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Loans and online learning: ELT industries unite, adapt to survive

The PIE News - mer, 04/08/2020 - 10:22

As the language teaching sector continues to grapple with the challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, the heads of ELT associations have told The PIE News that urgent appeals for government support – and supporting members’ shift to online provision and community building – are the new modus operandi.

EnglishUSA executive director, Cheryl Delk-Le Good, observed it’s challenging to do any kind of marketing or recruitment right now.

“We’re trying to address how we can help our members with decisions around synchronous or asynchronous learning, information and small business loans – things like that,” she told The PIE.

“We’re trying to address how we can help our members”

The shift online has also been beneficial in strengthening connections, she added.

“What we’ve learned in the last couple of weeks in the virtual events that we’ve been holding, I feel like I’ve met more people over the past three weeks that I’ve met in my five years,” she said.

“I have a lot of contacts in the field, but these are teachers and staff, these are individuals from our members who don’t necessarily come to all of our in-person events. So virtually we’ve been able to create even a larger community because we’re in this all together online.”

In the UK, English language schools were hit hard early in 2020 when business dried up from China first, and then engulfed another main market for the UK sector: Italy.

Describing the pandemic as an “existential threat” to the industry, member association English UK has been lobbying to get COVID-19 business rates relief for the hospitality and tourism sector extended to ELT centres – and has so far been “partially” successful.

“We are delighted that English language schools have been included by the [Local Government Association] in the list of properties considered to fall within the scope of the relief,” said Huan Japes, membership director of English UK.

Two of English UK’s member centres have already been forced to close their doors, and the association is lobbying to formally include ELT centres in the list of organisations eligible for the relief so that it is not at the discretion of local authorities.

But it’s not just the UK sector that’s appealing for government financial support.

In a recent letter to Canada’s minister of finance, chief executive of Languages Canada, Gonzalo Peralta, highlighted the gravity of the situation through his warning that most of Canada’s 642,480 international students go through LC members programs first to learn English and French.

According to Peralta, with state assistance, the industry could rebuild to 2019 levels in one-to-two years, but without it, it could take five years.

In Malta too, which had seen ELT student numbers stabilise over the past couple of years after “unprecedented” growth in 2017, FELTOM CEO, James Perry, said bookings at member schools for Q2 and Q3 have virtually come to a “standstill”.

According to new data, the 20,000 cancellations at FELTOM schools to-date are expected to give rise to an estimated loss in contribution of €8.8million and are expected to have an estimated negative financial impact on the economy of €23.7m.

“Our schools are closed as by the directive of the government. However, we have communicated with the government and with regards to the ELT industry, they will be considering it month by month as the industry works on a different scenario [to general education],” Perry told The PIE.

Perry said the Maltese government has issued some financial packages which have helped the schools to avoid redundancies.

“At this point, those are the only financial packages we have are for employment, and it does not cater for people who have to pay rent, loans and so forth. It just caters for everyday money and in order for schools not to make people redundant.”

“We have schools that have been successful in retaining their students here and offering online learning”

Perry said that most of the schools have been trying to develop an online platform, while some of them already had an online platform in the past and they are revisiting that option.

“I think that helps a lot because while some students chose to get repatriated, others chose to remain and attend lessons as best they can through the online platform being offered by the school. And then there are others who said we cannot offer this option and told students to go back and gave them refunds.

“We have schools that have been successful in retaining their students here and offering online learning, I must admit, which is quite positive to see.”

Online learning has become a major part of the educational offering for students in New Zealand too, with English New Zealand explaining how “nearly all” of its 22 member schools have shifted to online teaching to students located there.

“As long as the border remains closed members can’t welcome new students,” noted Kim Renner, the group’s executive director, however, “feedback from students about the online provision is generally good.”

“It’s important to maintain contact with students who had intended to begin their studies in the coming months and with our study abroad agencies,” she urged, as agents are the “primary source” of students for ELT in New Zealand.

“Their businesses will also be impacted by COVID-19,” she added, explaining that support measures are available for businesses requiring financial assistance via the government’s business stimulus package.

“We have also presented the minister of Education and agencies with a request for a range of targeted support measures for the English language sector as most providers are 100% reliant on international students are receive no government funding.”

However, predictions for the future are difficult at the present, Renner continued.

“We know that things will be different because of the impact on our key markets, and travel and tourism in general. We expect the financial epidemic to also have an impact on study-travel.”

While online delivery may be an option, English New Zealand will “continue to advocate for members and the wider ELT sector”.

In Australia, the online space offers a “real opportunity to do a lot of groundbreaking things”, according to English Australia’s Simon Lockyer.

“[The online space] is not something which has been really taken on board by, I think internationally, the whole English language teaching world. And this has sort of forced our hand,” he said.

For example, a big contingent in China is studying with English Australia’s members, he highlighted.

The organisation requested a AU$87m package in March – it expects a response in the “next two to three weeks”, but the government’s JobKeeper payment will benefit ELICOS sector employees, providing them AU$1,500 per fortnight.

Part-, full-time workers and casual workers who have been with an organisation for 12 months or more are eligible, Lockyer noted.

“Labour costs of an English college are so significant”

“It’s packages like that which are wonderful for our providers because labour costs of an English college are so significant. It’s allowed a lot of providers to keep staff on.”

However, as in New Zealand, English language schools are effectively closed to new students from overseas.

“We’ve got a ban on all foreign nationals. So it’s just those students who were enrolled prior to this and who are here already are continuing on,” he said.

Visas are still being processed but there are a lot of constraints, Lockyer added.

“Offshore English testing centres and offshore medical assessment clinics being closed have heavily constrained any processing.”

The post Loans and online learning: ELT industries unite, adapt to survive appeared first on The PIE News.

Anouchka Plumb, University of Windsor, Canada

The PIE News - mer, 04/08/2020 - 09:46
Inspiration, movement, transformation — these words highlight the intent of a wellness initiative that manager of Language Programs, Anouchka Plumb, embedded at the University of Windsor in Canada after a student tragedy led to a structural change in asking how best to monitor student welfare. Plumb spoke to The PIE about what she has learnt along the process.


The PIE: You were saying that institutions don’t often know numbers in terms of students who need help with their mental health? 

Anouchka Plumb: Part of the reason we don’t really know the numbers is that it doesn’t help with marketing and it stigmatises institutions. There has been nationwide recognition that such types of conversations are essential. We know international students are such an important part of our campus community and our future labour force, and recognising this very central component of their experience is necessary.

“The University of Windsor has done a lot of work to develop a mental health strategy”

The PIE: Can you tell me about the program at the University of Windsor?

AP: In 2015 we decided to develop a wellness program. It has taken a few different shapes, but in 2017 we restructured it. It’s called MindFlow, with three grounding principles – inspiration, movement and transformation.

With inspiration, we’re not looking at inspiring students; we’re looking at equipping them with baseline skills to be able to identify opportunities where they can be inspired. If we take, for example, how individuals are distracted and have multiple thoughts, it is difficult to identify those opportunities that can benefit them because of all their competing ideas.

Through inspiration, what we are looking at is a process of calming the mind, bringing attention to the frustrations and the stressors. So just teaching students how to identify those thoughts. That’s the first part.

The second one is movement, and it relies on very basic breathing techniques. If our students can just walk away knowing how to breathe through certain situations, that’s a significant step. As we know, students are studying for X number of hours, so we look at equipping them with those coping strategies.

And then the last is transformation. So the aim is helping students use those skills to transform their thoughts, maybe moving from ‘I can’t’, to ‘I can’t right now, but I will’, and identifying what steps can be taken to move in a positive direction.

The final aim is for that to move into a transformation of action, which can mean instead of harbouring all those thoughts and feelings, they could result in seeking advice by talking to a friend, or making subtle changes with what they’ve learned.

The PIE: How do you deliver the programs? 

AP: So in our EAP [English for Academic Purposes] program, we have five levels and each level is twelve weeks long with multiple sections within a level. We have a mindfulness facilitator, Nicole Daignault, who comes into classes.

I work with the facilitator to design a flexible curriculum, and we identify topics that are pretty consistent across terms that would be important to bring awareness to but also term specific issues such as the winter blues or jetlag and things like that.

Within the program, the facilitator also asks students to identify specific areas where they are facing challenges. So it’s 30 minutes per week for 10 weeks. And the instructors participate in it as well.

The PIE: Did this whole construct have to be sanctioned by someone senior at the institution? 

AP: No, and the reason why there is a buy-in from the institution is that the program satisfies our institution’s student mental health strategy; the University of Windsor has done a lot of work to develop a mental health strategy.

One of the principles is to implement a range of preventative wellness initiatives. So that ties into that particular mandate.

“Those who reported feeling exhausted from non-physical activities, again it is over 90%, which is just mindboggling”

With regards to instructors, we’ve invested in professional development. Some of our instructors have participated in some Canadian mental health workshops. That was very much in line with what we do here. So from the instructor side, it’s not necessarily pitching it as ‘this is for the students only’, this is care for our team, it’s care for our organisation.

So when we’re able to position it in the broader context, there isn’t that barrier of having to convince people, because it just makes sense.

The PIE: How is it being received by your student population? 

AP: On a national context based on a Canadian reference group 2016 and 2019 executive summaries, the percentage of tertiary level students [not just international] who feel overwhelmed, both male and female, has increased to over 90%. And for those who reported feeling exhausted from non-physical activities, again it is over 90%, which is just mindboggling.

So in the top five, according to the same reference, we have stress number one, then we see anxiety, sleep, difficulties, depression, cold and flu. What’s interesting here is that we know that when we’re not sleeping well, that compromises the immune system, which then makes us more susceptible to other physiological symptoms. So they’re all interconnected.

We found that 90% of our students agree or strongly agree with the statement that they find the MindFlow piece enjoyable. That is fairly consistent among all the levels. We’re also seeing improved sleep in 50% of the lower level, 20% in level two and 17% in the highest level.

The PIE: You could argue that the lower your level, the most stress you feel anyway? 

AP: Right. But also presuming that the students who are in level one are more likely for this to be their first term, so sleep is a huge issue, and as they’re progressing, they’re able to acclimatise. But even in term of stress, as the levels intensify, that stress is increasing.

We can see for sleep difficulties, 21% of all of our students in that program felt that MindFlow helped to decrease their sleep difficulties. 57% felt that it helped reduce their stress levels. And what was really important to see was that we are tackling the areas that according to the national context, students have challenges. That was an affirmation that we were on the right track.

The PIE: Are you trying to use it as an edge in terms of your marketing programs? 

AP: We have mentioned it, but I think it depends. We will share the information, whether that helps someone to choose whether to pursue this program compared to another all depends. But MindFlow is not about student numbers. This is really about student wellbeing.

When students start their academic journey – in which they will face a number of additional stressors – it’s important they have ways to be able to cope.

Do you think in Canada, because there’s been so much student growth and a lot of expectation around routes to immigration that there’s increasing pressure on institutions as well?

Absolutely. It’s everything from immigration to employability to being prepared to participate in a meaningful way in academics.

“MindFlow is intended as preventative care, a step before needing to access counselling service”

The PIE: Do you think that different universities have different approaches to student satisfaction?

AP: Well, based on a presentation that I gave where there were about 42 participants, only two individuals who identified being a part of or being aware of institutional mandates or movements towards recognising a wellness program initiative. I don’t know if that is a fair representation of what’s going on. And I wouldn’t want to speculate here, but I think it is important.

Again, we’re talking about internationalisation and sometimes internationalisation tends to be first and foremost defined by recruitment. But there are many pillars of internationalisation that go beyond that and tap into some of those nitty-gritty areas.

The PIE:  I get the impression that a lot of institutions think the wellness agenda is best dealt with by counsellors, which is why I think what you’re doing is interesting because you’re trying to embed into the curriculum a way of coping. 

AP: There’s a definite place for counselling services and this is not meant to replace those. We know many students seek counselling. But again, MindFlow is intended as preventative care, a step before needing to access counselling services.

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Venezuela’s navy battles a cruise ship, and loses

Economist, North America - mer, 04/08/2020 - 07:48

IT WAS, ON the face of it, a mismatched contest. The ANBV Naiguatá, a Venezuelan patrol vessel, was armed with a 76mm naval gun, a German-built anti-aircraft system that sprays a cloud of tungsten bullets and a pair of deck-mounted machine guns, among other weaponry. The RCGS Resolute, a Portuguese-flagged cruise ship with an 80-seat theatre, had the top speed of an oil tanker. But in the early hours of March 30th it was Venezuela’s Bolivarian navy whose ship ended up on the seabed—in the first decisive naval skirmish in the Caribbean for 75 years.

The Resolute, en route to Curaçao, a Dutch island in the Caribbean, had been drifting for a day in international waters near La Tortuga, a Venezuelan island, as it tinkered with its starboard engine. At midnight it was approached by the Naiguatá and ordered to come into port. As the Resolute contacted its head office for instructions, the Naiguatá opened fire—a video released by the Venezuelan navy shows a sailor firing an AK-47 in the howling wind and darkness with Rambo-like enthusiasm—and rammed the cruise ship, according to its parent company.

Unfortunately for the Naiguatá, the...

Jair Bolsonaro isolates himself, in the wrong way

Economist, North America - mer, 04/08/2020 - 07:48

Editor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hub

ONE BY ONE the doubters have made their peace with medical science. Only four rulers in the world continue to deny the threat to public health posed by covid-19. Two are flotsam from the former Soviet Union, the despots of Belarus and Turkmenistan. A third is Daniel Ortega, the tropical dictator of Nicaragua. The other is the elected president of a great, if battered, democracy. Jair Bolsonaro’s undermining of his own government’s efforts to contain the virus may mark the beginning of the end of his presidency.

Since the new coronavirus was first detected in Brazil in late February Mr Bolsonaro, a former army captain with a fondness for military rulers, has made light of it. Dismissing its effects as “just a little dose of flu”, he said “we’re going to face the virus like a man, dammit, not like a little boy.” He added, helpfully: “we’re all going to die one day.” In the 15 months since he became president, Brazilians have become...

Latin America’s health systems brace for a battering

Economist, North America - mer, 04/08/2020 - 07:48

Editor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hub

A PROCESSION OF disappointments awaits residents of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, when illness strikes. Those who report symptoms of covid-19 to the health-care hotline get appointments scheduled for several weeks later, by which time they will probably have recovered or died. With ambulance services overwhelmed, stricken people arrive at hospitals in pickup trucks, only to find there are no empty beds. When somebody dies at home, the corpse joins a long waiting list for removal. The city has run out of wooden coffins. Some relatives dump loved ones’ bodies in the sweltering streets.

Guayaquil is the first place in Ecuador where covid-19 has struck with force. That is probably because the country’s Pacific coast takes a long school holiday starting in early February, five months before the Andean region, including Quito, the capital. Guayaquileños flew to and from Europe after the novel coronavirus began...

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

Inside Higher Ed - mer, 04/08/2020 - 07:02

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

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

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

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

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

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NZ: Wage Subsidy Scheme open for int’l students

The PIE News - mer, 04/08/2020 - 05:08

The government of New Zealand is permitting international students in the country to benefit from the Wage Subsidy Scheme if they are missing out on work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The scheme, announced by finance minister Grant Robertson and social development minister Carmel Sepuloni on April 7, will support over 1 million workers – some 41% of the country’s workforce.

Over 12 weeks, the government will provide between NZ$8bn-NZ$12bn to businesses. For each full-time worker, businesses will receive a lump sum payment of $7,029.60, and for each part-time worker, $4,200.

It will cover part-time employees or those employed on a casual or contract basis

The wage subsidy will cover international students who are legally entitled to work and were employed by a New Zealand employer before the Covid-19 outbreak. It will cover part-time employees or those employed on a casual or contract basis.

Students are classified as essential workers and are able to increase their hours, but must still meet the study requirements of their student visa, Brett Berquist, director International at The University of Auckland highlighted.

As in Australia, the NZ government has removed the 20 hours per week cap for international students working at supermarkets over the four-week lockdown period, and for students working in healthcare sector for a three-month period.

While this is welcome news, student group NZISA is also advocating for tuition fee reductions for the first half of 2020.

In a media release entitled International Student Fees: What are we paying for?, the group writes “The value of the education international students are currently receiving is disproportionate to the cost they are paying to institutions.”

It suggests fee reimbursements of 50% for the first half of the academic year (lockdown began in New Zealand on 26 March) and fee reductions for the second half of the year “in the event that the New Zealand government decides to maintain Alert Level 3 or 4 in response to Covid-19”.

Stakeholders have also warned education providers in the country to brace for a drop in new international enrolments due to the global pandemic.

The post NZ: Wage Subsidy Scheme open for int’l students appeared first on The PIE News.

Chronicle of Higher Education: The Pandemic Is Already Hitting Sectors Unevenly, Never Mind the Hitches in Federal Relief

Everyone’s worried about financial implications, but some college officials are trying to shore up enrollment while others are staring down an existential threat.

UK: int’l students call tuition payment “painful”

The PIE News - mer, 04/08/2020 - 04:59

Almost half of the international student respondents to a recent survey by payments company Flywire have said they wouldn’t recommend a university to others if they experienced difficulties during the payment process.

Conducted in 2019, the survey interviewed 166 international students from China, Indonesia, India, Nigeria and Vietnam currently studying in the UK.

“If the students don’t feel they are getting [a good payment experience], then it really can begin to influence their view of the university”

With 63% of students noting that a “slow and painful” tuition fee payment process would negatively impact their view of the university, the research suggests institutions need to find a broader range of payment options for students that are adapted to payment preferences in their home countries.

These findings are particularly significant as six out of 10 respondents claimed that their experience of paying fees had been problematic.

Common issues included 53% being worried about security, 70% about the ability to track payments and 19% saying they had experienced hidden or unexpected charges such as foreign exchange rate conversions and extra bank fees.

“Sometimes we see universities that might have gone to recruit students from a new country and haven’t considered at all how they’ll make payments. They need to consider that because it’s an overall part of the process,” Simon Read, vice president of education, EMEA at Flywire told The PIE News.

“What really came out within the survey was the feedback that if the students don’t feel they are getting [a good payment experience] then it really can begin to influence their view of the university.”

Four out of five international students want to be able to pay their tuition digitally, including 13% by mobile.

A further 86% expressed a desire to be able to use a payment method popular in their home country, such as Alipay or Wechat for Chinese students, while two thirds would like to pay using their home currency.

Read told The PIE that he believes universities need to also consider that in light of the coronavirus outbreak, digital payments are going to be more necessary than ever, adding that Flywire may look into running the survey again in the future to assess its impact.

“If there were universities right now still insisting on a standard traditional bank transfer for students that are in different countries, potentially they’re asking them to physically go to a bank to make payments in the world where people are in lockdown,” he explained.

“The move to digital really is fairly critical right now because we shouldn’t be asking anybody to leave their homes in countries where they’re not supposed to in order to do physical bank payments.”

The report can be viewed here.

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Canada unis help with student self-isolation

The PIE News - mer, 04/08/2020 - 03:47

Canadian universities have introduced a range of measures to help international and domestic students returning to Canada from study abroad to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering the country to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Canada revised its travel ban on the entry of foreign nationals last month to make exceptions for international students with permits issued before March 18.

“Universities across the country are…taking strong measures to encourage physical distancing”

At the University of Victoria in British Columbia, self-isolating students are being moved temporarily to private rooms with either private or specially designated bathroom facilities.

The university is also supplying masks, providing meal deliveries three times a day and encouraging students to stay in contact with friends and relatives digitally.

Similar measures can be seen on campuses across the country. The University of Alberta, Ontario Tech and the University of Calgary are also relocating students and trying to reduce the density in residential buildings and providing helplines for students in self-isolation.

“Universities across the country are following the directives of local, provincial and national health agencies and taking strong measures to encourage physical distancing,” Universities Canada president, Paul Davidson, told The PIE News.

“They are also reinforcing that all students, faculty and staff must self-isolate for 14 days if they are returning from travels, as directed by the federal government.”

The measures being taken are, however, limited to students staying in on-campus residences.

According to Statista, in 2018 only 15% of international students in Canada lived in university residences. Almost two-thirds rent accommodation either alone or with others, meaning that they are largely responsible for making their own arrangements.

“We’ve been assisting students who are returning and giving them the public health directives to self-isolate. We don’t expect these students to be returning to campus,” a spokesperson from the University of Waterloo told The PIE.

“For any of our students still in residence, about 900, we’ve put in social distancing measures and have space available for students should they need to self-isolate, which hasn’t happened at this point.”

Janice Johnson, assistant dean of Students (Residence) at the University of Alberta told The PIE that the health, safety, and well-being of students is the main priority.

“We understand that this is a difficult time for our students which is why we are continuing to provide support and resources for those who remain in our residences,” Johnson said.

“To maintain the safety of our residence community though, we are unable to accommodate temporary housing for non-residents who have been directed to self-monitor or self-isolate by Alberta health services.”

Johnson added that current residents who need to self-isolate are being accommodated and supported on a case-by-case basis, including current residents who have returned from travel abroad.

“We do want to provide support for those students who may be unable to return to their homes though, including our international students who may be unable to go home over the summer because of the COVID-19 outbreak in their home country.

“We understand that this is a difficult time for our students which is why we are continuing to provide support and resources”

“This is why our residences remain open, and why we are offering available temporary and long-term housing options to our students who may normally live off-campus,” she added.

Many international students have chosen to stay in their home countries and continue studying online rather than return immediately to Canada, despite measures put in place to support international students who are concerned about finances and visa issues.

The conditions which require self-isolation have also been expanded over the last few days. Several provinces, including Manitoba and Nova Scotia, have begun asking domestic travellers entering from other parts of the country to take the same measures as those returning from abroad.

Further north, travel bans are in place (with exceptions for residents and critical workers) in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

There have also been reports of people being turned back while trying to enter Quebec and Prince Edward Island, who have restricted entry to “essential travel” only.

Universities have additionally encouraged students to go online to avoid feeling completely isolated.

At the University of Toronto, one theatre and drama studies student has been performing Shakespeare via Zoom through an initiative called The Show Must Go Online, while others have been sharing advice from astronauts on how to cope with self-isolation.

The post Canada unis help with student self-isolation appeared first on The PIE News.

Universities store student items left in dorms over the summer

Inside Higher Ed - mer, 04/08/2020 - 00:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Professor pay is flat -- again

Inside Higher Ed - mer, 04/08/2020 - 00:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Variation in Pay and Benefits

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Who Earns Most, Where

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

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

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

1. Columbia University


2. Stanford University


3. Princeton University


4. Harvard University


5. University of Chicago


6. Yale University


7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology


8. University of Pennsylvania


9. Duke University


10. New York University



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

1. University of California, Los Angeles


2. University of California, Berkeley


3. University of California, Santa Barbara


4. Rutgers University at Newark


5. University of California, San Diego


6. University of California, Irvine


7. New Jersey Institute of Technology


8. University of Virginia


9. University of Texas at Austin


10. University of California, Davis



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

1. Barnard College


2. Claremont McKenna College


3. University of Richmond


4. Wellesley College


5. Pomona College


6. Wesleyan University


7. Swarthmore College


8. Harvey Mudd College


9. Colgate University


10. Williams College



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

1. Babson College


2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology


3. Stanford University


4. Harvard University


5. California Institute of Technology


6. University of Pennsylvania


7. Columbia University


8. University of Chicago


9. Bentley University


10. Duke University


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Roundup: Pessimistic outlooks, grad students and panda love

Inside Higher Ed - mer, 04/08/2020 - 00:00

Someone thinks there should be a study on why Tuesday is the worst day of the week. I have to agree. Congrats for making it to Wednesday.

The lockdown in Wuhan, China, is easing up, but we're not out of the woods. Some public health officials are urging people to follow stay-at-home orders now more than ever to continue to flatten the curve.

Let's have a little break from the grim news (before diving back in). Here are a few palate cleansers to start your day.

A Colorado animal sanctuary is holding virtual tours to satisfy your cute-animal fix.

Today's #loveinthetimeofcoronavirus award goes to these two pandas at the Hong Kong Zoo.

Feel free to post more happy distractions in the comments below.

Now let’s get to the news.

The coronavirus outbreak is going to hurt higher education for the next year, Moody's Investors Service predicts. A new report from the firm expects enrollment to be down in several countries, including the U.S.

Speaking of pessimism, a survey of college and university presidents found that most expect to lay off staff and reduce administrative budgets to survive the current recession.

Students are also thinking about their options. One in six who expected to enroll in a four-year institution in the fall are near the point of giving up, according to a survey. Two-thirds of graduating seniors are worried they won't be able to attend their first-choice colleges, as well.

Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator and former presidential candidate, has joined 11 other senators to ask private student loan companies to help borrowers by discharging as many delinquent loans as possible during the crisis. Private student loan relief was not included in the recent $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill.

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

The funding has been voted on and approved. Now advocates and college leaders worry it won't get to colleges in time, Kery Murakami writes.

Graduate students are facing some of the same dilemmas as faculty, but they aren't getting as much help, Colleen Flaherty reports.

Elizabeth Redden has a story on how colleges and universities are helping out their communities.

Students around the world -- except in China and Iran -- can take the Educational Testing Service's Test of English as a Foreign Language and the Graduate Record Examination at home, Scott Jaschik reports.

News from elsewhere

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a long read on the so-called ground zero of the coronavirus for higher education in the U.S. -- Seattle.

BuzzFeed has a handy guide for how Congress's recent legislation will affect your federal student loans.

How do college students really feel about pass/fail grading? The Washington Post has some insight.

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.

Two professionals in crisis communications say it's time to talk bluntly about college closures in The Hechinger Report.

The University of California system's president and the executive vice president of UC Health make the case for federal investment in research to fight off COVID-19.

Public health experts discuss what we need to do -- beyond stay-at-home orders -- to get through this pandemic in The New York Times.

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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Chronicle of Higher Education: ‘On a Desert Island With Your Students’: Professors Compare Notes on Teaching Remotely in a Pandemic

Instructors shared the particular challenges they’re facing this semester — and their approach to meeting them — during a recent virtual discussion.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Virtual Bingo and Minecraft Graduation: During the Pandemic, College Students Recreate Campus Life at Home

Young adults are back in their childhood bedrooms, missing out on the social aspects of spring semester. That hasn’t stopped them from trying to preserve beloved traditions.

Research Institutions Ask for $26 Billion

Inside Higher Ed - mar, 04/07/2020 - 14:50

Three national associations representing colleges and universities urged Congress on Tuesday to appropriate $26 billion in emergency funding for research universities, medical schools and teaching hospitals affected by the coronavirus epidemic.

In part, the money is needed to keep paying for graduate students, researchers and others who have had to stop their federally funded work during the pandemic.

“Much of our nation’s research workforce is effectively idled due to closed laboratories and severely limited research activities. While some are repurposing their efforts to aid in the fight against COVID-19 or attempting to analyze existing data and making other attempts at telework, for many more their federally supported research is delayed or will be set back because they are unable to access their laboratories and research facilities,” the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Association of American Universities, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the American Council on Education wrote in a letter to congressional leaders.

In addition, the research institutions are facing the costs of ramping down their facilities, including disposing of hazardous wastes, the letter said. They will also incur more costs when they are able to resume operations.

“Given the current shutdown of many university-based and national laboratories due to the pandemic, we are deeply concerned that the people who comprise the research workforce -- graduate students, postdocs, principal investigators, and technical support staff -- and the future health and strength of the U.S. research enterprise, are at risk,” the letter said.

Congress, which passed a $2 trillion stimulus package two weeks ago, is expected to take up another package when it returns from recess later this month.

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Call for Lottery-Style College Admissions

Inside Higher Ed - mar, 04/07/2020 - 13:50

Many colleges and universities have gone test optional in college admissions amid the coronavirus crisis, which also is wreaking havoc with large numbers of high school transcripts.

That combination likely means admissions staff members at selective colleges will have "extraordinary discretion" in making decisions about whom to admit, writes Rick Hess,

"Unleashed from the discipline imposed by an applicant’s grades, test scores and demonstrated accomplishment, college officials and admissions staff may be tempted to favor applicants with deep-pocketed parents, those who reflect their own personal or political biases, and those able to assemble a compelling file even when the world is in pieces (read: the privileged and connected)," he wrote in Forbes.

Hess called for an unprecedented experiment to try to level the playing field in admissions: a lottery-style process where applicants need only have a high school diploma or equivalent. It's not the first time Hess has proposed such a solution, which also has been suggested by New America.

"College admissions are a complicated, fraught challenge in the best of times. And these are not the best of times," wrote Hess. "If colleges are going to struggle to judge students fairly, in any event, it just may be time to try another approach to admissions -- and to make a virtue out of necessity."

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Chronicle of Higher Education: Disabled Students Already Faced Learning Barriers. Then Coronavirus Forced an Abrupt Shift to Online Classes.

As professors struggle to adapt to a whole new arena of teaching, advocates for the disabled have suggestions on how to make coursework accessible for all.

Outbreak Hurts Higher Ed Worldwide for Next Year, Moody's Says

Inside Higher Ed - mar, 04/07/2020 - 11:11

Moody’s Investors Service expects the coronavirus outbreak to have a negative effect on higher education worldwide for the next year, it said in a report out today.

Universities will face lower student demand and lost income, according to the bond ratings agency. Public institutions in the United States are at higher risk than others around the world in part because of the potential for government funding cuts. Lower investment income could also affect U.S. universities disproportionately because investment income is a higher percentage of income for U.S. universities than it is for others around the globe.

"We expect rated universities in all of our current jurisdictions -- U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Singapore and Mexico -- to enroll fewer students for the next academic year than planned, due to the outbreak," said Jeanne Harrison, vice president and senior analyst at Moody’s, in a statement. "In addition, if campuses remain closed for part of the year, income from residence halls, catering, conferences and sporting events will be lower than budgeted. Endowment and gift income may also decline."

Ramifications for college and university credit quality depends on how long the outbreak lasts, Moody’s said. If campuses can reopen for the upcoming academic year, damage to demand and institutional budgets will be manageable.

Also important to watch are international student flows, which will depend largely on conditions within individual countries. Most universities Moody’s rates rely heavily on Chinese students, who are 23 percent of international students globally.

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Democrats Call for Relief for Private Loan Borrowers

Inside Higher Ed - mar, 04/07/2020 - 09:26

Senator Elizabeth Warren and 11 other Democratic and Independent senators have written to student loan companies to urge them to offer help to borrowers with private student loans.

Private loan borrowers were left out of the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus bill, which allowed most other student loan borrowers to skip making payments for six months without interest. Congress also suspended involuntary collections of late payments, like garnishing wages, tax refunds and Social Security benefits.

In addition to suspending payments for an unspecified “parallel” amount of time to what other borrowers received, the senators urged the 14 companies in the letters to not seize payments, to discharge as many loans as possible of borrowers in bankruptcy or fiscal distress and to expand loan modification and affordable repayment options.

The Student Loan Servicing Alliance last week said nearly all private lenders are offering borrowers up to a three-month suspension from making payments.

The letter urges companies to cancel or discharge as many delinquent loans as possible during the crisis, especially for borrowers who have filed for bankruptcy or who are otherwise in clear financial distress that will inhibit their ability to ever fully repay their loans. It also calls for the companies to permanently provide additional, affordable repayment and loan modification options for private student loan borrowers, including options for borrowers who see long-term changes in their income.

"The outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in an unprecedented and widespread public health and economic crisis, significantly upending life for every American," the lawmakers wrote. "For private student loan borrowers, these economic disruptions will be uniquely devastating due to private student loan borrowers' lack of critical protections, forgiveness programs, and repayment options available to federal student loan borrowers."

In addition to Warren, of Massachusetts, the letters were signed by Senators Sherrod Brown, of Ohio, Massachusetts’ Edward Markey, California’s Kamala Harris, Hawaii’s Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, Illinois’s Richard Durbin, Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen, New Jersey’s Cory Booker, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, and Vermont’s Bernie Sanders.

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