Higher Education News

Hamilton College's new department-specific diversity requirement sparks debate

Inside HigherEd - 23 hours 28 min ago

Like many campuses, Hamilton College in New York has over the past two years faced criticism from student protesters that it isn't doing enough to honor its commitment to inclusion. Unlike many such campuses, Hamilton adopted a new curriculum requirement that all concentrations, or majors, feature relevant, mandatory course work on diversity.

"This is an innovative approach to engaging with contemporary issues of inclusion and diversity in the curriculum," said Patrick Reynolds, immediate past dean of the faculty, "one that has the potential not only to resonate with the academic interests of each of our students, but to prepare them better to apply the expertise of their major in their post-Hamilton careers and lives."    The proposal was passed, 80 to 19, with one abstention, in a faculty meeting at the end of the academic year.    "In their overwhelming endorsement of this approach, the members of the Hamilton faculty have demanded of themselves commitment, creativity and intellectual challenge, reaching within their disciplines and across our curriculum," Reynolds said. "I have great admiration for [them] for having done so."   While most faculty members apparently support the change, some professors, along with a group of alumni and outside commenters, say it undermines the college’s open curriculum and is generally ill conceived.   “The requirement would improperly impose esoteric ideological values on the student body and fail to live up to the college’s commitment to freedom of inquiry,” reads a statement passed recently by the Hamilton College Alumni for Governance Reform, an independent alumni group that's been critical of Hamilton on a number of issues in recent decades. “[We encourage] the Committee on Academic Policy to reject this proposed resolution, which improperly advances a prescribed ideological position and mandates its universal instruction."   Here’s how Mary Grabar, an English scholar and resident fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Center for the Study of Western Civilizations in nearby Clinton, N.Y., framed her concerns about the requirement in a blog post for the conservative John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy called “The Ugly Truth Behind a College’s ‘Diversity’ Requirement”: “Supposedly, this ‘intellectual project’ involving ‘faculty across the disciplines’ would provide solutions by encouraging ‘students to study and understand the exclusion, stratification, inequalities and violence in its many manifestations on our campus and in the wider world,’” she said. “That language is standard leftist rhetoric used by faculty activists to indict American colleges and other institutions for falling short of the progressive utopia."   In late fall, following a year of occasional on-campus protests from student supporters of Black Lives Matter, Hamilton administrators received a list of demands from the Movement, an anonymous group of student protesters. Among the dozens of requests was the hiring of more minority faculty members and that “white faculty are discouraged from leading departments about demographics and societies colonized, massacred and enslaved.”   At about the same time, a faculty group was continuing work on a proposal to more formally incorporate diversity into the curriculum; since 2001, the college has operated with an “open curriculum,” or one lacking distribution requirements outside of one’s concentration. (Requirements in writing and quantitative literacy may be satisfied by courses throughout the curriculum.) Many courses already contain diversity-related content, and diversity and inclusion are central to a set of educational goals adopted in 2011. But the idea was to more firmly embed them in the curriculum.   The economics department approached the faculty working group to see if it could offer its own take on diversity through a series of in-house, approved courses. That is, the department wanted to offer its own economics-centered content about diversity and inclusion, to make it more relevant to students.   “Beginning with the class of 2019, students concentrating in economics must satisfy a diversity requirement by taking one course from an approved list,” the economics department’s webpage now says. “The diversity requirement broadens students’ understanding of the roles of identity, culture and social class in the U.S. in order to enrich the study of economics. The course must be completed by the end of the junior year.”   The faculty group liked the idea so much that it decided to ask all departments to develop required, concentration-specific content or courses for their respective students.   The all-college proposal, as described in Hamilton’s recent review report to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the college's regional accreditor, says that starting in 2017-18, “every concentration shall have a requirement that will help students gain an understanding of structural and institutional hierarchies based on one or more of the social categories of race, class, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexuality, age and abilities/disabilities.”   Departments and programs “shall determine how their students will fulfill this requirement in a way that is most consistent with their disciplines,” it says. “The requirement should encourage students to think critically about accomplishments, experiences and representations of various social groups in the U.S. and/or other countries.”   The requirement “is designed to address the college’s educational goals of cultural diversity and of ethical, informed and engaged citizenship,” the report says.   "No matter one’s major, our faculty believes that the ability to communicate effectively, the ability to understand numerical concepts and the ability to interact effectively with people from different backgrounds and cultures are prudent and appropriate expectations for an educated person in today's society," Vige Barrie, college spokesperson, said in a statement.   The college is still working out exactly how individual programs will comply with the new requirement. Reynolds, the former dean, said in an interview that some programs may incorporate diversity content in other kinds of courses, rather than developing a course on diversity within the discipline alone.   Nancy Rabinowitz, a professor of literature and creative writing and comparative literature, said she and her colleagues already adopted a form of the requirement when they developed a new concentration in literature and creative writing.   Rabinowitz said there are many courses already in the literature curriculum that satisfy the new requirement. At the same time, she said, it’s “an opportunity for us to develop new courses and to rethink the emphases in the courses we already teach, so that they will deal more fully with the issues of power and structure highlighted in the motion.”   For example, Rabinowitz teaches a course called “Literature on Trials.” Looking ahead, she said she’s thinking about how more contemporary issues might fit into a course that begins with Socrates’ trial.   Critics on social media and elsewhere have alleged that it will be harder for the natural sciences to comply than the humanities and social sciences. Reynolds said some science departments may want to team up to offer a course or set of courses fulfilling the new requirement.

@HamiltonCollege what Physics/Math courses will you all offer that will satisfy "diversity" req? Asking for a friend https://t.co/w1iYRyhH4B

-- RG (@glenny_26) July 23, 2016

Yet Reynolds, a biologist, said it’s not as hard as one might imagine to see how science and diversity intersect. There are the disproportionate effects that a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina had on some populations, he said, or the public health crisis in Flint, Mich. “These science courses might examine contemporary issues, for example, but also address them and apply the scientific method to see what’s going on.”

Barrie, the spokesperson, said that one scientist on the faculty is considering a course that reinforces the scientific method as a way of evaluating hypotheses around issues of race, ethnicity and gender using data. "Students might explore genetics in biology or the consideration of race on drug trials," she said.

Department plans will be vetted by a subcommittee of the faculty Committee on Academic Policy. The committee will review the requirement after three years.

Rather than a potential drawback, Reynolds said he and other faculty members saw the concentration-specific requirement as a virtue -- one that will benefit students who have to navigate real-world problems.

“If we’d had a diversity course that everyone had to take, I don’t think that would have been supported by the faculty,” Reynolds said. “Quite a lot of people saw this as being quite a pragmatic approach, tailored to students’ needs and interests. … This is a way of preparing them for their lives post-Hamilton in a real and practical way.”

Others aren’t convinced.

“In other words, students must be exposed to the leftist obsession with groups,” George Leef wrote last week in the National Review. “Whatever else they might study, the faculty leftists will shove this stuff down their throats. Doing so, they hope, will plant the seeds of numerous progressive tropes about society in young minds.”

Robert Paquette, a professor of history at Hamilton, said he wasn’t a fan of the college’s “open” or, in his words, “no curriculum, which is nothing less than a great betrayal of liberal arts education, traditionally understood.” Yet the new requirement seems to have been “imposed” on that much-publicized curriculum, he said.

Moreover, Paquette said, diversity in the proposal is vaguely defined. He said that’s something that’s been revealed as a concern in internal communications about the proposal, even among its faculty supporters.

“Is it not eye-opening that a supermajority of the faculty would approve of imposing a requirement based upon a concept, ‘diversity,’ that was never precisely defined before it was voted on?” Paquette said via email. Pointing to the economics department’s description, he asked, “Will departments be drawing up lists of ‘approved courses’? Which courses will be included? Which courses will be excluded? Does the understanding of ‘diversity’ include viewpoint diversity, and would, e.g., my course on conservative thought make anyone's list? Would all history courses make the list? Or none, or some?”​

Rabinowitz, who helped draft the proposal initially as part of a faculty subcommittee on diversity in the curriculum and later as a member of a faculty working group, said it’s the faculty’s attempt to make the college’s educational principles concrete.

The faculty is in charge of the curriculum and it’s “our responsibility to make good on the college’s stated values,” she said,­ including its mission that students learn to “embrace difference” and “engage issues ethically and creatively.”

Placing the requirement within the concentration stays true to the open curriculum, she added, in that it doesn’t add another graduation requirement.

“More important, though, it helps students understand how their chosen course of study fits with the society, indeed world, that they inhabit," Rabinowitz said. “Individual departments can decide what their students need to know in order to succeed in their discipline. That will differ for humanists, artists, social scientists and scientists. The flexibility is the beauty of the requirement Hamilton has created.” 

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Study finds use of open educational resources on the rise in introductory courses

Inside HigherEd - 23 hours 28 min ago

Open educational resources (OER) are showing signs of taking root in introductory courses, yet overall awareness of alternatives to traditional textbooks continues to lag, a new study found.

More than half (58.1 percent) of the faculty members surveyed for "Opening the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2015-16," a report released this morning by the Babson Survey Research Group, said they were not aware of OER or how instructors can use free or inexpensive alternatives to traditional textbooks in their courses.

Compared to when the Babson Group in 2014 surveyed faculty members about the same topic, the responses in this year’s report highlight some familiar challenges for instructors considering OER. Almost half of all respondents (48 percent) said open materials are too hard to find, and that they don’t have access to a catalog showing the open resources available to them (45 percent) or a helpful colleague who can mentor them (30 percent).

And while nearly nine out of 10 respondents (87 percent) said cost to students is an important or very important factor when considering which course materials to assign, many faculty members said there aren’t enough high-quality free or affordable course materials (28 percent) or simply enough open resources in their fields in general (49 percent) to make the switch from traditional textbooks.

“Faculty have a really strong level of displeasure with the cost of the materials, but many of them feel they don’t have any power to change it,” Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Group, said in an interview. Alternatively, he added, faculty members are “unwilling to explore the lower-cost or free options, or they’re unaware of them.”

This is the first of three planned annual reports that will explore how open educational resources are making their mark on higher education. The research is supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The Babson Group surveyed a diverse group of faculty members for the report -- more than 3,000 in total, including those at two- and four-year institutions, working full and part time, on and off the tenure track, and with experience teaching online or blended courses.

The report also contains some good news for advocates of open resources and an indication that the strategy used by many OER initiatives and providers is paying off.

Colleges and publishers, seeking to save the most money on textbook costs for the greatest number of students, have frequently used large introductory courses as settings for OER pilots. To explore how OER titles are doing in the market compared to traditional textbooks, the Babson Group asked faculty members who were creating new courses, modifying existing or picking new readings in 14 common introductory courses which title in a selection of popular textbooks they planned to assign. The lineups included titles from OpenStax, a free textbook publisher based at Rice University.

With an average adoption rate -- how likely the surveyed faculty members were to pick the title -- of 10 percent, the OpenStax books were less popular than the average textbook (17 percent). Faculty members were also less likely to have heard of the titles (70 percent, versus 82 percent for the traditional textbooks).

Still, faculty members were nearly twice as likely to pick the OpenStax books in introductory courses than instructors generally picking OER titles across all courses (5.3 percent). And OpenStax has reached the 10 percent mark without the sophisticated marketing infrastructure that other textbook publishers have had decades to optimize, Seaman pointed out.

“That puts [OpenStax] in the same ballpark after only being on the market for a couple of years,” Seaman said. “They’re going where they think the biggest need is. In one sense this says they’re being reasonably successful at that.”

OpenStax published its first textbook in 2012. Four years later, the publisher estimates more than 690,000 students have used its books, totaling a savings of about $68 million.

"It's very gratifying to have this independent research validate what we've observed over the last two years," said Richard G. Baraniuk, the Victor E. Cameron Professor of Engineering, who founded OpenStax. "Faculty teaching introductory courses are rapidly accepting high-quality open educational resources from OpenStax. They are willing to make changes when they discover high-quality resources that are easy to adopt and are free or very low cost for students."

While awareness of open course materials has increased in the two years since the Babson Group last surveyed faculty members about course materials, a majority of instructors are still unaware of OER. In this year’s edition, nearly half of respondents (41.9 percent) said they are aware of OER and how they can use the resources in their courses, up from about one-third (35.1 percent) two years ago.

Even the faculty members who said they are aware of OER said they sometimes struggle to find the open resources they are looking to include in their courses. Of the faculty members who had an opinion about the ease of finding OER, about 60 percent of respondents described searching for OER as difficult or very difficult, compared to about 23 percent who said the same about searching for traditional textbooks.

Seaman said the results suggest an opportunity for OER providers to work together on how they can get the resources into the hands of faculty members. “The discovery issue is one area where OER have made very little -- if any -- progress,” he said.

The remaining two OER studies will include many of the same questions about awareness and barriers but go deeper into specific topics, Seaman said. Next year’s study will likely focus on faculty perception of textbook costs, he said.

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Why are some countries better at science and technology?

Inside HigherEd - 23 hours 28 min ago

The subtitle of Mark Zachary Taylor’s new book, The Politics of Innovation (Oxford University Press), asks why some countries are better than others at science and technology. He argues that the answer lies in politics and proposes a theory of “creative insecurity,” arguing that innovation rates should be higher in countries in which external threats outweigh domestic tensions.

“S&T progress creates winners and losers, and the losers resort to politics to slow innovation,” Taylor, an associate professor of political science at Georgia Institute of Technology, writes in the book’s introduction. “However, external threats increase political support for S&T and thereby counteract domestic political resistance to innovation.”

Taylor answered questions about his book via email.

Q: There seem to be two main questions in your book -- how countries become leaders in science and technology innovation and why. Let’s start with how. What are the critical ingredients for fostering innovation?

A: Innovation is plagued by what economists call market failures. Market failures are when free markets should lead people to innovate, but fail to. For example, private companies tend to underinvest in [research and development] because the results can be easily copied by their competitors. Similarly, companies will not invest much in [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education because firms can only capture a fraction of the return on that investment. It’s just not that profitable for them. There are myriad other examples that I explore in the book. When markets fail, the solution usually takes the form of government policies and institutions. These are things like intellectual property rights, research subsidies, public education, research universities and trade policy. In fact, I call these the Five Pillars of innovation in the book. They work because they create or heal the markets for S&T. But I found that government policies, such as the Five Pillars, only take us part of the way to understanding how countries innovate. They leave an enormous amount of unexplained success and failure.

I also look at big picture institutions like democracy, capitalism and political decentralization. They are supposed to aid innovation by affecting competition, mobility and freedom. Indeed, some very prominent economists argue that when these particular institutions are missing or broken, then it explains “Why Nations Fail.” Once again, I find that they take us only part of the way to explaining success and failure in S&T. They still leave a lot of unexplained behavior.

That is, there are simply too many countries with “good” policies and institutions that fail to innovate much (e.g., Norway, Austria, Italy). Also, there are many countries with “bad” or missing policies and institutions that innovate surprisingly well (e.g., Taiwan, Israel, South Korea). And no one has yet identified precisely which set of institutions and policies are the “right” ones. Sure, there are plenty of theories which emphasize the vital importance of this or that institution or policy (e.g., patent rights, science education, R&D subsidies, research universities, etc.). But, throughout the book, I show that although institution or policy X may explain success in country Y at a particular point in time, it fails to do so in other countries or even in the same country during a different time period.

So, I try a different approach. I investigate several recent cases of national success and failure in S&T, and ask what did successful governments do (or avoid doing) that the cases of failure did not? Two surprises come out of this investigation. First, I found that there is no single best institution or policy that all countries need to converge upon in order to achieve national S&T competitiveness. Different countries have achieved S&T success using very different sets of institutions and policies. Governments therefore have lots of freedom to choose and customize their policy strategies. Second, solving market failures alone is not enough. Most national success stories in S&T also involve the use of social networks to take shortcuts around markets for access to high-quality science labor, technical knowledge, investment capital and even marketing expertise. Social networks provide vital information which neither free markets nor government institutions easily capture, but networks are often ignored due to our preoccupation with domestic institutions and policies. Also, because foreign information is often the most difficult knowledge to capture, international networks play important roles in national S&T performance. So explaining innovation is not just a domestic story, it also has an international side.

Of course, understanding how nations innovate does not explain why some countries create and use their institutions, policies and networks to foster innovation, while others chose not to. That is, neither institutions nor policies cause nations to innovate. They are merely tools that nations can use to become more innovative. But even the right tools will fail to produce results when placed into the wrong hands, or into hands not motivated to use them properly. Therefore in order to explain why some countries are better at S&T, we need to explain why some countries adopt the “right” institutions, policies and networks and then use them properly over time, while others do not.

Q: As for the why, you propose a theory of “creative insecurity,” which holds that countries generally have higher innovation rates when the external threats they face exceed domestic political or economic tensions. Why does this imbalance matter? Are there parallels to the idea of a Sputnik Moment, the popular idea that a fear of falling behind foreign rivals can stimulate consensus around a need to invest in science and technology and education?

A: The balance between domestic tensions and external threats matters because it determines overall political support for all those institutions, policies and networks. Innovation is expensive. It is risky. It also creates a lot of economic “losers” in the economy: jobs get lost, obsolete industries die and every dollar spent on S&T is a dollar not spent on welfare, agriculture subsidies, tax cuts, infrastructure, military salaries or lining elite pockets. So innovation is not a no-brainer for governments. Usually there is a lot of pressure not to spend the money or take the risks, unless there’s a convincing sense in external threat.

Sputnik is a great example for the U.S. But was it just a one-time event? In the book, I ask whether we see the same dynamics in other countries. I found that, in Israel, very similar politics kicked in after the Six-Day War (1967) was followed by the Yom Kippur War (1973), and combined with a rapid decline in precious foreign exchange earnings. Suddenly, Israel was threatened militarily and economically in a way it never had been before. And this occurred at a time when fierce domestic political divisions were on the decline. As a result, the Israelis supported a rapid pivot from an agricultural economy to a high-tech economy. In Taiwan, it was China’s atom bomb and guided-missile technologies, the cutting of massive U.S. financial aid, and then the derecognition of Taiwan and global reconciliation with China. Meanwhile, intense domestic conflicts between native Taiwanese and the relocated [Chinese Nationalist Party members] had settled down. The islanders suddenly had less to lose from one another, and far more to lose from mainland China. So Taiwan rapidly restructured its economy from a natural resource and agricultural base, to high technology.

Fear of falling behind one’s military or economic competitors is a powerful motivator. Governments, and their citizens, need that sense of competition. For without it, they tend to fight domestically over “goodies” of science and technology. There are a lot of domestic forces working against progress in science and technology. Without a more urgent sense of external threat, the natural result is for governments to let flounder the policies and institutions which foster innovation.

Q: You argue that threats to a nation’s economic and military security accelerate science and technology progress at the same time that you warn about the risks of a “conflict-driven innovation policy.” What are the benefits and risks in linking innovation policy to national security-related concerns?

A: The benefits are that innovation does work. S&T progress can create an economy that is more competitive on international markets. Innovation can boost exports, thereby earning the foreign exchange necessary to purchase strategic imports, like energy, food, raw materials or military equipment. Also, a globally competitive high-technology sector can provide the foundation for a domestic defense industry. This can ease a nation’s reliance on imports of foreign weaponry. In civilian sectors, the development of indigenous high-tech capabilities can enable domestic industry to produce those strategic goods which are either expensive to purchase abroad, have unreliable foreign suppliers or are vulnerable to hostile interdiction. Competitive S&T-based industries can also generate capital by satisfying investors at home and luring investment from abroad. High-tech sectors also provide jobs for skilled workers and an attractive career path for youths, while pulling up the aggregate skill level.

The risk is that pro-S&T groups will simply invent foreign enemies to fear. With external threats serving as a constant menace, the risks and expense of innovation can be indefinitely justified. This has been the unintended course followed by the United States since World War II. At first, defense research in the U.S. focused mostly on weapons systems and battlefield medicine. But over time, it has slowly come to include research on information technology, telecommunications, infrastructure, as well education policy, and more recently investment in energy and general health care advances. Japan went down a similar path during the first half of the twentieth century. China now appears to be pursuing it.

However, in a world typified by increasing freedom of information and debate, this innovation strategy is unsustainable. In open societies, false alarms about manufactured enemies soon become transparent. Also, without a real competitive threat, S&T institutions and policies become corrupt and mismanaged. Worse yet, in those nations which suffer from restrictions on information and debate, such a strategy is highly destructive. Imaginary enemies can become real ones, risking unnecessary and destructive conflicts. In either case, it leads to a bloated defense sector and a militarized society in which all spending is questioned except that which goes towards defense. A far smarter strategy is to emphasize real long-run competitive and security threats, such as energy efficiency, climate change, aging and disease. The book argues that war and the garrison state are not necessary for S&T leadership.

Q: What are the limitations of your argument in explaining national innovation rates? Are there exceptions you identified, countries where the creative insecurity theory does not seem to fit in explaining progress in innovation? What else is needed in innovation research to help better understand why some countries do better in science and technology than others?

A: Creative insecurity theory does not attempt to be a universal theory of everything. It has some limitations which must be taken seriously if the theory’s full potential is to be realized. First, it’s meant to be probabilistic, not determinist. That is, creative insecurity explains and predicts much of the variation in national innovation rates over time, but it does not claim to explain each and every case throughout history. Rather, the book’s claim is that creative insecurity provides us with a better explanation for national innovation rates. It better fits the data, explains more of the data and explains many outliers and unexpected results that other theories fail to account for.

Second, creative insecurity theory does not rule out other important causal factors. Innovation has many powerful driving forces; I claim that, at the level of the nation-state, creative insecurity is one of them, but not necessarily the only one. Personally, I speculate that culture, ideology, individual leadership, climate and perhaps even social psychology may also play important causal roles in explaining differences in national innovation rates. Each of these factors is understudied and deserves more attention from innovation scholars.

Third, creative insecurity theory expects lags across time and within society. That is, it does not predict an instantaneous change in support for S&T in response to a change in a nation’s balance of external threats versus domestic rivalries. Nor does it predict complete societywide agreement on support or opposing S&T. Some individuals and interest groups will change their minds faster than others. Some may never change. A few may even support or oppose S&T out of habit, or ideology, or in allegiance with their social network. But creative insecurity does predict that, on average, changes in the balance of domestic rivalries versus external threats will trigger changes in the political support for S&T over time, and thereby affect national innovation rates.

It is also important to emphasize what creative insecurity is not arguing. It is not arguing that nations only innovate when threatened with invasion. If this were the case, then Belgium, the Balkan states, Iraq and Afghanistan would currently rank amongst the most innovative countries on earth, while the U.S. should be stuck in the preindustrial era. Nor does creative insecurity argue that defense spending and military procurement are the sine qua non of technological development. Clearly, important outliers such as Japan, Germany and Switzerland (each notoriously low military spenders) and Saudi Arabia (one of the world’s top military spenders) make hash of this assertion.

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Colleges collaborate to boost local graduation rate

Inside HigherEd - 23 hours 28 min ago

Colleges in the same region often view each other as competitors, whether on the athletics field or in the admissions office. But the nine colleges in Pierce County, Wash., see each other as the opposite: collaborators.

Pierce County is home to a diverse set of educational options. There are two public institutions (Evergreen State College and the University of Washington Tacoma), two private institutions (Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Puget Sound), and five community and technical colleges (Bates Technical College, Clover Park Technical College, Tacoma Community College and the two campuses of Pierce College).

In 2014, amid increasing national focus on getting more Americans to attain postsecondary education or training -- the so-called completion agenda -- these nine institutions banded together to form the Pierce County Higher Education Team.

The goal of the team is to promote a college-going culture among local K-12 students. Accomplishing this goal involves boosting both the county’s high school graduation rate and college graduation rate.

“Our nine colleges never collaborated historically,” said John Hickey, executive director of community engagement and associate vice president for business services at Puget Sound, who coordinates the team. “There haven’t necessarily been strong reasons for us to do so. But we certainly have hit on an important mutual objective … helping young people in Pierce County get the right match of education.”

As an example of the team's collaborative approach, Hickey cited a community event last fall. At the event, local students watched a video featuring the nine institutions' presidents and chancellors. Instead of touting the benefits of any one institution, the presidents and chancellors stressed the availability of different types of postsecondary education for different students in Pierce County.

It might seem counterintuitive for the nine institutions to cooperate, since they are vying to attract many of the same students, said Karl Smith, associate vice chancellor and chief admissions officer at UW Tacoma. “A lot of times, you’re viewing it as a finite market, and everyone’s trying to increase their market share,” he said. “But we realized that we could look at it as increasing the size of the market. There are going to be more students attending all of our institutions, which will benefit everyone.”

The market indeed stands to increase. The graduation rate of public high schools in Tacoma -- the largest city in Pierce County -- hit a record high of 82.6 percent for the class of 2015. Looking ahead, Tacoma's high school and college graduation rates will hopefully both see a 50 percent increase by 2020, Hickey said.

Underrepresented Students

Young people in Pierce County might not see college in their future. This is especially true if they are from underrepresented populations -- a category that includes first-generation students, low-income students and students of color, said John Welch, superintendent of the Puget Sound Educational Service District, which has supported the work of the Pierce County Higher Education Team.

“While the initiative over all certainly encompasses all kids, there is a prioritization of first-generation kids, who in the region are overrepresented by kids of color and kids of poverty,” Welch said. “We’re trying to make sure that we have strategies that affect those students who most need the support and service.”

A key strategy involves spreading awareness of the College Bound Scholarship, Welch said. Enacted by the Washington Legislature in 2007, the scholarship covers some tuition and fees for low-income, in-state students who sign up in seventh or eighth grade.

“We want to make sure that all eligible kids sign up for the scholarship,” Welch said. “It really helps reduce the economic barrier that kids face when they want to go to college.”

Students are eligible for the scholarship if they are in foster care, report a certain family income or receive food stamps. They must also complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Another key strategy of the team therefore involves encouraging students to fill out the FAFSA, said Dolores Haugen, director of conduct, compliance and partnerships at Tacoma Community College. In August, the team will hold an all-day FAFSA training for Pierce County community members at Pacific Lutheran University, she said.

The team is still engaged in ongoing discussions about other ways to boost the FAFSA filing rate, Haugen said. “Some research suggests that when you make it part of the K-12 school day, you get a much higher completion rate,” she said.

Driven by Data

The Pierce County Higher Education Team has engaged in robust discussions of future ways to increase the county’s college graduation rate. Often, discussion has turned to sharing data between colleges and school districts.

“One of the things we’re really interested in is getting better data sharing,” Haugen said. “We want high schools to give data to colleges. And then the colleges can report back to the high schools on how their graduates are doing.”

This sort of data-sharing agreement would benefit both parties, Haugen said. “The school district wants to make sure their students are doing well,” she said. “Colleges want to make sure their students are being well prepared.”

It could be helpful for community and technical colleges to track the rigor of students’ course work, Haugen said. For example, if many students from a certain high school were taking remedial courses below the college level, that high school could adjust its instruction.

Colleges could also report the number of first-generation students who matriculate, Smith said, noting that first-generation students comprise about half of the student body at the University of Washington Tacoma. Other data points could include the number of students who identify as an underrepresented minority and the number of students who are eligible for a federal Pell Grant, he said.

“In a lot of ways, once a student leaves high school and comes to the university, the university sometimes disconnects some of that longitudinal data that would be beneficial to the partnership,” Smith added. “We want to try to collect data so that we can tell a bigger story that goes beyond our institution.”

‘Cradle to Career’

Creating a college-going culture may not solely benefit students. It may also benefit the local economy -- as long as many students take jobs in Pierce County after graduation.

“We’re very interested in a cradle-to-career strategy,” Hickey said. To be sure, recent graduates are free to leave Pierce County for other opportunities, he said. But those who stay can have an important impact.

“There are a lot of great jobs in the region and the local community in Pierce County,” Welch said. “We want to make sure young people see their path to those jobs. So there’s a whole economic development component to this.”

Jobs are currently emerging in a handful of industries, Welch said. The Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County identified four industries in its recent work plan: aerospace, cybersecurity, health services and trade and logistics, he said.

Connecting graduates with these jobs ultimately has a ripple effect in the region, said Michael Wark, director of external relations at UW Tacoma. “If you can increase the educational attainment in a community, it affects a lot of things -- everything from higher wages to less dependency on social services,” he said. “A more highly educated population even helps attract more companies and employers.”

AdmissionsEditorial Tags: AdmissionsWashingtonImage Source: Ross Mulhausen, University of Puget SoundImage Caption: Middle school and high school students playing tag at the University of Puget SoundIs this breaking news?: 

Pulse podcast features interview with Jason Gad of ExamSoft

Inside HigherEd - 23 hours 28 min ago

This month's edition of the “Pulse” podcast features an interview with Jason Gad, vice president of business development at ExamSoft.

In the conversation with Rodney B. Murray, the host of “The Pulse,” Gad discusses ExamSoft’s computerized assessment products, how they compare to other digital approaches and align with Scantron paper exams, and how proctoring works, among other topics.

The Pulse is Inside Higher Ed’s monthly technology podcast, and Murray is executive director of the office of academic technology at University of the Sciences.

Find out more, and listen to past “Pulse” podcasts, here.

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New presidents or provosts: Aiken Bethany Camp Carrington Marietta Mississippi State St. Gregory's Texas Southern Thiel

Inside HigherEd - 23 hours 28 min ago
  • Judith L. Bonner, former president of the University of Alabama, has been appointed provost and executive vice president at Mississippi State University.
  • Austin A. Lane, executive vice chancellor of Lone Star College, in Texas, has been chosen as president of Texas Southern University.
  • Donna M. Loraine, chief academic officer and provost of DeVry University, in Illinois, has been named president of Carrington College, also in Illinois.
  • Daniel Lufkin, vice president for student affairs at Thomas Nelson Community College, in Virginia, has been selected as president of Paul D. Camp Community College, also in Virginia.
  • Forest Mahan, vice president for academic affairs and student services at Northeastern Technical College, in South Carolina, has been appointed president of Aiken Technical College, also in South Carolina.
  • William N. Ruud, president of the University of Northern Iowa, has been selected as president of Marietta College, in Ohio.
  • Michael A. Scaperlanda, the Gene and Elaine Edwards Family Chair in Law and professor of law at the University of Oklahoma, has been named president of St. Gregory's University, also in Oklahoma.
  • Will Smith, vice president for external relations at LaGrange College, in Georgia, has been chosen as president of Bethany College, in Kansas.
  • Susan Traverso, provost and senior vice president at Elizabethtown College, in Pennsylvania, has been selected as president of Thiel College, also in Pennsylvania.
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Dean at Seattle U, subject of protests seeking her ouster and defending her, retires

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 07:00

Starting in May, minority students staged a three-week sit-in seeking the ouster of Jodi Kelly, dean of the university's Matteo Ricci College, which offers degrees in the humanities. The university agreed to discuss student demands to diversify the curriculum, but (initially at least) defended Kelly. In June, however, amid reports that some faculty members wanted Kelly gone, she was placed on leave. And last week, the university announced that Kelly had retired, meaning that the central student demand -- and one on which the university had refused to negotiate -- has been achieved.

But as the weeks have gone by since the initial protest, the list of issues involved has grown, and the early signs indicate that Kelly's departure may not end the disagreements at Seattle. Indeed, the MRC Coalition, which organized the protests, issued a statement Friday that called Kelly's departure “a success of years of organizing,” but faulted the university for praising Kelly and not criticizing her.

Kelly did not respond to a request for comment, but the university announcement of her retirement included this quote from her: “I discovered the truth in the adage ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ I leave with gratitude for the opportunity to have served the students and alumni of Matteo Ricci College for 40 years and I deeply appreciate the colleagues who supported me in that work.”

The dispute at Seattle involved a reported use of a slur by Kelly (although in a way that many consider anything but offensive), the role of a traditional humanities curriculum and the best way for students or others to seek curricular changes.

Uproar Over the N-Word and More

The sit-in demanding Kelly's ouster (among other things) initially drew attention because of an explosive charge: that she had used the slur "nigger" in talking to a black student. Via email at the time, Kelly said that she does not ever use that word in regular discussion or to label anyone. She did, however, remember that in a discussion with a student who wanted to better understand the experiences of members of minority groups, Kelly suggested Nigger, the autobiography of Dick Gregory, the civil rights activist. Among those who defended Kelly on her recommending the book by name was Gregory himself, who wrote an essay for Inside Higher Ed about the debate at Seattle.

Even as attention on the N-word receded, the debate about Kelly and the college she led only grew. Kelly's critics and supporters agree that she is a proponent of a rigorous humanities curriculum -- such as that offered by the college -- built around the Western classics. To the protesting students, that was a big part of the problem.

Their petition of demands included an overhaul of the curriculum. They sought one that "decentralizes whiteness and has a critical focus on the evolution of systems of oppression such as racism, capitalism, colonialism, etc., highlighting the art, histories, theologies, political philosophies and sociocultural transformation of Western and non-Western societies." Further, they demanded that the new curriculum be "taught by prepared staff from marginalized backgrounds, especially professors of color and queer professors."

Finally, they called for a curriculum that "radically reinterprets what it means to educate teachers and leaders for a just and humane world by centering dialogue about racism, gentrification, sexism, colonialism, imperialism, global white supremacy and other ethical questions about systems of power, setting a standard for students before doing service, learning, or studying in other communities or countries."

Kelly and others at the university agreed early on to review the curriculum, and pledged that faculty members and students would play a key role.

When those pledges didn't end the sit-in by early June, the university announced that Kelly would be placed on leave. Seattle's interim provost, Bob Dullea, said of Kelly's leave at the time: "I have taken this action because I believe, based on information that has come forward over the past several weeks, that successful operations of the college at this time require that she step away from day-to-day management and oversight." He said this information would be investigated.

While Dullea did not provide any details on that information, university officials told Seattle reporters that a number of faculty members in the college agreed with students that the institution needed a change in both leadership and curriculum. The university's Academic Assembly in June issued a report in which it cited a lack of good procedures to review the curriculum in the college. Further, the report noted that students and faculty members appeared to have very different senses about teaching and learning at the college, without anyone trying to bridge the gaps.

Defending the Dean

Even as opposition to Kelly seemed to be growing on campus, many students and alumni started speaking out last month to defend her. Some organized a rally on campus.

Kelly's defenders generally said that while the curriculum at Matteo Ricci College may be traditional, it is a curriculum that they value, a curriculum consistent with the university's Jesuit mission -- and a curriculum that even if not to everyone's liking, is known to students when they apply. Many also objected to the idea that a dean whom they loved and considered a great mentor and teacher with four decades of work at the university would be forced out of a job on the basis of a student protest.

Dana Winston Keller, who graduated in 1987 and was among those who organized the protest, posted her comments at the rally to Facebook.

"I stand for Jodi because it is unjust to destroy the reputation and career of someone who has dedicated her life to advocating for students, teaching about social justice and championing the MRC program and Jesuit education," she said. "I stand for Jodi because while I support students’ right to challenge, question and protest, I cannot abide by tactics that are violent and harmful -- or that the coalition participants would actually celebrate their 'victory' in doing that harm."

Keller said that she understood that many of the students calling for Kelly's ouster had experienced racism, and she said that she did not doubt their pain. But she responded to those statements by quoting Socrates: "One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man, however much we have suffered from him."

The President's Announcement

In announcing Kelly's retirement, the Reverend Stephen V. Sundborg, president of the university, made no mention of the controversy over Kelly or the college's curriculum. He noted that she had founded several programs, including the Poverty Education Center, and helped the college to add degree programs. He said that she would have emeritus status.

"Dean Kelly is well respected within our community and region. Her passion for teaching and commitment to Jesuit education is unsurpassed. I am grateful for the devotion and dedication she brought to Matteo Ricci College, Seattle University and our mission," he said.

A spokesman said that the university had no plans to discuss the investigation announced when Kelly was placed on leave.

The coalition of protesting students' statement specifically criticized Father Sundborg for saying only positive things about the departing dean.

“Seattle University marketing says ‘Here We Dare,’” the student statement says. “One of the most daring actions a leader can take is to admit error and take responsibility for their actions. Instead of daring to challenge the status quo with accountable leadership, Father Sundborg chose to praise Jodi Kelly as well as award her with emeriti honor while ignoring the harm and trauma students, alumni, faculty and staff have experienced. This is not justice. As a community, we all deserve better.”

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Academics fact-check pervasive idea that liberal academics indoctrinate their students

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 07:00

Is an entire generation of voters “lost” to the Grand Old Party, and is academe at fault? That’s what conservative pollster and pundit Frank Luntz told a roomful of delegates at the Republican National Convention last week.

Yet academics who study the issue disagree.

“Luntz doesn’t have his facts straight,” said Neil Gross, Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology at Colby College, who has studied politics and the professoriate. “Young Americans are leaning to the left these days, but it has very little to do with what they’re being taught by college professors.”

Speaking to a group of South Carolina delegates at a breakfast meeting in Cleveland, Luntz declared his No. 1 priority to be “what happens at universities,” The Hill reported.

“Capitol Hill matters, yes, politics matter, but a whole generation is being taught by professors who voted for Bernie Sanders,” Luntz said. “That’s a problem that begs for a solution.”

Recycling the notion that college and university campuses are fertile recruiting grounds for an army of liberal academics, Luntz declared millennials “lost” to his party.

“It's not like we are losing -- we have lost that generation,” he said.

As proof, Luntz offered the following data point: that 58 percent of millennials -- in his words -- “say socialism is the better form of economics.” That, he said, “is the damage of academia.”

Luntz presumably was referring to a 2015 poll by Reason-Rupe, which found that 58 percent of college-age Americans have a positive view of socialism, compared to 56 percent for capitalism.

The finding apparently jarred the GOP audience. “We are screwed,” one delegate said aloud, according to The Hill.

But other data don’t support Luntz’s argument.

First, the Reason-Rupe poll also found college-age Americans to be much more supportive of a free market system than a government-managed economy, at 72 vs. 49 percent favorable, respectively. This suggests that the data on positive views of socialism may be more about their views of, say, Sweden than of the former Soviet Union.

A healthy body of research also suggests that -- contrary to popular belief -- students are not indoctrinated by their professors, liberal or conservative. And much of that research doesn't dispute that professors may be to the left of American society -- the disagreement is about the alleged indoctrination.

Joshua M. Dunn Sr., an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for the Study of Government and the Individual at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, cowrote Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University, released earlier this year. Among other points, the book argues what Dunn reiterated recently via telephone: that “attempts at indoctrination don’t work.”

Instead of faculty, he said, “there’s evidence that the most powerful effect on students comes from their peers. So [Sanders] could have had that effect -- the peer group effect, if you have lots of friends going and campaigning for him.”

It’s probably important to note that college students in particular may have been motivated this campaign season by Sanders’s focus on college debt. Whether or not free or debt-free college is a good idea remains hotly debated, but it certainly caught the attention of tuition-paying and student-loan-repaying millennials.

Moreover, Dunn said, economists in the U.S. overwhelmingly aren’t socialists, and even the most left leaning tend to believe strongly in markets. “They might favor some kind of redistribution [of wealth] but they probably aren’t going to self-identify as socialists,” Dunn said of liberal economists. “And most of the basic economics education that students will get, such as required microeconomics classes, will not have a socialist orientation.”

That said, Dunn noted that disciplines that tend to have the highest percentage of self-declared Marxist or socialist faculty members, such as sociology and literature, do have relatively large numbers of majors or served students.

But additional research supports Dunn’s point that indoctrination -- at least by faculty members -- doesn’t work. A 2006 study found, for example, that students who sensed a gap between their professors’ political beliefs and their own tended to be less engaged in the course and offer the instructor lower teaching evaluations.

“The results, while not earth-shattering, demonstrated that students do not passively accept disparate political messages but tend to push back against faculty members they perceive as presenting a hostile point of view,” Matthew Woessner, the co-author of that paper and a self-professed conservative, wrote in a summary of his research.

Woessner, an associate professor of political science and public policy at the Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg, followed up that study with another that defied his expectations. Investigating why academe does indeed skew so liberal, Woessner said he expected to find that conservatives were driven out of the Ph.D. pipeline by bias against them, lack of mentoring or other kinds of isolation. Instead, he found that left-leaning students are much more likely to enter college wanting to pursue advanced degrees than their right-leaning peers.

“Whatever impact college might have on students’ academic ambitions, left-leaning first-year students begin their education with a far greater interest in eventually pursuing a doctoral degree than their conservative counterparts,” he wrote. “Whereas liberal and conservative students have very similar grades and nearly identical levels of satisfaction with their overall college experience, right-leaning students are far more likely to select ‘practical’ majors that are less likely to lead to advanced degrees. Their emphasis on vocational fields such as business and criminal justice permits them to move directly into the workforce.”

Woessner’s source for that study was survey data regarding brand-new (read: unindoctrinated) freshmen from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. Gross, at Colby, also pointed to those data for the basis of his argument against Luntz.

Gross highlighted various findings from the 2015 report, including that for the past several years, greater proportions of students have identified as liberal or “left.” About 34 percent of students leaned that way in the most recent survey -- about four percentage points higher than in 2012. The 2015 proportion of liberal students was the highest it’s been since 1973, when it was 36 percent. In other words, Gross said, “the progressive bent of today’s students is already evident before they get to college.”

We’re witnessing “a generational change caused by many factors, foremost among them rising levels of inequality -- which have made young people nervous about their future -- and the spread of more fluid and open views of sexuality,” he said. “If the GOP can’t or won’t adapt so that their platform lines up with the opinions of these young voters, that’s the party's fault, not the professoriate’s.”

Regarding any possible Sanders effect, Gross said he hadn’t seen reliable data on the percentage of professors who backed him.

Amy J. Binder, professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego, also found challenges to the liberal indoctrination theory with her 2012 book Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives. Namely, her study found that conservative students’ experiences vary from campus to campus, but that most professors don’t proselytize their liberal views. And students’ conservative views are sometimes strengthened by proselytizing when it does happen. (For what it’s worth, Binder heard more reports about teaching assistants sharing partisan ideas than about faculty.)

Regarding Luntz, Binder said polling suggested he was right on one point: that the Republican party has a problem attracting millennials, including more highly educated ones.

Challenging Luntz’s broader argument, however, Binder said the reason Republicans have a problem attracting millennials “is that the party is completely out of step with what a significant number of voting millennials care about,” including the environment, the economy, immigration reform, expanding civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, and educational and job opportunities.

“The idea that colleges and universities are indoctrination mills is an old one,” Binder said, tracing its lineage back to William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale. Buckley and, later, Lewis Powell argued that college “campuses are overrun with faculty and administrators who are godless and socialist, and that they have undue influence on young minds.”

Multiple contemporary organizations continue to advance that message today, she said, though the mechanisms by which the indoctrination is said to occur are “hazy.”

Borrowing an idea from Ivanka Trump’s convention speech on Thursday evening, Binder said it’s possible millennials are simply more candidate- than partycentric. If that’s true, she said, “the issue for Republicans isn’t that Sanders is a socialist who had some support among academics -- especially since, anecdotally, I know far more academics who supported [Hillary] Clinton over Sanders -- it’s that the GOP has offered such unattractive candidates to young people.”

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U of Cape Town disinvites speaker for annual academic freedom lecture

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 07:00

The University of Cape Town has disinvited a speaker set to give its annual TB Davie Academic Freedom Lecture for fear of security risks and the possibility of provoking conflict and further polarization on campus.

The university withdrew the invitation to Flemming Rose, who as culture editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten commissioned cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that some Muslims considered blasphemous. The publication of the cartoons in 2005 triggered widespread protests and riots across the Muslim world, some of which turned deadly.

In rescinding the invitation, Cape Town’s vice chancellor, Max Price, invoked the language of “safe spaces” and asserted that bringing Rose to campus for his scheduled August talk “might retard rather than advance academic freedom on campus.”

The university committee that extended the invitation to Rose refused to rescind it but was overruled by the university administration. In a statement the Academic Freedom Committee described Rose as an “eminently qualified candidate” to speak on issues including religious tolerance, threats to education, free thought and free expression. The committee expressed regret about the administration’s decision “and what it reveals about the limited scope of academic freedom at UCT.”

A 3.5-page letter from Price, the vice chancellor, states that the decision to withdraw the invitation was made reluctantly, “since we recognize that a decision not to provide an official platform to Mr. Rose is an acknowledgment of the limitations on freedom of expression in general and academic freedom on our campus.”

“No freedom, however, is unlimited,” the letter continues. “As with all rights, context and consequence are also critical.”

The letter from Price to the Academic Freedom Committee cites three main reasons for the rescinded invitation. The first two relate to the possibility that Rose’s talk could provoke protests on campus and create security risks.

“We are convinced his presence at this time would lead to vehement and possibly violent protest against him and against UCT,” Price wrote on behalf of the university administration. “The risks are to the security and bodily integrity of Mr. Rose himself; to those who will host him, and those who will attend the lecture; to the ability to hold a public lecture without total disruption; to the fragile but uneasy calm which currently exists on campus; and to the positive interfaith relations which currently mark public life in the Western Cape.”

That brings Price to the third reason cited in his letter -- that, he wrote, “bringing this speaker to deliver the TB Davie lecture in the current environment might retard rather than advance academic freedom on campus.”

For more than a year now South African university campuses have been rocked by student protests calling for “decolonization” and “transformation” of universities and addressing issues of race, class and affordability of higher education. The protests have in some cases escalated into acts of violence or vandalism. In February, eight Cape Town students were arrested and six suspended after protestors allegedly burned artwork and vehicles and petrol-bombed the vice chancellor’s office.

“Everyone is deeply aware of the very testing circumstances that pertain to freedom of expression about controversial ideas in this country at present, particularly on university campuses,” Price wrote. “Our campuses have become charged spaces, in which ideological and social fault lines have become intensely politicized, sometimes violently so. We are committed to weathering these storms in ways that acknowledge and protect the need for safe spaces to confront and debate such matters. We know that many within our universities don’t feel safe to engage, which undermines the spirit of mutual tolerance and understanding.”

“This is a deeply worrying situation which all adherents of academic freedom should find disconcerting, and ultimately unacceptable,” Price's letter continues. “Academic freedom cannot survive, let alone flourish, in such an atmosphere. But will progress on this issue be advanced by inviting someone who represents a provocatively -- potentially violently -- divisive view to make the case for a considered version of academic freedom that is avowedly sensitive to the concurrent rights to dignity and freedom from harm?”

The letter goes on: “If the brief of the [Academic Freedom Committee] is to protect and promote academic freedom on campus and beyond, then we cannot see how the invitation to Mr. Rose at this time will promote this goal. Indeed, it is far more likely to open up a broad new front of hostility between groups of students and staff, and to lead directly, both in the days before and after the lecture, to heightened tensions and possibly physical altercations, precisely at a time when many on campus are feeling bruised and misunderstood by the events of the past 16 months. This risks diminishing, rather than bolstering, the opportunities for proper and mutually respectful intellectual and institutional engagement.”

David Benatar, a philosophy professor at Cape Town and a member of the Academic Freedom Committee, accused Price of engaging in “doublespeak …. He wishes to restrict academic freedom in order to advance it,” Benatar wrote in an op-ed published on Politicsweb, a South African news site.

Benatar wrote that the “university should be standing firm on freedom of speech and teaching those who do not already know, that this value extends (most crucially) to people with provocative and even divisive views.”

In a response to the vice chancellor's letter posted on the Index on Censorship magazine's website, Rose wrote, “I find it disgraceful that the vice chancellor Mr. Max Price puts the blame on me instead of taking responsibility for his decision. He is afraid that some people might react in certain ways to my presence. That’s not my responsibility. If they choose to act in a way that concerns the VC, it’s their decision, not mine. The VC has to hold them responsible for their actions, not me. It’s the heckler’s veto.”

Rose also objected to Price’s characterizations of him in his letter. Price wrote, “Mr. Rose is regarded by many around the world as right wing, Islamophobic, someone whose statements have been deliberately provocative, insulting and possibly amount to hate speech, and an editor of a publication that many believe took a bigoted view of freedom of expression.” (Price went on to write, “No doubt all these claims can be contested, and the precepts of academic freedom should require us to hear him out. But presenting a speaker such as Mr. Rose as the chosen champion of the University of Cape Town to deliver its symbolic and prestigious TB Davie public lecture on academic freedom will, in our judgment, divide and inflame the campus.”)

Rose described himself as a “classical liberal” and pointed out that he recently defended the free speech rights of Muslim imams in a Politico Europe piece. He wrote that in his book The Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on the Future of Free Speech (Cato Institute, 2014), he did not focus only on Islam but also wrote "about the Russian Orthodox Church silencing of criticism, Hindu nationalists' attacks on an Indian Muslim artist and so on and so forth."

Nadine Strossen, the John Marshall Harlan II Professor at New York Law School and an immediate past president of the American Civil Liberties Union -- and Cape Town's chosen speaker for the TB Davie lecture in 2011 -- wrote in a letter to Price and others at Cape Town that she considers Rose to be “one of the most principled, courageous exemplars of intellectual freedom and freedom of conscience, including freedom for religious and other beliefs …. Of course, I would neutrally defend Mr. Rose’s right to speak at UCT -- and the UCT community’s right to hear his ideas -- even if I strongly objected to his ideas. But he is especially deserving of a forum such as the Davie lecture because his ideas have been so widely caricatured and misunderstood, and because these ideas are urgently important precisely due to the sensitive nature of the issues they address.”

Strossen wrote that she is “troubled by the ongoing threat to academic freedom that Dr. Price’s letter signals. On the one hand, he asserts that UCT ‘hope[s] never again to have to interfere with an invitation to deliver a lecture on academic freedom.’ On the other hand, though, he later endorses ‘a considered version of academic freedom that is avowedly sensitive to the concurrent rights to dignity and freedom from harm.’ In other words, it is only his version -- or UCT’s ‘official’ version -- of academic freedom that will be honored, not that of the [Academic Freedom Committee], or the viewpoint-neutral version that would be consistent with the South African Constitution and UCT’s own proud traditions, as exemplified by TB Davie.”

However, Peter Hervik, an anthropology professor at Denmark's Aalborg University who has studied the Muhammad cartoon controversy and whose negative review of Rose's book was cited as a source in Price's letter, said he thought UCT found itself in a difficult position. The security risks are real, he said, and have continued to evolve since the invitation to Rose was first extended in March 2015. (He cited for example the Islamic State-claimed shooting in May 2015 at an event in Garland, Tex., where cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad were exhibited.) Of Rose himself Hervik questioned whether he as a journalist and nonacademic was a good choice for a lecture on academic freedom. He described Rose as someone who speaks from a “superior, entitled position where he’s saying, ‘I have the right to offend, to ridicule, to mock and so on,’ but his opponents do not have that privilege” because they do not hold positions of power in the media and elsewhere.

“The university could have done better homework, so they really knew whom they were getting,” said Hervik. At the same time, he said, “People have the right to become wiser and disinvite [speakers]. It’s not a happy situation, it’s unlucky, but I think they have the right.”

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The higher education record of Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton's running mate

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 07:00

Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, named by Hillary Clinton as her running mate, is a moderate Democrat who has been supportive of spending on higher education both in the Senate and as governor of Virginia.

The focus of his time in the Senate has not been on education issues, but he has periodically been involved in them.

Technical education. In 2014, he was a cofounder of the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus, and he has been involved in events designed to draw attention to the value of technical education at the secondary and postsecondary levels. His interest in technical education is longstanding. Kaine took a year off while at law school at Harvard University to run a technical school founded by Jesuit missionaries in Honduras. More recently in Congress, he has pushed support for apprenticeship programs.

Student debt. Kaine has spoken out at several events this year about the impact of rising debt levels on students. In The Huffington Post, he said that "student debt is placing a massive burden on our college students and graduates." But asked about the plan of Senator Bernie Sanders to make public higher education free, Kaine said he was concerned by the lack of an income test. (Subsequently, Clinton adopted many parts of the Sanders plan, but she kept her earlier stated idea of an income test.) "We need to give careful consideration, particularly on the fiscal front, to whether there should be some type of income test with respect to free access to college," Kaine said. "Richer Americans, or even Americans like myself who have a plan to help their children with the cost of college, perhaps shouldn’t have free access to college or get the same degree of help when there are so many young people who have worked hard but simply can’t afford the cost of higher education and their parents do not have the financial means to help. Those are the students who we should focus on helping."

Virginia Tech aftermath. In 2008, as governor of Virginia, Kaine signed into law a series of bills introduced in response to the previous year's mass murder at Virginia Tech. Among the measures were requirements that public colleges establish threat assessment teams and emergency plans, that public and private colleges be allowed to request complete mental health records held on its students from their time at previous institutions, that public colleges establish procedures to release educational records to the parents of dependent students, and that public colleges establish procedures for notifying parents of students who receive mental health treatment at the institution's student health or counseling center "when there exists a substantial likelihood that the student will, in the near future, cause serious physical harm to himself or others as evidenced by recent behavior or any other relevant information or suffer serious harm due to his lack of capacity to protect himself or to provide for his basic human needs."

In the Senate, Kaine has cited the experience of being governor of Virginia at the time of the Virginia Tech shootings in pushing for gun control measures -- measures that have been blocked by Republicans. Kaine speeches on the topic may be found here and here.

Also as governor, Kaine successfully pushed for a $2 billion bond package for facilities at public colleges and universities.

Kaine has periodically taught at the University of Richmond. He first started teaching there -- part time, in the law school -- in 1987. He left that position when he was elected to public office six years later. But he has continued to teach periodically in the law school and Richmond's Jepson School of Leadership Studies. He last taught a course there in 2013 and also regularly participates in events there.

Kaine's wife, Anne Holton, is Virginia's secretary of education. Prior to assuming that position, she was the program director for Great Expectations, a program of the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education that helps youth in foster care gain access to higher education.

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Education Department releases latest draft of state authorization rule

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 07:00

The Obama administration on Friday released its latest proposal on how colleges that offer distance education programs to students in other states should be regulated.

The rule requires distance education providers to follow state laws governing how they become authorized to offer courses and programs to students in states other than where they are located. A university in Illinois that wishes to enroll students residing in Wisconsin in its online programs, for example, has to apply to the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board and pay a fee to be approved.

In what observers called a “significant” departure from previous drafts, however, the proposed rule does not require states to conduct an “active review” of out-of-state colleges -- a provision that was in previous drafts that many distance education groups criticized for placing an undue burden on states but consumer protection groups argued was important to prevent fraudulent colleges from taking advantage of students.

The U.S. Department of Education will accept public comment on the rule, which will be published in the Federal Register on Monday, until Aug. 24.

This latest and final attempt from the Obama administration to settle the issue of state authorization follows about six years of on-again, off-again rule making, during which variations of the rule have been proposed, vacated by a federal court, sent to a negotiating committee and put on ice. The department in 2014 paused work on the rule after multiple sessions of negotiated rule making failed to provide a consensus, but surprisingly restarted its efforts last month.

The department is hurrying to finalize the rule before the next administration takes over. To do so, it faces a deadline at the end of October. If the department issues the final rule before then, it will go into effect July 1, 2017.

In the announcement, the department described the lack of federal regulations governing distance education providers that enroll out-of-state students as a “loophole.” It highlighted provisions that require colleges to document how they handle student complaints and inform students about any negative changes to their distance education accreditation status.

Still, the rule does not take as hard a line on state laws governing oversight of out-of-state colleges as previous versions have.

During the rule-making sessions in 2014, the “active review” provision was one of the central points of contention, said Russell Poulin, director of policy and analysis for the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies. He and several others participating in the sessions argued against the provision, saying the federal government was effectively requiring states to change their laws.

“That was the main sticking point,” Poulin said in an interview. “[The department] just wouldn’t budge on that, and if they had, we would have come to consensus.”

A department official, speaking on background, confirmed that the proposed rule does not require states to review out-of-state colleges. If a state has regulations in place concerning how colleges become authorized to operate in it -- and most do -- colleges have to comply with them; if not, they don’t have to.

“This is a significant change,” Poulin said in an interview.

Since the proposed rule no longer contains that provision, the department has inserted language elsewhere in the rule in an effort to protect consumer rights.

Many critics have said the process of receiving approval in all 50 states is too onerous, particularly for small colleges that may only have a small online student population. The rule therefore recognizes organizations such as the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, known as SARA, which grants member institutions the authority to offer programs to students in all of its member states (presently 40 states and the District of Columbia).

Marshall A. Hill, executive director of SARA’s national council, said he was not surprised to see the proposed rule acknowledge reciprocity agreements, but noted that the department’s announcement specified “as long as the agreement does not prevent a state from enforcing its own consumer laws” -- language not seen in previous versions of the rule.

The rule also requires colleges to notify students if their professional programs meet state certification or licensure requirements.

Robert Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and former Education Department official, said the rule “doesn’t go as far as it might,” but he added that it “does take important steps forward in terms of consumer protection.”

The department official said the language in the rule is purposely broad at this point, and that the department does not wish to be “too prescriptive” before the public comment period. In the announcement, the department said it expects to issue the finalized rule before the end of the year.

Online LearningEditorial Tags: Distance educationImage Source: iStockIs this breaking news?: 

Following summer of shootings and protests, campus officials urge unity

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 07:00

Bracing for another round of student protests as the new academic year begins, college officials are pre-emptively calling for peace and unity on their campuses following a summer of gun violence and political unrest.

Last year, anger over race relations -- including issues that were specific to higher education and issues that were not, such as police killings of unarmed black men -- led to widespread student protests at campuses across the country. The demonstrations prompted institutions to make some policy changes in regards to support for minority students, as well as compelling several college administrators to step down. The protests also provoked considerable backlash, with several campuses receiving online threats against black students.

After a summer break that featured a divisive presidential primary season framed by more police killings of black men, the murders of several police officers and a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., campus officials are not counting on campus protesters being any less active this year.

"The idea of campuses being places of widespread student protests is filtering down to students just enrolling in college," Angus Johnson, a scholar of student movements who teaches at Hostos Community College, already predicted in February. "We’re going to see an increase in what we saw happening last year."

A study published earlier this year indicated that the protests may be here to stay for some time -- and that colleges may be in the midst of an age of student activism not seen since the 1960s.

The annual American Freshman Survey found that one in 10 of last year’s freshmen -- this year’s sophomores -- said they have “a very good chance” of participating in student protests while in college, an increase of 2.9 percentage points over last year’s survey. Black students, in particular, said they planned on being activists, with 16 percent of students reporting that they planned on participating in protests.

The findings were among several from this year's survey that the researchers said point to the highest level of civic engagement in the study’s 50-year history.

Earlier this month, following the killings of black men and police officers in Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas, Harris Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina, published an open letter addressing the violence. A year ago, the killing of nine African-Americans by a white supremacist at a South Carolina church placed the state at the center of a national debate over modern use of the Confederate flag.

“As we process these events, we ask ourselves: How do we respond?” Pastides wrote. “What should we do? What is the historical context? Will it happen again? Am I safe? Who is next? Should there be more laws? Should we restrict access to certain weapons? How does our nation move forward? How do we heal? Who can I talk to? How do we have these difficult conversations? While I don't have answers to all the questions, I do think there's something we can all do that may help.”

Pastides urged students and faculty members to “recommit to airing our views in a way that is civil and responsible and recommit to opposing violence in all of its of forms,” including violent language and hate speech.

“Come back to campus ready to learn and prepared for conversations to come,” the president wrote. “Most importantly, be ready to extend the hand of friendship to a new face.”

Other colleges issuing such letters include Doane University, which paraphrased Rep. John Lewis in asking protesters to "remain calm in the wake of these tragic events," and the University of Mississippi, which called on students to "support one another in these difficult times." Janice Abraham, president and CEO of United Educators, a risk management firm for colleges, said she expects to see many such letters as officials begin to welcome students back to campus and hope to "de-escalate conflicts that could occur."

At Ithaca College, several administrators on Wednesday urged students and faculty to sign a joint unity statement to “show solidarity for the victims of these tragic events” and to commit “to work together to seek answers to the difficult questions and show mutual respect for one another.”

In October, student protesters demanded that Ithaca’s president, Tom Rochon, resign over his handling of several racist incidents. Rochon, who did not immediately step down but said he will resign next July, is one of the statement’s signees. Nearly 700 other people had signed the statement as of Thursday, though it has also prompted criticism.

“It reeks of an ‘all lives matter’ sentiment that erases the discrimination many people experience, both on campus and elsewhere,” Zack Ford, a graduate of Ithaca College and LGBT editor at Think Progress, wrote in a Facebook post. “It sugarcoats and whitewashes the real problems the community is trying to solve, cheapening the valid concerns that students, faculty, staff and alumni have been raising for the past year.”

Similar criticism has been directed at a statement released this week by 30 presidents of historically black colleges. “America’s HBCUs were the birthplace of the idea that black lives matter to our country,” the presidents wrote.

While many praised the message and the presidents’ promise to organize a symposium on gun violence, others decried the statement’s lack of references to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.

“How come the letter does not mention the deaths of LGBT people of color?” Ben Webster, a student at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, tweeted. “Black Lives Matter was started by queer women of color and yet our struggles are not addressed. Socioeconomic status, gender and race are mentioned, but not sexual orientation?”

One of the HBCU letter’s signees was John Silvanus Wilson Jr., the president of Morehouse College, who also released a separate letter last week.

Addressed to his “Morehouse sons,” Wilson discussed the shootings that occurred this summer, both of black civilians and police officers. He wrote that the "social climate across America is tragically disturbing," but that "black men have managed to survive and remain remarkably productive throughout the slave trade, post-Civil War atrocities, the civil rights movement and so many other challenging periods in the life of this nation." The president urged his students to “endure the recent disruption to your standard summer activities” and to look toward the future.

“My love goes out to each of you,” Wilson wrote. “Be mindful, be safe and be constructive. And we will see you next month.”

DiversityEditorial Tags: DiscriminationSafetyImage Source: POC at IC | FacebookImage Caption: Students protest racial inequality at Ithaca College.Is this breaking news?: 

Amazon-Wells Fargo partnership on private student loans troubles consumer advocates

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 07:00

Search "student loans" on Amazon.com and the results include titles like The Student Loan Scam and The Student Loan Mess: How Good Intentions Created a Trillion-Dollar Problem. Now the online retail giant is becoming involved in the student loan sector itself through a partnership with Wells Fargo.

On Thursday, Amazon and the banking and financial services company announced a partnership through which Amazon Prime Student members will be eligible for a 0.5 percentage point reduction on their interest rate for private student loans taken out through Wells Fargo Education Financial Services.

“We are focused on innovation and meeting our customers where they are -- and increasingly that is in the digital space,” John Rasmussen, Wells Fargo’s head of personal lending group, said in a statement. “This is a tremendous opportunity to bring together two great brands. At Amazon and Wells Fargo, delivering exceptional customer service and helping customers are at the center of everything we do.”

The announcement comes at a time when student loans are coming under increasing scrutiny from political leaders concerned with college affordability and overindebtedness. But it signals that even in the current political environment, retailers see student loan borrowers as lucrative targets for marketing.

The deal was met was met with dismay by the Institute for College Access & Success. Pauline Abernathy, the organization’s executive vice president, said the partnership is designed to dupe students who qualify for low-interest federal student loans into taking out more costly private loans with fewer protections.

“Private loans are one of the riskiest ways to finance a college education,” Abernathy said. “Like credit cards, they have the highest rates for those who can least afford them, but they are much more difficult to discharge in bankruptcy than credit cards and other consumer debts.”

Undergraduates with federal Stafford loans will borrow at a rate of only 3.76 percent this year. Interest rates on Wells Fargo private student loans can go as high as 9.03 percent for a variable interest rate loan or 10.93 percent for fixed-rate loans, according to the company’s website. Abernathy also pointed to fine print on the company’s site indicating that the bank reserved the right to modify or discontinue interest rate discounts at any time.

Federal student loans have other additional protections and provide opportunities to repay balances through income-based repayment plans.

Alexander Holt, a policy analyst at the think tank New America, said that while federal loans are far more attractive, there are borrowing limits for undergraduate students who may still have unmet costs associated with attending college. And although the volume of private loans is growing, they still make up just a fraction -- 7.5 percent -- of the student loan market compared with federal student loans.

“If you still need financing for college above the federal student loan limit, there’s nothing wrong with taking out a private student loan,” Holt said.

But he questioned why Amazon -- a company hyperfocused on brand reputation and customer service -- would associate itself with private student loans, a product that has traditionally been a liability for brand reputations.

“Amazon is taking a reputational risk for a very low payoff,” he said. “It's a big market. But it's not huge and it's always run extreme reputational risk for the companies involved.”

Amazon Prime members make up more than half of all customers on the website, according to a report released earlier this month.

Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst at Demos, said he would advise a student borrower to pursue options through federal student loans over a deal to shave their interest rate on a private loan with a Prime membership. But from a broader perspective, he said the partnership between Wells Fargo and the online retailer shows how normalized student debt has become.

“There’s an assumption that just like students are going to have to maybe shop online for books and supplies and other stuff and Amazon Prime is one way to do that, they’re also going to borrow student loans,” he said. “It's somewhat telling that student loans or student loan borrowers are now a niche market in themselves.”

Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: Financial aidIs this breaking news?: 

Temple University president reaches deal to resign

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 07:00

Temple University President Neil D. Theobald will resign under a newly reached agreement, closing a tumultuous several weeks in which the university’s board prepared to fire the president after he unexpectedly dismissed its provost following a large financial-aid cost overrun.

Theobald’s resignation is effective Aug. 1. Temple trustees announced the agreement Thursday, when they had initially scheduled to vote on firing Theobald. Trustees last week voted no confidence in the president, who took over at Temple in 2012.

The resignation places Temple at a crossroads, with its top two administrative positions turning over this summer. Many see it as a major challenge for the Philadelphia university. But some faculty members feel it presents an opportunity to re-evaluate the direction of an institution that has turned its focus to rankings and research status in recent years.

For the immediate future, Temple is turning within itself for leadership. On Thursday the university named Richard M. Englert acting president. Englert has served in various administrative roles at Temple since coming to campus in 1976, including as acting president in 2012 for a short stint before Theobald’s tenure. Englert was appointed university chancellor, an honorary role, in 2012 and has been a professor in the College of Education.

Temple lists Englert as starting his latest stint as acting president on Thursday, despite the fact that Theobald’s departure is not yet effective. But all sides in administration are working in cooperation, said Kevin Feeley, a spokesman for Temple’s Board of Trustees.

“It’s really a distinction without difference,” Feeley said. “Dick Englert is an institution at Temple, so he’s going to be taking over the day-to-day operation.”

Feeley declined to discuss the terms of Theobald’s resignation, only confirming that some compensation was involved. Theobald did not lose his tenure on Temple's faculty but will be on sabbatical for a year, sources said.

It is early to discuss details about a search for a permanent replacement, Feeley said.

“The board’s view of this is that it’s all come up fairly quickly,” he said. “The board has been focused on this chapter. I think now that this chapter is over, we’ve turned a page, and I think the board understands this is going to be a comprehensive search process.”

Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick J. O’Connor released a statement saying that the deal leading to Theobald’s resignation was in the best interest of the university, students, faculty and staff.

“The board recognizes that the university has endured a difficult few weeks this summer, but we are confident that with today’s announcements, we can once again return our focus to Temple's tremendous momentum,” O’Connor said. “Throughout the region and around the world, a Temple education is valued as affordable, accessible and of the highest quality.”

Theobald’s resignation comes less than four weeks after the president surprised many at Temple by stripping provost duties from Hai-Lung Dai on June 28. That move followed news that Temple would need to spend $22 million more than expected in its financial aid budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Dai had been closely associated with Temple’s financial aid policies, but faculty members still protested his unexpected removal as provost.

Dai’s dismissal also involved a disputed sexual harassment charge. Theobald reportedly circulated a statement saying that a sexual harassment allegation against Dai was part of the reason for his firing. A Temple spokesman said the board was investigating that charge but felt it was baseless to link that claim to the provost's dismissal.

(The above paragraph has been updated to clarify that the spokesman was not commenting on the accuracy of the sexual harassment allegations, only on using them as a reason for Dai's removal.)

Dai issued a statement defending himself, indicating the complaint had been filed against him as retaliation for a disciplinary measure he took against someone for performance failures and that its nature had been unfairly characterized. Dai also said in a statement that responsibility for budget matters ultimately rests with the president.

Dai issued another statement Thursday listing Temple’s accomplishments during his tenure as provost, including increases in undergraduate enrollment and diversity, tuition revenue growth, and rising research grants. Dai also thanked faculty, staff, students and alumni for support.

“I am also grateful to the Board of Trustees for its most recent morally courageous acts,” Dai’s statement said. “Changing the presidency is a grave matter for any university. The soul of an institution of higher learning with a mission to discover and disseminate knowledge as truth is and should be embedded in its values and principles. So long as these values and principles are upheld, the institution will become better and stronger. We are grateful that the board has given the university this opportunity to recover and continue to fulfill its mission.”

But the future could hold debate about Temple’s priorities and direction. Theobald had backed a controversial plan to build a football stadium on campus. And while both the previous president and provost have touted Temple’s rise in rankings and research university classification, some have worried about the university’s identity.

“Everybody sort of likes the idea of moving up in the rankings and all that good stuff, but are we doing so perhaps at the cost of serving the population that we’ve traditionally said we’re supposed to be serving?” said Michael Sachs, the president of Temple’s Faculty Senate and a professor of kinesiology in the university’s College of Public Health. “Are we just bringing in these high-profile researchers and all these better students and losing a sense of our mission to serve first-generation students, etc.?”

Sachs said he found the two leadership changes in such a short period of time surprising. But he expressed confidence in Englert and the provost who replaced Dai, former Temple Law School Dean Joanne A. Epps.

“We have two excellent people who are coming into place -- a provost who is widely respected and we’re confident will do a great job, and an acting president who has been there, done that,” Sachs said.

Major turnover at the top can have long-term effects, however. Administrators in the university will use it as a time to evaluate their job situation, raising the possibility of major turnover among top talent, said Frank Casagrande, a higher education consultant. Controversial dismissals can also hurt an institution’s ability to recruit leaders in the future.

“The consequence to the organization is not just a disruption in the top team,” Casagrande said. “It’s the ability of the organization to recruit the next team.”

The situation has also raised some concerns among those on campus. Arthur Hochner is an associate professor in Temple’s Fox School of Business and the president and chief negotiator at the Temple Association of University Professionals. The union is negotiating with the university to add adjunct professors after they recently voted to unionize.

Hochner was disappointed faculty members did not have more say in or more information about the leadership turnover, he said.

“We really don’t know what the reasons are,” he said. “Where were the faculty in all of this? This affects the whole university, and it seems to be something that’s taken place within a small circle of people who haven’t explained their actions.”

AdmissionsEditorial Tags: College administrationImage Source: Temple UniversityImage Caption: Temple University President Neil D. Theobald is resigning effective Aug. 1.Is this breaking news?: 

Author discusses book about how academics should use social media

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 07:00

Writing about social media is “dangerous,” according to Mark Carrigan, a sociologist and academic technologist at the University of Warwick, in Britain. In the time to take to finish a book on the topic, platforms launch and die, and fads come and go.

But he has written a book about it anyway. His Social Media for Academics (SAGE Publications) is not meant to be the final word on the topic, but a guidebook to how academics can use social media to publicize their work, build their networks and manage information -- and how to find the time.

“If certain references come to seem passé only a year or two later, then I hope you can overlook them because in a way they’re incidental,” Carrigan writes. “The real concern of this book is how existing scholarly activities (things like writing, publishing, networking and engaging) can be enhanced through social media and perhaps transformed in the process.”

Carrigan discussed his book over email. His responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

Q: In the book, you grapple with the idea of writing about a topic that “will be out of date by the book is read, let alone a year or two later.” But you argue that while platforms may go in and out of fashion, the core functions of social media -- sharing, socializing and so on -- remain the same. Could you expand on that, and what it means for academics?

A: One of the most important things in getting to grips with social media as an academic is to move beyond a preoccupation with each individual platform. There’s a learning curve with any platform, but they’re never insurmountable. What’s much more important than how you use a platform is what you want to do with it and why. These are questions that take us beyond the platform itself and back to the everyday working lives of scholars. Do you want to publicize your work? Engage with publics outside the academy? Find news way of locating and managing information? Extend your professional network? In so far as social media is valuable for academics, it’s because it helps scholars perform their existing practices in new and better ways. The whole field becomes so much easier to navigate when you’re clear from the outset about what you want to do and why. It also helps you step back from the “next big thing” and get away from the sense that you have to be engaging on every platform that’s out there.

Q: You talk about how posts on social media could be interpreted differently by friends, family members, employers and other groups (“identity dilemmas”), and how crafting a clear online identity can prevent misunderstandings. You have a straightforward Twitter profile: a title, what you’re working on and a link to a website. What are you hoping to accomplish with that bio? What are some effective examples of online identity creation that you have seen?

A: My main concern is to draw together the different strands of my professional life into one coherent whole. This can be a challenge in the limited number of characters available, but it’s not impossible! I work for two academically related charities, as well as my postdoctoral fellowship in the department where I undertook my Ph.D. There’s also a whole range of projects I’m involved in which are just as important to my sense of professional identity as my “day jobs.” So the main purpose of my Twitter profile is to allow people to quickly see the work I’m involved with, as well as how I choose to present myself professionally to the world. The description “digital sociologist” isn’t part of any of my formal job descriptions, but that understanding, as well as the Twitter profile and personal website that communicates it, unites what might otherwise feel like a fragmented working life. In this sense, you could say that my profile is doing important identity work for me and that this reflects my status as someone who is pursuing a somewhat alt-academic portfolio career.

What constitutes effective management of online identity is going to vary a lot for this reason. The key thing is to be clear about what you want to convey to others about yourself and your work. It can be tricky at first to craft an online identity within the constraints offered by social media platforms, but it’s worth persisting. This isn’t just digital narcissism -- these profiles serve an important function in helping people orientate themselves within an information-saturated world. My favorite Twitter bio comes from the former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. His profile describes him as “Economics professor, quietly writing obscure academic texts for years, until thrust onto the public scene by Europe’s inane handling of an inevitable crisis.” As professional self-narratives go, there’s an awful lot being conveyed there, all the more powerful for being so succinct.

Q: Many conferences these days -- especially those with an ed-tech angle -- have embraced live tweeting, featuring a “scoreboard” in a central location showing the top participants and tweets by likes, mentions and retweets. How should conference organizers walk the line between encouraging meaningful online conversations and preventing popularity contests?

A: It’s a difficult line to walk because what media scholar José van Dijck calls the popularity principle is built into the architecture of the platforms themselves. In a very real way, their design is intended to leave us thinking and acting in terms of popularity contrasts. But as long as we’re aware of this, it’s possible to mitigate it, and the challenge itself encourages us to articulate scholarly values that are sometimes taken for granted. For instance, to be clear about what meaningful scholarly dialogue entails and why popularity contests serve to hinder it. I think scoreboards should be challenged in this way, and I’d be surprised if many people offered enthusiastic justifications of them in the face of this challenge.

However it’s also important that we remain open to novel technologies, refusing to fall into the trap of thinking that just because a platform can be used in a stupid way, that it will be used like this in higher education. Conversations about shared values and standards are the most important thing here, but the novelty of the technology stands in the way. Both because of the allure of shiny new toys and as a reflection of the fact that, in many cases, we simply haven’t developed such standards because the activities we’re applying them to are so new.

Q: Do you see the debate about live tweeting at conferences being reignited if live-streaming apps such as Periscope become more popular?

A: It seems urgent to me that we have a more nuanced conversation about expectations of behavior at conferences, because I suspect live-streaming apps are going to reignite the live tweeting debate and then some. Conference organizers have a huge role to play here. Not just in terms of determining a policy for the event and communicating it, but also by seriously reflecting on who will be taking part in their event, the relationships between them and the purpose the event is intended to serve. I love live tweeting, in fact I find it a much more enjoyable and effective way to engage seriously with a talk than taking notes. But I don’t think it should ever be an unthinking default. There are lots of reasons to prohibit live tweeting at a whole event, and individual speakers should always be given the space to communicate that they would rather the audience don’t live tweet, even if it’s a prominent feature of the event as a whole. But live-streaming risks being experienced as much more invasive by speakers. For this reason I think it’s something that should be left to the organizers of the event, discussed in advance with speakers, rather than left to the discretion of individuals in the audience. I can certainly imagine academic environments in which everyone is comfortable with individuals in the audience choosing to live-stream a talk. But my hunch is that these will be few and far between. It’s certainly not a safe assumption to make.

Q: Inside Higher Ed’s annual survey of faculty attitudes on technology last year included questions about social media use. Strikingly, 75 percent of faculty respondents said they don’t use social media to express their views on scholarship or politics. What voices from academe do you feel are missing on social media?

A: This is a real shame, because one of the most exciting things about social media is the opportunities it offers for publicly engaged scholarship. But when we place these opportunities in a broader context, it’s easy to see why so many people feel this way. I do worry that people sometimes overestimate the risks of engaging online, imagining that there’s a horde of trolls waiting to pounce on the slightest slip as soon as they dip their toe into the water.

Nonetheless, it’s impossible to deny that there’s a problem here, and it’s one which is getting worse. Some of the most egregious cases involve seemingly organized attacks on progressive scholars, particularly those from groups who are already underrepresented and marginalized within the academy. The authors at [the Inside Higher Ed blog] “Conditionally Accepted” have incisively documented how this marginality is compounded by institutional reactions, with academic freedom too often amounting to mere academic tolerance for those who seek to engage politically. While calls by [American Association of University Professors committee chair] Hank Reichman and others for greater work with faculty to develop social media policies are important, these need to be seen against a background of endemic and growing inequality within the academy. It’s much safer for some to express their views on scholarship or politics than it is for others. Nonetheless, social media has offered a powerful platform for scholars who are women, of color, LGBTUA, working class, disabled and/or precariously employed to speak out and connect with each other, in spite of the risks entailed by doing so.

We also need to see these issues against a broader climate within which certain forms of dissent are perhaps becoming more difficult. Anyone doing research on a potentially contentious issues needs to reflect seriously on this politically polarized environment, something which they’re likely already all too aware of, before engaging on these topics through social media. But of course it’s precisely this context which means it’s more important than ever that scholars engage with the social and political world around them. I worry that without more support and commitment from universities, it’s unlikely we’ll see this promise realized.

Editorial Tags: LifeSocial media/networkingImage Source: SAGE PublicationsIs this breaking news?: 

New presidents or provosts: Andrews CWU Kansas Laredo Nassau North Arkansas Rhode Island USFSP West Va. State

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 07:00
  • Christon Arthur, dean of the Andrews University School of Graduate Studies & Research at Andrews University, in Michigan, has been promoted to provost there.
  • Neeli Bendapudi, the Henry D. Price Dean of the School of Business at the University of Kansas, has been named provost and executive vice chancellor there.
  • Randall Esters, dean of liberal arts at the Louisiana State University Eunice, has been selected as president of North Arkansas College.
  • Katherine Frank, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Northern Kentucky University, has been appointed as provost/vice president for academic and student life at Central Washington University.
  • Anthony L. Jenkins, senior associate vice president at the University of Central Florida, has been chosen as president of West Virginia State University.
  • W. Hubert Keen, president of the State University of New York's Farmingdale State College, has been named president of Nassau Community College, also part of SUNY.
  • Frank Sánchez, vice chancellor for student affairs at the City University of New York, has been appointed president of Rhode Island College.
  • Ricardo Solis, dean of academic professional and technical education at Gateway Community College, in Arizona, has been selected as president of Laredo Community College, in Texas.
  • Martin Tadlock, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College, in Minnesota, has been chosen as regional vice chancellor of academic affairs at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
Editorial Tags: College administrationNew presidentsIs this breaking news?: 

What happens when colleges drop need-blind admissions

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 07:00

Ceasing need-blind admissions is a politically tenuous move for colleges and universities -- need-blind policies, associated with meritocracy and equal opportunity, cut to the heart of institutional values that many students, staff and faculty hold dear.

But sometimes those values have run up against cold, hard finances. Admitting students without considering their need for financial aid can make it difficult to control budgets from year to year. That’s particularly true when the policy is paired with promises to meet the full demonstrated financial need of applicants. And it is that combination of policies that truly makes it possible to tell a student without money that he or she is on equal footing with a trust-fund teen during admissions decisions.

Take, for example, Haverford College outside of Philadelphia. Some at the college recently criticized its decision to move away from need-blind admissions. Haverford’s financial aid budget could fail to meet the needs of future classes under its current model, it projected. So it decided to move to a so-called need-aware model, admitting most applicants without looking at financial need while reserving the option of admitting a handful of students with the aid budget in mind.

A student, Hannah Krohn, blasted the decision in a column in the student newspaper The Clerk, referring to the policy change as a move to "financially viable diversity" even as the college says it is committed to diversity.

"If we are going to shift to becoming a need-aware school, we need to be explicit that either our goals have changed or our level of commitment has," Krohn wrote. "Our budget is the tangible representation of our priorities. There will always be money for things we value."

While its decisions has sparked strong words, Haverford is far from the only institution to make changes involving need-blind admissions in recent years. Some have dropped need-blind policies, others have publicly evaluated them and a few have decided to become need blind.

Changes away from need-blind admissions are often accompanied by an outcry of concern that institutions are kowtowing to wealthy students who are able to shoulder the cost of full tuition -- at the cost of accepting equally qualified students who may come from families with lower incomes. But college leaders argue that does not have to be the case.

Institutions can focus on admitting and serving students from diverse backgrounds regardless of the label placed on their policies, presidents and admissions officers said. A few even argued non-need-blind policies could be the best way for colleges and universities to admit and support students from low-income families in a future of increasing income inequality. Under that line of reasoning, admitting some students who pay full tuition -- or close to it -- gives colleges and universities more resources to support students who have less ability to pay.

Others from institutions that have recently adopted need-blind policies say the move can be an important stake in the ground proclaiming a college’s commitment to fairness, first-generation students and those without deep pockets. Yet even they agree need-blind admissions can’t continue if an institution is bleeding money.

Of course, there are many colleges -- community colleges, for example -- that would never consider evaluating a student based on family income. But the small group of elite private institutions that have been or still are need blind have historically represented an ideal to which many institutions have aspired. The ideal resonates with many students and families.

Data from a sampling of institutions that have adopted or moved away from need-blind policies in recent years are mixed. Need-blind policies appear to play a role in attracting applicants from different backgrounds and can even lead to a fund-raising boon. Still, dropping need-blind policies isn’t necessarily a death blow to diversity -- results show it is possible to use a policy change to bolster financials while largely holding a line and admitting low-income students.

The label of “need blind” still matters. But the overarching policy might not be as important as the way admissions policies are carried out in the real world, according to college officials. The trick is in the details.

“At the end of the day, the single most important thing is who you actually have on campus,” said Brian C. Rosenberg, the president of Macalester College in St. Paul. “If you have a need-blind policy, but three-quarters are full-pay students, are you really doing more to provide access than a situation that’s need aware but has 80 percent to 90 percent of students who are receiving aid?”

Macalester dropped need-blind admissions with a policy change in 2006. Since then, it’s actually cut the portion of students who pay full tuition, Rosenberg said -- from about a third to 20 percent. But quoted tuition has also increased during the time, from about $30,000 to more than $50,000.

Against the increase in quoted tuition, statistics show the portion of Macalester students on campus receiving need-based aid is holding roughly steady. The college has increased the amount of money it dedicates to need-based aid. It has also put more into non-need-based aid, however.

Need-based scholarship or grant aid went to 68.5 percent of Macalester’s degree-seeking undergraduate students in 2015-16, according to the Common Data Set for the college -- 1,456 out of 2,127 full-time undergraduates. That’s just slightly below 2005-06, when 69 percent of undergraduates were awarded need-based scholarship or grant aid -- 1,258 out of 1,822. In the prior year, 2004-05, 69 percent of undergraduates had also been awarded need-based scholarship or grant aid -- 1,274 out of 1,847.

Need-based self-help aid -- student loans and work study -- saw a larger drop. For 2015-16, 64 percent of full-time undergraduates received need-based self-help aid. The portion was about 69 percent in 2005-06 and 2004-05.

Macalester met 100 percent of need for students that were awarded need-based aid in all of the years. Its average need-based scholarship and grant package rose drastically, spiking to $35,887 for full-time undergraduates in 2015-16, up from $19,806 in 2005-06 and $18,351 in 2004-05.

At the same time, Macalester provided more non-need-based scholarship and grant aid. In 2015-16, the college estimated 212 full-time undergraduates judged to have no financial need were awarded non-need-based scholarships or grants, up from 107 in 2005-06 and 103 in 2004-05. The average size of those awards also went up sharply, hitting $12,957 in 2015-16 from $4,686 in 2005-06 and $4,988 in 2004-05. Macalester also started awarding non-need-based aid to some students determined to have financial need during that time span, its Common Data Set answers show.

Consequently, Macalester awarded more total need-based and non-need-based aid over time. Non-need-based aid rose at a sharper rate, with institutional non-need-based aid spiking to $2.8 million in 2015-16, up from $513,519 in 2005-06 and $521,482 in 2004-05. Even with the steep increase, it was dwarfed by institutional need-based aid awarded, which rose to $50.1 million in 2015-16 from $22.5 million in 2005-06 and $20.9 million in 2004-05.

The numbers reflect the common trend across higher education: college costs rising faster than students’ ability and willingness to pay. As a result, colleges are pressured to offer more financial aid to students. Sometimes that aid goes to students with demonstrated need, and in other cases colleges can decide to use aid to try to attract a student who can pay a higher price -- and provide more net revenue for the bottom line.

“Discount rates have been driven up year after year at private colleges because the gap between what you cost and what people are able to pay gets larger,” Rosenberg said. “It means the gap you have to fill in gets larger and larger.”

An important point of emphasis for Macalester was remaining financially accessible after it decided it needed to move away from need-blind admissions, Rosenberg said. And the college has improved in several metrics.

Macalester did not share a breakdown of first-year Pell Grant recipients, which would be a rough proxy for low-income students enrolling as freshmen. But the total number of Macalester undergraduates receiving Pell Grants went from 237 in 2004-05 and 211 in 2005-06 to 344 in 2014-15, according to U.S. Department of Education data. The measure is difficult to read over that time frame because it coincides with increases in both Macalester’s undergraduate enrollment and the number of Pell Grant recipients nationally. Still, comparing Pell Grant recipients to total undergraduate enrollment reported on the Common Data Set shows proportionally more Pell Grant recipients on Macalester’s campus -- 16.9 percent in 2014-15 versus 11.6 percent in 2005-06 and 12.8 percent in 2004-05.

“We have not become in any way -- economically, nationally, ethnically -- a less diverse place,” Rosenberg said. “Based upon the demographics of our applicant pool, it has not begun to skew away from students with high need.”

Macalester has grown its percentage of students of color by roughly three percentage points in the last 10 years. In the fall of 2006, 320 U.S. students of color were enrolled, or 17 percent of the student body. In the fall of 2015 that had grown to 439, or 20 percent.

The college is unlikely to go back to need-blind admissions unless significant macroeconomic changes rock higher education, Rosenberg said. He thinks it is more important that the college is continuing to meet the full financial need for the students it admits. Ultimately, he believes the move away from need-blind admissions was necessary to ensure the college is financially stable and able to fully educate its students in the future.

Macalester’s financial statements make it clear that the college has been able to boost net revenue from tuition and fees. Net tuition and fees revenue -- the amount of revenue left after subtracting student aid and scholarships -- rose to $46.9 million at the end of Macalester’s 2015 fiscal year. It was $28.7 million at the end of 2006 and $27.2 million at the end of 2005.

“We needed some mechanism, some lever, to control the amount of aid we provided,” Rosenberg said. “I think it’s trying to balance a series of promises we make to people, and a series of promises we make to society.”

Fluctuations at Wesleyan

More recently, Wesleyan University in Connecticut announced in 2012 it would end need-blind admissions. The class entering in the fall of 2013 was admitted under a need-aware policy. Since then, the university said it’s admitted an average of more than 90 percent of its applicants without regard to financial need.

It’s early to definitively identify a pattern in the percentage of first-time, first-year Pell Grant recipients since the change. However, the measure has moved higher in recent years after a one-year drop coinciding with the start of need-aware admissions. Before Wesleyan moved away from need-blind admissions, first-time full-year Pell Grant recipients accounted for 17 percent of incoming first-year students in the fall of 2009, 16 percent in 2010, 21 percent in 2011 and 18 percent in 2012. In the fall of 2013, the first class that was need aware, the measure fell to 15 percent. It rose to 19 percent in 2014 and 22 percent in 2015. Those latter numbers are well above those of many elite liberal arts colleges.

The number of first-generation students also dropped among first-year students in 2013 before rebounding. Among entering freshmen, first-generation students to attend a four-year college dropped to 13 percent at Wesleyan in 2013, down from 18 percent and 16 percent respectively in 2011 and 2012. The measure rose to 16 percent in 2014 and 17 percent in 2015.

The percentage of first-year students receiving financial aid follows much the same pattern -- 49 percent in 2011 and 48 percent in 2012, giving way to 42 percent in the first year of non-need-blind admissions, 2013. It recovered to 46 percent and 51 percent in the next two years.

The trend also holds for first-year students of color. The mark was 41 percent for students enrolling in 2011 and 39 percent the next year. It slipped to 37 percent in 2013 and has recovered since, notching 40 percent and 42 percent for the next two incoming classes.

Early returns indicate the move away from need-blind admissions moderated growth trends in the amount of financial aid Wesleyan has awarded. Scholarships and other aid had grown 6.1 percent from the fiscal year ending in June 2010 to June 2011, 13.8 percent from 2011 to 2012 and 6.7 percent from 2012 to 2013. But it then fell by 2.5 percent in the fiscal year ending in June 2014, the first year with a class admitted under need-aware admissions. It proceeded to grow more slowly in the year ending in June 2015, increasing 4.1 percent to $55.3 million.

Wesleyan’s annual financial report for the year ending in 2014 said that year’s decrease in financial aid came as the university’s discount rate fell to 34 percent, down from 36 percent in the previous fiscal year.

“The decrease reflected the policy change to need aware for first-year students and an actual lower discount rate than budgeted for this incoming class,” the report said.

The Positive Impact of Going Need Blind

Some evidence suggests colleges and universities can increase their applicant pools by becoming need blind. Hamilton College in upstate New York decided to adopt need-blind admissions for the class entering in the fall of 2010 and has seen gains in both students receiving Pell Grants and diversity measures. It also felt an immediate boost in fund-raising.

Hamilton had been need aware, said Monica Inzer, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid. The college granted some students financial aid as an incentive to enroll and did not extend admissions offers to some demonstrating high need. About 4 to 5 percent of noninternational freshmen were affected because of financial considerations.

The percentage of first-year students receiving Pell Grants rose in the immediate years after Hamilton went need blind, Inzer said. It was 13 percent in 2009-10, and then jumped to 17 percent the next year. Since then it has bounced around at generally higher levels, notching 13 percent in 2011-12 before rising to as high as 18 percent in 2012-13 and spending the next four years alternating between 15 and 17 percent.

Also rising was the number of U.S. students of color as a percentage of full-time enrollment. The mark rose from 17.4 percent in 2009-10 to 23 percent in 2015-16, increasing every year. Over the same time frame, Hamilton’s number of admitted students held relatively steady, moving from 1,390 in 2009 to 1,357 in 2016 and never rising higher than 1,441 in the years between.

Inzer wasn’t willing to attribute the gains solely to the admissions policy. She pointed out that demographics in the country have paved the way for more diverse student bodies. But the policy has become an important part of Hamilton’s identify and a talking point to discuss with prospective students and families.

“In general, this has signaled to the rest of the world that this is a college that cares about access,” Inzer said.

It also sparked donations. Hamilton planned to raise $40 million in three years to support the need-blind policy. It took about a year and a half to raise the money.

“Our alumni went wild for this,” Inzer said. “They really supported it.”

Still, Inzer couldn’t promise the policy will be around forever. At the end of the day, the books still have to balance.

“We still have a budget, and I work really closely with the CFO,” Inzer said. “If this got out of whack, we’d have to look at it. If we had to cut other things at the college that were important to us, we’d have to look at this.”

Hamilton’s discount rate has crept up steadily since the year it went to need-blind admissions. It was 30.2 percent in 2009-10, the year before the new policy, and 36.6 percent in 2015-16 after increasing every year except for 2012-13.

The percentage of Hamilton’s budget dedicated to financial aid has followed the same path. In the 2009 fiscal year, 17.9 percent of the college’s operating expenses were financial aid. That portion rose every year through 2016, when it was 21.7 percent.

Another institution to return to need-blind admissions in recent years is Vassar College. Vassar dropped its need-blind policy in the late 1990s, citing finances, but adopted it again in 2007. Since then, applications from students of color have doubled, offers of admission have increased, the selectivity of admission offers has increased and enrollments are up, according to Jeff Kosmacher, a spokesman.

The median family income of freshman financial aid recipients has generally trended down in recent Vassar classes. The class admitted in 2006 posted a median family income of $100,517 when adjusted for inflation to 2015 levels. In the years after Vassar announced its return to need-blind admissions, that measure declined annually through the class admitted in 2013, when it hit $75,464. It was higher in the next two years at $82,054 and $80,803, respectively.

Vassar’s discount rate has picked up in recent years as well. Vassar College scholarships as a percentage of gross tuition revenue have hovered in the 50 percent range in recently admitted classes, coming in at 51.7 percent for the class admitted in 2015. That’s up from 30 percent for the class admitted in 2006.

Operating budgets at Vassar show some variation in the years immediately returning to need-blind admissions. Net tuition and fees dropped between the 2007-08 and 2010-11 fiscal years as financial aid jumped from $32.7 million to $53.7 million. Tuition and fees grew during that time from $93.4 million to $105.6 million, not keeping pace with the spike in financial aid. The college ran operating deficits for four years after 2007-08.

But in more recent years, Vassar has returned to an operating surplus as tuition and fees grew faster than financial aid. Tuition and fee revenue rose from $112.8 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year to $126.8 million in 2014-15, while financial aid rose from $54 million to $58.7 million.

Although they may be influenced by the financial crisis and recovery, the trends point to need-blind tuition making it harder to control revenue from tuition and fees. That in turn can place more pressure on endowment returns and fund-raising as revenue sources.

“I think the challenge now is the question about sustainability,” said Art Rodriguez, dean of admission and financial aid at Vassar. “The fact that the financial markets really haven’t rebounded, and we’re not seeing the same rate of return on investment in endowments that we saw back in the ’90s and early 2000s -- that has complicated the math in trying to balance our budgets.”

Vassar is not need blind for transfer and international students. That gives it a small tool to help balance revenue.

But besides the books, Vassar sees need-blind admissions as a way to attract and support a broader, deeper pool of students.

“I think it provides us sort of a tool to try to grow an applicant pool in ways we would like to see,” Rodriguez said. “I wouldn’t say it’s just ethnic and racial diversity. It’s also thinking about the geographic diversity, thinking about the range of academic interests that students have. We’re also interested in supporting the various programs at the college.”

For the time being, Vassar’s board has proven willing to support the policy, Rodriguez said. But at the end of the day, if the dollars aren’t there, they aren’t there.

“We, like everyone else, are looking at the financial markets and seeing what’s happening,” Rodriguez said. “I think that does call into question and further require discussion for us as a college to say, if we’re not having strong returns, what can we manage?”

That theme emerges again and again at need-blind colleges and universities -- the policy can be in place only so long as it does not bankrupt the institution.

True Opportunity

Grinnell College in Iowa for several years has been discussing its need-blind policy and how it fits with its policy of meeting 100 percent of students’ demonstrated financial need. Trustees are first and most concerned about how to meet 100 percent of admitted students’ need in the future, said Joe Bagnoli, vice president for enrollment and dean of admission and financial aid.

“We believe that access without financial support is not the same thing as opportunity, and we want to make sure that the students that we admit are able to afford to walk through the doors,” Bagnoli said. “That requires us to underwrite their need with pretty significant financial aid dollars. At Grinnell, that totals almost $50 million a year for an operating budget that’s about $117 million a year.”

For the time being, Grinnell is continuing to be need blind. But it’s still moving to review the policy for 2018. Afterward, it plans to review it every two or three years.

Grinnell is trying to grow its philanthropic support today in order to bolster its financial ability to keep need-blind admissions. But its leaders admit that might not always be possible.

“Our intention is to be able to hang on to need-blind admission as long as we can,” Bagnoli said. “But I have to say, if it came down to what it’s coming down to at Haverford and what it previously came down to for Wesleyan -- either we’re not going to be able to fund these students, or we’re not going to be able to admit them -- we will have to come back to that question.”

Grinnell’s discount rate is about 60 percent for the total student body today, Bagnoli said. It was slightly lower for the last several incoming classes. Looking at the metric over 20 years, it has risen. Over the last few, however, it’s been falling. Five years ago, Grinnell anticipated a discount rate of 73 percent this year, an alarming figure for those crunching the numbers on budget projections.

Some have argued that need-blind admissions have taken on an outsize role as representing college opportunity. The policy is just one tool admissions officers have available to build diverse student bodies from different backgrounds, Bagnoli said.

Grinnell’s administration is also concerned about the effect growing gaps in income could have on applicant pools -- even under need-blind policies. More wealthy families are pouring money into their children’s education at the same time the number of low-income families in poor neighborhoods rises, said Grinnell President Raynard S. Kington. Meanwhile, the number of seats at institutions is not rising.

“On one hand, you have an increase in demand, and you also have an increasing difference in preparation,” Kington said. “In that context, a need-blind policy might not be such a great thing.”

Kington gave the example of one student who has to care for younger siblings at home because of a crunch in family finances. Even if the academic portion of that student’s application is identical to that of another student from a wealthier family, he or she might not come off as well in the admissions process if the wealthy student has impressive extracurricular activities.

Plus, almost every metric evaluated in admissions -- test scores, class rank, school district quality -- is correlated with wealth, Kington said. In that context, students from lower-income families might need a boost in the admissions process, not need-blind admissions.

“People assume need aware only means focusing on wealthy students,” Kington said. “But in this new scenario of increasing inequality, the increasing number and preparation of wealthy students, you might need to be need aware so you can make sure you give a bump to those students.”

A major underlying question in any move from need blind, however, is what a college does with the additional net tuition revenue raised. Does it use the extra money from the higher-paying 5 or 10 percent of its students admitted with need considered in order to fund low-income students? Or do the slots that would otherwise go to lower-income students end up generating cash for some other part of operations? Only the institutions can answer that question -- and then they typically have to try to convince wary students and faculty that they are upholding their values.

Kington acknowledged that a decision to move away from need-blind admissions might be interpreted by some as a cash grab, a pursuit of wealthy students over a commitment to academic fairness. The original thinking behind need-blind policies was that they were a signal to students that they would be welcome at institutions, he said.

Now, some see the policy as having a broader meaning.

“It’s not just the campus community that would be concerned about this as a core value, but it’s also the counseling community across the United States,” Bagnoli said. “The title of need-blind admission and the gold standard that’s associated with that seems to create an understanding among the counseling community about institutions that are, in fact, committed to this population of students.”

In that light, talking about any potential changes is key, Kington said.

“I think the good news is we’re saying we’re going to take a look,” he said. “I think a lot of other institutions are just doing it and not announcing it first.”

AdmissionsDiversityEditorial Tags: AdmissionsCollege costs/pricesImage Source: Macalester CollegeImage Caption: Macalester College ended need-blind admissions but points to progress in admitting low-income students.Is this breaking news?: 

Liberty U's Falwell takes Cleveland stage in support of Trump

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 07:00

CLEVELAND -- When he takes the stage tonight at the Republican National Convention, Jerry Falwell Jr. will give one of the highest profile and most politically charged speeches by a university president in recent memory.

Falwell, who has led Liberty University since his father’s death in 2007, said in an interview Wednesday that he's supporting Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, as a private citizen, not in his capacity as a university president.

“Liberty’s my main focus. It’s so unusual for me to be doing this sort of thing,” said Falwell. “It’s just circumstances with the election this year, for it to be such a crucial election. And, really, if Donald Trump hadn’t been a candidate, I probably wouldn’t have endorsed anyone early on, maybe not at all.”

However, Falwell said his multidecade experience with the university is the primary reason he backs Trump, with whom he has developed a personal relationship. Specifically, he cited the Liberty’s existentially weak financial state when he graduated from the University of Virginia’s law school, in 1987, and its dramatic turnaround during the next 30 years.

“I just saw so many parallels between what Liberty was back then and where our country is now,” he said. “And then in the last 10 years, Liberty’s become the most prosperous and successful Christian university in the world.”

Trump’s views on religion, specifically evangelical Christianity, were not a primary factor in his support, Falwell said, although “he’s really come down on the right side of a lot of those issues.”

In an essay for The Washington Post, Falwell described the reasoning behind his January endorsement of Trump, shortly after the real estate magnate spoke at the university's convocation. He described how he and his father spent “many weekends begging and borrowing” in the early 1990s to cover the university’s payroll.

Jerry Falwell Sr. was an evangelical Southern Baptist preacher and prominent political commentator who founded the Moral Majority in 1979. He launched Liberty University, which is located in Lynchburg, Va., in 1971.

The university went through painful debt restructuring a quarter century ago, finally lifting itself out of the threat of bankruptcy.

Since then, Liberty’s about-face has been impressive. The university now has a $1.2 billion endowment, putting it in an elite class. With 80,000 students in its online programs, the university is one of the nation’s three largest online institutions. It also enrolls more than 13,000 students at its ground campus, which has had large, expensive facilities upgrades in recent years.

On Wednesday Falwell said the United States faces similar challenges to Liberty during the university's hard times, particularly the ballooning national debt.

“I believe the United States is very sick financially and might not survive another four years of Obama-style leadership,” he wrote in the essay.

Instead, Falwell said the United States needs an experienced businessman and turnaround artist as president, and Trump fits the bill.

He also said he likes and respects the Republican nominee. Trump sent him a personal note after they first met, in 2012.

Falwell enjoyed spending time with Trump around public appearances this year in Iowa and New York, sharing an affinity for Elton John, among other common interests. He described Trump as personable, generous and loving with his family. Trump wrote Falwell notes and called him regularly, and the two met in person several times.

“He and I, we really hit it off,” said Falwell. “He reminded me of my father.”

Politicking and University Presidents

Falwell received a personal letter in 2012 from perhaps the most politically engaged university president in U.S. history, the Reverend Theodore Hesburgh, who led Notre Dame University for 35 years.

Father Hesburgh, who died last year at the age of 97, was an outspoken on divisive issues -- typically backing liberal policies and sometimes being at odds with conservatives. He held 16 presidential appointments, demonstrated hand-in-hand with Martin Luther King Jr. and was on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission from 1957 until 1972, when then President Richard Nixon dismissed him.

In his letter, Falwell said, Father Hesburgh congratulated Liberty on successfully ramping up its athletics program to help elevate the profile of the Christian university, as Notre Dame did more than a half century ago. Falwell had the letter framed and hung it in his office.

Many commentators have said college presidents should be more courageous, like Father Hesburgh, and use their positions to speak out on the issues of the day. While Falwell’s take on this election puts him squarely in opposition to most of his peers in the higher education, he’s taken a chance by mixing it up in supporting Trump.

He also wasn't shy about criticizing higher education’s liberal skew during the Wednesday interview.

“How can you have political correctness and academic freedom at the same time?” he said. “A lot of these schools have become Democratic Party indoctrination camps.”

Falwell appears to have Trump’s ear, with published reports saying Trump told him first about his decision to tap Indiana Governor Mike Pence to join the ticket as the candidate for vice president.

Trump also called Falwell four times last week to discuss his call to repeal the so-called Johnson Amendment in the GOP’s platform. The 1954 tax law bans political organizing by churches and other nonprofits, including colleges and universities.

“In recent years it’s been used a club,” Falwell said of the law, arguing that conservative nonprofits have been investigated by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service more often than others for alleged politicking. “It would be best for all nonprofit organizations if it were repealed.”

Liberty’s large online program, like Southern New Hampshire University’s, relies on expensive national advertising -- often on cable television -- to attract students. While he didn't sound worried about turning off potential students with his political advocacy, Falwell said the university is positioned to handle a substantial decline in its online programs.

“We were ahead of the game. But we’re not foolish enough to think that the online part of Liberty University is going to remain the juggernaut that it’s been the last 10 years,” he said. “We have set up all of our financial plans for the day that the online disappears.”

Liberty’s total assets have grown to $1.8 billion from $100 million in 2007. And Falwell said just a 2 to 3 percent annual return on its endowment could sustain the residential campus and its academic programs.

Falwell is slated to speak during prime time tonight, four slots before Trump closes out the convention. The theme for the evening is “make America one again.”

There’s a buzz back in Lynchburg about his speech. And Falwell said he’s received lots of messages. Yet while he said he’s “honored and humbled” to speak at the convention, Falwell said students aren’t deciding to go to Liberty based on his political views.

“I’m doing this as a private citizen,” he said. “It’s not Liberty. I don't think it has an impact on Liberty, positive or negative.”

2016 ElectionEditorial Tags: Distance educationElection 2016Federal policyImage Source: Liberty UniversityImage Caption: Liberty U President Jerry Falwell Jr., speaking this yearIs this breaking news?: 

Education Dept. spells out new student borrower protections

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 07:00

U.S. Education Secretary John King Jr. on Wednesday announced new guidelines that aim to provide more transparent information for borrowers and more accountability for the companies that manage repayment of federal student loans.

The Education Department released those standards in a 56-page memo in coordination with the Treasury Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They focus on several areas, but a primary aim is ensuring that loan servicers are providing borrowers with complete information about the kinds of repayment plans they qualify for based on their income levels. Plans to create a single streamlined web platform for borrowers also reflect the goal of increased transparency.

The new student loan protections will be implemented through contracts awarded this year as part of the department's procurement process for several key services. King said the guidelines reflect extensive input from student borrowers across the country as well as consumer advocates and other stakeholders.

“Every borrower deserves access to the right information and resources to manage and ultimately pay off their debt,” he said. “When loan servicers make mistakes or don’t provide the right information at the right time, borrowers pay the price.”

King was joined on a press call announcing the new protections by CFPB Director Richard Cordray, Treasury Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Madigan said that in Illinois, regulators are seeing the same trouble brewing in the student loan market as in the housing market a decade ago. She said too often loan servicers steer borrowers toward the quickest resolution for payment of their loan, even if they qualify for more affordable income-based repayment plans.

"It's not good for borrowers, their families or our economy," Madigan said. "Servicers must make borrowers aware of and put them into payment plans they can afford."

While servicing of student loans is a less high-profile issue than college affordability, the Obama administration has made improving that area a focus since the Department of Education became the sole originator of federal student loans in 2010. The department has been criticized by advocates for student borrowers for not providing tougher oversight of the companies who provide those services. In March 2015, the administration issued a Student Aid Bill of Rights, calling on multiple agencies to work together to improve the experience of borrowers.

That same month it directed the two agencies to consult with the CFPB, which led to the release of a joint statement of principles last fall on servicing of student loans agreed to by the Department of Education, the Department of the Treasury and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

That framework committed the agencies to getting borrowers information they need to avoid default, providing protections so that borrowers are treated fairly and creating tools to hold loan servicers accountable for their behavior. The memo released Wednesday spells out how those protections will take shape, including increased monitoring by the department of complaints from an online feedback system launched this month.

The department earlier this month announced that a pilot program in which the agency used less aggressive methods resolved defaulted student loan debt at a lower rate than a control group made up of private contractors.

The American Federation of Teachers said in a July 15 letter to the department that too often members report student loan providers are failing to carry out the tasks of providing accurate, consistent and transparent information to borrowers. The organization also praised the department’s decision to develop a single online servicing platform for borrowers. But AFT said the finalists to develop the platform have a history of “widespread servicing failures.”

The Student Loan Servicing Alliance, which represents loan servicers for federal loans, did not respond to a request for comment on the guidelines. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, one of those loan servicers, referred questions back to the Office of Federal Student Aid in the Department of Education.

Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said the guidelines reaffirm the Department of Education’s commitment to a single student loan web portal, transparency in provider practices and timeliness of communications.

“These are all very positive things, and they align with recommendations we made [last year],” he said.

Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: Financial aidIs this breaking news?: 

Columbia U announces pay increases for graduate student workers ahead of decision on union eligibility

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 07:00

Columbia University has awarded graduate student workers an unprecedented pay increase ahead of a major decision regarding the students’ union eligibility.

The decision, expected from the National Labor Relations Board some time this summer, involves Columbia students but has implications for would-be graduate student unions at private institutions nationwide.

In an email to graduate students, John H. Coatsworth, Columbia’s provost, announced a multiyear compensation adjustment for teaching and research assistants -- including at least a 3.75 percent increase in Ph.D. student stipends in arts and sciences departments and a series of professional schools in the fall. Additional bumps of at least 3 percent are expected in the three subsequent years, through 2019.

Stipends in medical center programs will increase at rates determined by each school, based on guidelines set by the National Institutes of Health.

“These changes are the result of discussions with the Graduate Student Advisory Council and other student groups who highlighted the importance of advance notice of stipend levels to assist students in financial planning and budgeting,” Coatsworth said.

Columbia’s move follows other recent improvements to graduate students’ working conditions and compensation as they seek union recognition. In May, echoing calls from unions, Columbia announced a $15 minimum wage for all student workers. Coatsworth said in his email that the minimum wage will be $12 this fall, increasing to $15 by 2018. The university also has announced broader access to paid parental leave, larger child-care subsidies and expanded fee waivers.

Coatsworth said his office also is finalizing a new policy ensuring that postdoctoral fellows have access to affordable, subsidized health care, effective in January.

“We look forward to continuing these collaborative efforts to make sure Columbia is a place where our students, faculty and staff can achieve the highest levels of both intellectual accomplishment and personal fulfillment,” he said.

Columbia, along with its Ivy League peers, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, have formally opposed the notion that graduate student workers are employees when it comes to their right to unionize. That’s the question the NLRB will soon weigh in on, and over which it’s historically flip-flopped.

Currently, an NLRB decision dating back to 2004 and concerning graduate student workers at Brown University says that graduate students on private campuses do not have the right to form unions. Public institutions are subject to state labor laws.

Graduate Workers of Columbia University still wants to form a union affiliated with the United Auto Workers, regardless of the university’s recent actions in their favor.

“We’re proving that Columbia University can -- and does -- do better when we come together to make our departments and schools more inclusive and accessible places to work,” Paul Katz, a union supporter and Ph.D. candidate in history, said in a statement. “We’ve made some tremendous progress, and with our union we’ll be able to work together to make Columbia the strongest university possible.”

Editorial Tags: Graduate studentsIs this breaking news?: 
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