. “I believe the systems and structures in our colleges are the barriers.”

One example is Pierce College in Washington, where faculty are now using data to improve student success at the course level.

The change started when the institution decided to focus heavily on student success, said Greg Brazell, director of employee engagement, learning and development at the college. It instigated a change in how the college provides professional development to its faculty.

“Before, it was the traditional, one-and-done, just-in-time model,” Brazell said. To make development more sustainable, the college created action research project opportunities for faculty. This year’s theme for projects is equity.

Faculty are becoming evidence-based practitioners on teaching practices, he said. They can look at data at the course level to determine which students are not succeeding and why that might be. Maybe students can’t get homework done during the week, or maybe the faculty member is teaching a particular lesson too quickly.

As a result, the college has raised its three-year graduation rate from 18.7 percent to 36.2 percent since 2010.

“The current culture is very open,” he said. “It’s all about student success.”

I believe the systems and structures in our colleges are the barriers.

McGuire, president of Trinity Washington, said it’s important for university leadership to find “champions for change” among the senior faculty, as well as provide incentives through paid training or grant opportunities.

“You do have to fund faculty time and recognize that there’s a value worth paying for,” she said.

The university has a committee that acts as a “faculty salon” where professors will present their work on student success, which can naturally bring about change.

One discussion centered on whether faculty should accommodate a student who had a childcare problem and needed to bring their child to class for a day, McGuire said. Half said yes and half said no, and then they discussed it.

“Everyone went away realizing they should be humane and let someone do that if they need it for an emergency,” she said.

While institutions have been focusing on student success over the past decade, Kezar, of the Pullias Center, said the next area of focus is student services.

“The big move for the next 10 years really needs to be, ‘OK, we’ve done some really good thinking about students and some of the things that shape and affect them, but we haven’t really considered the classroom,’” she said. “That has always been left out of the student success movement. That’s what we need to focus on now.”

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Zoombombing isn’t going away, and it could get worse

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 00:00

A brief exchange is all it took for one student to completely derail an online accounting test at the University of Arizona yesterday.

“Don’t make it too obvious at the start that you are trolling, just ease into it lmao.”

“I got you, me and two other friends are joining.”

Armed with a Zoom videoconference ID, the trolls got to work. Their efforts to disrupt the test resulted in its cancellation. Students have been asked to complete the test in their own time, the university confirmed.

This incident is just one of many disruptions to plague higher education in recent weeks as quarantined keyboard warriors seek to wreak havoc on classes that are suddenly being offered remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such trolling, which first drew widespread attention last week, has been dubbed Zoombombing. Some of the disruption to online classrooms is random. Trolls playing “Zoom roulette” simply type a random 10-digit number into Zoom -- the videoconferencing service that many colleges and universities have relied on to move classes to remote instruction on short notice. Then the trolls see where they land.

More often than not, it seems the attacks on higher education classes are targeted. Many students are willingly sharing details of upcoming conference calls in online chat rooms and message boards. Those details often include passwords to private meetings scheduled by users with access to paid Zoom educational accounts.

On social media platforms, users with hundreds of thousands of followers have openly called on students to share details of upcoming classes so that they may disrupt them. And there appears to be no shortage of volunteers.

In “best of” compilation videos on YouTube and in live Zoombombing incidents witnessed by Inside Higher Ed, intruders frequently pose as students before taking over classes.

Some of the disrupters launch into ridiculous lines of questioning, perform supposedly comedic skits or shout or breathe heavily into their microphones. Another popular tactic is to blast loud noises and music, a method known as “ear rape.”

Often the intrusions take a far more sinister turn, with trolls sharing explicit images, streaming pornography, drawing crude images over instructors’ slides, exposing themselves or repeatedly expressing racial slurs -- sometimes aimed at specific instructors or students.

This harassment of minority instructors and students is reminiscent of the Gamergate movement, which describes the sustained misogynistic campaigns waged against women in the gaming community.

Zoombombing attacks, or Zoom raids, are planned on services such as Discord, a communication platform popular among gamers. In a Discord group accessed by Inside Higher Ed, online trolls seemed to delight in the confusion and distress they caused instructors, some of whom, they gleefully reported, had burst into tears. Some members of the group described themselves as wishing to pursue “good old-fashioned trolling” and said they drew the line at “really fucked-up shit” such as sharing child pornography or repeating the N-word over and over. “That’s boring,” one user wrote.

A single intruder can be quickly kicked out by meeting hosts, if they know how to do it. But coordinated attacks by dozens of trolls make it nearly impossible for instructors to take back control. Many Zoombombed classes descend into chaos, forcing instructors to simply shut them down.

Dozens of resources advising instructors on how to secure their videoconference calls have been published in the past week as awareness of Zoombombing grows, including this one from the company itself. The University of California, Berkeley's information security office shared this detailed prevention guide. On Twitter, instructors also shared tips and tricks to prevent intrusions.

There are several simple steps that instructors can take to minimize intrusions, including locking meetings so that no new attendees can join once classes have started and muting all attendees. Adding a password for meetings is a simple deterrent, provided students don’t share the passwords. At the University of Arizona, a spokeswoman said the institution is now advising all instructors to screen call participants in virtual waiting rooms before they start their classes.

As quickly as instructors adapt to best practices however, trolls are finding workarounds. On a recent Reddit thread, one user shared that changing your username to “iPhone” or “Samsung” may fool instructors screening participants into thinking that you are a student calling into the meeting from your cellphone, rather than accessing the call through your computer.

The escalating problem of Zoombombing isn’t exclusive to education. AA meetings, prayer groups and book readings for children have been recently commandeered by Zoombombers. A small number of people have started referring to these trolls as “Zoombies” -- a fitting term for the apocalyptic atmosphere of a nation gripped by a global pandemic.

“It’s important for faculty to understand that they are not alone in dealing with this,” said Liz Gross, founder and CEO of Campus Sonar, a company that develops social media strategies for higher education institutions.

Campus Sonar has been tracking public online conversations about higher education and the impact of the coronavirus online since March. The term "Zoombombing" didn’t show up in the company’s data set until March 21, Gross said.

“It had minimal mentions until March 31 and April 1, when we detected a threefold increase in Zoombombing mentions.”

Gross predicts that the trend will "likely get worse before it gets better" as online groups start to copy each other's Zoombombing antics.

While some students have complained about the disruption caused by Zoombombing on Twitter and other online forums, others seem to find the practice amusing, Gross said. Some trolls may be engaging in Zoombombing just for the sake of causing disruption, but others may see it as an opportunity to promote certain political agendas, including spreading extreme right-wing views through a practice known as "dropping redpills."

“I found one concerning message on 4chan from March 31 in a thread about politics suggesting that since millions of students across America are in online classes on Zoom, 4chan users could get into those classrooms and ‘drop redpills,’” said Gross. “They went on further to quip that they could ‘redpill entire schools’ if only a few committed to it.”

The link between Zoombombing and criminal activity was highlighted this week by an advisory from the FBI encouraging people who are the victims of videoconference hijacking to report it as a cybercrime.

Increased use of videoconferencing tools by higher education institutions, the private sector and government agencies in the wake of the coronavirus could be exploited by cybercriminals to steal sensitive information and target individuals, the FBI also warned.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, reported that as of March 30, it has received and reviewed more than 1,200 complaints related to COVID-19 scams. These include phishing campaigns targeting first responders, distributed denial of service attacks against government agencies and ransomware attacks at medical facilities.

These same groups “will target businesses and individuals working from home via telework software vulnerabilities, education technology platforms and new business email compromise schemes,” the FBI predicted.

The rise of Zoombombing provides an opportunity for institutions to talk about the importance of data security and privacy online, said Brian Kelly, director of the cybersecurity program at higher education IT membership group Educause.

Despite many negative news articles criticizing weaknesses in the Zoom videoconferencing platform this week, Kelly says the product is not “inherently less secure” than other videoconferencing tools. It is simply under increased scrutiny since so many people are now using it.

“Zoom has been very responsive to the criticism,” said Kelly. "They aren’t circling the wagons."

He noted that earlier this week, Zoom changed the default settings for users with educational Zoom licenses so that only hosts can share content, and the company is continuously making updates. “There is some risk with all of these platforms. The trick is learning to mitigate that risk,” he said.​

Zoom's CEO, Eric Yuan, wrote in a blog post Wednesday that the company would be focusing exclusively on bolstering its security and privacy over the next 90 days.

"We appreciate the scrutiny and questions we have been getting -- about how the service works, about our infrastructure and capacity, and about our privacy and security policies. These are questions that will make Zoom better, both as a company and for all its users," wrote Yuan.

"We recognize that we have fallen short of the community's -- and our own -- privacy and security expectations. For that, I am deeply sorry and I want to share what we are doing about it."

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Financial woes of states threaten free college proposals from Biden and Sanders

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 00:00

Though they don't necessarily doom the plans, the financial struggles of states amid the coronavirus pandemic have become a major obstacle to free college proposals from presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

So much so that at least one proponent of free college, Morley Winograd, president of the Campaign for Free College Tuition, acknowledged that the proposals from Sanders and Biden on how to pay for eliminating tuition now are unlikely to happen. The plans “need to be put aside for now,” he said, given the focus on preventing state cuts from sending college tuition soaring.

"Colleges never fully recovered from the last recession, and now they need tens of billions of dollars to avoid massive tuition hikes," said James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access & Success and former deputy domestic policy adviser in the Obama White House. "The first priority for both the federal government and states has to be addressing steep budget cuts and preventing large tuition hikes."

Kvaal said that "puts the free college plans in doubt for the foreseeable future." But he said free tuition could still happen sometime in the future.

What’s dampening hopes for many higher education experts is that both candidates’ plans call for states to chip in tens of billions of dollars.

Under Sanders’s proposal, for instance, the federal government would pay three-fourths of the cost, estimated by the campaign to be $48 billion annually. But it would rely on states to spend tens of billions a year to pick up the additional 25 percent.

Biden, meanwhile, initially proposed that states pick up one-fourth of the cost of a smaller plan that would have made community colleges free, with the rest paid by the federal government.

But in a move that was seen as an overture to Sanders supporters and young progressives, Biden announced last month that he would adopt an earlier Sanders proposal, the 2017 Colleges for All bill, making public colleges and universities free for all students whose families earn less than $125,000 a year. The federal government would spend what Sanders then estimated to $600 billion over 10 years, which would cover two-thirds of the total cost. States, in what’s now part of Biden’s plan, would have to pony up the remaining hundreds of billions of dollars.

But states are reeling financially as they deal with health care and other costs during the pandemic, at the same time as the closure of businesses and record unemployment are slashing their revenue. And higher education experts are worried about preventing another devastating round of state cuts in funding for colleges and universities, as happened in the last recession, which sent tuition soaring.

“It’s scary. Colleges will be swamped by a tidal wave of state budget cuts that could be more devastating than the Great Recession,” said Kvaal.

Winograd agreed. “As states focus their attention on responding to the immediate crisis, they are rapidly draining their financial reserves and then some. This combination of events makes it clear that even though the need for free college tuition has never been greater, the likelihood of funding it, even partially, from state revenues is unlikely,” he said.

Instead, Winograd said, Congress should provide money in a new stimulus package for governors who want to eliminate tuition as part of their economic recovery plans.

A spokesman for the National Governors Association said it's too early in the states’ budget process to forecast what will happen to spending for higher education. But he pointed to the dire comments Larry Hogan, Maryland's Republican governor, and Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan, made in a Washington Post op-ed on Monday.

“As a result of the sharp slowdown in the economy and the postponing of tax filings, states are likely to face huge shortfalls in revenue,” they wrote.

Though Congress included $150 billion in aid to states, territories, municipalities and tribal governments in last week’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, the governors wrote, “States will need additional and substantial federal help to continue funding essential services such as police and Medicaid while balancing their budgets and meeting the spending demands of the pandemic.”

“It’s looking very challenging for state budgets,” said Phillip Oliff, the Pew Charitable Trusts’ senior manager of fiscal federalism and student loans policy. “The coronavirus crisis looks like it's going to have a major economic impact. When there are economic downtowns, they often mean major troubles for state budgets,” many of which are barred by law from running deficits, said Oliff, who spoke about the financial situation facing states during the pandemic but declined to comment on its impact on the free college plans.

And when states have to make budget cuts, he said, they tend to look at higher education, because colleges and universities can raise tuition.

Looking to the Feds

Neither the Sanders nor Biden campaigns returned inquiries this week asking if they have a plan for paying for the free college plans given budget crises in the states.

To do free college without state help, experts said, the federal government would have to initially pick up most if not all of the states' share of the cost, until the economy improves enough for states to start chipping in.

“Likely, in reality, it will have to mean a greater investment from the federal government. And that would mean the federal government will have to reprioritize higher education,” said Tiffany Jones, senior director of higher education policy at the Education Trust, which focuses on issues affecting students of color and those from low-income families. She noted that last week’s stimulus package spent 30 times more on helping corporations than higher education.

Some, like Antoinette Flores, director for postsecondary education at the progressive Center for American Progress, thought Congress could go along given the trillions it has been willing to spend in the stimulus packages. She noted that Congress increased spending on Pell Grants during the last recession.

“I could totally see policy makers consider free college. I don’t think the idea is off the table,” she said.

Suzanne Kahn, deputy director of the liberal Roosevelt Institute’s education program and its Great Democracy Initiative, also wasn’t ready to give up hope that the plans could be implemented. “In a moment of incredible crisis, we’re seeing an acceptance of ideas on the table that seemed faraway a short time ago," she said. Kahn cited, for example, how canceling student loan debt, once seen as a radical idea, was considered by Congress as part of the most recent stimulus package negotiations.

“I think it’s hard to make predictions, given how quickly things are moving,” she said.

However, Republican congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have put the brakes on another aid package until they see how the mammoth bill they just passed works out.

And even Democrats on the House education committee stopped short of funding free four-year institutions in the $331 billion College Affordability Act the committee passed last year, because of financial constraints, according to materials from Democrats.

Instead, the bill proposed a smaller plan, giving states $3 for every dollar they spend to make community colleges free.

That proposal doesn't make four-year institutions free. But Democrats on the committee believe the plan is an important step because it would establish a funding mechanism. Congress could add money later and someday make four-year public and private institutions free.

Preventing State Cuts

As attention shifts toward preventing state budget cuts, policy experts see a role for the concept of a federal-state partnership similar to ones proposed by Democratic candidates and House Democrats.

In simpler times before the epidemic, several education policy groups like TICAS and the Bipartisan Policy Center saw the partnerships as a way to encourage states to restore the funding for higher education they cut during the last recession.

A study by the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities last year found that while states have increased spending on higher education in recent years, it still hasn’t gone back to pre-recession levels.

Under different variations of the idea, states that agree to maintain or increase their funding of higher education would be rewarded by getting at least that amount matched by the federal government.

The idea of the federal government increasing higher education spending by tying it to states' spending has “worked its way into the progressive zeitgeist in that everybody is talking about it. Think tanks are talking about it. Advocates are talking about it. The candidates are talking about it,” said Jason Delisle, resident fellow in higher education financing at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

“The ubiquitousness of the idea has really been a sea change in thinking about how we pay for college,” Kvaal said.

What’s become particularly relevant now is that proposals from TICAS and the Bipartisan Policy Center included a backup plan aimed at preventing state cuts during the bad times, such as when states saw an increase in unemployment or a drop in revenue.

Neither Sanders nor Biden’s education platforms, however, are detailed enough to describe what would happen during a recession -- something Kvaal warned about in what now looks like a prescient op-ed in The New York Times last October, titled “The Gaping, Recession-Sized Hole in 2020 College Plans.”

Under TICAS’s proposal, for example, the federal government would encourage states to maintain spending on higher education by doubling the amount of federal dollars for those that do. States that cut federal aid would have their federal funds reduced by half.

Now, TICAS and advocates like Jones said the next stimulus package should include a similar idea to a federal-state partnership to encourage states to not slash funding for colleges, as they did in the last recession.

“The top priority now has to be recovery from the immediate crisis. Colleges will need tens of billions of dollars to prevent rising tuitions and layoffs. In return, states should be required to limit their cuts and reinvest in colleges over time,” Kvaal said.

“It’s an incentive for states to think twice” about cutting higher education spending, because they would lose several times more in federal dollars, said Michele Streeter, a TICAS policy analyst.

Jinann Bitar, a senior higher education policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said policies to prevent state cuts in higher education during recessions are overdue. Her group had proposed Congress create a rainy day fund for states to offset higher education cuts during the hard times.

“Had a policy been in place, it would have mitigated the cuts higher education is facing now,” she said.

A version of the idea was included in the just-passed stimulus package, tying $14 billion in federal funding to states in return for not reducing funds next year below the average of the past three years. However, the provision has been criticized by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and advocacy groups like the Center for American Progress as being too weak because the secretary of education is allowed to grant waivers from the requirement to maintain spending if a state is in economic distress.

A report by the Center for American Progress this week noted that states cut higher education funding during the last recession, even though Congress included a $48.6 billion state stabilization fund in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. States only spent $8.3 billion of that money on higher education, the report said. And of 48 states that received the stabilization funding, 23 ended up cutting higher education funding anyway.

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Among the newly unemployed in the U.S. is a prestigious group: Fulbrighters

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 00:00

When the Department of State announced last month it was suspending Fulbright grants for Americans worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many grantees living abroad had to make difficult decisions quickly with incomplete and imperfect information.

With international borders closing to air traffic, commercial flight routes being canceled and the State Department urging Fulbrighters to return to the U.S. as soon as possible or risk being stuck in their host countries for an extended period, grantees had questions about their stipends and health insurance. Where would they live if they did return to the U.S.? What would they do for work, assuming they could even find jobs as millions of American companies and businesses shed workers during the economic downturn resulting from the public health crisis?

Participants in the State Department-funded Fulbright fellowships, a flagship program that provides grants for teaching and researching opportunities abroad, were not just losing prestigious grants and leaving behind unfinished research projects -- they were also losing incomes, housing and, in some cases, health insurance.

The program is paying grantees their stipends through June. This means grantees whose project terms correspond with the American academic year will receive all or most of the funds they were promised. But some of those whose grants started midyear and were scheduled to continue through the fall said they will not be getting thousands of dollars they were counting on.

Clémence Kopeikin, who was in Brazil on a Fulbright research grant to conduct a community-based program for youth focused on gender-violence prevention, said the premature end to her grant means she will lose more than $5,500 in funding she was counting on.

"My colleagues and I hope the Fulbright program will reverse their decision to cut funding and provide the rest of the grants as was stated in the contracts we signed," she said. "I do not consider it to be ethical to cancel programs and cut Fulbrighters' project funds/sources of income during a pandemic. Most of my research colleagues in other institutions around the world have switched to remote working and are shocked when I tell them that the our program was canceled, we were ordered to travel through mandatory evacuations and that most of us are now looking for work."

Jenny Lundt, a recent Colgate University graduate who arrived in Malaysia in January for what was supposed to be a 10-month Fulbright English teaching assistant grant, said she and other grantees in her position made financial decisions based on commitments made by the program.

"They guaranteed us housing. We got a car," she said of her Fulbright cohort. Now back in the U.S., she says, "I have no savings. I moved back in with my mom, putting my family at risk. I don’t have enough money to rent someplace or self-isolate, and no one is hiring right now."

Still, Lundt said she's better off than other grantees.

“I’m definitely in a more privileged position. I’m still on my parents’ health care, and my parents have made it work for me. Other people in my cohort don’t have that luxury whatsoever.”

The Fulbright program recommends grantees maintain private insurance coverage over and above the accident and sickness policy it provides, but not everyone does. A number of grantees, including Sean Hayward, said they came back to the U.S. during a pandemic without health insurance.

Hayward would have much preferred to stay in Indonesia, where he was studying traditional music from the Banyumas region.

"I have a house [in Indonesia] which is very well-suited to quarantine. I had it completely stocked. I had health insurance, a vehicle, a house full of musical instruments and possessions. It was highly preferable for me to stay," said Hayward, who is a doctoral candidate in music at the California Institute of the Arts. He said he left mainly because he received information from Fulbright officials indicating he would likely lose his research visa if he stayed, though he said he has since learned that would not have been the case.

“My rent in Indonesia for my house is $80 a month, and it’s already paid through the year,” said Hayward, who is currently staying in an Airbnb for a quarantine period after his travels from Indonesia to California took him through four major airports. “Basically, my grant amount is roughly $1,700 a month, which is quite plentiful in Indonesia, but [for] living in Los Angeles it is nowhere close [to] enough to live."

He said apartment hunting in the midst of a pandemic is obviously not ideal. He also has no hope of finding work in his field as a university lecturer any time soon.

The Fulbright program has said the “health, safety, and well-being of program participants” is its “highest priority.” With the pandemic rapidly worsening and borders closing, the department acted quickly and in unprecedented fashion in suspending all programs worldwide. The Department of State on March 19 issued a worldwide travel alert urging all Americans living abroad in places where commercial flights were still available to return to the U.S. immediately or be prepared to stay abroad indefinitely.

A State Department official said in a written statement that the department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs “has repeatedly urged and offered assistance to American Fulbright participants to depart from their overseas locations for several weeks. On February 28, March 11, and March 19 the State Department reiterated calls for Fulbright participants to return home and offered to assist and fully fund the cost of travel.”

“The bureau offered to help arrange their travel, including paying any increased transportation costs, provided stipends through June 30 for all Fulbrighters to aid in their transition, and assured all participants that they would retain alumni status of their programs," the official said.

Ushered Into Alumni Status

The alumni status, which confers grantees a prestigious title for their résumés and access to the Fulbright alumni network, is little comfort to some now-former Fulbrighters.

“We are not being given the opportunity to resume our work after the pandemic is over. We are Fulbright alumni and that’s it,” said Hayward. “For most of us the title of alumni is not as meaningful as the work itself. For me the money is not as meaningful as the work itself. I didn’t choose to become an experimental Indonesian music composer for the cash.”

Maia Evrona, a writer and translator whose grant provided funding her to study the Jewish poetic tradition in Greece and Spain, has called for Fulbright to offer new "makeup" grants to people whose grants were cut short this year.

“This would be unprecedented, but this crisis and the program’s response to it were also unprecedented,” Evrona wrote in an article in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

“The predominant emotion I am hearing from other Fulbrighters is that they just want to finish their projects,” Evrona said via email. “Many people are angry with the Fulbright program for going ahead with next year's grants before they have fulfilled their commitment to current Fulbrighters.”

She also said people also are angry because they felt that traveling put them in more danger than sheltering in place would have.

Natalia Roman, who has asthma, initially wanted to stay in Colombia, where she was a Fulbright English teaching assistant, but instead returned to Puerto Rico via a 27-hour flight that took her through four airports. On her journey back, she wore a sign on her back saying “Chronic Asthma Patient -- Please Keep Your Distance.”

Roman does not have health insurance in Puerto Rico, and she was fearful for her health traveling during a pandemic. Still, she said, “looking back, I think it was the right decision to get us out while we could because a lot of people are stuck in different countries. Things in Colombia aren’t looking great, and there is a certain level of security that each of us feels being with our parents and being with our significant other and knowing that even if borders close, it's not as if we’re stuck anywhere other than where we’re supposed to be,” she said.

Some Fulbrighters have chosen to stay on in their host countries as private citizens. Matthew Ehrlich, a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of California, San Diego, and his wife, Kelsey Wood, opted to stay in Spain on tourist rather than research visas after Ehrlich's Fulbright grant prematurely ended.

Ehrlich was using his Fulbright to do dissertation research on the 19th-century Spanish empire and said he’s relieved to be getting funding through June and to have Fulbright alumni status. But he said lack of clarity about those details complicated his decision making when he and his wife were trying to decide what to do.

“We felt this sword of Damocles hanging over our heads,” he said. “We couldn’t think with a clear head about what was genuinely best for our health, our safety, our families, the right thing to do globally, because of this fear that we would lose our funding and lose our status.”

Requirement to Return Stipend

The Fulbright program is not the only U.S. government-sponsored grant for international research and study. Frankee Lyons, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, went to Poland with funding from the State Department’s Title VIII program, which funds research and language instruction in Eastern Europe, Eurasia and Russia, in addition to funding from the Fulbright program.

Lyons, who studies Polish-Jewish life in the 1950s under Communism, is pleased with how Fulbright officials in Poland handled the pandemic. But Lyons is very unhappy that the American Councils for International Education -- a nonprofit organization that administers her Title VIII grant -- is requiring her to repay about $6,000 for her housing and living stipend for the remaining three months of her now-canceled grant.

Graham Hettlinger, an American Councils official, wrote to Lyons and informed her she could keep the housing portion of the stipend to pay for outstanding lease payments if she returned to the U.S., but not if she stayed in Poland -- "as doing so would effectively be to continue a program that, by our own assessment, we were obligated to cancel in order to protect the health of our participants."

Hettlinger, the managing director of higher education programs for American Councils, defended the requirement to return the money in a March 25 letter to Lyons, saying the terms of the grant “include the requirement that a pro-rated portion of housing and living stipends be returned to the funder if a scholar’s time abroad is reduced for any reason from the original time allotted.”

“After that I went back to the terms and conditions,” said Lyons. “It doesn’t say ‘for any reason.’ There are clear sections in the contract that say under what conditions it must be returned, and those are if the grantee withdraws, is dismissed or is medically evacuated, and none of those things happened. The program was canceled by them. I wasn’t dismissed; I didn’t withdraw.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do going forward with this,” said Lyons, who remains in Poland. “I’m also really concerned one this is my livelihood for the next three months. I didn’t violate my contract, and I feel I’ve been mistreated.”

Hettlinger, of American Councils, said via email that the terms and conditions of the grant say that fellowships can be canceled or shortened and fellows asked to return early due to circumstances beyond their control.

"Throughout these events, American Council’s first priority has been to protect the health and safety of our program participants by keeping them well informed of ongoing developments in the COVID-19 crisis, and, as required by conditions, arranging their safe and timely return home," he said. "We certainly feel for those of our Title VIII scholars who have had to abbreviate their research time abroad due to these events, and we recognize that the shortening of their awards has had unfortunate financial implications for many."

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Roundup: More funding, closures and a sloth

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 00:00

Happy Friday, folks.

We've officially surpassed one million cases of COVID-19 worldwide. On a (somewhat) uplifting note, more than 200,000 people worldwide have recovered from the virus.

There's not much good news about the economy, though. To ease your mind a bit, here is a happy animal video.

If you need us, we'll be watching this sloth eat kale... forever? https://t.co/bkhEa0HDBc

: @NationalZoo pic.twitter.com/vNCdaoXBjJ

— Washingtonian (@washingtonian) April 1, 2020

Still getting the hang of Zoom meetings? Here's a helpful video from theater faculty at Columbia College Chicago.

Now let’s get to the news.

Think tanks are calling for more funding for higher education in the next round of stimulus packages (if there is one).

Meanwhile, colleges are asking Betsy DeVos, the U.S. education secretary, to disburse the relief funds for higher education to institutions quickly. They're also asking the department to clarify how the money can be used.

A Strada Education Network survey found that many people would want to further their education if they lost their jobs.

To help keep students enrolled, Ohio Wesleyan University is canceling its planned tuition increase of 3 percent.

Athletics directors are thinking about reducing employee compensation as institutions look toward major budget cuts.

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

COVID-19 is affecting more than colleges' finances and operations. It's affecting their faculty, staff and leaders -- several of whom have already died from the virus, Marjorie Valbrun reports.

Elizabeth Redden has a story on scholars combating racism against Asians and Asian Americans due to the coronavirus.

Two colleges recently announced they're closing. Emma Whitford wrote about how the coronavirus was a factor in those decisions.

News From Elsewhere

Reuters has a damning report on how college students are spreading the novel coronavirus.

Do private colleges have enough cash to weather this storm? The Chronicle of Higher Education has this story.

What to do when campus is closed and you're bored? Build your college on Minecraft, The Verge reports.

Here's a helpful story from The Atlantic on epidemiological models.

Percolating Thoughts

Hybrid Pedagogy, a journal for digital pedagogy, has an interesting article arguing for less test proctoring as colleges pivot to online.

A scholar and a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania have some ideas for how colleges can further help the battle against COVID-19.

Ever taken a look at the subreddit for professors on Reddit? It's looking pretty rough for universities right now, according to one chief strategist.

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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Universities form global network on climate change

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 00:00

Several dozen of the world’s top universities have teamed up to press for action on climate change, saying the coronavirus pandemic should not erase attention on the dangers of a warming world.

The International Universities Climate Alliance (IUCA), unveiled on April 2, showcases climate change research from 40 universities in 18 countries across six continents.

The group includes institutions with global strengths in key disciplines for both analyzing and resolving climate change, such as engineering, economics, law, social science and planning, as well as climate science.

The University of New South Wales Sydney, which spearheaded the initiative and will coordinate it for the first year or two, is also the lead institution for solar photovoltaic technology. While Australia’s catastrophic summer bushfires focused the world’s attention on the consequences of climate change, the initiative has been in the planning for the past two years.

“This new platform is needed now more than ever as the world grapples with providing a coordinated approach to tackling climate change,” said UNSW vice chancellor Ian Jacobs.

Matthew England, an oceanography and climate dynamics specialist with UNSW’s Climate Change Research Centre, said the group had made the “tricky” decision to launch the alliance amid the COVID-19 “information saturation.”

While climate action is “on hold while we address this pandemic,” England said there were many parallels with the coronavirus. “One is that acting early makes the process easier, right through to the economy,” he said.

“Another is that this is a problem we can solve by coming together globally and within communities, sharing scientific knowledge but also understanding what we’re all going through across nations. We will solve COVID, and we can also solve climate change with enough of a coordinated effort.”

Member universities include the California Institute of Technology, Cornell University, McGill University, the University of Edinburgh, King’s College London, the Sorbonne University, ETH Zurich, the University of Hong Kong, the National University of Singapore, the University of Melbourne, Monash University, the University of São Paulo, the University of Ghana, the University of Nairobi, TERI School of Advanced Studies in New Delhi, the China University of Geosciences and the Fiji-based University of the South Pacific.

England said he expected another 10 or so institutions to join the group. He said that as an international problem, climate change warranted a “truly international” alliance with global traction.

The aim was to create a “new voice” capable of engaging not just in national-level policy but also international negotiations, such as the treaties formulated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

England said that as mounting scientific and government reports demonstrated the effects of climate change, people were understandably frustrated about political inaction on the issue. “This new alliance is united in helping to break through this barrier so decision makers can have better access to research-based facts on climate change impacts, adaptation and -- most importantly -- mitigation,” he added.

The alliance had deliberately embraced institutions in emerging nations with surging populations and energy needs, which were teetering between “going for low-carbon sources of energy or making the mistakes we’ve made in Australia and the U.S.,” England said.

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Colleges start new academic programs

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 00:00
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Scholars remember those lost to COVID-19

Thu, 04/02/2020 - 00:00

When Maurice Berger, the chief curator and research professor at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture in Maryland, died recently from complications of COVID-19, his shocked and heartbroken co-workers said they not only lost a dear friend and colleague but a brilliant thinker and collaborator whose scholarship and curated exhibits and projects crossed disciplines and challenged conventional thinking about race and representation in the visual arts.

Fellow visual artists, university administrators and department heads at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where the center, commonly referred to as CADVC, is housed, took his death very personally. But the passing of Berger was also felt elsewhere around the country, by others in his field at other universities, museums and galleries, and particularly among academics who considered him not only a groundbreaking scholar-curator-art historian but a socially conscious public intellectual whose work greatly influenced how the visual arts are presented, viewed and taught.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, as well-known and obscure Americans are being felled by the deadly disease and their lives publicly celebrated or quietly overlooked, Berger’s death is just the latest example that academe has not been spared in the public health crisis.

Berger died on March 22; he was 63. Four days later, on March 26, Michael Sorkin, an architect and director of the graduate urban design program at the City College of City University of New York, also died from coronavirus, according to The New York Times. He was 71 and, like Berger, an influential thought leader who promoted social justice.

Two days after Sorkin’s death, William B. Helmreich, a popular New York City sociologist and scholar of Judaism, also died from coronavirus at age 74. He was a distinguished professor of sociology at City College and the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, The New York Times reported.

“For us and for our students, these tragedies represent a time to reflect on lessons learned,” said Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of UMBC. “One of those lessons that Maurice truly believed is that we are all connected, that humankind is connected and that we need to talk about how we're connected.”

Earlier last month, Stephen Schwartz, a longtime professor of pathology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle and a pioneer in the field of vascular biology, passed away after being hospitalized for a COVID-19 infection. He died on March 17 and was 78.

"This has become all too real," UW president Ana Mari Cauce said on Facebook, where she described Schwartz as "larger than life" and superimposed a photo of him in front of Mount Rainier, according to The Seattle Times.

From Deaths to Life Lessons

The current reality of sudden illness and death is already prompting higher ed leaders to contemplate how to negotiate and manage such uncharted waters as well as how to restart and move forward once the waves of expected deaths slow down or end.

Foremost on Hrabowski's mind is ensuring that students understand the significant social and economic implications of the pandemic and are able to place them in a domestic and global context.

"How do we prepare the next generation for life after this crisis? How do we get them ready as future leaders?" he asked. "We in the academy should be preparing to have these conversations with our students all the time."

Hrabowski said Berger "clearly believed [in] the importance of using evidence to present arguments and following that evidence wherever it leads and solving critical problems through connecting disciplines."

Berger also had "a passion for engaging with others through his work," Hrabowski said, and felt it was important for exhibit audiences "to have the opportunity to have robust and honest conversations with people of different backgrounds that cross religion, political, racial and all types of other boundaries. His work was a stimulus for those kinds of conversations, to ask hard questions and question our own assumptions."

Berger was also “a path-breaking art historian and curator,” his colleagues wrote in a long and laudatory appreciation. “Maurice was a fierce advocate for social justice and an exceptionally caring human being. Through his exhibitions and writings, he compelled us to look honestly at issues of race, inequity, and their representations in visual culture.” 

Tom Moore, UMBC's director of arts and culture, said Berger curated several major traveling exhibits for the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, including the widely celebrated For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights. It is considered one of the longest traveling exhibitions and was seen in major urban centers such as Baltimore, Chicago and New York City, as well as smaller locales, such as Waconia, Minnesota, or Moscow, Idaho. It is scheduled to travel to an additional 45 venues through 2023.

"He was keenly aware of the power of those exhibitions," Moore said. Berger wanted every exhibit "to be a safe place in which each of us can discover and examine our own relationships to race and inquiry. He was happy to talk to people going through the exhibit, but he was more interested in them going through it and coming to their own perceptions, to really look inside and examine how our experiences shaped our perceptions of the world in ways that we were not aware. He wanted his work to touch anyone and everyone."

Symmes Gardner, executive director of the center, said Berger underwent "a major transition" during the course of his career. He went "from talking about the beauty of art objects and their relationships to the culture and moved into a larger dialogue about how to perceive culture and how to change a culture to become more humane and empathetic."

A Lasting Impact

Berger’s death, and his life as a gay, Jewish man whose worldview was shaped in part by growing up in a Manhattan housing project with mostly black and Puerto Rican neighbors, has been widely covered in recent days. Remembrances have been posted by the Jewish Museum in New York and other venues, and an outpouring of tributes and condolences have been shared on Twitter and Facebook.

The lives and deaths of the other academics have also been similarly noted.

Sorkin was one of the most outspoken public intellectuals in the field of architecture, The New York Times reported: "A polymath whose prodigious output of essays, lectures and designs, all promoting social justice, established him as the political conscience in the field."

The Times article described him as "a natural radical who saw architecture through a political and social lens," and who "advocated for housing and green energy rather than prisons and malls, and for citizens to participate in the design of their own urban destinies."

Helmreich was the author of Against All Odds: Holocaust Survivors and the Successful Lives They Made in America (Simon and Schuster, 1992), which the Times described as “a data-driven study that highlighted the survivors’ resilience and achievements and contradicted the commonplace image of them as irremediably traumatized.”

Although he wrote or edited 18 books, Helmreich will likely be most remembered for walking nearly every single block of New York City. He chronicled that experience in his book The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City (Princeton University Press, 2013), which describes his four years of “walking virtually every city block, all 121,000, totaling 6,163 miles,” according to the Times. He chatted with strangers during his walks and unearthed “a cornucopia of colorful city sidelights; he even once approached members of the street gang the Bloods outside a Bronx housing project and asked them where he could buy one of their red jackets.”

The walks seemed a fitting enterprise for a person described as “curious, gregarious and inexhaustibly energetic” -- a sad irony not lost on Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University and a friend of Helmreich.

“He was in the wrong profession for the coronavirus,” Sarna told the Times. “Willie loved talking to people. Social distancing was not in his nature.”

Schwartz, of the University of Washington School of Medicine, was also was an adjunct professor there in the departments of bioengineering and medicine.

He was variously described by friends and colleagues as a researcher, mentor, advocate and a character. One friend wrote on a tribute page that Schwartz was “an iconoclastic individual” and “brilliantly unconventional” and characterized him as “a guy who loved to argue over beers,” according to local news outlet SeattlePI.com.

"It’s a lot to wrap our minds around, isn’t it?" Kathy O’Dell, associate professor of art history and museum studies at UMBC, said of the recent deaths.

O'Dell, who is also a special assistant to the dean for education and arts partnerships, was a longtime friend of Berger. They both attended the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she earned her doctorate in art history a year after Berger earned his. She described Berger as being way ahead of his time.

"His greatest contribution is that he was doing public history long before people were using that term," she said. "He was teaching us about microaggressions before that term was even used."

O'Dell said Berger personified "all of that good, solid, intellectual, important stuff all tied up and wrapped with a bow of kindness, caring and generosity." 

He will be a tough act to follow and that's assuming anyone would even want to try, she said.  

"​There are a lot of footprints for someone to be stepping into,' she said, "My goodness he was prolific, the books, the articles. There’s just so much that will provide touchstones to generations of students."

Said Moore: "I think there are some people in the world who, on some level, really are not replaceable. Maurice's work as scholar was truly groundbreaking. No one had addressed these issues and I’m not sure that anyone is engaged in these questions on the level that Maurice was."

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Scholars confront coronavirus-related racism in the classroom, in research and in community outreach

Thu, 04/02/2020 - 00:00

Jason Chang, an associate professor of history and Asian American studies at the University of Connecticut, started putting together a crowdsourced document with resources on teaching about coronavirus-related racism back in January. Students, he said, are hungry for readings that help them put this current moment in perspective.

"I’ve actually had students who are asking for more assignments to expose them to more material," Chang said of students in his Asian American history class this spring. One of the assignments in the course asks students to create a zine connecting their experience during the COVID-19 pandemic with a broader theme in Asian American history

"The way that I’ve begun to teach about this is to put the racist response to the pandemic in the context of an Asian American history of 'yellow peril,'" Chang said. "I’m using a class on Asian American history to show how these cyclical patterns have echoes in our contemporary environment, giving them actual historical evidence about what things looked like to help them understand the consequences of historical narrative. I don’t always get that kind of punch in this course. I’m usually satisfied with students just acquiring new knowledge about Asian American history."

Scholars are among those confronting the rise in anti-Asian and anti-Asian American racism that’s come with COVID-19, which originated in China and which President Trump and some other prominent figures have described as the “Chinese virus” despite warnings from experts who say such terminology fuels xenophobia. Scholars are addressing this topic in the classroom, in their research -- the Journal of Asian American Studies put out an urgent call for submissions this week for a special issue on racism and the COVID-19 pandemic -- and in outreach to Asian American communities.

Russell Jeung, a professor and chair of the Asian American studies department at San Francisco State University, started a new online reporting center for bias incidents against Asian Americans in collaboration with two civil rights and advocacy organizations. Jeung said the reporting center is receiving  100 bias reports daily and has collected more than 1,200 reports total since it was launched March 19.

“You read the reports people write, and they’re harrowing,” Jeung said. “People aren’t just being yelled at; they’re being yelled at with a vehemence and a virulence that is scary.” Jeung added that people deliberately coughing at Asians in threatening and aggressive ways has become a distressing trend.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned about a likely surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans as the coronavirus crisis continues to grow, but Jeung and two co-authors wrote in an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times Wednesday that it’s clear from their data that such a surge is already happening.

“We’ve got huge amounts of data,” said Jeung, who noted that the incident report form is now available in eight languages. “It’s grown from me and two grad student volunteers. Now we have 12 students and two other faculty working with me on just gathering data on coronavirus discrimination. We’re doing news content analysis, we’re doing these daily incident reports and we’re looking at social media.” Jeung said researchers are monitoring social media sites for viral racist memes and tracking how the term #Chinesevirus gets tweeted, and its impact.

Melissa Borja is among the scholars working with Jeung to analyze the incident reports and connect respondents in the Midwest with support resources. “One thing that’s interesting about this is to see how much collaboration has taken place among people who serve Asian American communities and people who research and teach about Asian American people in the United states,” said Borja, an assistant professor in the Department of American Culture at the University of Michigan.​ "These networks have been mobilized to a degree I haven’t seen in a very long time.”

Apart from research and advocacy, Borja emphasized the work scholars can do in their roles as teachers. “I have found that I’ve changed my own assignments so students are researching issues related to Asian American hate in my upper-level writing seminars,” she said.

And beyond the curriculum, Borja said one of the most important things faculty are doing right now is simply showing up for students. "One thing that as professors we’re struggling with right now is the reality that our world has been turned upside down and our students are struggling and they’re sad and they’re vulnerable and they’re scared," she said. "This is particularly true for students who fear doing a long drive home because they might be targeted at a gas station or a grocery store. Simply being a support for students has been important for me as a professor who puts human relationships first before anything I do."

Samuel Museus, a professor of education studies at the University of California, San Diego, said he expects to see a spike in research related to discrimination against Asian Americans. He has begun analyzing discourse about the virus in the media and social media.

"A lot of the media coverage is talking about these incidents of discrimination and prejudice as emanating from the coronavirus, and in some cases talking about Donald Trump’s role in fueling it with the rhetoric that he’s used to talk about the pandemic," Museus said. "I think that makes sense given the context that we’re in and the fact that those realities do play a role, but there’s not a lot of coverage of larger context and the fact that there’s a long history of physical illnesses being weaponized against communities of color in our society and used as a way to spark fear and animosity toward immigrant populations in order to advance political agendas."

"Donald Trump is definitely saying some things that are problematic, but he’s not he only one," Museus continued. "When you take a look at a lot of the discourse that’s emerging on social media and in the media outlets more broadly, you see that there are a lot of organizations and people who are perpetuating similar ideas about how dangerous Chinese people are and sort of fueling a lot of fear and hate toward Chinese people. If you’re Asian American, you make a distinction between Chinese and Asian American, but in our society a lot of people do not."

"This is an Asian American racial profiling issue; it's not only Chinese," agreed Jeung, of San Francisco State. He said 60 percent of bias incidents being reported are coming from people who are not Chinese.

William Lopez, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said just looking at the coronavirus through a biological or medical lens risks missing the bigger societal picture. “If we think only about curing this disease but not how we talk about it, we are going to miss things like the anti-Asian violence that is coming as the labeling of this disease as the ‘Chinese virus,’” Lopez said.

Lopez is also the faculty director of public scholarship at Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity, which has put out a call for articles from authors whose “scholarship speaks to the racialization of pandemics or other public health phenomena and the social consequences that follow.” Lopez said the goal is to publish the essays the center is commissioning within a matter of weeks.

It’s important, Lopez said, that “social scientists and others who do equity work are able to move their research into the public fast enough to make a difference.”

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Two small colleges winding down operations as coronavirus impact looms over higher ed

Thu, 04/02/2020 - 00:00

Two colleges -- the San Francisco Art Institute and MacMurray College -- announced last week they will suspend admissions or close entirely at the end of the semester, adding to a growing list of institutions that are halting operations amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

As with all college closures and wind-downs, the details of each case are different. But each can provide additional insight into how at-risk institutions will be forced to react to a suddenly stressed environment.

SFAI will not admit any new students and is considering suspending regular courses and degree programs at the end of the spring semester. That decision will be made in coming weeks, said Pam Rorke Levy, chair of the institute's Board of Trustees.

The institute had been in talks with nearby universities about a possible merger deal, but those negotiations fell apart when the coronavirus outbreak spread to the West Coast and college leaders were pulled back to focusing on their respective campuses.

“Everybody in that kind of environment becomes much more risk averse,” Levy said. “Do they want to take on another institution that has cash-flow problems and help us at a time when they may have unanticipated financial challenges of their own?”

The coronavirus-caused disruption of business as usual may have changed SFAI’s fate. Levy said that without it, a deal could have been reached early enough to keep the institute operating in some form. Now, Levy hopes the institute will find a way to stay afloat until merger talks can resume.

“We’re going to be open in some form,” Levy said. “The question is, in what form? Is it going to be all of our programs? Is it going to be a subset of them? Is it going to be skeleton staff hanging on tight until the epidemic passes?”

She suggested the institute could leverage its property and assets -- including a Diego Rivera painting appraised at $50 million -- in order to weather the current financial challenges.

SFAI is one of the first higher education institutions to wind down operations while specifically citing the coronavirus outbreak. Others are expected to follow. Despite the board’s insistence that the institute will remain open, many news outlets -- including The New York Times and The Architect’s Newspaper -- have described SFAI’s recent moves as antecedent to closure.

Suspending admissions is often an indicator of an impending closure. Last month Notre Dame de Namur University, also located in the San Francisco Bay Area, announced it would no longer admit new students in an effort to stave off a potential closure.

Michael Horn, co-founder of the Christensen Institute, said that the new coronavirus will “hasten the demise of many schools that are on the brink and struggling” for two reasons. First, already-declining enrollments are likely to fall even further. Second, the oncoming economic disruption will hurt colleges’ bottom lines and impact students’ ability to pay tuition and fees.

“Even if they attract students -- if they're tuition dependent -- whatever the financial aid packages they were offering won’t be enough,” Horn said.

Asked what types of colleges will be most affected by the outbreak, Horn laid out a list: private, liberal arts, religious institutions, fine arts and music colleges, and colleges with high tuition discount rates and low endowments.

MacMurray College -- a small liberal arts college in Jacksonville, Ill. -- checks several of the boxes Horn listed. The college announced Friday that it would close at the end of the spring semester. The coronavirus outbreak and resulting economic disruption “complicated MacMurray’s financial condition” but were not primary reasons for the closure, according to a statement.

MacMurray's leadership team worked to develop a sustainable financial model for more than a year. The model would have included expanding the college's professional degree programs and working to admit more nontraditional students.

“Despite our best efforts, we were unable to secure the capital to fund a viable path forward,” Charles O'Connell, Board of Trustees chair at MacMurray, said in a statement. “We deeply regret this decision and are sorry for the disruption and disappointment it will have for everyone in the Mac Family. But the reality is this: we were left with no alternative and had only one responsible option.”

The college has negotiated transfer agreements for students with Blackburn College, Eureka College, Greenville University, Illinois College, McKendree University, Millikin University and Monmouth College.

Asked why the board waited until spring to vote to close the college, President Beverly Rodgers said the vote followed "time-consuming analysis" of other potential options.

"The Board pursued and prepared several different scenarios for more than a year, including merger with another college, financial remedies, development of a strategic plan to reshape MacMurray’s business and academic model, and closure," she wrote in an email. "After that extensive process, it became clear MacMurray could not secure the capital needed to keep the college open and had no viable financial path forward."

Most of MacMurray’s 101 employees will be terminated on May 25.

Jamie Bolker, an assistant professor of composition at MacMurray, tweeted about the college’s closure. She joined the faculty in November. She has not been told yet whether she and other faculty will receive severance pay.

“They told me in the interview that the school had financial problems but I had no idea the true magnitude, even after doing some research,” she wrote in an email. “I probably wouldn't have even applied for the job had I known I would be working there for only five months before they closed.”

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