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Higher Education News
Most students will make an earnest attempt to answer homework questions without peeking at the answer, even if cheating is just a click away, a new study found.
In the study, which was presented this week at the annual conference of the American Society for Engineering Education, researchers at the University of California, Riverside, explore a lingering concern many faculty members have about online education or digital course materials: that the design of homework assignments will lead students down the path of least resistance, blazing through study questions without learning much at all.
“Instructors commonly ask us: If students can show and copy-paste the answer to receive credit, won’t most just do that to receive homework credit, without earnestly trying?” the report reads.
The researchers, Frank Vahid, Alex Daniel Edgcomb and Joshua Sai Yuen, looked at how students used the learning platform zyBooks to answer that question. (Vahid, professor of computer science, co-founded the start-up; Edgcomb, a research specialist at the university, serves as a senior software engineer; and Yuen, a current student, is a developer there.) The start-up, which bills its products as "interactive textbook replacements," offers digital course materials in STEM fields, using animation and interactive elements in an attempt to get students more excited about learning.
For the study, which was supported by the National Science Foundation and Google, the researchers looked at how 553 students taking the same introductory programming course approached homework questions. The short-answer questions challenged students to type out a short bit of code and then press a button to check their answer (see below for an example). Answering incorrectly produced a hint, but otherwise, students could keep guessing without losing points. Students could, however, click the “Show answer” button and paste the answer into the box -- again, without being penalized.
The students, who at the time the data was collected -- fall 2014 -- attended a public research university, a public four-year university and two community colleges, did not know their studying habits would be analyzed.
The results contain encouraging news for those suspecting students are always on the lookout for ways to breeze through their homework. In fact, few students were tempted by the “Show answer” button.
About nine out of 10 students (89 percent) answered homework questions earnestly more than 60 percent of the time. Nearly three-quarters of students (73 percent) landed in the category the researchers defined as “highly earnest,” taking a stab at the questions before clicking to reveal the answer more than 80 percent of the time.
Only a handful of students -- about 1 percent -- cheated the system, the researchers found, answering questions earnestly less than 20 percent of the time. The average earnestness was a “rather high” but not surprising 84 percent, they write.
“We believe most students really want to learn, so most would not cheat a learning system if it is well designed,” Edgcomb said in an email. “But of course we wanted confirmation of that belief. And we had several instructors bring up the question, so we wanted to confidently be able to answer them as well.”
Furthermore, the findings contain some pointers for faculty members about how to effectively use digital course materials to ensure students grasp important concepts.
One factor faculty members should keep in mind is tiredness. As students progressed through the course, they became more likely to click the “Show answer” button before attempting to answer the homework questions. Early in the course, students at all three types of institutions answered questions earnestly more than 90 percent of the time. By the time they tackled the last 38 homework questions, that rate had fallen about 20 percentage points. Although there were some differences between the types of institutions, those findings were not statistically significant.
Edgcomb said in the email that he and the other researchers hope to investigate if course content itself can keep students engaged for the duration of the course. He added that “good teachers already apply various techniques [to combat tiredness].”
While students grew steadily more tired as the semester went on, the researchers also discovered occasional blips or “troughs in earnestness” where a large number of students would peek at the answer to a question. Going back to look at the questions where the troughs occurred, the researchers realized they were all badly formulated or incorrect questions that confused students.
“Upon investigating why particular learning questions had unusually low earnestness, we discovered those questions themselves needed improvement,” Vahid said in an email. “While we already make it easy for students to send us feedback and we use that feedback to improve our learning questions, this study taught us that measuring earnestness is another powerful way for authors to improve their content -- and we'll be incorporating that into our processes.”Teaching With TechnologyEditorial Tags: TeachingImage Source: iStockIs this breaking news?:
It has not been an easy decade for Birmingham-Southern College.
In 2010 the small private liberal arts college made millions of dollars in cuts and laid off employees after finding a major financial aid error. Birmingham-Southern had for years been adding Pell Grant totals to student financial aid packages without adjusting its own contribution downward -- an adjustment called for in its policies and those of colleges generally. The estimated cost of the errors came to about $5 million a year for an institution with a $49 million budget at the time.
Birmingham-Southern’s president resigned shortly afterward. Retired General Charles C. Krulak eventually took over as president, holding the role from 2011 until he retired in the spring of 2015. But the president hired to replace him, Edward F. Leonard III, stepped down this month after just one year, without a public explanation.
That is a large number of leadership changes in a relatively short period of time for a small institution trying to recover from a major blow to its books. So perhaps it should not have been a surprise that trustees turned back to a name they knew, Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith, to become the institution’s next president.
Flaherty-Goldsmith started working for Birmingham-Southern in 2010 as a consultant to trustees, then she became Krulak’s chief of staff. She departed in 2013, working as a consultant with the nonprofit group Human Rights First. She is also a veteran of the University of Connecticut and University of Alabama System.
But importantly, Flaherty-Goldsmith was there when Birmingham Southern, under all accounts, managed to regain its financial footing. Now she wants to help it firm up that footing and find leadership stability as well.
“My skills are, perhaps, what the college needs,” said Flaherty-Goldsmith, who signed a renewable two-year contract. “My key vision is that we’re going to think outside of the box, do some innovative things and yet stay true to our role of a liberal arts college.”
Flaherty-Goldsmith wants Birmingham-Southern to grow closer to the communities that surround it on the west side of Birmingham, Ala., seen as a traditionally underdeveloped area. There are whispers of property in the area that could be developed.
But the new president also says the college is in a position to grow without construction. Its enrollment is 1,337 as of September 2015, up from 1,295 in the same month in 2011. Flaherty-Goldsmith said the campus has the capacity to expand to about 1,600 students. That would put it above its level just before its financial aid error was discovered.
Joining the campus today is very different than joining it six years ago, said Flaherty-Goldsmith, who officially starts as president July 11.
“When I came here in October of 2010, we were just barely hanging on,” she said. “We had to cut 25 percent of our expenses in order to continue to stay in business, and we did.”
Those cuts came within the first year. After trustees recruited Krulak, Birmingham-Southern found financial stability and in 2014 won reaccreditation for 10 years. When Flaherty-Goldsmith left Birmingham-Southern in 2013, much progress had been made restructuring debt and cutting costs, she said.
“It’s a whole new environment,” Flaherty-Goldsmith said. “It now comes from a place of strength rather than a place of, you know, fear.”
Birmingham-Southern did not provide additional financial information. While its enrollment is up since 2011, employment is down. The college’s number of full-time employees dropped from 299 to 287. Within that number, faculty shrank from 97 to 93.
The rapid leadership changes will be a challenge for the college with its recent financial history, higher education leadership experts said. But even in an age when the future of many private liberal arts institutions seems cloudy, several agreed that a strong leader with knowledge of the institution could be just what Birmingham-Southern needs.
“It’s above a thousand -- 1,300 is enough to run a college, for the most part,” said Kent John Chabotar, former president of Guilford College and founding partner of the higher education consulting firm MPK&D, who teaches at the Harvard Seminar for New Presidents. “Can they grow enrollment? Everyone wants to grow enrollment.”
Birmingham-Southern will have to walk a careful line if it wants to grow enrollment safely, Chabotar said. It can’t compromise its finances by increasing discount rates rapidly and effectively paying too much for extra students. And it has to be careful not to dilute its endowment.
The difficulties of multiple leadership changes should not be understated, either.
“Abrupt changes in leadership are almost always difficult for a college or university, particularly when they are not explained,” said Susan Resneck Pierce, president of SRP Consulting and former president of the University of Puget Sound, in an email. “When the tenure of the president who is leaving is an unusually short one, that compounds the problem. The faculty, staff and students in such circumstances often become concerned about the stability of the institution.”
Birmingham-Southern did not say why Leonard left after being president for just one year. As he arrived on campus last July, his former institution, Bethany College, was placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission. It had run deficits for eight straight years, with some eclipsing $1 million.
Presidents can leave institutions for many reasons -- related to finances, personal reasons or friction with trustees. Short tenures are not unheard of, but they can cause problems.
“Institutions that have lots of turnover in a short period of time are understandably unsettled and anxious,” said Judith Block McLaughlin, a senior lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the educational chair for the Harvard Seminar for New Presidents. “The months of disruption caused by these abrupt turnovers can be quite damaging, and so the board here seems to have decided to go with a known entity.”
The timing of Birmingham-Southern announcing that Leonard was leaving and that Flaherty-Goldsmith was taking over stood out to McLaughlin. The moves were announced simultaneously, telling her any presidential search was conducted privately.
McLaughlin also sees Flaherty-Goldsmith’s hiring as a move for stability.
“They reached for someone in whom they have confidence,” McLaughlin said. “The hopefulness for the institution, now, is they have someone who knows the place, is not coming in with a lot of start-up items to learn.”
New presidents should always be thinking about their relationship with the Board of Trustees. High turnover can signal a board that is difficult to work with or lead to board members becoming more involved to help through transitions, McLaughlin said. The fiscal situation always needs attention. And in a high-turnover situation, the university climate will also be important, she said.
“That sense of instability and anxiety and fear,” McLaughlin said. “Everyone from faculty and staff on campus to prospective students to alumni, how do people feel hopeful about an institution rather than fearful about it?”
But a longtime professor said the mood on Birmingham-Southern’s campus is one of excitement about the new president.
“She knows about finances, fund-raising and how those things go together,” said Natalie Davis, a professor of political science who was on the search committee that named Krulak president. “There really is an energy on campus about her leadership. She brings a wealth of experience.”
Flaherty-Goldsmith has demonstrated financial acumen before at Birmingham-Southern, Davis said. She will need to do it again.
“The honest answer here is we are balancing budgets but we have some backfill from the mess that was left in 2010,” Davis said. “The previous president [Krulak] had really done a masterful job in terms of turning the place around in energy and in money and in getting us out of the hole that was dug with respect to the Southern Association. All of that is behind us. Now we ought to be in a growth situation, and Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith can make that happen. She knows this community like no other.”
Davis is hoping Flaherty-Goldsmith can find ways to make Birmingham-Southern less dependent on enrollment. The college can “tread water” and survive, Davis said, but she wants to see it grow. Davis also mentioned the idea of developing properties around the college.
“It’s an exciting set of ideas,” she said. “Everyone here is really jacked up. I hope the expectations are not so high that nobody can achieve what everybody is dreaming about.”FinancesEditorial Tags: New presidentsImage Source: Birmingham-Southern CollegeImage Caption: Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith is the first woman president at Birmingham-Southern College.Is this breaking news?:
For professors, finding time to do research can be difficult. Especially if they are women.
Numerous studies have found that female professors work the same number of hours as their male counterparts, but they spend less time on research and more time on other commitments. In a 2008 study by professors at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Georgia, female participants spent an hour and a half less per week on research than their male counterparts. A big reason was that they spent an hour more on service and a half hour more on teaching.
The Women Faculty Writing Groups at Texas Tech University aim to combat this gender gap in research. Founded this fall, the program seeks to offer female professors a three-hour chunk of time each week to pursue writing and publishing their research without getting sidetracked by other demands, said Caroline Bishop, assistant professor of classical and modern languages at Texas Tech and a co-founder of the program.
“We really wanted to have a safe, protected time,” Bishop said. “A time when women can say no to other things.”
The overarching goal of the program is to help women prioritize research, which is often the biggest factor in promotion, said Kristin Messuri, associate director of the University Writing Center at Texas Tech and another co-founder of the program. “Women faculty tend to be promoted at lower rates than male faculty,” she said. “They go up for promotion less often. When you get into full professors, there are fewer of them.”
While the program’s goal is ambitious, its structure is simple. At the beginning of each three-hour session, participants discuss articles on productivity and share their progress and goals, Messuri said. The remaining two and a half hours are devoted to writing for publication.
The pursuit of this writing can take different forms, Messuri said. Participants can write articles or book chapters, analyze data, or simply brainstorm ideas. But they are discouraged from checking their email or taking phone calls.
Participants in the Women Faculty Writing Groups represent a full spectrum of ranks, Messuri said. “We’ve had everything from postdoc to full professor,” she said. “But we do give preference to people on the tenure track.”
In its inaugural iteration this fall, the program attracted 17 participants who were divided into two groups, Messuri said. This spring, the program increased to encompass 27 participants in three groups, she said.
Looking ahead, Messuri expects the program to keep growing as word spreads. But future growth will depend on the availability of resources, such as professors willing to facilitate the first half hour of each session.
When launching the Women Faculty Writing Groups, the co-founders drew inspiration from a similar program of the same name at Indiana University at Bloomington. Bishop said she was exposed to this program while serving as a visiting professor at IU last year before accepting a tenure-track position at Texas Tech.
Bishop recalled the program at IU as a transformative experience. “My discipline in particular, classical studies, can be a male-focused discipline,” she said. “I had quite honestly never been around so many different women of different ranks. They were all so supportive of each other’s success. It very quickly became my favorite part of being at Indiana.”
In turn, the Women Faculty Writing Groups at IU were inspired by similar programs at several other institutions, said Jane McLeod, associate dean for social and historical sciences and graduate education at IU. When McLeod and another dean attended a 2013 higher education symposium, they were struck by presentations on writing groups by more than eight other universities, including the University of Michigan, she said. Writing groups stood out as “something we could do that wouldn’t cost much money but seemed very valuable,” she said.
After the symposium, McLeod and the other dean developed a proposal for the Women Faculty Writing Groups and secured funding. They also approached Laura Plummer, director of the Scholarly Writing Program at IU, about leading the program.
Female professors perform more “care work” than their male counterparts, since graduate students disproportionately seek them out as mentors during office hours, Plummer said. “Particularly women of color find themselves mentoring not only their own graduate students, but also [other] graduate students of color in their departments,” she said. “So they find that their time is taken up by people coming to their doors to ask for advice.”
Family obligations can also weigh on female professors, Plummer said. “Typically, many of them have families,” she said. “The pressures of child rearing also play a part in how many things they’re juggling.”
Finally, departmental service also eats up more of women’s time, Plummer said. Women are more likely to take on service roles such as chairing a search committee or directing an undergraduate program, she said.
A 2009 study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that three-quarters of female associate professors had taken on major service roles, compared to half of their male counterparts. In particular, a third of the women had served as undergraduate directors, compared to 17 percent of the men.
Just like at Texas Tech, the program at IU saw rapid growth. At its inception in 2013, it drew 17 participants who were split into two groups, according to Plummer. Last semester, it drew 154 participants who were split into 13 groups, she said.
But unlike at Texas Tech, the program at IU has acquired a surprising component: coeducational groups. “We had gotten requests from men on campus about the possibility of a group that would include them,” Plummer said. “So we’re addressing faculty interest by experimenting with two coed groups."DiversityEditorial Tags: WomenImage Source: Courtesy of Heidi TothImage Caption: The Women Faculty Writing Group at Texas Tech UniversityIs this breaking news?:
Baruch College, a Division III institution in the City University of New York system, awarded more than $250,000 in impermissible financial aid to athletes over the course of five years, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Thursday.
Much of the aid was awarded based on athletic ability -- a violation of what is frequently referred to as Division III’s “bedrock principle.”
While Division III colleges are allowed to weigh athletic considerations in deciding whom they admit, the rules adopted by the division’s members bar them from doing so when packaging financial aid. According to the NCAA, 13 Baruch athletes received financial aid based on athletic criteria between 2010 and 2015, and another 11 players received one-time cash awards of $500 for participating in athletics.
In one case, an athlete received scholarships that required her to demonstrate “high academic performance,” though her entrance test score was 300 points below the average for incoming freshmen. In another, a player received $13,547 from institutional grants and $14,362 from named scholarships. The athlete’s visa documentation, however, had certified that her parents would contribute $22,000 per year for her education, and she had also received a $10,000 merit scholarship from the college.
“Despite [the athlete’s] certification of extensive financial resources,” the NCAA’s report stated, “the institution designated her as a ‘financial hardship’ case.”
In addition, in-state residency status was granted to athletes who did not meet the requirements, and players were offered jobs as resident assistants as part of their financial aid packages. For violating NCAA rules, Baruch College received a one-year postseason ban for its women’s basketball team and four years of probation.
In many of the violations, the former women’s head basketball coach and former vice president of student affairs -- who are not named in the report -- were directly involved in awarding the aid.
“The former head coach stated he knew athletic ability or participation could not be considered when giving financial aid to student-athletes and that Division III rules prohibited him from attempting to change financial aid packages,” Gerald Houlihan, a member of the Division III Committee on Infractions, said. “However, he directly influenced decisions that resulted in student-athletes receiving impermissible financial aid based on athletics.”
An Inside Higher Ed analysis in April found that dozens of Division III colleges in recent years have offered financial aid based on athletic ability. And the number of those cases seems to be increasing, according to the NCAA’s database of what the organization considers to be “major infractions.”
Between 1953 and 2006, Division III had 13 major violations involving financial aid. In the decade since, there have been more than two dozen cases.
Last year, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology was found to have awarded nearly $40,000 in financial aid based on athletics, and Emory and Henry College was found to have awarded nearly $80,000 to 27 athletes using athletic criteria. In 2014, the University of Wisconsin at Superior was found to have awarded 196 athletic ability-based scholarships totaling $393,575 between 2008 and 2013. During that same time period, Denison University offered impermissible financial aid ranging from $1,443 to $9,000 per year to 24 athletes.
The major infractions database does not include more minor violations, what the NCAA calls secondary infractions, meaning the total number of financial aid infractions is even higher. Division III institutions are required to use an annual reporting process to compare the financial aid packages of freshman and transfer athletes with the aid packages of freshman and transfer nonathletes. The most recent NCAA report about this process found that between 2005 and 2014, 61 Division III institutions considered athletic ability when packaging financial aid.
“We’re certainly concerned with an increase,” Houlihan said. “We’d like to see there be no cases of violations. Hopefully the spurt of recent decisions will go toward eliminating future violations.”
While Dan Dutcher, president of Division III, said he believes many institutions that are breaking the rules are doing so inadvertently, there continues to be some disagreement among the division’s members about the rules banning athletic scholarships.
A 2008 survey found that nearly two-thirds of members said “consideration of leadership in athletics (e.g., team captain) in the awarding of financial aid should be allowed provided it is consistent with the consideration of leadership in other student activities.” A 2013 survey found that the desire for change has waned somewhat, though about half of members still said they disagreed that “the current prohibition of considering leadership in athletics (e.g., team captain) in the awarding of financial aid to student-athletes is appropriate.”
About 21 percent of members said the NCAA needed to provide more education about financial aid rules. Baruch’s former vice president said that he did not receive education on NCAA rules, and that the violations were inadvertent. But, according to the NCAA, it was a desire to win that led to the violations.
“The former vice president wanted to raise the profile of athletics at the college and, as a part of that effort, he was closely involved in the recruitment, admission and awarding of financial aid for prospects and student-athletes,” Houlihan said. “Even though he knew that under Division III rules, financial aid based on athletics could not be provided to student-athletes, he approved, directed or influenced the impermissible financial aid and benefits provided to student-athletes over the course of five years.”
According to the NCAA’s report, the vice president “put a lot of pressure on results” and “wanted winning teams to compete [at the same level as New York University] and to be able to make NCAA tournaments.” Winning had “become the priority.”
The former vice president became directly involved in athletics and the recruiting process, meeting with recruits and monitoring coaches’ spreadsheets of prospective athletes. According to Baruch’s director of admissions, if her office “didn’t give [coaches] the answer they wanted to hear” regarding financial aid rules, they would go to the former vice president.
In 2014, the vice president was removed from overseeing athletics. He left the college in 2015 for a job at another institution. In its report, the committee said that it had not previously seen a high-level campus official have such "breadth and scope of responsibilities" in an infractions case.
"As I stated unambiguously to the NCAA," Mitchel Wallerstein, the college's president, said in a statement, "Baruch College accepts and takes full responsibility for the fact that some improper benefits were made available to a limited number of student-athletes during the period from 2010-2015."
Baruch’s former vice president is not the only member of Division III who has placed a greater emphasis on winning in recent years. In a 2008 NCAA survey, about 30 percent of Division III said “the ultimate measure of success in an athletics program is participation in national championships.”
In 2013, more than half of the division agreed with that statement.
"It is odd to see Division III schools engaging in this behavior, given that there are not huge revenue sources available for championships, but sport creates a passion among many administrators because they believe it is the most efficient manner in which to build their campus brand," Mark Nagel, professor of sports and entertainment management at the University of South Carolina, said. "It is a bit sad to see this type of behavior at Division III, particularly since the lack of athletic aid is a cornerstone of the entire division. If there are more and more of these cases at a level in which sport revenues are not large, that says a lot about how some college administrators are willing to alter their campus’ supposed core principles."Editorial Tags: NCAAImage Source: Baruch College | TwitterIs this breaking news?:
New presidents or provosts: Bradley DuPage Estrella Kutztown Milwaukee NCMC Springfield Truckee Warner
Northeastern University took a beating in early June for a fund-raising effort derisively dubbed a student loan lottery on Twitter. But beyond social media sneers, the effort provided a window into a larger struggle to turn young graduates into donors.
That struggle is more difficult because of the higher student loan debts, tougher job markets, increased mobility and new technological trends of recent years. Despite challenges, though, experts say colleges and universities have to try new strategies to cultivate young donors. While institutions may misstep from time to time as they find the best way to reach recent graduates, they need to do so to set themselves up for the future.
Northeastern’s ridiculed fund-raising effort was a text message offering students the chance to win $1,000 toward their student loan payments if they made donations. It drew quick rebuke on Twitter, with one user, @carrohalpin, posting, “Appreciate the acknowledgment that I have loans. But that’s why I’m not donating [right now]. 1K is a drop in the bucket.” Another, @Nick_Beek, posted, “Student debt is not a game like lotto games played at @7eleven. Cut out the outrageous fund-raising text messages.”
The university declined to comment for this article, instead providing the same statement it released in early June: “Inspired by a well-intentioned donor, the university launched a one-time text message campaign to a limited group of alumni,” it said. “It was a one-day effort and has now concluded.”
Experts generally weren’t willing to comment directly on the campaign, either. But they were willing to discuss the broader trends in higher education fund-raising into which it fits. Important among those trends is that institutions have ridden large donations to record levels of fund-raising. Yet at the same time, donor participation rates are dropping.
Colleges and universities drew a record level of charitable contributions in the 2015 fiscal year, $40.3 billion, the Council for Aid to Education said in January. But the portion of alumni who made donations actually fell to 8.4 percent -- down from 8.6 percent the year before and 11.7 percent in 2007.
The general consensus is that participation rates are falling as technology allows colleges and universities to keep track of more of their graduates -- the pool of potential donors is expanding, even if the number of actual donors is not falling. But institutions still want to raise their participation rates, as they are important in university rankings. Reaching the huge number of recent graduates is an important way to do so.
At first glance, recent graduates might not appear all that important beyond participation rates. While some have money, as a group they’re less likely to give the major gifts that higher education has increasingly relied upon of late. But reaching younger donors is seen as cultivating them for the future. They might not be able to give much now, the thinking goes. But recent graduates establish their giving habits early.
So it’s now or never if institutions want to lay the groundwork for the future. And at a time when institutions with tight budgets are relying more and more on fund-raising, never is an extremely unappealing option.
“We have to engage them now, otherwise the capital campaigns 10, 15 years down the road are really going to suffer,” said Joshua Robertson, vice president of analytics and strategy for Ruffalo Noel Levitz, an enrollment and fund-raising consulting firm with an emphasis in higher education.
But one of the major challenges to reaching younger donors now is their mobility. Many millennials plan on moving this year, Robertson said. They’re less likely to update their address with the U.S. Postal Service.
Institutions can try to overcome that challenge by performing their own change-of-address research, Robertson said. Or they can send mailers to parents. But mobile phones have become the new gold mine in fund-raising. Robertson calls the cell phone number the “forever number” because graduates tend to keep them, no matter where they move in the United States, he said.
Even if they have a cell phone number, institutions still need to be able to talk to their recent graduates and find campaigns that appeal to them. Intelligent requests for donations are key, Robertson said -- institutions can’t try to raise $1,000 from someone who can’t afford it. For younger donors, he likes the idea of small gifts on a recurring basis, which can raise significant money but don’t feel as intimidating to cash-strapped donors.
“They may be completely comfortable doing $5 a month,” Robertson said. “It’s moving to where everything is a subscription. You’re used to Apple Music costing $9.99 a month.”
Still, the financial barriers shouldn’t be minimized. Younger graduates early in their careers have never been able to match the giving power of older, established donors. Now many see the difference compounded by the slow job markets and high student loan debts of recent years.
Those issues can be overcome, said Peter Fissinger, president and CEO of Campbell & Co., a Chicago-based nonprofit and fund-raising consulting firm that works in the higher education field.
“Once you control for wealth and education, generations have been pretty much equally generous,” he said. “I believe that, in the end, millennials will prove to be as generous as any generation that preceded them.”
Understanding a new graduate’s motivations is key to raising money from him or her, Fissinger said. He acknowledged that graduates who have struggled with jobs and finances likely feel differently about their alma maters than those who have not. So institutions need to change the way they interact with graduates.
“They’ve got to work not just on asking donors to give, but to authentically promote the value,” Fissinger said. “Which means helping them with career preparation and helping them find their first job. That’s been different than what they do in the past.”
That is, however, easier said than done. It can require work between different departments within colleges and universities. It can also mean spending money up front to win donations far in the future.
“It’s easy to say we need a stewardship piece, we need to do more to make people understand why we need their support,” said Robertson, of Ruffalo Noel Levitz. “But it’s hard to rationalize the investment.”
It can be easier to rationalize existing strategies, like advertising. But even that has changed with technology. The days of simply mailing out hard-copy magazines and brochures that control the message are gone. Today, whether an institution is running a Facebook campaign or sending out text messages, the story can evolve as alumni comment and repost.
Many experts mentioned crowdfunding as a new strategy that can connect with young graduates. It links them directly to causes they care about, it includes elements of game playing and it lays out a clear story where even small donations of $5 or $10 can make a difference, Robertson said.
The University of Connecticut has had success with a crowdfunding campaign it calls Ignite, said Karen LaMalva, director of annual giving. The competition has student groups competing to raise funds from students and young alumni. Groups also compete for prize money from the UConn Foundation, which they receive for winning challenges or recruiting the most students and young alumni.
The competition, in its fourth year, raised a total of $44,236.68 in 2016. That might not be a huge amount of money, but it came from 2,096 donors -- a substantial number of young donors for a university that graduated 8,760 this year.
“We really want to focus on getting them engaged and involved and keeping them connected to UConn,” LaMalva said. “Once they pay off their student loans and have the means to make [larger] donations, hopefully they will step up.”
Institutions still need to make sure donors feel their money is making a difference today, said Robert Henry, vice president of education at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. He thinks it’s important to talk about how gifts can be used for purposes like financial aid and keeping classes affordable.
“Students make the assumption, as you can imagine, that tuition is covering the college experience, and the truth is, it doesn’t,” he said. “I think students do want to help students.”
By and large, institutions are trying to think creatively, Henry said. Of course, even the institutions that are keeping up with the changes will make some missteps.
“Part of it is you have to try it,” Henry said. “Some things may work and some things may not.”Administration and FinanceEditorial Tags: Fund-Raising/DevelopmentImage Caption: UConn Ignite programIs this breaking news?:
For some students, registering for courses and considering fields of study can feel like checking off items from a shopping list. Math? Check. Foreign language? Check.
But for students entering Connecticut College in the fall, this approach will be strongly discouraged. Starting with the class of 2020, the private liberal arts college is unveiling a new general education program called Connections aimed at encouraging more intentional learning.
As the first major change to the college’s curriculum in 40 years, Connections features a host of new requirements that seek to promote interdisciplinary thinking. Most notably, students will now be required to take interdisciplinary 100-level courses called ConnCourses and choose pathways that guide their studies.
“As a faculty, we had grown increasingly dissatisfied with what you might call the check-box approach to distribution requirements or general education, where students have a series of courses they’re supposed to take and no real rationale of how they relate to each other,” said Jefferson Singer, dean of the college. “There was no larger purpose to taking those courses.”
“The best part of the liberal arts has to do with the connections it allows students to make among the very different aspects of their four-year experience,” said Katherine Bergeron, president of Connecticut College. “What we want to do is create the structures that will allow students to maximize those connections.”
Revamping Intro Courses
As a staple of most college curriculums, 100-level courses are meant to provide students with basic knowledge of a discipline. The new ConnCourses represent nothing short of a “rethinking of the 100-level course,” Bergeron said.
“The ConnCourses are based within a particular discipline, but they show the connection of that discipline to other related disciplines,” Singer said. “They also ask the student to think about applications to real-world problems.”
Faculty members in a range of departments piloted 12 ConnCourses last year. Darryl Phillips, chair of the classics department, said he took advantage of the opportunity to inject surprising new elements into his course The Roman World.
When teaching about Augustus, Phillips invited a colleague in the art history department to deliver a guest lecture on the parallels between Augustus in ancient Rome and Mussolini in fascist Italy. The colleague highlighted that both Augustus and Mussolini erected obelisks as victory monuments to legitimize their regimes.
A more traditional approach to the class in the past would have never come close to the 20th century. “That was an example of making connections for the students,” Phillips said. “I was extending out from my traditional focus on all things ancient and looking at the impact today.”
Phillips said he hopes the ConnCourses ensure that students routinely engage in interdisciplinary thinking. “If they start making these connections as first-year students, they’re going to be doing fascinating projects that link together areas by the time they’re seniors,” he said. “By the time they go off to their careers, it’s going to be a habit.”
Charting a Path
After taking a ConnCourse during their freshman year, students will be asked to choose a pathway during their sophomore year in addition to their major. Five pathways have been approved so far on topics including global capitalism, public health, and peace and conflict, Singer said.
Faculty members are currently working to develop additional pathways on subjects such as the body, identity and urban schools, Singer said. The goal is to eventually offer 10 to 12 pathways in total, he said.
Catherine Stock, professor of history and director of the American studies program, said she enjoyed helping to develop the pathway on peace and conflict. “If you think about peace and conflict in the broadest possible way, you think about what is required for a community to maintain peace and what the consequences of war are,” she said.
Stock said she hopes to use her course World War I and the Making of the Modern World as a launching point for students interested in that pathway. “The course will engage issues of history, the arts and memory,” she said. “So students won’t feel like they’re just going to a classroom and memorizing the battles. They’ll be seeing how all these different disciplines can inform World War I.”
The pathway on peace and conflict will benefit from Connecticut College’s partnership with the Coast Guard Academy, which is located across the street from campus, Stock said. A course at the Coast Guard Academy on the science of terrorism could be included in the pathway, she said.
Students across pathways will be asked to pick an animating question of personal interest to them, Stock said. Examples of potential animating questions include “How have the technologies of war changed over time?” and “What role have women played in sustaining peace and making war?” she said.
Students will also be required to complete courses within their pathway in at least three “modes of inquiry,” Bergeron said. The approved modes of inquiry are creative expression, creative interpretation and analysis, quantitative and formal reasoning, scientific inquiry and analysis, and social and historical inquiry.
Connecticut College is among a minority of institutions to offer pathways as part of their general-education programs, according to a recent survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Only 29 percent of chief academic officers surveyed reported that their institution offered “structured pathways that progressively develop proficiencies in key areas.”
Debra Humphreys, senior vice president for academic planning and engagement at AAC&U, said she applauds Connecticut College for introducing the pathways. “The idea of pathways is really productive,” she said. “You have to have these kinds of structures that help students see the point of studying a broad array of areas of knowledge and bring that knowledge to bear in society.”Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: CurriculumImage Caption: Connecticut CollegeIs this breaking news?:
“Drunkorexia” is a colloquial term for the practice of skipping meals or exercising heavily before consuming alcohol. The trend isn’t new for college students, with the word “drunkorexia” appearing in news headlines -- and alarming parents -- for a few years now.
But a new study, presented this week at the Research Society on Alcoholism’s annual meeting, suggests the behavior may be more common than previously thought, and is an issue for male and female students. Eight out of 10 college students who participated in the study said they had recently engaged in at least one behavior related to drunkorexia.
"College students appear to engage in these behaviors to increase alcohol effects or reduce alcohol-related calories by engaging in bulimic-type or diet/exercising/calorie-restricted eating behaviors," Dipali Rinker, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Houston and author of the study, said in a statement. "Our information examines the association between these different types of drunkorexic behaviors and other predictors of problem drinking among college students, such as gender differences."
Rinker’s study was based on a survey that included responses from 1,184 college students, most of them from the University of Houston, who had drunk heavily at least once in the past 30 days. More than 80 percent of the students said they had engaged in at least one behavior in the last three months that Rinker considered to be related to drunkorexia.
The behaviors included inducing vomiting, consuming laxatives or diuretics, or not eating anything before drinking.
“Long term, it’s not a good idea to skip nutritious meals in order to consume more calories from alcohol,” Aaron White, the program director of college and underage drinking prevention at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said. “Then there are the short-term consequences. Having food in your stomach reduces peak blood alcohol levels about a third, so if you flip that, your peak level is significantly higher, increasing risk of blackouts, injuries and poor decisions. The consequences are worse than the consequences of not saving the calories.”
It's often students who drink heavily that engage in the behaviors, White added.
"We're not talking about someone concerned about a 150-calorie glass of wine," he said. "We're talking about someone who is concerned about 1,000 calories from binge drinking, and that's the person you just don't want skipping meals."
Rinker found that students who lived in fraternity and sorority houses were the most likely to report engaging in the behavior, followed by those living in residence halls. Women were more likely to engage in the bulimic-type behaviors than men, according to the study, but both genders were equally likely to engage in some kind of drunkorexic behavior, such as skipping meals.
The new study aimed to expand the definition of drunkorexia, Rinker said, which may explain why earlier research had suggested fewer students engaged in the behavior. Other studies had also suggested there was a sharper gender divide.
A 2009 study found that 50 percent of college women reported restricting food intake before drinking, more than 1.5 times the share of men who reported the behavior. Research also suggests that men and women often have different motivations for engaging in the behavior. A 2014 study, published in the Journal of American College Health, concluded that “women were significantly more likely than men to restrict what they ate prior to alcohol consumption,” and that “this was driven by women’s greater desire to control their weight.”
Nearly 60 percent of female college students responding to a 2012 survey who reported drinking alcohol said they had also engaged in self-induced vomiting. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders states that 72 percent of women who say they abuse alcohol also suffer from an eating disorder.
In 2011, researchers at the University of Missouri at Columbia found that 16 percent of college students responding to a survey reported restricting calories to “save them” for drinking. Women were three times as likely to report engaging in the behavior than men. Male students, on the other hand, were more likely to engage in the behavior to save money for purchasing alcohol.
A study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that 20 percent of incoming female freshmen responding to a survey said they had engaged in drunkorexic behavior in the last two weeks. Most of them said they did it not for dieting or cost-saving reasons, however.
Instead, they skipped meals because they knew they could get more intoxicated more quickly on an empty stomach.
“We are now aware that this is happening, but there’s still a lot that we just don’t know,” White, of the NIAAA, said. “For instance, how do we prevent it? Students doing this to save calories are different than students doing this to save money or students who are doing it to get as drunk as possible. There’s a lot left to untangle here about what exactly is happening.”Editorial Tags: Alcohol and drugsImage Source: FlickrIs this breaking news?:
Irish universities would risk losing part of their funding if they fail to tackle gender inequality under proposed reforms to improve women’s promotion chances in academe.
As part of plans put forward by an expert group commissioned by the Republic of Ireland’s Higher Education Authority, all higher education institutions would face financial penalties if they did not meet targets on gender equality agreed with the funding body.
Institutions would also be unable to apply for research funding if they failed to achieve at least a Silver Athena SWAN award (given for gender equity) within seven years, the group has recommended.
Other recommendations from the long-awaited national review of gender equality in Irish higher education include having mandatory quotas for academic promotion and asking university presidential candidates to demonstrate their experience in advancing gender equality.
None of Ireland’s seven universities has ever been led by a woman, and just 19 percent of the country’s professors are women.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, a former European Union commissioner who led the gender equality review, said the quota-based approach was necessary because a “‘fix the women’ approach aimed at getting women to change to fit the existing culture will not work.”
“Gender balance in top leadership positions will not be achieved in our lifetimes if we just wait for change to naturally occur,” Geoghegan-Quinn said.
She added that the underrepresentation of women in senior academic roles was “not because women are not talented or driven enough to fill these roles,” but rather because “numerous factors within the institutions -- conscious and unconscious, cultural and structural -- mean women face a number of barriers to progression, which are not experienced to the same degree by men.”
Other ideas put forward by the group include ensuring that at least 40 percent of members of key decision-making bodies within institutions are women and creating a national committee to support gender equality.
Each institution will also need to appoint a vice president for equality, who will be a full academic member of the executive management team and who will report directly to the president, while all Irish higher education institutions will have to apply for Athena SWAN accreditation within three years.
“The intractable underrepresentation of women among staff at senior levels clearly signals the need for new, even radical, approaches to tackling this issue,” stated Tom Boland, chief executive of the HEA, who said that the funding body “strongly endorses” the findings and recommendations of the group.
“Over the coming months, we will continue to liaise with the Department of Education and Skills, the higher education institutions, research funding agencies and other key stakeholders to develop a detailed implementation plan,” he added.
Commenting on the plan, the Equality Challenge Unit’s Athena SWAN manager Ruth Gilligan said that the report includes “some ambitious timelines for [institutions] to apply for Bronze and Silver institution-level Athena SWAN Charter awards.”
The Athena SWAN team would “be working hard to ensure universities, institutes of technology and the new technological universities are supported at all stages of the charter process,” Gilligan added.DiversityGlobalEditorial Tags: IrelandWomenIs this breaking news?:
New presidents or provosts: Antioch Blackhawk Centralia East Carolina EOU Malone NNMC Springfield Wheaton
Hillary Clinton on Tuesday proposed opening up federal financial aid to alternative education providers, softening student loan repayment requirements for entrepreneurs and granting green cards to STEM students as part of wide-ranging tech and innovation agenda.
“We need more job creators, and we need more young people starting businesses,” Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, said during a visit to the Denver-based boot camp Galvanize. “What we’ve been doing is insufficient for doing what we want for young Americans or even midcareer Americans.”
The plan proposes $10 billion in federal funding (a significant amount in tight budget times, no matter who wins the election) for students to enroll in vetted boot camps, coding academies, massive open online courses and other programs run by alternative education providers, as well as providing unspecified rewards for colleges that accept those programs as credit toward graduation.
For entrepreneurs, the plan proposes letting them and potentially their first 10 to 20 employees defer payments on their student loans, penalty-free, for up to three years “as they work through the critical start-up phase of new enterprises.” Entrepreneurs whose start-ups serve “distressed communities” or “provide measurable social impact and benefit” will after five years be able to apply to have up to $17,500 of their loans forgiven.
“Starting out can be daunting,” Clinton said, according to The Denver Post. “There’s a lot of risk, even if you have a good idea …. It can be a lot harder if you are juggling student loan payments. And that can cut into what you are able to do.”
Clinton ‘Embracing’ Innovation
Clinton’s proposal to bring alternative providers into the federal financial aid fold is one that enjoys broad political support. The U.S. Department of Education has since last year planned experiments involving partnerships between colleges and alternative providers, while many Republicans, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, have called for accreditation processes to be overhauled to let alternative providers in.
Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said Clinton is the latest politician to endorse the vision of the U.S. postsecondary education system as the country’s official workforce development system. Such a shift could represent a “new deal” for public institutions, which he said may be willing to trade increased scrutiny of student earnings and employment outcomes for more funding.
“What you’re seeing is that people are moving toward legitimizing different kinds of education and training with an emphasis on employment,” Carnevale said in an interview. “There is a centrist view that has emerged.”
Observers who have been supportive of the Obama administration’s work with alternative providers said they were both heartened and a little surprised by Clinton’s proposal, as they had expected she might take a more critical line. Clinton’s debt-free college plan, they said, was structured largely to benefit traditional public postsecondary institutions, and even included language such as “We must bring integrity to online learning.” That plan, however, did mention federal funding for “low-cost, technology-enabled programs.”
Amy Laitinen, director for higher education at the think tank New America, said Clinton has been a “larger unknown” on alternative providers compared to the Obama administration.
“I was unsure whether or not a more traditional Democrat would embrace consumer protection-focused innovation, and it seems with this proposal that she is not only open to it but embracing it,” Laitinen said in an interview. The plan, she said, is a “nice nod to the fact that you can and you should have innovation and consumer protection existing simultaneously.”
Paul LeBlanc, the president of Southern New Hampshire University who recently wrapped up a three-month stint with the Education Department, said he, too, was waiting to hear from candidates on new models of higher education.
“I had some fears that, after an administration that talked a lot about innovation … we weren’t hearing anything from any of the major candidates,” LeBlanc, who has advised the department on new accreditation pathways for alternative providers, said in an interview. “This is a change.”
Clinton’s endorsement of federal financial aid for alternative providers could draw criticism from critics of for-profit companies' involvement in higher education, as well as from some of the education groups that have enthusiastically endorsed her, LeBlanc said.
The plan suggests alternative providers will have to present some sort of evidence of their efficacy in order to participate. While it does not mention accreditation, the plan says students can use federal financial aid for those programs “as long as they are accountable and have proven track records of success.”
Even some alternative education providers have been skeptical about accepting federal financial aid, which they have said could bring applications from students they have little experience serving. Laitinen said those types of alternative providers -- which in some cases serve as a replacement for graduate school -- shouldn't be eligible for federal financial aid.
“If the federal government comes in and starts subsidizing the whole industry and doesn’t have high standards, then it’s going to be a race to the bottom in terms of quality,” Laitinen said. “But if you could use federal dollars to help support nontraditional providers who are helping people who aren’t being helped right now by boot camps, that would be a huge boon to students and where the market isn’t working now.”
Student Loans, Immigration, Copyright
Reactions to Clinton’s student loan proposals for entrepreneurs were more mixed, as observers said the plan lacks the nitty-gritty details needed to determine whether or not the proposals would be doable. The plan doesn’t define which factors determine which communities would be classified as “distressed,” for example, nor the types of “social enterprises that provide measurable social impact and benefit.”
Matthew Chingos, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, an economic and social policy think tank, called the student loan forgiveness part of the plan a “terrible idea” that subsidizes students “who took out huge loans to attend an expensive private university” rather than Pell Grant recipients. He later expanded on his comments in a blog post.
“There’s no high-quality evidence that student debt is holding back entrepreneurship,” Chingos said in an interview, pointing out that graduates can already defer using income-based repayment. “If you want to encourage people to be entrepreneurs, then write checks to entrepreneurs.”
Still, Carnevale called the idea of taking some of the pressure off entrepreneurs’ cash flow “inventive,” saying it effectively creates “safe space” for recent graduates to create start-ups that could make a difference in underserved communities.
“It means you can do this when you’re in your 20s and you don’t need as much help from Mom and Dad,” Carnevale said. “You don’t need to be a rich kid. You don’t need to be Donald Trump.”
Other proposals that would affect higher education include:
Paul Fain contributed to this report.2016 ElectionEditorial Tags: Federal policyImage Source: GalvanizeImage Caption: Hillary Clinton speaks during an event in Denver.Is this breaking news?:
Will a British exit from the European Union lead to a drop in enrollment of European students at U.K. universities?
Many expect that it will. Currently E.U. nationals make up 5.5 percent of students at U.K. universities, and they’re eligible for domestic student tuition rates and British student loans. If those terms were to change -- if E.U. nationals were to be assessed the higher tuition rates other international students pay and if they weren’t eligible for government loans -- it’s reasonable to think some of those students would look elsewhere to study.
“Some of that prospective student base will start considering alternatives,” said Rahul Choudaha, the CEO of DrEducation, a global higher education research and consulting firm. “They don’t want to be part of this massive uncertainty which will happen in the next couple of years. U.S., Australia, other European countries which are offering English-taught programs, that’s where some of the traffic will start showing up.”
Last Thursday’s vote by the U.K. citizenry in favor of a Brexit has ushered the country’s universities into a period of profound uncertainty. Many academics opposed a Brexit vote, believing it would inhibit international research collaborations and make it more difficult for universities to attract talent from across the continent. Whether E.U. nationals might need visas to study and work at British universities in the near future remains an open question. Another key question for higher education is whether and on what terms a U.K. outside the E.U. will be able to negotiate participation in E.U.-wide programs important to higher education, including E.U. research funding programs and the Erasmus+ student exchange program.
In the days since the referendum, U.K. universities have rushed to assure E.U. students and staff -- E.U. nationals make up 15 percent of the academic staff at U.K. universities -- that they are highly valued and that their fee and/or immigration status will not change overnight. A Brexit process is expected to take a minimum of two years.
In the short term, the Student Loans Company and the Minister of State for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, have announced that current and new E.U. students starting their programs at U.K. universities this fall will continue to receive the loans and grants for which they are eligible until they complete their courses of study. Some individual universities, including the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Universities of Bristol and Exeter have pledged that all E.U. students enrolled as of fall 2016 can pay domestic tuition rates for the duration of their programs.
The University of Reading also told incoming and current E.U. students it will not change their fee levels for the duration of their courses, said Vincenzo Raimo, the pro vice chancellor for global engagement.
“We don’t know what the minister and the Student Loans Company will tell us about the 2017 intake,” Raimo said. “It’s really important that before we start the new recruitment cycle that we try to get some clarity around that. If there is no clarity then it is very likely that the numbers of undergraduate students coming from continental Europe will fall."
“We risk a fall in the number of students coming from continental Europe, but we also risk a wider impact on international student recruitment in general as a result of some of the negative messages that have been given about Britain” in regard to the referendum, Raimo said. Anti-immigrant sentiment has been prominent in the Brexit debate.
Raimo stressed the need for universities to emphasize their internationalism in their messaging: “We’re international communities,” he said. “We were yesterday, we are today and we will be tomorrow. The E.U. referendum results will make some of our jobs a little bit more difficult, but it hasn’t changed the fundamental position of our universities.”
In advance of the referendum on E.U. membership, in May the global higher education company Hobsons released results from a survey in which international students were asked how a Brexit would change their perceptions of U.K. higher education. Thirty-five percent of non-E.U. international students surveyed, and 82 percent of E.U. international students, said that a British vote to exit the E.U. would make the country’s universities less attractive.
Alexandra Michel, the associate director of College Contact, an educational agency based in Germany, said that U.K. programs, particularly one-year master's programs, have to date represented a good value proposition for German students -- a function, she said, of their high quality, relative low cost and proximity to home. Michel said that German students heading to the U.K. might typically pay anywhere between $6,000 and $11,000 in domestic student tuition for a one-year master of arts or science degree, and because they’re staying within the E.U. for their studies, they’re able to take German government loans and grants with them.
(Tuition rates vary across the four countries within the U.K. They're highest in England, where domestic undergraduate rates are capped at 9,000 pounds, or about $12,000 per year, but in many cases graduate programs have lower rates. To take just one example, a 12-month bioinformatics program at Newcastle University costs £6,165, or about $8,200, for domestic and E.U. students and £17,080, or more than $22,000, for international students from outside the E.U.)
Michel said she would expect German students to start looking at other options if they could no longer pay domestic tuition rates in the U.K. or if they had reduced access to public financing. "I would think those students would be looking at other countries within Europe," she said. "They might be looking at Ireland. I think Irish universities and colleges would be benefiting quite a bit; it’s the only other English-speaking country in the European Union and tuition fees are very low in comparison. They might also be looking at other countries that have a lot of programs taught in English, such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, maybe the Netherlands. Quite a few might stay in Germany and do only a semester or two abroad."
Michel said she doesn't think it likely that large numbers of otherwise U.K.-bound students would be diverted to Australia, Canada or the U.S., all higher-tuition destinations, with the possible exception of that subset of students who are looking to go to universities ranked among the world’s top 100. Some of those students, she said, might choose to go to the U.S. if the tuition differential between a top U.K. university and a top U.S. university narrowed.
Nick Hillman, the director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, an Oxford-based think tank, said in an interview there are good reasons to believe there will be a drop in E.U. students at U.K. universities if they see increases in their tuition and if their access to British student loans is eliminated. But he pointed out that from a narrow financial perspective it’s possible that British universities could come out ahead if they recruit fewer E.U. students at higher rates.
Hillman wrote Monday in The Guardian that “while fewer E.U. students would make our campuses less diverse and risk the global reputation of our universities, it would not necessarily affect their income. Take a university with 1,000 E.U. students paying £9,000 each. They bring in £9 [million] a year. If the same university has 700 E.U. students paying £13,500 each, it will earn slightly more and have to educate fewer people with the money.”
“Indeed, the higher fees each student would pay could make British universities more aggressive in recruiting students from E.U. countries,” he wrote.
“There are so many unknowns right now,” said Rajika Bhandari, the deputy vice president of research and evaluation at the New York-based Institute of International Education.
“There’s of course the doom and gloom, the predictions that are being made about how this might negatively affect student mobility, but I think there may be some other ways to look at this,” she said. “What we may actually see is there may be more opportunities for students outside of Europe. Given the currency fluctuations and the devaluation of the pound, we may actually see more international students from non-E.U. countries -- including from the U.S. -- considering going to the U.K.” A number of press reports in recent days have highlighted the fact that the devaluation of the pound has made Britain a more cost-effective destination for students from India, whose numbers have declined in the U.K. in recent years as they’ve risen in the U.S.
Bhandari continued: "Now of course if the political climate becomes such where the perception becomes that the U.K. is closing its doors and turning inwards, that may affect whether international students from other countries would feel welcome in the U.K., but obviously we would need to wait to see if that happens."GlobalInternational Higher EducationEditorial Tags: BritainInternational higher educationImage Source: iStockIs this breaking news?:
For Chereta Quána Madison, access to subsidized student health insurance was literally a matter of life or death.
Madison, a Ph.D. student in educational foundations, policy and practices at the University of Colorado at Boulder, started collapsing in public last January. By the end of February, she was confined to bed, watching videos of her classes because she couldn’t walk without debilitating pain.
Her graduate adviser suggested that she take a medical leave of absence. But Madison refused. If she was no longer enrolled, she would lose access to the Student Gold Health Insurance that could help cover a host of evaluations and surgeries.
Like Madison -- who was ultimately diagnosed with early-stage ovarian and uterine cancer -- graduate students across the country are struggling to maintain access to subsidized health insurance. But unlike Madison, their access is being jeopardized by confusion over whether universities can provide subsidized health insurance to graduate students while complying with the Affordable Care Act.
When the ACA was enacted in 2010, many institutions were providing graduate students with student health coverage at reduced or no cost as part of their benefit package. In particular, many universities were using arrangements designed to pay for student health insurance through a credit, offset, reimbursement or stipend.
But in 2013, the Internal Revenue Service issued guidance that said employer payment plans could not be integrated with individual insurance coverage. In other words, employers could not provide money to employees for the purposes of purchasing individual health insurance.
In February, the IRS released a further notice that said providing subsidized health insurance for graduate students may violate the ACA. The notice relied on two lines of reasoning. The first was that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' regulations define student health insurance as individual health insurance. The second was that graduate students engaged in teaching and research assistance fall under the common law definition of employees, and thus the arrangements that reduced their premiums might be an impermissible employer payment plan.
The February notice provided temporary transition relief, which allowed institutions to continue offering subsidies through the 2016-17 academic year. But for many universities, the path after this year remains unclear.
Federal agencies “haven’t really provided schools with a road map about how they’re supposed to comply with the Affordable Care Act,” said Steven Bloom, director of government relations for the American Council on Education. “The position of the government thus far is potentially detrimental for graduate students.”
Senators Step In
Seventeen Democratic senators issued a letter last week urging the Obama administration to clarify that universities can provide subsidized health insurance to graduate students while complying with the ACA.
The letter calls for the government to provide swift clarification, as many universities will soon negotiate the terms of their student health insurance coverage for the upcoming academic year. “Thousands of graduate students at campuses across the country could potentially be affected, costing students and schools millions of dollars,” the letter reads.
The letter points to the February IRS notice as advancing a problematic interpretation of the law. “IRS Notice 2016-17 allowed institutions to continue offering subsidized coverage for most graduate students in the 2016-17 academic year, enabling many students to continue to receive health care coverage this year,” the letter reads. “However, it also reiterated an interpretation of the law that could jeopardize graduate students’ access to health coverage.”
“I was very pleased to see the senators’ letter, because I think it addresses some very pressing and important issues for graduate education,” said Barbara Knuth, senior vice provost and dean of the graduate school at Cornell University and former chair of the board of directors of the Council of Graduate Schools. “The letter was clear and very helpful in pointing out how the guidance that was issued was inconsistent with the goals associated with the Affordable Care Act.”
Bloom said the letter illustrates the national importance of the issue of health insurance for graduate students. “It’s pretty significant that that many senators would take a position on this,” he said. “It shows their interest in advancing a goal of the Affordable Care Act, which is ensuring that graduate students get access to high-quality, affordable health insurance.”
Kristofferson Culmer, president and CEO of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, said the association supports the intent behind the letter. “However the law is applied and interpreted, we don’t want to see graduate students disadvantaged with regards to benefits that they really need to survive throughout their academic careers,” he said.
Graduate students with spouses or children especially stand to benefit from subsidized health insurance, Culmer said. A family plan can cost about a third of a graduate assistant's average annual income.
The letter ultimately plays into a longstanding debate about whether graduate students should be viewed as employees or students, Culmer said. This debate has often flared in the context of graduate students' unionization efforts, since employees are entitled to collective bargaining rights.
"There are a number of campuses where graduate student bodies are seeking to recognize themselves as employees," Culmer said. "Our association supports students' rights to self-determination in terms of how they want to be viewed by their university."
‘Up in the Air’
Institutions across the country are currently grappling with shaping new policies on health insurance for graduate students after this academic year. The University of Missouri in particular has generated debate over its handling of the matter.
Last summer, Missouri announced that it would cancel graduate student health insurance subsidies in an effort to comply with the 2013 IRS guidance. Administrators explained that this guidance threatened to impose steep fines -- up to $36,500 per student per year -- on institutions that offered graduate students subsidies for the purposes of buying individual health insurance from market plans.
But after graduate student workers planned a walkout in protest, Missouri reversed its decision and pledged to continue offering graduate students health insurance subsidies through this academic year. R. Bowen Loftin, the system's chancellor at the time, also charged a task force with identifying alternative ways of providing graduate students with subsidized health insurance in the future.
“We have committed to offering the same health insurance plan to graduate students this coming academic year that we currently offer,” said Christian Basi, associate director of the news bureau at the University of Missouri. “We’re going to do our best to continue to meet their health insurance needs as the federal government clarifies the law in this area.”
In its final report last fall, the Missouri task force recommended that the administration consider three options: providing graduate assistant students with financial fellowships, increasing their stipends or offering them an additional silver-level insurance plan. The report noted that the silver-level plan “provides a lower actuarially determined benefit, but the premiums are lower cost.”
But Culmer, who is also a doctoral candidate at Missouri, said the three options largely met with disapproval from the graduate student body. “All three options were inferior to the way we were being provided insurance at the time,” he said. “Students and the community voiced concerns to keep the status quo.”
“The 2017-18 academic year is up in the air right now,” Culmer added. “Students are going to work with the administration productively on this issue this year.”
While Missouri has generated controversy over its policy on health insurance for graduate students, Cornell has been re-examining its policy with little fanfare.
Graduate students at Cornell are currently issued a platinum-level plan that comes with lower out-of-pocket costs, including lower co-pays and deductibles, Knuth said. But administrators are weighing two alternative options for providing health insurance to graduate students after this academic year, she said.
The first option would be to start including graduate students in the employee health insurance plan, Knuth said. But this option essentially entails "worse coverage at a higher cost," she said. "Costs would go up for Cornell by about $11 million per year, with students getting worse coverage."
The second option would be to start issuing graduate students a qualified group plan on the open market. Before pursuing this option, administrators would conduct an analysis of whether it would provide satisfactory coverage for students, Knuth said.
Looking ahead, Knuth remains optimistic that the government will see the merit of letting universities continue offering subsidies to graduate students as in the past. "I don't have predictions -- I just have optimism and hope," she said.Editorial Tags: Graduate studentsHealth CareImage Source: iStockIs this breaking news?:
Across the country, male students are falling behind female students in college enrollment, academic performance and retention. According to National Center for Education Statistics, 56 percent of male students graduate in six years, compared to 62 percent of female students. From 1970 to 2010, the rate of women’s bachelor’s degree completion in the U.S. increased from 14 percent to 36 percent. The rate for men grew by just seven percentage points -- from 20 to 27 percent.
At the University of Redlands, men are trailing women, too, with a retention rate of 85 percent compared to 90 percent for women. The private liberal arts university in California has long had a Men’s Retention Committee, but it had failed to boost graduation rates. Last year, Zack Ritter, the university’s associate director for campus diversity and inclusion, and Reggie Robles, the university’s first-generation-students coordinator, decided to try something new.
Using the budget usually reserved for the committee, they created a program called Dudes Understanding Diversity and Ending Stereotypes, or DUDES.
“It’s masculinity programing designed to improve retention,” Ritter said. “We know male students exhibit higher rates of alcohol and substance abuse. And we also know they’re less likely to seek out student support services. This takes the support to them.”
Ritter describes DUDES as a “traveling men’s center.” Several organizations operate out of the center, including groups focused on diversity, social justice and personal development. DUDES also operates a leadership institute called Men Achieving Leadership Excellence and Success, or MALES.
The center provides peer mentoring, organizes recreational sporting events and brings guest speakers to campus. Recent presentations have included discussions about men and gun culture, pornography, and masculinity and spirituality. Earlier this year, DUDES partnered with the Latino Student Union on campus to organize a group discussion about the concept of machismo across different cultures. While the programming is designed for students who identify as men, women and transgender students are also welcome and encouraged to participate in any of the events.
If DUDES’ focus seems a little broad and abstract for a program aimed at improving retention, Ritter said that’s intentional.
“Our goal is really to get people to be their authentic selves, because I think you learn better, you grow better, you understand better, if you show up at the table authentically as yourself,” Ritter said. “It’s about taking off whatever mask you think you have to wear. Building an overall better environment feeds well into retention efforts.”
Redlands is not the only institution creating programming focused on this concept. Helping students discover their “authentic masculinity” is billed as the core mission of the University of Richmond’s Richmond College. At Richmond, students are divided into two “coordinate colleges.” Women belong to the university’s Westhampton College, while men belong to Richmond College.
“Research has shown that young men today face challenges in determining what ‘authentic’ masculinity looks like,” the Virginia university said in a statement. “Society promotes several conflicting images of what a ‘real man’ is or should be. Richmond College promotes the idea that ‘being a man’ is about discovering your best self.”
The university’s men’s college offers several programs and initiatives with this goal, including “I am Richmond College,” a project that collects interviews with students about diversity and masculinity. Students are asked to describe what the phrase “to be a man” means to them.
“Masculinity means being assertive, strong, being a leader and having initiative,” one student responded. “It also means being compassionate, vulnerable at times, loving, caring, and handling responsibilities that require both emotional intelligence and technical skill.”
Similar programs exist at Trinity College in Connecticut, the University of Massachusetts and the University of Missouri. Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, said that such programs are “increasing, but not widespread.”
Colleges looking to create masculinity programs, Kruger said, should be sure to also focus on how “toxic masculinity can promote and normalize sexual violence” and promote dangerous drinking habits, in particular among fraternity members and athletes.
“The research is very overwhelming that hypermasculinity is a part of the high-risk alcohol and substance abuse we see on campus,” Kruger said. “Researchers also speak about the ‘weaponization of alcohol’ and how sociopathic men target vulnerable women with alcohol and also create male allies by inducing their intoxication and getting them to ‘buy in’ to an assault. Masculinity education programs within Greek life and athletics need to focus on this dimension of alcohol use in male-dominated groups.”
A study published earlier this month found that more than half of male college athletes, both intercollegiate and recreational, have pressured women into having sex with them. Driven by negative attitudes toward women and misperceptions about rape and consent, 54 percent of the athletes participating in the study said they had engaged in sexually coercive behaviors -- defined as “any unwanted oral, vaginal or anal penetration as a result of verbal or physical pressure, including rape” -- compared to 37 percent of the nonathletes surveyed.
A survey conducted last year by the National Collegiate Athletic Association found that male athletes struggled to understand consent more than nonathletes did. Nearly two-thirds of male athletes said they agreed that “it is OK to take it to the next level unless you get a definite no,” compared to 47 percent of nonathletes.
Fraternity members are three times more likely to commit sexual assault than nonmembers, according to a 2007 study authored by John Foubert, a professor of higher education and student affairs at Oklahoma State University and founder of the sexual assault prevention program One in Four. A study published by a NASPA Journal concluded that women involved in Greek organizations were 74 percent more likely to experience rape than other college women.
Another study published in NASPA Journal in 2009 found that 86 percent of fraternity house residents engaged in binge drinking, compared to 45 percent of nonfraternity men. Fraternity members were twice as likely as nonfraternity men to engage in unplanned sex.
The DUDES program at the University of Redlands now partners with four fraternities to discuss alcohol use, drug abuse and sexual assault prevention with their members, Ritter said.
“We look at where the barriers are to being an authentic person, and that includes ideas about sports, drugs, drinking and sex,” he said. “That’s led us to focus on issues beyond just retention. We have been able to gain access to Greek orientation, so we talk to them about active bystander intervention, Title IX issues, consent and also healthy sexual relationships.”
Foubert, of One in Four, said it’s not yet clear if these kinds of programs can actually help prevent sexual assault or excessive drinking. Decreasing sexist attitudes, while a positive outcome, has not yet been directly linked with reducing sexual assault, he said, and a study published last month found that interventions designed to reduce alcohol use among fraternity members are not effective.
“But I am a fan of dialogue,” Foubert said. “If a program is there to create a space for men to talk about masculinity, I think that is a positive thing.”Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: RetentionSexual assaultAlcohol and drugsImage Source: University of RedlandsIs this breaking news?:
Critics are launching another salvo in a long-simmering debate over the underlying math used to gauge changes in higher education finances over time, arguing a cost-adjustment index used in a closely watched report obscures true trends in revenue.
At issue is the Higher Education Cost Adjustment, an inflationary index developed by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association and used in its annual State Higher Education Finance report. The index was designed to estimate inflation in the costs that colleges and universities pay. But its critics say that by focusing on what institutions spend, rather than on what students pay, the adjustment is out of step with the rising costs students face -- and actually hides a slight upward trend in revenue per student at colleges and universities.
The use of HECA has implications beyond numbers on a page, those critics say. Misreading revenue trends can have real effects on the policy choices made around state funding and tuition rates, leading decision makers to push the wrong levers when attempting to keep cost of attendance affordable. Others have argued that the cost index contributes to a feedback loop in which perceived higher costs prompt legislators to give colleges and universities more funds than are needed, which in turn allows the institutions to spend -- and charge -- more.
But HECA’s defenders respond that the index is a tool like any other, one creating data for a specific context. A key part of their defense is that HECA is intended to show the financial pressures universities face, which by nature are different from those students at public colleges and universities experience. Further, they say HECA is not particularly out of step with the most widely known consumer inflationary measure, the Consumer Price Index.
In some ways, the two sides are talking past one another as they focus on different sides of the higher education financial equation. In other ways, the debate shows just how opaque and complex the relationship can be between higher education costs and tuition -- every expert seems to have their own take on the most important underlying factors.
What Is the Higher Education Cost Adjustment?
SHEEO developed HECA as an alternative to two other inflationary measures, CPI and the Higher Education Price Index. It was intended to account for differences in the costs colleges face and the consumer-oriented costs accounted for in CPI. At the same time, HECA tried to account for some criticisms lobbed at HEPI, which had drawn fire for being privately developed, being self-referential because it relied heavily on average faculty salaries and being potentially costly to update and maintain.
Underpinning HECA are indexes developed and updated by the federal government. It’s tilted heavily toward personnel costs under the reasoning that faculty and staff costs are the largest portion of higher education institutions’ expenditures. A full 75 percent of HECA is the Employment Cost Index -- personnel costs -- and 25 percent is the Gross Domestic Product Implicit Price Deflator -- nonpersonnel costs. But HECA has also been criticized as being self-referential. It should not be used as a basis for increasing state funding, an argument goes, because it exaggerates what colleges and universities have to spend, making it more likely that state funding will appear to be falling behind costs.
The man leading the latest charge against HECA is Andrew Gillen, an independent higher education analyst and longtime critic of the cost adjustment. His basic argument starts with the idea that using HECA makes it harder to see a slight upward trend over time in institutions’ revenue per student -- revenue from state and local appropriations combined with net tuition revenue. Adjusting using CPI shows that revenue per student reached an all-time high of $12,972 in the 2015 fiscal year, he said, surpassing a previous high of $12,440 in 2007. That’s a larger margin than you get when adjusting for HECA, which shows revenue rising to $12,972 in 2015, up from $12,723 in 2007.
The all-time high came as state funding for higher education recovered somewhat from the recession, Gillen said. He rejected the idea that state funding per student is in long-term decline. His data show state appropriations per student lower in 2015 than they were before the recession but still increasing in recent years, keeping with a cyclical pattern that's established itself over previous economic cycles.
Further, tuition does not change in lockstep with state funding, Gillen said. He performed an analysis without HECA showing that every one-dollar decrease in state funding is only correlated with a seven-cent increase in tuition. If tuition were perfectly linked to state funding, the two indicators should change in a one-to-one ratio, he said.
Misreading the trends in revenue because of cost adjustments will lead to misdiagnosing the way costs are changing over time -- and misdiagnosing, in turn, the reasons tuition has been increasing, Gillen said. The common narrative is that declines in state funding have led to higher tuition, he said. But because his analysis shows state funding has cycled over time while revenue has crept up and tuition steadily increased, Gillen believes there has been too much emphasis on state funding. Increasing state funding is actually more likely to feed the trend of higher costs and tuition, he said.
So other elements of higher education finance need to be considered, Gillen said.
“That’s really why I keep writing,” he said. “If I’m wrong, then the way to keep tuition low is to keep increasing state funding. But if I’m right and you keep increasing state funding, that’s not going to do anything to tuition. Tuition is going to keep going up.”
Colleges and universities will raise all the money they can, and they will spend all the money they raise, Gillen said. Under his logic, an increase in state funding does nothing but increase the cap on what institutions can raise and spend.
Following Gillen’s reasoning can lead to very different ideas for keeping tuition in check. He suggested finding ways to change the incentives colleges and universities face.
“There are two ways you can escape this problem of just feeding the trend,” Gillen said. “Getting higher education to stop competing based on reputation -- compete based on value. Or cap revenue and start taking that away as colleges reach whatever is determined to be an adequate level.”
But many see the debate over cost indexes as a distraction from evaluating the trends in finance.
“This HECA versus CPI debate is a red herring, to be blunt,” said Andy Carlson, a senior policy analyst at the State Higher Education Executive Officers association. “CPI versus HECA is just a nitpicky argument that distracts.”
The two indexes have been tracking closely, and SHEEO discusses them in its report materials to provide transparency, Carlson said. CPI went up by 8.4 percent over the five years ending in 2015, according to SHEEO. By comparison, HECA increased by 9.8 percent.
Further, SHEEO created its report to look at finances from the educational provider perspective, Carlson said. HECA adjusts for the fact that most higher education costs are driven by salaries and benefits. Only a quarter of HECA is based on the cost of goods, and three-quarters is based on salaries for white-collar professionals. That’s very different than CPI, designed to measure goods and services consumers purchase.
“From my perspective, HECA makes perfect sense if you really want to focus on the revenue,” Carlson said. “But if you really want to focus on tuitions and students and families, CPI is really a much more valuable measure.”
“For every person who says we shouldn’t use HECA, we’ve got somebody else who sharply depends on it,” Carlson said. “An analyst can do both. They can pick the one that works best for them.”
No inflationary measure is going to be perfect. Some might argue HECA is out of step with consumers, but university business officers could also claim it doesn’t recognize some of the newest costs they face. It does not account for pensions or insurance cost increases, which are expenses institutions increasingly take on as they’re shifted over from states, Carlson said.
He thinks some trends are apparent regardless of the index used.
“Whether you use CPI or HECA, it’s clear on the state and local funding side that funding hasn’t kept up with enrollment growth and with inflation,” Carlson said, an opinion contrasting with Gillen’s assertion that state funding is cyclical. “The reality is the share coming from tuition has increased significantly.”
SHEEO experts haven’t been the only ones to pick out trends regardless of inflationary measure.
Susan Dynarski is a professor of public policy, education and economics at the University of Michigan who studies the issue of college costs. In doing so, she wrote about CPI and HECA in October 2014. She found that under CPI, a consumer needed $1.97 in 2013 to buy what would have cost $1 in 1988. Under HECA, the split is $2.12 versus $1.
While that is a difference, it is also spread out over 25 years.
“It seemed like, most of the time, these things tracked together,” Dynarski said.
Still, some say a special cost index for higher education sets up a feedback loop constantly pushing both prices and expenses upward.
“It’s like a crutch,” said Art Hauptman, an independent public policy consultant specializing in higher education finance. “It’s a self-sustaining prophecy. Higher education prices go up faster, and therefore costs go up faster, and therefore the price index is higher.”
Hauptman falls more in line with Gillen in the discussion over indexes and costs. One of his ideas is to stop focusing on what public institutions actually spend and focus more on what they should be spending. Set a realistic funding level per student in a given field, and allow institutions to decide how to best educate with it. He views higher education as roughly analogous to the health care industry -- growth in health care costs only slowed when the money dried up, he said.
“Do you think costs are driving the prices or do you think prices are driving the costs?” he said. “If you think the underlying costs are driving the price, you sort of get into this argument. I don’t believe it.”
The index debate doesn’t seem to have translated into discussions within college and university business offices, however. It’s largely an academic argument, said Donald Heller, provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of San Francisco.
Heller said he’s not aware of any university that sets its tuition based on cost indexes -- nor is he aware of the indexes playing a key role in state appropriation deliberations. He did not sound surprised, however, that the index issue was sparking more debate.
“Every now and then it pops up,” he said. “Generally, you have people in higher ed saying we need to use something other than the CPI because the CPI doesn’t really reflect our cost structure, things we spend money on. And then people on the other side of the debate say CPI makes more sense because when people go to pay for higher education, their lives are dictated by what they face when they have to buy things.”Administration and FinanceEditorial Tags: TuitionImage Source: Andrew GillenImage Caption: Andrew Gillen argues state funding for higher education is cyclical and that total revenue has been trending up over time.Is this breaking news?:
Everyone at Juniata College was talking about race. Everyone, it seemed, but the professors.
While race was rarely discussed in class, it was everywhere else: students read about Black Lives Matter. They read about the protests at the University of Missouri at Columbia. They watched as campus activism spread across the country.
And they wondered: How do we, at a liberal arts college of 1,600 students, most of whom are white, fit into the conversation?
But in class, their professors were reluctant to talk about that question. Some didn’t know how to fit conversations about race and diversity into busy syllabi. Others knew the issues are emotionally charged and worried about saying the wrong thing.
“They didn’t know how to respond,” Juniata Provost Lauren Bowen said. “They’re not a monolith; they don’t speak with one voice. They didn’t want to be insensitive.”
Besides, some faculty members wondered, what could students learn from them? What could a physics professor say about race in America?
“They thought students were looking to them to be the experts,” Bowen said. “For some of them, it’s not their field. They feel ill equipped.”
Still, students wanted more support. Activism takes energy, they told Bowen. It’s hard to grapple with racial tensions -- and it’s hard to balance activism with a full course load. Why wouldn’t their professors acknowledge what they were going through?
‘Stuck in Our Own Roles’
In periods of turmoil, many campuses opt for the all-campus assembly: students file into large auditoriums with mikes in the aisles, and anyone with something to say is free to talk.
But Juniata, a tight-knit campus in rural Pennsylvania, decided against this approach. (The college's undergraduates are 71 percent white, according to federal data.)
“It just hasn’t been our way,” said James Troha, Juniata’s president. “We try to have smaller conversations where we look each other in the eye.”
So instead, the college made a concerted effort to encourage conversations about race and equality in small, informal settings, including the classroom. That’s when Troha and Bowen realized some professors -- especially those in fields unrelated to race and equality -- felt unprepared.
“Sometimes people are reluctant to have these conversations without adequate training. They don’t want to make things worse,” Troha said. “Our job was to say, ‘If you feel ill equipped, we can provide the necessary training.’”
In the spring, two Juniata professors organized a three-part equity and justice retreat. Professors who attended learned how to have controversial conversations in the classroom and how to encourage inclusive classrooms.
“Sometimes we walk around with this veneer: ‘I’m the faculty. I’m not supposed to make mistakes,’” said Grace Fala, a communications professor at the college who helped lead the training. “We get stuck in our own roles.”
As educators, advisers and mentors, professors are trained to deal in analysis and expertise -- not empathy and recognition. But that, Fala said, is what students often need: to be listened to.
During the training, professors learn to listen to disruptions that seem controversial or tense but that ultimately fuel engagement and learning. They learn to respond to questions with honest responses, such as, “I’m unsure right now,” or, “Frankly, I’m uncomfortable, too, so let’s talk about it.”
They also learn to define their role in difficult conversations -- are you encouraging the discussion? Are you directing it? -- and to be clear about a conversation’s purpose.
Other lessons concern logistics: “A lot of it has to do with space and time,” said Celia Cook-Huffman, a professor of conflict resolution at Juniata and a training leader. “If you’re teaching in a science class or a math class, where and how do you create space for these conversations?”
Over time, the goal is to teach professors a skill set. Faculty members typically are comfortable debating facts and evidence, the training leaders said, but racism and diversity are emotional topics. To better help students, professors at the college learn to develop their emotional knowledge.
What does that look like? Fala uses words like “authenticity,” “honesty” and “narrative” -- all skills, she said, “that you don’t always talk about in academic research.”
Facilitate, Not Dictate
Alison Fletcher talks about race all the time in her classes. A history professor who studies the British empire, she believes those discussions help students get outside of their own heads. Learning how race and racism informed the past, she said, students can think about those issues with the advantages of distance and context: they develop a language to talk about race, and they don’t feel their sense of identity is threatened.
Still, Fletcher has been rethinking her syllabus.
She knows students want to talk more about these issues in class, and she’s trying to oblige. “After this blew up,” she said, “I thought more reading would help.”
When tensions flared in the fall, students would come to Fletcher’s office wanting to talk about what was happening and what they could do. It was clear to her that students needed support.
But the goal, Troha said, was to provide that support without forcing a conversation. He wanted to help students explore their thoughts and ideas while letting them control the conversation.
Throughout the year, Troha hosted a series of conversations called Fireside Chats. Located in residence hall lounges, the chats were an attempt to meet students on their turf. “The great thing about these evenings is there is no agenda,” Troha told students at a chat in February. “The agenda is yours.”
That’s Troha’s philosophy: students should discuss what’s on their minds without being forced to do so. Faculty and staff can help facilitate those conversations -- but they shouldn’t dictate them.
That was also the idea behind United Not Divided, a series of student-led conversations that began at the college last winter. Students who attended broke into small groups, with each group including a faculty or staff facilitator.
Fletcher was a facilitator. In her group, students discussed the Black Lives Matter banners that had recently gone up on campus.
“The first two young people said they really didn’t understand banners that had gone up,” she said. “One person said they shouldn’t have gone up. Another student said, ‘I was one of the people that put them up.’”
Intimate conversations like this subdue anger, Fletcher said. Already, she’s feeling the tension on campus diffuse.
But at the same time, she wondered, what if it diffused too quickly?
“Things come to a head,” she said. “Lots of conversations are started, and then exams happen, and everybody goes home.”DiversityFacultyEditorial Tags: Racial groupsActivismImage Source: Devon-Mikal WeaverImage Caption: Students and faculty members at a United Not Divided event at Juniata CollegeIs this breaking news?:
Imagine if a college, using learning analytics, has determined that students of a specific ethnic background who live in a handful of zip codes and score a certain way on standardized tests are highly likely to earn a low grade in an important course -- potentially jeopardizing their chances of graduating on time. Should the college actively prevent those students from enrolling in the course?
That is an example of the type of dilemma researchers from more than a dozen colleges and universities debated earlier this month as they made progress toward developing a set of shared standards for ethical use of student data, including how the data should be used to improve higher education.
Asilomar II: Student Data and Records in the Digital Era was a sequel -- both in name and scope -- to a similar event held in 2014. Attendees, most of them administrators and faculty members, met that summer to discuss what researchers should do with data created by learners engaging with their universities through free initiatives such as massive open online courses.
While the first convention was a response to what the organizers called “MOOC mania,” the 2016 reconvening was a recognition that, today, copious amounts of data are gathered about students regardless of whether they study online, in person or in a blended setting. Beyond ensuring that they collect the data, colleges now have to worry about whether or not the information is being put to good use, and also if the traditional college transcript is the best way to represent it.
But many colleges are in their present state unprepared to use the data to improve teaching and learning, attendees and organizers said. Enabling them to do so will take the simultaneous development of new data systems, organizational models and ethical guidelines, they said.
“Fine-grained data on student activity, assessments and accomplishments, recorded online, offer tantalizing potential for dashboards, living transcripts and real-time feedback to teachers and administrators,” Isaac Chuang, a professor of electrical engineering and physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who attended the assembly, said in an email. “As higher education is thus driven to evolve into a new kind of learning organization, what are the right principles and policies for safeguarding student (and teacher) data, while allowing the potential to be realized?”
Conversations at the 2014 event revolved around creating and agreeing to principles where there previously were none. This year, participants shifted their focus to enrolled students, whose data are already protected by federal law, institutional review board policies and other regulations. To tackle what organizers called a “more difficult conversation about responsible use of student data in an era of data ubiquity,” the attendee list this year expanded to include officials of higher education associations and ed-tech companies.
A handful of colleges, including the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Open University in the United Kingdom, have already issued their own policies on ethical data use. But Elana Zeide, a privacy scholar at New York University's Information Law Institute, said the diversity of higher education makes it difficult to create a one-size-fits-all solution. “As a result, the primary responsibility for student privacy and ethical information practices will fall on institutions, not lawmakers,” she said in an email.
Unlike in 2014, this year’s meeting did not produce a brief report with a handful of recommendations for the ethical use of data. The organizers, representing Stanford University and the research and consulting firm Ithaka S+R, plan to publish a set of white papers in August, but spoke with Inside Higher Ed about some of the major themes that came out of the event.
Much of the work took place in three subgroups, which discussed how data collected about students should be used in research about learning, applied to improve instruction and represented to reflect student accomplishments.
“Wrestling with those ethical issues and having a framework to work within is something that unites institutions across the sector,” said Martin Kurzweil, director of Ithaka S+R’s educational transformation program. “There is a value to having a sectorwide conversation and coming up with a set of standards.”
Essentially, said Mitchell L. Stevens, associate professor of education at Stanford, the groups debated “What kind of science do we want to do, by what discipline do we want to apply that science and how do we make sense of official representation of student interaction?”
The groups made progress on articulating a handful of ideas that participants said should guide the responsible use of student data.
The first, Stevens said, can be described as “shared understanding” -- the idea that students, colleges, vendors and others all contribute to the creation of data, and that ownership does not rest solely with one party. “It’s important that all those parties that contribute to the product mutually understand what purposes data are and are not being put to,” he said.
The second is a commitment to transparency. When data are used to evaluate students, the systems should be easy to understand and offer ways for students to appeal their grade, as the “clarity of evaluation is the hallmark of humane learning,” Stevens said.
Third is the idea of “informed improvement” -- in other words, that colleges have a responsibility to use the data they collect to improve student learning and support. One attendee, Stevens said, described the idea as a “standard of care,” only for higher education.
Finally, the groups endorsed a vision of “open futures.” Stevens described it as “the idea that education should create opportunity rather than prevent it.” In the case of a system that uses analytics to predict student success, for example, that system should not be used to prevent students from pursuing their dreams -- to “foreclose the opportunity that students can be different people than they were yesterday,” he said.
Additionally, attendees returned to the idea of “continuous consideration” -- a commitment to keeping an open conversation about privacy rather than attempting to settle the issue during a two-day meeting. That idea was among the principles endorsed during the 2014 convention.
The group tasked with discussing representation of student data spent part of its time focusing specifically on the college transcript, which Stevens said is “not unnecessary but not a representation of student learning” once colleges begin to make use of student data streams.
Instead of tearing up the transcript and brainstorming concepts for a brand-new way of tracking student learning, the group leaned toward using the transcript as a foundation and building new features on top of it, Kurzweil said. Many of the participants are already doing so on their campuses, such as the University of Maryland University College, which this fall plans to pilot a digital extended transcript, as well as other colleges that have experimented with electronic-portfolio platforms, including Arizona State University and institutions in the California State University System.
“Many in higher education are interested in how new forms of online learning could let us reconfigure education in new ways, such as developing competency-based degrees, combining credits from different institutions -- even those beyond the university -- and credentialing work and life experiences,” Justin Reich, executive director of the Teaching Systems Lab at MIT, said in an email. “One of the places where new ideas bottleneck is at the humble, venerable, nearly invisible student record. Rethinking the student record is a way of rethinking other parts of the system of higher education.”Assessment and AccountabilityEditorial Tags: Adaptive learningGraduate studentsStudent lifeIs this breaking news?:
This month’s edition of the “Pulse” podcast features an interview with Jason Jordan, vice president for higher ed markets at Knewton.
Knewton is a company whose adaptive learning platform has been incorporated into the products and curricula of publishers, tech companies and institutions.
In the interview with “The Pulse” host Rodney B. Murray, Jordan seeks to explain adaptive learning, how Knewton’s platform works, and other topics.
“The Pulse” is Inside Higher Ed’s monthly technology podcast, produced by Murray, executive director of the office of academic technology at University of the Sciences.
Find out more, and listen to past “Pulse” podcasts, here.Teaching With TechnologyLibraries and PublishingEditorial Tags: Adaptive learningIs this breaking news?:
The following individuals have recently been awarded tenure by their colleges and universities:
Northeastern Illinois University
University of Wisconsin Colleges
University of Wisconsin Extension
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