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Higher Education News
Graham Spanier, the former president of Pennsylvania State University, was on Friday afternoon convicted by a jury of one felony count of child endangerment. The jury found him not guilty of another child endangerment count, and not guilty of conspiracy.
The counts stem from Spanier's response -- or lack of response -- to reports about Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant coach of the football team at Penn State who in 2011 was charged with dozens of counts of sexually abusing boys. Sandusky was convicted of 45 of the 48 charges against him in 2012.
Lawyers for Spanier did not call witnesses in the case, and said that the prosecution had failed to show that Spanier committed any crime, The Centre Daily Times reported. Jurors deliberated for more than six hours on Thursday and most of Friday before they reached a verdict.
Pennlive reported that Judge John Boccabella agreed that Spanier could remain free on bail, pending sentencing. Spanier could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.
Tim Curley, the former athletics director at Penn State, and Gary Schultz, the former senior vice president, were to have been co-defendants with Spanier. Instead, they pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment charges, and testified against Spanier, agreeing that they were obligated to have done more to prevent Sandusky's abuse. Spanier's defense was that he did not realize the full extent of Sandusky's actions against young boys. But prosecutors argued that he knew enough to make sure that Sandusky was reported to authorities, and that having done so might have saved some boys from being sexually abused by Sandusky.
Spanier was president of Penn State from 1995 to 2011, and was widely praised (prior to the Sandusky scandal) for building up the university, raising money ($3 billion over his tenure), starting new programs and generating positive publicity. On campus, Spanier was popular with students, performing as a musician and a magician. He hosted a call-in radio show. He was a national leader in higher education for much of the time he was president, chairing the board of the Association of American Universities, for example, and holding numerous important positions in the governance of college athletics.
Spanier was also something of an informal national spokesman for higher education on many issues, and he was known by reporters (including those at Inside Higher Ed) as one who returned calls and email messages -- and could speak eloquently on a wide range of issues.
A Scandal Breaks and Escalates
Spanier's response when the scandal became public in November of 2011 angered many. His first statement spent more time defending the two senior officials who were charged with perjury (Curley and Schultz) than it did on the crimes of which Sandusky was indicted (and later convicted): dozens of counts of sexual abuse of young boys.
"The allegations about a former coach are troubling, and it is appropriate that they be investigated thoroughly. Protecting children requires the utmost vigilance," Spanier said at the time. "With regard to the other presentments, I wish to say that Tim Curley and Gary Schultz have my unconditional support. I have known and worked daily with Tim and Gary for more than 16 years. I have complete confidence in how they have handled the allegations about a former university employee. Tim Curley and Gary Schultz operate at the highest levels of honesty, integrity and compassion. I am confident the record will show that these charges are groundless and that they conducted themselves professionally and appropriately."
Despite Spanier's support, the university announced the next day that they had resigned.
A few days later, the board dismissed Spanier, and the legendary football coach Joe Paterno.
Penn State commissioned a report -- known as the Freeh report for its chief author, Louis Freeh, a former FBI director and federal judge -- on the university's role in the Sandusky crimes. The report was issued in 2012 and was critical of many Penn State officials, including Spanier. The report -- which Spanier subsequently blasted as unfair -- noted that Spanier, Curley and Schultz had talked about reporting Sandusky to authorities years before he was charged, but opted not to do so.
The report also criticized Penn State and its leaders for a culture about athletics that discouraged scrutiny. “For the past several decades, the university’s athletic department was permitted to become a closed community. There was little personnel turnover or hiring from outside the university and strong internal loyalty,” the report said. “The athletic department was perceived by many in the Penn State community as ‘an island,’ where staff members lived by their own rules.”
Later in 2012, Spanier said that he could not have ignored Sandusky's abuse, had he known about it, because Spanier himself had been a victim of "persistent abuse as a child."
The Sandusky scandal and the responsibility of senior Penn State officials continues to be a divisive issue. Many football fans continue to revere Paterno. But in 2016, many advocates for victims of childhood sex abuse were outraged when the university commemorated the 50th anniversary of Paterno becoming head coach.Editorial Tags: AthleticsBreaking NewsCollege administrationImage Source: Associated PressImage Caption: Graham Spanier, during a break in his trial Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Arizona State University will spend “well more than $100 million” over the next few years to renovate and rethink its libraries, the clearest indication yet of how the library fits into the institution’s plan for the public research university of the future.
The university later this year plans to close the Hayden Library on its Tempe campus for a two-year renovation. At the same time, the university will continue to work on expanding the library resources and services available to its roughly 26,000 degree-seeking online students and the hundreds of thousands more taking at least one class online from the university.
“The library has never been more important,” President Michael M. Crow said in an interview. “The library turns out to be absolutely central to our logic of building our educational enterprise -- central in the sense that it is the tool which connects our students wherever they are.”
Plans for renovations have been in the works for years, but now, Crow said, "We have the green light. We're moving ahead. And we don't move slowly."
Many other universities are reorganizing their libraries as they see an increase in the use of electronic resources and demand for cafes, multimedia classrooms, maker spaces, writing centers and other spaces devoted to teaching, learning and research. ASU, which under Crow's leadership has relentlessly pursued an innovation agenda, joins their ranks to argue for the benefits of libraries at a time when federal funding is on the cutting block.
The university in October 2014 hired James J. O’Donnell, a classical scholar who previously served as provost at Georgetown University, to lead the university library through the reorganization process. In an interview, he said one of his priorities since taking the job has been to figure out what to do with the 4.5 million physical items in the library’s collections.
“It’s time to realize that all of our users are primarily online users of our collections,” O’Donnell said. Reorganizing a university library around that concept “means changing your service model, your staffing structure and organization, and bringing in a bunch of new people,” he said.
Some of those new people might be embedded at EdPlus, ASU's innovation unit, or might work with instructional designers to embed library resources into course syllabi. O’Donnell said he hopes to hire around 25 people, bringing the library staff up to about 200 people.
The university last year received a $50,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support that work. O’Donnell said he plans for the renovated library to highlight a “carefully chosen print collection.” Its special collections feature prominently in those plans, as they will be moved from their current location “hidden away on the fourth floor” to the main floor, he said.
“We want it to be a place that says libraries are important because libraries have the good stuff,” O’Donnell said. “Libraries have and manage access to the best-quality learning and research resources, and we have the wizards to help you find what you need. We can take you to lots and lots of places that the open internet just can’t plain take you, and we can show you how to get there.”
O’Donnell also said the library is considering a future in which it will feature smaller “thematic exhibits” with accompanying events on a rotating basis. One semester might be devoted to Italy; the next, sustainability.
The library is taking some cues from the retail world on how to design the rotating exhibits to invite visitors to attend and explore, O’Donnell said. The retail angle extends to how the library is talking about its operations. The library will store the rest of its collections in off-site shelving on its Polytechnic campus, some 20 miles away from the Hayden Library. But librarians don’t refer to the off-site shelving as “storage,” he said. Instead, they are being encouraged by Crow to see it as a “fulfillment center,” similar to those used by online retailers.
An informational website that the university set up to raise awareness about the library renovation completes the comparison to Amazon. It explains that books “will remain accessible to the ASU community through expedited delivery options similar to the Amazon Prime service.”
“I’m hoping even that we can get to the point where we can have all the books on same-day delivery,” Crow said, adding that the university is open to testing technologies such as delivery by drone in the future to make it possible.
Off-site storage has become a popular solution for university libraries looking to free up some space by removing stacks. The Georgia Institute of Technology, for example, is engaged in its own library renovation project that involves moving virtually all of its physical books to a facility it shares with nearby Emory University (but keeping some as a “visual cue,” administrators said last year).
Irene M. H. Herold, president of the Association of College & Research Libraries, said in an interview that the trend of using off-site storage is one example of how the university library profession is changing.
“Our focus is where it has been all along,” said Herold, university librarian at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “We’re not just knowledge preservers and information-literacy, critical-thinking instructors. We’re also engaged in knowledge creation. It’s just that the knowledge that’s being created is able to be accessed and shaped and shared in such different ways than in the past.”
When it reopens in 2019, the Hayden Library will be a “comfortable, homely and welcoming” place that encourages and helps students succeed academically, O’Donnell said. The renovated building will ditch the traditional single entrance in favor of multiple points of access and egress and feature some food options to take advantage of its central location on campus.
O’Donnell expanded on his vision for the renovated building in an email. “I want a building that is a showplace (a sign of ASU's academic and achievement) and a showcase (a place to make people aware of library treasures and resources and of the achievements of student and faculty partners) and a showroom (a place for users to go to find out about and road test and learn how to use information resources for best contribution to academic work and ambition).”Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: LibrariesImage Source: Arizona State UniversityIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Berkeley again accused of protecting reputation of star professor instead of acting on reports of harassment
It’s more bad news for both a discipline and an institution that have been plagued by reports of sexual harassment and assault in recent years: a former research assistant is suing the University of California for failing to properly address her report of misconduct against a star philosopher on the Berkeley campus.
The lawsuit, filed this week in a county court, alleges that John R. Searle, Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Language, forced himself on and groped the assistant, then continued to harass her until she was summarily terminated. The assistant allegedly reported the initial incident and other behaviors to the director of the John Searle Center for Social Ontology, where she was working, but says that employees sought to protect Searle instead.
Searle and an employee named in the complaint and have not responded to the allegations, either to Inside Higher Ed or local reporters covering the story. The university said in a statement late Thursday that while it can't comment on individual ongoing cases, "we want to be certain that the campus community is aware of the care we take in handling such cases."
Inside Higher Ed does not typically name alleged victims of sexual misconduct, but the plaintiff, Joanna Ong, has been public about her case. Ong, a 2014 graduate of Berkeley, began working at the center after taking a class with Searle during her undergraduate studies and establishing a mentor-style relationship with Searle’s graduate student instructor at the time. More precisely, Ong wanted experience working in academe before entering graduate school, and her mentor, who had since been named director of Searle’s center, allegedly offered her a $1,000-per-month position as a research associate. Searle himself offered Ong an additional $3,000 per month to cover her living expenses, according to the complaint.
Ong says the job -- mostly clerical work but always in close quarters with Searle -- went well for a week. Searle in that time talked with her about her interest in philosophy and reassured her that her living costs and other needs during graduate school (which she plans to begin this fall) would be taken care of, urging that they have a relationship based on -- in his words -- "total trust," according to the complaint.
After a week, in July 2016, Searle allegedly assaulted Ong in his office, locking his door and groping her. He slid his hands down her back to her buttocks and told Ong that they would be “lovers,” that he had an “emotional commitment to making her a public intellectual,” and that he was “going to love her for a long time,” the lawsuit says.
Ong says she was shocked and immediately rejected his advances by saying that her interest in him was intellectual and that she would not be his lover. Searle allegedly apologized and told her to “forget it.”
The professor paid Ong $3,000 for her first month of work, as agreed, according to the complaint, and allegedly told her to keep working while he went on vacation. After he left, Ong says she reported the assault to the Searle Center director, Jennifer Hudin; Hudin allegedly told her that she’d protect her from Searle’s advances, and that he was known to have sexual relationships with students and others “in exchange for academic, financial or other benefits.” She didn’t tell Ong to report her concerns to university officials, however, according to the complaint.
Ong’s work environment became increasingly “hostile and awkward” when Searle returned from vacation, she says, as Searle allegedly acted like nothing had happened between them and cut her pay essentially in half by beginning to pay her an hourly rate of $15 with no notice or stated reason.
Searle also behaved inappropriately around Ong, she says, asking her to log on to a website called Sugar Baby, Sugar Daddy, watching internet pornography in front of her, and responding to a comment about American imperialism like this: “Oh boy, that sounds great, honey! Let’s go to bed and do that right now.” (Ong, who is a Asian-American, believes that was a reference to her race.)
In early September, Ong reported to Hudin what was happening, and complained about her pay cut. Hudin allegedly said she’d talk to Searle, but later said she couldn’t address the issues with “upper management” out of respect and loyalty for Searle, and a need to "protect" him.
Later that month, Hudin alleged told Ong her services were no longer needed at the center, even though she’d allegedly left a higher-paying job in San Francisco to work at Berkeley.
Ong’s accusing the university system’s Board of Regents and Searle of quid pro quo sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation and wrongful termination. She’s suing Searle individually for assault, seeking a trial by jury and unspecified damages.
BuzzFeed originally reported Ong’s story, writing that Searle abruptly stopped teaching undergraduates earlier this month with the university citing “personal reasons.” A university spokesperson declined to provide any additional information Thursday, including whether he is still in contact with graduate students.
Carla Hesse, Berkeley's interim lead on sexual misconduct issues, said in a statement that, in general, an investigation is launched once the campus Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination is made aware allegations. The process includes "taking immediate interim steps to ensure the complainant's concerns regarding safety, employment issues or other matters are addressed," she said. "Steps may also be taken to ensure that a complainant is not required, in the conduct of their campus duties, to come into contact with a faculty member alleged to have violated policy."
The California system and Berkeley, in particular, have received much negative attention in recent years over reports of sexual harassment by professors and insufficient institutional responses. Geoff Marcy, a well-known astronomer, for example, was forced to resign in 2015 after news broke that he’d been found to have harassed a number of female graduate students over many years -- but was still allowed to teach. More recently, the UC system released records showing it had disciplined more than 100 employees systemwide for sexual misconduct over a three-year period, including many professors.
California has recently taken major steps to address sexual harassment and assault by professors, including by explicitly making it a violation of the faculty code of conduct and shoring up timelines for taking disciplinary action after reports of misconduct. System President Janet Napolitano has said she wants California to become a national leader on issues surrounding Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination in education. But that goal becomes harder to reach with each new allegation.
Philosophy, too, has been rocked by complaints of harassment and disciplinary permissiveness toward harassment. Ong’s story, for example, is strikingly similar to another alleged case of harassment in philosophy, at Yale University. There, too, a recent alumna said she was promised a good job working as an assistant to Thomas Pogge, another well-known professor of philosophy. But the job ended when she rebuffed his sexual advances, she said. Pogge has denied the claims.
Neither Hudin nor Searle immediately responded to a request for comment Thursday. The Berkeley spokesperson, Janet Gilmore, said campus leaders “are dedicated to fostering a community where sexual harassment and sexual assault is never tolerated. We are continuously working to improve our efforts, and much progress has been made.”
Berkeley reportedly denied two earlier requests from BuzzFeed to make public information about sexual misconduct claims against Searle. The university reportedly said that it could not “confirm or deny” that any complaints against Searle had been made, and that it was not in the public interest to turn over documents “where there has been no finding of employee misconduct,” as it would “constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”Editorial Tags: Sexual assaultWomenImage Caption: John R. SearleIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
The director of McGill University’s Institute for the Study of Canada has resigned from his post after a magazine column he wrote about "social malaise" in Quebec came under heavy criticism, including from the province’s premier.
In announcing his resignation on social media, Andrew Potter, a former newspaper editor with a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Toronto, cited “the ongoing negative reaction within the university community and the broader public to my column” as the reason. He has apologized for aspects of the column.
Because I can't figure out Facebook, here's my resignation statement: pic.twitter.com/kbevPAyYuz— Andrew Potter (@jandrewpotter) March 23, 2017
“This has been the dream job of a lifetime, but I have come to the conclusion that the credibility of the institute will be best served by my resignation,” Potter wrote. He will continue in his position as an associate professor in the Faculty of Arts at McGill, one of Canada's leading universities.
News about Potter's resignation immediately raised speculation about whether Potter was pushed out and concerns about academic freedom at McGill -- concerns that the university's leader described as "unfounded." The university was, however, quick to disassociate itself from Potter's piece.
Potter did not respond to Inside Higher Ed's request for an interview. The Canadian news magazine Maclean’s, which published Potter's offending column, cited unnamed sources saying that "McGill endured such intense backlash over Potter’s Maclean’s piece that the university left him only two choices: resign or be fired."
“If it is true that the McGill administration bowed to external pressure and forced Professor Potter to step down, then this would be one of the most serious violations of academic freedom in recent years,” David Robinson, the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said in a statement. “Universities have an absolute obligation to protect and defend the academic freedom of their faculty from outside influences.”
In a public message, McGill's principal and vice chancellor (the equivalent of president), Suzanne Fortier, said the board of the institute accepted Potter's resignation "regretfully." She wrote that Potter's "resignation provoked unfounded rumors and concerns regarding academic freedom," which she described as a "foundational principle" for the university.
"The mission of MISC is to promote a better understanding of Canada through the study of our heritage and to support the study of Canada across the country and internationally," Fortier wrote. "Professor Potter recognized that he had failed to uphold this mission and that the 'credibility of the institute would be best served by his resignation.'"
A McGill spokesman said that Fortier would not be granting interviews and declined to answer questions beyond published statements from Fortier and the institute.
Potter's controversial Maclean's column, which was published Monday, offers a dim view of Quebec's society as lacking in social cohesion. Potter takes as his starting point for the piece the stranding of hundreds of cars on a Montreal highway during a snowstorm last week and argues that the stranding "reveals the essential malaise eating away at the foundations of Quebec society."
In making the case that, compared to the rest of Canada, "Quebec is an almost pathologically alienated and low-trust society, deficient in many of the most basic forms of social capital that other Canadians take for granted," Potter cites statistics related to volunteerism rates, civic engagement and social isolation; discusses the scale of the province's underground, cash-only economy; and describes the lack of "proper" uniforms worn by protesting police officers and the "on strike" stickers plastered on Quebec's emergency response vehicles as having a corroding effect on public trust in institutions.
Potter has apologized for parts of the column, saying in his resignation statement that “I deeply regret many aspects” of it, including “its sloppy use of anecdotes, its tone and the way it comes across as deeply critical of the entire province.”
He previously issued an apology for what he described as “rhetorical flourishes that go beyond what is warranted by either the facts or my own beliefs," according to the Montreal Gazette, which quoted from the earlier apology statement. Maclean's also issued two factual corrections.
"I think the op-ed itself was poorly executed, but that’s beside the point, because academic freedom also means that researchers can be wrong," said Emmett Macfarlane, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Waterloo. "The proper forum for correcting errors is in scholarly or public debate, and that actually happened in this instance. But then suddenly he’s issuing a resignation. I think that’s a huge failure on the part of McGill administration."
Macfarlane wrote a piece that appeared in Maclean's characterizing a McGill University tweet distancing itself from Potter's views as "chilling." The tweet, below, was issued by the university's official account on Tuesday, prior to Potter's resignation.March 21, 2017
“I think it's an outrage," Macfarlane said Thursday of Potter's resignation. "I think this is a real scandal for McGill University, which has completely failed to protect its core academic mission and the principle of academic freedom.”
“Mr. Potter has been undoubtedly pressured at the very least to resign following the articulation of an unpopular and controversial argument in the public sphere,” Macfarlane said. “Academic freedom is expressly there to protect against that. Our ability to learn, to create knowledge as researchers, depends on our ability to examine things from a minority perspective, from an unpopular or outside-the-mainstream position. To have effectively sanctioned a scholar at their university for writing an op-ed that outraged people, that created obvious political pressure on the university, is an overt failure and violation of that principle.”
Michael Byers, the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia, also criticized McGill's response in an op-ed in The Globe and Mail. "First, they publicly stated that Mr. Potter’s views did not represent the university’s views. But great universities do not have views. Instead, they provide a venue -- safe from prejudice and persecution -- in which intellectuals, including students, can gather to develop, debate and express knowledge, insights and opinions," Byers wrote.
"Second, by stating that Mr. Potter’s views did not represent McGill’s views, the administrators were implicitly criticizing him, at a time when he was already under intense public pressure to retract his column and apologize. A great university would have rushed to support his right to speak," Byers continued.
"Third, McGill allowed the controversy to become a resigning matter, thus turning a bad mistake into a scar on its reputation. The scar will be larger if it turns out that senior administrators pressured Mr. Potter into resigning. If they themselves succumbed to pressure from politicians or donors, the damage could be crippling."
Terry Hébert, the president of the McGill Association of University Teachers and a professor in the department of pharmacology and therapeutics, said that while he does not know the details of what happened, he is saddened that Potter resigned -- and he would be angered if he found out university administrators encouraged or compelled him to.
“I don’t know what to make of his resignation,” Hébert said. “I’ve asked people in the university if he was fired or encouraged to resign; the one person that I spoke with said no.” That person is highly placed, Hébert said, “but they’re not right at the top and they probably don’t hear every discussion. I’ve asked the principal and the provost and I haven’t heard from them, either. I think they’re just hoping this whole thing will blow over.”
“I would have thought the apology would have been sufficient, but I don’t know him. I don’t know how much self-regret there was there and how much he thought that this compromised his ability to do his job as the head of the institute. Only he knows that,” Hébert said.
A petition on Change.org that originally called for Potter's firing -- which only received 24 signatures -- argued that his apology was insufficient given his role as director of an institute focused on the study of Canada. "We call on Principal Suzanne Fortier and the McGill Board of Governors to acknowledge that an institute with the mission of promoting understanding of Canada's pluralistic society and values cannot have a director who demonstrates prejudiced opinions and sloppy academic rigor in his approach to public dialogue and commentary," the petition states. "The public attention that this incident has received will ultimately tarnish the reputation of the institute unless further action is taken."
Potter's column had come under fire from, among others, the province's highest political figure. Quebec's premier, Philippe Couillard, described it to reporters as "an article of very poor quality," according to the CBC.
"It aims to paint a negative portrait of Quebec, based on prejudices," Couillard reportedly said.
Potter came to McGill for what was to be a three-year term directing the institute in August 2016. A university announcement about his hiring cited his "reputation as a public intellectual in Canada and his experience as an editor at a major metropolitan newspaper," The Ottawa Citizen.
The university press release about Potter's hiring describes the institute's programs as follows: "The institute runs an academic program at McGill, supports an active research environment and organizes a variety of large-scale, public events on matters of interest to Canadians. These include MISC's annual conferences, which attract a great deal of attention from policy makers, media and the general public. While the institute itself is nonpartisan, MISC is no stranger to debate and controversy."Academic FreedomGlobalInternational Higher EducationEditorial Tags: Academic freedomCanadaInternational higher educationImage Source: McGill UniversityImage Caption: Andrew PotterIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
When people talk about free community college, they’re most likely thinking about tuition-free programs like those in Tennessee or the one proposed by President Obama, which focus on getting students to an associate degree with as little debt as possible.
But in Indiana, a new proposal -- the Workforce Ready Grant -- would instead offer free community college to those students who want a certificate in a high-demand field. While the certificates would vary by program, they typically take anywhere from 18 to 34 credit hours to complete or at most one year for a full-time student.
“We’re aware of what’s happening in Tennessee and other states, but we wanted to send a message to Hoosiers that if you come back and get a certificate in a high value area … then we will pay for it,” said Teresa Lubbers, Indiana’s commissioner for higher education.
Indiana projects that by 2025 the state will have about one million job openings due to retirements and new positions. But there are approximately 1.4 million working-age Hoosiers with a high school education or less. About 750,000 of the state’s residents have some college, but no associate degree or higher, and, of that population, about 170,000 have some kind of certificate.
The focus on college as a means not only for a degree but work force development is one the Trump administration and some academics seem to agree on.
The state has determined that a high-value certificate is one that has “high job placement, high completion rate, high wage and high demand.” Some of those potential certificates would be in the following fields: automation and robotics technology, medical office administration, supply chain management logistics, certified nursing assistant, welding, or commercial driver’s license.
Indiana only has two public institutions that provide two-year degrees and certificates -- Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University.
The Workforce Ready Grant would be a last-dollar program, where students would first use federal and state aid to cover the cost of college before using the grant aid, but the state plans to award the grant to all adults regardless of financial need. The Legislature and governor’s office are considering paying $2 million a year for the grant program. The state would only cover up to two years, and the cost of certificates is determined by the college's tuition per credit hour. For instance, Indiana residents at Ivy Tech paid $135.15 per credit hour last year.
Lubbers said there is a separate adult student grant paid for with existing money, and with the last-dollar component, the state is convinced it will be able to cover the costs.
And because the initiative could be appealing to working adults, there’s an opportunity for employers to provide tuition assistance.
“We used to hear employers say that if they trained and educated [employees] they would leave, but we don’t hear that anymore,” Lubbers said. “Now we hear that if we don’t train or scale them up, we can’t produce a product or services.”
Indiana has been trying to encourage more adults to go back to school. Last year the state launched the You Can Go Back initiative, which provides $1,000 in assistance to adult students. So far, more than 9,000 people have re-enrolled in college through that program.
The state has already seen an increase in the number of Indiana residents earning certificates. Since 2012, the state has increased certificates awarded by 32 percent, from 12,910 to 17,046. And 55 percent of the state’s certificate earners have gone on to complete an associate degree, while 25 percent have earned multiple certificates in the same year.
That growth in certificates is reflective of a nationwide trend to move toward quick credentials as they become more popular.
“Certificates are the fastest-growing award in postsecondary education, and that’s because the skill requirements at entry-level positions for what used to be high school jobs have increased, in part because they’ve shifted from manufacturing into service functions,” said Anthony Carnevale, a research professor and director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “What Indiana is doing makes a good deal of sense, and it’s powerful. It breaks away from the American fascination with the high-school-to-Harvard pathway as the only pathway available to students.”
Lubbers said it’s common to hear adult students, in particular, complain that the barrier to pursuing a degree is the general education requirements that often come attached to programs that lead to a career.
But there are some areas of concern that students should be aware of before they pursue a certificate.
For instance, certificates tend to hold more value for men than they do for women, because the more valuable certificates tend to be in male-dominated industries, Carnevale said.
And if students want to pursue degrees or stack the certificates so they’re adding additional skills to their repertoire, they will be able to do that with the certificates Indiana awards, Lubbers said.
“Even the credits from a stackable certificate will often not be transfer worthy after a few years,” said Mary Alice McCarthy, director of the Center on Education and Skills for New America. “That’s one reason why certificates that lead to occupational licenses or industry certifications can be more valuable than just stand-alone certificates, even if they are for credit.”
Meanwhile, Ivy Tech officials are looking forward to seeing more students in its system embracing certificates. The system expects that it may have to increase health-care programs in order to meet the demand, as well, said Mary Jane Michalak, vice president of government relations at Ivy Tech.
“A work force certification and work force training and certificates are just as important and can be just as lucrative as bachelor’s degrees, and in some cases, students who graduate with a certificate will come out of college immediately making more than those pursuing a bachelor’s degree,” she said. “We need individuals at all levels, and it’s important we connect adults to the jobs that are available.”Community CollegesEditorial Tags: Financial aidTuitionIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
On Nov. 24, 2016, the great and the good of Colombian higher education made their way through Bogotá’s noise, congestion and pollution, past the graffiti murals of exotic birds, serpents and mythological scenes, to a plush reception hosted by the U.S. Embassy.
The occasion was a Thanksgiving lunch. But the Colombians could surely have been forgiven if they preferred to give thanks not so much for the American harvest as for the dividend they hope to reap from the revised peace deal their government had signed that very day with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Marxist guerrilla organization infamous for its more than half century of involvement in kidnappings, extortion and the drug trade.
The deal -- whose original version had been rejected by Colombian voters in a referendum the previous month -- was ratified by the country’s Parliament within a week. And the higher education sector is poised to carry out the research and establish the access programs that will help clarify issues of social justice and reintegrate the ex-combatants: tasks likely to be crucial in building long-term peace.
But as well as fulfilling this national agenda, many leaders of higher education institutions are hoping the more stable postconflict environment will also enable them to become more effective players within global higher education. Indeed, the reason the U.S. ambassador was able to gather so many of them together for stuffed turkey and pumpkin pie was that they were already in Bogotá -- once reputed to be among the most dangerous big cities in the world -- to attend the eighth Latin America and the Caribbean Higher Education Conference, which was devoted to the theme of internationalization.
Still, the dining room would have had to be the size of a university refectory to accommodate the close to 300 leaders of the country’s complicated tertiary education system. The system includes 82 universities, as well as assorted “university institutions” (that award only undergraduate degrees), technological institutions and professional technical institutions. Claudia Aponte González, a consultant who works with Colombia’s ministry of national education, told the conference that the ministry is committed to promoting internationalization but had struggled to come up with a one-size-fits-all model. There were institutions located in border cities; institutions committed to “Bolivarian” pan-Andean ideals; institutions that offered only online courses; institutions focused on regional development; institutions in special territories such as small Caribbean islands; even institutions in places where the climate was so bad that the ministry had never managed to send someone to carry out an assessment. Each had different ideas about what internationalization should mean for them.
Major attempts at reform in the sector have proceeded in parallel with the long peace negotiations. President Juan Manuel Santos’s National Development Plan for 2014-18, Todos por un nuevo país (All for a New Country), established education, alongside peace and equity, as one of its three pillars. Santos -- the winner of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize -- has also announced an ambitious aspiration for Colombia to be the best-educated country in Latin America by 2025. Perhaps the most obvious practical consequence of this has been a laborious, ongoing process to streamline the country’s system of qualifications, improve the status of technical education and create new pathways into universities.
Common Issues for Latin America
For international higher education consultant Liz Reisberg (an Inside Higher Ed blogger), many of the challenges facing the equatorial nation apply across much of Latin America.
“All countries are responding to the challenges of massification, which started 20 to 30 years ago,” she said. “Higher education went from being an elite enterprise to trying to incorporate anywhere between 30 and 60 percent of the age cohort. [It is currently in the region of 50 percent in Colombia.] The traditional universities just couldn’t accommodate that …. Most of the ministries backed off on the restrictions on setting up universities and allowed very rapid growth with very little quality control.”
As the dust has settled, Reisberg said, most countries established systems of quality control. That includes Colombia, and the nation is also notable for “a pretty well-established private sector,” whose elite tier has a level of research productivity on a par with that of the public universities, she says.
Strength at the Top
Indeed, there seems to be general agreement about the strength of the top Colombian universities. Four institutions -- the University of the Andes, the University of Antioquia, the Universidad del Norte and the Pontifical Bolivarian University (UPB), Medellín -- feature among the top 50 in Times Higher Education’s rankings of Latin American universities for 2016. That is more than any other country except Chile (11 institutions) and the regional giants Brazil (23 institutions) and Mexico (eight). Citation data provided by Elsevier also suggest that Colombia is quickly increasing its research output, whose quality bears comparison with the strongest performers in the region, especially in physics and astronomy.
Colombia was identified last year by Times Higher Education as one of seven nations with the potential to become significant players in global higher education. This was on account of its respectable research quality, its increasing research output and its high and growing student enrollment rate.
A report called “Education in Colombia,” published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development last April, also praises many aspects of Colombian higher education. However, it is highly critical of the country’s “outdated, inequitable and inefficient” system for distributing public resources. Established in 1992, this system allocates 48 percent of the entire budget for public universities to just three of the 32 institutions, and leaves 20 out of 39 public technical colleges without “regular” subsidies. Given that total student numbers have more than quadrupled since 1992, the system’s “rigidity, lack of definition and scope” make it a major obstacle to progress, the report says.
Impact of the Civil Unrest
Colombia’s long decades of civil unrest are, of course, another important background factor to take into account when assessing its higher education. In a Ph.D. thesis titled “Conflict, Postconflict and the Functions of the University: Lessons From Colombia and Other Armed Conflicts,” awarded by Boston College in 2013, education consultant Ivan Pacheco describes how the conflict was “part of the day-to-day life” of many public universities. “Struggles for the political and economic control of campuses have been bloody and claimed several victims,” he said. In one case, about 50 academics and students were kidnapped by guerrillas; elsewhere they were “killed, tortured and disappeared.”
Precisely because of the “almost unquestioned prevalence of the left-wing ideology on campuses,” Pacheco explained, the extreme right also “decided to take over some public universities, particularly in the north of the country.” Meanwhile, universities’ very autonomy could make them “more attractive to outlaw groups …. Corrupt politicians have attempted (and sometimes been able) to gain administrative and political control of these institutions.”
Anyone who visits Bogotá’s “White City” will take Pacheco’s point about “left-wing ideology.” This is the main campus of the National University of Colombia, close to the center of the capital. Surrounded by a fence, it covers an area of 600 acres, complete with observatory, stadium, children’s playground, pop-up cafe, restaurant and white faculty buildings. At its heart, where little stalls sell food, is the Francisco de Paula Santander Plaza, more often known as the Che Plaza, on account of the huge painting of Che Guevara on a facade opposite the library.
The leftism of student activists was also apparent in their opposition to plans to reform the sector -- including the system for distributing funding -- embarked on a year after President Santos took office in 2010. According to the OECD report, the protesters objected to only “one highly controversial clause -- to allow for-profit tertiary education institutions,” but the volume of their opposition “caused the whole … reform proposal to fail.”
There seem to be no current plans to revive the reforms.
A rather different figure from Che Guevara greets visitors to the Bogotá campus of Uniminuto, perhaps the only university in the world named after a television program. This was established by a Roman Catholic priest, the Reverend Rafael García Herreros, famous throughout Colombia during his lifetime because of his daily one-minute “God slot.” When a vacant lot was donated to him, he created a whole district on the outskirts of the city, complete with houses, textile workshops and even a museum of contemporary art, which looks like a miniature version of the snail-shaped Guggenheim Museum in New York. It was also here that he established a university “inspired by the Gospel and the church’s social mission” to provide “quality education within reach of everyone.” It now has branches in 85 cities and teaches 120,000 students. Distance learning, online courses and evening classes help it to reach out to the underprivileged indigenous communities in remote cities and other groups largely ignored by the rest of the sector. Scholarships helped to support almost 90,000 students in 2015 alone.
‘Who Do We Leave Behind?’
This points to another key educational challenge Colombia faces: social exclusion. In the words of J. Salvador Peralta, associate professor of political science at the University of West Georgia, the central question in Latin American higher education is “Who do we leave behind?” Like several other countries, Colombia has “much more demand for higher education than [it] can possibly supply efficiently and at a high quality.” This has led to “very difficult questions about where to allocate resources to get the most return for [its] money.”
The government’s flagship policy for widening access, known as Ser Pilo Paga (Hard Work Pays Off), has given 10,000 scholarships a year since 2014 to pupils from poorer backgrounds who achieve excellent results in the national school-leaving exams. A new student loan program was also introduced in 2015.
Pablo Navas Sanz de Santamaría, rector of the University of the Andes, calls Ser Pilo Paga a “very, very significant” initiative that had “an immediate impact in making universities much more inclusive and diverse." His university has also secured philanthropic funding for other programs targeting similar underprivileged groups. As a result, says Navas, “42 percent of those selected last semester” to study at the university now come from such backgrounds.
Internationalization is not an entirely novel concept in Colombia. According to Elsevier, the proportion of the country’s papers that were internationally co-authored between 2011 and 2015 is high: 46 percent.
“Internationalization is absolutely crucial for us,” Marta Losada, president of the city’s Antonio Narino University, told Times Higher Education. “We put in a strategy 10 years ago to sign up faculty without Ph.D.s to go abroad [to do a doctorate], and [we] see lots of international collaboration as a result.” The university is now following this up with “a strategy to hire people with doctoral degrees from all over the world.” Losada is actively pursuing partnerships in the Spanish-speaking world but is also keen to “implement more programs in other languages, particularly English, over the next 10 years.”
Alberto Roa is vice president for academic affairs at the Universidad del Norte, a private university set up in 1966 in the Caribbean region. His institution is also committed to a comprehensive approach to internationalization, which “seeks not only to increase the inbound and outbound mobility of students and faculty, but also to work on internationalization at home, in order to have a global environment on the campus.” International conferences, events and courses in English are among the measures adopted to “strengthen global citizenship skills in our students.”
External partners confirm the effectiveness of such strategies. David Wilson, professor of human developmental genetics at the University of Southampton, attended the recruitment fair accompanying the higher education conference, looking for Colombian postgraduate students in areas well beyond his own specialist field.
Mike Proctor, vice president for international affairs at the University of Arizona, is similarly enthusiastic. His university is seriously engaged with about half a dozen Colombian universities and he claims that Colombia’s research universities “are fabulous universities and on a par with anybody.” Many of Arizona’s Colombian contacts are “world-class global scholars, presenting multilingually at conferences and publishing in Nature,” he adds.
Yet it is safe to say that this excellence represents the tip of the iceberg. Apart from the funding system, which does nothing to incentivize efficiency, the OECD report also laments the comparatively low academic abilities of typical Colombian high schoolers; the high dropout rates from universities; the low proportions of undergraduates going on to postgraduate study; and the “lack of employer engagement in the governance and delivery of [tertiary education].” Ministry figures indicate that, as of 2012, there were only seven people per million in Colombia holding doctoral degrees, compared with 31 in Chile, 42 in Mexico and 69 in Brazil. The Latin American average is 37.
Quality assurance also remains somewhat cumbersome. At the most basic level, all institutions and programs are required to meet minimal standards in order to be certified. Universities can also apply for voluntary high-quality accreditation, but, given that it has little public recognition, many have not felt it worth the effort to go through the laborious process. In mid-2015, a further instrument known as the Modelo de Indicadores del Desempeño de la Educación (Model Performance Indicators for Education) was introduced. According to critics, this imposition from on high lacks transparency and amounts to a ranking of Colombian universities based on criteria that implicitly penalize those, such as Uniminuto, that are doing important work but are not operating on standard models.
According to consultant Reisberg, Colombia is also “ahead of the game in collecting really good data.” This includes areas such as research, labor market returns for particular qualifications and “value added” (as measured by tests of those entering and completing university courses). However, as a spokesman for the ministry of education admitted, this energetic information gathering has proved somewhat fruitless, since “families do not use the data to decide on a university” and “universities do not use the data to measure how they are doing in comparison with others,” preferring to rely on international rankings.
Also new are international summer schools. Begun last summer, these last about a month and bring together about 300 Colombian academics and students with international experts, including Nobel prizewinners, to address one of the three key pillars -- equity, education and peace -- flagged up in the president’s National Development Plan.
Far to Go
Despite all this, a ministry representative who wished to remain anonymous is frank about how far the country still has to go: “As of now, few academics can write in English,” she explained. “That is one of the biggest challenges we are working on. We are really encouraging bilingualism, but since universities are autonomous, the ministry cannot force them to do things.”
Delegates at the Bogotá conference also pointed to major challenges, even while acknowledging that important (if sometimes cumbersome) structures had been put in place.
Luis Alejandro Arévalo Rodríguez is head of internationalization at Bogotá’s private EAN University. Although his institution manages to do “a fair amount of applied research, working closely with enterprises in areas such as clean energy, entrepreneurship and sustainability,” he points to sectorwide difficulties in giving research the priority it deserves. “When you hire professors at a Ph.D. level, they expect to [be able to conduct] research, so if your university is not committed to [this], it is difficult for them to be happy,” he says. But “very few” universities can afford to allow staff to concentrate exclusively on research, and most ask them to focus on teaching.
Sonia Marcela Durán Martínez, vice president for international affairs at Del Rosario University, agrees that “the country does not have enough funding for science, so it’s a huge challenge for private universities.” When Colciencias -- a government agency that supports science, technology and innovation -- was set up in 1968, it was “clear that it had to fund laboratories and research as well as mobility, but this remained at the level of good intentions, because it was never given [enough] funds.”
The coming of peace is naturally welcomed, but universities seem cautious in their optimism about what it is likely to mean for them. Universidad del Norte’s Roa expects “great economic investments for the postconflict transition” but sees no evidence that increased funds will be directed towards higher education. If they aren’t, it will mean “no resources available to finance very costly investments, such as facilities, technology, laboratories and libraries.”
Navas at the University of the Andes is eager for the Ser Pilo Paga initiative to continue after its initial four years. He would also like to see more “top-notch researchers” addressing issues such as “drug trafficking, biodiversity, the new justice structure” to be implemented. Unfortunately, he believes that a system directing 10 percent of oil and mining royalties toward science, technology and innovation was “incorrectly designed and hasn’t worked out well,” since responsibility for distributing such funds is in the hands of “the governors of the different states.” With elections approaching, he fears that both the extension of Ser Pilo Paga and any plans to reform research funding may run afoul of short-term political pressures.
It seems that only time will tell whether Nov. 24 becomes permanently established in Colombian university calendars as a day for thanksgiving.GlobalEditorial Tags: Foreign countriesTimes Higher EdIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
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Every year, prospective students receive offers to attend their college or university of choice. And every year, some of them turn down those offers.
Common wisdom holds that cost is a major factor in those students’ decisions. And new data from a private company provide insight into how much of a role costs play in turning students away from their top choice for college.
Almost one-fifth of students who were admitted to their top choice of college or university in 2016 but decided not to go there turned it down because of the cost of attendance, according to new data from Royall & Co., the enrollment-management and alumni fund-raising arm of EAB. Cost of attendance was cited on a survey by 18.6 percent of students who turned down their first choice. Nearly twice as many students pointed to cost of attendance as pointed to the next most commonly cited reason, the campus environment, which was cited by 9.4 percent of students.
Many other students who opted not to go to their college of first choice said they did so for other reasons that were still related to cost. Financial aid received from other colleges was cited by 9.1 percent of students. Non-need-based scholarships received were cited by 6.3 percent, and a college’s value was cited by 5.9 percent.
Add up the four cost-related reasons, and 39.9 percent of students who turned down their college of first choice did so for a reason related to cost.Reason for Not Attending College of First Choice Percentage of Students Citing Cost of attendance 18.6% Campus environment 9.4% Location of the school 9.3% The financial aid I received 9.1% Academic reputation 8.1% Proximity to home 7.6% Offered the major I wanted 6.6% The merit-based scholarship I received 6.3% Best value 5.9% Reputation in my intended field of study 4.9% The size of the school/number of students 3.8% Athletic programs 3.3% Overall Reputation 3.0% Legacy/family member attended the school 1.8% Amount of contact after admission 1.1% Timing of my financial aid award 1.0% Amount of contact before application 0.4% The school is coeducational 0.0%
Those findings held relatively steady across groupings of students with different SAT scores and between minority and nonminority students. Students with SAT scores of 1,200 or more gave cost-related reasons for not attending their college of first choice about 42 percent of the time, compared to 39 percent for students with SAT scores below 1,200. Minority students did not attend their first-choice college because of cost-related reasons about 43 percent of the time, while nonminority students did so 39 percent of the time.
“I think that both enrollment leaders and the public in general have had a suspicion that cost factors were driving a lot of enrollment decisions,” said Peter Farrell, Royall & Co. managing director. “This verifies it in an empirical way.”
To reach its conclusions, Royall & Co. analyzed 54,810 students at 92 institutions it works with who were admitted to enter college in 2016. It found that more than 6,000 of those students -- 11 percent -- declined to attend their institution of first choice, further examining their reasons for doing so.
The data do not date back over several years, preventing comparisons over time. But the 2016 results support the idea that students are much more conscious of costs in the years since the Great Recession, Farrell said.
“If you look at a variety of data points, the recession is a turning point in how students made their selections,” Farrell said. “Something has happened more recently that’s accelerated things. It could be demographics. It could be what we’re seeing on the macroeconomic scale about low socioeconomic [status] families being pinched. I don’t know the actual causality of this change in sentiment, but the slope line of concern seems to be upticking.”
The trends also held closely when splitting the 67 private institutions in the sample from the 25 public institutions. Admitted students who opted not to attend a private college or university that was their first choice gave cost-related factors as their reason approximately 41 percent of the time. Those declining to attend a public college or university that was their first choice said their decision was due to cost-related factors 38 percent of the time.
That difference was due largely to a slightly lower percentage of students at public institutions citing cost of attendance, financial aid and merit-based scholarships received. Students who decided not to attend private institutions cited cost of attendance 19.8 percent of the time, financial aid 9.7 percent of the time and merit-based scholarships 5.6 percent of the time. Those deciding not to attend public institutions pointed to cost of attendance 17.1 percent of the time, financial aid 8.5 percent of the time and merit-based scholarships 6.5 percent of the time.
The data offer some insight into how financial aid and non-need-based aid -- often called merit aid -- can be attractive ways for colleges and universities to attract students. Significant numbers of students who are sensitive to college costs mean significant numbers of students who can potentially be won over by an institution offering additional financial aid. That can be seen as a way to snag students who otherwise would attend a more prestigious institution.
The takeaway is not that colleges and universities need to increase their discount rates. But the data do illustrate the risks involved in changing financial aid practices, Farrell said.
“I think the most important message this holds is that there’s a group of students who are really interested in your college that you have the potential to lose if you’re not doing a great job with both your marketing strategy and your aid strategy,” Farrell said. “Some students, they’ll get over the application hurdle. But if somebody else gets their award out faster or their aid is significantly larger than yours, you can lose that student.”
Experts cautioned against reading too much into the different cost factors in the data. The cost-of-attendance reason can become a catchall for students explaining their choice not to attend a college, said Donald Heller, provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of San Francisco.
“When students read financial aid offer letters, they’re not always understanding or careful of distinguishing different forms of financial aid,” Heller said. “Sometimes they conflate grants with loans. I would be a little cautious about interpreting too much into this question.”
Still, students are clearly interested in issues related to cost -- particularly the return on the investment of their tuition dollars, Heller said.
“More and more, we’re getting questions from students and parents about the value proposition,” he said, adding that students and parents often ask about job opportunities after graduation.
Royall & Co. didn’t only look at why students decided not to attend their first choice of college or university. It also analyzed why they decided not to attend any institution to which they were admitted but did not enroll. Price-related considerations weren’t as prevalent in that case but were still cited by 27 percent of students.
In addition, the company examined 6,631 students for which it had available financial information. Those students attended five colleges and universities -- one public, four private.
That analysis showed students who decided not to attend a college or university to which they were admitted were more likely to cite reasons related to cost as their expected financial contribution to college fell. Students from families with an expected contribution of $40,000 or more cited cost-related reasons slightly less than 25 percent of the time, compared to almost 41 percent for students from families with no expected contribution.
The analysis indicates students on the lower end of the income spectrum are more likely to be sensitive to costs. But it shows wealthy students can be sensitive as well. And anecdotal evidence shows even high-achieving students at some of the country’s top high schools consider cost.
Jon Reider is the director of college counseling at the prestigious San Francisco University High School. The school’s students as a whole are likely shielded from college cost concerns more than are students at other high schools. Many are wealthy, and the school’s low-income students are typically seen as talented, meaning they’re likely to receive attractive financial aid offers.
Even so, the high school has one or two students a year who choose a University of California institution over a private college because of cost, Reider said. He also remembered a student from a few years ago who had to change her plans after her father lost his job.
“Both parents had jobs, and Dad lost his job,” Reider said. “She got into Amherst, and they gave her a nice award, but NYU gave her a big merit award. She wanted to go to Amherst, and her parents were lovely people, but they said, ‘Your brother is coming. You’ve got to go to NYU.’”
That story taps into an underlying debate about merit aid, or non-need-based aid. While it can benefit individual high-achieving students and help colleges build strong classes, some criticize its impact at scale over time. Colleges and universities eventually draw resources from low-income students who need financial aid in order to pursue high-achieving and wealthy students, the argument goes.
“College counselors and high school counselors are conflicted,” Reider said. “I’m happy for that kid, that she got good money and her parents are under less stress. But I see kids at big public schools or lower-income inner-city Catholic schools who do a good, honorable job. Those families don’t have a lot to fall back on.”AdmissionsEditorial Tags: AdmissionsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Princeton Theological Seminary announced Wednesday that it is dropping plans to give an award to the Reverend Timothy Keller that was to have been presented when he visited the campus to give a lecture. The invitation to give the lecture, however, stands, and the seminary announced that Keller has agreed to give the talk even without the honor.
Word that Keller was to speak at and be honored by the seminary angered many students and alumni, who noted that it is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), which embraces the ordination of women and of gay people (both groups are educated on an equal basis with others at the seminary). Keller is a leader of the Presbyterian Church in America, which will not ordain people who are not straight men, and he has been an advocate for that position.
The seminary is not affiliated with Princeton University.
As students and alumni objected to the invitation, the seminary initially said that, under the principles of academic freedom, the invitation and award would not be withdrawn. But on Wednesday the seminary announced that the honor would be withdrawn.
The honor is closely linked to the lecture. As described on the seminary website: "The Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life is awarded each year to a scholar or community leader whose outstanding contribution to their chosen sphere reflects the ideas and values characteristic of the neo-Calvinist vision of religious engagement in matters of social, political and cultural significance in one or more of the ‘spheres’ of society. A condition of the prize is that the recipient deliver a lecture on a topic appropriate to the aims of the center."
To many in the world of Presbyterian theology, the honor matters a great deal, and past lectures have been widely discussed.
Traci Smith, a pastor who was educated at the seminary, wrote a widely circulated blog post questioning the idea that her alma mater would honor a theologian committed to the idea that she and many others should never have been ordained.
"I’ll let others argue finer points of Reverend Keller’s theology (hello, this is Princeton Theological Seminary here, arguing finer points is what we do). My personal soapbox is much less refined. It boils down to this: an institution designed to train men and women for ministry shouldn’t be awarding fancy prizes to someone who believes half the student body (or is it more than half?) has no business leading churches. It’s offensive and, as I have taught my four- and five-year-olds to express, it hurts my feelings," Smith wrote.
She added, "But he’s not even talking about 'women’s issues' or 'LGBT issues,' some will argue. The lecture is on church planting. Who can argue with church planting? Can’t we look past what divides us find common ground? Of course we can find common ground. Let me state clearly and without equivocation: I believe Reverend Keller loves Jesus. I believe he is a man of faith. I believe he works hard and has a respectable career. I would happily go to the church he pastors and listen to him preach. He’s absolutely invited to come to the church I pastor and listen to me preach. We can totally hold hands during the hymn sing. The reason that’s not enough in this case (and the reason he shouldn’t have been invited to give this lecture and receive this prize) is that this isn’t some minor thing. This is a giant lecture with a giant whoop-de-doo factor."
An assistant to Keller, who is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, in Manhattan, said via email that he was not commenting on the situation.
Craig Barnes, the president of the seminary, sent out two letters about the controversy. The first, on March 10, said that the seminary "embraces full inclusion for ordained leadership of the church." But the letter noted that many student groups and academic centers bring speakers in, or award honors, as was the case with the center that manages the Kuyper Prize, and that it is not the role of the seminary to veto choices with which it disagrees.
"While my office issues the official invitations to campus, I don't practice censorship over the choices of these organizations, even when I or the seminary disagree with some of the convictions of these speakers," Barnes wrote. "It is also a core conviction of our seminary to be a serious academic institution that will sometimes bring controversial speakers to campus because we refuse to exclude voices within the church. Diversity of theological thought and practice has long been a hallmark of our school. And so we have had a wide variety of featured speakers on campus including others who come from traditions that do not ordain women or LGBTQ+ individuals, such as many wings of the Protestant church, and bishops of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic communions. So my hope is that we will receive Reverend Keller in a spirit of grace and academic freedom, realizing we can listen to someone with whom many, including me, strongly disagree about this critical issue of justice."
The second letter, issued Wednesday, offered a change of heart on the award, and noted conversations with many people, including Keller.
"In talking with those who are deeply concerned about Reverend Keller’s visit to campus, I find that most share this commitment to academic freedom," Barnes wrote. "Yet many regard awarding the Kuyper Prize as an affirmation of Reverend Keller’s belief that women and LGBTQ+ persons should not be ordained. This conflicts with the stance of the Presbyterian Church (USA). And it is an important issue among the divided Reformed communions …. In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the Presbyterian Church in America’s views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year."
Barnes added that "the invitation to Reverend Keller simply to lecture at their conference will stand, and he has graciously agreed to keep the commitment. We are a community that does not silence voices in the church. In this spirit we are a school that can welcome a church leader to address one of its centers about his subject, even if we strongly disagree with his theology on ordination to ministry."Editorial Tags: Academic freedomGenderSexual orientationImage Caption: Princeton Theological SeminaryIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Court finds Christian college engaged in illegal discrimination in firing pregnant, single instructor
A federal judge has ruled that Northwest Christian University engaged in illegal discrimination based on marital status when it told an unmarried, pregnant instructor to either marry the father of the child she was carrying, stop living with him or lose her job. She refused the first two options and was fired.
The basic facts in the case are not in dispute. The ruling was about how much leeway a religious college has in enforcing its religious teachings. That's an issue that could soon receive more attention, given that President Trump has said that the Obama administration and the judges appointed by the former president did not show appropriate deference to religious institutions -- and Trump has vowed to appoint judges and officials who will do so.
The case dates to 2011, when Coty Richardson, an instructor of exercise science at Northwest Christian University, in Oregon, informed her supervisors that she was pregnant with her third child. According to evidence in the case cited in the decision by Judge Ann Aiken, her supervisors then discussed their understanding that she was not married.
When they determined she was not, they gave her the three options for how to proceed. She was fired when she turned down the first two options -- and so she was out of the job when her third child was born. She sued the university, citing discrimination based on marital status and pregnancy. Richardson and the university both asked for summary judgment; Richardson won on the issue of marital status, and the university won an order that it could not be found to owe punitive damages. Judge Aiken found that the pregnancy discrimination claims should go to trial.
Northwest Christian urged Judge Aiken to dismiss the entire case based on its First Amendment rights to religious freedom. Those rights, the university said, include the "ministerial exception," which is a legal tradition that bars federal courts from intervening in disputes over members of the clergy and some other employees of religious institutions. The Supreme Court upheld the concept of the exception in 2012 but did not define which employees would be covered. The court's ruling came in the case of a teacher at a private school who was not a member of the clergy but had some religious instruction duties and led students in prayer. She was covered, the Supreme Court ruled, but the decision suggested that not all employees of religious institutions are covered.
Judge Aiken rejected the idea that the ministerial exception applied in this case.
"First, plaintiff's title, assistant professor of exercise science, was secular," the judge wrote. "Second, plaintiff did not undergo any specialized religious training before assuming her position. Third, although there is ample evidence plaintiff held herself out as a Christian, there is no evidence she held herself out as a minister. With respect to the fourth factor, there is evidence plaintiff performed some important religious functions in her capacity as a professor.
"She was expected to integrate her Christianity into her teaching and demonstrate a maturing Christian faith. But any religious function was wholly secondary to her secular role: she was not tasked with performing any religious instruction and she was charged with no religious duties such as taking students to chapel or leading them in prayer. If plaintiff was a minister, it is hard to see how any teacher at a religious school would fall outside the exception."
With regard to marital discrimination, Judge Aiken ruled in Richardson's favor based on evidence that she was treated differently from others because she was unmarried.
On pregnancy discrimination, the judge found evidence on both sides. The university cited cases in which it had fired three other employees for living with a partner to whom the employee was not married. None of these cases involved pregnancy. So the university argued that it was simply enforcing its moral standards.
But the judge found evidence that a jury might consider Richardson's firing to be based on more than those standards. One of the letters sent by the university said that as Richardson's pregnancy progressed, students and others would be aware of it and aware that she had sex outside of marriage.
The judge found that this could be evidence that the university was "less concerned about its employees having sex outside of marriage and more concerned about people knowing its employees were having sex outside of marriage -- a concern that arguably amounts to animus against pregnant women."
Joseph Womack, president of the university, said via email that officials there were studying the decision and determining a response.
Daniel Kalish, Richardson's lawyer, said he is continuing to try to draw attention to the case -- and has organized a petition for people to express concern for his client. He said that the case will now go to trial over damages in the marital discrimination case and to resolve the pregnancy discrimination charges.
Kalish said the key part of the ruling was rejecting the use of the ministerial exception. The ruling shows that religious colleges "don't get a free pass" on discrimination, he said.Religious CollegesEditorial Tags: GenderReligious collegesImage Caption: Coty RichardsonIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Both hiring and signing on as a new assistant professor involve risk; if the commitment doesn’t work out, both the institution and the faculty member denied tenure have lost valuable time and resources. Naturally, then, there’s a large of body of literature on how to promote junior faculty members’ success, and a new study builds on three recurring themes: balance between research, teaching and service and between work and home; clear expectations about professional responsibilities; and collegiality.
The study’s authors proposed and tested a conceptual model of pretenure faculty success that incorporates additional research on motivation -- namely self-determination theory. The gist is that when pretenure faculty members’ social-environmental concerns are addressed, “their basic psychosocial needs will be satisfied, resulting in optimal motivation and greater reported success in teaching and research.”
Self-determination theory asserts that human motivation is a continuum, with inherent or intrinsic motivation being the ideal. And intrinsic motivation is hypothesized to occur when a setting fulfills one’s senses of autonomy, competence and “relatedness,” or feeling connected. So the new study’s authors guessed that balance, clear expectations and collegiality generally predict pretenure faculty success because they support feelings of autonomy, competence and relatedness -- which, of course, promote intrinsic motivation and success.
The authors evaluated their model by analyzing 105 pretenure faculty members’ survey responses from two unnamed public research universities in the Midwest. Because success is difficult to define, they in their survey asked faculty participants about their perceptions of their teaching and research success, respectively, in relation to their personal standards, departmental standards and, finally, other faculty members. They also asked faculty members how successful they expected to be based on their own standard.
Participants rated their level of agreement with statements on balance, clear expectations and collegiality, such as, “I have been able to balance my work and home/personal life,” and “There is a colleague in my department whom I can ask for advice and guidance.”
To assess faculty members’ perceived levels of satisfaction in terms of autonomy, competence and relatedness -- which set the stage for intrinsic motivation -- additional survey items included, “In my [teaching/research], I feel a sense of choice and freedom” and “I feel confident that I can do things well on my [teaching/research].”
Additional items assessed faculty members’ source of motivation for various tasks. Possible answers corresponded with internal or external factors. “Because it is pleasant to carry out this task” was intrinsic, while “Because I am paid to do it” was not, for example.
Through path (or extended multiple regression) analysis, the authors observed relationships between social-environmental factors and basic psychological needs, as suspected. Unsurprisingly, the strongest pathway was the connection between collegiality and relatedness, especially in terms of teaching. Collegiality was positively correlated with perceptions of autonomy and competence in teaching.
Teaching "can be highly collaborative as faculty members within departments work together on curriculum development, which often involves exchanging materials, and assessment,” the study says. “Furthermore, because pretenure faculty typically have limited training in teaching upon starting their position, they regularly require support from colleagues to be successful.”
In contrast, perceived balance was most strongly related to autonomy and competence in terms of research. Why? “Establishing a good routine and finding time for research appears to be most important for research motivation,” the paper says.
As much as shifting performance targets can rile faculty members, clear expectations were not significantly related to the basic psychological needs or intrinsic motivation of pretenure professors with regard to teaching or research. They were, however, correlated with extrinsic motivation in both domains. That’s possibly “due to faculty expectations (e.g., for tenure consideration) typically being ‘externally’ set by university administrators, thus aligning more closely with introjected and external motivation."
An unexpectedly significant path, meanwhile, was the negative relationship between clear expectations and perceived success in research. The finding suggests that for some faculty members, “a clearer understanding of the criteria for research success may be demotivating, as perhaps identifying challenging goals for tenure contributes to feeling a lack of accomplishment in the present,” the study says.
In support of self-determination theory’s application to pretenure success, the paper says that survey participants who perceived their basic psychological needs as being satisfied also tended to report higher levels of intrinsic motivation. Specifically, relatedness mattered in terms of teaching, and perceptions of autonomy and competence mattered to research.
One note: faculty members at the institutions studied had average workloads of 50 percent teaching and 35 percent research. These relationships are “likely to differ for faculty at institutions in which greater relative emphasis is placed on research activities,” the study warns.
Intrinsic motivation was also linked to higher expectations of future success. That is, pretenure faculty members who reported engaging in teaching and research because they found it enjoyable or interesting tended to say they felt more successful and also expected to be successful in the future, according to the study.
Also noteworthy is that extrinsic motivation was not significantly related to pretenure faculty success. That’s not surprising, the authors say, given that few enter academe to become rich or due to other outside pressures.
The authors call for further study but say that support for their model “will allow researchers, faculty development officers, university administrators and faculty members themselves to more fully understand the ideal pathway to success and perhaps lead to better understanding of how to assist those who are falling short.”
Even more practically, they say, their results suggest that university administrators -- including department chairs -- “could promote teaching effectiveness in pretenure faculty by fostering supportive relationships among departmental colleagues that, in turn, contribute to perceptions of relatedness, teaching-related enjoyment and reports of greater success.”
For example, pretenure faculty members could be assigned a teaching mentor willing to share existing course materials, review course syllabi, discuss textbook options or observe them in class, the study says.
“Alternatively, our findings suggest that efforts to promote pretenure faculty research should ideally encourage autonomy as well as a balance (teaching/research and work/life) through provisions such as teaching releases for research purposes, gym memberships for health promotion or designated periods when faculty need not respond to email (e.g., weekends). Such initiatives would be expected to contribute to sustained faculty interest in research and, in turn, greater research-related success.”
“Testing a Model of Pretenure Faculty Members’ Teaching and Research Success: Motivation as a Mediator of Balance, Expectations and Collegiality” was published this week by The Journal of Higher Education. Asked about the stickiness of collegiality in academe -- the American Association of University Professors opposes its use as a criterion in personnel decisions, for example -- co-author Robert H. Stupnisky, associate professor of education and human development at the University of North Dakota, said he could only point back to his finding that collegiality is an important predictor of faculty motivation and perceived success in the teaching domain.
Stupnisky's co-authors are Nathan C. Hall, associate professor of educational and counseling psychology at Canada's McGill University; Lia M. Daniels, associate professor of educational psychological at the University of Alberta in Canada; and Emmanuel Mensah, of the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.
Cathy Trower, an independent consultant on higher education who has studied faculty success extensively, said the new model seems to have broad applicability, and theoretical grounding enough to “pass the sniff test.”
“This research is some of the best I have seen on this subject,” she said. “It appears well conceived, well executed and thoughtful.”New Hiring ModelsEditorial Tags: FacultyTenure listImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
As obstructionist protests of controversial speakers spread, some say the future of the trend depends on how colleges and universities respond -- namely what, if any, disciplinary action they take against participants. But just what action to take, and when, is tricky business. Practically, it can mean sorting through the chaos that often surrounds such events to find specific perpetrators; politically, it can mean wading into murky waters.
The University of Chicago has some ideas on how to proceed. Two years after the institution adopted a statement affirming free speech that has since been adapted by a number of other colleges and universities, a committee at Chicago has published a new report on discipline for disruptive conduct. The committee of faculty-led committee was charged by Chicago’s provost with reviewing and making recommendations about procedures for “student disciplinary matters involving disruptive conduct including interference with freedom of inquiry or debate” last summer -- long before Charles Murray was shouted down at Middlebury College or a controversial Canadian professor who opposes using gender-neutral pronouns was drowned out at McMaster University, for example. But its recommendations now seem prescient to some. Others find them lacking.
Perhaps most significantly, the committee recommends that disruptive conduct, which is currently addressed at Chicago within individual academic units, be covered by a centralized disciplinary process. While the committee’s hope is to provide “greater consistency across cases,” it does not propose prescribed actions for specific offenses. Rather, it seeks to create a voting committee of five members -- three professors, one student and one staff member drawn from a larger pool appointed by the provost -- to mete out discipline on a case-by-case basis. So while leaving punishments to a committee and designated administrative support office, it's clear that protests that prevent someone from talking violate university rules.
“It was clear to us in meetings on campus with students and faculty that there were a wide range of views on how speech should be approached at the university, and so we didn’t try to hardwire particular punishments,” Randal C. Picker, committee chair and James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at Chicago, said via email. “I expect that to play out in particular cases if we reach that point, but of course I hope that we don’t.”
The committee also proposes that the university “should revise its procedures for event management to reduce the chances that those engaged in disruptive conduct can prevent others from speaking or being heard.” Namely, it suggests naming and training “free-speech deans on call” to deal with disruptive conduct as it happens, and preauthorizing some process by which disruptive individuals can be removed from events, if necessary. Why? “The current rules, which often force deans on call to try to contact other administrators at the university in the middle of a free-speech disruption, are simply unworkable,” the committee says.
Similarly, the committee recommends that Chicago “provide greater clarity on the roles and responsibilities of hosts, speakers, audience members, event staff and the university police at events to improve understanding of the university’s commitment to free expression and clarify the consequences of disrupting the free-speech commons.” That could including creating more explicit audience guidelines, increasing staffing of deans at events and more training for other staff, according to the report.
Regarding transparency for students and other groups, the committee says that audience guidelines, along with the roles of various staff members charged with protecting free speech and the consequences of disrupting it should be readily available to students. “We recommend that the Student Manual include examples of protests that are likely to be regarded as nondisruptive as well as those that are likely to be disruptive. Nondisruptive protests include: marches that do not drown out speakers; silent vigils; protest signs at an event that do not block the vision of the audience; and boycotts of speakers or events," the report says.
Disruptive protests, meanwhile, include “blocking access to an event or to a university facility and shouting or otherwise interrupting an event or other university activity with noise in a way that prevents the event or activity from continuing in its normal course.”
When disrupters are not affiliated with the university, the committee says that they should be treated like they are part of campus life, whenever possible. When that’s not possible, unaffiliated individuals who engage in disruptive conduct “can be barred from all or part of the university permanently or for discrete periods under standards and processes,” according to the university’s existing no-trespass policy.
In terms of prevention, the committee says the university needs a more robust education program to ensure that students “understand the rights and responsibilities of participating in the free-speech commons.” It recommends new, targeted outreach measures for students and recognized student organizations, which build on existing student-centered programs and resources but are coordinated by the Office of Campus and Student Life and developed with the faculty.
Finally, the committee recommends that the university amend an existing statute on disruptive behavior to include nonmembers of the university community, as well as members, and to clarify that interfering conduct may include behavior at one or more events. That’s because “serial conduct may in the aggregate rise to the level of disruptive conduct even if a single instance of such conduct does not,” the committee says. It also points out that disrupters may be individuals or groups.
Here is the statue, with proposed changes in strikeouts and additions in bold.
The University Council must weigh in the report before Chicago adopts it, and discussions could begin as early as this month.
The report has already received praise from some off campus. Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, wrote in the Federalist, for example, that it’s “a welcome step for all of American higher education,” since “it restores to the campus authorities charged with maintaining order the tools they need to do their jobs.” He praised the committee for recognizing that both individuals and groups may be responsible for blocking free expression or inquiry.
Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, and co-author of a recent statement denouncing those who interfere in campus speech, also approves. He said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed that the report’s value will ultimately hinge on the consistency and "content neutrality" with which discipline is administered -- meaning, for example, that a person who shuts down a pro-Israel rally should be punished similarly harshly to one who shuts down an anti-Israel one. Otherwise, he said he wasn’t really “in the mood to criticize this kind of moral seriousness and leadership.”
Once again, George said, referring to the 2015 statement on free speech, which Princeton promptly adopted, “Chicago has taken the lead in ascending core academic values. … They’re thinking about how to put teeth in the obligation of everyone on campus to respect the rights and freedoms of thought and expression of everyone else on campus.” He said he hoped other institutions would follow suit.
John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of free speech and co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog, shredded the report in a post, however. While he approves of a centralized disciplinary system, Wilson wrote that the report as a whole “fails to address serious problems with free speech and due process in Chicago’s rules, and mostly makes proposals to reduce free expression on campus by aiming to suppress protest.”
Among other criticisms, Wilson wrote that the committee offers definition poor definitions of misconduct, including, to quote the report, “blocking access to an event or to a university facility and shouting or otherwise interrupting an event or other university activity with noise in a way that prevents the event or activity from continuing in its normal course.”
There’s a “fundamental difference between ‘interrupting’ an event and shutting it down,” Wilson says. “A protest can disrupt the ‘normal course’ of an event without preventing it from continuing altogether.” He also disapproves of the notion of cumulative offense, saying that if "a single incident does not justify punishment, then repetition of it at different events should not be punished." And if the statute is indeed changed to potentially allow for assigning penalties “individually or as part of a group," he says, it suggests that "if a person is part of a group that breaks the rules, even if the individual doesn’t, that person can be punished."
Picker, the committee chair, said Wilson’s critique includes pre-existing policies, not just those his group suggests. Wilson said he does disagree with Chicago's approach to such issues, not just the committee's. But the new report is problematic on its own, he said, and the committee should have urged bigger changes to the statute -- like getting rid of it.
The committee says its work was primarily informed by two university values enshrined elsewhere, in previous reports on free speech (including that from 2015). First, Chicago's "fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the university community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed." Second, “[d]issent and protest should be affirmatively welcomed, not merely tolerated."Academic FreedomEditorial Tags: Academic freedomFacultyImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
In a rare point of agreement, the Trump administration and many academics would like to see less focus on colleges as work force development centers.
The administration has said too many students are being prodded toward bachelor’s degrees over apprenticeships and other noncollege options.
“We must embrace new and effective job-training approaches, including online courses, high school curriculums and private-sector investment that prepare people for trade, manufacturing, technology and other really well-paying jobs and careers,” President Trump said last week during a meeting on vocational training with U.S. and German business leaders.
“These kinds of options can be a positive alternative to a four-year degree,” he said. “So many people go to college, four years, they don’t like it, they’re not necessarily good at it, but they’re good at other things, like fixing engines and building things.”
Likewise, many in higher education, mostly at four-year institutions, resist pressure for colleges to be more attuned to their occupational role, arguing in defense of general education and decrying the transactional view of college as being primarily a means to a job.
College and faculty leaders also tend to dislike performance metrics that are based on graduates’ employment and earnings.
Yet higher education has been the federal government’s primary work force system for decades. And that is unlikely to change, experts said.
Just 6 percent of the roughly $114 billion the federal government spends annually on work force development and education goes toward noncollege job-training programs, according to data from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. (See graphic, below.)
“We’re spending more on job training than ever before. It’s just that the funding has moved to education,” said Mary Alice McCarthy, director of the Center on Education and Skills with the education policy program at New America and a former official at the U.S. Education and Labor Departments.
This was not always the case. Anthony Carnevale, the Georgetown center’s director, said job training and employment programs outside higher education and K-12 accounted for 40 percent of the federal work force budget in 1978.
One reason for the shift is that at least 60 percent of jobs now require at least some college education, according to the center, up from 28 percent in 1973. The trend will continue, Carnevale said.
In addition, federal spending on higher education is an easier political sell than paying for occupational or vocational programs that train workers outside college.
“It’s not the thing middle-class people want for their kids,” said Carnevale.
So higher education became the preferred system for job training, he said, a trend that began in the 1980s and accelerated during the Clinton administration, which shuttered federal job-training programs in exchange for higher education subsidies aimed at the middle class. (Employers spend $177 million a year in formal job training, the center has said, an amount that is increasing, but less quickly than overall spending on higher education.)
“Higher education became the chicken in every pot,” said Carnevale. “It moves votes.”
‘Time for a Reboot’
Yet nobody seems particularly happy about the federal government’s current approach to job training.
Bipartisan angst about the skills gap has become more urgent, as employers say they struggle to hire work-ready employees. Meanwhile, a wide range of experts said noncollege federal work force programs are inefficient, duplicative and lacking in incentives.
The current $18 billion annual federal work force budget is divvied up among roughly 50 programs.
“It’s spread across a wide range of programs for niche audiences,” said Jason Tyszko, executive director of the Center for Education and Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, who describes federal work force programs as being “stretched thin.”
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which was enacted in 2015 and replaced an outdated predecessor law, is the largest of the federal job-training programs. Its $3.4 billion annual budget is intended to extend across education, training and job-support services, with a goal of helping job seekers and employers as well as setting priorities for local, state and regional work force investment priorities -- a big ask.
The program’s task won’t get easier, at least if the Trump administration’s budget plan takes hold in the U.S. Congress.
The White House has called for a $2.5 billion, or 21 percent, cut to the Labor Department’s $9.6 billion in annual funding. While Trump’s budget document was relatively light on details, the National Skills Coalition projected that it would result in as much as a 50 percent cut to WIOA’s budget.
The White House plan also would decrease “federal support for job training and employment service formula grants, shifting more responsibility for funding these services to states, localities and employers.”
A broad coalition of work force and labor groups criticized the proposed cuts, calling them unnecessary and inconsistent with the Trump administration’s job-creation goals.
“Throwing more money at these programs and how they run could actually have diminishing returns,” he said.
Likewise, a broad range of experts agreed with Tyszko that the time is ripe for the federal government to reconsider its approach to occupational training.
“There really needs to be a fundamental reconciliation between higher education and work force development,” said Maria Flynn, president and CEO of Jobs for the Future and a former official with the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration.
Better coordination between the Labor and Education Departments is needed, she said, with particular attention to the interplay between WIOA and the Pell Grant program, which is the primary federal grant for low-income students. (The Trump budget would cut $3.9 billion from the Pell program’s reserves.)
There are some signs that the two systems are being steered together, Flynn said.
For example, she cited a bipartisan legislative proposal in the U.S. Senate that would allow students to use Pell Grants for short-term job-training credentials, such as college-issued certificates. Currently Pell can be applied only to programs that take more than 15 weeks or 600 clock hours to complete.
Other promising ideas Flynn mentioned include an Education Department experiment that is granting temporary access to federal financial aid for noncollege training entities, including skills boot camps and online course providers, under partnerships with accredited colleges on job training in high-demand fields.
Likewise, Flynn said the college and career pathways approach championed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the American Association of Community Colleges can help students follow a more structured route to completion and a job.
Structured pathways share some resemblance to the German model of nudging students toward an occupation earlier in their academic career, she said, without the controversial student “tracking” that’s a tough sell in this country.
“In the U.S. there’s some middle ground we can get to,” she said, “by really emphasizing the idea of pathways.”
Likewise, McCarthy and others said the federal government could do more to prevent students from having to spend more time and money than is necessary on vocational training.
Perverse incentives, she said, encourage colleges to make academic programs credit bearing and longer than might be ideal. For example, some medical assistant and early childhood programs were noncredit in the past. But to make those offerings financially viable, McCarthy said, many community colleges and for-profits began offering credit-bearing options in those fields.
One overarching fix to the lack of coordination on job training, according to McCarthy, would be for some Labor Department programs to be folded into Congress’s looming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which is the law that oversees federal aid. She said that shared focus could benefit college-based occupational training, too.
“We have to bring what we know about good training quality to the higher education side,” said McCarthy. “It’s definitely time for a reboot.”
Market for Apprentices
Apprenticeships in particular appear to be in vogue as the GOP dominates both federal and state policy making.
The president and Ivanka Trump, his daughter, met last week with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a group of corporate executives from the U.S. and Germany to discuss vocational training. Ivanka Trump said the executives would form a task force that would produce a report on training programs that should be expanded.
President Trump reportedly has embraced a call by one of those executives to create five million apprenticeships within five years. That would be a steep increase from the current number of apprentices -- roughly 450,000 -- who are enrolled in Labor Department-registered programs, according to McCarthy.
The White House has pushed for private funding for apprenticeships and job training, with Ivanka Trump reportedly saying last week that “ingenuity, creativity often comes from the determination of the private sector.” And last year Congress added $90 million in funding for apprentice programs.
The Trump budget says it will help states expand apprenticeships, although it doesn't specify new money for them. But the $1 trillion in infrastructure spending the White House has said it is mulling probably would include funding for apprenticeships and other job training. (Carnevale's center projects that 55 percent of jobs created under such a program would not require any college, with 60 percent of new infrastructure jobs requiring no more than six months of on-the-job training.)
Some observers said the current structure of the Labor Department’s apprenticeship program can be balky. To participate, companies often must file voluminous applications and wait months for the feds to respond.
“It’s a bureaucratic process where those who are good at filling out papers get the funds,” said Ryan Craig, co-founder of University Ventures, an investment firm. “Government is ill positioned to pick winners.”
As a result, Craig is focused on job-training “intermediaries” between colleges and employers, where the money comes from job seekers or from employers themselves. Examples include Revature, an employer-funded training firm, and boot camps like Galvanize and General Assembly.
Yet there’s a role for government in promoting apprenticeships, Craig said.
He cites the United Kingdom’s apprenticeship levy, which goes into effect next month. The U.K. is requiring all employers with an annual payroll of more than 3 million pounds ($3.74 million) to pay a tax of 0.5 percent of their payroll amount on apprenticeships, with the government kicking in an extra 10 percent “top-up” to those apprenticeship funds.
Craig called the levy an exciting idea, which, if combined with the right incentives and outcomes requirements, would be worth a look in this country.
“We need to figure out how to spawn a market here,” he said.Community CollegesEditorial Tags: Adult educationCareer/Tech EducationCompetency-based learningFederal policyImage Source: Getty ImagesImage Caption: Angela Merkel and Ivanka Trump at meeting on vocational trainingIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
At first glance, Barry University and St. Thomas University might seem to be better positioned for the future than many other small private institutions.
The two Roman Catholic universities are both located to the north of the city of Miami in fast-growing Miami-Dade County. They both enroll large numbers of Hispanic students at a time when projections suggest growth among numbers of Hispanic high school graduates in Florida.
But the two institutions in South Florida aren’t immune from the pressures pushing small nonprofit colleges and universities to change.
Early this month, word circulated that Barry and St. Thomas are exploring a "strategic alliance." The process is still in its early stages, so the details of what such an alliance would look like aren’t clear. In theory, it could run the gamut from sharing back-office tasks to a full merger.
What is clear is that the two universities, which are located about eight miles apart, have been up against many similar challenges in recent years. They’ve faced enrollment strains and pressures on net prices in a competitive market for students. They’ve also dealt with financial stresses, sometimes prompting midyear adjustments to their annual budgets.
University officials reject the idea that budget challenges forced them to explore an affiliation. Instead, they point to broad trends sweeping across small private institutions and a call from the universities’ Roman Catholic supporters to explore a change.
Barry University is sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Mich. St. Thomas is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Miami. The two organizations asked the universities to start talking, and several weeks ago, the universities’ boards approved the move.
The next step is to hire a consultant to start discussions. But there is no firm timeline, according to university representatives.
“It’s really not about finances at all,” said Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale, St. Thomas University’s president (left). “It’s about creating whatever kind of synergies we can create in order to strengthen the institutions to a point where we can be seen as leading Catholic institutions -- whatever form that takes.”
No organizational changes are on or off the table at this point, said Sara B. Herald, Barry's vice president of institutional advancement and external affairs. She said she could think of many forms a strategic alliance could take that would not be a full merger.
“I’m a lawyer, and I’ll tell you there are a lot of different ways it could unfold,” she said. “A merger is one of maybe 60 to 70 options I could think of.”
The discussions take place at a time when private Catholic institutions are facing steep competition from public universities in Florida that sharply undercut their tuition rates. Many out-of-state institutions are also increasingly recruiting in Florida as they see drops in the pool of high school students they can recruit closer to home, according to Herald.
At the same time, Catholic institutions are less able to rely on highly educated priests and nuns to teach classes on low-cost stipends, because the number of priests and nuns is dropping, Herald said.
Further, Catholic institutions enroll a large number of students who don’t have the resources to pay full tuition. And the institutions don’t have large endowments -- Barry’s was reported at $36.6 million and St. Thomas’s at $24.2 million in the latest survey from the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the nonprofit asset-management firm Commonfund.
That leaves the institutions stuck between upward pressure on expenses and downward pressure on prices.
“This is about an environment in which you have sort of the perfect storm,” Herald said. “You can’t keep raising the price and expect people to be able to pay for it. That’s true nationwide. You have a declining population of traditional college-aged students.”
Barry University has attempted to break out of that situation recently, in part by shifting financial assistance more toward highly qualified students. It expected some decline in enrollment as its tuition discount rates fell but missed an enrollment target for transfer students and students in its graduate and professional programs last year.
The university’s total enrollment dropped from 9,030 in the fall of 2013 to 8,518 in 2014 and 7,971 in 2015, according to federal data. In 2015 it enrolled 3,776 undergraduates and 4,195 graduate students. Most of its undergraduates -- 84 percent -- attended full time.
Barry University reported that 27 percent of its students in 2015 were Hispanic, 25 percent were black non-Hispanic, and 7 percent were international. About 90 percent of full-time undergraduates received some form of financial aid.
Meanwhile, 61 percent of Barry University’s full-time undergraduate freshmen received federal Pell Grants in 2014-15. Federal Pell Grants are typically considered a proxy for students from low-income families.
The financial situation at Barry has come under local scrutiny lately, with The Miami Herald reporting on steps the university is taking to close an $8.6 million budget gap this year. The university reported more than $210 million in annual revenue on its most recently available federal tax forms.
Cuts being put in place include a hiring freeze, the elimination of about 25 staff positions and a temporary reduction in retirement-plan matching. The university is also consolidating an adult-education delivery site about 20 miles away in Davie, Fla., which is one of numerous locations it lists around Florida and in the Bahamas.
Barry University President Sister Linda Bevilacqua (left) recently sent an email discussing strategies being considered, which include re-examining tuition discounts. That letter called discussions about reducing expenditures “distressful,” saying “the decisions to do so are agonizing when they involve colleagues with whom we work,” according to The Miami Herald.
Fitch Ratings has previously noted Barry’s difficulties. In October the ratings agency affirmed a BBB rating on $67.3 million of revenue and refunding bonds, keeping the bonds on the lower end of investment grade. But Fitch revised the bonds’ outlook from stable to negative, noting declining enrollment and a revenue shortfall for the year ending in June 2016.
Historically, Barry University’s enrollment has fallen short of expectations, Fitch noted.
The university relies on tuition for more than 90 percent of its total revenue but has been unable to lower its tuition discount rate. Fitch said its tuition discount rate was expected to hit 29.8 percent for the 2016 fiscal year, up from 25.6 percent in 2015 and above its 2014 discount rate, which was 27 percent.
St. Thomas, in contrast, is a smaller institution, with 4,662 students as of the fall of 2016. Most of those students, 2,752, were undergraduates. Officials noted that many of the institutions’ students are dually enrolled at area Catholic high schools. The overall enrollment is down from 4,918 in 2015.
The university’s undergraduate students are 61 percent Hispanic/Latino and 9 percent black or African-American, according to federal data. Pell Grants went to 44 percent of full-time freshman undergraduates in 2014-15. The university says more than 90 percent of its students currently receive some type of financial assistance.
St. Thomas has collected around $60 million in revenue annually in recent years. It posted surpluses of more than $3 million in the years ending in June 2016 and 2015. It reported a deficit of $332,842 the previous year.
Currently, St. Thomas is in the midst of some belt-tightening, including voluntary separation plans offered to interested staff and faculty members, according to Hilda Fernandez, vice president of university advancement and marketing and communications. But she said its finances are strong.
“The university has never had to borrow money,” she said. “At the end of the day, the university has reserves, and it’s not borrowing money to operate. By far, it’s doing well. What it’s not doing is sitting still.”
St. Thomas discounts tuition, with aid packages for students averaging about $11,000 to $12,000 against its quoted undergraduate tuition of $28,800 per year for full-time undergraduates, Fernandez said. That’s about a 40 percent discount rate.
Talks with Barry University aren’t the only major changes on tap at St. Thomas. Monsignor Casale, who has been the university’s president for more than two decades, plans to retire in January 2018. It’s a natural time to discuss strategic direction, Fernandez said.
Monsignor Casale acknowledged that the South Florida market is competitive for students. But he argued that St. Thomas and Barry provide better access for students and a focus on service they cannot find elsewhere.
“We have a different student-to-faculty ratio,” he said, referring to the university's advertised 14 to one student-to-faculty ratio, which is lower than those at area public institutions. “There’s a much more personalized environment at both institutions than there are at other institutions.”
Faculty members want to be a part of the talks between St. Thomas and Barry, according to Craig E. Reese, a professor of accounting and taxation who is a member of the Faculty Forum at St. Thomas and chairs the department of accounting, business administration and finance in its school of business. But so far, any affiliation talks appear to have been at the executive and board levels, he said.
St. Thomas's efforts to balance the budget left some faculty positions unfilled. It currently has about seven fewer faculty members than it did last year, Reese said.
Reese thinks a merger could be a logical outcome of the engagement with Barry University. But he added that it is not likely to take place within the next year or two. The institutions involved -- including the church -- move slowly, he said. The work of consolidating duplicate programs would take time.
For instance, both Barry University and St. Thomas University have law schools. The Barry University School of Law is in Orlando, while the St. Thomas University School of Law is located on its campus.
There are reasons to believe that the two universities can find common ground. The two institutions’ presidents have discussed collaborations for years. They also have a history of partnering. Before they became coeducational -- Barry was founded as a women’s college and St. Thomas as a men’s college -- they shared classes and hosted events jointly.
“We tell the students clearly: we’re open for business,” Reese said. “We’re not closing down. What we’re going to have to do is rationalize what the two Catholic institutions do. We should not be in direct competition.”
Some think a full merger is unlikely, however. Ed Moore, president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, believes the two institutions are looking for ways to share background and back-office operations.
“I think they’re both looking for efficiencies, shared services,” he said. “If you can do them less expensively, then certainly that’s the best thing to do.”
Barry and St. Thomas are important to South Florida but face challenges, Moore said.
“They’re located in some areas that need the access from these institutions,” he said. “They admit somebody knowing full well that they can’t pay, and that’s what they’re up against.”
The talks between Barry and St. Thomas come at a time when other Roman Catholic universities have reconsidered their position or been forced to make concessions to finances. Aquinas College in Nashville, Tenn., recently said it was making deep cuts to focus on training Dominican sisters as teachers. St. Joseph’s College, in Rensselaer, Ind., said in February said it had to suspend nearly all operations after the spring semester because of a funding crunch.
Like any other tuition-dependent institution, most Catholic colleges or universities are going to face problems if they encounter dropping enrollments over multiple years, said Michael James, director of the Institute for Administrators in Catholic Higher Education at Boston College.
“These are front-and-center issues,” James said. “Over the last decade that I’ve directed the program, we’re seeing an increased number of participants that want to talk about and engage the questions we’re presenting around mission -- but with a lens of how does this bolster our competitiveness, and how do these become part of our strategic sustainability plans?”
Catholic universities can be uniquely qualified to forge collaborative models between institutions because they have shared characteristics and missions, James said. But institutions are also reflecting about their individual missions and responsibilities, he added. In many cases, they are thinking about what they can do to provide resources and access to the growing Hispanic population in the United States.
“How do they serve those student populations that are increasingly not being served well?” James said. “I think Catholic colleges are sort of asking that question very honestly.”Editorial Tags: Business issuesMergersImage Source: Barry UniversityImage Caption: Barry University, whose officials are talking with counterparts at St. Thomas University about an allianceIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Toward the end of a nearly three-hour hearing on improving the federal student aid system Wednesday, Representative Glenn Grothman identified an issue with Pell Grants that doesn't get much attention. "Anecdotal evidence" in his district, the Wisconsin Republican said, indicated people are choosing not to marry so they can have incomes low enough to qualify for the need-based aid program.
Asked to respond by Grothman, the panel of witnesses testifying before the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development was for several seconds stunned into silence.
Grothman also argued that first-year students should be barred from receiving Pell Grants to make sure the federal government is not "wasting money" on those who don't graduate. And he suggested that low-income recipients are spending the grant aid on "goodies and electronics." Those students could pay for college by taking out loans, he said.
Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said taking Pell from first-year students gets the issue "upside down" when most scholarly and policy discussions have begun to focus on front-loading grants. As for Pell's impact on marriage, he said there is anecdotal evidence for "everything under the sun."
"I'm not in a position to deny he ran into two people who told him that, but I'm not sure what to do with that information," Nassirian said.
Grothman's comments did not receive a favorable response from hearing observers online.
@rkelchen Oh. How many aid offices has he worked in? How many students has he sat with while they cried?— Shannon Gallagher (@sgallagherhe) March 21, 2017 March 21, 2017 Editorial Tags: Financial aidImage Caption: Representative Glenn GrothmanIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
This month's episode of the Pulse podcast features an interview with Michael Eiseman, founder of Algebra by Hand, an app that helps teach the mathematics discipline.
In the interview with Rodney B. Murray, the Pulse's host, Eiseman discusses his background as a DuPont scientist, how his app can teach procedural fluency and his passion for socioeconomic and other equity in mathematics.
Murray is executive director of the office of academic technology at University of the Sciences. The Pulse is Inside Higher Ed’s monthly technology podcast. Find out more, and listen to past Pulse podcasts, here.Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: TeachingTechnologyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Shouting down of a controversial speaker at McMaster raises new concerns about academic freedom in Canada
Has American-style “campus illiberalism” reached Canada? That’s what some are wondering this week in the aftermath of the shouting down of an invited speaker at McMaster University in Ontario.
Jordan Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and an outspoken critic of what he calls “compelled speech” -- including the mandatory use of gender-neutral pronouns such as the singular “they” -- was invited to McMaster by a student group to participate in a panel Friday on free speech and political correctness. Peterson ended up being the only participant out of four slated panelists, however, after news of protests spread.
Various videos of the event have been posted online. One posted by Peterson shows dozens of protesters gathered at the back and to one side of the lecture hall, using various tools -- from cowbells to air horns to a megaphone -- to disrupt his speech. Peterson attempts to deliver his talk to a larger group of interested students, but he is nearly inaudible at times due to ongoing chants, such as “This is where we draw the line” and “Trans rights are human rights.”
Members of the audience ask the protesters to stop, to no avail. After approximately 30 minutes, Peterson takes his talk outside. The protesters follow, but he continues to speak, explaining that he opposes a controversial Canadian bill to move to protect gender identity and expression in a non-discrimination human rights law and in the national criminal code. That's because, in his view, in part, the proposed legislation has implications for the use of certain kinds of language and enshrines an insufficient definition of identity.
He says the protesters are inspired in part by a “radical postmodern” philosophy in which there is only group, not individual, identity, and in which dialogue between groups can never lead to consensus. He urges those listening not to go “down that road.”
Peterson, who is no stranger to controversy, in an interview with Inside Higher Ed called the event “theater of the absurd” that left him speech speechless -- almost.
“The borderline between uncivil and violent behavior is very thin, and what happened at McMaster, where someone with a bullhorn dominated the entire event -- repeating the same inane phrases over and over -- subjugated the desires of all the people who came there to listen,” Peterson said. “We’re talking about hijacking a fundamental right.”
Peterson has previously said that he opposes gender-neutral pronouns outright, including student requests that he use them. His home institution, Toronto, has supported his right to free speech while warning him to observe the provincial human rights code and his responsibilities as a teacher. He said Monday that he opposes being required by “fiat” to refer to anyone by anything, especially mandates from groups that say that they represent the interests of large swaths of individuals. He generally addresses trans people using pronouns based on how they present themselves, he said. Moreover, he said, there’s no clinical evidence to his knowledge that gender-neutral pronouns psychologically benefit trans people.
Peterson has many critics within academe, and he’s been compared by fellow professors to the late John Philippe Rushton, whose work on race and intelligence earned him a reputation in the eyes of some as Canada’s Charles Murray. (Murray, of course, was at the center of the recent Middlebury College protest that turned violent.) But Peterson denied that he was transphobic or racist or any number of other things he’s been accused of, saying if there was evidence of that out there it would already have been unearthed by his critics. The pronoun debate and others are essentially a way in which “the radical postmodern left is using the trans issue to push their political agenda forward,” Peterson said, adding that activist academics have had a hand in that. (For the record, he said he’d be equally opposed to such activism coming from the academic right.)
McMaster’s president, Patrick Deane, released a statement about the incident Monday, saying that “defending academic freedom is not always easy to do,” and that the university was pressured by various people and groups prior to the event to denounce Peterson or the protesters or cancel the event altogether.
“I chose to do none of those things,” he wrote. “The event was framed and organized as a discussion of political correctness and freedom of speech on campus, which I regard as an important and entirely appropriate topic for discussion at an institution of higher learning. The fundamental mission of the university is to provide opportunities for education, both within and beyond the classroom. Taking the opportunity to listen to a speaker, even one with whom one may vehemently disagree, is an important aspect of education and a cornerstone of academic debate.”
Deane said he reaffirmed the university’s commitment to diversity, including that brought by trans people. So, he added, “the presence on campus of a speaker who may challenge the rights of any particular group should not be seen as undermining the university’s commitment to inclusivity but merely as an opportunity to explore and debate the topics under discussion.”
Peaceful protest is welcome, he said, but in the event that “the tactics employed by such protesters violate the laws of our land, or the codes of conduct of our community, appropriate sanctions can and will be applied.”
Gord Arbeau, a spokesperson for McMaster, said the university expects one nonstudent with no affiliation to the university who was involved in the protest to face unspecified criminal charges.
Two professors who bowed out of the event declined immediate interview requests. The third, Philippa Carter, teaching professor of social psychology and religion, said she canceled due to safety concerns only.
“I think his views are wrong,” Carter said of Peterson, saying that “language evolves” and academics should, too. “But my decision didn’t have anything with not wanting to be in the same room with him. I had heard there were going to be protests, and I wasn’t persuaded that the [student] organization had taken enough precautions around security at the event.”
Carter said the protest confirmed her decision was the right one, and that having to be concerned about her physical security at an academic event “really pisses me off.”
“I don’t think [Peterson] should have been invited, but once he had, then he had the right to speak,” she said. “We are not a high school. I don’t think that universities or colleges are obliged to protect students from having their feelings hurt -- primarily because that’s impossible to do. How do we know what’s going to hurt someone?”
In Canada, she added, “We have a fairly widespread affirmation of diversity and multiculturalism, and universities should try to protect that diversity, to include diversity of opinion.”
Campus protests surrounding inclusion issues haven’t reached the pitch they have in the U.S. in Canada, Carter said, likely because of that ingrained multiculturalism: there’s less controversy surrounding diversity because diversity is less controversial. So concerns about academic freedom aren’t as heightened as they are in the U.S., either, she said.
“But if stuff like what happened at McMaster keeps happening, I think people will start to voice a little more concern,” Carter added.
Peterson is no stranger to controversy, and students at Toronto protested against him at a free speech rally in October. But he said the event at McMaster was the worst behavior he'd seen. Also this month, Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, who has argued in favor of abortion and euthanasia for severely disabled infants in some instances, was interrupted by disability rights protesters throughout an appearance via Skype at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.
David Robinson, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said student protests of invited speakers come up “now and again,” but not with the same frequency they seem to of late in the U.S. “But oftentimes what happens in the U.S. spills over very quickly.”
Similar to the American Association of University Professors, Robinson's association's view is that “no matter how provocative or offensive someone may be, they have a right to speak.” Protesters have rights, too, he said, and may express their disagreement by turning their backs or heads, handing out leaflets or, especially, sharing their views during questions-and-answer periods -- not by shouting someone down.
“One of the few places in our society where we can really engage in adult conversations about controversial issues” are college campuses, he said. “Doesn’t mean we agree with them. On the contrary, the more we shine the light on and speak about the issues we find offensive, the more we put them to the test.”
Peterson said Canadian students tend to be more politically "sedate" than older Canadians or nonstudents, in that they're focused on job preparation in what looks like a challenging economy. But going forward, he said, much will depend on how colleges and universities respond to incidents like the one at McMaster.
“The more these provocations are allowed to manifest themselves” without sanctions for those involved, “the higher the probability that someone is going to get hurt."Academic FreedomEditorial Tags: Academic freedomImage Source: YouTubeImage Caption: Jordan Peterson attempts to speak at McMaster University Friday. Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Trump budget protected institutional aid for black colleges but not programs that help black college students
The Trump budget proposal released last week promised to maintain institutional support for historically black colleges. But it does so while dealing a blow to grant-based and work-study programs on which black colleges and their students depend.
And that's not the vision many leaders of black colleges had when they met (and posed for photos with) President Trump -- and heard him talk about how much of a priority black colleges would be in his administration.
More than 55,000 students at those institutions would be affected by the elimination of the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, a federal program serving those with very low income levels, which was zeroed out in the Trump budget blueprint. And 26,000 with work-study jobs would be affected by slashing that program, said United Negro College Fund President and CEO Michael Lomax in a letter last week to Mick Mulvaney, Trump's budget director.
Students on HBCU campuses uses programs like the Pell Grant and SEOG, which benefit many of the same students, at higher rates than the national average. John Silvanus Wilson Jr., president of Morehouse College, said he and other leaders of historically black colleges didn't go to meetings with President Trump and congressional leaders in Washington last month intending to assure level funding for a program for minority-serving institutions.
"It's hard for me to say you value me because you didn't cut me," Wilson said. "The only way to value someone -- especially when using terms like 'historic' and 'outdoing' one's predecessors -- is to increase their support." (Trump said repeatedly in the build-up to his meetings with HBCU leaders that he would do more for them than the Obama administration did.)
Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough said the Trump proposal was the opening round of the budget process. HBCU leaders should be unified now in making the case that they need even more support, both in funding to institutions and in student financial aid programs, to serve the most vulnerable populations, he said.
"The case that we've been trying to make is that we already don't have enough resources to do the work that needs to be done," Kimbrough said.
Dillard students would lose about $180,000 from the proposed elimination of SEOG and another $368,000 from the work-study program, he said. Although Pell funding was kept flat, Kimbrough said the reality is that the value of the grant has declined as the maximum award has failed to keep pace with inflation. The so-called skinny budget offered by the administration doesn't specify if it will change the current $5,920 maximum award amount but promises "level funding" for the program.
"I'm not ready for the silver lining," he said. "We're still in really strong negotiation mode. So let's not look for wins already."
The UNCF is aiming to shape the approach of the administration and Congress to spending by providing more information on the value of those programs. Figures in the administration may not yet realize how much students at historically black colleges rely on programs like SEOG, said Cheryl Smith, senior vice president of public policy and government affairs at UNCF.
"They may not have fully realized how significant that is for our institutions," Smith said. "We are going through the data set and trying to paint a picture here so people understand the significance of these programs."
Johnny C. Taylor Jr., president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, said after the budget proposal was released last week that while much work remains, the initial outcome could have been worse for HBCUs in the context of a 13 percent overall cut for the Department of Education. Taylor said those institutions are in a better position now than they would be if they had to fight for a restoration of Pell funding.
Taylor said he is also looking beyond student aid dollars or institutional aid through the department to sources of funding for HBCU institutions in other federal agencies.
"We've had to dig out of holes every year," Taylor said. "We're holding the current president to a standard that we simply were not willing to hold the former president to."
Other grant award programs that fund nonprofits and community organizations working with low-income and first-generation college students would be slashed under the Trump budget -- TRIO would be cut by 10 percent and GEAR UP by about a third. Kimberly Jones, a spokeswoman for the Council for Opportunity in Education, which works on behalf of those programs, said TRIO serves about 36,000 students at HBCUs with a presence at almost every historically black college. The program serves 828,000 students overall this year.
"This includes both undergraduates who are enrolled in these institutions along with youth and adults in their neighboring communities," she said. "Thus, any potential cuts to TRIO would most definitely inflict harm on our HBCUs. COE is committed to working with our supporters in Congress -- on both sides of the aisle and across both sides of the Capitol -- to make sure that this doesn’t happen."
Smith and Taylor are both hoping that the spotlight focused on historically black colleges thanks to face-to-face time spent with Trump as well as GOP lawmakers will provide a boost to advocacy efforts.
It's clear the White House is concerned about the way the budget is perceived by HBCUs -- in part because of early missteps by the administration, said Clare McCann, a senior policy analyst with New America's education policy program.
"The fact that they explicitly protected that funding for the institutions at the expense of student aid dollars is, I think, a significant indication of where their priorities are," said McCann, who worked at the Department of Education during the Obama administration.
But she said cuts like eliminating SEOG would have a serious impact on access for students attending HBCUs.
"At the end of the day, these cuts are going to affect students at their schools and are going to have a significant impact on affordability at HBCUs, where many students have unmet need and rely on these dollars," she said.
(Note: This article originally misstated the number of students served overall by TRIO. The story has been updated.)Editorial Tags: Diversity MattersTrump administrationHistorically black collegesImage Source: Getty ImagesImage Caption: President Trump meets black college leaders in the Oval Office Feb. 27.Ad Keyword: HBCUIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 1Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, March 21, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
The University of Maryland University College is tearing itself apart -- on purpose.
The university, which gets nearly all of its funding from tuition revenue, has long relied on enrolling large numbers of students associated with the military for financial stability. After teaching students at military bases across Asia and Europe for decades, the university was quick to realize the potential of the internet and became a pioneer in the field of distance education.
After an enrollment dip earlier this decade, however, UMUC has begun a process of unbundling, paring the institution down to what President Javier Miyares calls its “academic core” to monetize its own services, grow its endowment and keep tuition rates low.
“We believe that if you look at higher education, there is a core -- what you teach, who teaches it and how we teach it,” Miyares said in an interview. “That is the existential, essential core of the university. Everything else are business processes that do not have to be run in the traditional way within the university.”
UMUC has already spun off its Office of Analytics, which in 2015 became the data analytics company HelioCampus. It has plans to do the same with its IT department and the 100 or so staffers in it, who will form a company called AccelerEd. Other units may follow.
The university’s unbundling strategy is controversial, and it has already attracted questions about how a public institution can justify privatizing parts of what it does. UMUC, in response, points to the governance structure it has set up with the state to ensure that the university and other public institutions in Maryland will be first in line to benefit from the changes.
Moreover, Miyares said, the changes are necessary in order for the university to fulfill its mission of providing higher education to working adults as long as only about 10 percent of its funding comes from the state.
“In higher education today, almost every institution is looking at its business model, and those who are not should be doing that,” Miyares said. “I would argue -- and I think a lot of folks would agree -- that a public institution that bets its future on increasing public dollars is putting itself at risk.”
Rebounding From the ‘Perfect Storm’
UMUC’s decision to spin off units and offices not directly related to teaching students dates back to strategic shifts the university made following a period of decline earlier this decade.
“We found ourselves in what I called at the time ‘the perfect storm,’” Miyares said.
There was sequestration -- the automatic federal budget cuts triggered in 2013 when a “super committee” of lawmakers in Congress failed to agree on a deficit-reduction plan. Then the federal government shut down for 16 days in October, forcing the branches of the military to stop processing tuition assistance applications.
Those events compounded with longer-term developments, including the military drawdown and increased competition in the online education market.
The result: UMUC lost thousands of students, especially at military bases in Asia and Europe, which posted double-digit enrollment declines. The university cut its work force by about 300 and its budget by around $60 million, and tasked a working group of entrepreneurs and board members with reviewing its business model.
The group, known as the Ideation Team, produced a grim conclusion: “UMUC is no longer well positioned for long-term sustainability in this new environment.”
UMUC’s enrollment has since begun to rebound. Its worldwide unduplicated head count during the 2016 fiscal year was 85,122, down about 12,000 since its peak in fiscal year 2012 but up about 3 percent from fiscal year 2015.
The university’s share of students connected to the military -- active-duty service members, veterans and their families -- has also grown. Those students now comprise between 50 and 60 percent of its total enrollment, yet they are not the answer to UMUC’s long-term challenges, Miyares said.
“There is no future there,” Miyares. “We certainly want to keep expanding our market share of military enrollments for many reasons -- among them the historic identity of UMUC -- but our future is in the civilian space.”
Spinning Off to Grow
UMUC has a number of ways to market itself to adult learners, including low tuition rates ($248 per credit hour for in-state students, $499 for out-of-state students) and generous transfer credit policies. Last year, the university did away with commercial textbooks and replaced them with free open educational resources. It is also redesigning several of its academic programs to emphasize practical, “experiential” learning, Miyares said.
However, it is the university's proposed changes on the administrative side that may insulate it somewhat from the effects of ups and down in its enrollment.
The Ideation Team evaluated seven potential business models, ranging from UMUC merging with another public institution in the state to selling it to a competitor. The model that the team recommended, which the university is now pursuing, aims to combine the security of being a public institution with the risks and rewards that the private sector affords.
UMUC has set up a nonprofit, UMUC Ventures, which functions like a holding company whose purpose is to benefit the university. It, in turn, controls AccelerEd, HelioCampus and whatever companies the university will spin off in the future.
As those companies sell their services to other colleges, the university hopes to use some of the profits to grow its endowment. At around $16 million, the endowment is much smaller than national median of about $120 million.
“We believe that one of the benefits of this new construct is that it provides an avenue to significantly grow [our] endowment,” Miyares said. The university doesn’t have endowed chair positions or a prestigious research institute that it could promote to encourage alumni to donate, he pointed out (generally, the university’s faculty members are on three- to five-year contracts).
Miyares declined to say which other university functions may be spun off, adding that it is “fair to say that [the IT department] will not be the last.” But that depends on whether the units can be turned into profitable businesses, he said.
“What is totally untouchable is what we call the academic core of the university -- the faculty, the schools, the curriculum, the library, the registrar and the military contracts we have with the Department of Defense to provide overseas education,” Miyares said. The university “will consider anything else … that can offer opportunities, first, in a more flexible way outside of state constraints and, second, that offers the possibility of capitalizing, monetizing that intellectual property,” he said.
Privatization and the Public Mission
UMUC’s unbundling strategy has its supporters, particularly among people who say colleges are becoming too bloated.
Ryan Craig, managing director of the investment firm University Ventures, argued in College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education that college spending on efforts not directly related to academics -- including athletics and research -- is making higher education unaffordable to many students.
“UMUC recognizes that higher education institutions have an obligation to students to reimagine how they achieve their missions,” Craig said in an email. “Too much of college and university spending is currently allocated to functions that do not directly serve the interests of tuition-paying students. Isomorphism of organizational structures, processes and even credentials has produced a self-referential system that is failing too many students at too high a price. In unbundling the university, UMUC will complete the prerequisite to [provide] faster, cheaper and more effective educational pathways for students.”
“As much respect as I have for the university president, he seemed quite enamored with finding ways to use public resources to found private educational-technology start-up companies -- instead of with the core academic mission of the university,” Kroner wrote. “The thinking was that the university might use excess income from these start-ups, or the proceeds from selling them off, to fund scholarships. This is a noble goal, but the business of ed tech is extremely risky at best and can result in losing hundreds of millions of dollars for even the largest and most successful educational-technology companies.”
Kroner added that he likes the idea of harnessing the talent in UMUC’s IT department, but that he disagrees with the university’s approach.
“As a taxpayer of Maryland, I think of UMUC as a state treasure,” Kroner wrote. “The university has a special academic mission, and I hate seeing it put on the back burner. I don’t want to see the great work of UMUC privatized.”
Miyares said UMUC spinning off its analytic and IT units is no different than a college outsourcing its food or facilities management services. “The public mission is providing access to higher education,” he said. “The public mission is not if we get IT services from an affiliated private company.”
Miyares pointed to the hierarchy that connects the spun-off companies to the university and the state. UMUC Ventures is governed by its own Board of Ventures, members of which are named by the university president, who is named by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents.
The arrangement still creates some distance between the university and the companies under its control. If HelioCampus were still the Office of Analytics, the administration could tell it what to prioritize. Now, those priorities have to be carefully detailed in the university’s contract with the company.
Miyares acknowledged that the university is still tweaking the model and learning as it goes along, but that it is so far satisfied with the results.
“For the regents, it was important that there was a really clear line of control,” Miyares said. “We are very satisfied that what we are getting from [HelioCampus] in terms of analytics services is what we were getting before, but that involved very well-crafted service-level agreements. The same thing will have to be done with IT … to make sure we continue to get what we need. At the end of the day, if we don’t, well, I can appoint new directors at any time.”
And if the regents have issues with the university’s strategy? “In Maryland, presidents don’t work on contract,” Miyares said. “We can be fired tomorrow.”TechnologyEditorial Tags: College administrationOnline learningImage Source: Photo IllustrationIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
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