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As colleges announce room and board refund plans, students are asking for more

Inside Higher Ed - Lun, 04/06/2020 - 00:00

It’s been nearly a month since colleges began to close their residence halls in response to the new coronavirus outbreak, but many are still figuring out exactly how to address room and board refunds.

Some colleges, such as Smith College, Harvard University and Amherst College, announced almost immediately that students would receive prorated room and board refunds. Many others have come up with partial refund plans in the following weeks, which have been met with praise by some students and with lawsuits and petitions by others.

Refund decisions are ever changing. This was apparent at the University of Minnesota Board of Regents meeting Friday, when the board voted 8 to 4 to approve a new student fee refund plan.

Previously, the university system had offered a $1,200 room and board credit for students on the Twin Cities campus and a $1,000 credit for students on all other UM campuses. This plan would have cost the university system $12.6 million in lost revenue.

The new plan, created in light of Minnesota governor Tim Walz’s stay-at-home declaration issued March 25, would provide prorated refunds for students on all six University of Minnesota campuses for room and board fees, student activities fees, and parking fees, if applicable. The new plan would cost the university system $27.8 million, more than double the original plan.

That’s a significant figure, even for a state system like the University of Minnesota, according to Craig Goebel, principal at Art & Science Group. He pointed to a recent report that the University of Wisconsin system is estimating a $100 million loss due to the coronavirus outbreak. The entire UW system expects to spend $78 million on room and board refunds. Elsewhere, Clemson University announced it faces a $20 million loss, $15 million of which will be for refunds. The University of Maine system has processed $12.8 million in room and board refunds as of March 31.

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents vote follows a petition calling on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities administration to increase refunds to students from the initial $1,200 to “at least $2,500.” It has gathered more than 500 signatures.

“The University of Minnesota instructed students to stay home after spring break due to this pandemic but isn’t compensating students the right amount for their losses,” the petition reads. "This petition is aimed to push administration to give students their rightful compensation of at least 2500 dollars."

The plan approved Friday would refund the “most common” student -- meaning a student who chose the most common options for housing, dining plans and the like -- $2,364, according to Julie Tonneson, senior vice president of finance and operations at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Actual refund amounts will vary by student.

Students in Arizona have also been leaning on their universities to pay them back for services not rendered -- but instead of just petitions, they took the universities to court.

Students have filed a class action lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents in an attempt to receive prorated room and board and student fees refunds from three universities -- University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University -- after they moved classes online.

The sued for breach of contract -- a common class action claim, according to Kent Schmidt, a lawyer at international law firm Dorsey & Whitney who is keeping a running blog of coronavirus-related class action suits.

“[Arizona Board of Regents]’s performance under the contracts is not excused because of COVID-19 and the housing agreements provide no such terms excusing performance given nationwide pandemics,” the complaint reads.

The University of Arizona is offering students a choice between a 10 percent refund at the end of the semester and a 20 percent credit to be added to their account next year. Arizona State University will offer a $1,500 nonrefundable credit. Northern Arizona University announced Friday it would offer a 25 percent credit. But the students say it’s not enough.

“The students’ claim is pretty sympathetic. This is not an insignificant part of the money you pay to go to college,” Schmidt said.

The lawyer went on to explain the situation many colleges find themselves in.

"The problem is that a significant part of that money also goes to pay salaries of the people there working in the cafeterias and people that are doing various other jobs relating to the room and board," he said. "The question becomes: Is the university caught in the middle? Do they have to refund the money to the students, or are they under pressure to keep paying the employees?"

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Remote learning shift leaves students with disabilities behind

Inside Higher Ed - Lun, 04/06/2020 - 00:00

In the quick shift by colleges from in-person to online instruction in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the needs of students with disabilities can sometimes be overlooked.

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing, have low vision or are blind, those with learning disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or a physical disability that requires use of a computer keyboard instead of a mouse, students with mental illnesses or various other challenges, have been put on the backburner “en masse,” as instructors scramble to transfer two months' worth of teaching content to a digital format, said Cyndi Wiley, digital accessibility coordinator for Iowa State University’s Information Technology Services.

Wiley said although some faculty members may have discussed digital accessibility in the past, they might not be aware of the importance of ensuring it for all students and may not understand that it goes beyond making special accommodations for individual students that specifically request it. Some faculty members might just be overwhelmed by the pressure to rapidly convert to online classes and overlook accessibility, Wiley said. She said institutions can and should "do better" by making investments in software that continuously provides alternative, accessible material formats for students with any disabilities.

“I would love to live in a world where we didn’t have to make accommodations because all our materials are just accessible,” Wiley said. “If we are not at an enterprise level looking at those resources and creating budget lines, we’re at the situation we’re in now. We have some how-to resources and tips, but faculty are running all over the place and trying to keep up with students.”

The National Foundation for the Blind has been contacted by college students facing problems after complete shifts to remote learning by their respective institutions, said Chris Danielsen, director of public relations for the foundation. The primary issue for blind students is learning materials not being compatible with screen readers, which read and navigate course documents and sometimes transcribe them into Braille, he said.

“What we worry about now is that in the rush to move everything online in light of COVID-19, universities are paying even less attention to whether it’s accessible or not,” Danielsen said.

Tiffany Anderson, a blind student in her final semester at Johnston Community College in Smithfield, N.C., said the move to online learning has slowed her down. When her Spanish conversation class was in person, Anderson could listen to readings and follow along, but a digital textbook for the course is not available in an online format compatible with her screen reader, and her professor has been relying on that textbook more for assignments, she said.

“It’s stressful, because you feel like you’re falling behind,” Anderson said.

Wiley said students who are dyslexic, on the autism spectrum or who have a learning disability that requires text be read to them can also run into problems when screen readers process documents that are images instead of text. Images also cannot be navigated by students with physical disabilities who only use computer keyboards, not mouses, to go through documents, she said.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing students may also face new challenges, said Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf.

Live teaching formats over the internet may not provide them with American Sign Language interpreters or real-time captioning -- transcriptions of speech produced by a person, not computer-generated -- they may have had in in-person classes. If students had these services provided in the classroom, they should be duplicated for remote learning, Rosenblum said in an email. Colleges should not look to automated speech recognition, or ASR, software for live video formats, such as what is provided as a default for the Zoom, WebEx and Google Hangout conferencing platforms, he said.

“Such captioning is generally subpar and would be a disservice to those who rely on accurate captioning to understand and follow their college classes,” Rosenblum said. “We challenge any claim of accuracy measurements of ASR given that there is absolutely no valid metric to assess the accuracy of captioning at this time.”

Captioning accuracy declines when the speaker's native language is not English or if they have a speech impediment, when live video has background noise or complex terminology or bad internet connections, Rosenblum said. Wiley estimated that the ASR used in videoconferencing platforms is 85 to 90 percent accurate, when the aim should be 99 percent accuracy. The best-case scenario would be for colleges to have a human remote live captioner, but academic departments often don’t have the budget to pay for such services, especially now with the financial impact of making major adjustments in response to the public health crisis, Wiley said.

The pandemic is forcing institutions “to confront who is expendable,” said Mary Vargas, a partner at the firm Stein & Vargas LLP, who focuses on disability discrimination and is a former attorney with the NAD. Accessibility issues occurring now will impact the deaf community later, as deaf and hard-of-hearing students studying health care or medicine will become critical providers who can communicate effectively with other deaf and hard-of-hearing people, she said.

“For students in that field to be locked out of education is just devastating,” Vargas said. “It’s devastating to their career path and devastating to the rest of us who need immediate health-care access.”

People who have not paid attention to accessibility are now being forced to in the middle of a crisis, said Lainey Feingold, a disability rights attorney who works on digital accessibility. From a legal standpoint, the technology should always be usable for every student, and accommodations are required by law, unless it’s an “undue burden,” she said. But providing an equal education to students with disabilities should be more than just a “checklist” to ensure institutions are compliant with federal requirements, Feingold said.

Accessibility should be a “state of mind,” and that has not historically been the case in higher education, said Marion Quirici, a disability studies professor at Duke University who advises the Duke Disability Alliance, a student group that advocates for visibility and accessibility for students with disabilities. Quirici is concerned not only for the students who have disclosed disabilities previously to their professors, or who have very apparent physical disabilities, but those who have not asked for accommodations, especially for unpredictable learning or mental health disabilities, she said.

“Accommodation is first -- you have to prove you have a disability,” Quirici said. “You go through this process of documentation, then decide which accommodation would help you get through this course … The students who are struggling the most are students whose disabilities are not already on the books.”

The move to remote learning has been particularly difficult for Sydney Aquilina, a Duke student who has ADHD and is a member of the DDA. Attending classes remotely while living in a household with seven others is challenging, she said in an email. It’s hard to find quiet space to be productive.

“Not being in-person in and of itself makes it harder to concentrate, and I feel less free to ask the questions that my mind will get hung up on, which makes it even more difficult to focus on what I’m supposed to,” Aquilina said. “Conversation helps me organize and process my thoughts, so the reduction of social interaction makes it more difficult for me to articulate my thoughts and ideas on assignments.”

Online learning, when done in an accessible way, can be better for some students with disabilities, such as those who struggle to navigate campus because they have a physical disability, Quirici said. What the coronavirus pandemic has revealed, though, is that requests by students with disabilities to learn remotely in the past -- which were sometimes rejected at many universities -- are suddenly possible on a broad scale, Quirici said.

This is the “irony of this current crisis,” Deanna Ferrante, a December graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, wrote in an article about the pandemic. Ferrante founded the Alliance Against Ableism at UMass Amherst and said she has a learning disability that affects her reading comprehension and memory.

“In the past, students who need class content to be moved online have faced opposition from administration claiming that the transition would be too expensive, take too much time, and require too much extra training for educators,” Ferrante wrote. “It is painful to me and many others in the disability community that as soon as non-disabled people require the use of online classes to complete their education, the whole world scrambles to get everything running in a mere week.”

Sometimes there’s a reluctance from educators to provide accommodations because they're skeptical of a legitimate need that is not obviously visible, when the attitude should be “flexibility and understanding,” Quirici said. There is a lesson to learn from people with disabilities who are “coming forward as leaders during this transition” and speaking about inequities that persist in higher education, not just online, but in person, Quirici said.

“That flexibility and approachability should be built into our mission as teachers,” she said. “I hope that one silver lining of this catastrophe is that this is all possible and it can be incorporated into face-to-face environments.”

Ferrante said accessibility should not be framed as "guidelines" or "suggestions" for instructors but as a top-down mandate from university administrators.

"It’s very disheartening that now all of this immediacy is in place because of something’s that’s bigger than all of us," Ferrante said. "Maybe it will show universities and administrators the importance of this."

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Roundup: Videoconferencing woes and a new coffee craze

Inside Higher Ed - Lun, 04/06/2020 - 00:00

What day is it again? That’s right, Monday!

As you gear up for another workweek from home, why not consider whipping up some tasty Dalgona coffee?

This chilled beverage went viral (not that kind) last week and is super simple to make. All you need is a whisk and some coffee, sugar and milk.

Give it a try and sip as you skim the rest of this newsletter. We’ll wait.

Here’s the tea on what’s in the news.

The National Governors Association wrote to the U.S. Department of Education on Friday, asking the department to distribute the $30 billion in education funds from the federal stimulus bill as quickly as possible and with few restrictions on how the money should be spent. Higher education institutions are slated to receive $14 billion.

Fearing a loss of liquidity, the University of Alabama system secured $250 million in credit from two banks last week. Other institutions likely will try to follow suit, as reports rise of institutions facing vast financial losses. In Texas, for example, plummeting oil prices are projected to cost public university systems at least $300 million.

A survey conducted by the American Association for Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers reveals 81 percent of institutions have moved instruction entirely online. Many institutions are giving students the option of changing their courses to pass/fail grading.

The shift to remote instruction has resulted in a surge in learning management system and synchronous video tool usage, consultant Phil Hill writes in his blog, Phil on Ed Tech. Hill predicts many instructors will shift toward asynchronous instruction as they start to realize the limitations of live videoconferencing.

In related news, reports of Zoombombing incidents picked up pace last week. A petition to prevent racially motivated cyberattacks on Zoom gained more than 30,000 signatures, and the FBI advised victims of videoconference hijacking to report it as a cybercrime. Zoom’s CEO published an apology in response to a string of articles criticizing the safety and security of the platform.

A quick roundup of the latest stories from Inside Higher Ed:

When the State Department suspended Fulbright grants last month, many recipients returned to the U.S. with no jobs, housing or health insurance, writes Elizabeth Redden.

Kery Murakami reports that free college proposals floated by presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden could be scaled back as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And Madeline St. Amour takes a deep dive into how faculty are adapting to serve a shifting student population, and what college leaders can do to support them.

What we’re reading elsewhere:

College classes delivered through videoconference calls are giving many students a glimpse into each other’s homes for the first time, highlighting stark inequalities, The New York Times reports.

Juggling academic life and potty training a toddler has been hit and miss (literally) for this academic couple, who wrote about their working-from-home experience for Times Higher Education.

Being a teenager is hard. Being a teenager during a pandemic is harder, writes Julia Finke, a high school senior from Virginia, for The Hechinger Report.

Percolating Thoughts

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that everyone cover their face when heading outside. There are a plethora of videos describing how to make your own protective gear. But if you don't want to go the DIY route, CQ reports that you can buy ornamental face masks from cool streetwear brands for just a few hundred dollars! Safety, but make it fashion.

In more dystopian news, politicians and scientists in Italy are discussing whether coronavirus antibody testing could be used to determine who should return to work and who should stay at home now that new COVID-19 cases in the country have plateaued.

On the bright side, life in our brave new world might have some perks, writes blogger Tim Denning. Academic and writer Roxane Gay also touches on this idea in her Notes on Power in a Pandemic.

“Most of us are wondering when life will get back to normal but normal is what brought us to such a precarious place,” writes Gay. “Nothing should ever be the same again and while that is an unnerving prospect, it may also be our saving grace.”

Feel free to tell us what you’re discussing at the virtual water cooler in the comments below.

We'll keep bringing you the news you need during this turbulent time. Send us your questions and story ideas. We'll get through this together.

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American Medical Association Releases Guidance on Medical Student Participation in COVID-19 Response

Inside Higher Ed - Dom, 04/05/2020 - 08:45

Medical students across the country, at institutions like Harvard UniversityNew York University and the University of Kansas, are being permitted to graduate early to aid in the fight against COVID-19. Other students may be asked to help in patient care as part of their studies. The American Medical Association has now released guidance for medical schools and health systems on the involvement of medical students and early graduates.

"There are many opportunities for students to contribute to the clinical care of patients without engaging in direct physical contact with patients," an introduction to the guidance reads. "However, in some institutions the workforce demands may be great enough that it is appropriate to consider including medical students in direct patient care."

Among other recommendations, the AMA advises institutions to allow students to freely choose whether they would like to be involved in direct patient care, without incentives or coercion. Medical students should be given proper personal protective equipment and training on how to use it. Medical students should not be financially responsible for their own diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 should they become sick from school-approved activities, the association said.

For institutions with early graduation options for medical students to aid in the pandemic, the association stresses that the option should be enacted on a voluntary basis and be founded on achievement of core competencies. Institutions should not compel students to begin their matched residencies earlier than originally intended and should grant graduates full status as employees with appropriate salaries and benefits, the organization advised.

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Governors Call for Quick Distribution of Stimulus

Inside Higher Ed - Sáb, 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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Chronicle of Higher Education: Fairness in the Age of Betsy DeVos

The education secretary says taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for students who are trying to game loan forgiveness. But what about the students who play by the rules?

Alabama System to Open $250M Lines of Credit

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 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, 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 “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

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 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

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 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

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 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

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 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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Chronicle of Higher Education: Medical Students Were Sidelined by Coronavirus. Now They’re Volunteering to Battle the Pandemic.

The Covid-19 Student Service Corps mobilized more than 800 volunteers to handle phone lines, teach classes, and help researchers.

‘Massive’ Increases in LMS and Synchronous Video Usage

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 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

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 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

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 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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Canada: some int’l students eligible for support

The PIE News - Vie, 04/03/2020 - 07:22

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides temporary income support of CAN$500 a week for up to 16 weeks to those who stopped working because of COVID-19, has been confirmed available for international students if they meet certain requirements. 

According to a post on the Canadian government website, CERB is available to those resident in Canada who have stopped working because of COVID-19 and have not voluntarily quit their job; who had an income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; and who are or expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period.

“If you are a student who had a job last year and were planning on working this summer you do not qualify for the benefit”

“Workers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents – including temporary foreign workers and international students – may be eligible to receive the benefit if they meet the other eligibility requirements,” the government statement explained.

The statement explained that the benefit is “only available to individuals who stopped work as a result of reasons related to COVID-19”.

“If you are looking for a job but haven’t stopped working because of COVID-19, you are not eligible for the benefit.

“For example, if you are a student who had a job last year and were planning on working this summer you do not qualify,” it read.

Good news: The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is confirmed to be available for international students

— CBIE | BCEI (@CBIE_BCEI) April 2, 2020

The announcement has raised concerns for some students in Canada, including graduating students looking for summer work who won’t qualify for the benefit.

“Extremely disappointing to hear that the CERB announced from the federal government does not support students who had intended to work this upcoming summer. This gap in eligibility means that students may not be able to afford rent or tuition in the fall semester,” wrote one academic officer on Twitter.

“Many students do not qualify for [Employment Insurance] and rely on seasonal summer employment as a means of collecting savings for the year ahead. Students who have already had many plans derailed, are left wondering how they will get by and/or if they will return to school in the fall.”

Speaking with The PIE News, Philip Shea, an international education specialist based in Ontario, suggested that many international students would be eligible considering their allocation of 20 hours per week part-time study.

Many working in Canada for four or five months would have earned around CAN$5,000, he estimated.

CBIE president and CEO, Larissa Bezo, described it as an “unprecedented time of challenge for students studying in Canada”, both domestic and international students.

“Education institutions across Canada are deeply committed to providing the necessary supports to international students presently studying in Canada, including academic accommodations, support for their mental well-being, emergency financial assistance for students in need, housing support, technical support, and the likes,” she told The PIE.

“In addition to the initiatives and efforts of individual educational institutions, we are encouraged with the responsiveness of policymakers in responding to the input of key stakeholders in working to quickly to introduce greater flexibility to existing immigration and other frameworks in Canada to support our students at this critical time.”

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Ivy League Won’t Extend Eligibility

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 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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“For established providers of online learning, it’s business as usual”

The PIE News - Vie, 04/03/2020 - 06:20

Carl Lygo, Vice-Chancellor and CEO of Arden University, explains how universities will need to adapt to a “new normal” of supporting students online following Covid-19.

“Now more than ever, the world needs higher education. Experts are on the front line fighting this pandemic, and science is the guide in this battle. In the inevitable economic recession that the world is entering, people will be looking to upskill and take refuge whilst the world adapts to a “new normal”.

The higher education industry has shown great resilience in dealing with the recessions of the past, and I am sure the entrepreneurial zeal of the sector will shine through to support people in their hour of need.

“I am sure the entrepreneurial zeal of the sector will shine through to support people in their hour of need”

Arden University is currently delivering 100% online education worldwide supported by an amazing team of people all fully working from home. Our experts have carried on throughout this pandemic so that our students are able to make the most of the global “working from home” philosophy.

Therefore, there is absolutely no need for our students to put their careers on hold. We have continued developing the university, offering new degree programmes targeting the jobs of the future.

The majority of our students study purely online, but we also have teaching centres in Berlin, Birmingham, London and Manchester where students study partly online and face to face. We have replaced these face to face classes with online face to face teaching, training all faculty on the use of our preferred software within the space of a couple of days. Communication has been the key throughout the organisation.

Traditional degree providers who rely on the uniqueness of their real estate, their halls of residence, and whom have a de-centralised approach to the delivery of teaching are really going to struggle to adapt. I have seen this for myself with my children’s schooling. I have five children aged nine through to 16, and I have been witnessing their schools attempts to deliver online education.

“International students are going to ask tough questions about how their university dealt with the coronavirus”

The teachers have been a bit reluctant to embrace new technology, hardly offering any face to face online classes, and the interaction has been minimal. My youngest boy said to me that it is “fake school” because it is online. I then showed him an Arden University online class and he asked me why his school could not be like this.

The truth is that it takes time to develop a proper online pedagogy, but I am hopeful that out of this pandemic there will arise a widespread acceptance that online can be even better than traditional campus-based education. Campus-based universities are probably hoping that the consequences of this pandemic are going to be over in the next six weeks, but I just don’t see how that is realistic.

Even if there are not second and third waves of infection as countries come in and out of lock downs, students are not necessarily going to want to travel immediately. We are now always going to be thinking about the next mutation of the virus, and when will the next pandemic happen.

The new “normal” for the world is going to be very different to the globalisation we have been familiar with. I am sure we will still see flows of students travelling to study, but it will take time to build confidence again.

International students are going to ask tough questions about how their university dealt with the coronavirus. Were students evicted from their accommodation and made to feel unwanted?

The German government has announced a financial aid package for international students as well as automatic visa extensions. I think students will want to reduce the risk of being caught in such a pandemic again, and will seek more innovative ways of completing a degree.

I was one of the first to sign up as a NHS Volunteer, and we are supporting our colleagues at Arden University to also volunteer on full pay. It is so important at this time to support the wider communities that we all belong to.

Education is about helping others and our team have devoted their careers to helping students achieve their ambitions. It is only natural we want to help the NHS at this time.

2021 is going to be the year for those who have seized the opportunity and adapted. In my office I have a framed quote from Winston Churchill: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Carl Lygo, Vice-Chancellor and CEO of Arden University

Previous columns:

“We will survive. We have to”: View from AIFS, Bill Gertz

How do you show solidarity virtually?, Ruth Arnold


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NZ unis brace for significant drop in int’l students

The PIE News - Vie, 04/03/2020 - 05:24

After closing its borders to most travellers in mid-March, New Zealand’s educational institutions are bracing for the impact of a drop in international student numbers.

Student visa holders can no longer enter the country unless an exception is made by Immigration New Zealand, while those currently in New Zealand have seen their visas automatically extended to September 25.

The country had recently reported an uptick in international student numbers at universities – post-study work rights had made it a more popular destination with Indian students, for example – with numbers growing 9.8% in 2018.

“Our major issue is not knowing how long the borders will be closed”

“New Zealand universities are facing the situation where they will have at least a quarter to one-third of their international students not turning up this year,” Universities New Zealand’s chief executive Chris Whelan told The PIE News.

“This will have a carryover effect next year, with uncertainty around borders opening and changing economic circumstances in the countries many of our international students come from.”

While Whelan added that universities are trying to adapt by “moving term dates, moving to block courses, and moving all learning online”, uncertainty over when students can return makes planning difficult.

“Our major issue is not knowing how long the borders will be closed. We are doing scenario planning but it is too early to say anything at this stage,” he said.

Immigration New Zealand has encouraged students to contact their education provider to discuss learning arrangements, adding that online attendance will be recorded.

“Providers have been agile and innovative in their responses. Many have moved to online delivery to continue to provide teaching and learning,” Grant McPherson, chief executive of Education New Zealand, told The PIE.

“Government agencies are also working closely together to identify and resolve issues for students and the sector. This includes developing modelling of future scenarios.”

In terms of language schools, the 22 members of English New Zealand usually enrol about 17,000 students a year.

With a little over 3,000 still in classes and the prospect of new students low – as is the case for language centres in the UK – the sector is hoping for extra government support.

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Australian PM says no financial assistance, agency groups work for wider support

The PIE News - Vie, 04/03/2020 - 04:41

Australia’s PM Scott Morrison has said during a press statement that international students, if they cannot support themselves, should consider returning home – pointing out that a requirement of visa issuance is showing proof of funds to support their first year of study.

More than a million people in Australia on temporary visas, including many international students, are excluded from recently unveiled government assistance packages. 

Morrison said that exceptions had been made however for some temporary residents: “For those backpackers in Australia who are nurses or doctors, or have other critical skills that can really help us during this crisis, then there will be opportunities for them,” said Morrison.

He was referring to a policy move that enables two profiles of student to work beyond their visa-allocated part-time hours: nursing students working in aged care, and for major grocery retailers.

“It is not an unreasonable expectation of the government that students would be able to fulfil the commitment that they gave [to be able to afford first year of study],” said Morrison, speaking to the press.

His statement comes in a week which saw active campaigning from agency associations representing big student communities in the country.

The Association of Australian Education Representatives in Nepal had been advocating for Nepalese students in Australia to be included in government assistance packages and given AUS$1,000 to help them cope with the fallout of the coronavirus epidemic.

The association’s president Dwiraj Sharma said that many Nepalese students in Australia have lost their part-time jobs. Nepal is the third-largest source of international students in the country.

“[It] will place an additional burden on them which could well result in their financial ruin”

According to Sharma, the Nepalese economy is in “free-fall” and the likelihood of parents of Nepalese students in Australia having to pay the fees of their children “will place an additional burden on them which could well result in their financial ruin”. 

The confirmation from Morrison came after the Australian government launched a $189 billion coronavirus economic rescue package to support small businesses, welfare recipients and those who lose their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

At Austrade, Rebecca Hall acknowledged that their job was not to set policy but to work to support international student communities.

She said there was a lot of work going on behind the scenes to ensure that international students could be supported during a difficult time – and that accommodation operators also had a seat at the Global Reputation Taskforce working to achieve this.

“We do know that students and temporary workers are significantly impacted in terms of jobs in hospitality and other retail areas closing, as many Australians are, of course,” she told The PIE News.

“The student support services offered by institutions, but also augmented by state and territory partners, are going to be really critical in the coming months. And we at Austrade are meeting with the states and territories on a weekly basis, working through practical and creative ways that we can support students.”


Meanwhile, AAERI in India has launched a petition calling for a delay to the July intake in Australia to allow students in India and Nepal more time to prepare to study abroad, sit English language tests in some cases and access loans, given the global lockdown and impact on usual preparation services.

Ravi Lochan Singh, president of AAERI India, commented on Morrison’s recent statement.

“The PM is factually correct that international students should have availability of costs for living without being dependent on part-time jobs,” he said.

“However it is also a reality that the Covid-19 situation is unexpected and it is possible that there are some international students who are not able to receive the funds too suddenly from their home countries.”

“Some universities have funded the cost of laptops to enable online mode of study”

Lochan Singh said however that universities had been very responsive to the evolving situation. “Universities have put aside funds to assist the international students and some have also funded the cost of laptops and such to enable online mode of study,” he told The PIE News.

“AAERI sincerely thanks the universities who have come forward to help the international students.

“The AAERI petition has been very well received,” he added. “I have had discussions on this with several university policy makers and am told that most universities are determined to either defer the July intake and/or have an additional intake in the later part of the year.”

He added that some institutions want to offer the July intake as an online option to new students, where the students join the study on campus once the travel restrictions are withdrawn.

“However, Department of Home Affairs in a recent webinar informed that there is no visa required for online study if undertaken offshore and there was clear indication that fresh visas will not be issued till the travel restrictions are [updated],” he revealed.

“Thus to expect new students to start their study in an online mode even before the visa is issued for their travel later in the year is possibly expecting too much. I would strongly recommend that the July intake is deferred to September or October 2020.”

Lochan Singh added that the Indian community had also been extending assistance to international students. “Several Indian restaurants are offering free takeaway food for affected international students,” he related.

Additional reporting by Will Nott.

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