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College groups tell Congress to put off debt cancellation

Mar, 04/21/2020 - 00:00

Associations representing the nation’s colleges and universities told congressional leaders on Monday they should put off considering canceling student debt until later.

Instead, the American Council on Education, and other associations representing four-year institutions as well as community colleges, in a letter said Congress should focus right now on providing short-term help for borrowers as it considers at least one additional stimulus package. The groups proposed, for example, extending the moratorium on making loan repayments that Congress approved in its last stimulus package, until the nation recovers from the recession being caused by the pandemic.

But on broader proposals such as canceling student debt, the associations wrote, “we believe that should more appropriately occur as part of reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.”

However, many who signed the letter are skeptical that Congress will get to the update of the nation’s main higher education law this year.

Kyle Southern, policy and advocacy director for higher education and workforce for the Young Invincibles, an advocacy group focused on millenials, responded, “Young people can't wait for Congress to act on HEA to deal with the crisis that they were facing even before COVID-19.”

The stance by college leaders, as well as other higher education groups like the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, comes after calls by congressional Democrats to cancel student debt in stimulus packages.

Democrats in both the House and Senate proposed during the negotiations over the last package, the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, that the federal government make monthly loan repayments on behalf of borrowers and guarantee that at least $10,000 be paid toward balances of each borrower.

Progressive Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, also have called for student debt cancellation as part of any stimulus package.

Student loan debt cancellation MUST be a part of the next emergency coronavirus package to deliver relief immediately to millions of families and remove a giant weight that’s dragging down our economy. Senate and House progressives are in this fight all the way.

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) March 17, 2020

And just last week, Young Invincibles and 65 other progressive groups wrote congressional leaders, calling for some form of debt cancellation -- like the Democrats’ proposals in the CARES Act -- to be included as part of the stimulus.

Not including cancellation in a stimulus package “sets up millions of federal student loan borrowers to face the daunting prospect of trying to find the means to pay their student loans in the middle of economic devastation,” the groups said.

The new letter by the higher ed groups, including the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Association of American Universities, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, comes at a time when higher education institutions are vying for more federal dollars in one of the upcoming packages Congress is expected to consider.

Higher ed organizations also wrote congressional leaders two weeks ago to seek an additional $46.6 billion in aid for colleges, saying the $14 billion Congress put in the CARES Act for higher education “does not come close to filling the gap.” Instead, the associations wrote that they expect to lose $23 billion from a 15 percent projected decline in enrollment this fall.

Focus on Immediate Relief

In an interview, however, Terry Hartle, the American Council on Education’s senior vice president for government relations and public affairs (and an occasional opinion contributor to Inside Higher Ed), denied that institutions were worried debt cancellation would siphon away money the colleges are desperate to get.

Instead, Hartle said the stance reflected what he said congressional staff working on stimulus packages have been telling advocates -- to focus on immediate relief to get people through the public health and economic crisis.

In the letter, the associations acknowledged that student loan borrowers need help. “The pandemic will greatly hamper the ability of many of these individuals to repay their loans, and this in turn will strain the economy unless Congress moves quickly to provide needed, targeted relief to student loan borrowers,” they wrote.

But, in part, the call to take up debt cancellation later appeared to reflect the division even among progressives about the idea.

“Any large-scale debt relief initiative would prove very expensive, and may benefit high-income and other borrowers who do not require assistance in meeting their obligations,” the letter said. If Congress does take up debt cancellation, the associations wrote, “any debt relief program should be targeted to borrowers who are financially distressed and face the greatest difficulty repaying their loans.”

Justin Draeger, president and CEO of NASFAA, worried bringing up the debt cancellation idea would lead to political gridlock and hold up help for borrowers now.

“How to expand and equitably distribute loan forgiveness, not to mention implementing something so complicated, is a much larger conversation that threatens to derail tangible steps Congress could and should take now,” he said.

And indeed, a Republican aide on the Senate education committee told Inside Higher Ed last week that at least among Republicans, “I don’t think there’s any appetite for debt forgiveness or cancellation because it has nothing to do with COVID.”

A higher priority, representatives of the associations said, is for Congress to take immediate steps, like excusing borrowers from having to make loan payments until the economy recovers -- at least through June 30, 2021, or until the unemployment rate falls below 8 percent for three consecutive months. That would extend the 60-day moratorium included in the CARES Act.

The associations also proposed extending for a year the six- to nine-month grace period for making federal loan payments after graduation. “Students who complete their programs in the near future will be graduating into the worst employment market since the federal student loan programs were created,” the letter said. “Extending the post-graduation grace period for one year for students leaving school will help them gain their post-graduation financial footing.”

In addition, the letter recommended borrowers taking out federal student loans only be charged a 1.5 percent interest rate, instead of the current rates of between 4.53 percent for Stafford loans and 7.08 percent for Grad PLUS and Parent PLUS loans.

The associations also proposed making it easier for borrowers to escape student debt when filing for bankruptcy.

“With the increased economic insecurity America faces, more citizens will declare bankruptcy,” the letter said. "When they do, all debts, including student loans, should be eliminated. This will help those whose investment in higher education was significantly curtailed by the current crisis and would be an important step in their own economic recovery.”

Southern responded, “They also should not have to depend on bankruptcy as an escape valve from the debt levels caused by skyrocketing higher education costs and declining public financial support. Broad cancellation of student debt now would provide direct relief to millions of borrowers at a time they need it most.”

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Feds deny state requests to waive student requirements for SNAP

Mar, 04/21/2020 - 00:00

Advocates have long argued against requirements college students must meet to be eligible for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Dozens of states pleaded the same case as the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the country. The federal assistance program requires students who attend college at least half-time to work 20 hours per week to qualify. As the pandemic causes a recession and unemployment skyrockets, state officials said students are being left in the lurch.

But the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service agency denied the states' request.

It's unclear how many students are affected by this decision because there isn't much data on it, according to Lauren Walizer, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). But some of the states provided estimates for how many students currently receive SNAP benefits, or estimates for how many additional students would gain eligibility, in their waiver requests. For example, Illinois said about 11,000 people who currently receive SNAP are college students. New Hampshire estimates another 6,800 people would become eligible for SNAP, in addition to the students who are currently eligible.

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office also found that nearly half of the students who would be eligible for SNAP do not receive the assistance. It's likely, given the current crises, that even more students will need assistance. But many will not be able to meet the work requirements.

CLASP is disappointed in the agency's decision, said Ashley Burnside, a policy analyst there.

"The COVID-19 pandemic will make it harder for students to work, to earn a living wage and to access food for themselves and their families. Students shouldn’t have to choose between feeding themselves and breaking social distance in a public health crisis. Now more than ever, students need access to SNAP food assistance benefits for the duration of the COVID-19 medical emergency," she said via email.

"Even during normal times, student eligibility rules for SNAP are complicated and prevent many students who are eligible from getting food assistance that would help them do better in school and remain economically secure," Burnside said. "During the COVID-19 crisis, students have been forced to leave their campuses and many now need to self-quarantine to protect themselves, their families and their communities."

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 40 percent of students reported being food insecure to some extent, Burnside said. It's possible more students will need SNAP now, and that students who are currently eligible will lose that eligibility as they lose their jobs or work hours.

Burnside recommends states help students enroll in SNAP through other exemptions, such as students who have caregiving responsibilities. States can also use their authority to provide good-cause exemptions, she said.

While much of the data is unknown, Walizer said it's safe to say people need more help now, not less.

"Given what is known about widespread struggle in the country right now, I think it's reasonable to assume students are more likely to be struggling than safe," she said. "That's why the waivers matter, because it allows states to adopt a 'better safe than sorry' approach that focuses on protecting people's benefits and accounts for the reality of our worldwide circumstances."

The widespread requests to waive the student rules for SNAP also prove many advocates' points, she said.

"Clearly, [states] don't think they are sensible, particularly in a time like this."

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Early journal submission data suggest COVID-19 is tanking women's research productivity

Mar, 04/21/2020 - 00:00

It’s was easy to foresee: within academe, female professors would bear the professional brunt of social distancing during COVID-19, in the form of decreased research productivity.

Now the evidence is starting to emerge. Editors of two journals say that they’re observing unusual, gendered patterns in submissions. In each case, women are losing out.

Editors of a third journal have said that overall submissions by women are up right now, but that solo-authored articles by women are down substantially.

In the most obvious example of the effects of social distancing carving into women's research time, Elizabeth Hannon, deputy editor of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, wrote on Twitter that she’d received “negligible” submissions from women within the last month. “Never seen anything like it,” she added.

David Samuels, co-editor of Comparative Political Studies, in response shared that submissions to his journal are up 25 percent so far in April, compared to last year. That increase was driven entirely by men, however, he said. Women’s submissions stayed flat.

The American Journal of Political Science on Monday published a longer-term analysis of submissions and publications by men and women over the last three years, as part of a larger effort to understand publication patterns for authors from underrepresented groups. Co-editors Kathleen Dolan and Jennifer L. Lawless also examined the last few weeks, in particular, and found that submissions have picked up. To their surprise, 33 percent of submitting authors since March 15 were women, compared to 25 percent of authors over the three years studied. Looking at these recent submissions another way, 41 percent of the 108 papers had at least one female author -- slightly more than usual.

This doesn’t mean that Covid-19 "hasn’t taken a toll on female authors, though,” Dolan and Lawless wrote, as women submitted just eight of the 46 solo-authored papers during this time. That’s 17 percent, compared to 22 percent of solo-authored papers in the larger data set.

 "As a percentage change, that’s substantial," the editors said. "Even if women’s overall submission rates are up, they seem to have less time to submit their own work than men do amid the crisis.” 

The revelations generated much chatter, including from gender studies scholars and women in all fields who are desperately trying to balance teaching and otherwise working from home with increased caregiving responsibilities. Those responsibilities include all-day minding of children due to school and daycare closures, homeschooling, and the cooking and cleaning associated with having one’s family at home all day, every day. Women are also spending time checking in with friends, relatives and neighbors.

SOS, Different Circumstances

It’s not that men don’t help with all this, or that they’re not also individually overwhelmed by work and family life. But women already juggled more domestic and affective, or emotional, labor with their actual work prior to the pandemic.

Female academics, as a group, also struggled more with work-work balance, as well: numerous studies show they take on more service work than men and are less protective of their research time, to their detriment.

The coronavirus has simply exacerbated these inequities by stripping away what supports women had in place to walk this tightrope, including childcare.

“My productivity is definitely taking a huge hit having both my 2- and 5-year-old at home full-time,” said Vanessa LoBue, associate professor of psychology at Rutgers University at Newark and author of 9 Months In, 9 Months Out: A Scientist’s Tale of Pregnancy and Parenthood. “My husband is working full-time at home, as am I, and what I’m finding is for men, there is more of an expectation that he can be working all the time than there is for me.”

That leaves LoBue with the kids more of the time -- and less time for her own work.

“COVID-19 restrictions are just exacerbating gender inequalities that already exist,” she said.

No Protected Time

Anecdotes such as LoBue’s aren’t hard to find. Case in point: a recent Nature op-ed by Alessandra Minello, a social demographer at the University of Florence in Italy with a 2-year-old son and colleagues around the globe who expect her to be able to videoconference at all hours.

“Silence and concentration are pivotal for my thinking and teaching,” she wrote. “This means I have less time for writing scientific articles.”

While she and her colleagues know they’re lucky to be employed and healthy at this time, it still feels “as if I am my own subject” in some work-life balance study.

Minello also expressed concern about when the crisis is over, both parents and nonparents “will participate together in open competition for promotion and positions, parents and nonparents alike.”

Just like academic fathers, nonparents don’t have it easy right now -- no one does. But, again, there are well-documented challenges that academic mothers, in particular, face. Those challenges, together, have been dubbed the motherhood penalty. And they’re laid bare right now.

Hannon of the British journal, who is also associate director of the Forum for European Philosophy, said Monday that her sample size is still too small for anything “particularly meaningful” to be gleaned. This could be a “blip,” for example, and submissions numbers could soon normalize as women find ways to cope.

This could also be “an age thing,” Hannon added, in that in fields that have been slow to admit women, such as philosophy, women are more likely than men to have young children. That would skew the gender balance, even where childcare duties are evenly spread within families, she said.

Following the Numbers

In any case, Hannon’s following the numbers. She and her co-editors have also partnered with other journals and agreed to share patterns, across publications, as they reveal themselves.

Her own hypothesis about the early stats includes increased caring duties, including of friends and parents, and increased domestic labor: shopping, cooking, cleaning.

Samuels also said it’s too early to discern anything definitive. March and April brought an increase in submissions from non-U.S. scholars, as well, he said, which have been desk-rejected at a higher rate than U.S. submissions. So there are other things happening, beyond gender. In any case, Samuels guessed that the gender dynamic won’t matter much in the end, in terms of productivity as measured as successful publications -- at least in his journal. That's because it has too few willing reviewers right now.

“The reason we're seeing less from U.S.-based scholars is pretty clear,” he said via email. “Anyone with kids or family needing care is just not getting any research/writing done, and it's just a stressful time for everybody.”

In response to discussions about gender imbalances in submissions, some have suggested that journals shut down during COVID-19. That’s perhaps palatable to editors who, like Samuels, are having trouble finding reviewers, and to reviewers who don’t have time to read articles.

Hannon, however, said it’s not clear that a moratorium on submission would help, and said it might even make things worse. Women who are still writing but taking longer to do so would find it impossible to finally submit, while their less burdened male colleagues would have made it in under the wire. “Unburdened” academics could also continue to write and “stockpile” papers to submit later, she added.

“It just kicks the can down the road.”

Taking Care of the ‘Family’

Victor Borden, professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Indiana at Bloomington, co-wrote a 2017 study finding that women “take care of the academic family” more than men by picking up more service duties. The paper warned that this is problematic for women because service isn’t rewarded in the ways that research is, even when the service is essential.

Of journal submissions and gender during the pandemic, Borden said that men and women both seem to expect women to do more “housekeeping,” based on existing research. From that point of view, “men would be more likely to see this as an opportunity to focus their time and attention on finishing articles, research projects, revising manuscripts, etc., while women faculty would have a tendency to focus on activities related to making sure that family, colleagues, students, etc., are doing OK.”

There is a lot of variation even within groups, Borden cautioned, meaning that one man and one woman plucked at random wouldn’t necessarily behave this way. But, in general, if men aren’t “stepping up” to tend to group and family cohesion, “women step in.”

Joya Misra, professor of sociology and public policy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has also studied the gendered dynamics of academic labor. She said her institution has been flexible with and supportive of faculty members this spring, assuring them that their performance during the disruption will not negatively affect their careers.

Even so, she said, “some faculty don't believe that this won't be held against them, due to the culture of their department or college.” Some female colleagues in the sciences and engineering with young children have even doubled down on research, “putting in proposals for studying this particular moment" or writing regular grant proposals because they can't be in their labs. 

Then there are other professors, both with and without caregiving responsibilities, “who feel paralyzed.” Misra said she'd observed that colleagues who are performing more emotional labor with their students tend to be part this latter group. And in general, women experience “higher levels of expectations from others for emotional labor, and even from themselves.”

Colleen Derkatch, associate professor of English at Ryerson University in Toronto, said she’s definitely doing more affective labor than before -- and perhaps more than her colleagues. She’s deeply worried about students who have lost jobs or family income due to the pandemic, or who are facing increased caregiving responsibilities within their own families. So she’s checking in with her students and making accommodations for them, but she has heard repeatedly that she’s one of the few professors doing so. That in itself is overwhelming, she said.

“I have half a brain right now and my students have half a brain, and just trying to make it through this is consuming a lot of energy,” she said. “My research was on pause. I didn’t even give it a thought for three weeks.”

Derkatch is trying to get her writing back on track now. But she’ll still have to balance it with the rest of her work, needier students and raising her 13-year-old daughter. Derkatch’s husband has a flexible schedule and does a lot of the household labor, but Derkatch is still doing most of the hour-to-hour parenting.

Quoting other professors who have said the same, Derkatch said that children perceive their parents are always available now that they are always home. The reality, of course, is that with the challenges of remote teaching during a pandemic, they may be less available than before. Derkatch said she feels as if she's constantly "shooing" her daughter out of her home office.

"It's kind of like if I'm a pilot," Derkatch said. "I can do an emergency landing and land the plane, but there's a lot of banging and luggage is flying around and there are probably some injuries. I don't like being bad at my job and I don't like being a bad parent, either." 

Setting Boundaries and Making Accommodations

As for advice, Misra said that it’s “completely normal” to want to be as responsive as possible to everyone around you during a crisis.

Yet “taking care of your mental health and family is critical,” she said. And so academics “need to set reasonable schedules,” that entail checking email, say, twice a day, working until 5 p.m. and then shutting off their computers.

Misra said her own chronic health issues forced her to create these kinds of boundaries long before to the pandemic. They’ve been helpful. “But I also know that this is hard for everyone. There is no-one-size-fits-all.”

Kiernan Mathews, executive director of the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education at Harvard University, said that “anyone familiar with the productivity literature in higher ed wouldn’t be surprised” by the new journal submission figures. Still, the “magnitude of effect suggested by these early reports is what is really, freshly disheartening.”

Mathews said he hoped journal editors will get these data into scholars’ hands as soon as possible -- and noted the twin ironies in saying so. Some men might be able to write up these studies faster than women, he said, and the peer-review process for any such papers could take too long to influence relevant tenure and promotion decisions.

Beyond data, Mathews suggested disciplinary societies might play a role in advocating for a leveling of the playing field for women during COVID-19. Referring to backlash against so-called manels, or all-male panels of experts at disciplinary conferences, Mathews also wondered if journals that don't take demographic balance into account right now might expect to face similar criticism. 

"Without national or global leadership reaching across institutions," he said, "you just have this loosely coupled system of committees, each acting in its parochial self-interest and not in society’s, reviewing faculty primarily for what’s quantifiable and not for what’s equitable, ethical or humane."

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Author discusses his book on Shakespeare and the state of education

Mar, 04/21/2020 - 00:00

Scott Newstok's new book, How to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons From a Renaissance Education (Princeton University Press), is about more than the Bard. It's a challenge to the ideas that education is strictly about what you can assess or data that will lead to jobs. Newstok clearly believes, though, that an education on Shakespeare will help many people -- and not just English majors -- with their careers.

Newstok, a professor of English at Rhodes College, responded via email to questions about his book.

Q: What was your goal in writing this book?

A: As both a teacher and a parent of school-age children, I’d become dismayed by the way we think of thinking. Many of our educational assumptions are just plain false. Yet I hope that recalling enduring practices can help us -- maybe our institutions, but at least those individuals still interested in thinking. My book explores the educational assumptions that shaped a mind like Shakespeare’s: play emerges through work, creativity through imitation, autonomy through tradition, innovation through constraints, freedom through discipline.

A more basic goal was simply to harvest as many of my favorite thinkers on thinking as possible. As we know from the fight to preserve biodiversity, precious “seeds of time” (Macbeth) enrich the present -- call this “heirloom education”:

For out of old fields, as people say,
Comes all this new grain from year to year;
And out of old books, in good faith,
Comes all this new knowledge that people learn.

Q: Do you fear that the trends in higher education -- an emphasis on training for jobs and skills -- run against the themes in your book?

A:What is the end of study?” asks one of Shakespeare’s characters. The endless call for shortsighted “targets” in today’s educational jargon makes me feel as if we adults have become William Tell, aiming arrows at our own children. Our means (passing the test) have overtaken our ends (human flourishing). And if you talk to any archer, you might be surprised to discover that to hit a target, “aiming is way overrated.” If you create an incentive to hit the target, it’s all the less likely that you will be able to do so. The best way to pass a test is … by not fixating on the test. Instead, you must find ways to become immersed in activity for its own sake, in the company of skilled practitioners.

I believe we can we achieve short-term ends (skills, jobs) by aiming for the long-term end: cultivating an articulate citizen to act in the world, both “a speaker of words and a doer of deeds.”

Our word “school” derives from the Greek word for leisure, which in turn goes back to an older root meaning pause. “Pause” and “leisure” both sound a bit odd to us; we tend to associate school with work. But “school” was a particular kind of activity, one that demanded a respite from necessity -- a place to pursue thoughts in common alongside other people.

Never have I felt this to be truer than in the past months when we’ve all been exiled from that common place.

Q: I was surprised in your book to find a chapter on technology. What does "thinking like Shakespeare" have to do with technology?

A: Our era’s recurrent fable? Presuming that the only kind of technology is digital technology -- and that digital technology invariably improves upon anything that preceded it. This fable amounts to a creed, unshakable in the face of mounting evidence that computers don’t automatically improve learning. Instead, they exacerbate (not mitigate) inequality, as recent weeks have catastrophically confirmed.

When confronted by such dismal results, the “technological bluff” is always “The next version will be better!” I don’t know a single person who’s happy with the shift to remote learning. While all of us, students and teachers alike, are trying our best, it’s become starkly clear how sterile an alternative this is. As one of my own kids quipped the other day, “I even miss my classmates I don’t like!”

Naïve enthusiasm for digital technology often derives from an unspoken hostility toward teachers -- a hostility that seeks to eliminate the human element from education by automating it. If we were content with just “content delivery,” libraries and textbooks would have already made schools defunct. Carter G. Woodson had it right: “The mere imparting of information is not education.” People (and institutions) help guide us (and chide us) to confront demanding material.

Thinkers have always employed “technology” -- like the book, one of the most marvelous devices ever created, or even something as deceptively simple as the practice of sitting together around a seminar table. But it’s technology in the guiding hands of the learned teacher that helps situate us toward meaningful ends.

Q: And on freedom?

A: When Caliban cries out for freedom, he falls for a drunk Stephano, who sings, “Thought is free.” Yet at this moment, Caliban’s not free -- he’s just transferred his bondage to “a new master.” Real freedom would demand not only being slave to no one, but being his own master.

I’ve come to believe that a better translation of the emancipatory artes liberales would be the “crafts of freedom.” These practices cultivate a thinking citizen -- the bane of every despot. Such an educational program presumes that freedom is fragile, demanding endless exertion: “there is nothing more arduous than the apprenticeship of liberty.”

I end the book with the fantastic James Baldwin essay “Why I Stopped Hating Shakespeare,” which concludes, “My relationship, then, to the language of Shakespeare revealed itself as nothing less than my relationship to myself and my past.” At first, Baldwin sought freedom from having to read Shakespeare, yet he came to relish the freedom to make Shakespeare his own. In doing so, Baldwin achieved a mutual recognition in Shakespeare that few of us ever reach -- “an inner freedom which cannot be attained in any other way” than by inhabiting other minds through art.

Q: What do you think your book can offer today, when we are focused on the coronavirus?

A: That’s kind of an up-to-the-minute version of the utility question, isn’t it? We quickly exhausted the “What Shakespeare Did During the Plague” takes. The plaintive cry of Sonnet 65 comes to mind:

How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?

I’m starting to feel like the crisis has given us a kind of X-ray into everyone’s souls. To cite one of countless examples I’d never thought I’d see laid so bare: Do you think the postal service should be privatized, or are you grateful for its countless daily decencies? In terms of education, would you cheer if half of all universities went bankrupt, or do you cherish close learning? Should we only read contemporary prose, or might poets from the past have something to offer us?

On a more mundane level: my chapters are mercifully short, well suited to “this distracted globe”! And the book’s packed with apt quotations. At the least, they might provide a momentary stay against confusion, at best, an inspiration to seek out “the treasures that prevail,” a handbook for what matters once we emerge from the wreckage.

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April 21 COVID-19 roundup: Revenue losses, summer enrollment and cannabutter

Mar, 04/21/2020 - 00:00

Happy Tuesday. I hope you all had as great a start to the week as I, surprisingly, did, although I'm kicking myself for neglecting to include a 4/20 joke of some sort in yesterday's roundup.

There's a lot going on right now. Georgia is letting businesses reopen on Friday. People are protesting stay-at-home orders, although largely by car because, you know, there's a nasty, fast-spreading virus out there. The oil market is suffering large declines as people stop going anywhere.

Before we get to more of the sad stuff, here are some palate cleansers to remind you it's not all terrible.

Because I messed up on Monday's roundup, here's a tale of cannabutter gone wrong. To be honest, the effects seem like something I would welcome right now.

Campy, over-the-top teen dramas are honestly my favorite guilty pleasure. Here is a nice list of where to stream them if you ever need to turn off your brain and binge for a few hours.

And you can count on Maine for a feel-good story about the weird stuff people are cooking as they run low on pantry supplies.

Let’s get to the news.

Judging from how today went, it seems this is the week institutions will announce how big a hit they're taking because of the coronavirus pandemic. The University of Arizona predicts a $250 million loss, spurring pay cuts and a hiring freeze.

The University of Michigan announced its losses could grow as high as $1 billion -- yes, billion -- by the end of 2020. Leaders are taking pay cuts, a hiring freeze is in place and staff have the option to volunteer for furloughs. (There's some more info in this Twitter thread.)

Michigan's community colleges don't seem to be doing much better. One has already seen a double-digit percentage drop in enrollment numbers for summer courses compared to the same time last year.

Meanwhile, several higher ed associations are asking Congress to consider other stimulus proposals, like extending the suspension of loan collection, before considering student debt cancellation.

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

Law firms are capitalizing on students' growing anger over their thwarted spring semester. More and more student groups are suing their institutions for tuition refunds, Greta Anderson reports.

Students are also upset about who was, and wasn't, allowed to stay on campus during the pandemic. Most were denied, they say. And those who did get to stay are feeling the isolation, Lilah Burke writes.

Remember all the talk of rethinking the academic calendar? Well, Beloit College in Wisconsin is doing it. Elizabeth Redden has the story on the changes it's making.

Virtual tours are now bigger, and more necessary, than ever. But are they as effective? Scott Jaschik has this article in "Admissions Insider."

News From Elsewhere

Some researchers are calling out as unqualified an epidemiologist who's gained social media popularity due to COVID-19, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

The Associated Press has a story on how for-profit colleges are ramping up marketing efforts during this crisis.

DC Metro Theater Arts wrote about how colleges that teach performance arts are pivoting right now.

Percolating Thoughts

This is a time when everyone has an opinion. While I can't espouse any myself, I've gathered some interesting ones from others.

Reporter Karin Fischer ponders whether international students will pay for "Zoom U" as the pandemic continues in her newsletter.

Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education praises today's medical students, who are the opposite of the coronavirus-flouting spring breakers who made headlines last month.

A contributor to The Atlantic says we aren't yet all working together, though that's what we'll need to do to beat the virus.

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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Beloit redesigns its academic calendar to give itself more flexibility if COVID-19 forces closures

Lun, 04/20/2020 - 00:00

Leaders of Beloit College, a private liberal arts college in Wisconsin, obviously are not alone in trying to plan for the upcoming academic year in a period of great uncertainty. As at almost every other college and university across the country, administrators are having to prepare for various scenarios. Can in-person learning resume in time for the fall, or will students need to start their fall coursework online? If in-person learning does resume, will it need to be suspended again if COVID-19 cases begin to increase?

“We’re making all these weighty decisions about the future and what to do with refunds for room and board, and at the height of all that decision making, it felt a lot like triage, a lot like a defensive posture,” said Eric Boynton, Beloit’s provost. He asked himself, “What is the decisive step that we can take at this moment” to inspire confidence and hope in what the fall will look like?

To that end, Beloit has announced that it is breaking the semester into two modules in which students take two courses each.

“The aspiration is to have a residential learning experience next year, but if COVID rages, this flexibility allows us to have it only affect half a semester, possibly,” Boynton said. “Let’s say it creeps into September, then that first module is online, but if continues to dissipate, then we’re able to bring students at this hinge point. It’s a break in the semester; it’s an obvious time to bring students into residence.”

“It also lessens the disruption in the sense of conducting four online courses at one time is a lot of pressure for faculty, and what we’re finding -- and I think this is not just at Beloit but across the nation -- is that juggling four online courses is a lot for students,” he said. “Limiting the online experience to two courses at a time is better for faculty and staff and student learning.”

Beloit moved quickly in rolling out a module model. Boynton said he had a conversation about the idea with Beloit’s president, Scott Bierman, on March 21. On March 23, the Academic Strategic Planning Committee, which is made up of faculty members, voted to recommend moving forward with the proposal. And by March 25, the modules were approved by the Emergency Academic Authority, a group of faculty members and administrators charged with approving changes to academic programs when “operations of the College and the ability of the Academic Senate to gather are disrupted significantly due to local, regional, or national events, such as but not limited to a catastrophic weather event or a pandemic.”

Matt Tedesco, a professor of philosophy and the chair of the Academic Strategic Planning Committee, said faculty understand the rationale for the change and support it.

“We’ve tried to reach out to faculty pretty thoroughly; we’ve had two separate faculty meetings on Zoom,” he said. “We all recognize this is not a small ask. This does involve significant work over the summer to rethink our courses for the year.”

Tedesco said the idea of moving to modules was discussed as part of an institutional planning process during the 2014-15 academic year, but it never got past the exploratory stage. The public health crisis caused by the coronavirus presented an urgent opportunity to put the idea into action.

“We believe it offers us the best chance to be proactive in a situation where we control so little,” Tedesco said.

Lucie Lapovksy, a consultant and former president of Mercy College in New York, said she was impressed when she read about Beloit’s rethinking of the academic calendar. (She said Beloit is not a client.)

“I thought they were thinking outside the box in a creative way for an unusual situation that may in the long run turn out to serve them really well,” she said. “One of the questions everyone is asking is what are the innovations and the changes brought on by how you’re operating during the virus that you’re going to decide are going to stick?”

Beloit has struggled with enrollment fluctuations in recent years: after enrolling entering classes of 299 students each in 2013 and 2014, it enrolled exceptionally large classes of 392 in fall 2015 and 382 in 2016. Then first-year enrollment fell to 323 students in 2017, to 266 in 2018 and 259 last fall.

Boynton, the provost, said the original target was to enroll 250 to 260 new students this fall.

“We had targets, and now the world is upside down,” he said. “We know -- and Beloit is not the only institution in this situation -- that it’s hard to predict what the incoming class will look like. There are so many variables.”

In addition to rolling out the shift to modules, Beloit has also announced several other changes in response to COVID-19, including freezing tuition costs and matching in-state tuition rates at public flagship universities in the region.

“The Midwest Flagship Match means that for prospective students who are residents of six Midwestern states -- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin -- we’ll make sure that your cost to attend Beloit will match or beat the tuition at your state’s flagship campus,” Beloit promises on its website.

“We’re demonstrating that Beloit is an institution that tackles these problems,” Boynton said.

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Students sue universities for tuition and fee refunds

Lun, 04/20/2020 - 00:00

“Are you a college student who was forced to leave campus? You may be entitled to compensation,” a notice on announces.

The website was created by a law firm currently capitalizing on the growing anger and activism by students -- and indignant parents, too -- who believe they're owed partial tuition and fee refunds for semesters cut short, courses moved online and off-campus, and unused housing and meal plans, among other disruptions that occurred at colleges and universities across the country in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The advertisement by the Anastopoulo Law Firm, which has offices throughout South Carolina, appears to have struck a chord. It is currently representing students in three class action lawsuits filed in the last two weeks against Drexel University, University of Miami and the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado, as calls from students for tuition and fee refunds grow stronger.

The lawsuits claim that online classes don't have equal value to in-person classes and are not worth the tuition that students paid for on-campus classes. The lawsuits also contend that the decision by these institutions to use pass/fail grading systems this semester have diminished the value of the degrees they offer. The lawsuits claim they represent thousands of students enrolled at the universities.

Separate class action lawsuits against the Arizona Board of Regents and Liberty University were filed on behalf of students that attend one of the three institutions in the Arizona university system or the Christian liberal arts university in Lynchburg, Va. The lawsuits claim students paid various fees -- recreation, health services, room and board, and meal plans -- for resources they did not use after college administrators shut down campuses to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Students demanded universities return any "unused" fees, "proportionate to the amount of time that remained in the spring 2020 semester when classes moved online," according to the Arizona lawsuit.

Liberty, which allowed students to return to campus following the university's spring break, is providing $1,000 to students who moved out of its campus residence halls, according to a university spokesman. The lawsuit against the university is “without merit,” Scott Lamb, senior vice president of communications and public engagement, said in a written statement.

“While it’s not surprising that plaintiff class action attorneys would seek to profit from a public health crisis, we don’t believe this law firm or its single client speaks for the vast majority of our students,” the statement said. “Similar class-action suits are pending against other schools, and such claims will no doubt be made against other higher education institutions that changed how they operate and deliver services to students in the face of COVID-19.”

The five universities named in the lawsuits are committing "breach of contract" and receiving “unjust enrichment” from tuition and fee payments that won’t go toward services that benefit students, according to the lawsuits. The universities have failed to deliver on promises of in-person instruction and campus life, which the University of Miami touts as “a world of interaction with other students” and Drexel promotes as “experiential learning,” according to the lawsuits filed in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Charleston division. Grainger Rickenbaker, who attends Drexel, and Adelaide Dixon, a student at Miami, both live in South Carolina, and did not reply to requests for comment sent through Facebook.

Roy Willey IV, a lawyer with the Anastopoulo Law Firm, said in an email that the firm is investigating “dozens” of other potential cases across the country where students claim colleges owe them refunds. The firm created because it is receiving numerous inquiries for legal representation, he said.

“This is a national problem where colleges and universities with endowments in the hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars are passing the entire burden of the pandemic onto students and their families,” Willey wrote. “That is not fair, it is not right, and they should be held accountable.”

He pointed to the significant price differences between some online and in-person classes as examples of the lower costs of providing online instruction. For example, he noted that tuition for Drexel’s online bachelor’s degree program in business administration is 40 percent less than the rate for the on-campus program.

An updated version of the Arizona lawsuit filed on April 15 names eight students. An anonymous student filed the Liberty lawsuit. Matt Miller, an attorney whose firm is representing Liberty and Arizona students​, said the anonymous Liberty student is worried about retaliation from officials for speaking out against the university.

The anonymous student said Liberty’s response to the pandemic is “irresponsible and dangerous” because it offered students the choice to return to residence halls, Miller explained in an email.

Liberty and Arizona’s coronavirus responses were unique among others because they made the “same bad decision” to leave campuses open and left it up to students to decide whether to return, Miller said. Students at the universities Miller is representing are not seeking reimbursement for tuition, rather, they want refunds of any unused fees for on-campus services. He said it is “indefensible” for universities to hold on to fees for services which they are not providing.

“The cases that we have filed, these are not meant to be punitive to the schools,” Miller said. “People have paid for something and you’re not providing it in a very clear way … Colleges are already really expensive. Families are taking on massive debt or pour their life savings into going to college.”

Northern Arizona University, which is part of the state system, says in its coronavirus response posted on the university's website that students who moved off campus by April 16 will receive a 25 percent refund for spring housing and meal plans. A spokesman for Arizona State University said a $1,500 credit will be applied for “eligible” students who moved out of on-campus housing by April 15, but housing remains open and some resources are still being provided, such as telehealth for medical and counseling services. A spokesperson for the Arizona Board of Regents did not respond to a request for comment.

Peter McDonough, vice president and general counsel for the American Council on Education, said while it’s reasonable for students to ask whether they’re getting what they paid for, institutions are also facing financial hardship due to the pandemic. The assumption of "unjust enrichment claims" -- that colleges are saving money by not having students on campus -- is inaccurate, said McDonough, who is the former counsel to Princeton University.

“There’s no way schools are saving a boatload of money now that they’ve sent students home for the remainder of the year,” McDonough said. “A typical college’s expenses weigh heavily toward paying faculty and staff. I hope we appreciate that schools are trying to carry, the best they can, their employees, and particularly the ones that are most economically challenged.”

Colorado faculty members at the system’s four campuses have been working hard to ensure online coursework has the “same academic rigor and high quality” as it did before the pandemic, said Ken McConnellogue, vice president for communication for the system’s president. Colorado and other universities have stressed that students will continue to receive academic credit for their courses taken this semester.

“It’s disappointing that people feel compelled to sue amid a global pandemic, barely a month after we moved to remote teaching to protect the health and safety of students, faculty and staff,” McConnellogue said.

McDonough said he could not predict whether the current lawsuits might prompt more students to seek refunds through legal channels.

“I frankly hope that we don’t have to play all of that out,” McDonough said. “I hope that students and their families will have a look back and [feel] appreciation for everything institutions did do to help them through this.”

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New report says many adjuncts make less than $3,500 per course and $25,000 per year

Lun, 04/20/2020 - 00:00

Nearly 25 percent of adjunct faculty members rely on public assistance, and 40 percent struggle to cover basic household expenses, according to a new report from the American Federation of Teachers.

Nearly a third of the 3,000 adjuncts surveyed for the report earn less than $25,000 a year. That puts them below the federal poverty guideline for a family of four. Another third of respondents make less than $50,000.

Per-course pay varies from less than $2,000 to more than $7,000. About 53 percent of respondents make less than $3,500 per course. Asked about equitable compensation, more than half said they should be paid at least $5,000 per course.

‘An Army of Temps’

“An increase in the per-course minimum to this range would immediately benefit the vast majority of contingent faculty today,” states the report, "An Army of Temps," released today.

“Students are not receiving the best possible education when the instructor in front of them is struggling to decide whether to buy food or medicine, and students’ futures are jeopardized when an inspiring professor who could provide a recommendation or further mentorship is let go as soon as the academic term ends,” the report continues. “To secure the economic and social prosperity and justice that our members, our students and our nation deserve, we must address the problems afflicting higher education.”

That means “immediately seeking to restore and enhance funding for high-quality, affordable, accessible higher education, and reducing institutions’ reliance on contingent faculty premised on poverty wages and exploitation,” the report says. “If we want everything -- these institutions and the democracy they serve -- to go downhill faster, we can instead continue to ignore this perilous state of affairs.”

The survey period ended last June. But with colleges and universities across the country implementing hiring freezes and budget cuts due to the financial upheaval caused the coronavirus pandemic, and the potential for future fluctuations in enrollments, adjuncts' lives are now even more precarious.

Research on adjuncts is hard to pull off, as institutions aren’t always organized or forthcoming with their data on adjunct pay and other details. Adjuncts themselves may be difficult to track down because they often work on multiple campuses to string together something resembling a living. The most comprehensive survey of adjuncts was published in 2012, by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce. That survey found the median per-course pay was about $2,700, or $24,000 per year as a full-time-equivalent employee.

The Service Employees International Union, TIAA and the House Education and the Workforce Committee in the U.S. Congress, among other groups, have also published surveys on adjuncts since then. The AFT contends that its new report is the most thorough to date.

Randi Weingarten, AFT president, said through a spokesperson that the “impact of unstable and contingent work on students is tremendously understudied.”

Students and families take on “severe financial risks when they go to college,” she said, “and it's not well understood outside of academia just how little of that money is going to instruction.”

Many adjuncts are among the most experienced teachers on their campuses. But they often lack institutional support and training, which can negatively impact campus safety. Forty-four percent of instructors said they hadn’t been trained on what to do in the event of a campus emergency, for example. The same share said they had insufficient preparation for dealing with students posing a threat to themselves or others.

Over all, Weingarten said, the survey paints a “vivid portrait of how precarious labor provided by millions of adjunct faculty anchors their institutions' instructional work.”

Weingarten linked adjunct working conditions to growing unionization efforts. She said the AFT continues to fight for additional public funding for higher ed.

Prior to the pandemic, it would have taken $15 billion in additional federal and state investments in higher education over two years to get back to pre-2008 levels of public funding. Now, the “financial holes to be filled -- both in public investment and in the lives of individual adjunct and contingent faculty -- will be even bigger, and more perilous,” the report states.

A ‘Nightmare’

There’s a myth about adjuncts that just won’t die: that most have well-paying day jobs and teach as a hobby. Other studies have tried to disprove that misconception with facts, but the AFT’s data are especially sobering. Just 15 percent of adjuncts said they are able to comfortably cover basic expenses from month to month.

Caprice Lawless, an adjunct instructor of English at Front Range Community College in Colorado and chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee on Contingency and the Profession, said the AFT’s report “accurately describes the nightmare that more than a million teachers face in our country, trying to live on $25,000 a year. You can’t do it -- it can’t be done.”

Fewer than half of respondents have access to employer-provided health care. About 20 percent rely on Medicaid. Some 45 percent of faculty members have put off needed health care, including seeking help for mental health. Two-thirds have foregone dental care in the last 12 months due to the cost.

Just 54 percent of respondents have access to some paid sick leave, while just 17 percent have paid family leave and 14 percent have paid parental leave.

Lawless said she’s had to teach while sick with shingles and on the days of her parents’ respective deaths. Adjuncts at her college now have some sick leave after campaigning for it, she said.

Colleges and universities are increasingly granting adjuncts' requests for yearlong or multiyear contracts, but 41 percent of adjuncts still said they struggle with job security and don’t know if they’ll have a teaching job until one month prior to the start of the academic year. Three-quarters of professors said they only get semester-to-semester or quarter-to-quarter contracts.

As for retirement, some 37 percent of adjuncts said they can’t imagine how they’ll manage. Sixty-three percent are 50 or older. Nearly 40 percent of adjuncts have been teaching for 15 years or more, including as graduate employees.

The AFT’s report uses “adjuncts” to refer to part-time and full-time professors working off the tenure track. Nationally, about 20 percent of the faculty are full-time, non-tenure-eligible, compared to 12 percent of the AFT sample. Seventy-nine percent of respondents were part-timers, and 3 percent each were graduate employees, professional staff or other.

All professors surveyed teach at two- and four-year institutions. Nearly half the sample (46 percent) teach at four-year public institutions. Nine percent teach at four-year private colleges. About 4 percent teach at four-year for-profit institutions. Sixty-one percent of the sample teach at two-year publics. (The numbers don’t add up to 100 percent because many adjuncts teach on multiple campuses. Very small shares of respondents teach at two-year private or private for-profit campuses.)

About three-quarters of respondents are white. Four percent are black, 6 percent are Latinx, 3 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander. Three percent are multiracial, and the rest preferred not to answer. It is well established that underrepresented minorities and women are overrepresented among adjuncts. The AFT sample is 64 percent female, 33 percent male, 1 percent gender nonconforming and 0.1 percent transgender. Three percent didn’t answer.

The Contingent Faculty Movement

Adrianna Kezar, Wilbur Kieffer Endowed Professor and Dean's Professor of Leadership and director of the Pullias Center and of the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success at the University of Southern California, said the AFT’s data on salary, health-care access, job security, notification of courses and retirement parallel other previous findings.

Meanwhile, the AFT survey had “some really interesting new information around the areas of public assistance, training about student needs and food insecurity,” Kezar said. She also called the report “very timely,” given the financial choices institutions are facing this spring in the wake of the pandemic.

Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy organization, said adjuncts don’t face a dearth of information about their working conditions, so much as a “dearth of concern” about how those conditions affect all the faculty as a whole, students and the “integrity of higher education.”

Even more important than new data, she said, is that the “contingent faculty movement ally itself much more closely with all of the other precarious workers and gig economy activists who are working on broad, deep structural change. Solidarity is now more important than ever, on so many levels.” (Kezar's most recent book was about the gig academy.)

Maisto advised contingent professors to apply for unemployment insurance at the end of the semester -- and urged institutions not to stand in their way. Many colleges and universities obstruct access to unemployment benefits in typical years by “disingenuously asserting” that adjuncts have "reasonable assurance" of continued employment, she said. But contingent faculty members have never had “authentic” reasonable assurance of continued employment, “and that is even more obviously the case now.”

Lawless said she’d recently spoken to administrators within the Colorado Community College system and asked them to allow adjuncts to access state unemployment benefits, which in turn grant them access to expanded federal unemployment benefits. Another key request was fast-tracking an accelerated online teaching training and certification course for adjuncts to take over the summer.

The present crisis offers an opportunity to pause and imagine a better way forward, as the adjunct status quo is not sustainable, Lawless said.

“We’re the higher education equivalent of nurses working without masks.”

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Students on campus talk about experiences

Lun, 04/20/2020 - 00:00

Most students have left campus now. Aside from a couple of exceptions, such as the University of Washington and Long Island University, colleges have closed residences to stop spread of the new coronavirus. Students now need permission to stay on campus.

But many students who applied were not allowed to stay, said Chris Sinclair, executive director of external affairs at FLIP National, a nonprofit that supports first-generation and low-income students.

"What they won't acknowledge," Sinclair said, making an example of the University of Pennsylvania, "is nearly everyone who applied to stay in campus housing because they couldn't afford to leave was rejected with no appeals process."

Penn, for its part, has emphasized that students who were not permitted to stay were offered generous financial assistance. "Penn has approved and distributed emergency funds to nearly 500 undergraduate students," a spokesperson for the university said via email. "This funding was targeted specifically to students who were not approved to remain on campus but indicated in their application that they had financial concerns that would prevent their immediate departure." The university bought plane tickets, arranged ground transportation and covered baggage costs. Many students who receive aid from the university are now receiving additional financial assistance to ensure food security and internet service for the rest of the semester, the university has said.

Just how many students were permitted to stay obviously varies by institution. Some are hosting many students. At the State University of New York at Buffalo, 1,500 of the usual 8,000 students have been allowed to remain on campus. International students, as well as students who can't make safe living or dining arrangements, who have limited access to technology, or whose primary residence is campus, were all allowed to stay. The criteria were decided with guidance from the governor and system chancellor. In contrast, at Georgetown University, which has nearly 7,000 undergraduates, dining workers have said the campus is only hosting about 200 students, mostly international.

At Chapman University, the campus was set to house 3,450 students this spring. Now there are only about 230 left, said Dave Sundby, director of residence life. There are some students, he said, who might have been able to go home in early March when the pandemic was just beginning but now have family infected or in vulnerable situations.

Sundby said the administration first pared down applications to stay by asking some students for more information.

"We initially had students who thought, 'This will be great! No classes and I just get to party in the neighborhood all the time,'" he said. "We did tell some people, 'What you've provided isn't really enough information,' or 'If this is your only reason for being here, we're going to need to ask you to move out.'"

But the further information some students provided made it obvious that they needed to stay. Some students didn't have beds to sleep in or lived at home with vulnerable family members.

Still, students at other institutions are concerned that their peers have fallen through the cracks.

Anna Macknick, a junior studying linguistics at Princeton University, said that students have been posting on anonymous Facebook pages about the struggles they faced after leaving campus.

"A lot of people have been posting about going home to abusive families, to toxic environments, to not having reliable Wi-Fi," she said. "People were screwed over by the policies that Princeton made, or failed to make."

Princeton was specific in its criteria for which students were allowed to stay. Originally, only those completing thesis research, facing housing or financial insecurity, or residing in university family housing were allowed to stay, along with some international students and those that have been granted status as independent from their parents. Students can apply for independent status, meaning they are not financially dependent on their parents, if they have experienced documented parental abuse or neglect, or meet other criteria such as being married.

Having a generally strained relationship with family or unreliable internet access were not listed as approved reasons for domestic students to stay on campus.

A Princeton spokesperson said that the university reviewed over 1,000 requests to stay on campus and made decisions prioritizing international students and students with the highest financial need. Those who were denied were given an appeals process. Under 500 students remain on campus.

"While we could not approve every student to remain on campus, we remain committed to supporting students, both in their search for off-campus housing and their broader needs," the spokesperson said via email. "If students are having difficulty while away from campus, either with housing or another issue, they continue to have resources and staff available to help address those difficulties -- they are not alone." Counseling and student life resources are still available to students who have left campus.

Macknick, who is from Wisconsin, is one of the few students who have been able to remain on a campus. Princeton previously granted her status as an independent student.

She complained that university guidance was haphazardly rolled out and sometimes reversed. For example, the university flip-flopped its decision to allow thesis research as an approved reason to stay without properly communicating to students, she said. Individual students shared personal emails from staff in group chats to spread the word.

"There's been a lot of issues with inconsistencies," Macknick said.

Princeton has said the reversal was due to fast-changing state restrictions that closed libraries and research labs. Other institutions similarly found it difficult to stick to one message, with travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders changing daily. Some institutions gave students clear timelines to leave campus and then accelerated those timelines.

Life on Campus

The degree to which institutions are enforcing social distancing has been variable. Many institutions have banned students visiting one another in their dorms. At Chapman University, Sundby said that the administration moved each student staying on campus into their own apartment. Some students had to be moved because they were in buildings that were actually too empty -- a building with only a few students becomes a risk for fire, a target for theft, and can mean more work for a hamstrung facilities staff.

But the administration, Sundby said, is not policing social distancing by checking in on students or threatening penalties.

"We're going to provide you with information and set expectations, but we're going to trust that you're doing that without as much active enforcement."

At Princeton, Macknick said she has no access to common rooms or kitchens and is in a dorm room. The university has told students that they stand to lose their housing if they are caught breaking social distancing guidelines.

"Even if I'm walking by a friend in the dining hall and I want to stop and talk with them, I still have this fear in my head of, 'What if we're not completely six feet apart? What if university public safety sees us? What if we get in trouble?'" she said. "Obviously you want to be taking these things seriously, but having the punishment be eviction when the students who are on campus now are in vulnerable situations with housing generally to start, it's just not the right move."

Princeton has said that it is taking social distancing and public health seriously. "In accepting the offer to remain, students agreed to social distancing and were told that their ability to remain was contingent on compliance with this expectation," a university spokesperson said via email. "Living in a dormitory presents particular challenges for keeping people healthy because of the close proximity and shared spaces. We are serious about the consequences of disregard of these conditions."

Alejandra Gonzalez, a freshman at Cornell University, said the administration there has taken a more relaxed approach. While there are rules, they are not being policed in the same way as at Princeton. Gonzalez said she thought Cornell was doing a great job.

"In every single way, I think they were as accommodating as possible, and they really, really worked hard to make sure that students had everything they needed," she said.

Far from what some administrators and faculty feared when letting students stay, Gonzalez says the campus is definitely not a party atmosphere.

"Not having the student body, it feels kind of like a ghost town. Everything is empty, everything's quiet."

Jon Marlon Mirador, a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, expressed a similar sentiment.

"The city is now dead," he said. Only one of his friends has stayed on campus, and they can see each other occasionally.

Though they've been allowed to stay and say they feel safe, students aren't completely out of the woods yet. Some are grappling with the next uncertainty: summer.

"What happens when the semester ends?" Macknick said. "No one knows if there's going to be summer housing or not."

Her plan if she can't stay is to find a room outside the university, though it will need to be accessible for her disability.

In a response, Princeton said a summer shelter review process will be in place "soon."

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Roundup: Special Q&A, wage garnishments and cat chats

Lun, 04/20/2020 - 00:00

Happy Monday. More states and cities are requiring people to wear masks for trips to the grocery store (or just everywhere), and leaders are planning for how, exactly, the world will work once stay-at-home orders are lifted.

While things don't seem much better than last week, there are always some palate cleansers to cheer us up.

Here is a delightful story on chatting with a cat over FaceTime. I am happy but also sad reading it, as our perfect foster pup, Kane, has found his forever home and left ours empty.

This piece of digital art is not exactly PG, but I think it perfectly captures what some of us are feeling right now.

it's been a particularly stressful week, so I made some art to reflect how I feel: cute, angry, trapped

— Jenna Stoeber! (@thejenna) April 17, 2020

Below, you'll find our now-weekly Q&A feature. This time I talked with Phil Regier, dean for educational initiatives at Arizona State University and CEO of EdPlus.

Now let’s get to the news.

In general, the economy isn't doing so hot. But, unsurprisingly, a study found that those with college degrees are faring better than those without right now.

Another survey found that black and Latinx students are facing more challenges, like job losses, right now than their white peers.

Technically, wage garnishments for student loan payments are not allowed right now. But some people are still reporting this issue. The Education Department says it's doing what it can to stop this.

Leaders at the Vermont State Colleges are proposing three campus closures as the system feels the financial strain of the pandemic.

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

For-profit colleges got aggressive in recruitment in the last recession. Kery Murakami reports on how some advocates worry history will repeat itself.

College libraries, most of which haven't fully recovered financially from the last recession, are bracing for another round of cuts, Lindsay McKenzie reports.

Elizabeth Redden has a story on a report that estimates enrollment numbers of undocumented immigrants. The population is growing in higher ed.

News From Elsewhere

The IndyStar has a story about what happened to a college town in Indiana as the pandemic loomed larger and larger.

Much is changing because of COVID-19, and the traditional academic calendar could be next, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

The New York Times went to Denmark to see what a postcoronavirus world might look like.

Percolating Thoughts

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

One higher ed expert lays out what people should look for, and when, to determine if their institutions are close to closure.

An assistant professor at the City University of New York discusses how what's happening to the university system lays bare the effects of the coronavirus.

A Temple University student gives a first-person perspective on missing an important rite of passage for many: graduation.

You made it to the end. Here's my conversation with Phil Regier, Arizona State's dean for educational initiatives. It's been edited for length and clarity.

Q: ASU has a big online presence already. Did you encounter any problems in making the switch to totally remote learning?

A: Let me distinguish two types of students. We have ASU Online students. Those students are fully asynchronous. Basically they have no face-to-face requirements. The first time many of them come to campuses is the day they graduate.

The second group of students, of course, is the on-campus student population. We refer to those as technologically enhanced campus immersion environments, where they have the full access to everything from the library to football games.

The asynchronous students had virtually zero change or interruption in what was happening to them. We always support them with success coaching. They reached out to us with problems during COVID, but we didn’t really recognize any marked difference in the enrollment patterns.

For the 75,000 on-campus students, we were able to train our faculty in a very short period of time to take advantage of a whole set of synchronous tools, including Zoom, including Google. We trained about 2,500 of those faculty in the two weeks leading up the switch. We made the switch, students left the campus for the most part. All face-to-face teaching was shut down. They moved into a synchronous, immersive environment.

Q: Do you think this was easier for ASU because of its experience with online learning?

A: I think that’s really important. ASU Online is not a separate entity from ASU, it’s just a different modality. We now have about 230 degree programs, and about 140 of those are at the undergraduate level. We have embedded within almost every academic unit of the university people who are conversant with and comfortable with digital training and learning. For fully synchronous online education, we’ve trained 2,400 faculty over the past five years. That meant 50 percent of faculty had already taught online. They were comfortable with distance education.

In terms of the confidence level, the remaining faculty went into this knowing that we’d already been very successful teaching at distance, and it wasn’t scary, it wasn’t foreign to them. They had observed their colleagues doing it, and they were much better prepared as a group to go ahead.

Q: A lot of attention is being paid to how existing inequities are being exacerbated with the move to remote learning. What have you seen at ASU?

A: I’ll address that in two ways. First off, we were certainly aware of that when we moved to asynchronous education. There was a lot of chatter that online or fully online education would disadvantage low-socioeconomic[-status] students. We really accelerated two things. First off, our research on whether low-socioeconomic students were in fact being disadvantaged. Secondly, putting a set of tools and capabilities in place that would support them. Our objective all along has been to ensure that your zip code or your parents' zip code doesn’t determine whether you get a degree.

In the ASU Online space, over the years we’ve been able to actually do research, and we know now that low-socioeconomic students in our programs perform as well as their wealthier counterparts. But I attribute a great deal of that to the tools and processes that we put in place.

As an example, every online student who comes into ASU Online is assigned a success coach. That success coach is not just an academic adviser; they’re really there to make the student successful in getting a degree. With a low-income student who’s working a job or two jobs and working full-time, and all of a sudden they have to work more hours, they’ll often call up the success coach and go, "What do I do now? I’ve got to drop the classes I’m in."

What we do is work very carefully with the students to ensure that they don’t drop the classes they’re in. We work with students during natural disasters, during wildfires and hurricanes and tornadoes, to make sure the students in those affected areas don’t drop their classes. So in terms of ASU Online, we know that we’re successful.

In terms of the on-campus student population, we’ve worked very carefully over the years to ensure that every student has the same options and the same ability to get through the program as anybody else. We provide a lot of support for low-socioeconomic students at the university.

In terms of when we turned the switch, and all those on-campus students became synchronous, digitally delivered students, we were able to reach out to those who did not have necessary technology, did not have Wi-Fi and other things, and provide them the equipment so they would not simply drop out or disappear. We really work to provide the support for the low-socioeconomic students to make sure that they’ll be successful as well.

Q: How were you able to address those inequities?

A: We had a really robust communication stream to the students. We reached out through advisers and through counselors and through the tutoring center and everybody else to make sure students knew what was going to happen, how to access the technology.

Then we had, centrally, a small group of people in the provost's office who were taking these responses and replies and filtering through them and making sure that whenever students indicated they didn’t have a laptop or they didn’t have a cellphone or anything else, that we would get them those tools so they could continue on their coursework and be successful. I think we only had to distribute about 1,014 laptops and 463 Wi-Fi hotspots. In terms of training, there was a lot of online training that was available for students if they were having those types of problems.

Q: How much of an impact do you think all of this will have on higher education?

A: I have no idea if my forecasts will be right or not, but globally here’s what I think. The coronavirus doesn’t really change anything that would’ve happened in the future, but it is going to accelerate it. I think the transition to creating modalities that are less dependent on being residential, at a campus or university, is going to be accelerated. You’ll have an acceleration of things like ASU Online, online modalities for students who are 30 years old, didn’t receive an undergraduate degree, but they have 60 hours of credit. They’re interested in completing that program, but they have wives and kids and husbands and daughters and parents living at home and full-time jobs, and they can’t go synchronously either digitally enabled or on campus. There are 30 million Americans in that spot right now.

Universities, for the most part, are going to be more aggressive in developing capabilities for students to come into different types of learning modalities in ways that are flexible and convenient for the students rather than convenient for the faculty members, which is basically how too many universities have thought about this in the past. What we need to be looking toward is what do the potential students need in order to advance in their life and in their career, and be providing teaching and learning in whatever modality they need to do that.

Q: Who will be the winners and losers of this?

A: I think a lot of it depends on not just when universities reopen, but when parents and students feel comfortable about moving into a university-type setting. I think that if this extends to January, with a lot of universities not opening in the fall, obviously the fallout is going to be pretty severe. If, in fact, there are only a few dozen schools that don’t open in the fall and everything gets going, I think it will be less so.

But it’s not just whether the university can reopen, it's whether parents and students will feel comfortable going to the university. I think that’s going to take a while.

In terms of who’s going to win and who’s going to lose, I’ll simply say that universities that really focus on the needs of the students and providing a lot of different modalities and a lot of different ways for students to access the faculty and different ways of accessing degree programs, those universities are going to do better because they have a diversified means of production. As one goes down, the other can expand, hopefully.

The other thing I’d say is, fully online programs -- it’s really hard to spin those up overnight. It’s taken us 10 years to build 3,000 online degree courses that we think are very high quality. It’s not simply the case that you can take a half dozen or a dozen instructional designers, sit them down with faculty over the summer and expect to have a 100 undergraduate degrees ready to go next fall.

I also think this is a tremendous opportunity for universities to cooperate and for universities to form alliances and be able to share material. This is something that faculty have been very, very, very reluctant to do in the past. I think the economic and social pressures are going to make that more likely than it’s ever been over the past several decades.

Q: We're seeing some students calling for tuition rebates, unsatisfied with their online education so far. Do you think students will be reluctant to enroll in the fall if it's online?

A: If I am a fairly elite face-to-face private university that never invested any money in online, and then I have to send the students home and I can’t open in the fall and I tell them, "I’m going to teach with Zoom because that’s what I did in the spring" -- I understand where students and parents might be reluctant, because that’s not actually the learning experience they signed up for.

Over time, there’s going to be downward pressure on tuition pricing. I think that is inevitable. I think that we’ve had at least two, if not three, decades of above-GDP-level growth in tuition pricing. Some schools like ASU have made a commit to really limit increases to a percent or so. You’re going to definitely see some downward pricing pressure on tuition.

When you start lowering your prices, you better be able to deliver more efficiently and at the same quality level going forward. Some universities will be able to do that; some are going to have a more difficult time.

Q: There's also a lot of talk about how it isn't actually cheaper to deliver education online. Can it be cheaper to go online, or no?

A: You can deliver online more efficiently than you can deliver face-to-face. I’ll give you one really obvious example. Once you have an online course built, the faculty member doesn’t have to walk into the classroom three times a week and deliver the same lecture over and over and over. That means that faculty members' time can be used in other ways.

You can teach more efficiently by teaching larger groups of students, or you can teach more effectively by focusing on the students who really need the most help and assisting those who are the top students to be challenged even more than they were in the regular face-to-face environment. So there are both efficiency and effectiveness ways that you can teach online.

I think that online can scale in a sense that, if you are really committed to a 20- to 35-student cap in an on-campus setting, it’s difficult to do. Many of the schools that are going to be hit aren’t the pre-eminent liberal arts private schools, but they’re going to be small schools, religiously affiliated schools with small enrollments not being supported by churches, regional public universities with low enrollment.

Q: Your bio says you’re interested in “pushing the boundaries of what is achievable” to “enhance student success.” Has COVID-19 changed how that looks?

A: What I see is, it won’t change, but it’s going to accelerate quickly. In terms of pushing the boundaries, what pushing the boundaries was in January is very different now.

If you just think about something like university alliances, it was almost very difficult if not impossible to put together around teaching and learning, very difficult if not impossible to put together four months ago. I think going forward that type of thing is quite possible. I think what we might have thought of as pushing the boundaries four months ago is going to be a little bit more accepted given the exigencies of the current situation.

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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Colleges award tenure

Vie, 04/17/2020 - 00:00

Glenville State College

  • Jason Barr, music education
  • Connie Stout, education
  • Matthew Thiele, English

Hudson County Community College

  • Sirhan Abdullah, health sciences
  • Lauren Drew, English as a second language
  • Courtney Payne, culinary arts

Purdue University Northwest

  • Hansung Kim, mechanical engineering
  • Michelle L. Spaulding, biological sciences
  • Scott T. Bates, biological sciences
  • Bir B. Kafle, mathematics
  • George L. Stefanek, computer information technology

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

  • Xiangnan Kong, computer science
  • Kyumin Lee, computer science
  • Yuxiang Liu, mechanical engineering
  • Purvi Shah, business
  • Gillian Smith, computer science
  • Zhongqiang Zhang, mathematical sciences
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New recession sets stage for abuses by for-profits, critics fear

Vie, 04/17/2020 - 00:00

Eight years ago, as senior staffers on the U.S. Senate's education committee, Beth Stein and Carrie Wofford finished a two-year investigation documenting excesses by for-profit colleges during the Great Recession of the late 2000s.

The report described a “boiler room” atmosphere in some call centers run by for-profits, where about 35,000 recruiters nationwide at one point aggressively pursued students anxious for a leg up in finding scarce jobs. And sometimes recruiters were loose with the truth.

Some prospective students were told financial aid would cover their tuition, only to be saddled with thousands of dollars of debt. Others, the Senate report said, were misled about their chances of getting a good job after they graduated.

Now, as the pandemic crisis sends the nation back into another recession, Stein, Wofford and other advocates say they’re worried those tactics will return.

“I can see 2009 happening all over again,” said Stein, who headed the investigation under the committee’s then chairman, Senator Tom Harkin, and is now senior adviser at the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), an advocacy group focused on equity in higher education. “We’ve basically eliminated every protection we put in place.”

Wofford, then senior counsel of the Senate's education committee, said for-profits appear to be stepping up their advertising aimed at veterans of the U.S. military and active-duty service members, a heavily sought group of potential students amid the last recession.

“It’s concerning because of the ugly recruiting we saw in the last recession,” said Wofford, now president of Veterans Education Success, which advocates for student veterans.

Congressional discussions about additional stimulus packages in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are becoming a new battlefield in the running debate over the regulation of for-profits.

In a preview, high-powered lawmakers, including Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, unsuccessfully urged U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last week to use her powers to exclude for-profits from getting any of the $14 billion the last $2.2 trillion stimulus package set aside for higher education.

Veterans' and consumer advocates such as Stein and Wofford are asking Congress in future stimulus bills to again tighten regulations passed during the Obama administration and weakened by President Trump, warning the new recession creates fertile ground for more aggressive student recruiting.

For-Profits See an Important Role in Recovery

But the concerns also come during a pandemic that has seen shortages of critical health-care equipment and workers. Steve Gunderson, president of the for-profit college industry group Career Education Colleges and Universities, said his institutions will play a critical role in producing medical technicians and manufacturing workers who will be important for the nation's ability to recover from the recession and be prepared for the next pandemic.

The mechanics, health-care workers and other students they train will be key to that recovery. And Gunderson said the colleges shouldn’t be hamstrung by regulations they consider to unfairly target the sector.

“I think our schools will be on the front lines of getting America back to work,” said Gunderson.

For example, he cited Pima Medical Institute, a for-profit institution. The institute designed and is offering an online course, in conjunction with Kaiser Permanente and the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West union, which gives California nurses additional training on treating coronavirus patients.

Gunderson acknowledged that the industry grew too fast and focused too much on enrolling students during the last recession. It’s fair, he said, to say for-profits enrolled more students in criminal justice programs after Sept. 11 than there were jobs.

“The criticism is based on the premise that we don't learn from what happened in the past,” he said. “We’re a very different sector than 10 years ago.” He added that many colleges that pushed the boundaries have gone out of business. Indeed, a number of problem institutions, such as Corinthian Colleges and Education Corporation of America, have collapsed since the last recession.

“Are we going to repeat the mistakes of the past? Absolutely not,” he said.

Still, Gunderson knows the industry is under scrutiny.

A guide Gunderson’s group sent to its members Monday urged the institutions to be careful in documenting their use of stimulus money.

“We know our critics are already accusing the proprietary sector of forthcoming fraud in the use of such funds. Only full transparency can answer such allegations,” the guide said. “Your institution should keep track of the staff time involved in the management and distribution of the emergency financial aid grants. Keep track of every hour of staff time and account for how every dollar is distributed.”

The guide from the group also said, "An institution will likely need this level of data for audits and reports later, and certainly, for the sector’s transparency in proving to critics the funds were used properly and wisely."

Gunderson said, “I’m well aware of the environment that we live in -- that there are advocacy groups, the media and people on Capitol Hill who believe our sector shouldn’t exist.”

Environment Ripe for Abuses

Stein cited reasons for concern. Questions loom about the quality of academic programs offered by larger for-profits, in part because of the lag time in the requirement for reporting outcomes.

And the environment is ripe for the sort of aggressive recruiting that happened in the last recession, Stein, Wofford and other consumer advocates warn.

Interest in enrolling in college tends to increase when unemployment goes up. Employers give preference to those with advanced training for scarce jobs.

Some who’ve lost their jobs think, “I’ve been meaning to go back to school, anyway,” Stein said.

Others are worried about being able to find work without a college degree.

“People are scared, and there’s an opportunity to convince people to take out a loan and go to a low-quality school,” Wofford said.

Wofford said she was particularly appalled by testimony from for-profit recruiters in the Senate investigation that some were trained to take advantage of vulnerable prospective students.

Recruiters would ask probing questions to zero in on a prospective student’s "pain" about a dead-end job, inability to support their children, failing parents or relatives, the Senate report said.

“Then, when the prospective student feels vulnerable, the recruiter will offer the prospective student the possibility of a college degree as the opportunity to make that pain go away,” the report said.

Wofford said her group is scrutinizing social media platforms. According to a draft of a report her group is expected to release in a couple of weeks, for-profits have in recent days been running a large number of ads, many of them touting health-care programs. Her group thinks that's meant to capitalize on the positive attention health-care workers are getting during the pandemic. Many of the ads also focus on ease in transferring to universities, which Wofford’s group sees as a response to the closure of colleges during the crisis.

Long-Running Debate

The push to strengthen regulations as part of the stimulus is a continuation of a debate that’s been going on for years, since the Obama administration in response to a series of scandals passed a number of regulations such as the borrower-defense rule, which made it easier for those defrauded -- primarily by for-profits -- to have their federal loans eliminated.

DeVos weakened the rule, making it harder to have loans forgiven in those kinds of cases. She also repealed another regulation, called the gainful-employment rule, which would have penalized institutions whose graduates were unable to find good enough jobs to pay off their student debt. The Trump administration said those rules discriminated against for-profits.

Looking ahead, Wofford said many of the discussed reforms would only penalize colleges after students are hurt. “That’s the problem with most of the rules protecting students,” she said. “It’s only after a school gets caught that a borrower can apply for borrower defense.”

However, one reform, pushed by consumer advocates, aims to lower the incentive on for-profits to recruit veterans and members of the military.

Called the 90-10 rule, the federal regulation bars for-profits from getting more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal student sources. However, military education benefits like the GI Bill do not count toward the 90 percent cap, making the recruitment of veterans and service members a prime way to meet the requirement.

And Wofford fears for-profits that targeted veterans in the last recession are poised to do it again. “They’re going to turn those all on and say, ‘go, go, go,’” Wofford said.

The proposed reforms have gotten some bipartisan support in Congress. Several lawmakers, including Republican senators James Lankford and Bill Cassidy, have proposed removing the incentive by counting military benefits toward the 90 percent threshold.

Advocates also are encouraged that 10 Republicans joined Democrats in March in approving a Senate resolution expressing disapproval in the department's weakening of the borrower-defense rule. Six Republicans also supported a similar measure when it was passed by the House in January.

Anther bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Cassidy and Warren, would make more data on colleges' performance available to prospective students. In addition, Stein hoped Congress would include other ideas in a future stimulus bill, including a provision in the update of the Higher Education Act passed by the education committee of the Democratic-held House. The measure called on the department to begin doing undercover “secret shopper” investigations of for-profits' practices, and would have required more transparency about student outcomes.

However, many of the changes are likely to be opposed by the Trump administration, as well as for-profit colleges, who say both rules unfairly target them.

Meanwhile, for-profits are doing their own lobbying in Congress, and they beat back the attempt to exclude them from the stimulus funds.

For-profits are seeking their share of the stimulus money as Congress considers more stimulus bills and proposals to revive the nation’s economy, said Steve Gonzalez, the for-profit industry group’s senior vice president of government, military and veterans' relations.

“We want them to treat us the same [as other colleges] and not treat us with such disdain,” Gonzalez said.

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College librarians prepare for looming budget cuts, and journal subscriptions could be in for a trim

Vie, 04/17/2020 - 00:00

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, library budgets were hit hard.

Cuts were widespread and ran deep. Staff, collections, equipment and facilities at even the wealthiest institutions were affected.

While tough economic times call for all areas of an institution to tighten belts, libraries seemed to be particularly adversely impacted by the recession. Library budgets as a percentage of total institutional spending shrank, and in some places they never fully recovered.

Now, librarians are preparing for another wave of cuts, this time prompted by the economic contraction tied to the global pandemic.

“I’d be very surprised if any academic library escapes this situation without a cut or a freeze of one kind or another,” said Rick Anderson, associate dean for collections and scholarly communication at the University of Utah, in an email. “The question is how deep the cuts will be, or how long the freezes will last.”

Predicting the fiscal impact of COVID-19 on higher education institutions at this stage is impossible, Anderson said. “We don’t even know for certain if our campus will be open for normal business by August or September of this year,” he said.

The best-case scenario on most campuses is for budgets to remain static for the 2021 financial year, Anderson said. But he describes this is as a “highly optimistic scenario, one that assumes business as usual in the upcoming academic year, and minimal drop-offs in enrollment.”

A more likely scenario involves “significant cuts to ongoing budget allocations imposed across campus units, with specific campus directives as to how those cuts will be directed to personnel.”

Institutions such as the University of Virginia have already started to implement institutionwide hiring freezes as part of their effort to minimize the possible economic impact of COVID-19.

In a message to the campus, university president Jim Ryan pledged that the burden of cost cutting would be shared across the institution. All schools and units will cut or eliminate nonessential expenses. The university’s executive leadership team will take a 10 percent salary reduction, and capital projects that haven’t already started are on hold.

Librarians don't expect to be spared.

“I am bracing myself for a much larger impact on library and university budgets than we witnessed in during the 2008 economic downturn,” said Carmelita Pickett, associate university librarian for scholarly resources and content strategy at the institution. “I wasn’t at the University of Virginia then, but I know how it impacted the university that I worked at at the time.”

All units at the University of Virginia have been asked to think about which expenses are nonessential. In the library, this has prompted a close examination of bundled journal subscription packages with academic publishers, often referred to as "big deals." But no decisions have yet been made, Pickett said.

Questioning the Value of the Big Deal

“Even before the pandemic, we were re-examining the value of the big deal,” Pickett said. “That is not unique to our university. This is an issue that librarians have been talking about for 20 years. Now we are at a significant inflection point, and I think most libraries understand they will have to do something different moving forward.”

Two institutions announced last week that they will not be renewing their big deals with academic publisher Elsevier due to budgetary constraints -- the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the State University of New York Libraries Consortium​.

“Our conversations with Elsevier began a year before this pandemic and our final decision was not influenced by the pandemic,” said Elaine Westbrooks, university librarian at UNC Chapel Hill, in an email. “We’ve reduced the number of titles we’re subscribed to and we have established ways for researchers at Carolina to get the research articles they need, just not by direct subscriptions.”

Once we get through this pandemic, higher education will have even more financial constraints. And will not be in a position to pay publishers millions of dollars for research that is behind a paywall.

— Elaine L Westbrooks (@UNC_Librarian) April 9, 2020

On Twitter, Westbrooks predicted that higher education institutions will “not be in a position to pay publishers millions of dollars for research that is behind a paywall” after the pandemic. “One thing I have learned from the pandemic is that researchers need to collaborate and will collaborate internationally to solve problems, alleviate human suffering, and to understand the human condition. These paywalls are unjust and unnecessary barriers,” she tweeted.

Discussions about the value of the big deal are not new, and many publishers maintain bundled journal subscriptions offer the best value for the money. This continues to be a very popular option with many universities. Per journal title, big deals offer big discounts versus subscribing to journals individually. But many librarians note there is often a long tail of journal titles that are not regularly accessed. Both UNC Chapel Hill and SUNY have opted to subscribe to a few hundred journals from Elsevier instead of a few thousand.

Kent Anderson, CEO of publishing data analytics company RedLink and former president of the Society for Scholarly Publishing, has previously described decisions to cancel big deals as selfish and shortsighted. In 2018, he said that the survival of many smaller journals in niche research areas hinges on their inclusion in big deals.

After the 2008 recession, there was a spike in big deal cancellations, noted Brandon Butler, director of information policy at the University of Virginia. “If past is prologue, then we can predict that we might see that happen again,” he said.

The decision to unbundle a big deal and subscribe to individual journals isn’t made lightly. The announcements at UNC Chapel Hill and SUNY both occurred after more than a year of negotiating. The difference between now and a decade ago is that libraries have research tools such as Unpaywall at their disposal to understand what content is or is not accessible without a journal subscription, Butler said.

“That might give libraries courage that they didn’t have in 2009,” he said.

In the past, publishers oversold the value of the big deal, said Pickett.

“We have much better tools now that can help libraries articulate the value of big deals,” she said. “We can tell publishers exactly how much our institutions value their content.”

Preparing for an Uncertain Future 

While librarians may soon face tough financial decisions, Roger Schonfeld, director of Ithaka S+R’s libraries, scholarly communications and museums program, thinks libraries are well placed to weather the storm.

"Libraries, perhaps more than any other area of an institution, already offer a robust set of digital services," he said. "They have been preparing for this moment." 

Efforts to digitize scholarly materials and invest in archives are really paying dividends, said Schonfeld. The Hathi Trust, for example, is a nonprofit library collaborative that has now opened up access to millions of digital books in response to COVID-19. 

Mary Lee Kennedy, executive director of the Association of Research Libraries, said many librarians are thinking about “ways they can deliver even more value” as they plan out possible scenarios for the next fiscal year.

“A big trend that we’re seeing is a continued focus on supporting online learning,” said Kennedy. Libraries are playing a vital role in helping instructors track down materials they need to teach, she said. 

Supporting the continuation of research is also a priority, said Kennedy. Librarians are working to help researchers quickly access paywalled research articles. They are also ensuring researchers have the right tools to interpret and share this information, she said. 

“We’re seeing that scholars are a lot more energized and supportive of open content right now,” said Judy Ruttenberg, program director for strategic initiatives at ARL. 

Many academic publishers, including Elsevier, are making COVID-19 related-research freely accessible as researchers rush to develop drugs and vaccines, noted Ruttenberg. “People will want that access to continue,” she said.  

“I don’t think we’ll go back to business as usual after COVID-19," said Kennedy.    

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Student says university hid HIV claim

Vie, 04/17/2020 - 00:00

A student suspended from Indiana Wesleyan University for sexual misconduct is suing the Christian liberal arts institution for allegedly acting with bias in suspending him and, in an unprecedented claim, for also failing to inform him that he may have been exposed to HIV.

The student, identified as John Doe in the complaint he filed against the university in January, was found responsible and suspended in December for sexually assaulting a female student the month before. His one-year suspension occurred as part of the university’s sexual misconduct process under Title IX, the law prohibiting discrimination based on sex at federally funded institutions. Doe's complaint says that process was “inherently biased against him and predetermined his guilt from the start,” which is a common complaint of students who bring lawsuits in federal court to dispute the intent and results of their institutions’ misconduct procedures.

While going through the process of gathering evidence from the university in March, Doe was in “complete shock” to learn of a report stating that the female student who accused him of sexual assault told her professor during the fall 2019 semester that she tested positive for HIV, said Susan Stone, Doe’s attorney and co-chair of the Student & Athlete Defense and Title IX Practice Group for Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, an Ohio-based law firm. Anneke Stasson, the professor, filed an incident report form to the university about the HIV claim on Dec. 11, but Doe, who was suspended by a student life official the following day, was not told about it, Stone said.

HIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that causes AIDS.

“It was quite possibly the worst call that we have ever as attorneys had to make to a client, and we practice criminal defense,” Stone said.

The finding was even more concerning given that it was discovered amid the coronavirus pandemic; Doe has asthma and a seizure disorder, which make him more susceptible to COVID-19, Stone said. But because of concern about the possibility of having HIV, Doe left his California home, where he was sheltering in place with his family, on April 6 to be tested for HIV. The test results were negative, she said. As a result, Doe asked the court to add defamation and “negligent infliction of emotional distress” claims to his lawsuit and to include two administrators and the female student as additional defendants, according to documents filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.

Indiana Wesleyan has until April 22 to file a response to the additional claims, a spokesperson for Kohrman Jackson & Krantz said in an email.

Jerry Shepherd, the university's vice president for communication, declined to comment on the status of a response to the complaint.

“Indiana Wesleyan University is committed to creating the safest campus community possible for our students,” Shepherd said in an email. “We closely follow federal regulations for the investigation of sexual assault and have personnel who have been thoroughly trained in process and procedure.”

Title IX lawsuits and defamation allegations tend to “go hand in hand,” and most are related to communications by university officials that label students who denied engaging in sexual misconduct as sexual predators, said Jake Sapp, a researcher for the Stetson University Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy. Statements made by parties and witnesses to investigators and officials working on a specific Title IX report “within the scope of their job” are generally safe from defamation claims, while statements made outside the process are a risk, depending on who said it and where it is republished, Sapp said.

Sapp said the defamation claim attached to the complaint against Indiana Wesleyan was “nothing surprising,” but the content of the claim -- that the male student was accused of having and spreading a life-threatening virus -- is something he hasn’t seen before. Under current Title IX law, the university would not necessarily be required to notify the student of this additional allegation made after the initial report of alleged sexual assault, unless this is included in their policy, Sapp said. Indiana Wesleyan’s zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault and other crimes does not outline any such notification process.

Doe's lawsuit claims that his accuser made the allegation about HIV to Stasson to “further damage John’s reputation among the IWU officials who were deciding his case.” Stasson’s report to the university about the HIV claim suggests the professor had “already written our client off as a sexual predator who has HIV” before the Title IX investigation into alleged sexual assault had concluded, said Kristina Supler, an attorney for Doe who co-chairs the Kohrman Jackson & Krantz practice group with Stone.

“I asked how she was doing and if the guy had been sent off campus yet,” Stasson wrote in the form. “‘No,’ she said, ‘he is still here.’ I was shocked. She then told me that she had been tested for STDs and she tested positive for HIV. It makes me really worried to think that the guy who gave her HIV is still on this campus.”

The female student called Stasson’s report a “miscommunication.” She said she never told the professor she tested positive for HIV, but that Stasson did suggest the student get tested for sexually transmitted diseases after the reported assault, which she said she did in December following the conclusion of the Title IX investigation. The female student, who communicated by text and on the condition of anonymity, said she only found out about Stasson’s report in March. She said if she had known about it sooner, she would’ve corrected the information in the report.

Stasson declined to comment further on the report she filed to the university. "I don't have anything else to say," she wrote in an email on April 16.

The female student said even if the HIV claim was a miscommunication between her and Stasson, the university should have told Doe about it.

“I have no respect for him whatsoever but the decency would be to inform him regardless,” she said.

Peter Lake, director of the Stetson center for higher education law, said confidential student information maintained by a university is generally protected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. But the law includes an exception for universities to disclose information to “appropriate parties … if knowledge of that information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.”

The female student said the Title IX process over all at Indiana Wesleyan was “thorough and fair.” She said Andrew Parker, associate vice president and dean of students, investigated her complaint and met separately with her and her alleged assaulter several times. Her case is now being investigated by the City of Marion Police Department, in the same city where the university is located, she said.

In the lawsuit, Doe takes issue with Indiana Wesleyan’s Title IX process, which uses a single investigator model, with one official responsible for investigating, concluding and issuing sanctions for violations of the student conduct policy. A number of public institutions have moved away from this model because some courts have “shown skepticism” toward models where there is no live questioning directly between parties and their representatives, said Samantha Harris, vice president for procedural advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has held that public institutions have to provide cross-examination of witnesses, rather than interviewing parties and witnesses separately, Harris said. In a notable 2016 decision in Massachusetts district court, a federal judge was one of the first to criticize the single investigator model, saying it has “obvious” dangers. Under the new Title IX regulations proposed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, institutions would not be permitted to use the model, Harris said.

“It poses a lot of concerns because you’re vesting all of these different powers in one person,” Harris said. “Even if the person is well intentioned, it opens up the idea that this one person’s biases and views are going to swing the outcome one way.”

But until the Department of Education's regulations are finalized, institutions are not broadly required to offer cross-examination or a live hearing process for students who report or are accused of sexual misconduct, Harris said.

Lake, of the higher ed law center, said it’s “too strong a position” to say the investigator and decision maker in a campus Title IX process always have to be separate.

“A lot of private schools are holding the line with the single investigator model that they’ve created,” he said. “It’s a little bit situational, regional and local. There’s a definite trend with a certain number of private schools that take the position that they’ll move when they have to.”

Doe’s claim about Indiana Wesleyan’s “procedural deficiencies” is ineffective because the university’s student handbook does not guarantee a process with multiple decision makers, a live hearing structure or legal representation, Amanda Shelby, a partner at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, the law firm representing the university, wrote in a brief responding to the original lawsuit.

A 2018-19 copy of the handbook published on Indiana Wesleyan’s website describes a student conduct process where a university official will make a student aware of a report against them, meet with them to present information and ask questions about the report, give the student a chance to present evidence, then further investigate or make a decision about sanctions during that meeting.

“Plaintiff may not have liked IWU’s procedures for investigating and resolving reports of sexual assault, but his personal disagreement and dissatisfaction with those procedures has nothing to do with his gender and do not give him a right to relief under Title IX,” Shelby wrote.

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Report estimates that more than 450,000 undocumented immigrants are enrolled in higher ed

Vie, 04/17/2020 - 00:00

Undocumented immigrant students make up about 2 percent of all students enrolled in U.S. higher education, according to a new report released Thursday. All told, researchers estimate 454,000 undocumented immigrant students are enrolled in higher education.

"Before now, there has never been a full analysis of how many undocumented students are pursuing higher education in the U.S.," states the report, which was released by New American Economy (NEA), a research and advocacy organization focused on the impact of immigration on the economy, and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, an association of college leaders that advocates for welcoming policies for immigrant and international students.

"The findings in this report show that far more undocumented students enroll in higher education than was previously thought," the authors write.

The report looks at both traditional college-age and adult immigrant learners. The analysis found that a little fewer than half -- 216,000 -- of all undocumented immigrant students are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides work authorization and protection against deportation for certain young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. President Trump has attempted to terminate the DACA program, established by former president Obama in 2012, and the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the continuation of the program this spring.

Christian Penichet-Paul, of the Presidents' Alliance, said the data underscore the need to keep DACA in place as well as the importance of policies that expand access to higher education for undocumented students. These include state-level policies extending in-state tuition rates and access to state financial aid or scholarships to undocumented students.

"Undocumented students throughout the U.S., they are an integral part of our community: 450,000 individuals who are striving to pursue higher education," said Penichet-Paul, who is directing the development of a new digital resource with data on higher education and immigration for the Presidents' Alliance. "There’s a large number of students who are striving to acquire skills who could benefit our economy in the future."

Andrew Lim, director of quantitative research for the NEA, said the approximately 450,000 undocumented students participating in higher education make up about 4.3 percent of the estimated 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. NEA developed the methodology for the enrollment estimates, which are based on its analysis of data from the U.S. Census’s 2018 American Community Survey.

Jeanne Batalova, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), an organization that researches immigration policies, said that analyses MPI has previously done found numbers roughly on par with the new estimates from the NEA. For example, an analysis MPI did of just DACA-eligible students in 2017 estimated that 241,000 DACA-eligible students were enrolled in college. And MPI has estimated that 497,000 undocumented individuals in the 18-  to 24-year-old age group are enrolled in either high school or college.

"The methodology that NEA is using to estimate who’s likely to be undocumented is quite different from our methodology, so the fact that the numbers are roughly consistent is a good sign," Batalova said.

The report from the NEA and the Presidents' Alliance provides new details on the undocumented immigrant student population based on the type of institutions they attend and their enrollment level. Here are some of the key findings:

  • About half (47 percent) of all undocumented college students were brought to the U.S. before age 12, and 39 percent arrived between the ages of 13 and 21. Fourteen percent came when they were age 22 or older.
  • A majority of undocumented immigrant students live in five states -- California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas -- and about three-quarters live in 11 states: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
  • Eighty-two percent of all undocumented immigrant students are enrolled in two- or four-year public colleges, while just 18 percent are enrolled in private colleges. For DACA-eligible students, the percentage enrolled in public colleges is even higher, at 84 percent. The researchers were not able to break down the number of undocumented immigrant students enrolled in public two-year versus four-year colleges, though they note that many are enrolled in community colleges.
  • While most undocumented students are enrolled at the undergraduate level, 10 percent of all undocumented immigrant students, and 13 percent of the subset who are DACA eligible, are enrolled in graduate and professional degrees.
  • Thirty-nine percent of all undocumented students pursuing graduate degrees have an undergraduate degree in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics field. Of DACA-eligible students who are pursuing an advanced degree, 43 percent have an undergraduate degree in a STEM field.
  • A little less than half (46 percent) of all undocumented students in higher education are Hispanic/Latinx, 25 percent are Asian American and Pacific Islander, 15 percent are black, 12 percent are white, and 2 percent are classified as “other.” Among DACA-eligible students, 65 percent are Latinx, 17 percent are Asian American and Pacific Islander, 7 percent are black, 10 percent are white, and 1 percent are classified as “other.”
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April 17 roundup: Tuition freezes, transfer credits and Natty Light

Vie, 04/17/2020 - 00:00

I must confess, I thought it was Thursday on Wednesday this week. So I'm extremely happy that it is, finally, Friday.

To celebrate, here's our brand-new podcast, created by Paul Fain. The first episode features David Baime of the American Association of Community Colleges and Amelia Parnell of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Time for some palate cleansers.

Do you know someone who's sad about missing graduation? Here's a fix. Natty Light (yes, that's correct) is hosting a virtual worldwide commencement on May 14 for the Class of 2020. Grab a cold one and listen to some celebs give the commencement speeches you thought you'd have to miss.

Most people have seen the cute videos of the penguins exploring their zoo. These kinds of field trips are happening at zoos across the country, making for some very cute encounters.

Let’s get to the news.

Institutions are starting to receive the CARES Act funding. Many are setting up special funds for emergency aid. The University of Illinois system has created a $36 million financial aid fund for students impacted by the pandemic.

The University of Chicago has agreed to freeze tuition for the next academic year after a student group demanded tuition cuts and fee waivers.

Unemployment continues to reach new heights. The latest number is 22 million, bringing the estimated unemployment rate up to the worst level since the Great Depression.

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

SAT and ACT tests will be back soon, Scott Jaschik writes. However, many institutions have waived the testing requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic.

I wrote about a statement from the major higher education associations urging institutions to be flexible and transparent about transferring credits during this time.

In noncoronavirus news, Colleen Flaherty has a story on how underrepresented scholars tend to put out more novel research than their peers, but without the same rewards.

News From Elsewhere

The New York Times takes a look at Liberty University, where COVID-19 is spreading, and Jerry Falwell Jr., the university's president, is trying to have journalists arrested.

Institutions that serve students who returned home to mainland China due to the pandemic are scrambling to find digital platforms they can use for teaching that aren't blocked by the Chinese government, Times Higher Education reports.

The National Education Association has a list of resources for undocumented immigrants trying to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Percolating Thoughts

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

The president of Dickinson College writes about how colleges are built to help communities weather crises like this one.

A professor and a lawyer propose a plan to reopen campuses safely in the fall. (And people on Twitter are not happy about it.)

A higher ed expert urges leaders to put people first, even as the world (and the economy) seem to fall down around us.

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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Colleges start new academic programs

Jue, 04/16/2020 - 00:00
  • Alfred University is starting majors in data analytics and business analytics.
  • Boston College is starting a major in human-centered engineering.
  • Manhattan College is starting a minor in geography.
  • Stockton University is starting an M.B.A. in health-care administration and leadership.
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Underrepresented scholars outperform majority peers in terms of novel research

Jue, 04/16/2020 - 00:00

Diverse voices and perspectives bring innovation to their organizations, but the people offering them don’t necessarily get credit or support for doing so.

Business scholars have been studying this phenomenon for years and making the case that investing in diverse talent boosts an institution’s bottom line.

A new study makes the same argument about academe: diversity is good for business. But instead of profit, the metric of choice here is research innovation.

The findings are at once promising and sobering. Scholars from underrepresented groups, as a whole, achieve higher rates of scientific novelty, the study says. Yet novel contributions by gender and racial minorities are less likely to be taken up by their peers than are novel contributions by those in the majority.

Contributions by gender and racial minorities are also less likely to result in successful scientific careers.

“We reveal a stratified system where underrepresented groups have to innovate at higher levels to have similar levels of career success,” the paper says. And too often their careers end “prematurely, despite their crucial role in generating novel conceptual discoveries and innovation.”

Which “trailblazers,” the study asks, “has science missed out on as a consequence?”

The precise answer to that question is unknowable, but the possibilities are concerning. To address these inequities and stem the loss of knowledge, the authors urge institutions to study and combat biases in faculty hiring, research evaluation and publication practices.

“The Diversity-Innovation Paradox in Science,” published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, drew on a massive database of about 1.2 million Ph.D. recipients and their dissertations, across fields (including the humanities and social sciences), from the last three decades. The researchers then matched information from that database, ProQuest, with other data from the Web of Science citation database, to see who published at least one paper within five years of obtaining their degree, as proxy for career progression.

Using U.S. Census and other data, the authors tried to predict the Ph.D.s’ gender and race based on their names. The three racial categories considered were white, Asian and underrepresented. Nonbinary gender was difficult to discern due to the male-female method of predicting gender based on first names.

Researchers then determined whether the Ph.D.s were minorities or majorities, or both, within their respective fields, based on those fields' demographics.

As for scientific novelty, the paper defines it three ways: general novelty, or the number of new links between ideas it makes; impactful novelty, or uptake by peers in consequent years (by mentions, not citations); and distal novelty, or linking ideas and combining them in totally new ways, such as metaphorically.

Instead of reading millions of documents, the authors used machine learning, an application of artificial intelligence, and textual analysis of the Ph.D.s' publications to assess their level of novelty.

Scientific development, the paper theorizes, is “the process where concepts are added to the ever-growing ‘constellation’ -- i.e., our accumulating corpus of texts -- in new combinations, or the introduction of new links between scientific concepts.”

Co-lead author Bas Hofstra, a postdoctoral fellow in computational sociology at Stanford University, said that other scientists are taking up the novelty generated by certain groups. Students who are underrepresented by gender in their fields find less adoption of their novel ideas compared to those who are overrepresented, for example.

Women and nonwhite scholars also experience less uptake by their peers. Hofstra attributed this, in part, to reluctance toward adopting distal novelty, which connects ideas in “such new ways that are harder to parse, and more difficult to place and understand for others in science.”

Which ideas are considered scientifically useful or worthy of further research may be in itself a function of position and bias, Hofstra added. He cautioned, however, that “we need more research to specifically unravel each of these mechanisms.”

In the interim, Hofstra, like the study, stressed the “crucial importance” of evaluating and addressing biases in faculty hiring and evaluation.

Monica Cox, chair of engineering education at Ohio State University and author of Demystifying the Engineering Ph.D., said that “it shouldn’t be dangerous to be innovative.”

And yet it often is, she said, as academe remains a fundamentally conservative enterprise. Faculty search committees often prioritize “safe” hires, in terms of candidates’ research portfolios (think connections to confirmed successes and disciplines), institutional pedigrees, advising lineages and even appearance.

In many cases, Cox said, “people are not ready for the innovation in the scholarship or in the representation.”

As a black woman working in an interdisciplinary field, Cox said she could imagine the dynamics in Hofstra's paper affecting a career path like her own. Yet Cox said she’d been successful, despite various challenges, “because I’ve had advocates in the field who have sponsored me even though my work was different.”

Cox said she’d seen other underrepresented scholars overcome barriers by promoting their work on social media -- a kind of “leveling of the playing field” -- or by becoming engaged in technology commercialization.

Beyond these examples of mentorship and self-advocacy, Cox said it’s imperative that institutions have dedicated diversity proponents who “are consciously reviewing applications and making sure that biases don’t come into conversations about somebody’s work,” for instance. And on tenure and promotion, she said, “How do you evaluate someone’s contribution if it does not fit into a box?”

Fostering diversity comes down to “policies and presence,” she advised. Otherwise, “higher ed will go for what is safe, conservative and known.”

Hofstra and his colleagues completed their study prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, but it’s impossible to discuss faculty careers now without thinking about how they’ll be thrown off by virus-related hiring freezes and cuts. Some institutions are in the middle of multiyear diversity-based hiring campaigns, for example.

Even if the gender-racial distribution of hires stays the same as it is now -- which Hofstra questioned -- lower numbers of hires over all may make it more difficult for underrepresented groups “to place their ideas.”

There could be less of a “critical mass of similar peers” that generate, adopt and champion ideas moving forward, he warned.

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College groups release joint guidelines for accepting credit during coronavirus

Jue, 04/16/2020 - 00:00

Six major higher education groups issued a set of principles Thursday for accepting academic credit during this tumultuous time.

The statement, drafted by the American Council on Education and signed by the leaders of groups representing public, private nonprofit and community colleges, highlights eight practices institutions should follow to best help students navigate the transfer of credit process -- which is difficult to negotiate in the best of times -- during the coronavirus pandemic.

Students often find that some or many or their academic credits from one college aren't accepted when they try to transfer to a different institution, especially if they are attempting to move from two-year to four-year colleges, or from nationally accredited colleges to those accredited by regional agencies.

At the center of each principle is the acknowledgment that this is an unprecedented time that calls for institutions to respond in unprecedented, flexible ways, said Ted Mitchell, president and CEO of ACE. Institutions also need to put their students at the center of their decisions and remember that this situation is only exacerbating existing inequities in higher education.

"Institutions are hard at work trying to figure this out, and there are a variety of things that they need to balance," Mitchell said. "We thought it would be helpful for those institutions to just put forth what are the principles we all agree on to guide decision making."

The statement asks institutions to recognize what students are going through; to be cognizant of existing inequities; to provide flexibility for students, staff and faculty members; to be transparent about their transfer policies; and to make their decisions known as soon as possible.

There has been some concern that colleges enacting universal pass/fail grading policies could be hurting students in the long run if those students hope to transfer to another institution or enroll in a graduate program, as pass/fail courses often don't transfer for credit.

ACE and other organizations are asking that, if institutions are being more flexible in grading policies, they also be more flexible with admissions and credit policies with their students, Mitchell said.

Timing is also critically important, he said. ACE anticipates that many students are likely going to get some education elsewhere and seek to bring that learning back to their home institutions due to the public health pandemic.

"While institutions probably have a while to come up with these policies, students and their families are making decisions today about what to do," Mitchell said. "Students and families need the most information that they can get to allay their anxieties and help them make plans. That’s why we think that institutions need to tackle this now."

For member institutions of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, this is especially important.

"Our institutions accept a large share, probably the majority, of community college students that transfer into public regional universities," said Mildred García, president of the association. "​It’s important that we are open to being flexible in these new options because of this terrible situation."

Several states and institutions are already discussing this issue, ​García said. For example, the higher education system in Utah recently released a transfer guide to help students see how their current coursework will apply to programs at different institutions.

The statement is not meant to be a mandate, Mitchell said, because each institution is different. But it is meant to highlight the importance of flexibility and compassion during this time.

"There has been a general consensus that the process needed to be more transparent, equitable, easy to navigate, and that students needed quicker decisions about the status of their transfer requests," said Bernard Mair, chief academic officer of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. "In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, APLU heard from our members that they were addressing this issue along with many other academic processes and regulations, so we felt it was the right time to provide some very general guidelines relating to transfer credits. The fact that many campuses were moving operations online made it even more important to communicate to students about how they would be able to transfer credit. This is not meant to dictate what credits can or should be transferred, but rather a high-level set of guidelines that we are suggesting institutions consider as they streamline their academic processes."

The transfer dilemma has been a hot topic in higher education for some time, and the realities of COVID-19 might finally move the needle on the issue.

About one-third of college students attempt to transfer credits between institutions, Mair said. The average student also looks different now than they did a few decades ago; many are older, working adults.

"I think it’s quite possible that institutions will get more comfortable with a higher degree of flexibility, and I think that would be a good thing," Mitchell said.

Northern Virginia Community College has a nationally recognized example of a successful transfer partnership with nearby George Mason University. The community college's president, Anne Kress, said it's important to help college students, many of whom are now dealing with several crises at once.

"The statement and the unified support for these principles provide a powerful indication that higher education recognizes its responsibility to honor the work done by students facing the uncertainty created by the pandemic," Kress said. "This statement also makes clear that the impact of the pandemic is not uniform. Colleges must consider the equity implications of their credit transfer policies."

As colleges learn throughout the pandemic, Kress hopes they realize all institutions can get better at serving students.

"We talk about higher education as a system: now is the time to start acting like one," she said. "The central strength of NOVA’s nationally recognized transfer partnership with George Mason University, ADVANCE, is that all credits count when students transfer. Imagine if a guarantee like that extended between institutions across all of higher education. It would be transformational -- and it is possible."

For today's students, García said, the stakes are especially high.

​"They are working very hard to get themselves through higher ed with so many challenges even before the coronavirus hit," she said. "I am pleading with institutions to be as flexible and compassionate as possible and yet make sure they can be successful so that we can educate the new majority."

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Academics lost to COVID-19 fondly remembered

Mié, 04/15/2020 - 00:00

One of the professors was a famous artist who transformed and raised the profile of African American art. Another spent decades steeped in the art of making music. The third gentleman was more focused on the art of the deal, or the business of professional selling.

They traveled different paths in life, but they shared a sad fate -- all three died recently from health complications related to COVID-19, the latest victims of the pandemic that has already caused so much upheaval in American higher ed.

David C. Driskell, Distinguished University Professor, Emeritus, at the University of Maryland at College Park, passed away April 1. His colleagues said he was “recognized worldwide for his scholarship and expertise in African American art” but remained generous and kind. He was 88.

Truby Bernard Clayton, chairperson of music education at Wiley College in Texas, where he taught for 42 years, also died April 1. Students described him as “a caring professor who challenged them beyond their limits.” He was 75.

George Gannage, an assistant teaching professor of marketing and assistant director of the Center for Professional Selling at Ball State University in Indiana, died April 6. He was a “consummate students’ professor” and known for being charming, witty and a pretty great dresser. He was 63.

There are many more academics whose deaths have not been publicized and whose life stories are still unknown. There will undoubtedly be more deaths as the pandemic continues. The current moment demands an appraisal of the victims as individuals and, perhaps more importantly, as a collective.

It’s always tragic when a professor dies unexpectedly. It can mean the loss of a valued faculty member, a respected colleague, or a favorite instructor or beloved mentor. If the deceased was a rock star in his field or a leading public intellectual, as were several professors who died from coronavirus last month, the loss can feel even more consequential. It can set an institution back if the late academic was a font of historical knowledge, or doing groundbreaking research, or possessed unique and irreplaceable talents.

These various scenarios raise troubling questions. What happens if professors start dying at higher rates than average, at more universities than usual?

Hans-Joerg Tiede, a senior program officer and researcher at the American Association of University Professors, says a large number of deaths, particularly among older, more experienced professors -- as has been the case so far -- can become problematic.

"The governance of institutions depends on individuals who had institutional history and knowledge about the culture of the institution," he says. "So many things in institutional governance depend on cultural aspects more than on written rules. There’s a lot of governance culture for how decisions are made. Certainly, older faculty that have institutional history are important for maintaining that."

James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, noted that older academics tend to have worked with more people in different disciplines and at different institutions and to have served on advisory and academic committees. They've also more likely to have mentored younger colleagues, or worked with people from very different geographical or social backgrounds, or from different types of institutions or in various stages of their careers.

"Academics tend not to do that work until they’re established," he says. So when they die, "you’re losing these networking roles and interstitial activity, people who work at the interstices of different disciplines and different types of institutions. You’re losing the benefit of years of networking. It's a terrible thing to lose. These are the people who are both the bridges and the glue of not just institutions, but all sorts of identification that people have. The longer you’re around, the more networks you have -- you're not only the person building bridges but someone who is the bridge -- and the more you can hold an institution and people together, that’s the glue.

"It’s not just the notion that you’re losing a senior scholar, you’re also losing these related functions, and that's bad for the disciplines and bad for the institutions."

Grossman points to David Driskell, whom he had met, as an example.

"He's someone who has been involved in academic work from many different angles. He was someone who talked to historians. The more angles he was involved in, the more he played a networking role between people from many different disciplines and different worlds."

An Incomparable Talent

The magnitude of the death of Driskell is apparent in how friends and colleagues describe the multifaceted art historian, art collector, curator and scholar: “a giant in the art world,” “a trailblazer,” “a legendary artist.”

Their sense of loss is woven throughout a lengthy and admiring appreciation posted on the website of the center established in his honor in 2001 at the University of Maryland. The David C. Driskell Center for the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora, part of the College of Arts and Humanities, exhibits the work of artists at all stages of their careers and houses Driskell’s archives, letters, photos, handwritten notes and catalogs.

"They offer a glimpse into his life, work and interactions and close friendships with major artists" such as Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Georgia O’Keeffe and a long list of others, the posting says.

"It’s multilayered, in many ways," Bonnie Thornton Dill, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, said of the loss. "David had really been a visionary leader when he was a faculty member here. He really diversified the faculty in the art department in exceptional ways and had brought in really outstanding people, so he had that legacy that he left of people who were part of our faculty. He knew every African American artist in his era, and he had corresponded with all of them, and so his archives are just rich. Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett. I mean, you name them, he had corresponded with them.

"And David also had a wonderful, almost a photographic memory. So he was just kind of a repository of history, and he told stories in this graphically, wonderfully detailed way. So that’s something we’ll miss, just his living knowledge of people and events and African American history," Dill said. "His talent, the works that he produced, the ways that he trained people and his presence -- and he was still a very visible presence on the campus -- so I think all of that will be greatly missed."

Driskell was widely credited for transforming the field of African American art.

"He played a critical role in bringing awareness to the art of African American artists at a time when these artists were overlooked," the tribute notes. "His work made it clear that African American art is essential to the American art canon."

Curlee Holton, executive director of the Driskell Center, says Driskell had the ability to see beyond his own artistic achievement.

"It wasn’t just his talent. It was his humanity that was transformative," Holston notes in the tribute. "He believed that everyone was valuable and that their unique vision as expressed in their art, should be seen and studied."

Driskell joined the faculty of UMD's art department in 1977 and was chairman from 1978 to 1983. He was named Distinguished University Professor of Art in 1995. He taught and mentored students and helped them go on to successful careers, according to the posting. He also influenced the hiring of African American artists as professors in the department.

“He said that some of his happiest years were teaching and making connections with students,” the posting says.

Robert E. Steele, former director of the Driskell Center, said Driskell had a knack for nurturing students' artistic skills.

“David could recognize talent in students and do what he could to promote these students, challenge them, actualize their artistic capabilities,” Steele, who is also former associate dean for the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, says in the appreciation.

According to the center, Driskell’s paintings and prints appeared in solo and group exhibitions across the United States, including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Several of his works are included in major collections at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Gallery of Art, the Phillips Collection, and the High Museum of Art.

"His groundbreaking exhibition 'Two Centuries of Black American Art: 1750-1950' has been a foundation for the field since 1976," the appreciation says, adding that "Only a handful of exhibitions have shared the same longevity in the discourse of art history and collecting."

Driskell was one of 12 people awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2000 by President Clinton. It was one of many honors and awards he received during his lifetime. In 2005, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta established the David C. Driskell Prize, the first national award to honor and celebrate contributions to the field of African American art and art history.

Decades of Dedication

Truby Clayton (at right) was neither nationally renowned nor widely celebrated, but he made a lasting impression nonetheless on members of his social and professional circles. Nowhere was this more apparent than at Wiley College, a historically black liberal arts institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church, where Clayton spent his entire college teaching career.

Wiley administrators ordered the college’s flag lowered to half-staff on April 1 and said it would stay lowered for 42 days to mourn the passing of Clayton and mark the 42 years he served the institution.

Clayton leaves behind a “legacy of dedication and selfless service,” a tribute posted on the college’s Facebook page said. “Although his passing is a devastating loss to all who knew him, he will forever be a Wileyite.”

Four days before Clayton’s death, the university had issued a statement informing the campus that a faculty member had been diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to the Marshall News Messenger. The statement came with “within hours of Harrison County officials confirming the county’s first COVID-19 case,” the newspaper reported. The college’s announcement of Clayton’s death also came “within hours of the county confirming its first coronavirus-related death, though county officials would also not confirm if Clayton was that patient.” The death reported by the county was of 75-year-old male, the same age as Clayton.

Wiley’s president did not respond to email and telephone requests for comment. Clayton’s family members could not be reached.

“We are not at liberty to discuss the medical condition of any of our faculty, staff or students,” the university’s spokeswoman Maya Brown said in a statement to the Marshall News Messenger. She said the faculty member diagnosed with the coronavirus was not named in the university statement “out of respect for the privacy of the individual and their family.”

Clayton started his career as a music specialist and English teacher in the public school system in Walton County, Georgia. He joined Wiley’s faculty in 1978 and served on numerous academic committees over the years, according to his obituary, which also said Clayton was guided by “spiritual endeavors and academic pursuits.” He was also regional director of Alpha Kappa Mu, a national collegiate honor society.

“Dr. Clayton gave selflessly to the Wiley family, and we greatly appreciate his service and commitment to this institution. His students always described him as a caring professor who challenged them beyond their limits and always encouraged independent thinking,” the university's Facebook posting said.

An Easy Sell

Although George Gannage was expert in the business of selling, he wasn’t a hard sell personally. He won over people easily with humor and wit.

Gannage joined the marketing department of Ball State’s Miller College of Business in 2017 after previously teaching at Kennesaw State University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of Maryland University College, according to Ball State’s provost. His teaching specialties included consumer behavior and professional selling.

“George Gannage was a consummate students’ professor in the marketing classroom,” Russ Wahlers, chair of the marketing department, said in an email. “His ability to engage with both students and faculty colleagues at a high level was unmatched. George’s friendship, wit, charm, impeccable attire and appreciation for a good cigar will be sorely missed.”

Gannage died “after suffering from a severe respiratory virus,” Susana Rivera-Mills, the university’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, wrote in an internal email to colleagues announcing Gannage’s death. His family said lab tests later confirmed he had COVID-19, Wahlers said.

Gannage also served as adviser to the BSU Collegiate Chapter of the American Marketing Association and Pi Sigma Epsilon Sales and Marketing Fraternity, according to Rivera-Mills, who noted that he “worked tirelessly, successfully coaching many of the center’s sales teams, who won numerous awards in national student sales competitions under his mentorship.”

He will be remembered for his collegiality, sense of humor and “sartorial expertise”, Rivera-Mills wrote. “He was admired and respected by both his students and faculty colleagues.”

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