Higher Education News

Unusual approach to tuition assistance for McDonald's employees

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 07:00

McDonald’s has joined the large number of companies that pay for employees to attend college, with a relatively new tuition assistance benefit that includes some unusual features.

Begun two years ago, the fast-food giant’s Archways to Opportunity program is open to managers and front-line workers, at both McDonald’s-owned and franchised restaurants, a total of roughly 800,000 employees. Participants can finish a high school diploma online, learn English, attend college courses and talk with career and education advisers.

The fast-food giant created the benefit as a “way to leverage our size and scale as a force for good,” said Lisa Schumacher, director of education strategies for the McDonald’s Corporation. “We wanted it to be unique.”

Altruism wasn’t the only motivator, of course. Like other companies that employ many academically unprepared, relatively low-wage workers, McDonald’s faces a serious retention challenge. It’s a win-win, the company believes, if the tuition assistance program can help an employee stay on the job for more than just three months -- a key milestone in the fast-food industry.

In addition, unlike the high-profile partnership between Starbucks and Arizona State University and other exclusive arrangements between colleges and employers, McDonald’s is agnostic about where its workers go to college.

The company has formed loose partnerships with a broad range of colleges, including Ivy Tech Community College, College for America (an online, competency-based subsidiary of Southern New Hampshire University), Colorado Technical University and DePaul University. These institutions help McDonald’s employees with credit recommendations, offer additional tuition discounts and have trained advisers about the program.

Beyond partner colleges, participants can use their McDonald’s tuition benefit at any institution that is accredited by a federally recognized agency.

“We wanted people to have choice,” said Schumacher.

The company also pays the colleges directly, so employees don’t have to front tuition costs. Nonmanager workers can qualify for $700 per year, while managers at participating franchises get $1,050. Swing, department and general managers can receive $5,250.

Based on the $350 average tuition for a community college course, the company said its program means front-line workers can take two free courses a year while managers can take three or more.

But high school comes first. And since about 40 percent of McDonald’s crew members either do not have or are currently working toward a high school diploma, the company partnered with Cengage to pay for its employees to attend the educational technology company’s Career Online High School.

“We realized that people at our restaurants are at different places in their educational continuum,” said Schumacher.

The partnership was formed two years ago as part of the Archways to Opportunity program. So far 175 McDonald’s employees have earned their high school diplomas through the Cengage institution. And the company said the high school credential is structured to give its employees a boost toward college or a career.

Graduates from Cengage Career Online High School earn career certificates in one of eight high-growth fields, including child care, education and certified education. The high school program participants also are paired with an academic coach, who helps them develop a career plan.

As a result, McDonald’s is helping its employees move into new jobs in different industries, a recognition that they're preparing many people to leave while also identifying candidates for advancement within the company.

Schumacher said the company is considering partnerships with work force boards, its suppliers and large employers in other fields, to potentially help them identify “talent pools” among McDonald’s workers.

The philosophy behind these moves, she said, is the company’s goal of providing “America’s best first job.”

Advice for Starting Strong

More than half of employers (56 percent) offer some form of undergraduate tuition assistance for workers, according to a 2015 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management. The maximum annual tuition benefit, on average, is $4,591.

“It’s a smart thing to do,” said Peter Cappelli, a professor of management and director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, adding that such programs often are a “good retention device.”

For example, he said, Marriott International’s tuition reimbursement rate proved “extraordinarily cost-effective” in making a big dent in its employee turnover rate. Cappelli also said the benefit is targeted by definition. “You only have to pay it for people who want it.”

Cappelli said he likes McDonald’s flexible approach, particularly about where employees enroll, rather than booking an exclusive partnership. “It’s better for students,” he said.

The company has faced some criticism over its employee policies in recent years, including over the wages it pays and other job-quality concerns. And at least one expert was wary about McDonald’s approach to tuition assistance.

“We’re a little hesitant to praise the program,” said Liz Ben-Ishai, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Law and Social Policy.

One concern, Ben-Ishai said, is that it’s often hard if not impossible for fast-food employees to have work schedules that are predictable and flexible enough for them to attend college classes.

“They have no idea if they’re going to have 10 hours one week or 40 hours the next,” she said.

As result, Ben-Ishai said, the adjustable pace of competency-based programs like those offered by College for America could be a good fit for fast-food employees.

McDonald’s said it included the advising portion of the program to help employees make decisions about college and a career.

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning offers that service at no cost to McDonald’s employees. The company pays the nonprofit CAEL for advising, not referrals.

“There’s no benefit for us to advise them in one direction or another,” said Lynn Schroeder, CAEL’s vice president for client relations.

Schroeder said advisers help potential students identify their educational and work interests, while factoring in life challenges, such as discussing how many hours students can expect to spend on academics. Advisers are fluent in Spanish, the company said.

It’s important to help McDonald’s employees get off to as smooth a start as possible when they go back to school, said Schumacher, particularly for the large numbers who experienced “educational trauma” in the past.

“A lot of people at our restaurants are first-generation college students and are intimidated by the process and don’t know where to start,” she said.

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After anti-Trump tweets, Fresno State removes adjunct professor from teaching position

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 07:00

Lars Maischak, a history lecturer at California State University, Fresno, has admitted that posting a controversial tweet in February -- declaring “Trump must hang” -- wasn't the best idea. But the repercussions he faces, including an announcement Friday that he won't be teaching on the campus in the fall, are receiving scrutiny as well. The debate is about academic freedom and also about whether adjuncts are losing jobs for their statements in ways that wouldn't happen to those on the tenure track.

“To save American democracy, Trump must hang. The sooner and the higher, the better. #TheResistance #DeathToFascism,” Maischak tweeted. The tweet garnered little attention until the right-wing news site Breitbart ran a story on the tweets in April.

Maischak deleted his Twitter account and apologized publicly, saying that he wasn’t intending to incite violence. A review was initiated at Fresno to “ensure that it is clear that the statements made by him were as a private citizen, not as a representative of Fresno State,” according to a release from the institution at the time.

“My statements each represent the end point of a dark train of thought triggered by my despair over the actions of the present U.S. government,” he said in an apology given to The Fresno Bee. “It felt cathartic at the time to write them down. With 28 followers on Twitter at the time, I never expected them to be read by anyone but a close circle of acquaintances who would know to place them in their context.”

“To treat Twitter as of no more consequence than a journal was a poor decision.”

But the relationship between Maischak, who had been a lecturer at Fresno since 2006, and the university would continue to deteriorate -- his classes were canceled for two days, then the institution and Maischak agreed upon him taking a leave of absence for the rest of the spring semester. On Friday, the university announced that he won't be teaching in the fall and instead has been assigned to work on designing online courses until the end of his contract, in December.

“I understand that Dr. Maischak alleges that his nonrenewal is indeed ‘based significantly on considerations that violate academic freedom.’ It would appear to me that this allegation has merit,” Hank Reichman, a professor emeritus of history at California State University, East Bay, and chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, said in an email.

“Maischak's tweet may have been ill considered -- and he has apologized for it -- but he has not been charged with violating any law and he tweeted as a private citizen, not in his faculty capacity. The right of faculty members to speak or write as citizens, free from institutional censorship or discipline, has long been recognized as a core principle of academic freedom.”

Additionally, Reichman said, Maischak hasn’t been charged with a crime for his tweets, making his academic freedom case stronger.

Free Speech -- Except for Adjuncts?

Would Maischak face the same level of scrutiny by the university -- and the same removal from his teaching position -- if he was tenured? Do adjunct faculty members have shakier academic freedom safeguards than their peers?

“It’s really easy to fire an adjunct,” said John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom and co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog. “That makes them more vulnerable to attacks on their academic freedom.”

An incoming adjunct professor at Montclair State University was stripped of his course load for the fall semester last month, after he posted a tweet saying he wished someone “would just shoot [Trump] outright.”

The professor, Kevin Allred, had previously lost teaching work at Rutgers University in connection with his tweets, which he has said aren’t supposed to be taken literally.

"How is my one tweet using a hyperbolic expression worse than what 'the president' himself is doing day after day?" he wrote in other tweets.

Essex County College recently suspended Lisa Durden, an adjunct professor, after she debated Fox commentator Tucker Carlson on the Black Lives Matter movement on his evening show, where she has made frequent appearances. The college didn’t publicly specify that the Fox appearance was the reason, but Durden said college officials told her of a complaint made after her appearance.

“They wanted to send a message,” Durden said at the time. “‘See what happened to Lisa Durden? You know, it could happen to me.’ Free speech doesn’t matter if you’re a professor -- make people mad and you’re in trouble.”

Those disciplinary actions come at a time when social media use and academic freedom have become a flash point in firings and suspensions.

"Faculty on term appointments are more vulnerable than those with tenure," Reichman said, speaking generally rather than about any specific cases.

Fresno declined to comment further than the statements that have already been released. Maischak forwarded a request for comment to his legal and labor representatives, who did not respond by press time.

Though Maischak will still be employed through the end of his contract, Wilson said he was concerned about how much due process there was in Fresno’s decision.

“That reflects the power of the union, but even in a case like that, being taken out of the classroom for extramural utterance is a violation of academic freedom, even if you’re still being paid, even if you’re doing other work,” Wilson said.

“There are several of these cases of these people expressing violent, negative wishes toward Donald Trump. But I think it’s important to remember this is not a case of a death threat, this is not somebody making some kind of serious act of violence,” he said. “There’s no reason that some offensive tweet means he’s an incompetent teacher of his class. There doesn’t seem to be any indication of why, beyond public opinion, the university is doing this.”

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Late audits were culprit in sanction of W.Va.'s public colleges

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 07:00

When public colleges and universities in West Virginia were placed under cash restrictions for federal student aid last month, it was a rare -- and possibly unprecedented -- instance of the federal government sanctioning an entire state’s higher education system.

But it’s not unusual at all for public universities to find themselves subject to this form of sanction, known as heightened cash monitoring, which requires them to seek reimbursement from the feds only after they’ve handed out aid to students.

Ninety public institutions were subject to heightened cash monitoring as of March, when the most recent data were released by the U.S. Department of Education. Jim Justice, West Virginia's governor, has promised “heads will roll” over the failure to submit the audit statements on time. But for three years, the No. 1 reason public universities landed on the sanction list was the same one that tripped up his state -- late or missing financial audit statements.

State higher education officials say students' access to federal aid shouldn't be affected, but the sanctions add serious administrative burdens for campus administrators. And the sanctions will slow their ability to offer new academic programs as well.

Diane Auer Jones, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and formerly assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the Education Department, said heightened cash monitoring is typically the result of failing the financial responsibility test, which does not apply to public universities.

“The reason an institution would be put on heightened cash monitoring is the department is concerned that it wouldn't have the ability to refund excess student aid drawdowns or have the administrative capacity to manage their programs well, or because they feel as though taxpayer and student dollars are at risk,” she said. “HCM gives the department more tools to monitor the institution more closely.”

States are given the benefit of the doubt that they will back public institutions so these institutions aren’t subject to the financial responsibility test. As a result, submitting the audit reports on time is really the only benchmark they are required to meet for continued access to federal aid.

"You could argue that if a state three years in a row couldn't file the required audit report on time, that's a sign they could have administrative issues," she said.

Unlike private colleges that fail the financial responsibility test, public institutions are subject to a less severe version of the sanction, called Heightened Cash Monitoring 1, that is burdensome but won’t put any colleges out of business. The next step up, Heightened Cash Monitoring 2, would require institutions to submit documentation of all expenses on student aid, which can significantly slow reimbursement from the department.

The department hit for-profit college chains Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech with those cash restrictions, among other sanctions, in 2014 and 2016, respectively. Both eventually shut down, partly because of lost access to federal aid.

Consequences Beyond Cash Flow Concerns

Paul Hill, chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, said the heightened cash monitoring sanction is primarily a liquidity issue. At the beginning of the fall semester last year, the state disbursed about $245 million in federal aid to students. The state expects to disburse a similar amount of aid to students this upcoming fall, but it will have to draw down institutional funds first before being reimbursed by the feds.

In the meantime, the state is looking at moving some state treasury funds to those institutions to make sure they have enough cash on hand after disbursing aid. Longer-term complications from the cash restrictions are harder to anticipate, Hill said.

There are consequences for West Virginia universities that go beyond the sanctions’ cash restrictions, however. While the state’s higher education system is under heightened cash monitoring, universities won’t be able to launch new academic programs -- including majors or classes at extension campuses -- without federal approval.

Because falling under HCM means there is either a financial or administrative problem at a college, the department more closely monitors activities like the launching of new programs or new branch campuses until the institution proves it has the capacity to handle them.

That could mean a delay of months or years for a new program, potentially causing institutions to miss opportunities to respond to local or national work force needs.

Some accreditors also put time limits on how long institutions can go before enrolling their first students after receiving program approval. If the department does not give them the OK before that period ends, an institution would need to start the whole process over again.

West Virginia higher education officials point out the administrative failing that triggered the extra monitoring wasn’t theirs -- it was elsewhere in state government, which collects audits from multiple state agencies and submits them as a package to the feds.

“We were in on time. That’s why we think the U.S. Department of Education sanctions against us are unwarranted,” Hill said. “That would be different had our own higher education audit shown that there was some sort of abnormalities, improprieties or sloppy accounting. None of those things occurred.”

A department official confirmed that new programs will require extra approval while West Virginia universities are subject to heightened cash monitoring but said new programs planned to launch this fall shouldn’t be affected.

Higher ed officials say they are examining the impact of those new requirements on the system. Casey Sacks, vice chancellor the Community and Technological System of West Virginia, said it's not clear whether those additional approval requirements will apply only to for-credit programs eligible for federal aid or if they will apply to noncredit programs as well. The Education Department has offered mixed signals so far, she said.

Community colleges in the state launched 17 new credit-bearing programs (such as associate degrees or one- to two-year certificate programs) last year. The colleges are especially responsive to the work force needs of employers -- in the same year, they offered more than 800,000 hours of noncredit instruction time in the classroom or lab. Those instructional programs could last from weeks to months, depending on employer needs.

While community colleges won't post spring semester schedules for at least another couple of months, the uncertainty over the new approval requirements is already creating uncertainty for short-term training programs.

"That noncredit training is a really big part of what community colleges do in the state," Sacks said. "It's immediately problematic."

Appeals Ongoing

Some observers doubt the department will keep the sanctions in place for the full period of five years, particularly as Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, receives political pressure to reverse or modify them. West Virginia’s federal congressional delegation appealed directly to the secretary to reverse course, while the state higher education system will appeal to the regional Federal Student Aid office.

DeVos has already granted some leeway to institutions after the department rejected several TRIO applications over formatting issues. After protests from elected officials, the department said in May that it would reconsider those applications.

The secretary has shown a willingness to disregard some of the technicalities of operating higher education programs, said Clare McCann, a senior policy analyst with New America's education policy program.

“My guess is Secretary DeVos will come under a pretty substantial amount of pressure and FSA will reverse course,” McCann said. “I’m not sure any administration responds to that level of political pressure very differently.”

Ben Miller, senior director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said that’s a playbook that emerges every time public colleges face accountability.

“It just speaks to how, actually, any accountability, regardless of how minimal, is very difficult, because we do not exist in a political vacuum,” he said.

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LGBTQ advocacy group challenges Samford

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 07:00

As Samford University has refused to recognize a student group sympathetic to gay rights, its members have not materialized to discuss the issue publicly -- perhaps unsurprising, given the university's decision. But a queer activist group, led by a gay alumna, has come forward, alleging that the institution and its president are discriminating against the LGBTQ population there.

Andrew Westmoreland, president of the private religious institution in Alabama, announced last month that he did not intend to allow Samford Together, the student group, to be affiliated with the university.

In a video statement, Westmoreland called the organization’s goals “worthy” but said misinformation had muddled the group’s purpose to the point that many believed it to be a political advocacy group instead. Thus, he said, he felt Samford Together's mission could be better carried out without a direct link to the university.

“I respect and appreciate the students who sought to achieve recognition for Samford Together, and I will lead Samford in the years ahead to have exactly the conversations they’ve asked us to have,” Westmoreland said.

This promise has not soothed Brit Blalock, a Samford alumna and founder of SAFE Samford, which stands for Students, Alumni and Faculty for Equality and which has attracted more than 700 members on Facebook since it was created in 2011.

Blalock said she has organized a letter-writing campaign to the administration asking that Samford Together be reconsidered, and her group set up a website dedicated to that end, deardrwestmoreland.com. Up to this point, SAFE Samford has largely remained removed while the institution mulled the student group, because Blalock said she has challenged the administration in the past and can sometimes be seen as antagonistic.

Westmoreland said in his statement that he “suspected” some sort of entity would emerge to discuss issues similar to those that Samford Together would have.

In an interview, Blalock expression frustration that the multistep process to be approved by university seemed to be proceeding smoothly, with administrators appearing helpful and a near unanimous vote by the full Samford faculty in favor of affiliation.

Blalock questioned why Westmoreland appeared to block a vote by Samford’s Board of Trustees, the final hurdle for the group. She noted that a conservative-leaning student group, a chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, was recently approved by the trustees, a suggestion that the university was willing to recognize a controversial group.

The university declined to comment beyond a news release.

Westmoreland has previously professed to not believe in same-sex marriage, according to a transcript of remarks he gave to faculty prior to their vote on Samford Together. A university spokesman verified the accuracy of the transcript.

“Many of us who hold what are known as traditional views of marriage and human sexuality today are called haters. The term is intended to hurt, and it does. So volleys fly back and forth between camps while positions and hearts are hardened, and we run the risk, the very serious risk, that we will drive away from our churches and our universities and our families a generation that thinks about these questions in different ways than we have known,” Westmoreland said in his speech to professors.

Though Samford Together had earned the endorsement of students and faculty members, leaders of the Alabama Baptist State Convention -- which has maintained close ties to Samford and funded it for decades -- disparaged the university and called on the administration to shut down the group.

The state convention had never specified consequences for the trustees approving the group, only saying this would jeopardize the state convention’s relationship with the university.

Confusion abounded, because at the same time Westmoreland announced he would not consider the student group, he also declared the university would no longer accept money from the state convention beginning in 2018.

Some on and off campus, including at least one newspaper that published an inaccurate report, took the institution’s refusal of funding to mean it would reject the convention’s threats surrounding Samford Together.

But Samford has voluntarily reduced reliance on convention funding three times since 2008, and in his statement, Westmoreland said that the money coming from the convention is “limited.”

The saga with the student group has highlighted tensions between the university and the Alabama Baptists, who founded the institution, and to “preserve peace” Westmoreland requested the trustees cut off money from the convention, he said.

“I want to assure you that these changes related to our budget will not affect at all the expectations that we have for Samford to be a Christ-honoring, Christ-centered university. Our relationship with Alabama Baptists will remain strong,” he said.

Blalock said she has made no decisions about possible legal action against the university.

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University presidents can't always be quick to apologize, recent cases show

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 08/04/2017 - 07:00

For college and university presidents, the process of apologizing after high-profile missteps can seem to take as long as a tortoise walking a mile.

As a result, the actions Wednesday of University of California, Irvine, Chancellor Howard Gillman stand out as noteworthy. Days after news broke that the university revoked admission offers from 499 students, Chancellor Howard Gillman issued a public statement offering a personal apology. The university would admit all accepted students except for those who dropped below its academic standards, he said.

The relative speed and decisiveness with which Gillman acted raise the question of why more university presidents don’t step in so swiftly. Higher education’s recent history is littered with instances of leaders who seemingly hesitated to offer forceful apologies. Instead of pleasing the public by uttering two little words and a promise to fix things, such presidents have been seen as incompetent, stonewalling or hemming and hawing.

For presidents, however, apologizing isn’t as simple as saying “I’m sorry.” At a complex institution like a college or university, a sincere apology can only come after a process of gathering information and weighing risks to the institution, according to experts who have been in crisis war rooms. That process is under strain in a world where rapid societal changes collide on college campuses and where students have a louder voice than ever because of social media.

And then there is the human element. Sometimes, highly successful leaders have a difficult time looking beyond their tried-and-true playbooks, which might not apply to a particular situation and might not include apologizing. Other times, top brass can’t look beyond their own ego.

Many of those factors don’t appear to have applied to Irvine’s admissions situation, of course. The university was the subject of a July 28 Los Angeles Times article describing soon-to-be freshmen who had been planning to attend its campus only to have their admission offers yanked two months before the fall semester started. More than half of the offers had been rescinded due to transcript issues, and the others had been revoked for poor grades during students’ senior years.

Colleges and universities sometimes revoke admission offers over the summer in cases where students don’t file required paperwork on time, pay deposits or keep up their grades as they finish high school. But 499 revocations was unusually high for a UC institution. And a university spokesman confirmed that UC Irvine had been stricter than usual with its requirements -- at the same time that more students than expected had accepted its offers of admission.

The university had been anticipating 6,300 freshmen. About 7,100 accepted offers.

Stories surfaced from students who said their acceptance had been rescinded even though they met the university’s requirements. Some reported having difficulty reaching anyone at the university to discuss their status. The situation drew outrage from students and families. More than 600 signed a petition from the Associated Students of the University of California, Irvine, demanding apologies and equal admissions requirements for students.

The same day of the Times story, the university’s vice chancellor of student affairs, Thomas A. Parham, issued a public letter to prospective students apologizing to those who felt ignored or mistreated. He urged students to appeal the withdrawal of their admissions offers.

On Wednesday, a week after the Times story, the university’s chancellor issued his own statement, pledging to reverse the withdrawals for more than half of the affected students. Only those whose transcripts did not meet the university’s academic standards -- for grades, courses taken and test scores -- will not be fully admitted. An expedited appeals process will be set up for students who did not meet those requirements so they can make their case for extenuating circumstances.

“In closing, the students and their families have my personal, sincerest apology,” Gillman wrote. “We should not have treated you this way over a missed deadline.”

No one was available for interview for this story, an Irvine spokesman said. The university reinstated 290 admission offers that had been revoked for missed deadlines and because of similar requirements.

Gillman’s apology didn’t placate everyone. Comments on the university’s Facebook page wondered whether students in an overenrolled university would be able to take the classes they need to graduate in four years and complained about no dormitory space being available. One commenter said the chancellor was trying to blame the admissions office and pretending to be a savior for students. A Los Angeles Times editorial likened the university’s rescinding admissions to a sucker punch, even if UC Irvine did move to correct the issue.

“Still, the administration hasn’t said who conceived of this less-than-bright idea and how far up the UCI chain it went for approval,” the editorial said of rescinding students’ acceptance because of overenrollment. “As a public institution, the university owes a full explanation.”

Yet many supported Gillman’s move. Other comments on the university’s Facebook page called it the “honorable thing to do” and “the best decision for new students.” New York Times columnist David Leonhardt called it an “all-too-rare instance of people in power being willing to change their minds -- to decide that the embarrassment of changing course is better than doubling down on a mistake.”

Leaders can rarely, if ever, please everyone when reacting to public missteps. But they should follow a crisis playbook of acknowledging a mistake, owning it, saying what they will do to prevent it from happening in the future, fixing the issue and then moving on, experts said.

“The challenge is, it’s not always very easy,” said Rae Morrow Goldsmith, who is a former vice president for advancement resources at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education who has spoken frequently about crisis management over the years. Goldsmith is currently chief marketing and communications officer at Southern Illinois University, but she specified she was not speaking for the university or in her capacity there.

“There are lots of barriers institutions face when you’re trying to figure out what to say,” she said. “They may not have the facts. They may not know what the facts are yet, because they may have to do a look internally. They may know the facts but they’re prevented from releasing them.”

Institutions might be prevented from releasing facts in cases that involve personnel issues or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. They also have to weigh legal considerations. Presidents have to balance their legal responsibilities against their responsibility to be transparent with different university stakeholders.

They also have to resist the urge to speak out strongly before they have all the facts. Gathering those facts can take more time than members of the public realize, experts said. Universities are complex institutions with many employees making decisions on multiple levels -- sometimes one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.

Those issues played out very publicly this summer at the University of Southern California after serious allegations surfaced that the former dean of the university’s medical school -- who was still a faculty member -- had been associating with a group of criminals and drug users while also using drugs himself. The university at one point said it had only recently received firsthand information about the former dean’s behavior, but the Los Angeles Times documented instances when it tried to interview university leaders about the situation over the course of a 15-month investigation.

University leaders have frequently cited privacy concerns in a series of responses, but President C. L. Max Nikias said in a letter last week that the university “could have done better” in its response. A university news article posted Tuesday on the issue laid out key facts, including that the university had started the termination process for the former dean. The article also highlighted plans to examine policies and procedures going forward. But it did not once use the words “sorry,” “apology” or “regret.”

Other presidents have also been inconsistent about apologizing for issues that boiled over into the public eye. Former University of Louisville President James Ramsey apologized multiple times after he posed in 2015 in clothing that some labeled racist for stereotyping Mexicans. But after he was later ousted from the university, he issued a defiant response to a scathing audit of his management and practices while leading the university’s foundation.

“You are simply wrong,” he wrote while refuting one point in a six-page response to the auditor’s report.

College sports are also filled with examples where leaders either refused to apologize for scandals or were seen as being slow to do so. Take, for example, sexual assault scandals involving the Baylor University football team.

The human element is also an important part of leaders not apologizing, said Daniel Swinton, managing partner at NCHERM Group LLC, a law and consulting firm. Leaders in the war room are often trying to evaluate the lowest-risk response to a situation -- and when faced with multiple high-risk situations, they sometimes try to protect their own employees.

Or they are worried about the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights getting involved. That’s a pertinent point with the current focus on sexual misconduct.

“What’s been happening recently is people have seen the biggest risk is OCR coming after them,” Swinton said. “I think they have made decisions that have tried to keep OCR out of their backyard, which have actually landed them in court. And they're getting beat up in court, which to me is a bigger risk.”

It’s important to take a step back and manage situations in a way that is transparent and fair, rather than a way that won’t spark further investigations or student protests. Another issue is ego, Swinton said.

“You see, particularly, more elite institutions tend to have more hubris that gets in the way,” he said.

But do those who have experience as the president of a college or university think it is hard to issue an apology?

“I think the answer is no, not when you’re pretty sure you’ve gotten it wrong or there’s a better answer out there,” said Keith Miller, past president of Virginia State University and president emeritus of Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. “You know, sometimes things become a lot more clear after you’ve had a lot more input.”

It can still be tricky to get to that point.

“A little humility goes a long way,” Goldsmith said. “I think people really do understand that higher education institutions are not perfect. If they can acknowledge that and just make sure they’re setting a course to make sure they learned from it, people will forgive.”

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Northwestern professor, Oxford employee wanted for murder

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 08/04/2017 - 07:00

Northwestern University and the University of Oxford have found themselves in the spotlight this week, though not for a breakthrough in scholarship.

Wyndham Lathem, an associate professor at Northwestern University, and Andrew Warren, a senior treasury adviser at Somerville College, part of Oxford, are on the run, wanted by authorities for a Chicago homicide. First-degree murder warrants have been issued for Lathem and Warren’s arrests.

“Wanted for Murder by [the Chicago Police Department] -- Our search will only intensify. Prof Latham [sic] & Mr Warren, do the right thing & turn yourself in,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a tweet Wednesday morning. Police are considering the pair armed and dangerous.

The Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday that police found Trenton Cornell-Duranleau dead, with multiple stab wounds, last week at a Chicago apartment where Lathem lists his address. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Cornell-Duranleau and Lathem appear have lived together, although the Tribune noted that Cornell-Duranleau had a separate Chicago address listed as his home.

A representative from the Chicago Police Department told Inside Higher Ed Thursday that the investigation was still ongoing, and that Lathem and Warren are at large. Guglielmi later told the media that the investigation was “narrowing by the hour.” A relationship between Cornell-Duranleau, a Michigan native, and Warren and Lathem has not been publicly stated.

In a statement, a spokesman for Oxford and Somerville College said the university had been in contact with police in the United Kingdom “and are ready to help the U.S. investigating authorities in any way they need.”

“Andrew Warren’s colleagues at Somerville College have now all been informed and are shocked to learn of the case. Whatever the circumstances, we would urge him to contact the U.S. authorities as soon as possible, in the best interests of everyone concerned,” the statement read.

“We don’t know why [Warren] was in Chicago -- he was not on college business or on authorized leave,” Stephen Rouse, head of Oxford’s news and information office, said in an email. A Northwestern spokesman said that the university does not have a relationship with Warren.

Police have not yet released an alleged motive, but Guglielmi told the Associated Press that, on the night of Cornell-Duranleau’s death, surveillance video captured Lathem and Warren exiting the building where the 26-year-old's body was found.

Lathem is an associate professor of microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University, where he has been since 2007. Spokesman Alan K. Cubbage said that he has been placed on leave and banned from campus.

“There is no indication of any risk to the Northwestern community from this individual at this time,” Cubbage said in a statement. “This is now a criminal matter under investigation by the appropriate authorities, and Northwestern University in cooperating in that investigation.”

Lathem and Warren are believed by authorities to have fled the state, although the Riverfront Times, in St. Louis, noted that Lathem’s home there appeared to be empty. (Lathem had previously worked at Washington University in St. Louis.)

Lathem’s research, according to his LinkedIn page, focuses on “the mechanisms by which pathogenic bacteria cause disease in humans, using Yersinia species as models to understand the nature of the host-pathogen interaction during respiratory (lung) infections.”

Yersinia is a type of bacteria, and Yersinia pestis is best known for causing bubonic plague, which killed millions when it reached pandemic levels in Europe, dubbed the Black Death, in the 14th century.

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Little appetite for rollback of Obama guidelines on campus sexual assault

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 08/04/2017 - 07:00

Betsy DeVos, who plans to put her stamp on federal policy governing campus responses to sexual harassment and assault, is in the midst of an extended period of deliberation and gathering input on potential changes.

But there’s little appetite from any corner for the Department of Education to completely rescind 2011 Obama administration guidelines that have been at the center of ongoing controversies over how the feds enforce civil rights violations involving gender discrimination.

Instead, colleges and universities have asked for more clarity on areas of Title IX policy not addressed by the 2011 Dear Colleague letter or subsequent guidance documents. And representatives of accused students have pushed for more transparency in campus proceedings.

From the perspective of advocates for sexual assault survivors, DeVos’s tenure at the department has so far been filled with setbacks. A leaked internal memo in June showed that Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson had instructed regional investigators not to automatically pursue systemic investigations of civil rights abuses. And the department has been noncommittal on whether it will maintain a public listing of campuses under investigation for Title IX violations.

DeVos herself, though, has said there are problems with current federal policy. After a full-day Title IX summit in Washington last month, she said the department needs to protect all students and needs to do it quickly.

“Today’s summit made it clear to me there’s work to be done,” she said July 14. “This issue is hurting too many students. So we’ll get to work to figure out how best to solve this process.”

But the university representatives consulted for input by DeVos and Jackson say removing the 2011 guidance would only add to the uncertainty and lack of clarity that critics of the previous administration have frequently complained of.

University groups have insisted that no matter what steps the department takes, campus leaders will still be committed to preventing and addressing sexual assault. But higher ed representatives as well as advocates for Title IX protections said in interviews that rescinding the guidance would be like pulling the rug out from under institutions that have put in serious work to come into compliance.

“Many institutions are doing just fine. They do not want a rollback,” said Deborah Brake, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who specializes in Title IX and was a participant in the summit. “They don’t want the uncertainty of pulling that guidance.”

While the Dear Colleague letter has empowered assault survivors and advocate groups to demand improvements on campus under Title IX, persistent failures by colleges have spurred many to file complaints with the department’s Office for Civil Rights. College officials in turn have complained that federal investigations have dragged on for years, leaving a persistent cloud from unresolved cases. Representatives for the accused, meanwhile, say campus proceedings have often trampled over the rights of those students.

Potential Policy Shift

So what comes next?

DeVos could still choose to rescind the guidelines, or rescind and replace them with language incorporating the input of stakeholders consulted by the department. She could also leave the Dear Colleague letter in place and issue new guidance clarifying the “gaps” identified by institutions and lawyers working on Title IX. Several participants in discussions at the department also expected that the department could announce a formal public comment period.

“The secretary and her team are still listening to and gathering information from policy experts and stakeholders to ensure that any potential changes to Title IX enforcement get the process right for all parties involved,” said a DeVos spokeswoman, Liz Hill. “This will take time, and it’s vital that at the end of this process, victims feel protected, the accused have access to due process and universities/colleges have the tools they need to handle these cases with the care, compassion and attention they deserve.”

Interested parties hope that the department follows through on those promises for further deliberation. Survivors’ advocate groups in particular have requested numerous meetings with DeVos and Jackson after they met with a handful of organizations as part of the July Title IX summit -- a good start, those advocates say, but not nearly enough to understand the protections survivors need on campus. Numerous advocacy groups have called for additional meetings with DeVos and Jackson.

There are policy issues where advocates and universities, or advocates and representatives of accused students, are unlikely to agree. Some of the flash points of disagreement don’t stem directly from federal guidance on Title IX. Survivors’ and anti-discrimination groups, for example, were highly critical of the department’s shift away from systemic reviews of discrimination.

Ann Hedgepeth, interim vice president of public policy and government relations at the American Association of University Women and a participant in the Title IX summit, said it was a “disappointment” to see the department pulling back on systemic investigations. Many institutions, however, have welcomed that change. Colleges targeted for those investigations say they have dragged on for years without resolution.

Advocates like Hedgepeth also worry that the department will discontinue a public list of institutions under investigation for Title IX violations. A bipartisan group of lawmakers sent DeVos a letter last week urging her to maintain the list. Many colleges and universities, meanwhile, have complained about the list, which they argue functions as a public sanction even when complaints haven’t been sustained.

The controversy that surrounded the Title IX summit -- fueled by the invitation of organizations deemed men’s rights groups by advocates and by comments from Jackson demeaning the experiences of assault survivors -- might suggest the various sides are far apart in finding any common ground on the issues at stake. But there are certain fixes to current campus procedures that would be accepted by many, if not receive broad support.

That could include providing new language in new guidelines laying out best practices for how campus officials should proceed in areas where the 2011 Dear College letter and subsequent guidance are silent, including the ability of parties to submit questions during a misconduct proceeding and interim steps a campus could take during a protracted investigation.

University leaders have also said they want to have a better working relationship with the department so that they can seek technical support on cases without fear of coming under investigation.

And lawyers who have represented students involved in campus sexual misconduct proceedings argue that the department should do more to make sure the process is transparent for both parties.

Kimberly Lau, a partner at Warshaw Burstein LLP who has represented students in Title IX proceedings, said all parties could find consensus on the need for more transparency in the campus-based process. 

"Transparency throughout the process for both the complainant and the respondent I think is important. Knowing what your rights are for both sides is important and knowing what to expect," she said. "Often times, these students, frankly, on both sides are confused and left in the dark as to what what exactly to expect next." 

Alexandra Brodsky, a fellow at the National Women’s Law Center, said not every group comes to the issue of campus sexual assault in good faith. But she said she’s been struck by the number of times she has sat down with an organization coming from another side of the issue and “struggled to find what we disagree on.”

“I could imagine many ways that the department could continue to support schools to make sure that their procedures are fair to everyone that could make all good-faith actors happy,” Brodsky said.

A number of recent attempts have been made to find common ground on potential changes to current federal policy. An American Bar Association Task Force that included survivor advocates, representatives of accused students, and university officials released a set of recommendations in June. That report encouraged colleges and universities where appropriate to consider alternatives to traditional adjudication models, including restorative justice.

The report also found that complainants and accused students should be given the opportunity to ask questions through the decision makers ruling in the process. Its members did not reach a conclusion on one standard of proof appropriate for all types of investigations.

An American College of Trial Lawyers task force released a report in April with recommendations for improving campus sexual assault investigations that included impartial investigations, access to evidence and some form of cross-examination. The recommendations also call for raising the standard of proof in such investigations from the current preponderance of evidence standards -- a potential change that would receive serious pushback from advocacy groups.

Last year, Know Your IX, which advocates to end sexual violence on campus, released a state policy playbook with recommended reforms at the state level.

Others with legal backgrounds have put forth more novel proposals. Attorneys Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie Gomez have argued for the creation of regional investigation and adjudication centers that would carry out the investigative process in place of campus officials.

A department official said a number of recommendations and white papers on potential improvements to Title IX policy are being considered.

While there are numerous proposals to improve federal guidance, even lawyers who have been critical of the 2011 standards said they were important at the time they were released.

“It was needed in that moment. It prompted a whole bunch of reflection,” said Naomi Shatz, a lawyer who has represented both accused students and survivors of assault. “The worst-case scenario would be rescinding it and just leaving a void and not having guidelines.”

But Shatz said there are legitimate critiques to be made of the 2011 letter. The guidelines don’t encourage campuses to hold unfair or opaque proceedings, she said, but they also don’t require necessary standards of procedural fairness. The courts have weighed in following several lawsuits brought by accused students, so there is an emerging body of law that provides an idea of what those standards should look like, Shatz said.

Cynthia Garrett, co-president of Families Advocating for Campus Equality, a group that advocates for the rights of accused students, argues that the Dear Colleague letter gave campuses the impression that they needed to “find more students” responsible and that some have done so without observing fairness for both parties. Garrett, who served on the ABA task force, said that federal guidelines should clarify those standards.

“Generally, I don’t believe the government should be micromanaging such things. I’m a libertarian. I believe there should be flexibility and campuses ought to be able to do the right thing in their own way,” she said. “I think we need detailed guidance to right the wrongs that have resulted from previous guidance.”

A Continuing Process

University groups say they are committed to preventing and sexual harassment and assault and thoroughly investigating instances when they do occur, no matter what course of action the department takes. But they want more opportunities to shape the eventual decision by DeVos and Jackson.

“We’re certainly very eager to be part of that conversation all the way through the process,” said Michael Zola, vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Campus leaders and representatives of accused students say they haven’t, prior to this administration, had the kind of chance DeVos has provided to be part of discussions on policy. Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said colleges and universities are hoping for a relationship where the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is not perceived as a “gotcha agency.” Hartle said there’s been no framework before for finding consensus between the three kinds of parties interested in campus sexual misconduct policy -- institutions, survivor groups and representatives of the accused.

The attempt by DeVos to gather wide input was welcomed by many participants. The department has serious work to do with survivor groups and the public, however, after initial missteps. Some who work on Title IX issues say the negative attention aimed at the department could harm attempts to build real public consensus on policy changes.

Shatz said the controversy stemming from Jackson’s comments about survivors days before the summit (she told The New York Times that 90 percent of campus assault allegations involved regrets over sex or both parties being drunk) and the involvement of certain groups in the session involving accused students cast a shadow over the meetings, even after a public apology from Jackson. And the administration’s credibility isn’t helped by a video leaked during the campaign of President Trump bragging about groping women without consent, Shatz said -- or his history of sexual misconduct allegations brought by multiple women.

“The fear this administration is going to try to do whatever it can to backtrack on women’s rights is real and based in the statements and actions of people we’ve elected,” she said.

Shatz said it’s a challenge for the public and advocacy organizations to disentangle personal viewpoints of people in the administration from a recognition that there are improvements to be made to current policies.

“Those groups are not going to give the administration the benefit of the doubt,” she said. “I don’t know that the administration has earned the benefit of the doubt.”

Brodsky said the department has a clear role in protecting students’ rights. Her main priority at this point is making sure its leaders hear from survivors, she said.

DeVos and Jackson were attentive and appeared moved by what they heard from survivors in their meetings at the summit, Brodsky said. But she said it’s important that they continue to hear what survivors need from their campus after an assault.

“It’s not just about being sympathetic in a meeting,” she said. “I think it’s about realizing why these policies and why department enforcement has been so crucial in recognizing the repercussions for students of policy change.”

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California embraces the completion agenda while foundations play a bigger role

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 08/04/2017 - 07:00

Foundations and reformers who want to increase the number of Americans with a college degree or certificate are turning to the state with the largest population of college-going adults -- California.

The state has become a testing ground for groups like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation to encourage the latest education innovations in an effort to improve college completion.

But it wasn’t long ago that groups advocating for reforms were viewed as antithetical to a liberal education and kept a low profile in the state.

The California Community College and California State University systems both have set high-achieving goals to raise completion rates in the next few years, and they’re welcoming reforms like guided pathways, accelerated remediation and incentives to get students through faster.

The urgency to increase completion is driven, in part, by the fact that the state is facing a work force skills gap. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the state will be about 1.1 million college graduates short of meeting the demand for workers with a bachelor’s degree by 2030, if current trends continue. Furthermore, in order for the state to be among the top 10 in the country for educational attainment rates, it needs to produce 2.4 million technical certificates, associate and bachelor’s degrees by 2025. Lumina estimates that the number is closer to 3.7 million credentials by 2025 in order for the state to compete internationally.

“There is no longer any major pushback around the concept that our system needs to improve outcomes, specifically completion outcomes for students,” said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California Community College system. “Certainly there are still those who feel higher education is going in the wrong direction, but that’s a philosophical argument rather than a practical one. In terms of our internal stakeholders, the governor’s office, the Legislature … everyone agrees California community colleges need to improve outcomes and do it with some urgency.”

Still, skepticism exists, particularly around accelerating students’ progress through remediation, he said.

“But we’re finding there is much more willingness to try these interventions and rely on data to determine if they’re working,” Oakley said.

Faculty members said they are aware of the looming shortage of skilled workers in the state, especially as baby boomers retire. However, they also want to make clear that pushing students to graduation as quickly as possible won’t be an easy fix.

“Our system produces more than 50 percent of the teachers [in the state],” said Kim Geron, a political science professor at Cal State East Bay and former California Faculty Association vice president. “We can try different models to speed up the process, but you can’t speed up what it takes to make a good teacher.”

This month, the state’s Board of Governors accepted a new strategic plan for the community college system that laid out just what the new completion goals would be in order to help close those potential work force gaps.

They included:

  • Increase by at least 20 percent a year the number of students who earn an associate degree, credential or certificate or achieve a specific skill set.
  • Increase the number of transfer students to the University of California and Cal State systems by 35 percent each year.
  • Decrease the number of excess credits students take by about 25 credits. On average, students completed 87 credits to earn an associate degree, when typically only 60 are required.
  • Cut the achievement gap by 40 percent within five years and eliminate it within 10 years.
  • Increase the number of students in career education programs who find employment in their field by 15 percent.

“We felt we needed to own all of that and make it clear this is where our colleges needed to be and make it clear to policy makers and the Legislature that this is also their responsibility, to ensure that we work together to get our colleges and students to [graduation],” Oakley said, adding that the completion goals put the 114 colleges where they need to be over the next five to 10 years.

For its part, the Cal State system is working on the new Graduation Initiative 2025, which sets goals of increasing graduation rates and cutting achievement gaps for students from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds. Introduced this fall, the plan calls for increasing the freshman four-year graduation rate from 19 percent, where it stood in 2015, to 40 percent. It would also raise the six-year rate from 57 percent in 2015 to 70 percent for freshmen, raise the two-year goal for transfer students from 31 percent in 2015 to 45 percent, and raise the four-year goal for transfer students from 73 percent in 2015 to 85 percent.

“For many years the state had concerns with partnering with Gates, Lumina or the other big foundations because the concern was their aspirations weren’t aligned with ours,” Oakley said. “Then Gates and many foundations pulled out, but there’s been re-engagement and we’re working closely with partners like Gates and having active conversations with Lumina and Kresge.”

Some of that pushback came from people who believe students should be able to explore their options in college and have an opportunity to figure out what interests them, said Travis Reindl, senior communications officer for the Gates Foundation.

“You have to steer away from the extreme,” he said. “You don’t want to have something highly dictated so students can’t explore, but we also tend to be at the other extreme where you don’t want students to have no guidance and take things out of order and take too much financial aid.”

And that’s where some of the previous critics have found middle ground with the reformers.

Reforming to Completion

The community college system is using guided pathways as the frame to organize many of the initiatives colleges are using in order to reach those completion goals.

Oakley said the pathways framework has been well received in the colleges because it allows each institution to look at its data individually and not have the system office micromanaging the campuses.

“People are frustrated that even over the last five years, with a tremendous amount of work and advancement, the colleges haven’t seen the improvement everyone wants to see,” he said. “That’s why you see openness to the framework and an acknowledgment our systems need to improve.”

The reforms are also easier to implement in the state because of the increased investment policy makers have made, said Max Espinoza, senior program officer at the Gates Foundation. The state invested a one-time contribution of $150 million in the pathways projects at the community colleges for a five-year period, adding $20 million more from innovation grants.

But the reforms aren’t coming from the foundations, he said.

“It’s coming from within. These efforts, from what we see, they’re really coming from California and the colleges themselves and leaders who are really trying to help their students,” Espinoza said.

For a foundation as large as Gates, working with California was a no-brainer if they were going to address national attainment issues.

“It’s awfully hard to get to Lumina’s 2025 goal without moving the needle significantly in places like California,” said Scott Jenkins, strategy director for Lumina, who added that the foundation’s national goal is 60 percent for degree or credential attainment. “It’s too big. Too diverse. It has too many students of color who are not being successful.”

And coming out of the recession, the feeling within the colleges changed. Having more people with some education after high school was an economic development issue and not just something to be addressed by educators or civil rights activists, he said.

Gates, in particular, is interested in remedial education that gets students to and through a credit-bearing class, streamlining transfer from community colleges to public university systems and providing financial incentives to help the most vulnerable students stay and continue through college.

For example, the foundation is one of the major funders behind the California Guided Pathway Project. Gates, Lumina, the James Irvine Foundation and the College Futures Foundation also are major supporters of the community colleges’ new strategic plan.

Faculty may initially have been nervous about the completion agenda, but Jenkins said it’s hard to deny the strong evidence from guided pathways and reforms to remediation like corequisite courses that show evidence of being successful with students and promoting completion and persistence.

And the research behind a number of these reforms has been ongoing for at least two decades. “The time for researching these things is, at least for some, over,” Jenkins said. “The time to implement is now, and we really can’t wait.”

Getting Faculty on Board

A few years ago the state’s Legislature passed the Student Success Act, which pushed California’s take on the completion agenda.

“There were a lot of concerns from faculty and some colleges because of the focus on completion, and, in reality, in our system, you’re looking at a lot of student populations, and getting them to a transfer degree or certificate isn’t necessarily the definition of success,” said Austin Webster, director of external affairs at the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges.

For many students, taking one or two courses to gain skills or complete a career and technical education certificate is great for them, said Webster, but that can count against colleges and faculty members when completion and attainment goals are discussed.

Some also had concerns about the new pathways program. For example, faculty and union groups weren’t clear on just what the new initiative would look like, Webster said, adding that many faculty members already feel they’ve had these initiatives on their campuses.

Despite some of these concerns, many have welcomed the foundations’ financial support.

“You have faculty who are very excited and grateful and are getting involved in these programs,” Webster said. “You can get these situations where the funding from these foundations is the lifeblood for a CTE program or they’re keeping programs alive.”

But there are concerns about who at the foundations is driving these initiatives or whether the ideas behind them are coming from educators on the ground. Some faculty members have been concerned that the foundations were more like “vulture philanthropists,” who pushed for reforms that could financially benefit them, said Jonathan McLeod, a history professor at San Diego Mesa College and a California Federation of Teachers representative.

“Instead of going to faculty and saying, ‘Here are the problems,’ and asking how we can solve these problems, they went straight to the top,” he said. “They went to education administrators at the state level. They went to the U.S. Department of Education and state legislators and governors and said, ‘Education is in trouble and this is what we’re going to do to change education.’”

The completion push in the Cal State system is being driven by legislators and the governor’s office, who probably hear the message at national gatherings and from foundations, said Geron, the CSU East Bay professor, adding that some faculty members have been upset that they were not included in developing proposed reforms.

While some faculty rallied around these reforms, most were initially skeptical, McLeod said.

One commonly heard concern is that the different agendas sometimes conflict with one another. McLeod as an example points to the equity and completion pushes.

The completion agenda is about getting students through as quickly as possible and into the work force while minimizing barriers. One way to do that is to push for more online courses. And the students who are least likely to succeed in online courses are underrepresented minorities, he said.

“But that is what happens with self-proclaimed reformers -- they go to the top and meet with state chancellors of institutions and maybe it gradually filters down … and gets to faculty last,” he said. “Sometimes these reforms are formed not by the people in the trenches.”

Even so, some faculty members are seeing what’s happening nationally, as other states like Indiana and Tennessee embrace these reforms and see positive results.

“One of the challenges we’ve had in California is that a lot of the money for reforms has been one-time money and we’re able to do innovative things with one-time money to advance completion agenda, but at a certain point you’ve picked all the low-hanging fruit,” said Christine Miller, a communications professor at Sacramento State and chairwoman of the CSU Academic Senate.

The idea that faculty are resistant to change and reforms is a cliché, Miller said. They’re not jumping on the bandwagon for certain initiatives, but if the research backs up their goals, she said, faculty will support making changes in the classroom.

“We have to respect our students’ realities,” Geron said. “We think graduating sooner is a laudable goal, but it has to combine all the elements that go into students having a high-quality education.”

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Study finds many European academics are reluctant to teach in English

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 08/04/2017 - 07:00

New research has revealed deep ambivalence among academics told by European universities to teach and publish in English, with one even threatening to sue his department rather than switch language.

As European continental universities increasingly switch to English for master’s programs, interviews conducted at the University of Hamburg in Germany show that there is resistance to the shift, even though German students are demanding to be taught in English to improve their future job prospects.

One faculty member told Roger Geertz Gonzalez, a researcher into German higher education at Walden University in the U.S., that “Germany is Germany and not Britain or America” and refused to teach in English. Another said that he would sue his department for using English, but instead decided to leave.

These are extreme cases, and many faculty members were more comfortable with English, but they highlight the language dilemmas facing continental European universities.

“On the one hand, they know that it’s the language of business and science, and want to attract international students,” said Gonzalez. On the other hand, the rise of English in teaching and research “means that scholarship in the German language will decline.”

Two forces are pushing continental European universities toward English. The first is demand from students: one faculty member had been badgered by his German students to teach in English. “They see it as an opportunity to kind of practice that and use it, especially when applying for international job positions inside and outside Germany,” one faculty member told Gonzalez. “And students increasingly appreciate that.”

The second driver is that faculty can now “forget tenure” unless they publish in English, according to Gonzalez, as German universities need English-language publications to help them climb the international university rankings.

One interviewee remarked that his early-career work was “senseless” because it had not been published in international journals that affected rankings, according to “Internationalization at a German University: The Purpose and Paradoxes of English Language,” published in the International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives.

Susanne Rupp, Hamburg’s vice president, said that physical science departments at Hamburg were now considering teaching all their master’s programs in English. “The working language in the labs is English,” she said.

At the undergraduate level, however, the university used a mixture of English and German. “You have to learn academic discourse in your mother language first,” and then move to English, Rupp said.

Even in the humanities, the language of research is shifting to English, Rupp said. Thirty years ago musicologists, for example, would have to have read German to understand all the work in their field, but no longer. With the shift to English, preserving German’s distinctive style of academic writing was “problematic,” she said.

Just over 44 percent of higher education institutions in Germany offered courses taught in English, according to a 2014 survey, “English-Taught Programs in European Higher Education.” The European average is just over a quarter. In the Netherlands, the proportion is over two-thirds, and in Sweden four-fifths.

But the proportion of students in Europe being taught in English remains small, however, at just 1.3 percent, although this is nearly double what it was in 2007. In Germany, the figure is 1 percent. Denmark has the biggest slice, at 12.4 percent.

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Panelists take on the hot topic of tuition resets

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 07:00

MINNEAPOLIS -- As private college sticker prices and tuition discount rates edged ever higher in recent years, there has been much hand-wringing and debate over whether the cost of college has reached a breaking point.

Serious discussions have also taken place about an aggressive strategy some institutions have used to distance themselves from the high-tuition, high-discount strategy: the tuition reset.

Tuition resets were under the microscope Tuesday during a session at the National Association of College and University Business Officers annual meeting. And the debate over the strategy could be easily found at other times during the several-day meeting as well, in other sessions as well as discussions with tuition pricing consultants.

Tuesday's session highlighted two institutions that have put in place tuition resets in recent years. Concordia University St. Paul in Minnesota cut its tuition and fees sticker price by a third, from $29,700 to $19,700, in the fall of 2013 for all of its traditional undergraduate students. Utica College in upstate New York slashed its sticker price by 42 percent in the fall of 2016 for on-campus undergraduates, dropping tuition and fees from $34,466 to $19,996 before room and board.

Leaders from both institutions reported Tuesday that the changes were successful. Concordia has seen student retention rise, student loan debt fall and undergraduate enrollment grow since its reset. Utica's enrollment and applications rose after the reset as well. Both institutions reported increased net tuition revenue and, of course, sharply lower tuition discount rates.

But the Tuesday presentation was not an endorsement of tuition resets at all private universities.

“Most of the schools that have cut it have not put in the time to do the research to see if it will actually work for them,” said Laura Casamento, president of Utica College.

Casamento has studied tuition resets. They were the subject of her dissertation. She examined 28 institutions that have tried tuition resets over the last two decades and believes a lack of planning often led to poor strategies. That, she said, is why many college leaders and some consultants are now wary of tuition resets.

Of course, there are many reasons to be cautious. Panelists agreed that the strategy can only be put in place after significant planning, and that institutions need to have a strong brand and strong market position to succeed with it. Cutting tuition at an institution with a weak market position can be perceived as the cheap getting cheaper.

Details of how the plan is put in place are important, too. It has to be communicated effectively and at the right time. Colleges don't want to announce a tuition reset for 2018 in August 2017, when it is likely to drive students who were planning to enroll to instead defer until next year. Nor do they want to announce one too late in the recruitment cycle, when they will not get the full effects of the strategy and attention it can generate.

A reset cannot be the only way a college markets itself to students, Casamento added. Utica College went through several steps of research and branding before putting in place its tuition reset. Freshman enrollment was rising even before the reset was announced, likely thanks to a branding campaign.

Freshman enrollment went from under 500 in 2014 to just under 700 in 2016, said Jeffery Gates, Utica College's senior vice president for student life and enrollment management. The college dropped its freshman enrollment goal to 625 this year because it has run out of capacity -- it will have 110 students living in a hotel this fall, which brings added costs and does not help the bottom line.

Utica College's freshman tuition discount rate fell from more than 60 percent in 2015 to just over 30 percent in 2016. It is projected for a bit over 20 percent in 2017.

Freshman yield rate had ticked up between 2015 and 2016, but it dropped this year. Gates attributed that to New York State's new free tuition program for public colleges, which lawmakers and the state's governor agreed to create in April for the upcoming fall.

“Our activity at that point just stopped,” Gates said. “Things were looking great until that announcement, then things stopped. So we accepted more students and now we are starting to see some additional deposits come in late this summer.”

That highlights an important question about resetting tuition -- what other colleges and universities is an institution competing with for students? Both Utica College and Concordia in St. Paul were competing in large part with public institutions, which tend to have lower sticker prices and lower tuition discount rates.

“Part of the price point there is you are now closer to the publics,” Gates said. “So for us that was where we were also taking some students from.”

Families can understand paying $2,000 or $3,000 more for a private education and the smaller class sizes it brings, Gates said. But they might be scared away by drastically higher sticker prices.

That's an important point to consider, especially since tuition resets are sometimes cast as a way to attract first-generation students who are not attending college at all because of high sticker prices.

Concordia University St. Paul reports net tuition revenue from its traditional undergraduate program rising since the reset. Its net tuition revenue was $12.9 million in 2012-13, before the reset, and $14.1 million in 2015-16. The university's discount rate fell from 48 percent in 2012-13 to 33 percent in 2016-17.

Traditional undergraduate enrollment rose from 1,211 in the fall of 2012 to 1,456 in the fall of 2016. Interestingly, the university reports enrolling more students from well-off families. The number of freshmen it enrolled judged to have no financial need doubled between 2012 and 2016, although it remains a small portion of overall enrollment -- the university reports 24 freshmen judged to have no need enrolled in the fall of 2016, when the freshman class numbered 239. The university also reported an increase in the number of Pell-eligible first-year students enrolled after the tuition reset, although that number has been trending down.

One challenge to resetting tuition is selling trustees and alumni on the idea, said Eric LaMott, the chief operating officer at Concordia in St. Paul. Some get caught up on the idea that an institution is a school worthy of a $50,000 sticker price, he said.

“I call it the testosterone war,” he said. “Our job as leaders of higher ed is to help carry our institutions into tomorrow and not live in yesterday.”

Some trends would seem to point toward a lower tuition, lower aid model, at least for some students. Families are increasingly shopping for price when it comes to college, said Carole Arwidson, vice president and director of market research for the Lawlor Group, a higher ed marketing firm. They are asking about a return on their investment, and they are wary of student loans.

Half of all undergraduate students attend a college with a tuition and fee sticker price of less than $12,000 per year, she said. At the same time, discount rates are at an all-time high, and institutions are struggling to increase net revenue, even if they raise sticker prices.

“This is sobering,” Arwidson said.

Yet many remain unconvinced that tuition resets are viable for most institutions. A model with high sticker prices allows institutions to bring in more revenue from wealthy students and use some of that revenue to buy down the tuition of students from lower-income backgrounds -- or other students admissions officers find desirable who otherwise would choose to go elsewhere. In many cases, some strategists argue, that's a better way for colleges and universities to build the classes they want and maximize their revenue.

The wrong strategy at the wrong institution can hit applications, enrollment and net revenue. In a Sunday session, Craig Goebel, a principal at Art and Science Group, said his firm had tested a tuition reset for a private institution that had been discounting heavily. Cutting tuition and fees by 54 percent and not offering aid would lead to an enrollment drop of over 50 percent and a drop in applications of over 40 percent, he said.

“If you compound that together, it's a closing of the doors,” Goebel said. “I present this not in a sense to say, ‘Don't do it, we don't recommend it,’ but more as a cautionary tale.”

Art and Science has studied various institutions and found the best-case scenarios among them for a tuition reset are neutral impacts on net revenue. Goebel's session also explained that Providence College boosted its bottom line by increasing its tuition and aid in the years after the financial crisis.

Of course, there are numerous ways to implement a tuition reset. Institutions can still discount their tuition after a reset -- both Concordia and Utica College continued to offer institutional aid.

If a reset has a chance of working, it needs to be studied in depth, said John Lawlor, founder of the Lawlor Group, who led the Tuesday session.

“These are strategic initiatives -- they're not promotional gimmicks,” he said.

The Lawlor Group has received five inquiries in the past two months from institutions seeking to do tuition resets. They wanted to put resets in place in August or September of this year, Lawlor said.

“We said, ‘Thank you for your interest,’” he said. “That’s a promotional gimmick. It’s not strategically sound, and we don’t want any part of that.”

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Experts consider where colleges could face the most scrutiny over affirmative action

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 07:00

Many college leaders and diversity advocates were stunned by the news Tuesday that the U.S. Justice Department is preparing to investigate and sue colleges over their affirmative action policies. Just over a year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the admissions policies of the University of Texas at Austin, which include consideration of race and ethnicity. As a result, many educators were not expecting a sustained challenge to affirmative action this soon.

Experts on higher education law said that ruling, as well as one three years earlier, also involving the University of Texas, and another in 2003 on policies at the University of Michigan, were clear on a principle underlying many college policies to consider race and ethnicity in admissions. Diversity has educational value, and colleges are entitled to pursue diverse student bodies, the decisions all said.

But that's only part of the equation. The Supreme Court decisions were clear that colleges can't just say that their policies are designed to promote diversity and assume all is well. They must document that they have considered alternatives, that they are monitoring the impact of their programs, and much more. A college with the best of intentions but lacking that kind of documentation may be vulnerable, experts agreed.

An added complication came in the form of rumors that a major reason for the new Justice Department campaign was to investigate claims from some rejected Asian-American applicants that Harvard University discriminated against them, in part through policies that are designed to recruit and enroll black and Latino students. Those who have filed complaints have based their arguments in large part on analyses of the average SAT scores and grades of accepted and rejected applicants. This may make it challenging for colleges in terms of public discussions of "holistic" admissions, in which a wide range of applicant characteristics are considered -- even though many members of the public assume that formulas are involved.

And on Wednesday, the Justice Department encouraged the view that the investigation was focused on the Asian complaints about Harvard, although others noted that any federal case against Harvard would in fact influence policies at other competitive colleges. And the documents that were the basis for the original reports about the investigation were more broadly focused than just Harvard.

Mission and Research

For many in higher education who support affirmative action, Art Coleman is the go-to person on legal issues. He is managing partner of Education Counsel and the author of numerous briefs over the years defending the right of colleges to consider race in admissions.

He said that the key legal question isn't just whether a college values diversity. "What we have learned from courts for decades … is the importance of having good strategic thinking, insight and judgment about issues of diversity aligned with mission," he said.

That means colleges can't arbitrarily set a goal for diversity, he said. And it also means colleges can't develop a plan and then let it sit. Colleges must show "a process of continuous improvement," and show that "you are periodically visiting your goals, your policy design."

Doing all of this is "a lot of work" if colleges haven't been doing it, but "becomes a normal part of business" for those that focus on it, he said.

Studies and analysis are needed for colleges that consider race and ethnicity in financial aid, Coleman said, although the level of detail may be less than with admissions. Most colleges admit most of their applicants, and so affirmative action doesn't really come into play except at the minority of colleges that are competitive in admissions. But many colleges that are not competitive in admissions do have some scholarships for which race and ethnicity are considered.

In many of these cases, Coleman said, the share of financial aid awarded in part based on race and ethnicity is so small that research would indicate a minimal impact on the nonminority students who aren't receiving the aid. So while colleges that use affirmative action in admissions need to explore the impact on those who don't benefit, this burden may be less for colleges' aid programs.

Thomas Sullivan, president of the University of Vermont and a lawyer, said he thinks most colleges with competitive admissions did their research during or shortly after the Supreme Court rulings on the University of Texas, in 2013 and 2016. He said that the Supreme Court rulings "gave a real road map" for how to document the need for plans that consider race and ethnicity.

A key issue, he said, is returning to plans year after year. Colleges "have to be vigilant" about tracking changes and making appropriate adjustments in their plans, he said. "This isn't a one-shot thing."

Similarly, he said, more is needed than just saying that one uses holistic admissions. Colleges need to show that they really do examine "an entire portfolio" and consider many factors, he said.

Statistics and Asian Applicants

Students for Fair Admissions is a group that has filed legal complaints against several universities, most prominently Harvard University, arguing that Asian-American students are held to a higher standard than other applicants.

Edward Blum, the president of the group, said he was pleased that the Justice Department plans to investigate colleges' practices with regard to affirmative action. "It is well documented that Asian-Americans are being discriminated against by our nation's most competitive colleges and universities," he said. "Any effort to end that discrimination would be greatly encouraged."

His group points to studies showing that Asian-American applicants need significantly higher SAT scores and high school grades to be admitted to elite colleges than do other students (in many cases, including white students).

Robert O'Neil, a professor of law emeritus and president emeritus at the University of Virginia, said he thinks it would be difficult for the Justice Department to show "intent" to discriminate, even if many files are obtained from institutions such as Harvard. It's not enough to show trends in average test scores, he said, to demonstrate discrimination.

Coleman said that if the Justice Department focuses on rejected applicants with high SAT scores and grades, colleges will stick by holistic admissions. "The theory about grades and test scores effectively defining merit has been the defining feature of plaintiffs’ complaints" for years, he said. "That reflects a complete misunderstanding of the bases for, and process to, evaluate applicants."

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Using fictional narrative, book explores dysfunction in academic departments

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 07:00

“Since you are a college professor, you do what college professors do when faced with a problem to solve -- you approach it as a research problem to be answered.”

Richard Castallo sets the tone for his book pretty early: reading partly like a self-help book, part choose-your-own-adventure novel, the fictional book contains a series of case studies that you, a newly appointed department chair, navigate as you read.

Dealing With Dysfunction (Rowman & Littlefield), subtitled A Book for University Leaders, seeks to address leadership problems common at universities. Walking through case studies involving professors in a fractured department, the main character attempts to guide the department to stability as the newly selected chairman and Castallo, a professor at California State University, Northridge, offer insight and leadership recommendations at the end of each chapter.

The writing, while generally positive and constructive, can also be blunt and humorous. The takeaways listed at the end of the first chapter, for example, read as follows:

1. Unlike any other organization, well-functioning colleges and universities are run by the workers (faculty), and the role of administration is to support them in that effort. Commensurate with that role is the responsibility of the faculty to be fair, conscientious and committed to the growth of students.
2. There will always be at least a handful of people who do not subscribe to Learning No. 1.

Much of the book is dedicated to that handful of people, dubbed by Castallo the Resistors, and the toxic influence they can have in a department -- or any organization. Castallo, who previously was a program coordinator at the State University of New York at Cortland, as well as an teacher and principal at the K-12 level, says that none of the characters -- some of whom are definitely unflattering and problematic -- are based on any one particular professor he’s met in his lifetime.

“The characters in the book are a combination of people I’ve observed or heard about, in higher education as well as K-12,” he said. Putting those characters together, and synthesizing a storyline out of his experiences in education, “was a combination of self-therapy and a hope that people will read it and recognize themselves.”

“Folks who are already good [professors and administrators] maybe will be better, and those who are campus dysfunctionals maybe will think about their behavior and consider some things they could do to be more effective,” he said.

At the same time, Castallo doesn’t hold back on addressing some of the inherent dysfunction that higher education brings upon itself. The fourth chapter is titled “Leadership in Universities” -- quickly followed by the subtitle “Oxymoron in Action.” Since the main character is a department chair, much of the chapter focuses on the contradictions that come with the job:

In typical circumstances, department chairs are charged with making decision affecting the same people who ultimately appoint or reappoint them to -- or in some cases, dismiss them from -- their position. So someone in a chair position who really wants to stay in that job puts his chances of positive approval in jeopardy any time he makes a decision that will not be popular with one individual or another. As a result, there can be strong pressure to compromise one’s beliefs in order to keep the position.

“The notion that the chair has to be elected and supported by the department makes it hard for that person to be effective,” Castallo said. “So you end up with a rotation of leadership at the department level that perpetuates the problem.”

The problem spelled out specifically in Dysfunction is one of a fractured department. After the introductory chapters, each chapter is a case study on particular professors, who are either Resistors, Reluctants or Committed.

Over the course of the book, the main character learns that no one professor fits squarely into a single category, but in general Resistors are adverse to the department and administration at large. Reluctants are caught in the middle, trying to avoid department politics and vulnerable to sliding into camp with Resistors or the Committed -- those who enjoy their work and put their students first. Even the Committed, however, won’t put up with a broken department.

Castallo doesn’t hold back on his selection of characters: Anthony, a Resistor, has gender-based harassment allegations against him. Bill, who is Committed, gets unfairly caught up with a scandal he had nothing to do with, but that was initiated by a program assistant who sexually harassed students.

And although the book is subtitled A Book for University Leaders, Castallo said the lessons could apply to anyone in leadership.

“Dysfunction happens everywhere,” he said. “It’s more a matter of how much it surfaces at any point in time within a unit.”

One of the keys to success, Castallo said, is keeping the Resistors in any given environment contained, and slowly working to improve the situation as a whole -- whether that means letting Resistors go or making unpopular decisions in the structure of a workplace. Additionally, he said, universities have an extra layer of outside pressure on unpopular decisions, which stem from active and passionate students, alumni and donors.

“When you’re dealing with complex problems and organizations, there are no simple solutions,” he said. “When people read books where difficulties are described and ultimately they come up with an answer and everybody is happy -- it’s unrealistic.”

“When you’re in a complex organization dealing with tough situations, you either fix them, repair them to the point where at least you can function -- or you may do everything you can as a leader, and in the end people don’t want the problem to be fixed.”

Castallo describes leadership as a natural antidote to entropy, a force necessary to keep a unit -- be it a department or a corporate office -- together.

“A mass left alone cannot remain in its present state,” he writes. “It either deteriorates or it moves forward … No one [in the book] woke up one day and saw this occur as a result of a switch from on to off. Rather, it had been a slow, insipient process, usually the result of one or two personalities that absorbed others along the way.”

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Elsevier makes move into institutional repositories with acquisition of Bepress

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 07:00

The publishing giant Elsevier became a major player in the institutional repository landscape Wednesday with the acquisition of the private company Bepress. The acquisition is the third such purchase in the last 14 months for Elsevier, which recently acquired social science and humanities repository SSRN and the research metrics company Plum Analytics.

Like SSRN, Bepress was founded by academics who spotted a gap in the scholarly communications landscape. Originally created by Berkeley professors in 1999 to help journals speed up the peer-review process, Bepress’s most popular offering is now a service called Digital Commons -- a cloud-based institutional repository. This service, which is used by more than 450 institutions, allows universities to share research outputs such as preprints, student theses, data sets and special collections with the public, free.

An Elsevier news release said the acquisition of Bepress was part of a deliberate effort to shift the company from journal publishing into research and technology data management. Elsevier said acquiring Bepress would help drive adoption of its research data management tools, while Bepress would benefit from accessing Elsevier's technology and analytics.

“We talked to a lot of potential partners,” Jean-Gabriel Bankier, CEO of Bepress, said in an interview. “Elsevier were the ones who really saw us. They saw our vision and what it is we are doing for our customers.”

Bankier said that through Bepress’s partnership with Elsevier, the company would be able to offer more services to its customers. By incorporating Elsevier’s data into Bepress’s institutional repositories, Bankier said, institutions would be able to know, for example, how many times a paper in their repository had been cited elsewhere, or how many times it had been tweeted about. “Elsevier has it all -- we’re like kids in a candy store,” Bankier said of the possible analytics his company could gain.

Going forward, Bankier stressed, the company and its offering to customers “is going to exist as it is … We’ll be talking to customers to figure out what is the best path forward,” he said.

Some Not-So-Happy Bepress Customers

The acquisition was not surprising to Roger Schonfeld, director of Ithaka S+R’s Library and Scholarly Communication Program, who wrote about the acquisition for publishing blog Scholarly Kitchen. He said in an interview that it was clear to anyone watching the acquisitions landscape that all privately owned scholarly communications companies are currently “in play.”

“This is a good moment for founders to make some earnings,” he said. “Elsevier and Digital Science are really driving a strong marketplace for acquiring some of these start-ups.”

Schonfeld noted, however, that some would be shocked by the news. “If you look at Twitter discussions within the library community today, you’ll see some individuals who are extremely surprised. Bepress, like SSRN, was seen as friendly to the library community, so I think there will be some confusion about that.”

Barbara Fister, a librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College, a small liberal arts college in Minnesota, agreed that the move may confuse some academics. “Libraries have invested time and dollars into institutional repositories and library-supported publishing because of the behavior of highly profitable publishers like Elsevier, so all of that effort abruptly becoming the property of Elsevier is especially vexing.”

Fister said that while Bepress offered an excellent product, “selling out to a publisher that has rightfully earned a terrible reputation for price gouging among librarians” would spark “a lot of understandable outrage.” Elsevier, one of the largest scholarly publishers in the world, is also one of the most disliked by academics. However, Elsevier says that its profits are invested in innovations that make researchers' lives easier.

Terri Fishel, library director of Macalester College, a private undergraduate liberal arts college in Minnesota, said she felt “devastated” by the news. “How could Bepress, an organization that has around 500 members, be so clueless about how we felt about Elsevier?”

Fishel said that she had been a Bepress customer for 14 years and had always been impressed by its “fabulous service.” However, she said, she had “not a clue” that the company’s sale to Elsevier was happening until she saw it on Twitter. “To not have let the customers know before this was announced I think is despicable,” she said.

Fishel said that her main concern about the sale was that content created by the college to be read freely by all would now be owned by a publisher that has a poor track record with open-access advocates. “There will be people that leave because we don’t want to be owned by Elsevier,” said Fishel.

“I can see this acquisition makes a lot of sense from Elsevier’s side, but that doesn’t mean I was anxious to see it happen,” said Paul Royster, repository manager at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, which also uses Bepress.

“A lot of us are looking at our contracts, thinking, ‘Maybe it’s time to dust off plan B,’ but we’re not going to bolt right away. A lot of it depends on how Bepress behaves. If they maintain their current level of service, I don’t see a lot of people leaving out of spite,” said Royster.

Asked what message he would like to send customers concerned about Bepress’s acquisition by Elsevier, Bankier asked for “time to show the value that we will be delivering to the community with this relationship.”

An Elsevier-Enabled Workflow -- From Start to Finish

The move into institutional repositories means that Elsevier now offers services at almost every stage of the scholarly workflow -- from initial research to citation management, publication and deposit into a repository. Schonfeld says that Elsevier's tactic of creating one streamlined workflow for researchers is a “masterful strategy,” but Kathleen Fitzpatrick, associate executive director of the Modern Language Association, described it as “concerning.”

“Allowing any one entity -- especially a commercial publisher that has done so much damage to library budgets -- to have full control over the entirety of the scholarly workflow poses grave risks to the future accessibility of the scholarly record,” said Fitzpatrick, who is currently working on an open, nonprofit, scholar-governed repository called Humanities Commons.

Jeffrey Spies, co-founder of the Center for Open Science, said that it makes good business sense for big publishers to create these seamless workflows, but that such strategies limit scholars' choices. “Publishers could make choices that don’t promote lock-in, but it’s a very good business model if your focus is on the bottom line,” he said.

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Trump-backed bill would halve legal immigration, create points-based system privileging educational attainment

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 07:00

A bill backed by President Trump and announced Wednesday aims to reduce overall legal immigration by half while putting in place a new points-based system for applicants for employment-based green cards that would privilege graduates of American universities.

Some higher education groups say that while they want to see changes to America's immigration system, these aren't the changes they want to see.

The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy, or RAISE, Act would drastically slash legal immigration by eliminating existing preferences for extended family members of U.S. residents, while keeping in place preferences for spouses and minor children; capping the number of refugees offered permanent residency at 50,000 per year; and ending the diversity visa lottery program. The bill would keep the number of employment-based green cards available the same -- at 140,000 -- but would change how they are awarded to give preference to applicants who have higher levels of educational attainment, higher scores on standardized English proficiency tests and higher-paying job offers, as well as to those who invest $1.35 million or more in an American business.

Applicants for employment-based visas would get different levels of points depending on whether they attended an American university or not. For example, an applicant with a bachelor’s degree from a foreign university would get five points, while an applicant with a bachelor’s degree from an American university would get six points. At the master’s and Ph.D. levels, extra points would be awarded only to those with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

In remarks at the White House, Trump described the legislation as intended to help American workers by reducing the number of low-skilled immigrants who, he argued, put pressure on American workers, taxpayers and community resources. “The RAISE Act ends chain migration and replaces our low-skilled system with a new points-based system for receiving a green card,” Trump said. “This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.”

Sen. David Perdue, a Republican from Georgia and one of the sponsors of the legislation, said the bill is modeled on Australia and Canada’s immigration systems, both of which use points-based systems for admitting skilled immigrants. “It’s pro-worker, pro-growth and it’s been proven to work,” Perdue said. “Both have been extremely successful in attracting highly skilled workers to those countries.”

But while the act will increase the proportion of immigrants who come through the higher-skilled, employment-based system, it does so not by increasing the total number of people coming through that stream but rather by reducing the number who can come through other pathways. The bill, if passed, would lead to an overall reduction in legal immigrants of 41 percent in year one, and of 50 percent at the end of 10 years, according to projections provided by the bill’s sponsors, Senators Perdue and Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas.

“We recognize that it’s long past time for Congress to address immigration reform, in particular to address our economically self-defeating practice of not providing sufficient opportunity for graduates of U.S. universities to remain in the United States after graduating and to contribute to our economy,” said Craig Lindwarm, the director of congressional and governmental affairs at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. “Unfortunately, with this bill, although it seemingly aims to address some of that national need, it completely misses the target.”

“While we need a focus on employment-based immigration, particularly one that looks at how we can do better at retaining the talent that graduates from our universities, this bill actually doesn’t expand the number of employment-based green cards available, so it doesn’t address that fundamental issue that there aren’t enough green cards to retain the talent that we need,” Lindwarm said.

Lindwarm added that while APLU's advocacy has focused on colleges' abilities to recruit international students and to bring in immigrants who can work for them as professors and researchers, "we also recognize that we are part of a broader immigration system and legislation that would cut or halve legal immigration to our country over a 10-year span is not in our country’s interest. Immigrants make tremendous contributions to our country."

In a statement, Jill Welch, the deputy executive director for public policy at NAFSA: Association of International Educators, described the legislation as a step backward and as going "against our founding values as a welcoming nation, as it would close off America to the world."

Citing the "numerous ways" that immigrants contribute to the U.S., Welch said that "America is already at risk for losing these benefits given our antiquated immigration policies that do not provide enough opportunities for people to enter the country legally. Proposing legislation that restricts opportunities, limits access, forecloses the American dream and keeps immigrant families from living with their loved ones will only harm this great nation."

"There’s little to celebrate here and in fact there are many questions to ask," said Fanta Aw, interim vice president of campus life at American University and a past president of NAFSA. Aw said that a points-based system "has merit," but applies to only one specific form of immigration -- employment based -- and needs to be considered as part of a comprehensive reform package. Aw said that the bill does nothing to address the needs of the agricultural industry for lower-skilled immigrant workers. And she was disturbed by the provision limiting the number of refugees who can gain permanent visas.

"I think for those of us who've been following immigration issues closely for decades and who understand the complexity of immigration issues, to in many ways lift up one aspect of the immigration system at the detriment of others is something we need to closely watch," Aw said.

The RAISE Act was endorsed by groups that support reducing immigration, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform and Numbers USA. The latter group said in a statement that the bill “will do more than any other action to fulfill President Trump's promises as a candidate to create an immigration system that puts the interests of American workers first.”

A statement from the National Immigration Law Center, on the other hand, described the bill as “cruel and un-American” and said that it would “devastate families, eliminating the traditional and long-accepted means by which family members such as grandparents, mothers, fathers and siblings are able to reunite with their families who have emigrated to the United States.” FWD.us, an advocacy group focused on immigration created by leaders in the technology industry, also came out in opposition to the bill, saying it “would severely harm the economy and actually depress wages for Americans.”

The Washington Post reported that the RAISE Act faces “dim prospects” In the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow majority, and is expected to face fierce opposition from Democrats and immigrant-rights groups as well as from business leaders and some moderate Republicans in states with large immigrant populations.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, opposed the RAISE Act Wednesday, saying in a series of three tweets, “I've always supported merit-based immigration. I think we should always want to attract the best and brightest to the United States … Unfortunately other part of proposal reduces legal immigration by half inclding [sic] many immigrants who work legally in [agriculture], tourism, & service … SC #1 industry is Ag. Tourism #2 … If proposal were to become law … devastating to SC economy which relies on this immigrant work force.”

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Montclair State removes courses from adjunct whose tweet became controversial

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 08/02/2017 - 07:00

Montclair State University has stripped Kevin Allred of two courses it had assigned him to teach as an adjunct this fall. The move followed a controversial tweet by Allred in which he said that he wished someone would shoot President Trump.

The university has denied that it ever employed Allred -- even though he has shared email messages from the university confirming that he would be teaching. Montclair is now being criticized both for removing a faculty member's courses from him, apparently because of his rhetoric and for denying that it was planning to employ Allred.

Allred lost teaching work at Rutgers University in November over another tweet about Trump -- and he has stated repeatedly that his rhetoric is not intended to be taken literally. He also has noted that his language -- while shocking to some -- isn't out of line with some of what Trump has said.

The Allred case is the latest in which faculty members have been criticized -- and in some cases lost jobs -- over controversial statements on social media, primarily dealing with race. Also this week, the president of Trinity College in Connecticut, an institution that suspended a professor over a hashtag and comments on social media, detailed what she said were losses of entering students and of money due to the controversy.

Both Montclair State and Trinity are facing criticism from some quarters for failing to protect faculty free expression.

Allred and the Lost Courses at Montclair State

Prior to his controversial tweets, Allred was best known for creating the Rutgers course Politicizing Beyoncé. The tweet that has been talked about on conservative websites this week has been removed, but here is an archived copy:

He has followed that tweet with a number of others, saying that he is not advocating violence but using strong language. "How is my one tweet using a hyperbolic expression worse than what 'the president' himself is doing day after day?" he wrote in one tweet. "Not to mention the millions of Americans he's hell-bent on stripping health insurance from. He wants Americans dead," he wrote in another.

Via email, he said that he was notified by email that his services would no longer be required this fall, even though he had exchanged emails with the university in which he had been told he would be teaching a course in women's and gender studies, and another in gay studies. He had submitted books to order, syllabi and so forth.

Montclair State then issued this statement via email: "Kevin Allred has never been an employee of Montclair State University, is not one at this time, and the university has not made any formal offer of employment to him."

Told that Allred had provided an email trail documenting his employment, and that his removed faculty biography and email address remained on the university's website (at right), the university's spokeswoman said she hoped to provide more information. As of press time, she had not done so.

Ari Cohn, a lawyer with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said it was "a little bit ridiculous" for Montclair State to claim that it had never employed Allred, when the email trail shows that it did.

Cohn also said that it was unconstitutional for a public university to take away someone's job for "protected speech" and that Allred's tweet was well within the legal definitions of protected speech. He said it was clearly not literal and was a use of rhetoric to criticize a government leader.

Professors "have been making incendiary remarks for decades," and just because social media make those remarks more visible doesn't mean college leaders have any less of an obligation to defend free expression, Cohen said.

"This is just the latest in a series of very troubling incidents where faculty members, in particular adjunct faculty members" are being criticized for social media comments and "colleges are buckling" and not defending their faculty members, Cohn said. One of the other cases where a professor lost a job was that of an adjunct at Essex County College.

Debating the Costs at Trinity

Trinity of Connecticut has been debating in recent weeks how it handled the case of Johnny Eric Williams, the associate professor of sociology accused of making racist remarks on social media. He was suspended but then cleared of wrongdoing after a formal review. Many faculty members said that he never should have been suspended. Numerous threats were also made against Williams, leading the college to shut down for a day.

On Monday, Joanne Berger-Sweeney, Trinity's president, released an open letter in which she outlined the impact of the controversy on the college. She noted that "attacks against free speech have become all too frequent." Then she went on to talk about practical impacts of the furor.

She wrote, "We know that 16 students in the incoming Class of 2021 have withdrawn and cited this incident as the reason, and our admissions team has engaged in conversations with many others who had concerns. This is, however, well within our usual summer 'melt,' as we call it, as some students make different decisions about where and when they might matriculate. We remain on track to meet our enrollment and revenue targets and are ahead of where we were at this time last year."

Of money, she wrote, "A number of past contributors also chose not to donate to the college this year in response to the controversy. I certainly am disappointed by those decisions, but I respect them and hope that those individuals ultimately will see that there continue to be many good reasons to invest in Trinity. At this point, we estimate that impact to be roughly $200,000, while overall giving exceeded $28.6 million, which was a 28 percent increase over the previous year. Finally, we incurred some cost to manage the crisis, including for additional security on campus for a few weeks."

She went on to talk about the importance of the college's faculty members and students working together to promote "civilized discourse."

Henry Reichman, chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, used a blog post to criticize Berger-Sweeney for focusing so much of her letter on financial costs to the college. He wrote that the Trinity president has not acknowledged that Williams never should have been suspended, and the damage caused by his suspension.

"It is grossly insufficient simply to encourage 'discussion' of academic freedom and freedom of speech -- it is essential for colleges to vigorously defend and promote these principles," Reichman wrote. "Nothing in yesterday’s message suggests that Trinity is committed to doing so."

He titled the blog post "At Trinity It’s Still About the Bottom Line."

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Campus administrators weigh a more practical argument for higher education

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 08/02/2017 - 07:00

MINNEAPOLIS -- As the former president of two small liberal arts colleges and Pennsylvania’s independent college group, Brian C. Mitchell believes “with all my heart” in the traditional case for American higher education: that it helps produce full and productive members of an engaged citizenry.

“It’s a noble argument, the right argument,” he told an audience at the annual meeting of the National Association of College and University Business Officers. But “it just doesn’t matter given the environment,” he said. “It just doesn’t resonate.”

It’s not that Mitchell thinks there isn’t a good case to be made for higher education. And the former president of Washington & Jefferson College and Bucknell University doesn’t accept the idea that colleges and universities collectively face a “doomsday scenario,” as some prognosticators tend to predict.

But in an era in which American society is much more “transactional,” many institutions are increasingly being judged by different standards of performance and public policy arguments are taking place on Twitter, “we need to fight … in clear and definitive ways, by making a case for American higher education that is neither defensive nor outlandish,” Mitchell said during a session called “Is College Worth It? Communicating the Value of Higher Education.”

That case shouldn’t abandon the idea that colleges exist to educate broadly and to prepare people to be productive citizens -- but it also must recognize that students and families do want postsecondary education and training to prepare them for career success, said Mitchell, who is now a consultant.

"We have to prove that we not only educate and [build] discipline, but also that we allow students to articulate, write and communicate, apply quantitative methods and technology, and work in a collaborative setting” -- all the things, he said, that employers say they want most.

He added, “American higher education has lost the argument, but that doesn’t mean it can’t win it back.”

Mitchell’s words probably stung the convention hall full of chief business officers and other administrators less than they would an audience of professors. Many academics are loath to buy into the view that a college education is exclusively, even mostly, about employability.

But Carrie Warick, director of policy and advocacy at the National College Access Network, presented data from several recent surveys of students showing that a college’s success in placing graduates into jobs was high on prospective students’ list of reasons for deciding where to enroll (with costs also near the top).

Warick also shared data to reinforce the reality that for most Americans, a higher education is still a good investment, showing that young millennials with only a high school diploma are three times likelier to be unemployed and twice as likely to be out of the labor force entirely.

Those facts aren’t enough to overcome the growing doubts among many Americans about the value of a degree and the contributions colleges make to society, as recent public opinion surveys have revealed.

“It’s almost innate in us that of course there’s value in a higher education degree,” said Liz Clark, director of federal affairs at the business officers’ association. “While you may go to work in the morning and very deeply believe in the mission of what you and your colleagues do every day, there are a lot of people out there questioning the value of that work.”

Many of those people work in state legislatures and in Washington, and they cite other findings to build their critique, such as low graduation rates, perceived skills gaps and steadily rising tuition and student loan debt levels.

Participants in the session acknowledged that those are real problems and that colleges and universities must do better in retaining and graduating students and holding down prices. Many of the other sessions at the meeting were dedicated to sharing strategies for addressing those very real flaws.

But much of the conversation at Tuesday’s session (as reflected in the title) was about how to change the discourse about higher education. NACUBO officials, for example, discussed their new campaign aimed at enabling “a new way of articulating the value of higher education.”

Another session Tuesday focused on “reaffirming the public trust in higher education” showed just how much work there is to do on that front, even among purported advocates for higher education.

Matt Salmon, a two-time Republican congressman from Arizona who is now Arizona State University’s vice president for government relations, sought to reassure the audience that Congress (and the courts) would block unpopular Trump administration policy proposals to cut research funding and impede the flow of international students to the U.S.

“I believe support [for higher education in general] is strong in Congress,” Salmon said.

But Salmon acknowledged that a lot of his Republican peers “believe that higher education is simply an indoctrination place for liberal thinking.”

And when the session’s moderator asked him how college leaders might best communicate with members of Congress to counteract the media-created misimpression that many students are drowning in hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt (when the average student loan borrower carries less than $30,000), Salmon took the question in another direction.

“I think [members of Congress] have heard a lot from constituents,” he said. They’ve heard about students graduating and not being able to get jobs, and “a lot of members believe that if the housing bubble was the crisis of 2008, the next will be the student loan bubble. Most people on both sides [of the political aisle] are cognizant of that bubble.”

There is work to do, higher ed.

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UNC system edges closer to shutting down civil rights litigation at Chapel Hill

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 08/02/2017 - 07:00

A committee of the University of North Carolina system Board of Governors voted Tuesday to bar a prominent university civil rights center from engaging in litigation, a decision that alarmed both civil rights and academic freedom advocates.

The Committee on Educational Planning, Policies and Programs voted 5 to 1, with one member abstaining, on a proposal that would prohibit all centers and institutes -- though not legal clinics -- under the UNC system from joining in or initiating lawsuits. Chiefly, however, this affects the UNC Chapel Hill School of Law’s Center for Civil Rights, which is reportedly the only center or institution in the UNC system that joins in litigation. The full board is set to vote on the proposal in September.

“Part of what law schools across the country do, and part of what’s being demanded by employers, is experiential education … litigation is an essential part of what some lawyers do,” said Ted Shaw, director of the Center for Civil Rights. “So it begs the question of what the reasoning and ideology is that underlies [the board’s] position.”

“I don’t think that it’s politically motivated,” he said. “I know it is. This is an ideological hit on the Center for Civil Rights. I think everybody knows it.”

The proposal to curb the legal power of the Center for Civil Rights generated controversy in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s vote. Board members in favor have said that centers and institutes engaging in litigation are straying from their academic mission. They have also argued that it was improper for parts of the state -- in this case, UNC -- to sue other parts of the state. Recently, for example, the Center for Civil Rights got involved in a suit against the Department of Environmental Quality, where plaintiffs are alleging environmental racism.

“The university should not be, in my opinion, hiring full-time lawyers to sue anybody,” board member Steven Long said in the weeks leading up to the vote. The Center for Civil Rights is privately funded and employs two lawyers as part of its five-person staff.

“The center does not employ lawyers who are state funded,” Shaw said. “For some people, facts don’t get in the way.”

Long told Inside Higher Ed that since the lawyers were acting under the UNC banner, they weren't acting independently, regardless of funding.

"If it were a conservative, or moderate, or liberal agenda, I don't care," he said. "The university shouldn't be hiring full-time lawyers to sue third parties, particularly the cities and counties and the state itself."

College Republicans protesting outside the UNC Chapel Hill Friday Center ahead of the Board of Governors meeting #ncpol pic.twitter.com/bLnyhirAX6

— NCGOP (@NCGOP) August 1, 2017

For Long, the Center for Civil Rights defines civil rights too politically, and its litigation efforts go beyond the scope of its educational mission. He denied accusations that the board's motivation was political, saying it was acting within its bounds. He said that across the country, other centers and institutes similar to the Center for Civil Rights don't engage in litigation, and he said that is evidence that the center is off track.

Shaw brought up a letter written by UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol L. Folt speaking out against board's move, signed by 600 law school deans, faculty members and administrators, as proof that the center was well regarded in legal academe.

A spokesman for the UNC system did not return a request for comment regarding the position of UNC system President Margaret Spellings on the litigation ban.

A representative for Martin Brinkley, the dean of the Chapel Hill law school, said he was unavailable for comment, although in an email he sent law school faculty after the vote he praised their efforts in speaking out against the litigation ban, saying, “This proposal is not in the interests of the university or the state of North Carolina.”

Critics of the proposal pushed back in the weeks leading to the vote, alleging board overreach, political motivations, threats to academic freedom and specific targeting of the Center for Civil Rights. While the move by the board technically would affect every center and institution under the UNC system, the Center for Civil Rights is the only one that participates in lawsuits, and the proposed crackdown on its legal powers might spell the end of the center as a whole. Its activist causes -- involving race, voting rights, housing, education and the environment -- are surely a thorn in the side of the state’s GOP-dominated Legislature, which appoints the board. The board itself has been described as “overwhelmingly Republican” (five of the 28 board members are former legislators), and its political ties are well documented.

Many industry groups -- including the North Carolina Pork Council -- have written to board members to criticize the civil rights center. The pork group, for example, said it objected to criticisms in the center's court filings that argue that some pork farmers are damaging the environment in ways that have a major impact on low-income and minority communities.

Republicans have controlled the board elections since 2011, and the board previously shuttered the UNC Chapel Hill School of Law’s Center on Work, Poverty and Opportunity despite similar outcry about academic freedom and the effects of the closure on the community. Photos from the North Carolina Republican Party featured College Republicans protesting outside the meeting, holding signs that read “Education Not Litigation.”

“It’s a really deliberate refusal to engage with the real facts, with the reality of what the center does,” said Judith Welch Wegner, one of the former deans of the law school. “[Students at the center] are learning how to find facts, how to draft documents; they’re learning what good order arguments are; they’re learning how to work [with] community groups who are poor and other racial and ethnic groups … It shows how unwilling [the board is] to understand how education has changed significantly from whatever they assume it should be.”

“You have to be wondering what’s the real rationale, and I come back to politics, or personal vendettas, or things of that sort,” Wegner said.

Long said that although students might benefit from the center, that's not its primary purpose, which is part of the reason he wants to shutter its legal operations.

"It does not have student education as its primary focus," he said, saying it was focused on causes and advocacy.

Wegner said the board’s proposal is a broadside on academic freedom, since it would affect not only the law school’s curriculum, but also the academic interests of faculty and students across campus who collaborate with the center. As concerns the potential conflicts of interests regarding parts of the state suing each other, Michael A. Olivas, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center, has previously told Inside Higher Ed that, in general, while there are sometimes legitimate concerns, there are also established methods to settle and avoid those without necessarily shuttering a center or its litigation abilities.

Sherryl Kleinman, a professor of sociology at UNC Chapel Hill and member of the American Association of University Professors, also spoke out about the academic freedom concerns raised by the board's proposal.

"Service learning is an essential part of the undergraduate curriculum at UNC Chapel Hill, and of course medical students and graduate students in journalism (among others) are supposed to learn how to do the work they will continue after they graduate. This vote is a threat to academic freedom throughout the UNC system."

Long countered that academic freedom didn't extend to hiring lawyers.

Proposals to shift the Center for Civil Rights to a legal clinic -- so it wouldn’t be affected by the board’s proposal -- have faced doubt from university leaders, since it would be costly and potentially bring future political blowback: the Legislature already cut $500,000 from the law school’s appropriations recently, after initially proposing a $4 million cut.

“The proposed new policy will fundamentally change how the center operates, and a foreseeable result will be its closure, at least in its current structure,” Folt, the UNC chancellor, wrote in a letter to the board last week opposing the move.

The full board votes Sept. 8.

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Department of Education scraps single-servicer plan but keeps one portal for borrowers

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 08/02/2017 - 07:00

The Department of Education plans to overhaul the procurement process for federal student loan servicing for the third time in the last year, officials announced Tuesday.

It will scrap a plan Secretary Betsy DeVos unveiled in May to award servicing of all federal student loans to a single company. Instead, the department will award separate contracts for database housing, system processing and customer service functions to one or more companies possibly handling direct interactions with borrowers. The department plans to deliver, meanwhile, on creating a single web portal for borrowers to make payments on student loans regardless of their borrowers -- a change promised by the Obama administration last year and long sought by student advocates.

“Doing what’s best for students will always be our No. 1 priority,” DeVos said. “By starting afresh and pursuing a truly modern loan-servicing environment, we have a chance to turn what was a good plan into a great one.”

Current loan-servicing contracts are set to expire in 2019, but a department spokeswoman, Liz Hill, said officials fully expect to have the procurement completed and contracts awarded before then. That's possible, she said, because of work already put into the process.

It's not clear how many of the consumer protections included in two separate Obama administration memos last year -- such as requirements for specialized outreach to high-risk borrowers -- would be incorporated into the new procurement process.

The plans to have the new contracts awarded before current contracts expire met with immediate skepticism from some observers.

"We don't know the details of the new plan, or whether it will retain the strong borrower protections included in the first version, but restarting the process midway will absolutely mean delaying any future improvements for borrowers who deserve a better experience now," said Clare McCann, the deputy director for federal higher education policy with New America's education policy program and a former Obama administration official.

The Office of Federal Student Aid contracts with multiple private companies, nonprofit servicers and state-based organizations to manage federal student loans. The four major servicers are Navient, Great Lakes Educational Loan Services Inc., Nelnet and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

DeVos has taken heat since May from members of Congress and representatives from the loan-servicing sector over the plan to pick a single servicer that would hire subcontractors to collect loan payments. Department officials at the time argued that the plan would make oversight of servicers by the government more efficient.

But the proposal found critics among both Republicans like Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who argued that the system would remove choice and competition, and Democrats like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who warned against creating a federal contractor "too big to fail."

Blunt and Warren were part of a bipartisan group of senators who introduced legislation ahead of the department's announcement Tuesday to block the single-servicer plan. Their bill would instead require the participation of multiple loan servicers.

Wayne Johnson, the chief operating officer at the Office of Federal Student Aid since July, said the department's new procurement plan would allow for the introduction of the most up-to-date technology and practices from the private sector into the loan-servicing system.

“When FSA customers transition to the new processing and servicing environment in 2019, they will find a customer-support system that is as capable as any in the private sector," he said in a statement. "The result will be a significantly better experience for students -- our customers -- and meaningful benefits for the American taxpayer.”

Representative Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican and chairwoman of the House education and workforce committee, has been a frequent critic of the Office of Federal Student Aid. A spokesman for Foxx said the department made the right decision to cancel the single-servicer proposal.

“Mr. Johnson is well aware of Chairwoman Foxx’s concerns with the FSA’s mismanagement, and moving to a single servicer does not resolve these concerns or promote competition in the marketplace for borrowers and taxpayers when it comes to repaying student loans,” the spokesman said. “Chairwoman Foxx looks forward to working with Johnson, Secretary DeVos and her colleagues in Congress to find a legislative solution that that ensures high-quality service to borrowers.”

A task force from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators about a year ago examined challenges for borrowers in the student loan servicing system.

"One of the biggest challenges we identified is the fact that there were multiple servicers with multiple systems," said Justin Draeger, president and CEO of NASFAA.

NASFAA was not committed to a loan-servicing system involving either one or multiple servicers. Draeger said the group's highest priority is ensuring borrowers have the same experience paying student loans regardless of their servicer. 

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Report: Justice Department will seek to sue colleges over affirmative action

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 08/02/2017 - 07:00

A bombshell report in The New York Times Tuesday night revealed that the U.S. Justice Department plans to investigate and sue colleges over their affirmative action policies in admissions.

The Times cited an internal announcement to the Justice Department's civil rights division that seeks lawyers for a project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”

For supporters of affirmative action in college admissions, the news was a shock. Just over a year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the admissions policies of the University of Texas at Austin, which include consideration of race and ethnicity. Many college leaders feared, prior to the decision coming down, that affirmative action was endangered. But the decision -- just three years after another Supreme Court decision upholding affirmative action -- assured many that colleges could continue to consider race in admissions.

Critics of affirmative action have never abandoned their hope that the Supreme Court might some day revisit the issue, and a new lawsuit was filed against UT just weeks ago. But the backing of the U.S. Justice Department could give that movement new strength.

Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which opposes affirmative action, told the Times he welcomed the new campaign by the Justice Department. "The civil rights laws were deliberately written to protect everyone from discrimination, and it is frequently the case that not only are whites discriminated against now, but frequently Asian-Americans are as well,” he said.

Advocates for diversity in higher education told Inside Higher Ed via email that they were concerned by the Justice Department's apparent new campaign.

Dan Losen, a lawyer who is director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that he found the Justice Department's action deeply distressing.

"This is another example of how the administration is dismantling the Department of Justice, turning core constitutional protections upside down and the concept of remedying discrimination on its head," he said. "What do you expect from a president that makes openly bigoted remarks about Mexican-American judges, has boasted about assaulting women, has a history of engaging in racially discriminatory housing practices and is fighting to ban entrants to our country based on their religious background? Make no mistake, the Trump administration's positions are consistent with his bigoted statements and historical track record. Further, he hired Jeff Sessions to run the DOJ despite Sessions's own horrible track record on civil rights, and over the objections of every known civil rights group and nearly half the Senate."

Indeed, when the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity urged the U.S. Senate to oppose the nomination of Sessions as attorney general, it cited -- among other things -- a comment he made in 1997 about affirmative action. At the time, he said of affirmative action, "I think it has, in fact, been a cause of irritation and perhaps has delayed the kind of movement to racial harmony we ought to be going forward [with] today. I think it makes people unhappy if they lost a contract or a right to go to a school or a privilege to attend a university simply because of their race."

The diversity group's letter said Sessions's view distorts affirmative action in implying that colleges are accepting or rejecting candidates based on race alone. Shirley Wilcher, executive director of the association, said that she saw Tuesday's announcement as "tragic," adding that "it is our hope that this turnabout will not have a chilling effect on collegiate programs that have been supported by the Supreme Court."

Michael A. Olivas, director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at the University of Houston, said, "Mr. Trump's record in higher education is hardly exemplary, and his unfortunate rhetoric on racial relations has convinced many whites that they have been disadvantaged by people of color -- despite all the evidence to the contrary." As for the law, he said that the Supreme Court "has ruled that modest uses of affirmative action are allowable, and that is the law of the land."

Art Coleman, managing partner of Education Counsel and the author of numerous briefs defending affirmative action in higher education, said the Justice Department shift "has the potential to be very significant." But he also noted via email that "we have strong, affirming (including recent) U.S. Supreme Court cases that embrace higher education’s diversity goals and limited race-conscious measures designed to help advance those goals. So, this is counter to recent court trends."

Nancy Cantor, chancellor of Rutgers University at Newark and co-editor of Our Compelling Interests: The Value of Diversity for Democracy and a Prosperous Society (Princeton University Press), said, "We need to keep our focus on cultivating the diverse talent in our country -- we can't be a prosperous democracy and leave the growing talent pool on the sidelines. Let's not get distracted from our social responsibility by efforts to pit groups -- we all need opportunity and we all depend on each other's talent."

And Stella M. Flores, an associate professor of higher education at New York University who has written extensively about inequality in American education, said that the Justice Department should be looking elsewhere.

"We know two key findings from educational research over the last 10 years in regard to this issue: 1) an overreliance on test scores as the key predictor of college success is a tenuous and often ineffective strategy; and 2) there are positive educational benefits of diversity to all students that extend beyond the classroom," she said. "As the nation continues to diversify at unprecedented levels and becomes more globally connected and interdependent, keeping the principle of the positive educational benefits of a diverse student body/college campus is one of the most certain strategies for ensuring the nation stays at the top of their social and economic prosperity levels. It would be more helpful to put more civil rights emphasis in examining issues of inequality in the nation’s K-12 public system, which have long-term effects on college success outcomes. This would increase the opportunity levels of all students -- from the poorest of white students in addition to other underrepresented minority students."

Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, said that the Supreme Court decision last year provided "a strong reaffirmative of carefully limited consideration of race as one among a number of factors in admitting students to selective colleges seeking the realize the extensively proven benefits of diversity."

But he also noted that the Supreme Court in a series of decisions has affirmed that right when colleges document that they have considered a range of ways to promote diversity and have evidence that some consideration of race in admissions is needed for that goal.

Said Orfield, "Colleges need to document and carefully justify their programs, and the University of Texas and the University of Michigan did so successfully. For the moment this is basically a politically motivated effort to throw sand in the gears and frighten colleges to end something the huge majority of selective universities believe to be a basic educational need."

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Wait for selection of HBCU initiative leader drags on

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 08/01/2017 - 07:00

The White House today marked a milestone in leadership on historically black colleges and universities, although probably not the kind President Trump had in mind when he promised in February that support of those institutions would be an “absolute priority.”

A new administration hasn't made it to August without having named a leader of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities since that office was launched under President Carter. But Trump has not named a leader for the office.

The initiative is a modestly staffed administrative unit in the Department of Education -- and the administration has been slow to fill politically appointed positions throughout the federal government. But this position was the focus of a heavily touted executive order on HBCUs that Trump signed in February after hosting leaders of historically black colleges in the Oval Office. And naming an executive director for the initiative and making progress on moving it into the White House -- the only concrete promise in that executive order -- would have been a start toward his promise to outdo previous administrations.

Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University, a private historically black college in New Orleans, said even though the initiative doesn't wield serious power beyond the ability to convene meetings with various federal agencies, installing new leadership would have value in demonstrating the administration's commitment to historically black colleges.

"That becomes the next step in saying HBCUs are important," he said.

Kimbrough said he couldn’t assign one signature policy achievement to the work of the initiative. Rather, it provides a voice advocating for the interests of HBCUs within the administration.

“I look at it as another opportunity to share the message of HBCUs as well as to have someone, in a way, lobbying for HBCUs every day within the federal government. So I think that’s a tremendous opportunity,” he said.

The office hasn't had consistent long-term leadership since John Sylvanus Wilson, President Obama’s first executive director appointee, left to become president of Morehouse University. Since Wilson’s departure in 2012, three different executive directors have overseen the initiative.

But Kimbrough said the initiative has clear opportunities to find "wins" for HBCUs. Among them, he said, the executive director could push for the extension of a special Title III aid program for HBCUs launched under George W. Bush and extended under Barack Obama.

That might help a narrative that has become extremely negative for the White House despite early overtures to HBCUs. In May, Trump suggested that a key financing program for historically black colleges might be unconstitutional before spokesmen quickly backtracked. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos months before drew heavy backlash when she referred to historically black colleges, which were originally established because African-Americans were denied access to higher education, as "pioneers" of school choice. And when DeVos gave the commencement address to graduates of Bethune-Cookman University in May, students loudly booed and jeered throughout her speech. Many in media reports cited those comments from DeVos on HBCUs as well as cuts to higher ed programs that serve black students in the proposed Department of Education budget.

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which represents the country's public historically black colleges, has pursued a strategy of heavy outreach to the Trump administration and provided input on the executive order. Thurgood Marshall President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor Jr., who declined to comment for this article, has argued that partnering with the administration helped to preserve dedicated funding for historically black colleges in the White House even as massive cuts were proposed for programs elsewhere in the federal government. And Taylor has argued the relocation of the HBCU initiative to the White House is a long sought for and significant win for black colleges.

But Trump has passed on speaking to major African-American organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League. And on top of every controversy involving black colleges in his administration is the fact that Trump is a historically unpopular president with African-Americans. Kimbrough said the White House would do well to select a leader for the initiative with unquestionable credentials among the HBCU community who could hit the ground running.

Leonard Haynes, who led the initiative under President George W. Bush, said the fact that it would be relocated to the White House has implications for identifying the right person for the job. He said the leader of the initiative should have excellent interpersonal skills and should understand how the resources of federal agencies can be leveraged to benefit HBCUs. The relocation of the initiative would also have implications for the executive director's dealings with federal agencies, Haynes said.

“When I was the director, I would say, ‘I’m coming from the Department of Education,’” he said. “Now, whoever the executive director is says, ‘I’m coming from the White House,’ and that gets you immediate attention.”

Haynes worked with the White House in crafting the February executive order and has had discussions with the administration about selecting an executive director. While rumored to be under consideration for the job, he said he was not interested in reprising that role himself. Whoever is named, Haynes said, should put together a comprehensive plan for their first 100 days and consult the leaders of historically black colleges across the country to figure out a handful of key priorities they would like to see the initiative address.

A White House spokesman said the administration has several finalists for the position but no decision has been made. The relocation of the initiative from the Department of Education would take place after the new executive director is installed.

Kim Hunter Reed, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, said the power of the initiative comes through its ability to convene various federal offices.

"Our HBCUs have tremendous value," she said. "The leadership in that office has the opportunity to really build relationships and resources to accelerate important work."

One of the biggest opportunities for that work every year comes through the HBCU Week Conference organized by the White House initiative. Work organizing the conference, which takes place in September, has been ongoing for the past year. Still, Kimbrough said the White House needs to have a leader in place by that point. Whoever is named to the post would also have to be ready to work through the fraught relationship between African-Americans and this administration.

"There is some risk. And I think people understand that," he said. "A really good person has to say, how do I assure people in the African-American community that I am still committed to the causes of the African-American community, knowing that there might be some things that the president does that might be diametrically opposed to the interests of African-Americans?"

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