Higher Education News

AAUP discussion centers on the many benefits of embracing students as both 'learners and teachers'

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 07:00

WASHINGTON -- The case for student evaluations of teaching is obvious: students are (hopefully) at each class session, with a front-row seat to the good, the bad and the ugly of instruction. They may also have clear goals about what they want from a course.

Yet the validity of formal, end-of-semester teaching evaluations by students is politically fraught and empirically challenged: advocates say well-designed evaluations work, while opponents say most questionnaires reveal more about student biases than teaching. There are concerns, too, about how students’ evaluations should inform high-stakes personnel decisions about faculty members, such as tenure and promotion.

What if there was a different way, entirely focused on improving instruction, with ancillary benefits to student evaluators? There is, and it works, says Alison Cook-Sather, Mary Katharine Woodworth Professor of Education and director of the Teaching and Learning Institute at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges.

Cook-Sather was on hand here Thursday at the annual meeting of the Association of University Professors to talk about the “pedagogical partnership” program she’s established on her campuses, called Students as Learners and Teachers. She noted other kinds of institutions, including community colleges and public universities, have adopted similar initiatives.

Students as Learners and Teachers

“Students who are not enrolled in courses visit faculty members’ classes, take observation notes, meet with faculty weekly to talk about their teaching,” Cook-Sather said, explaining the partnership program in which 216 professors and 137 students have participated since its inception in 2006, thanks in part of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “The student is not there to evaluate; they’re there to reflect back on what they see from the student’s perspective.”

Pedagogy-focused partnerships are between one instructor and one student not enrolled in the focal course, over the course of a year or semester. Students are compensated for their participation, either through stipends, work-study agreements or academic credit. They must apply for the program, but all are generally accepted, regardless of academic performance or other factors, as diversity of perspective is a deliberate goal.

Working through a central director, with whom they meet once a week, students visit their partner instructors’ classrooms weekly and take detailed notes about what they’ve observed. Did students know what was going on, for example? Did they seem engaged? It doesn’t really matter if student partners know anything about the course or discipline, and students have even observed courses in languages they don’t speak.

Student observers then meet with faculty partners weekly to discuss the observation. Principles underpinning these interactions, Cook-Sather said, are respect, reciprocity and a sense of shared responsibility. The student is not there to berate the instructor, and vice versa. They are, ideally, a team.

The program can also include curriculum-focused partnerships over a semester, in which faculty members and single students or groups of students who are not enrolled in the course at hand meet weekly or every other week to plan or revise the curriculum.

New professors may opt into the program but aren’t required to do so; Cook-Sather said it’s important that the partnership doesn’t “ossify” into something less worthwhile due to institutionalization or coercion. It’s also crucial that the program remain separate from promotion and tenure decisions, she said; professors can include notes from student partners in their files if they choose, but to make the program part of formal evaluation would corrupt its integrity.

The seed for the partnership program was a teacher-preparation program involving high school students years back. And the first iterations of the college-level program focused solely on improving instruction. But soon Cook-Sather saw new possibilities for students via their participation. Or, as she put it in a 2010 paper, “a more encompassing possibility: fostering in students a sense of and capacity for responsibility in ways that not only address existing educational ideals but that also point to both more transformative and more achievable notions of education and accountability than those currently in place.”

Affirming Students' Rights, Extending Their Responsibilities

Seven years (and a book on the topic) later, Cook-Sather is convinced that “pedagogical partnerships affirm students’ rights and extend their responsibilities,” which was, not coincidentally, the topic of her discussion Thursday. “The work that I’ve been doing in my practice and my research for about 20 years is really around how can students have more responsibility for their education, how can they take more responsibility for what happens in college classrooms and also when they’re not enrolled in those college classrooms.”

It’s admittedly “radical,” she said, especially in an era in which so many professors perceive a diminished role in the classroom, the university and academe more broadly. But, she argued, “this is really students and faculty each contributing to what happens in the classroom, but not in the same ways. Faculty bring a kind of expertise; students bring a very different kind of expertise. It’s not about delegitimizing faculty authority or expertise -- it’s really about bringing perspectives together.”

Both professors and students benefit from the program through increased engagement, metacognitive awareness and a stronger sense of identity, and improved classroom experience, Cook-Sather said, sharing the following comment from a student partner: “My preparation for and my discussions with my faculty partner have made me more self-reflexive about my own experience and responsibilities as a student.”

Here’s a comment from a faculty partner: “For the first time, I was able to get the sense of how others experienced the class. Her perspective gave her access to specific insights which I remained blind to: she alerted me to students’ confusion, affirmed and/or challenged my choices of activities, and helped me identify the pedagogical practices that worked, even for the most withdrawn students.”

Participation has notable outcomes for underrepresented students, Cook-Sather added, sharing one student’s expression of increased belonging and empowerment. “Being a student consultant gave me a voice as a person of color when I was not in the role of student consultant … by reinforcing that not only did my perspective, assessment skills and commitment to make spaces safer for underrepresented groups deeply matter -- they could drive important transformation in classrooms and in the student-teacher relationship.”

Co-Creating a Course

Beyond one-on-one pedagogical and curricular partnerships, Cook-Sather also co-creates a course called Advocating Diversity in Higher Education with students enrolled in it. She designed the framework for the class with a student from Students as Learners and Teachers, and now asks the class to help her steer it as it unfolds.

Students complete forms to talk about individual needs concerning access and how their differences or disabilities might be a resource to them or fellow students, in addition to a course commitment form. The latter, used as a self-assessment, lists all assignments and asks students how they wanted to complete them, and for what share of their grades.

Activities include a radical listening activity in which pairs of students discuss how they feel listened to, and a “gallery walk” of the results of students interviewing students on relevant course topics. Assignments included weekly shared readings from a lengthy reading list, a co-created annotated bibliography, “field work” of facilitated conversations and interviews, and a research project on challenges to diversity in higher education with executive summaries delivered to senior college staff members. There's also a final portfolio. 

Students seem to enjoy the experience, based on their feedback. Here’s one comment: “This class has permanently altered the way I think and talk about diversity, higher education and the ways we define activism and advocacy. It’s impacted how I consider and navigate my whiteness in different spaces and without a doubt made me a better person and listener.”

Faculty members in the audience, too, seemed to like what Cook-Sather had to say Thursday, with several commenting that their campuses need this kind of student-faculty partnership. One professor of physics at a historically black institution said his university already had adopted such a practice, and that faculty participants benefit greatly in their promotion and tenure decisions. (In response, Cook-Sather underscored the importance of keeping partnerships separate from personnel decisions unless otherwise indicated by the instructor.)

One professor wondered doubtingly whether pedagogical partnerships could be replicated online, and Cook-Sather said the program does indeed highlight the importance of face-to-face student-faculty interaction. When another professor argued that such an adaptation could work, since so many courses that once seemed impossible to teach virtually are now online, Cook-Sather smiled and said, “You should start one online.”

Not a Replacement for Traditional Evaluations

Cook-Sather said after the session that students still fill out traditional course evaluations at the end of their courses, as is required at Bryn Mawr. But in her co-creation course, she said, she also gathers mid-term feedback from students.

As a result of the "ongoing dialogue" students "tell me that they feel far better able to complete those end-of-semester evaluations in a meaningful way," she said. Students also self-evaluate and assign themselves grades, she said, so various forms of reflection, assessment and evaluation "become intertwined and are, again, threads in an ongoing conversation based on respect and shared responsibility." 

The program is a "tremendous amount of work for the students, and a different kind of work for me than a traditional course, but it is also, students tell me, among the most gratifying work they have done because they have so much agency and accountability not only to themselves and to me but also to one another," Cook-Sather said. "This form of co-creation is equally gratifying for me because I can provide the space, structure, challenge and support that allow individual and also collective deepening of understanding and capacity around what advocating diversity in higher education might mean."

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Education Department suggests less expansive approach to OCR investigations

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 07:00

The Department of Education last week outlined changes to civil rights investigations that advocates fear will mean less consistent findings of systemic discrimination at colleges. 

Under the Obama administration, certain types of civil rights complaints would trigger broader investigations of whether a pattern of discrimination existed at a school or college.

But Candice Jackson, the acting assistant secretary for civil rights, told regional directors for the Office for Civil Rights in a memo that the Department of Education would no longer follow those guidelines. In detailing the latest civil rights shift under Secretary Betsy DeVos, Jackson wrote that the department was setting aside existing rules and empowering investigators with more discretion to clear case backlogs and address complaints in a timely manner.

“There is no longer a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the investigation of any category of complaints,” she wrote in the memo, which was first reported by ProPublica.

The shift is significant because many of the violations OCR has found in recent years have involved systemic issues that go beyond the original complaint that prompted investigators to look into a college or school.

Former department officials and advocates for victims of discrimination say it’s critical to examine individual cases in the context of wider practices at an institution -- and to apply that standard consistently across various OCR offices.

Alexandra Brodsky, a co-founder of Know Your IX and a fellow at the National Women’s Law Center, said the OCR process is designed to be friendly to students and families who don’t have access to lawyers. And those complainants don’t typically have the knowledge of the legal language or their institution’s track record to make the case for a broader investigation, she said.

“Looking at context is the opposite of ‘one size fits all,’” Brodsky said. “What it’s acknowledging is a single student’s complaint can only be understood in the broader context of a university’s respect or lack thereof for civil rights.”

The memo doesn’t preclude investigative teams and regional directors from conducting that kind of broad review, including an examination of past complaint data at an institution. Instead, investigators would have more discretion to determine what additional records are necessary to find if other students from similar backgrounds were mistreated.

Civil rights investigators will only apply a systemic or class-action approach where individuals making complaints allege those issues or where an investigative team determines that approach is called for.

The instructions from Jackson also drop requirements that regional offices automatically confer with OCR headquarters in Washington on certain kinds of cases.

Catherine Lhamon, former assistant secretary for civil rights and now chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, said under her tenure at the department regional offices would notify headquarters when they received a complaint that qualified for that sensitive-case list. Collaborative discussions would follow about what information was sufficient for an investigation, what proposed resolutions might include and whether sufficient work had been completed to resolve an investigation.

“Typically, the issues on the sensitive-case list were issues in developing areas of law and developing areas of expertise across OCR,” she said. “The offices benefited from those conversations with each other.”

Lhamon said dropping the sensitive-case list could mean fewer of those discussions at the department. More worrisome, she said, is the possibility Jackson’s memo would make it more likely for OCR to miss or ignore systemic problems when there are already powerful incentives to close complaints without sufficient review.

“When you start an investigation, you don’t know what you don’t know,” she said.

Lhamon pointed to multiple resolution agreements between the department and universities over the past two years that found systemic issues or serious problems not brought to investigators’ attention in an original complaint. Those expansive reviews can also reveal where an institution is doing a much better job than realized. A June 2016 resolution of a sexual violence and harassment complaint at Occidental College found “a campus actively engaged in important work to satisfy Title IX responsibilities” that had not been transparent about that work with students.

Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said the changes are about ensuring every individual complainant gets the care and attention they deserve.

“In OCR, processing times have skyrocketed in recent years, and the case backlog has exploded. Justice delayed is justice denied, and justice for many complainants has been denied for too long,” she said in an email. “These internal enforcement instructions seek to clear out the backlog while giving every complaint the individualized and thorough consideration it deserves. There is no longer an artificial requirement to collect several years' of data when many complaints can be adequately addressed much more efficiently and quickly. These new instructions also direct that all civil rights violations be given equal care and importance, and every type of civil right to be enforced with equal vigor and vigilance.”

Broader Context of Policy

Although Jackson’s letter laid out instructions to OCR staff and not institutions, it’s the second time since DeVos came on at the department that it has apparently changed course on civil rights, to the consternation of advocates. Citing ongoing legal challenges, DeVos in February withdrew 2016 guidelines from the Obama administration involving how universities and school districts should handle discrimination against transgender students.

DeVos also received criticism from LGBT advocates when she suggested in a Senate budget hearing this month that there is unsettled law on civil rights enforcement in those areas. And civil rights groups and Democratic lawmakers have criticized a 40-position staffing cut to the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education’s proposed 2018 budget.

Lhamon wrote to the office’s regional directors that OCR’s core mission is “to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence through vigorous enforcement of civil rights in our nation’s schools.” But advocates said the memo sets up a false dichotomy between making remedies to systemic problems and reaching timely resolution of individual complaints. Brodsky said the best answer to large case backlogs and wait times isn’t a change in approach to investigations.

“The answer is full funding for OCR,” Brodsky said. “It can’t do its job when it’s short staffed.”

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Area job losses can keep students from attending college, research finds

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 07:00

The ripple effects of large-scale job losses linger for years and can keep adolescents from attending college later in life, according to new research carrying significant ramifications for policy makers, college recruiters and counselors.

Poor middle school and high school students who live through major job losses in their region attend college at significantly lower rates when they are 19 years old, according to new research published in the June 16 issue of the journal Science. A 7 percent state job loss when a student is an adolescent is tied to a 20 percent decline in likelihood that the poorest young people will attend college.

Local job losses hurt adolescent mental health, researchers found. Job losses also cut academic performance. The negative impacts are not limited to children from families where parents lost jobs -- they extend to those who witness their friends, neighbors and others in the community being affected by layoffs.

The effects are particularly strong among students from the poorest families and among African-American students. Those students have the lowest levels of family wealth to fall back upon when they lose a job and the income it brings. African-Americans also tend to face the highest barriers to employment.

Researchers argue that large-scale job losses are not simply economic events touching directly affected families. They are community-level traumas, said Elizabeth O. Ananat, an associate professor of public policy studies and economics at Duke University who is one of the lead authors of the paper appearing in Science.

“Worse mental health and worse test scores, they are all going to be blows to you that knock you off the path,” Ananat said. “That was a difficult path to begin with.”

The findings shed important light on the fate of communities and young students affected as new technology and globalization brought economic upheaval and blue-collar job losses in recent decades. The research should also carry weight for colleges and universities, which are expected to have to recruit increasing numbers of poor and minority students as income inequality rises and the population of prospective students grows increasingly diverse in coming years.

“High-income kids are largely going to go to college regardless,” said Anna Gassman-Pines, another of the paper’s authors who is an associate professor of public policy, psychology and neuroscience at Duke.

“Where we’re really seeing this decrease is concentrated among the lowest-income kids,” Gassman-Pines said. “That’s increasing inequality.”

Many college leaders argue they need to attract students by making a better argument for the value of higher education. That outlook aligns with the predominant economic theory for how a middle or high school student who has experienced job loss in the community should rationally act.

In the economic theory, a student may have watched their father lose his job when a mine closed. Or they watched a friend’s mother be laid off when the local factory downsized. Those students should then be drawn to a college education because of the promise of larger financial returns and more stable employment in the newly developing knowledge economy.

In other words, economic theory has tended to focus on the idea that a shrinking pool of blue-collar jobs increases the relative return on investment of a college education. But it’s not working that way in the real world.

“Economists tend to think about it as a change in relative prices -- the return changes,” Ananat said. “They miss the fact that it’s an emotional blow, like another kind of community trauma would be.”

Researchers analyzed statewide job losses from 1995 to 2011. Their data included all 50 states. They also examined data on educational mobility that show how much a person’s college attendance at the age of 19 is predicted by their parents’ income.

They found no evidence that families moving out of depressed areas in response to job losses impacted their results. Nor was lost family income enough to explain the drops in students’ educational mobility. Variations in state college tuition levels did not change the effects of job losses on students’ attendance.

“It’s not to say that affordability isn’t an issue,” Ananat said. “We’re saying it’s not the mechanism by which job losses drive inequality.”

Researchers did find that job losses to 1 percent of the working-age population decreased eighth-grade math achievement test scores. The effect was too large to be limited only to students whose parents had lost their jobs. An indirectly impacted group experienced learning losses about one-third of the size of losses among children whose parents lost jobs, they found.

Similar effects were found for students’ mental health -- those affected by job loss showed poorer levels of mental health. The effects of job losses on mental health were most pronounced among young African-Americans, whose reported thoughts of suicide increased by 2.33 percentage points in response to statewide job losses. Again, the change was too large to be prompted only by those whose parents had experienced job losses.

“This is not a story where there needs to be two sets of solutions for some imagined different set of problems,” Ananat said. “Whether you’re from France or Nebraska or Baltimore, this is a traumatic thing that is happening to everybody who is not sort of in this robust knowledge economy.”

There is evidence that the negative effects of job losses are blunted by other jobs being readily available. College attendance is higher across income levels after job losses in states with low unemployment levels, researchers found. Declines in test scores and mental health were also smaller.

Researchers suggested exploring policies like rigorous job training for workers receiving unemployment compensation. They also suggested evaluating whether re-employment policies can soften the effects of economic disruption on student outcomes.

For colleges, the findings could affect recruiting in areas experiencing economic upheaval, Ananat said. She also said colleges may want to explore additional outreach to students who have been affected by job losses. “It’s understanding the experience of kids who aren’t the stereotypical college student,” Ananat said. “It’s not just money.”

The findings could also indicate more investment is needed in local community colleges and states’ nonflagship institutions, particularly those located near areas hit by job losses. Students tend to go to local institutions.

The research could have additional ramifications for colleges after students arrive on campus, Gassman-Pines said.

“Certainly mental health on college campuses is a really big issue right now,” she said. “Job losses in those communities may not be on the radar.”

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White House seeks to expand apprenticeships with a bigger role for industry

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 07:00

President Trump on Thursday signed an executive order that seeks to expand apprenticeships, in part by opening the door to alternative education providers and giving industry groups a more active role with the federal apprenticeship program.

“Apprenticeships place students into great jobs without the crippling debt of traditional four-year college degrees,” Trump said at the White House event. “Instead, apprentices earn while they learn.”

The administration did not mention any new money Thursday, but sources said it plans to announce an allocation of up to $200 million, which would be more than double the $90 million for apprenticeships in this year’s federal budget.

The White House has said it wants growth industries that historically have not focused much on apprenticeships, including health care, IT and manufacturing, to expand their offerings.

As expected, the executive order calls for the creation of a federal task force to help promote apprenticeships. Among other goals, the committee has been tasked with how best to bring industry into the quality-control and oversight side of federally recognized apprenticeships, which have a required educational component and typically last more than two years.

“We will be removing federal restrictions that have prevented many different industries from creating apprenticeship programs,” Trump said at the Thursday event. “So we're empowering these companies, these unions, industry groups, federal agencies to go out and create new apprenticeships for millions of our citizens.”

Roughly 505,000 people work in federally registered apprenticeships. Employers must apply to participate in the program, and many say the registration process is needlessly cumbersome. In addition, they receive little or no federal subsidies for their apprenticeship programs. As a result, critics say the process has helped keep employer participation relatively light -- just 0.3 percent of the work force are apprentices.

However, the federal program also includes a range of standards designed to ensure the quality of the work and learning experience, in addition to protecting apprentices. The rules include wage requirements and minimum time at work sites and on the related learning side, which occurs at community colleges, four-year institutions or at unaccredited education providers such as labor unions and industry associations.

The new executive order encourages federal agencies to help nongovernmental and noncollege organizations create apprenticeship programs that could be fast-tracked for federal registration status.

“These third parties may include trade and industry groups, companies, nonprofit organizations, unions, and joint labor-management organizations,” the order said.

While a broad range of experts and industry groups praised the administration’s focus on apprenticeships, some worried about opening up the federal process to outside players.

“What is the purpose of this alternative system? It’s not clear that they’re solving any problems with it,” said Mary Alice McCarthy, director of the Center on Education and Skills with the education policy program at New America and a former official at the U.S. Education and Labor Departments. “Apprenticeship has some very clear standards. That’s why it works so well.”

McCarthy said possible problems with relaxing and outsourcing federal standards for apprenticeships include confusion, fragmentation and potentially registering programs that are too short term or that fail to yield portable credentials. Likewise, U.S. Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia, who is the top Democrat on the House education committee, said in a written statement that the order fails to "maintain necessary quality controls and accountability requirements."

Business groups welcomed the administration’s move, however. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a written statement applauded the White House for “offering solutions that bring the business community to the table.”

The Business Roundtable had a similar message.

“Work-and-learn models, including internships and apprenticeships, are powerful tools to close the skills gap and meet our nation’s work force needs. We support the president’s challenge and look forward to partnering with government at every level as we work together to rebuild the pipeline that generates top talent,” Wes Bush, the chairman, CEO and President of Northrop Grumman Corporation and chair of the Business Roundtable’s Education and Workforce Committee, said in a written statement.

The National Skills Coalition said it appreciates that the executive order includes a public comment period on new regulations from the Labor Department that relate to the apprenticeship push.

“NSC hopes to work with the administration to make sure the new system offers the protections and transparency necessary to ensure that new apprentices will receive the necessary wage gains and industry certifications that will put them on a path to a family-supporting career,” Andy Van Kleunen, the coalition’s CEO, said in a written statement.

The Trump administration has taken plenty of heat from congressional Democrats and others, including a few Republicans, by calling for deep cuts to federal job-training programs while also seeking to expand apprenticeships.

“It cannot be ignored that the president’s proposed 2018 budget slashed funding to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and to adult education,” Van Kleunen said. “These federal programs have strong bipartisan support in Congress and are being reformed to be more responsive to the needs of business through local industry partnerships.”

Yet Trump’s executive order appeared to defend that philosophy: “Finally, federally funded education and work force development programs that do not work must be improved or eliminated so that taxpayer dollars can be channeled to more effective uses.”

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Florida colleges take hit on remediation, veto cap on B.A. degrees

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 07:00

The last couple of months has been difficult for Florida's two-year colleges.

They’ve been faced with a Legislature that has sought to fundamentally change how the state’s two-year colleges operate, in addition to the potential loss of millions of state dollars.

On Wednesday, Governor Rick Scott vetoed a higher education bill that would have capped bachelor’s degree enrollments at the colleges, removed the two-year institutions from the purview of the State Board of Education and renamed the state institutions “community colleges,” as they were called eight years ago.

Part of Scott’s reasoning for vetoing the bill was his approval of about $25 million in cuts to the two-year college system, of which most of the money cut was earmarked for remediation programs. Those cuts were part of the annual 2017-18 state budget that Scott signed off on June 2. Scott said that for the past four years, the state has maintained tuition at the 28 state colleges to make them affordable for families, but that legislation created unnecessary red tape.

“We’ll continue to do the best we can with what we have,” said Jesse Coraggio, vice president of institutional effectiveness and academic services at St. Petersburg College. “The important thing is our students. They come first, and that’s where we’ll put our resources. And when we have less funding, we have to make adjustments in other areas.”

St. Petersburg, which was one of the first of the state colleges to make developmental education adjustments following the state Legislature’s decision to reform remediation, would lose about $1.8 million in funding. In 2014, Florida lifted a mandate on requiring the least college-ready high school graduates to take developmental education. Subsequently, enrollment in those courses decreased, which some legislators saw as an invitation to reduce funding for remediation.

But the governor’s veto could work out favorably for colleges like St. Petersburg. The institution anticipated exceeding the proposed cap on bachelor’s degrees by the end of this spring. The cap would have meant enrollment in bachelor’s degree programs could not exceed 15 percent of an institution’s total student population. St. Petersburg was the first two-year college in the state to offer bachelor’s degrees.

“We’re experiencing declining enrollment, but one area that continues to grow for us is bachelor's degree programs,” Coraggio said. “When you look at the enrollment percentage relationship, it would’ve made it more difficult for us.”

In his veto letter, Scott acknowledged that the legislation would have made positive changes to the several university systems, but “it does so at the expense of the Florida College System.” For instance, the legislation would have expanded financial aid programs that benefit college and university students, however, Scott said programs like the Florida Bright Futures Academic Scholars are not harmed by the veto because they were already included in the full state budget. The Bright Futures program is a non-need-based scholarship.

But the concerns surrounding remediation in the state continue.

“The governor should be applauded for vetoing the bill,” said Davis Jenkins, a senior research associate at Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College. “However, the proposed … cut for the state colleges is a concern. Since Florida is not facing unusually bad budget pressures this year, the question is why the state colleges would be cut when the universities are not. Both are essential for the vitality of the state.”

A new report by Florida State University’s Center for Postsecondary Success found a decline in the percentage of administrators who think the law that lifted the mandate on remediation is working. The researchers found that the proportion of administrators who agree or strongly agree that the policy has been effective has decreased from 74 percent in 2015 to 39 percent in 2017.

“They could become more concerned because there are real budget cuts this year,” said Shouping Hu, a professor of higher education and director of the center.

The legislation certainly helped students who found they could succeed without remediation, Hu said, adding that these students tended to be disadvantaged or minority students who were more likely to be mistakenly placed in remediation in the past.

But at the same time, a number of institutions added support services and reformed their remedial courses to better support students, he said.

“And all of those services cost money, particularly in the early years,” Hu said. “Institutional leaders may be very worried about this situation. They want to help students succeed, but they also have to deal with the budget situation.”

The report revealed that colleges have tried increasing the workload of advising staff without extra pay and using faculty for advising as a way to lower the expense of the remedial reforms. The college leaders surveyed felt they had made numerous improvements to the advising process, but fewer than a third of respondents said advisers had enough time to meet with students.

“Florida has done a lot of work trying to rapidly reform developmental education, and they did enthusiastically move forward on a lot of efforts to help students be college ready faster,” said Karen Stout, president and chief executive officer of Achieving the Dream. “They hired new advisers, set up tutoring centers, aligned tutoring with content, did corequisite courses, and it all has initial costs and continuing costs.”

Corequisite remedial courses combine college-level classes with additional supports like tutoring.

In St. Petersburg, the college responded to the initial remedial reforms by redesigning software systems that collected more detailed high school record information and created an early prediction model, so that even if students opted out of the placement exam, they could make a more informed decision about whether or not they needed a developmental course, Coraggio said, adding that the college also added support services to gateway courses.

“Bottom line is revenue saved through declines in remedial enrollment should not be considered a savings, but rather reallocated to support students in college-level gateway courses,” Jenkins said.

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Louisville basketball coach suspended for five games for prostitution scandal in program

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 07:00

The University of Louisville’s head basketball coach has been suspended for the first five Atlantic Coast Conference games of the season, a piece of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s punishment stemming from a prostitution scandal that has roiled the institution for two years.

Though some legal experts and others versed in NCAA infractions say the penalties announced Thursday amount to little more than a wrist slap for Head Coach Rick Pitino and the university, Louisville officials vehemently disagreed with the association’s Committee on Infractions ruling and intend to appeal it entirely. At risk is the Cardinals’ national title, won in 2013 -- the NCAA ordered certain victories vacated as a part of the sanctions. Whether the title game will be forfeited remains unclear.

Some in academe had hoped that the NCAA would hand down harsher consequences, which might have signaled the panel’s willingness to hold head coaches more accountable for their programs. Historically, head coaches have largely avoided responsibility for major violations in their programs because their institutions (and the NCAA) have blamed the assistants proven to have engaged in the wrongdoing. The NCAA changed its rules several years ago to try to hold head coaches more responsible for rules breaches that occur under their watch -- and Louisville was seen as a test case for those rules.

The university “stands behind” Pitino, said Kenny Klein, a spokesman with the athletics department.

A former Louisville director of operations, Andre McGee, was found to have paid escorts to strip and have sex with both recruits and enrolled players in a residence hall occupied almost exclusively by the basketball team. The university launched an investigation after the head of the escort service, Katina Powell, published a tell-all book alleging McGee paid $10,000 or so for years of dancing and prostitution.

The NCAA investigation unearthed that these activities went on for at least four years without being flagged. Pitino exercised poor oversight over the program, the NCAA found, including failing to watch over the dormitory -- which he raised money to help build in the name of one of his family members -- and not properly monitoring McGee.

McGee left Louisville for an assistant coaching job at the University of Missouri-Kansas City but resigned from there in 2015 after the scandal went public. He refused to participate in the NCAA inquiry and can no longer work in an athletic role at any NCAA institution for a decade as part of the penalties.

The recruits -- most of whom were minors when McGee presented them with the strippers -- and players who participated were declared ineligible by the NCAA. As a result, some team wins from December 2010 to July 2014 will be vacated.

Carol Cartwright, former president of Kent State and Bowling Green State Universities and the chief hearing officer for the infractions panel, would not specify which games were to be vacated, indicating the university would announce that later.

Should the 2013 title game be forfeited, the university would need to return all awards and remove memorabilia celebrating the victory. Officials estimate more than 100 games and 15 NCAA tournament wins could be affected.

Top university officials held a news conference Thursday and expressed unanimous displeasure with the NCAA decision. Interim President Greg Postel in his opening statement called the sanctions “excessive.”

“There has been a heavy toll on the community, our fans and on players who played no part in the activities which took place,” Postel said.

In addition to the restrictions on Pitino and McGee, the university will be placed on a four-year probation and pay a $5,000 fine. It must also return all the money it received through conference revenue sharing from appearances in the Division I basketball tournament from 2012 through 2015. Officials have not calculated that cost to the university.

During the probationary period, no prospective player may spend the night in a campus dormitory or other university-owned property.

Though the university decided to reduce the number of basketball scholarships offered this academic year by two, the NCAA has instructed it to take away four more during the probationary period. Recruitment efforts are also more limited.

The university elected to not participate in postseason matches in 2016.

At the news conference, Postel sat alongside a roster of university representatives -- Pitino, Athletics Director Tom Jurich, and Chuck Smrt, president of a consulting firm specializing in NCAA compliance, the Compliance Group. The group has assisted Louisville since the investigation began, Klein said. He did not know much the Compliance Group had been paid for its work.

University officials found the penalties more severe than they had expected, said Smrt, a former NCAA investigator.

The NCAA actually based its punishment on its old penalty structure that was active when the incidents occurred -- if it had used the new one, the consequences would have been much tougher, the NCAA said.

Louisville had argued that it should be subject to fewer sanctions because the “monetary value” associated with the strippers was so low -- reasoning that Jo Potuto, who previously chaired the NCAA infractions committee and is a constitutional law professor at the University of Nebraska, found “absurd.”

Potuto said the Louisville case can’t be relied on as a precedent because the NCAA used the older penalty system. She stressed that she was dissecting the punishment as an outsider, and that there may be more nuance, but she found the punishment “light.”

“To suggest it’s not as significant because there’s no monetary value,” Potuto said, “well, I think parents would think paying a kid $1,000 is a whole lot more respectful in the way college athletes should be treated rather than giving them a prostitute.”

During Thursday’s conference, Pitino was unsmiling, at times clasping his hands in front of his face. Pitino, who has served as Louisville’s head coach since 2001, said that he had “lost faith” in the NCAA. When a reporter asked what he was taking responsibility for, he replied, “I’m not answering that question.”

He told the reporter he knew what was being “alluded to” and said that he had helped train 31 assistant coaches, all of whom went on to take leadership positions. He also said he never thought about resigning.

The NCAA considered Pitino to have committed a Level I infraction -- the most serious of all that would undermine the integrity of the collegiate athletics system.

In its report, NCAA found that Pitino hadn’t properly supervised McGee. The report states that Pitino, in an interview with investigators, said the responsibility of overseeing McGee fell to assistant coaches -- all of whom said they were unaware of that duty. In the news conference, Pitino characterized it differently, saying that the accountability was shared by everyone in the program.

McGee, a former Louisville player, handled recruiting visits and was installed in the dormitory in a watchdog type of role for the basketball players. The institution did not follow its own rules for when a guest, particularly a 16- or 17-year-old, would visit, the investigation found. For years, McGee would arrange for strippers to come in and dance for recruits and others, such as a recruit’s friends and enrolled players.

The escort would then take the recruit to a bedroom and offer either oral sex or intercourse. Some of the recruits would refuse and were uncomfortable, the report states.

The infractions committee never discovered evidence that Pitino knew about the strippers, and the NCAA punishments are not based on the assumption that he did. When recruits came to campus, he would ask innocuous questions -- like how they were enjoying the stay or saying how interested Louisville was in them.

Pitino and the athletics director, Jurich, appeared baffled that in the age of social media, the incidents weren't revealed earlier. Pitino called them "one of the greatest hidden things" he had ever observed. The NCAA report characterized the parties as similar to events in a fraternity house -- saying they occurred in the wee hours of the morning, when no one knew.

Potuto said she hoped and believed that the institution would not win its appeal. Louisville will petition an NCAA committee separate from the infractions panel.

The university has about two weeks to appeal, and the whole process will take about three months before a hearing date is set, Smrt said.

Pitino ended the conference Thursday with a pledge to fight the NCAA.

“I plan on staying here and winning multiple championships, not just one. I plan on going to multiple Final Fours, not just one. And that’s what leaders do. They lead the players they’re coaching. They ask for forgiveness for what happened for what one of your employees did. You were extremely contrite. I know the committee was sickened by it, but so were we. But we did not deserve what they gave us, and that’s the bottom line. They made a very large mistake. And our faith has to be put in the hands of the committee … of appeals. Because we are just as disappointed in what went on [as] the committee was, but we did not deserve any of it all. We will fight every single bit to the end. And we will move forward, because that’s what leaders do.”

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MLA votes by large margin to 'refrain' from backing Israel boycott

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 07:00

By a large margin, members of the Modern Language Association have voted to “refrain from endorsing the boycott” of Israeli universities that has been pushed for years -- including within the MLA -- by advocates for Palestinians.

For years, the MLA's Delegate Assembly has debated various measures related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In January the Delegate Assembly rejected a resolution endorsing the boycott of Israel, and then by a narrow margin approved a resolution that the MLA should refrain from endorsing the boycott. Under MLA rules, measures that are approved by the Delegate Assembly are then sent to the full membership for approval. Ten percent of MLA members must vote in favor of a resolution for it to become association policy -- a bar that few resolutions have been able to get over.

This year, the MLA announced Wednesday, there were 18,279 eligible voters, so 1,828 votes were required to ratify the resolution. The measure for the association to refrain from boycotting Israeli universities was passed by a vote of 1,954 to 885.

The move to boycott Israeli universities has for years had strong support in British academe, but had been less evident in the United States. That changed in 2013, and about half a dozen U.S.-based scholarly associations, including the American Studies Association and the National Women’s Studies Association, have backed the boycott. Those votes led many college and university presidents to issue statements opposing the boycott. The boycott movement attracted little support in the physical and biological sciences and technology fields, where ties between American and Israeli institutions have been growing.

But starting last year, the boycott movement lost significant momentum -- even in academic groups that have many members who are critical of Israel's policies. The American Anthropological Association last year narrowly voted down a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions. And now the MLA has adopted as official policy an anti-boycott stance.

Russell Berman, the Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities, as well as a professor of comparative literature and German studies at Stanford University, has been among the leaders of those opposing the Israel boycott.

"This is a good outcome for the MLA and for higher education," Berman said via email. "It affirms the principle that scholars should not boycott scholars. The MLA membership does not want to be pulled into political controversies that have little or nothing to do with the mission of the association. Instead, at a time when the humanities face major threats, we have crucial battles before us concerning funding for public universities, the status of non-tenure-track instructors, and the future of the NEH. It is time to put the divisive boycott debate behind us and to unite as a professional association to meet these challenges."

Rebecca Comay, professor of philosophy and comparative literature at the University of Toronto, and a supporter of the boycott movement, had a very different reaction.

"This is a shameful moment for the MLA," Comay said. "It will contribute to the climate of repression on campuses everywhere. It will serve to undermine the efforts of pro-Palestinian human rights activists. It sends out a clear message to the membership that the priority of the association is to protect the privilege of Israeli and American scholars."

The debate within the MLA and other scholarly associations has always been about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and also about the role of scholarly organizations.

On the former set of issues, proponents of the boycott have said that Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories -- now in place for 50 years -- is a moral outrage on which professors should take a stand. The growth of the boycott movement in American academe has come during years that the Likud Party has controlled the government of Israel, and the optimism that followed Camp David and Oslo has been long forgotten.

Opponents of the boycott movement have frequently stressed that they, like their opponents on the issue, oppose many Israeli policies and favor Palestinian statehood. Many anti-boycott speeches at MLA sessions started with variations of "I don't support the Israeli government, but …"

While critics have generally focused on arguments about the role of the MLA, many have also said that the pro-boycott side has made exaggerated criticisms of Israel and singled out that country in a way that is unfair. Many have also said that academic boycotts violate principles of academic freedom and make a false assumption that academics back the political leaders' positions. (In Israel, many of the staunchest supporters of Palestinian rights are within academe.)

With regard to the role of scholarly associations, supporters of the boycott have said that academic groups can exercise influence by taking stands on important issues. But critics have said that academic groups should focus on subjects on which they have unique expertise and should avoid contentious political issues that (even if they have an impact on academe) are not fundamentally academic issues.

Debate over these issues is not unique to the MLA or the Middle East. For example, members of the American Historical Association in 2007 voted to condemn the war in Iraq, and the debate featured hardly anyone in favor of the war, but many who worried about potential downsides to the AHA taking any position as an organization on the subject.

The debates in various associations over the Israel boycott have also renewed deliberation over whether those who attend various events at scholarly meetings reflect their disciplines as a whole.

In the case of the MLA, a narrow vote for the refrain resolution at the Delegate Assembly was followed by a 2-to-1 vote in favor when all members were invited to participate. In the case of the anthropology association, the full membership's very narrow vote against the boycott followed an overwhelming vote in favor of boycott -- 1,040 to 136 -- by attendees of the annual meeting.

Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the MLA, said in an interview that "if you look at the fewer than 200 delegates who participate" in the Delegate Assembly votes, "that's going to be a different conversation than if you open it up to the whole membership."

The MLA leadership did not take a stand on the vote, but has been studying the issue of when the association should speak out on public issues, she said.

Feal noted the contrast between the debates on the Middle East in the Delegate Assembly and much of the rest of the MLA convention. The Delegate Assembly typically features long discussions of professional issues, such as the treatment of non-tenure-track faculty members. Indeed, those discussions may not capture public attention. And the vast majority of those at the MLA's annual conclaves are attending sessions about literature or language or teaching, or are serving on search committees -- and many pay little attention to the political debates in the Delegate Assembly.

In advance of this year's vote to refrain from the Israel boycott, some supporters of the boycott said that the measure would limit their rights of free speech.

Timothy Brennan, a professor of comparative literature, English and American studies at the University of Minnesota, wrote on the website of MLA Members for Justice in Palestine that the resolution, "which suppresses debate over Israel within the MLA and, indeed, is intended to prevent any public statement by the organization critical of the Israeli state is itself an outrage and a betrayal, of course, of everything the MLA nominally stands for … It is a mood very much in the spirit of the United States’ more general rightward turn, but now taken up enthusiastically, it appears, by a frustrated sector sick and tired of critical thought, angry at its own professional disenfranchisement, and eager to get revenge on the humanities’ earlier progressive commitments."

Feal said she did not believe anyone's right to expression was being denied. She noted that MLA members maintain the right to repeal the resolution. Further, she noted that the resolution was narrowly focused on the Israel boycott, and did not preclude resolutions that are critical of Israel, or sessions at MLA meetings that feature criticism of Israel.

Cary Nelson, Jubilee Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been a prominent anti-boycott voice in the MLA. His position has surprised and angered many of his longtime allies within the MLA. Via email he said that the key to the vote's outcome was an effort by boycott opponents to encourage people to participate in the referendum.

"We believed from the outset that the majority of members did not want to debate an MLA foreign policy, that they wanted to concentrate instead on defending an imperiled profession and helping its most vulnerable graduate student and contingent members," Nelson said. "The challenge was to get out the vote, and many of us worked hard at that task. But MLA members also do not believe that Israel is the Darth Vader of nations; they have lent their voice to the growing chorus of those who do not want to boycott Israeli universities but instead choose to talk with their students and faculty about literature and to work with them to promote the cause of peace."

 

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For-credit MOOC proves popular among MIT students

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 07:00

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s catalog of publicly available massive open online courses is typically marketed toward the non-MIT public. Last fall, however, the university experimented by offering the MOOC version of a popular class for on-campus students, for credit, in an attempt to help students facing scheduling issues.

A recently released study of the class found students not only performed well but also -- at an institution known for its rigor -- reported feeling less stress and having more flexibility.

MIT’s circuits and electronics class was offered in a MOOC format, supplemented by a private discussion forum specifically for enrolled students, both semesters this academic year. Some professors across the university use the MOOC format to supplement in-person classes, but this course was the first of its kind in the sense that the MOOC model completely replaced the in-person model.

Students in the fall MOOC -- which the study notes was taught by a different instructor than the in-person course, with “different styles and/or topics of focus” -- reported the circuits and electronics class was “significantly less stressful” compared to their various in-person classes, according to the study. While the study on the spring session isn’t completed, the study on the fall class has MIT administrators thinking about what can be done to create a more flexible, digitally enhanced learning atmosphere for students and professors. The MOOC pilot came about after students reported frustration with scheduling conflicts.

“As you can imagine, MIT students are a very active bunch,” said Sheryl Barnes, director of digital learning in residential education. “And they expressed frustration they couldn’t resolve scheduling conflicts by having more flexibility.”

The course itself was a good benchmark to use for an experiment because of its history at the university and as a MOOC, Barnes said.

“The class itself is quite significant,” she said. “MIT and the faculty have invested a lot in the class, and it’s been refined through this [online] delivery. A lot more students have taken it and experienced it -- that refinement had some benefit.”

The study’s sample size is small -- 31 students started the class, and 27 students completed it -- and there were slight differences in the homework and exam format compared to the in-person class, but the study reported that the difference in the distribution of final grades wasn’t statistically significant between the in-person and MOOC groups. The MOOC homework sets and exams allowed for multiple tries on a question if the student got it wrong, although that also meant that questions were all-or-nothing, with no partial credit. MOOC students were also unable to review graded exams to figure out where they had strayed off course.

MOOC students did have opportunities to meet with professors and the TA, although the study reported “few opted to attend office hours.”

One of the students quoted in the study said the instant feedback of the homework was a key to lowering stress.

“I really like just getting the instant feedback of knowing that after the homework is done I know I’m done now, and I don’t have to worry about, like, ‘Oh, but what if this question was wrong?’ And then you’d have that in the back of your mind, and so you turn it in,” the student said. “That’s stressful, and it was nice just getting that feedback.”

The study notes that instant online feedback for homework is available to students who take in-person classes that use MIT’s MOOC system as a supplement, so its use is not necessarily unique, although it was a factor for every student in the circuits and electronics class in this study.

The same student also identified the instant feedback of the homework as being helpful for learning. To protect their privacy, students were anonymous.

“Another thing that I really liked is just getting the answers right away, so if I tried a question, and I’m like, ‘Oh, whoa, I got that, but I don’t really know exactly why this worked,’” the student told researchers. “I could go back instantly when I’m involved with a question, and it’s still fresh in my mind, and, like, look at the solution, and be, ‘OK, that’s how they did it.’”

The study comes just after a Brookings Institution report, created with data from DeVry University, cast doubt on how well less prepared students do with traditional online classes. The Brookings study and the MIT study are both full of caveats -- they use data limited to one university each, and MIT’s study was done on a MOOC course, not a traditional online course. But MIT’s study seemed to support another finding in the Brookings study, which was that well-prepared students don’t suffer the same negative effects from taking online classes that less well-prepared students do.

As for MIT, the study was conducted primarily because of scheduling concerns from students, not specifically to look at how much the university can or should shift the balance of online versus in-person course work, Barnes said. She said that based on the studies results, those questions may arise, but any proliferation of MOOC courses on MIT’s campus would have to come from the bottom up.

“[Expanding MOOC offerings] will be defined by what individual faculty want to do at MIT, and the faculty committee that determines the curriculum,” Barnes said.

As for the advantages of the MOOC apparently easing students’ stress?

“Students had reported [in 2014] that flexibility in the curriculum had been one of the key areas for MIT to explore. That was a broad report, not just [the Office of Distance Learning], but it’s gratifying to help be able to meet some of these key areas,” Barnes said, calling the MOOC “one more tool in the tool box.”

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Connecticut lawmakers want universities to publish transfer credit data

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 07:00

A pending Connecticut law will now mandate that the University of Connecticut and the state’s four other public universities publicly release data on which transfer student credits they accept and which they reject.

Supporters say the bill, which the Legislature passed last week, would make transfer between the state’s community colleges and universities more transparent and clear for students, researchers and the state’s legislators.

“There has been a lot of incorrect information about student transfer, therefore we support the Legislature’s decision to request annual reports using accurate and qualified data for these programs instead of relying on anecdotal evidence,” Maribel La Luz, director of communications for the state’s community college and university system, said in an email.

Beyond reporting which credits are accepted and rejected, the universities -- Southern, Central, Western and Eastern Connecticut State Universities, along with UConn -- also would have to publicize their transfer graduation rates.

“I don’t know of any other state where the universities are required to report which credits don’t transfer and on the graduation rates of transfer students,” said Davis Jenkins, senior researcher at Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College, adding that Washington and other states offer the information voluntarily. “But I think this is an important piece of consumer news, because students are concerned about their credits.”

Last year CCRC released a study measuring the effectiveness of states and institutions in helping community college students earn four-year degrees. Connecticut ranked 30th out of 43 states in the study, which found that the state's 12 community colleges had a 29 percent transfer-out rate and a 34 percent transfer-out bachelor's degree completion rate.

The legislation is connected to a new state system announced in April called Transfer Tickets. Prior to the bill, the universities didn't have to report transfer statistics, but Transfer Tickets will help solve that problem. The system creates a community college transfer pathway from all 12 two-year institutions to the public universities. Similar to UConn’s Guaranteed Admission Program, the Transfer Tickets allow students to transfer entire programs of study. Those students are guaranteed full junior status and can complete a bachelor’s degree in their major without losing any credits or being required to take extra credits.

At Central Connecticut State University, which received about 900 transfer students this fall, of which up to 45 percent are from the community colleges, Transfer Ticket is expected to help identify students in the application process and provide clarity to students on how credits are transferred, said Larry Hall, director of recruitment and admissions at Central Connecticut.

"This gives students hope that they can complete at one of the public state universities in Connecticut," Hall said. "It's very clear and transparent how things should be moving, so they don't have to question and it creates a positive pipeline in a collaborative effort between our community colleges and four-year institutions."

Some of the universities already do much of what the bill requires, although now they’re mandated to send annual reports to the state, and the data they send will be comparable across the system.

UConn, for instance, has been providing the state with transfer reports for the last few years, said Nathan Fuerst, the university's assistant vice president for enrollment and director of admissions, adding that the problem over the last few years has been a lack of data to compare the state’s other public universities with UConn on transfer.

“We’re excited that there will be a comparable report for other universities,” he said. “We’re issuing a report to help people get better information about what credits will be taken, and right now there’s no one else to hold that up against.”

UConn already has the Guaranteed Admission Program, which is an agreement between the state’s community college system and the university to provide a seamless transfer for students who enroll in a liberal arts transfer program at a two-year institution and continue to earn a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, agriculture, health or business.

Each year about 900 new students transfer to UConn, with about one-third of them coming from the state’s community colleges. The Guaranteed Admission Program only accounts for about 100 of those students a year, Fuerst said.

But over all, the six-year graduation rate for UConn’s transfer students is about 70 percent, compared to 82 percent for students who enrolled at the university first.

“We want to make data-driven decisions, and knowing what the numbers are is a reasonable expectation,” said Lauren Doninger, program coordinator for liberal arts and sciences at Gateway Community College, adding that a pending merger of the state's community colleges into the same system with the universities also should provide more clarity.

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British election has restored debate on free tuition

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 07:00

British university leaders must recognize young voters’ anger about tuition fees in the wake of the success of the Labour Party’s policy to introduce free higher education in England, according to members of Parliament who believe that the Conservatives’ “outdated market-driven” approach to funding is now under pressure.

Labour pulled off some stunning wins in university seats in the Britain’s general election, depriving the Conservatives of a majority, as young voters turned out for the party in high numbers. Polling by YouGov found that the public judged Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s 11.2 billion pound ($14.3 billion) policy to scrap tuition fees and reintroduce student maintenance grants in England to be the party’s most memorable manifesto pledge, with 49 percent seeing it as a “good idea.”

University leaders now see tuition fees as “back on the agenda,” according to sector leaders, particularly with an autumn election a possibility and Labour potentially within striking distance of victory. Some worry that it is “inconceivable” that Labour would be able to replace all income from student fees and maintain funding at present levels.

Gordon Marsden, Labour’s shadow higher education minister, said that the election result had shifted the debate on university funding.

“Of course vice chancellors have to think about their financial base, but they need to also be thinking about the conditions and welfare of their students,” Marsden said.

He added, “People in the sector need to wake up and smell the coffee. What the outside world is saying, what young people and adult students are saying, is that we have now got a fee regime that is more stringent and potentially more off-putting to would-be students than any [other] in the Western world.” Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development figures have shown that England now has the most expensive public universities among its member nations -- and in the world.

“The reason we did very well with students … and the parents who are affected by this is that we had a coherent narrative that said that -- whether we’re talking about adult learning, college learning, traditional cohorts of young people going into higher education -- at every point we wanted to lift the barriers, lift the financial burdens and make this a step change in terms of social mobility and the skills that we [the nation] need,” Marsden continued.

“The Conservatives didn’t do that. They stuck to an outdated market-driven, end-of-the-line version of Thatcherism -- and they’ve been duly punished for it.”

Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, who boosted his majority over the Liberal Democrats from 599 to nearly 12,661, said of the fees pledge, “For an election campaign, it was really smart politics: a good offer, a simple thing that people understood. But obviously it is more complicated than that -- that’s what we can perhaps spend some time finessing.”

Zeichner said that it was “quite clear” that the status quo of £9,250 fees “tied … to the teaching excellence framework [with] still the hint in the background of completely variable fees: that is not the way that most young people want us [in England] to go.”

“I can quite understand why universities would have been nervous” about scrapping fees, Zeichner added. “It’s quite clear that it is a very popular policy, but we’ve now got to … explain exactly how it would work.”

Wes Streeting was another Labour MP who saw his previously wafer-thin majority surge, from 589 to 9,639 in Ilford North, again a seat with high numbers of young people and students.

The former president of the National Union of Students said that the fees pledge “wasn’t just popular with first-time voters, it was popular with parents and grandparents.”

“This is something Jeremy Corbyn has always campaigned on and always believed in,” said Streeting, a long-standing advocate of a graduate tax. “I don’t see [the policy] changing while he is leader.”

He also said, “The message here for the sector is that there are huge numbers of people among the general public who do not believe that £9,000 tuition fees are fair or equitable [or] represent value for money.”

Benjamin Bowman, teaching fellow in comparative politics at the University of Bath, predicted that turnout among 18- to 24-year-olds would top 70 percent when figures are finalized, which would represent “an earthquake."

Labour “have lost the parliamentary election, they are not the largest party, but they have got a new movement and a new base of voters … now’s the time to organize them,” he said.

“There’s no better place to start that than with students: they are a bloc, they are geographically contained [as] they are in university seats, so what [Labour] need to do is mobilize them and organize them.”

If Labour does indeed focus on a student vote bloc in future -- persuading them to vote as a bloc in university seats rather than at home, as Bowman believes happened in this election -- that is another reason to believe the party’s popular policy to scrap fees is here to stay.

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Education Department to hit pause on two primary Obama regulations aimed at for-profits

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 07:00

The U.S. Department of Education is hitting pause on two of the Obama administration's primary rules aimed at reining in for-profit colleges.

Department officials said they will block a rule, set to take effect next month, that clarifies how student borrowers can have their loans forgiven if they were defrauded or misled by their college. The plan was first reported by Inside Higher Ed Wednesday.

The Trump administration will pursue a do-over of the rule-making process that produced that regulation, known as borrower defense to repayment, as well as the gainful-employment rule. The latter holds vocational programs at all institutions and all programs at for-profits accountable when they produce graduates with burdensome student loan debt.

While parts of gainful employment had already gone into effect, borrower defense was scheduled to become active on July 1. As that deadline approached, rumors had buzzed about the department’s plans for the regulations while politicians and advocacy groups weighed in with a flurry of letters.

Republican lawmakers have long been critical of both sets of regulations and made clear their intentions to roll them back after the election. Although gainful employment affects nondegree programs at many community colleges and borrower defense applies to all higher education institutions, the for-profit sector pushed back hard against both regulations. Consumer advocates view both rules as essential to protecting students against misconduct by colleges and have urged the administration not to walk them back.

The administration will issue a stay of borrower defense under Section 705 of the Administrative Procedure Act, which an Education Department official said allows federal agencies to halt the effective date of a rule pending judicial review. An association of California for-profit colleges is suing to block the rule. The official said the department is delaying implementation of the rule based on the lack of resolution of that case. (On Tuesday, Democratic attorneys general for eight states and the District of Columbia sought to intervene in the lawsuit to defend the rule.)

The Trump administration previously has cited that section of the Administrative Procedure Act to delay enforcement of other federal rules, including one from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The department will pursue an overhaul of the regulations by appointing separate rule-making committees to renegotiate the borrower-defense as well as the gainful-employment rules.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said fraud is unacceptable but that previous rule-making efforts missed an opportunity to get the regulations right.

“The result is a muddled process that's unfair to students and schools and puts taxpayers on the hook for significant costs,” she said. “It’s time to take a step back and make sure these rules achieve their purpose: helping harmed students. It’s time for a regulatory reset. It is the department’s aim, and this administration’s commitment, to protect students from predatory practices while also providing clear, fair and balanced rules for colleges and universities to follow.”

The Do-Over Process

The rule-making process, which requires federal agencies to seek public input via hearings and to appoint a committee of experts and stakeholders, can stretch out for months. The new round of rule making will begin with public hearings next month in Washington and Dallas. Department officials, speaking on background, said it’s too early to say what solutions negotiators will reach with respect to either rule. Higher education groups, for example, have criticized financial responsibility requirements in the borrower-defense rule as being onerous. And for-profits have argued that the gainful-employment regulations should apply to all institutions, regardless of tax status.

But negotiated rule making gives the secretary considerable influence in shaping the eventual outcome. DeVos will appoint the negotiators of each committee and their recommendations will ultimately be nonbinding if they fail to reach consensus, allowing the department to make the final call. The Obama administration, for example, released final versions of the two rules after each negotiated rule-making process failed to reach a consensus.

After early speculation this year that Republicans in Congress would attempt to eliminate borrower defense via the Congressional Review Act, lawmakers never took action involving the rule and it became apparent that they would defer to the administration on the issue. Republicans also didn’t include budget riders to defund gainful employment in the May spending deal that funds the government through the rest of the fiscal year.

Focus on For-Profits

The Obama administration crafted both sets of regulations in response to developments within the for-profit sector. The collapse of the for-profit chain Corinthian Colleges in 2015, which followed department sanctions, led to a flood of applications for loan discharge via borrower defense, a little-cited statute that took on renewed relevance after federal student loan debt ballooned in recent years. The existing statutory language was vague, however, and was based to a large extent on state law.

In response to Corinthian, the department sought to lay out a clear standard for students seeking loan discharge, which also held colleges accountable for fraud. In addition, the complex rule seeks to identify financially vulnerable colleges and to protect taxpayers and students in the event of their collapse. But many colleges complained that the language dealing with misrepresentations was too vague and that the regulations could have severe consequences even for colleges that did not intend to mislead students.

Under DeVos, the department’s efforts to stake out a strategy on the Obama regulations -- perhaps the biggest immediate issue in higher ed facing the new administration -- were likely hampered by the still low staffing levels for political hires. But the July 1 effective date for borrower defense provided a hard deadline for the DeVos team to sort out its approach.

Observers React to Suspension, Planned Overhaul of Rules

"We commend the department for moving forward to begin conversations that will really protect students from academic fraud," said Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, in a statement. "Our sector has consistently supported this premise. Unfortunately, the Obama Department of Education chose to use this basic concept as a vehicle to continue their ideological assault on our sector’s very existence."

As the effective date for borrower defense drew closer, lawmakers, consumer advocates and higher ed groups weighed in. Senate Democrats last week wrote to DeVos last week asking her to confirm that she would implement and enforce the borrower-defense regulation.

The United Negro College Fund and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education -- known as NAFEO -- meanwhile, told DeVos in a letter this week that borrower defense would have a detrimental impact on their member institutions. The two groups together represent more than 185 historically black colleges and predominantly black institutions. A department official cited that letter as an illustration of the kinds of institutional concerns that a new negotiated rule-making process would address.

"We believe further and thoughtful review of the regulation will be beneficial," said Cheryl Smith, senior vice president for public policy and government affairs at UNCF. "We hope to be active participants on any new negotiated rule making committee that the department sets up."

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who led the intervention in the California for-profit case, said she plans to sue DeVos and the department over the suspension of the borrower-defense regulations, which she called a violation of federal law.

"Once again, President Trump's Department of Education has sided with for-profit school executives and lobbyists who have defrauded taxpayers of billions of dollars in federal loans," Healey said in a statement. "This is a betrayal of students and families across the country who are drowning in unaffordable debt."

Persis Yu, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, said starting over with the rule-making process "wastes taxpayer money and creates uncertainty for students who are wondering how to protect themselves from being ripped off by predatory schools."

The largest higher ed lobby groups said they were prepared to work with the administration to make improvements to existing regulations. Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, called borrower defense and gainful employment critical, if imperfect, consumer protections.

"Changes can be considered, but we should not go backward in protecting students from institutions with fraudulent practices and terrible outcomes," he said.

Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, said the group looks forward to working with DeVos while "focusing on ensuring that students are protected from unscrupulous institutions."

Questions Remain

Both critics and supporters of the move acknowledged that it left many questions unanswered. The department hasn't made clear its intent on what it hopes will emerge from the negotiation process. It's not clear, for example, to what extent it hopes committee appointees will focus on financial responsibility in borrower defense, one of the regulation's most controversial aspects, or standard of proof for claims. And it's unclear whether gainful employment would maintain sanctions for programs as well as transparency for program outcomes.

Department officials told Inside Higher Ed the letter from UNCF and NAFEO illustrate the kinds of concerns they hoped to see addressed in an overhaul of borrower defense. And they said the definition of gainful employment was in need of thoughtful review as well.

The department also plans to include in the borrower-defense rule-making process a reconsideration of guidelines for guarantee agencies' debt-collection practices. In March, the department withdrew 2015 guidelines from the Obama administration barring those guarantee agencies from charging high fees to borrowers who quickly begin repaying their student loans after defaulting.

Dennis Carriello, a former lawyer at the Department of Education who now advises institutions including for-profit colleges and served on the last borrower-defense rule-making committee, said he was pleased to see the announcement.

"This is a good step," he said. "It's a chance to do the process right so students are protected and the schools know what the requirements are."

Carriello said to improve on the previous rule-making process, negotiators appointed by DeVos should include a diversity of experience and expertise as well as institution type.

Compared with other possibilities -- including elimination of borrower defense through the Congressional Review Act -- another round of rule making isn't the worst outcome for proponents of the regulations, said Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

"I feel like of all the scenarios to dramatically alter a regulation, having a negotiated rule making is the most transparent and is far better than just having Congress wipe it out entirely," he said.

But the process does create more uncertainty, he said, including for student borrowers who have already sought to clear their debt via borrower-defense claims.

In announcing the changes to the borrower-defense rule today, the department restated its commitment to discharging loan debt held by students who were already promised relief by the previous administration. And staff will continue to review pending applications for loan discharges. Congressional lawmakers and Democratic attorneys general have repeatedly sought updates in recent weeks on the department's progress -- or lack thereof -- in getting the loans of those borrowers discharged.

“Nearly 16,000 borrower-defense claims are currently being processed by the department, and as I have committed all along, promises made to students under the current rule will be promises kept,” DeVos said. “We are working with servicers to get these loans discharged as expeditiously as possible. Some borrowers should expect to obtain discharges within the next several weeks.”

But suspending the new borrower-defense rule removes a tool designed to help expedite processing of those claims. It's not clear whether the department under DeVos will be open to granting discharge to groups of students or will insist on processing those claims individually.

The department is looking to begin the rule-making process by this fall. But even under the rosiest of projections, new borrower-defense and gainful-employment regulations wouldn't go into effect until 2019. Under that timeline, the department would have to complete that process and publish a new rule by Nov. 1, 2018 -- the deadline for regulations to go into effect the following July.

Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said he was willing to give the Trump administration a chance. But Nassirian, who participated in previous rounds of rule making, said he worried about how a delay in regulations would affect student borrowers already suffering from debt they cannot repay.

"Justice delayed is justice denied for a lot of these folks who are living hand to mouth and really do have very strong arguments in favor of having their debt discharged," he said.

 

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White House apprenticeship push will include funding and focus on alternative providers

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/14/2017 - 07:00

The kickoff of President Trump’s apprenticeship push is slated for today with a policy speech observers said will include a call for new money, a less balky federal approach to registered apprenticeships and more openness to noncollege providers handling the educational side of those programs.

During a speech today at the U.S. Department of Labor, Trump is expected to announce a grant program of up to $200 million to expand apprenticeships, with an increased emphasis on growth industries like information technology and health care as well as manufacturing. (Trump postponed the speech after the shooting of a U.S. Representative but plans to make the announcement and sign an executive order on Thursday.)

Currently, 505,000 people hold apprenticeships through 2,100 programs that are registered with the federal government or state agencies. The most common professions represented include electricians, plumbers, carpenters and construction laborers, according to federal data.

The new money, while a relatively small sum, would be welcomed by job training advocates.

“It would be great to see additional resources put toward building apprenticeship programs,” said Kermit Kaleba, federal policy director for the National Skills Coalition.

However, the announcement follows a White House proposed budget that calls for deep cuts to existing work force programs. The Trump budget includes a 21 percent cut to the Labor Department, a 40 percent reduction to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and a $168 million cut to career and technical education grants for states. Even some congressional Republicans have criticized those proposals, which are unlikely to occur.

Trump and his cabinet in recent days have described apprenticeship programs as an alternative to the college degree.

"Apprenticeships are going to be a big, big factor in our country," Trump said during his first full cabinet meeting Monday. "There are millions of good jobs that lead to great careers, jobs that do not require a four-year degree or the massive debt that often comes with those four-year degrees and even two-year degrees."

Even so, federally registered apprenticeships require an educational component under an “earn and learn” model, which typically involves employers teaming up with community colleges, four-year institutions, technical schools or an unaccredited education provider. Labor unions, for example, sometimes manage the education side, with related instruction based on industry standards.

Apprentices are assigned a mentor and typically must complete a minimum amount of credit-hour-equivalent learning. When the apprenticeship concludes, they earn an industry-recognized certificate that can lead to college credits at some institutions.

Federally recognized apprenticeships often last two years or longer, said Mary Alice McCarthy, director of the Center on Education and Skills with the education policy program at New America.

“Apprenticeship is not a short-term training program, as it shouldn’t be,” she said.

Trump administration officials generated some buzz last week by suggesting at a Business Roundtable event that the White House is considering federal funding streams for noncollege providers to participate in the education side of apprenticeship programs.

Details about what will emerge today are unclear, but several observers who were familiar with the administration’s planned executive orders said they will include a nudge toward alternative providers.

The proposal is likely to be somewhat open-ended and flexible, they said, leaving room for employer input. But one possibility is for industries to come up with standards for the learning and experience apprentices should gain on the job -- a form of required competencies.

Standards for resulting industry “certified” apprenticeships would serve a quality-control purpose, similar to the role accreditors play in higher education.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has been exploring approaches to quality control that are employer driven and could serve as alternatives or a complement to the current accrediting system. These ideas likely will play a role in the Trump administration’s take on federally registered apprenticeships, several experts said. The White House plans to create a committee to help devise its strategy.

Likewise, the administration and Republican leaders in Congress are keen for alternative education providers to participate in apprenticeships and other types of job training, with some support from Democrats and liberal groups. One possibility, some speculate, is that coding boot camps could work with the IT industry to certify and supplement on-the-job learning by apprentices.

Yet the administration has said that traditional colleges will remain at the table, also calling for institutions to ramp up their collaboration with employers.

“Higher education, too, should assume responsibility for promoting apprenticeships. Community colleges and four-year colleges have an obligation to work with students to educate them in skills they need to succeed,” Alexander Acosta, the U.S. secretary of labor, said Tuesday during a White House press briefing. “Incorporating apprenticeships into two- and four-year degree programs would offer students both traditional learning and skills-based learning.”

Who Will Be Eligible for New Money?

The Obama administration allocated roughly $250 million toward expanding apprenticeships in recent years. Much of that funding came from revenue from the awarding of H-1B visas for skilled international workers -- money that is required to go toward job training for Americans.

This year’s budget includes $90 million for apprenticeships, with Congress signing off on essentially flat grant funding levels from the Obama era. Trump’s budget proposal for this year also calls for $90 million. If the White House asks for more money -- observers said today’s announcement could include a call for $200 million or less, but probably in the nine-figure range -- that funding presumably would be on top of the current level.

McCarthy said she would applaud the new money, adding that the H-1B source is appropriate. A key question, she said, is which programs will be eligible. One possibility is that the federal money could go to apprenticeship programs that are not registered with the feds or states. That might open the door to lower-quality experiences for apprentices, she said.

Likewise, McCarthy said some noncollege providers could charge more than community colleges for the learning component. Price hasn’t been a problem in the past, she said, but that could change.

“It should be cost-free to the apprentice,” said McCarthy, who worked for both the Labor and Education Departments during the Obama administration.

Another possible concern is the portability of credentials apprentices earn from noncollege providers.

Yet perhaps the biggest looming question about the administration’s apprenticeship push, several experts said, is whether an alternative quality-control pathway eventually could open the door to federal financial aid -- a far larger pot of money than impermanent grant funding from H-1B coffers.

Such a controversial change would require legislation. But Trump’s executive orders could get that process rolling as congressional leaders work toward reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, the law that governs federal financial aid.

One possibility that could emerge from today’s announcement is a boost for the fledgling apprenticeship service provider space, said Ryan Craig, co-founder of University Ventures, a higher education-focused investment firm.

These service providers, which are more common in the United Kingdom, act as intermediaries between employers, government and education providers. Employers typically front the costs, he said, with intermediaries “hiding the wiring” for the registration process and other tasks in creating a program.

Craig described the industry, which his firm plans to invest in, as being similar to the online program management companies that help colleges create online degrees.

“Most employers aren’t interested in running these programs themselves,” Craig said.

Streamlined Registration

A broad range of critics say the registration process for federally recognized apprenticeships is slow and needlessly complex. That has contributed to relatively limited participation by employers -- apprenticeships account for just 0.3 percent of the work force -- who also typically receive little or no federal funding.

The Trump administration has signaled that it would like to remove barriers to employers creating apprenticeship opportunities. Acosta this week distributed a brief memorandum to his fellow cabinet members that called for all federal agencies to help expand apprenticeships.

“I ask that each agency head support the administration's apprenticeship initiative by removing obstacles to apprenticeship growth that may be present in current regulations or practices,” Acosta wrote.

However, some experts said they hoped the White House doesn’t go too far in relaxing its requirements. That’s because federal recognition for apprenticeships comes with protections for apprentices, such as obligations for employers to pay them more than minimum wage and for apprenticeships to lead to pay raises.

“If these protections get watered down, we would be very concerned,” McCarthy said.

Much more work can be done by the federal government to make its work force development system more efficient and less duplicative, said Maria Flynn, president and CEO of Jobs for the Future and a former longtime Labor Department official. That includes streamlining of the federal registration process for apprenticeships, she said, adding that agencies could coordinate more.

However, Flynn and other experts said such improvements will be unlikely if the federal government guts funding for work force programs.

The apprenticeship focus “shouldn’t be a replacement to the underlying work force system,” said Flynn, adding that she would “rather have that broad reform conversation before discussing cuts.”

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Dispute about sociology quiz question on slave families ends in lecturer's termination

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/14/2017 - 07:00

It started with a question on a quiz: “Historical research on African-American families during slavery shows that …” A student took exception to what her instructor said was the correct answer, an email exchange ensued and things escalated.

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville allegedly terminated the instructor, and the student is now celebrating on social media, saying she “got a racist professor fired midsemester after she tried to sabotage me.” What exactly happened?

In February, Kayla Renee Parker, now a senior, answered the question about enslaved families on a sociology quiz administered by longtime lecturer Judy Morelock. Parker, who has since shared the story online, was sure the answer was “C) Black family bonds were destroyed by the abuses of slave owners, who regularly sold off family members to other slave owners.” Plenty of historians would agree.

Yet Morelock marked it as wrong, saying the correct response was “D) Most slave families were headed by two parents.” To Parker, something was off, since her textbook mentioned the separation of families by the slave trade. She emailed Morelock to ask why “C” couldn’t at least also be true, according to messages she shared on Facebook.

Morelock responded that most families remained intact, noting she’d emphasized that in class, but she asked Parker for evidence in the textbook of her answer. Parker responded with a specific page and quote, and Morelock quibbled with it before saying she’d give Parker and everyone else in the class an extra four points.

Problem not solved, though, according to what Parker recently wrote in a blog post on Medium called “Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: The Tale of a Progressive Professor Who Forgot to Hide Her Racism and Got Her Ass Fired.” Among other criticisms, Parker says Morelock relied on outdated research that “whitewashes” the realities of slavery to back up her argument and, worse, presented “alternative facts” to the class. That’s based in part on an email the instructor sent to her saying some scholars have argued that slaves’ family bonds “were maintained in part by word-of-mouth communication from a slave community on one plantation to a slave community on [another]. Further, as I said in class, many slave owners tried not to make their charges angry by selling off the most important people in the lives of their slaves.”

It was “alarming to me that my professor believes that ‘Most slave families were kept intact with wife and husband present,’” Parker wrote in her post. “What does she think this was, Good Times? Most slaves were not getting married and most slaves were not raising their children.”

Parker also accuses Morelock of retaliating against her in class for discussing the dispute in Facebook posts, which the instructor had allegedly been reading. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bring the textbook to class today because my bag is full of other texts for a student who requires further evidence on subjects I teach in class,” Morelock allegedly said, for example.

A subsequent one-on-one conversation resulted in a kind of challenge for Parker to lecture the class on the topic, she says. Parker talked with the department chair about possibly being retaliated against for accepting the offer but ultimately did so, streaming the talk on Facebook.

“I felt as though I had to give this presentation because I have had enough of white people defining my history, especially inaccurately. Our country continues to have a race problem and I firmly believe that it’s because we can’t even accept that America has never been great for anyone unless you’re white,” Parker wrote. “How can we expect the treatment of black people to improve and equality to be made possible if America can’t even face the reality of how people of color have been treated in the past? It’s impossible to move forward if we can’t look back.”

Soon, she says, friends alerted her to alleged threats Morelock had been posting on her own Facebook page. Parker attributes the following comments to Morelock, which she assumed were in reference to her: “After the semester is over and she is no longer my student, I will post her name, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn … after she graduates, all bets are off,” “I don’t forget malevolent attempts to harm me. #karmawillfindyou,” and “Ignore the facts, promote a misinformed viewpoint, trash me and I will fight you.” Screen shots have been circulated, but Morelock says some of the comments were not about Parker. 

Parker says she was removed from the class and otherwise supported by administrators, while Morelock allegedly offered a two-part coup de grâce: a final email to the family sociology class saying she'd likely be terminated without an opportunity to defend herself because a student had impugned her character in a formal complaint, and a vulgar Facebook meme involving a gift-wrapped dildo Parker says was directed at her (Morelock denies this).

Over all, Parker accuses Morelock of being a false ally to people of color. “She wears a safety pin so everyone knows she’s an ally for minorities,” reads the blog post. “She regularly discusses her love for the Obamas, the Black Lives Matter movement and her admonishment for this current administration. However, I would soon realize that nothing would shake her more than a confident black woman contradicting her in front of a classroom of her own students.”

Tennessee’s sociology chair declined to comment on the matter, saying that would violate federal student privacy laws. Karen Ann Simsen, a university spokeswoman, said she couldn’t address Parker’s comments for the same reason. But she said Morelock was notified last summer that her year-to-year contract would not be renewed for this coming fall, as the sociology department is “phasing out a few of the courses she teaches from the curriculum” and using more doctoral students to teach undergraduates.

In April, Simsen said, “we exercised the option outlined in our Faculty Handbook of ending her contract early” by paying her remaining salary though July.

Morelock said via LinkedIn that the university had “threatened” her and she couldn't talk to reporters, lest her payout be revoked. But she said the blog "is replete with scurrilous falsehoods from the very first sentence. Some of the comments lifted from my page were not intended for that person and I did not send the dildo meme to her. It was lifted from my pictures."

Morelock shared a letter from a past student expressing shock at the situation, since she'd always known her instructor to be a "champion of social justice." The former student said Morelock was bothered by having her integrity and commitment to her students of color questioned on social media, not by being challenged over a test question, and Morelock agreed. She referred additional requests for comment to Donna Sherwood, a retired professor of English at Knoxville College, where Morelock used to teach, and lecturer of women’s studies at Tennessee. Sherwood said via email that she was “still stunned at the traction” one young woman “with a vendetta has been able to achieve. I'll give her credit for persistence and appeal to racial hysteria.”

Sherwood said her knowledge of the case was based on the public record due to Morelock's “gag order,” but described the situation as a student interested in proving a teacher wrong engaging in "Facebook attacks until the teacher responded -- and went a bit overboard.” Even so, she wondered why Parker continued to draw attention to the case even after Morelock was terminated, saying theirs was an “academic disagreement, which should have stayed in academia and not spilled over into social media, where hysteria quickly supersedes intellectual pursuit of knowledge.” (Parker has elsewhere said she waited to blog about the class until grades were posted.)

Parker said Tuesday that Morelock “loses credibility when saying she wasn't harassing me, when there is photo evidence of the public Facebook posts she was making.” Morelock seems to believe that calling her a racist is “libelous,” Parker said, but her actions “continue to prove my point.”

To some, the case will come across as a one-off, a unique situation in which a soon-to-retire instructor overreacted to a student. Others will -- and do -- see it as a case of racial bias by a white professor against a black student with a legitimate academic concern. Others still will see a non-tenure-track professor being given no apparent opportunity to defend herself against claims with implications for academic freedom. Many may see it as a reason to exercise privacy settings on Facebook, or stay off it altogether.

But what about that quiz question? Was Parker right? Brenda Stevenson, Nickoll Family Endowed Chair in History at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an expert on enslaved women and families, said neither answer is completely true, but that “C” -- Parker’s answer -- would be “most true.”

Jerome Dotson, an assistant professor of Africana studies at the University of Arizona who studies slavery, said he’d been following the case and found the question to be poorly worded over all, in that no response fairly represents the antebellum slave family. (He said the question could work better as an essay.)

Attributing broken family bonds to the slave trade eliminates “any possibility for slave agency, and it gives too much attention to the slave owner’s power,” he said, since threats of sale were obvious problems for slaves but there were still families. In fact, he said, “the slave family helped form the cornerstone of the slave community,” and some slave owners permitted enslaved men and women to marry to keep them from running away.

Morelock’s preferred response, meanwhile, is problematic because of the wording, Dotson said. He'd be reluctant to argue that “most” slave families were headed by two parents, since, for example, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs were reared by their grandmothers, he said.

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Education Department on track to update College Scorecard

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/14/2017 - 07:00

The Department of Education appears to be planning to keep around one of the most high-profile higher ed initiatives of the Obama administration.

Department staff are taking steps to update the data feeding the College Scorecard, a tool that allows prospective students to look at measures like the debt burden of an institution's graduates, by September of this year, according to higher ed groups. That would be counted as a victory by proponents of more transparency in higher ed, even though the Scorecard wasn’t among the Obama efforts the Trump administration promised to eliminate.

Some have wondered about the longevity of the Scorecard, since it wasn't required by law and isn't so established that it would be difficult to abandon.

Maintaining the tool for now may have as much to do with the timeline -- collecting and validating the data is a months-long process -- and low level of staffing in the department as it does with any clear strategy from the administration. But with another year in the books, it could become more likely that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos keeps the tool long term while putting her own stamp on the interface.

The Scorecard was first published in 2015 after a process that began with a much more controversial proposal from the Obama administration to rank institutions. Colleges and universities have had concerns, but some higher ed groups have come on board with the final product, which allows students and researchers to find information about outcomes without attaching accountability. Community colleges have complained that the Scorecard doesn't count many of their students, and liberal arts institutions have criticized the data choices, saying that they devalue the kind of education their institutions provide.

But the website has been widely used over the last two years, said Michael Itzkowitz, a senior policy adviser on higher education at Third Way who previously worked on the Scorecard at the Department of Education. At least two million individual users have accessed the site and 100,000 students have done so in the last 30 days, he said.

Academics and researchers have downloaded Scorecard data for analysis. And more than 600 developers have also used the Scorecard application programming interface to create their own search tools.

“Assuming they continue to make progress, it will be gratifying to see that they value transparency and better information on college outcomes,” Itzkowitz said. “A lot of people are very invested in the College Scorecard tool itself -- not just for the website but for the data it provides.”

Jamienne Studley, former under secretary of education, said the department developed the Scorecard at a time when many parallel efforts were shedding more light on outcome and results.

Higher education institutions across the board strongly rejected the idea of ranking colleges and universities. Studley, now a consultant and the national policy adviser at Beyond 12, said after listening to the response from college leaders, the Obama administration achieved a result that avoided “really corrosive” methods of comparing institutions.

Some higher ed groups still have gripes with the data presented on the Scorecard, arguing that the tool doesn’t accurately reflect their student populations or sometimes just has incorrect data.

Tim Powers, director of accountability and regulatory issues at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said some NAICU members have been frustrated by the amount of time it has taken to have incorrect information updated on the site.

Jeff Lieberson, a spokesman for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said the group has not discussed the Scorecard with the Trump administration, but it will be on APLU’s agenda for future talks. The group has pushed to have data from the Student Achievement Measure, which tracks student movement across higher ed institutions, to the site.

“The department pledged to include it, but it never happened in the previous administration,” he said. “We think it’s critical for that data to be included.”

Clare McCann, another former Department of Education official, said some objections to Scorecard data could only be addressed by the creation of a student unit record system. The data don’t, for example, include outcomes for students who did not receive Title IV aid.

“The biggest concerns can only be addressed by Congress,” she said.

For now, it appears that the most time-consuming work on the Scorecard -- collecting the data -- is going ahead without any significant changes by the department’s leadership. Certain pieces of information such as closed institutions are updated more regularly. But updating the full website is a complex process requiring multiple steps.

Because there is no single data set of student outcomes, the department must submit cohorts of students to the Department of Treasury with multiple privacy protections built in along the way. Treasury returns aggregate data on earnings and student debt levels for each institution in the Scorecard. That process incorporates federal data from three different sources: the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, the National Student Loan Data System and the Treasury.

The timeline for the department usually begins in winter for an update by September.

A department spokeswoman declined to comment on what intentions the administration has for the Scorecard, saying there are no plans to change it and no plans not to change it.

With staffing levels still low and a number of deadlines looming for decisions on Obama-era regulations like gainful employment and borrower defense, the Scorecard likely ranks low on the list of priorities. McCann said because the tool is basically consumer information, it wouldn’t rank on the same level as accountability measures the department may look to address by rewriting regulations.

The Obama administration saw the Scorecard as a tool that would continue to evolve and be improved. DeVos could look to put her own stamp on the site, possibly reflecting additional feedback from the institutions it measures.

“It’s probably too soon to say whether or not in the long term they continue to recognize the value of this data and continue to publish the Scorecard or some version of it,” McCann said. “It’s a good sign for now.”

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21,000 apply for Excelsior Scholarship over five days

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/14/2017 - 07:00

Days after opening the application window for its free public college tuition program, New York received more than 21,000 applications.

It looks like a quick clip for a state that had projected Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature free tuition program would cover about 22,000 students in its first year. But it’s not yet clear how many applicants will actually receive awards. The number of applicants is also still small in comparison to the roughly one million New York students who apply for financial aid in a year.

Cuomo’s office has said officials are thrilled with the number of applications. However, some policy experts worry that the program’s rapid start, short sign-up period and high level of complexity have combined to create an unpredictable period for the state, its budget and its public colleges and universities.

New York had received 21,106 Excelsior Scholarship applications as of 7 a.m. Monday, according to the state’s Higher Education Services Corporation. The application period opened June 7 and runs for about six weeks, through July 21.

Few other details were available Tuesday. About a third of the applications came from students who are either already enrolled in the City University of New York system or planning to enroll this fall as freshmen, according to a CUNY spokesman. A large majority of the CUNY applicants were continuing students, he said.

New York residents attending a CUNY or State University of New York institution can apply for the Excelsior Scholarship, a last-dollar award that pays for tuition costs after other sources of financial aid have been applied. Lawmakers approved the scholarship this spring. It will be phased in over three years, covering families with annual incomes of up to $100,000 this year. It will ultimately cover students from families with incomes of up to $125,000 per year -- making an estimated 940,000 families with college-age students eligible.

Some of the state’s community colleges and four-year institutions project enrolling a low number of students who qualify for Excelsior Scholarships in the upcoming academic year. They caution that they’re still waiting to learn exactly how the program will affect enrollment, though.

“Because the scholarship is across the board, it’s a big experiment,” said Kevin Drumm, president of the State University of New York Broome Community College outside of Binghamton. “Right now it looks OK for us, but as with all of us, we don’t know what our actual enrollment and market mix is going to look like.”

SUNY Broome typically enrolls between 4,800 and 5,500 full-time equivalent students annually, Drumm said. It’s difficult for the community college to project next year’s class for several reasons: its fall application deadline is July 1, and enrollments can vary drastically from week to week over the spring and summer, Drumm said. Three weeks ago, registrations were down year over year. Now they’re up about 5.5 percent, measuring full-time equivalent students.

The Excelsior Scholarship is unlikely to go to a vast majority of SUNY Broome’s students, however. Since it’s a last-dollar scholarship, it will not be awarded to students who already have their tuition costs covered by other programs, like New York’s generous Tuition Assistance Program. About 65 percent of SUNY Broome students already have their full tuition costs covered, Drumm said.

SUNY Broome looked at a small test batch of freshman applicants and determined 35 percent would be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship in the upcoming year based on its income requirements. But after factoring in other likely financial aid awards, only about one-tenth of those students would receive an award.

In other words, an estimated 3.5 percent of the freshman class would receive Excelsior Scholarships. But that estimate may not be in line with final numbers, and it could go up in future years as the program’s income ceiling rises and as more potential students become comfortable with attending classes under the free tuition program, Drumm said.

It will take time for students to learn the details of the program, Drumm said. For instance, developmental math and English don’t count toward a requirement that students complete 30 credits per year. Some students aren’t clear on what charges are guaranteed to be covered, either.

“The one thing is people who call the financial aid office and just think they’re going to get a full scholarship,” Drumm said. “They’re not aware it’s just tuition dollars. They’re calling to ask, ‘Will this cover room and board?’”

Some four-year institutions are also projecting a relatively low percentage of students qualifying for the free tuition program in its first year. SUNY Potsdam in northern New York estimates about 6 percent of its 4,000 undergraduate students will be eligible to receive funding from the scholarship, according to Rick Miller, executive vice president

SUNY Potsdam saw inquiries from prospective undergraduates jump sharply this spring. But applications only rose slightly, and enrollments for the fall freshman class are actually tracking down incrementally from last year.

“Our enrollment management staff believes this may be due to families waiting to find out about eligibility for the Excelsior Scholarship first, before making final decisions,” Miller said in an email.

That meshes with the predictions of administrators at SUNY Brockport, west of Rochester.

“I think you’re going to see later movement because of the timing of when everything was announced,” said Robert Wyant, SUNY Brockport’s director of admissions.

The four-year SUNY Brockport enrolls about 7,000 undergraduates. This fall’s freshman class looks like it will be about the same size as last fall’s, when it hit an all-time high of 1,200.

Wyant was not prepared to release any estimates for how many of his institution’s students will receive Excelsior Scholarships.

“It’s still so new,” he said. “It’s hard to gauge it.”

The governor’s office has hailed the number of applications.

“We’re thrilled with the tremendous interest in the Excelsior Scholarship we’ve seen from New Yorkers and look forward to making tuition-free college a reality for middle-class students starting this fall,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.

But outside observers were not so quick with compliments.

From October to December of last year, about 275,000 New Yorkers submitted a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, said Judith Scott-Clayton, an associate professor of economics and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Over a million filed a FAFSA for the entire 2016-17 academic year.

Those numbers are by no means perfect comparisons to Excelsior Scholarship applications -- they would include, for example, students attending college in other states and students attending New York’s many private colleges and universities. But they do show the larger scale of total students applying for financial aid in the state.

“Twenty-one thousand is not a lot, in the grand scheme of the number of people in New York going to college,” Scott-Clayton said.

Scott-Clayton also voiced concerns about several other Excelsior Scholarship details, starting with the timing of the application period -- which started very soon after lawmakers reached a deal to create the program. A summer application period is completely out of sync from the typical financial aid cycle, she said. Most students have already decided where they will attend college by the summer.

The short time period between application and the start of classes this fall is hard on institutions, too. The scholarship isn’t simply a bucket of state money landing in their laps.

It covers up to $5,500 worth of tuition, but four-year in-state undergraduate tuition at SUNY is typically listed at $6,470 per year. The system is required to provide additional awards to Excelsior Scholarship students in order to cover their entire tuition cost up to $6,470. The 2017-18 state budget included maintenance of effort payments and a repayment to SUNY to cover those costs.

New York appropriated $87 million for the Excelsior Scholarship’s first year. If more than the estimated 22,000 students receive awards, the governor’s office says it is open to adjusting its budget to support the program.

Rolling out the program so quickly is a risk and an administrative burden, Scott-Clayton said.

“It just seems like the best idea would have been for everybody to have more time to figure out how this is going to work,” she said.

Cuomo’s office noted that the free tuition program was only approved by lawmakers this spring. The governor made it a top priority this year, and leaders wanted to have it in place as soon as possible.

Critics have questioned numerous other details about the Excelsior Scholarship.

Some have questioned the program’s 30-credits-completed-per-year requirement and an after-graduation residency requirement with provisions turning past awards into loans if students do not stay in the state for a certain number of years. Many have also pointed out that the scholarship does not cover mandatory fees, which can add up at public institutions and prevent low-income students from being able to enroll or finish their degrees.

At the end of the day, the program’s caveats matter to students and families, Scott-Clayton said.

“I think they absolutely struggle with the complexity,” Scott-Clayton said. “It’s not nearly as simple as it was marketed.”

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Survey of more than 1,100 U.S. colleges looks at state of internationalization efforts

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/14/2017 - 07:00

New results from a survey on the state of internationalization at U.S. colleges conducted every five years paint a picture of institutional priorities and progress.

More than 1,100 American colleges and universities responded to the survey, which was conducted in 2016, for a response rate of 39.5 percent. The survey by the American Council on Education’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement asked institutions about a broad array of indicators of “comprehensive internationalization,” including indicators that relate to the flow of American students abroad and of international students to the U.S., administrative structures and staffing, incentives for faculty involvement, international partnerships, and the curriculum. Key findings of the “Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses” report include:

  • Nearly three-quarters of responding institutions (72 percent) said that internationalization had accelerated in recent years on their campuses, compared to 64 percent in the most recent iteration of the survey, in 2011. The top three reasons cited for internationalization were “improving student preparedness for a global era,” “diversifying students, faculty and staff at the home campus,” and “becoming more attractive to prospective students at home and overseas.” Revenue generation was reason No. 4.
  • The top two priority activities for internationalization both relate to student mobility -- increasing study abroad for American students and recruiting international students. Partnerships, internationalizing the curriculum and co-curriculum, and faculty development round out the list of top five priority activities.
  • About half of institutions refer to internationalization or related activities in their mission statements (49 percent) or list them among the top five priorities in their strategic plans (47 percent).
  • Presidents are perceived as the primary catalysts for internationalization on campuses, followed by senior international officers. More than half of institutions (58 percent) reported that a single office leads internationalization activities on campus, an increase of 22 percentage points compared to 2011. The report says that internationalization is “increasingly an administrative-intensive endeavor, coordinated by a single office and/or a senior international officer.”
  • More than 70 percent of institutions said internal funding for internationalization has increased or stayed stable over the past three years. Twenty-one percent of institutions have a formal strategy and/or have launched a dedicated fund-raising campaign to support internationalization activities.
  • On recruitment of international students, nearly half (48 percent) of colleges have an international recruiting plan in place, and an increasing number are funding travel by international recruitment officers (44 percent for undergraduate recruitment and 23 percent for graduate recruitment). The proportion of institutions that reported offering scholarships or other financial aid to international undergraduate students has increased by 11 percentage points compared to 2011, to 49 percent.
  • The proportion of institutions hiring overseas recruitment agents -- controversial due to concerns about the practice of paying recruiters per-capita commissions, which is barred by law when it comes to U.S. students -- has nearly tripled. Thirty percent of institutions reported using recruitment agents at the undergraduate level, compared to 11 percent in 2011, while 15 percent reported they use recruitment agents at the graduate level, compared to 6 percent in 2011.
  • As for international student support, 60 percent of institutions said they offer individualized academic support for international students -- up from 57 percent in 2011 but down from 70 percent in 2006. Fifty-seven percent of institutions said they offered an English as a second language support program for matriculated international students. As for other supports, 63 percent said they offer an orientation for international students to the U.S. and the local community, 69 percent said they offer an orientation to the institution and/or the American classroom, 57 percent provide assistance in finding housing, 22 percent have an institutional advisory committee for international students, 13 percent offer international alumni services or chapters, 12 percent provide support services for dependents of international students, and 22 percent offer a host family program for international students.
  • The survey also asked colleges about whether they had pre-matriculation programs in place for international students, either intensive English programs or pathway programs that combine English as a second language and credit-bearing academic course work. About half of respondents (49 percent) said they either are operating, are developing or are considering developing an intensive English program, while 32 percent said the same for pathway programs.
  • Nearly three-quarters of institutions -- 72 percent -- said the number of their students studying abroad has increased or stayed stable over the past three years, while just 7 percent reported a decrease. However, when asked about study abroad participation, 22 percent of institutions chose “not applicable.” The percentages of respondents choosing “not applicable” were even higher in response to queries about changes in student participation in international internships (48 percent), service opportunities abroad (43 percent) and international research (54 percent) -- “indicating,” the report concludes, “that a substantial proportion of U.S. students do not have access to these types of opportunities.”
  • Just over half (51 percent) of institutions said they provide institutional funds for study abroad scholarships.
  • As far as the curriculum goes, 64 percent of institutions have articulated international or global learning-related outcomes for all students, 49 percent reported that their general education requirements include an international or global component and 46 percent reported that they have a foreign language requirement. Of these, 17 percent said they have a foreign language requirement for all students, while 29 percent said they have one for some students. The report notes that this is the first time since the first version of the survey in 2001 that it has recorded an increase -- albeit a modest one -- in foreign language requirements. The report also cites data from the Modern Language Association’s survey of foreign language enrollments at American colleges, the most recent version of which reported a 6.7 percent decline in all enrollments in foreign languages between 2009 and 2013.
  • The survey also asked about policies and practices for faculty as they relate to internationalization. Almost half (47 percent) of institutions reported “occasionally” or “frequently” giving preference to faculty candidates with international background, experience or interests when hiring in fields that “are not explicitly international/global,” up from 40 percent in 2011. Ten percent of institutions specify that they consider international work or experience in promotion and tenure decisions, up from 8 percent in 2011.
  • The “Mapping” report also finds that “internationalization-related professional development opportunities are generally more available to faculty than in 2011.” For example, 64 percent of responding institutions said they provided funding for faculty leading students on study abroad programs, 59 percent for travel to conferences and meetings abroad, and 40 percent for studying or conducting research abroad. Fewer than 30 percent of colleges offered on-campus professional development workshops on subjects like internationalizing the curriculum (26 percent), teaching international students (28 percent) or using technology to enhance a course's international dimension (19 percent).
  • More than half (56 percent) of institutions reported that they provide funding for administrative staff who work outside an international programs office to participate in workshops or other professional development activities on campus related to internationalization. Compared to 2011, a larger number of institutions also offer funding for staff to participate in professional development opportunities abroad.
  • In regard to partnerships with international institutions, nearly half of responding institutions said they have begun developing or have expanded their international partnerships over the prior three years, but the report also notes that nearly a quarter of all institutions -- and 44 percent of associate-level institutions -- do not maintain any international partnerships. Five percent of institutions have moved toward fewer partnerships.
  • Collaborative degree programs with foreign institutions are growing but remain relatively uncommon. Sixteen percent reported offering dual/double degree programs with a foreign university (in which both institutions confer degrees), up from 10 percent in 2011, while the percentage reporting that they offer joint degree programs (in which students receive a single credential endorsed by both institutions) was flat at 8 percent.
  • Five percent of institutions reported that they offer full degree programs overseas delivered only or largely via face-to-face instruction, 9 percent offer programs “entirely or largely through technology” (such as online), while 5 percent said they deliver programs using a combination of face-to-face instruction and technology.
  • In regards to overseas outposts, 4 percent of institutions said they have an international branch campus, 7 percent an overseas administrative office, 5 percent a study abroad center for U.S. students, 5 percent a teaching site for non-U.S. students, and 2 percent an overseas research center.

“We are making progress,” said Robin Matross Helms, the lead author of the report and director of ACE’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement. “Institutions are optimistic about their progress, and this is something that institutions are working towards.”

At the same time, she drew attention to what the report describes as the external focus of many internationalization efforts. “A lot of what institutions are thinking of for internationalization is summarized in that priority list. The top priority is education abroad, No. 2 is international students, and No. 3 is establishing partnerships abroad. It’s only at No. 4 and 5 that we come to the curriculum and to faculty development and to what’s really happening on campus.”

“I think we still are thinking of internationalization often as an outward-facing endeavor,” Helms said. “We need to make sure that we’re giving adequate attention to what’s happening on campus as well.”

In regard to faculty members, Helms continued, “As we look at the faculty data as compared to indicators in other areas, the progress line just is not as steep. We need to be paying attention to making sure that faculty are engaged in and central to internationalization efforts.”

The 1,164 total responses to the survey include 203 responses from doctoral institutions, 352 from master’s institutions, 267 from baccalaureate institutions, 246 from associate institutions and 96 from special focus institutions. Researchers weighed the data in an attempt to mirror the distribution of institution types nationally.

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Colorado-Boulder chancellor suspended for failing to report alleged domestic violence by assistant coach

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 07:29

The University of Colorado Board of Regents announced Monday that Philip P. DiStefano, chancellor of the Boulder campus, would be suspended without pay for 10 days for his failure to report to authorities an allegation of domestic violence made against an assistant football coach.

The university released a report that faulted the chancellor for failing to report the allegations to the relevant office at the university, and also to outside law enforcement.

The university also announced that Rick George, the athletics director, and Mike MacIntyre, the head football coach, had each been ordered to pay $100,000 to a domestic violence organization for their failure to report the allegations, which were of repeated severe physical and verbal abuse. The allegations were first made to MacIntyre, who shared them with DiStefano and George.

The outside report issued by the university's Board of Regents characterized the university officials' failure to report as a question of mistakes. "Bad intent" is not required to find the officials failed in their responsibilities, the report said, and it did not charge that bad intent was at play in the situation. Rather, the report suggests that the men were not aware of or focused on their responsibilities to the woman who reported the violence to the football coach.

Others have suggested a motivation, denied by the university, that its failure to act enabled the assistant coach to participate in a bowl game. After the allegations became public, after the bowl game, the assistant coach, Joe Tumpkin, was suspended and resigned. Tumpkin was subsequently charged with five felony assaults.

Many details of the case were first reported in a February article by Sports Illustrated, which attracted considerable attention to the situation.

DiStefano and the two athletic officials each issued statements Monday accepting the punishments and responsibility for what they failed to do.

In his statement, DiStefano said that he proposed his punishment, and that he realized his errors of judgment. "In recent years I have … insisted that every member of the university community commit to our effort to end sexual misconduct and violence. As hard as it is to say, I did not live up to these standards, and I regret it. I am committed to making CU Boulder a campus where women, and everyone, feel valued, respected and safe."

He said he asked the university to donate the salary he will not receive for 10 days to a group that fights domestic violence.

In the investigative report, DiStefano is quoted as telling investigators that "I kick myself every day" over failing to take action immediately.

While the suspension of a chancellor is unusual, the lawyer for the woman whose allegations were not reported said that Colorado deserves no praise for what it announced Monday.

Peter Ginsberg, a New York lawyer who is representing the woman, said the outside investigation was well done. But he questioned the sanctions.

"Punishments are more severe for recruiting violations," Ginsberg told The Daily Camera. "The idea that the athletic director and head coach responsible have punishments that pale in comparison to routine infractions is simply hard to comprehend. We are just so deeply disappointed in how CU has reacted to this serious breach of loyalty to my client and the community."

While $100,000 is a lot of money for most academics, the football coach at Colorado has a salary (not counting bonus eligibility) of more than $2 million.

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White paper explores how to redesign scholarly monograph for digital use

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 07:00

The idea of a product that, at a glance, can point scholars to the exact point in a book that is relevant to their research may sound like science fiction, but that’s how the scholarly database JSTOR is pitching a recently released research tool.

The tool, called Topicgraph, is part of a JSTOR project to take the digital scholarly monograph from a PDF to something more useful for researchers. The organization on Monday published the final version of a white paper outlining 13 ideas on how to do so, ranging from the convenient -- such as giving readers more navigational tools within digital books -- to the complicated, like removing restrictions on how readers use and reuse books.

“Books just have not made the same digital transition in the way that journals have,” Laura Brown, managing director of JSTOR, said in an interview. “We’ve been on a mission to see if we can help unlock that value.”

JSTOR Labs’ Ideas for Rethinking the Digital Monograph

  • Allow different kinds of readers to navigate in different ways
  • Give readers better tools to assess the content of online scholarly books quickly and efficiently
  • Let readers navigate more quickly to the portion of a book they are interested in
  • Provide better functionality for situating a book within the larger scholarly conversation
  • Let readers flip between sections of a digital monograph as easily as they can in a print book
  • Let readers work simultaneously with both a print and digital edition
  • Simplify using digital books simultaneously with other scholarly resources, including primary texts, reference works, journal articles and other books
  • Let books travel easily from device to device
  • Offer features that allow readers to interact with and mark up digital books
  • Let readers work with books in collaborative environments
  • Create opportunities for serendipitous discovery
  • Make scholarly book files open and flexible

JSTOR has over the past few years shown -- and responded to -- a growing interest in scholarly monographs. The database in 2013 launched the Books at JSTOR program and has in less than five years added tens of thousands of titles and more than 1,000 library customers.

The database's own metrics show JSTOR's users are eager book readers, Brown said. Yet few would argue that long PDF files make for ideal digital reading. As more and more researchers use general search engines and library websites as a starting point for research, making digital books more easily discoverable could help showcase the monograph -- still seen as the gold standard of scholarly work by many -- to a new generation of scholars, she said.

"We are just at the beginning of that journey," Brown said about JSTOR's work with scholarly monographs. "The usage of books on the JSTOR platform is just exploding."

Alex Humphreys, director of JSTOR Labs, said the results from the Books at JSTOR program suggest the database has tapped into an appetite among researchers to access scholarly monographs digitally. But the work to digitize scholarly monographs has come at a symbolic cost. Breaking up books into chapters has made longer manuscripts more accessible to readers, who tend to only read five to 10 pages of a digital title before determining whether it is relevant to their research, but it has to some extent “journalized” books, he said.

“The value of a long-form piece of scholarship, a continuous argument, a real exploration of a single topic -- some of that gets lost when it’s split up into chapters,” Humphreys said. “We were hoping to find new tools and ways that would bring that value back.”

JSTOR Labs is working on building those tools, Humphreys said. The group can perhaps best be described as a Skunk Works within the scholarly database, which in turn is part of the higher education nonprofit Ithaka. The group works on projects that could bring new functionality to the database and also help scholars in general.

While the group can’t dramatically transform the monograph publishing market on its own, it is focusing on tools it can build to benefit researchers. Examples include works in progress with names such as the “Book-as-Portal-to-Other-Scholarship,” the “Scholarly Reader,” the “Scholarly Influence Graph,” the “Topic Explorer” and the “Way-Better Table of Contents.”

Working with faculty members and graduate students at Columbia University, JSTOR Labs chose to focus first on the “Topic Explorer” idea. Topicgraph, the completed prototype, uses text analysis to find key terms in a manuscript and group them into relevant topics. The tool then displays the top 15 to 25 topics and a graph showing the frequency at which they appear throughout the book next to the manuscript itself. Clicking at a point on the graph navigates to the corresponding page of the manuscript, where the relevant terms are highlighted.

The prototype features about 60 titles from a handful of university presses to show how the tool works, and JSTOR Labs is inviting testers to submit their own manuscripts to be “topicgraphed.” At 52 pages, JSTOR Labs’ own white paper is shorter than the manuscripts that the tool is designed to work with, but feeding the paper to the tool still identifies “digital publications” as the No. 1 topic.

Should researchers respond positively to Topicgraph, the tool could become a standard part of how JSTOR displays scholarly books and journals, Humphreys said. A different JSTOR Labs tool called the Text Analyzer, which scans the contents of a document and recommends similar titles, launched in beta form in March (to praise from Inside Higher Ed blogger Barbara Fister).

As JSTOR Labs continues to refine Topicgraph, it will also build new prototypes, Humphreys said. He added that he is particularly interested in working on tools that turn digital monographs into portals to other research and help researchers with citation and reference mining.

For other projects -- for example, building a dedicated book reader for scholarly works -- JSTOR Labs hopes to partner with other groups involved in scholarly communication, Brown said.

“The reimagined monograph -- whatever that ultimately means -- will not be built in a single step, or by a single organization,” the white paper reads. “Libraries, publishers, scholars, scholarly societies and others will all have a role to play -- in promoting standards, in convening thinkers, in carrying out technology development and so on -- and in doing so, they will be drawing on the wonderful history of collaboration in the scholarly communications community.”

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Southern Methodist student punished after posting response to racist fliers

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 07:00

Southern Methodist University punished a student for tacking up fliers saying, “Why white women should date black men,” her response to racist materials that had been posted around campus urging white women not to date black men.

The institution deemed her fliers prejudiced, too, and indeed, they did contain potentially offensive statements that the student says were satirical. The incident raises questions about when and how a college should take stands on forms of expression.

Emily Walker, who will enter her senior year at SMU in the fall, was given a deferred suspension -- meaning she committed an offense so great that it would constitute a suspension, but officials chose not to enforce the punishment. In the past weeks, she has started publicly discussing her experience with the campus judicial system, claiming the university only seeks to protect its image.

In November, she created and posted her fliers, a reply to posters that had been hung anonymously around campus that month with the header “Why white women shouldn’t date black men.”

The original poster claimed black men were more likely to carry sexually transmitted diseases and abuse their partners.

Southern Methodist quickly condemned the initial fliers, and the president, R. Gerald Turner, released a statement then, telling those who “[commit] to living a life of denigrating others” should find another place to live.

University statements do not specify whether anyone was punished for those fliers.

“The entire community must recommit to discouraging and eliminating such unacceptable behavior. There will be many tense moments nationally over the next few months. During these moments, the SMU community must be able to discuss our differences with mutual respect surrounded by a supportive campus environment for everyone. Anything less is unworthy of who we are,” Turner’s statement said.

But Walker, who at the time worked as a student athletic trainer, often with teams composed largely of black students, felt compelled to show support in some way.

Walker wrote in an email to Inside Higher Ed she had seen some football team members cry after the original posting.

“It is important to fight racism so the next generation grows up knowing what is right and what is wrong,” Walker said. “It’s a steep mountain to climb due to the prior generations not prioritizing successful integration of difference races within America.”

She printed fliers with information saying black men were less likely to commit mass shootings and that babies from parents of two different races were likely to be healthier.

Then she started into stereotypes -- what she called satire -- to raise questions about the original posters.

She wrote that black men could more likely to “sexually please” a woman. She included a world map that showed the average size of a penis by country, highlighting the fact that the number was higher in African nations.

“Once you go black,” she wrote on her flier, “you don’t go back.”

Though such platitudes are considered offensive, Walker told a local television station they were meant as satire.

Still, the university considered Walker’s fliers a violation of its nondiscrimination, affirmative action and equal opportunity policy.

Because officials determined Walker had infringed on that policy, she was also in violation of the student code of conduct, they said, and handed her the yearlong deferred suspension, beginning in late March.

Walker was also instructed to write a minimum 1,500-word reflection paper on how she could have more appropriately responded to the first flier.

A university spokesman, Kent Best, said in an emailed statement that federal privacy law prohibits the university from discussing Walker’s case.

“One hallmark of a great university is its willingness to recognize freedom of expression on difficult topics, yet every university struggles with the question of balance when it comes to allegations of harassing and discriminatory speech. At SMU, incidents are investigated under SMU’s nondiscrimination and Title IX harassment policies on a case-by-case basis,” Best said.

When Raven Battles, a Southern Methodist junior and president of the black student association, spoke with a few black men on campus, she said they believed Walker’s flier “hadn’t helped much.”

They felt that by including the sexual stereotypes about black men, it fetishized them, Battles said in an interview.

Over all, the fliers didn’t prompt a huge campus response, mostly because administrators addressed concerns so quickly, Battles said. She described the association’s relationship with the university as positive, saying that officials supported minority students' events and their safety.

In her email to Inside Higher Ed, Walker said she felt the incident created a “chilling effect” on her freedom of speech.

“I can’t open my mouth, because if I do, it’s worth being suspended,” Walker said.

As a private institution, Southern Methodist isn’t obligated to follow the same statutes that protect free speech at a public university. It can and did levy punishments based on its own policies.

But the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which handles discrimination complaints, has previously indicated that a single case of offensive expression wouldn’t constitute harassment that would be barred by federal law.

“In order to establish a hostile environment, conduct must be sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive as to limit or deny the student's ability to participate in or benefit from the educational program,” the office wrote in a 2013 letter to the University of California, Berkeley.

The Education Department at the time was investigating a complaint filed against Berkeley that Jewish students were being discriminated against on campus.

Worrisome to Gary Pavela, an expert in higher education law, and the co-founder of Academic Integrity Seminar, is that the incident at Southern Methodist concerned a woman trying to protect minorities, he said. Pavela's organization tries to teach students the importance of social trust.

Pavela referenced both the 2013 OCR letter to Berkeley and a 1973 Supreme Court case, Papish v. University of Missouri Curators, that ruled a student was inappropriately expelled for distributing a student publication with a risqué cartoon.

The University of Missouri is a public institution.

“My reaction is that neither by OCR standards nor constitutional standards … this meets no definition of unlawful expression I’ve encountered,” Pavela said of Walker’s case.

Southern Methodist has been criticized before for race-related issues on campus. In 2015, two fraternities canceled an off-campus party that President Turner called “racially offensive.”

The “Ice Party” Facebook advertisement featured a black rapper gripping a chain in his mouth.

“It is simply unacceptable for any campus group or individual to employ images and language that promote negative stereotypes and are demeaning to the dignity of any member of our campus community,” Turner said in a statement at the time.

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California State University looks to end placement exams

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 07:00

Many community colleges are moving away from placement exams as a means of determining the skills of incoming students.

Now the California State University System is planning to do the same in an effort to increase graduation rates, despite lingering concerns from some officials and faculty members that removing the tests may hurt students in the long run.

“We’re trying to increase the number of students who can go right into college course work to get college credit instead of track students into remediation for various reasons,” said April Grommo, director of enrollment management services for the system, adding that the system would discontinue the use of early placement tests as soon as 2018 and instead rely on high school grades and course work, SAT or ACT scores as measures to determine college readiness.

The move is part of the system’s long-term goal known as Graduation Initiative 2025, which is a series of steps Cal State is taking to increase the four-year graduation rate from about 20 percent today to 40 percent in the next eight years. The goal also includes increasing the six-year graduation rate from 57 percent in 2015 to 70 percent in 2025.

The Cal State system currently uses its own English and math exams designed by Educational Testing Service to determine placement.

The system already uses the SAT, the ACT and the state assessment given to K-12 students as a method to exempt students from taking placement exams altogether. But under the new policy, in order for students to be considered "conditionally ready" for English, they would have to meet a similar standard on the state's Early Assessment Program exam, which is given to 11th-grade students, score between a 510 and 540 on the SAT's reading and writing section, or score between 19 and 21 on the ACT English section. Students considered to be "conditionally ready" in math would also have to meet a similar standard on the EAP exam, score between 520 and 560 on the SAT math section, or score between 20 and 22 on the ACT math test.

Students could transition from conditionally ready to "ready" in math or English if they completed approved 12th-grade courses or transferred college courses that satisfy the requirement with a grade of C or better.

But if students score below those benchmarks and were considered conditionally ready, the system would introduce the review of high school course work and grades to determine placement, Grommo said, and if based on all factors the student is found not to be college ready, they would be required to attend the system's early-start course in the summer.

Grommo said the system is still gathering feedback from campuses, community college partners and K-12 systems across the state, so the new policy isn't finalized yet.

"We are introducing the evaluation of high school course work and discontinuing the placement test since we already have passing scores for ACT, SAT and EAP in place," she said. "By introducing high school course work as an additional placement method, less students will need remediation and can start in college credit-bearing courses with additional support."

Systemwide 28 percent of students are placed in remedial math and 23 percent in remedial English, Grommo said. The system serves about 480,000 students.

In math, 38 percent of students are considered ready for college-level course work -- 52 percent in English -- by the time they graduate from high school, but after they've taken the state exam, the ACT, SAT or AP exam. When it comes to the current placement exams, 12 percent of students are considered ready in math and 4 percent in English are ready for college-level courses.

Removing placement exams isn’t the only angle in the initiative to increase graduation rates. The chancellor’s office is also directing campuses to create “stretch” courses and supplemental courses. Stretch courses, unlike traditional remediation, would give college credit to students who might not be likely to succeed in college-level courses and provide them with more time with instructors and additional support. Some campuses, like Cal State Long Beach, already offer stretch courses. The system is also expecting campuses to beef up early-start programs to provide additional support to incoming students in the summer.

Researchers have been learning for years now that some students who are placed in remedial courses because of placement tests would actually be better served in college-level courses. Students often don’t receive college credit for remedial or developmental education courses. Those classes may also increase barriers to completion by using up students’ financial aid resources.

“We know success of remedial courses, especially at community colleges, is less than stellar, and students trapped in remedial aren’t able to move forward and earn college credits,” said Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, a California-based nonprofit that seeks to build support for public higher education. “The movement toward multiple measures is a better one, and having one high-stakes test … is inefficient. Students’ abilities can’t be appropriately measured by one aspect, and testing them on multiple measures should be the approach.”

A 2012 study from the Community College Research Center at Teachers College at Columbia University found that up to a third of students who tested into remedial courses because of college placement tests could have passed college-level classes with a grade of B or better.

However, there has been less focus and research on eliminating placement exams at four-year universities.

"Although there's no reason to assume the results will be different at universities," said Pam Burdman, a higher education policy analyst and fellow at the Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit that promotes social mobility based in Berkeley, Calif., "my hope, since they're going ahead with this, is that CSU will monitor and evaluate the outcome of this policy and how it impacts students. But a lot of research has shown, particularly in math, remedial course taking doesn't benefit students in terms of their future college outcomes."

Burdman said there shouldn't be a concern for students attending a STEM-focused campus like California Polytechnic State University, with majors in highly technical disciplines, since the requirements in math would already be stronger.

But admission standards are so selective on those campuses that students wouldn't be affected by the CSU policy change on placement tests, Matt Lazier, media relations director at Cal Poly, said in an email, adding that none of the university's new students are remedial. The grade point average for the incoming freshman class is 4.04, the ACT average is 31 and SAT average is 2085.

Meanwhile, at Cal State Long Beach, President Jane Conoley said the campus already has stretch courses, but she sees this as an opportunity to redirect remedial resources into learning communities, supplemental education and cohort-based training that research has already proven helps students who are the least prepared for college-level courses.

“Whether grades or a placement exam, nothing is perfect, but we’ve been going down this path for a while to get rid of these dead-end courses students don’t do well in, they have to repeat and don’t get credit for,” Conoley said, adding that 30 percent of Long Beach students require remediation. “There is a concern faculty may have that they may get students not as prepared, but my dream is all the resources invested in remedial would be moved to stretch courses and to support faculty members.”

And although most of the movement on eliminating placement tests has been at the community college level, Conoley said regardless of whether they are in high school, community college or a university, students presented with a challenge will rise to meet it and "lowering expectations slows them down for graduation."

For many faculty members, grading placement exams isn’t a thrilling venture, but there needs to be some type of assessment that communicates students can enter an undergraduate class, especially when the reality is that many students do need some type of remediation, said Steven Filling, a professor of accounting and finance at CSU Stanislaus State and chapter president for the California Faculty Association.

"CSU is mandated to take the top one-third of graduating [high school] students," Filling said. "Our population is pretty broad, but it's still the top third. We're interested in our students being able to successfully process what is going on in the university system, but placement exams are there in the first place because high school grades don't give you all the information you need. There's a lot of variability out there."

The Stanislaus campus already has stretch courses, as well.

“Politically it would be wonderful to say we’re getting rid of any kind of placement exam or developmental remedial education and everyone thinks it’s progress,” Filling said. “But we’re not sure that’s progress, because we haven’t solved the problem of people not being engaged in quantitative reasoning as they approach problems in their lives.”

Ultimately, Filling said, he hopes CSU administration understands the complete implications of what these changes may mean to students and wishes they had talked to more faculty about how these changes may affect students.

The Cal State English Council, for example, issued a statement expressing dismay at the speed with which the shift to end placement exams has happened.

"While many first-year writing programs are in favor of retiring the [early placement test], this is not a universal opinion, which speaks to the need for campus autonomy in determining assessment measures for placement," the statement said.

Some campuses have transitioned to directed self-placement, which has eliminated the need for the placement exam, but the council feels each campus should be able to decide its own assessment measures for placement.

“Yes, I want to see the graduation rate go up, and I’ll do anything within bounds to make that happen, but to me graduation is a metric for something else,” Filling said. “We can’t just focus on how many diplomas we hand out and forget that’s not what we do. We’re trying to educate people.”

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