Higher Education News

Students and scholars are stranded after Trump bars travel for nationals from 7 countries

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 01/30/2017 - 08:00

An executive order signed by President Trump late Friday afternoon immediately barring immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. has had immediate effects on scholars and students. More than 17,000 students in the U.S. come from the seven countries affected by the immediate 90-day entry ban: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The American Civil Liberties Union reported late Saturday that a federal judge had granted its request to temporarily block the deportations of individuals from the seven countries who found themselves trapped in airports nationwide after the ban went into effect. The entry ban, however, remains in place.

Trump's executive order only deals with entry to the U.S. It does not direct the removal of those already present, but it does mean that people who are lawfully present from the seven affected countries might not be able to get back into the country if they leave, even those who hold student visas that allow such travel.

One such student, Ali Abdi, tweeted Friday, "I am an Iranian Ph.D. student at Yale Uni. Now overseas to do research. Trump's EO [executive order] might prevent me from returning to the U.S.!"

Abdi, a fourth-year anthropology student, said in a Skype interview he traveled the weekend immediately following Trump’s inauguration from New York to the United Arab Emirates to apply for a visa for Afghanistan, where he’s doing his dissertation research.

“I still do not have a visa to go to Afghanistan,” said Abdi, who for now remains in Dubai. “After the executive order signed by President Trump, it seems that all nationals of Iran and six other countries with Muslim-majority populations, they cannot go back to the U.S. if they are on student visas, work visas, or even if they are green card holders.” (The administration initially applied the ban to green card holders before partially -- but only partially -- walking back on that Sunday and suggesting that lawful permanent residents would be admitted on a case-by-case basis "absent significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare." Most international students do not have green cards, but instead are on temporary, nonimmigrant student visas.)

“I also cannot go to Iran, my home country, because I am a human rights activist. I have been vocal against the injustices happening in my homeland over the past eight years since I left the country. So I’m in a situation that I am neither welcome by the Iranian government, nor by the American government,” said Abdi.

“The American government doesn’t let me in. The Iranian government lets me in. It doesn’t let me out.”

Abdi, who does hold a green card, was not sure when, if at all, he will be able to come back to the U.S. -- and, given what's happened, his heart is not set on it. His original plan was to return to Yale after a year abroad to finish writing his dissertation and to graduate. He has already completed his classes and comprehensive exams.

“To be very honest with you, it’s difficult for me to consider the U.S. as my home anymore, because it has a president now who is visibly racist, especially toward people coming from certain regions of the world, the Middle East and in particular Iran. I do not feel comfortable and safe and secure living there, compared to living in Dubai or living in Kabul,” Abdi said.

He continued: “According to the Trump administration, the visa ban is supposed to make America safe again. It’s interesting that the first few paragraphs of the executive order refer to Sept. 11. As we all know, the hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt and the U.A.E. None of those countries are on the list. I am not suggesting at all that the nationals of those countries should be banned -- not at all, that is also bigotry, discrimination and racism -- but what I'm saying is rather than being a way to make America safe and secure again, this executive order in my opinion is just a way to satisfy Iranophobic, Islamophobic and xenophobic sentiments that are on the rise in the United States.”

The Executive Order

The executive order represents Trump's effort to follow through on his campaign pledge to temporarily suspend visa processing from certain countries “that have a history of exporting terrorism” and to put new, more “extreme” vetting procedures in place for those seeking visas. The order, framed as intended to prevent the entry of terrorists into the U.S., specifically references the risk that terrorists could enter on student or other forms of nonimmigrant visas, as well as through the refugee resettlement program.

The text of the order, republished by The New York Times, states: "Numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since Sept. 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after receiving visitor, student or employment visas, or who entered through the United States refugee resettlement program. Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism."

In addition to imposing the 90-day entry ban and directing a review and reform of visa procedures, the executive order calls for a 120-day suspension on all refugee admissions and an indefinite suspension on entry of all Syrian refugees. It orders that the U.S. admit no more than 50,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017, less than half the target of 110,000 set by the previous Obama administration.

Civil rights groups have condemned the executive order as a pretext for banning Muslims. Trump called at one point during the campaign for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

"I'm establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America," Trump said in signing the order. "We don't want 'em here. We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love, deeply, our people."

The order is, however, already having deep effects on students and scholars who were already admitted into this country and suddenly found themselves unable to travel outside it for academic or personal purposes -- if they want to be sure they can come back into the U.S., that is -- or who were caught outside the country when the order was signed.

Stranded Students and Scholars

Payam Jafari is among those who finds himself stranded outside the country. He was planning to return to the San Francisco on a Feb. 5 flight for his final semester in a master's program in filmmaking at the Academy of Art University after spending the winter break spent visiting his family in Iran. He said he has entered the U.S. four times in the past three years with no problems, and that his student visa is valid through November.

"I have spent three years of my life in San Francisco," Jafari said. "I’ve been working on my most important project in my life. It’s going to be my first feature film. I’ve talked with professional actors, I have them interested in my project. I’m talking to an American and an Iranian-American -- they're interested in investing in my project, and right now I don’t know what to do."

"I’m in Iran," he said, "and my mind is in San Francisco."

Others prevented from entering the U.S. include Samira Asgari, an Iranian with a doctorate from Switzerland's École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, who told The Boston Globe she was turned away at the airport in Frankfurt. She was traveling to Boston to work on a project on tuberculosis at a Harvard University laboratory.

Nazanin Zinouri, a recent graduate of Clemson University's Ph.D. program in industrial engineering, was made to disembark a U.S.-bound plane in Dubai, U.A.E. Zinouri, who graduated from Clemson in August, had traveled to Iran about a week earlier to visit family. "No one warned me when I was leaving, no one cared what will happen to my dog or my job or my life there. No one told me what I should do with my car that is still parked at the airport parking. Or what to do with my house and all my belongings," Zinouri wrote in a widely shared Facebook post. "They didn't say it with words but with their actions, that my life doesn't matter. Everything I worked for all these years doesn't matter."

The University of Massachusetts reported that it was working to assist affected students, faculty and staff and that "several were out of the country at the time of the executive order, including two UMass Dartmouth faculty who were detained at Logan Airport on Saturday despite being lawful permanent residents of the U.S."

UMass Dartmouth reported Sunday that the two professors were released after three hours. "Now that our colleagues are safe," the interim chancellor, Peyton R. Helm, and provost, Mohammad Karim, said in a strongly worded statement, "we want to be clear that we believe the executive order does nothing to make our country safer and represents a shameful ignorance of and indifference to the values that have traditionally made America a beacon of liberty and hope."

The National Association of Graduate-Professional Students reported that Vahideh Rasekhi, a linguistics Ph.D. student and the president of the Graduate Student Union at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, was detained at New York's Kennedy Airport when she attempted to re-enter the U.S. and was not released until late Sunday afternoon. She had traveled abroad to renew her F-1 student visa, a 10-week process which she had recently completed.

Confusion and Concern

Significant confusion -- including the contradictory guidance and implementation vis-à-vis green card holders -- has marked the rollout of the order, which went into effect immediately after Trump signed it late Friday.

“What we have is, frankly, a matter of significant concern and a great deal of confusion and very little clarity,” said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education. “At this point it’s clear that the executive order was issued without consulting the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Justice and Defense.”

“Our hope here is [Homeland Security] will move pretty quickly to clarify the parameters of the order, and to define what it means for people in the United States, and people who are not in the United States who have valid visas. The big uncertainty for colleges and universities is what it means for students who are being admitted now for September. They’d need to get a new visa by August, and obviously new visas are going to be frozen for 90 days,” Hartle said.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators issued a statement on Sunday strongly condemning the order as undermining America's safety and values of freedom, opportunity and openness.

"This is simply inconceivable," Esther D. Brimmer, NAFSA's executive director and CEO, said in the statement. "The latest executive order, egregious enough in its aim to suspend the refugee program and to enact a blanket ban on visa approvals from these seven nations and Syrian refugees fleeing violence, has also caused enormous collateral damage in its implementation. Universities and colleges have already begun reporting cases of students and scholars stranded after traveling for reasons including studying abroad, attending conferences and visiting sick or dying family members."

"This particular action took us away from policies, which, in the past, have made our nation safe and strong," Brimmer's statement continued. "Thoughtful policies and not those that are capricious and unpredictable have kept our country growing and thriving economically and educationally. Moreover, this action overlooks the balance between the openness that makes us great, with the security that keeps us safe. It ignores the careful and thorough vetting procedures that have been established to welcome who we want in our nation while keeping out those who intend us harm."

Peter McPherson, the president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said in a statement, "The impact of this decision goes beyond those immediately impacted. Our nation’s universities are enriched and strengthened by the talent, insight and culture that international students, faculty, researchers and staff bring. With appropriate and effective vetting, international students from all countries and of all religions have long been a core part of our campus communities, and that should continue uninterrupted. We are also concerned that this decision adds great uncertainty to international students, researchers and others who might consider coming to our campuses."

A petition signed by more than 7,000 academics by early Sunday evening, including 37 Nobel laureates, condemns the entry ban as discriminatory based on religion and national origin and as detrimental to U.S. interests. The petition argues that the action by Trump damages the nation's position of leadership in higher education and research and poses an "undue burden" on certain international students and scholars.

“The people whose status in the United States would be reconsidered under this EO are our students, friends, colleagues and members of our communities,” the petition states. “The implementation of this EO will necessarily tear families apart by restricting entry for family members who live outside of the U.S. and limiting the ability to travel for those who reside and work in the U.S. These restrictions would be applied to nearly all individuals from these countries, regardless of their immigration status or any other circumstances. This measure is fatally disruptive to the lives of these immigrants, their families and the communities of which they form an integral part. It is inhumane, ineffective and un-American.”

Some university leaders also issued letters and statements about the changes. A particularly strong statement came from the University of Notre Dame's president, the Reverend John I. Jenkins, who called on Trump to rescind the order.

“The sweeping, indiscriminate and abrupt character of President Trump’s recent executive order halts the work of valued students and colleagues who have already passed a rigorous, post-9/11 review process, are vouched for by the university and have contributed so much to our campuses. If it stands, it will over time diminish the scope and strength of the educational and research efforts of American universities, which have been the source not only of intellectual discovery but of economic innovation for the United States and international understanding for our world; and, above all, it will demean our nation, whose true greatness has been its guiding ideals of fairness, welcome to immigrants, compassion for refugees, respect for religious faith and the courageous refusal to compromise its principles in the face of threats," Father Jenkins said.

For International Students, 'A Chilling Effect'

At Portland State University, which has 76 students from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria, most of them graduate students, President Wim Wiewel issued a statement describing the order as having "a chilling effect not only on these students but on our Muslim students and all international students."

"We have numerous students of Iraqi and Iranian origin," said Shabbir Abbas, the president of the Graduate Muslim Student Association at Rutgers University (and a U.S. citizen). "Firstly, they are heartbroken. Many of these students have come from war-ravaged and poverty-stricken nations. Coming here was not only a dream come true, but also something that required painstaking effort. Now with a few strokes of a pen it can all come crashing down."

"If they leave the country, their return is in doubt -- actually, they won’t be able to return -- and a lot of these students, they have young children. They’re in preschool, kindergarten," Abbas said.

One humanities Ph.D. student from Iran who asked not to be named described how the order has complicated -- and potentially compromised -- plans to travel overseas for dissertation research. The student, who just completed comprehensive exams, needs to travel to Europe, Turkey and Iran to conduct fieldwork and interviews and to visit museum collections and archives.

"I wanted to do it in summer of 2017, but now everything is just vague and I don’t know what will happen," the student said.

Even if the ban were to be lifted in time for the summer, the student said, the entry ban has made it difficult to plan and to apply for funding to cover travel costs.

"When you want to do something like that, you have to plan ahead of time, you rent a place, you have a lot of things going on. It's not just like OK, in 90 days, if it’s OK, I will go. No, you have to plan ahead of time. All your life is here."

“I just started writing grants for travel for scholarships and stuff like that to cover my expenses, to do the fieldwork that I’m going to do. I'm almost sure that they won’t give it to me, just because they will feel like you’re not going to be able to go, so they’re going to give it to someone else.”

Another Ph.D. student who did not want her full name used said that the ban could affect her summer plans to return to her home country of Iran to conduct field research and, after four long years, to see her family.

"I’ve been in a Ph.D. program for four years, and I haven’t seen my family for the four years because I was so busy with all the course work," the student said. The promise of being able to see her family helped motivate her to do the work, she said. "I was telling myself, 'you’re going to go back home and see your parents.'"

"My brother is getting married in the summer and the whole family wanted me to be there," the student said. When her mother heard the news of the entry ban, she "called me and she was crying," the student said. "She was asking, 'can you come back,' and I said, 'I don’t think so in this situation.' And it was a horrible moment."

"This is unfair discrimination," the student said. "Why are they playing politics with students’ lives? We’re just students here, and we devoted our entire life to study, to have a better life, to find new things in the world, to just help humanity … We thought the United States is a country of freedom. It's a country of democracy and we’re going to have a great education here; we’re going to have a good life here, and we sacrificed being with our beloved ones, leaving our country just coming here with a hope to experience something democratic. We thought the government of the United States, they don’t judge us based on our birthplace or based on our ethnicity or religion."

GlobalForeign StudentsEditorial Tags: Diversity MattersInternational higher educationForeign Students in U.S.Is this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 2

Academics consider how to rebuild public trust in higher education

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 01/27/2017 - 08:00

SAN FRANCISCO -- Public trust in colleges and universities is eroding at a time when liberal education is crucial -- and institutions must respond aggressively. That was the current running through several panels here Thursday at the annual meeting at the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

“A liberal arts education is situated as reserved for those within the ivory tower, reflecting a willful disconnect from the practical matters of everyday life,” said Lynn Pasquerella, president of the AAC&U, during a plenary address called “Always on the Fringe: Closed Futures and the Promise of Liberal Education.” It’s a trend that’s been “exacerbated by the recent political jockeying and appeals to people’s fears and prejudices, in which rational inquiry built on evidence has all but been abandoned.”

In order to restore trust and “destabilize the attitudes at the basis of proposals that devalue education,” Pasquerella said, “we need to demonstrate in a more compelling way to those outside of the academy, Democrats and Republicans alike, the extent to which we are teaching students 21st-century skills, the ability to solve the world’s most pressing problems -- local, national and global issues -- within the context of the work force, not apart from it.”

Beyond that, she said, “championing liberal education must reaffirm the role that it plays in discerning the truth.”

The AAC&U has long advocated for liberal education, or a broad education that stresses critical thinking skills and preparation for a career as opposed to specific job, and lifelong learning, not just at liberal arts institutions. But administrators and faculty members spoke with a new urgency here, referencing declining governmental and cultural deference to peer-reviewed research and facts in general. Several speakers, including Pasquerella, said devaluing academe not only threatens the pursuit of truth but has a disparately negative impact on underrepresented groups and the poor. That risks greater inequality, or what Thomas Jefferson called an “unnatural aristocracy.” Indeed, Pasquerella called economic inequality the biggest challenge for higher education.

“We need to be vigilant in rebutting accusations of irrelevance and illegitimacy leveled specifically at the liberal arts and sciences and to recognize those charges for what they are -- collusion in the growth of an intellectual oligarchy,” she said, “in which only the very richest and most prestigious institutions preserve access to the liberal arts traditions.”

Pasquerella called on those present to face their share of the blame for the state of higher education, and there was lots of blame to go around.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University and author of Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid and the Betrayal of the American Dream, pointed to the economics of higher education. Many colleges, including public institutions, have become so unaffordable to so many that students and their families doubt a degree’s promise of economic mobility, she said. That’s especially true among those who take out loans and truer still for those who leave campus for whatever reason with debt but without a degree, she said.

Colleges and universities promote the idea that “We’re worth it, debt is worth it, taking a loan to come here is very much worth it,” Goldrick-Rab added. “We’ve not only shifted sort of our own rhetoric about this, but the major mechanism of financial aid at the federal level has become loans and not grants over time. And part of that has been facilitated by the rhetoric that says, ‘We can charge what we want because what we’re providing is a value, and we will discount it for those who have need, and we will do so effectively’ -- what’s called the high-tuition, high-aid model -- despite the fact that over 30 to 40 years, we’ve failed to actually implement that model. We told ourselves a story over and over where our students are actually all right, or they must be, or we wouldn’t be able to sleep at night, quite frankly.”

Jeff Selingo, author of There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow, said institutions themselves perpetuate the public-versus-private good debate by focusing too much on higher education’s personal economic returns. At the same time, he said, “It’s very tough to put that genie back in the bottle.”

Beverly Daniel Tatum, former president of Spelman College, pushed back on the idea that all colleges tout economic gains over liberal education values, saying that her institution stresses community uplift -- precisely why some students choose to attend it over other colleges or universities that offer them more aid. And while access to liberal education for the underrepresented is at risk, too many of the minority, poor and first-generation college students already on campus interact too little with other socioeconomic and racial groups, she added. (Tatum wrote the literal book on that topic, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race, which she’s currently updating.)

But Tatum, too, expressed concern about citizens who lack "historical understanding.”

Answering a question about higher education under President Trump, she cited his predictable “unpredictability," saying, “When people don’t have a historical education, you don’t know what they’ll do.”

Goldrick-Rab, who moved to Temple from the University of Wisconsin at Madison over that state’s recent gutting of tenure at public institutions, said she thought, “We’re all living in Wisconsin now.” Predicting the further erosion of for-profit college and university regulations and the possible “starving” of nonprofit institutions, she encouraged a “resistance” that involves naming threats for what they are without fear of retribution, and being allies to the most vulnerable.

Much of the talk about a “resistance” to present and future challenges to higher education involved adopting a new language of advocacy. One audience member pointed out that even the word “liberal” to describe education is fraught and misunderstood in today’s political discourse.

Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, said “parochialism” has been successful for the leaders of the “new populism we’re seeing,” but that academics should take a “deep dive” into their own brand of provincialism. A liberal education aims to promote certain habits of mind, and “learning to learn,” but not prescribe “ways of life people ought to adopt.” Like Tatum, he stressed the importance of meaningful dialogue (what she called “learning to listen”), and also said that academe must be more accepting of “traditional conservative religion and thought.”

Roth even called “critical thinking” overrated as a term and, to a certain extent, as a practice; criticism comes easily for students, just as irony does to the faculty, he joked -- so students should be taught not only to take ideas apart but to make new ones. (The idea was particularly relevant so close to Silicon Valley and in a crowd that had at an earlier plenary been encouraged by faculty members from Stanford University's Institute of Design to teach students innovative, entrepreneurial thinking.)

“If everybody’s ready to be critical, then the brainstorming is over,” he said. “Have we given [students the] courage to create?”

At the same time, Roth said to applause, educators cannot engage in conversations based on “bigotry” or “collaborate with fascistic, extraconstitutional measures that target minorities.”

‘Naked’ Transparency and Unhelpful Binaries

In a separate panel explicitly called “‘Coming Clean’: Rebuilding the Public Trust,” other thinkers took responsibility for decreased confidence in higher education and said how it might be earned back.

Mary Ellen Petrisko, president of the Accrediting Commission for Schools-Western Association of Schools and Colleges, pointed to a 2015 Wall Street Journal report called “Watchdogs of Higher Education Rarely Bite” and said that accreditors “are certainly an answer to why public trust has eroded.” She said organizations like hers must do a better job of explaining to the public and policy makers the nuanced process of ensuring institutional accountability, from what’s on the line for students when an institution is at risk of failure to what robust assessment really means.

Institutional value is about much more than sound bites and quick numbers, she said, but colleges and universities can also help themselves by being more transparent about how they know they’re succeeding.

"It’s really easy to get flustered about this as an institution and not know what to do," she said. "Take a deep breath — look at what your learning outcomes are. Do you have general education outcomes? Do you have outcomes or competencies? What are they? How are they stated and how do you know they are being met? In how you know they’re being met, you're getting some information somehow. How do you look at that to know what’s good or bad? How do you translate that into this percentage, or this band of students are doing this, and figure out to present that? That’s a snapshot."

Debra Humphreys, vice president of strategic engagement at the Lumina Foundation, agreed that “the train has left the station” on transparency, saying that institutions need to “go naked” with data on institutional performance. Moreover, she said, those data need to be desegregated so as not to disguise inequity.

Ideally, Humphreys said, institutions would coordinate with each other in such an effort, “but we don’t really have a system of higher education. It would be easier if we did.”

Beyond data, re-engaging the public also means talking more about -- and designing policies and programs around -- who college and university students really are, since only a fraction are “traditional” students straight out of high school, she said. It also means “maintaining a laser focus on equity and quality” in what will likely be a deregulated environment going forward. Lumina, for example, is pushing for high-quality sub-baccalaureate credentials, for example, to oppose “dead-end” offerings.

Natasha Jankowski, director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, said, “Change really moves at the speed of trust,” and that institutions have to do a better job at finding other, more trusted agents to speak for them -- namely alumni. Yet too often, she said, even successful graduates don’t realize they’ve learned the critical thinking and other skills they were supposed to.

“They think they learned it all in spite of us, because we never told them that’s what we were going for.”

People typically equate learning something with taking a class on it, so if they never took a class on, say, ethics, they don’t think they’ve learned it, Jankowski said. Yet even welding programs can and have taught ethics, she said, through problem-based learning exercises about being pressured to finish a bridge contract without the proper materials, for example.

“Being explicit about something that is complicated is very hard,” she said, but being open with students about the relationship between general education and a major or how learning is scaffolded over time not only helps them understand the value of their education but also could help them re-enter a degree program more easily after time away.

Aaron Thompson, interim president of Kentucky State University, knows about rebuilding the public trust, at the helm of an institution that’s faced challenges, including lower graduation rates, in recent years. Recalling Pasquerella’s comments, he said his approach is to reject the binary of liberal arts and technical education, such as by incorporating microcredentials into some programs, and by ceasing to demean critical thinking and other important skills as “soft.”

"Where do we go from here? Build quality into a quantifiable strategic agenda. Let’s be purposeful, let’s be directional, let’s be proactive — let’s do it," he said. "Engage employers early and often. Educate internal and external stakeholders on the value of education. And let’s produce an educated graduate."

  Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: TeachingIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0

Study finds quality of research and teaching are not related

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 01/27/2017 - 08:00

Skilled researchers and effective teachers are neither substitutes nor complements for each other -- in fact, they have no relationship at all, according to a study by two Northwestern University faculty published by the Brookings Institution Thursday.  

Their research adds another perspective to a conversation that has troubled research universities for years: whether an emphasis on scholarship comes at a cost to quality instruction.

“We are able to estimate with really quite impressive statistical precision that they aren’t related,” said Morton Schapiro, president and professor of economics at Northwestern and one of the authors of the study.

Schapiro and his co-author David Figlio, who also teaches economics at Northwestern, evaluated data from all first-year undergraduates students at the university between 2001 and 2008.

They measured teaching quality of tenured faculty two ways. First, they measured how “inspirational” a teacher is by the rate at which non-majors became majors. For example, if a student with an undeclared major took a biology class and subsequently became a biology major, that student’s professor would be marked as inspirational. Second, they measured “deep learning,” or a professor’s long-term value to students, by how well students perform in more advanced classes in the same field.

The authors measured research excellence of tenured faculty through two indicators as well. First, they counted which faculty members are recognized for their research at Northwestern’s annual dinner. Second, they computed each faculty member’s "h-index," which measures frequency and influence of research publications.

At Northwestern, at least, these indicators had no relationship, suggesting that tenured faculty can be both effective teachers and skilled scholars at the same time. This also means that some faculty can be both ineffective teachers and poor researchers -- or one or the other.

It’s unclear how much this study of Northwestern students and faculty can apply to other colleges around the country, Schapiro said, but he encouraged other faculty to compute the data for their own institutions and find out how they compare.

The authors hope the results of this study will help guide the way institutions allocate their limited resources, Schapiro said.

“At a research university, you want good teaching, but you demand brilliant scholarship,” he said. “At a teaching place, it’s nice to have good scholarship, but you demand brilliant teaching.” By knowing that one is not intertwined with the other, colleges and universities can play to their unique strengths when seeking out new instructors. 

Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: TeachingImage Source: iStockIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0

New coalition brings colleges and aviation employers together to solve national hiring shortage

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 01/27/2017 - 08:00

Like many sectors of the economy, the $70 billion aviation manufacturing and maintenance industry has a work force problem, with three-quarters of companies reporting a substantial shortage of skilled workers.

Colleges aren’t producing enough graduates who have the right certification and training, aviation companies say, or who are willing to move across state lines for a job, assuming they even know about openings outside their region.

“Everybody is trying to find people,” said Crystal Maguire, executive director of the Aviation Technician Education Council. “There are needs in areas that don’t necessarily have the supply. And there is supply in areas that don’t have the need.”

Enter the Talent Solutions Coalition, a newly formed nonprofit that seeks to be an employment broker that bridges the gap between colleges and aviation employers. Experts praise the experiment, saying it could be replicated in other industries if the group is successful.

The four participating institutions so far are Wichita Area Technical College, in Kansas; Arizona’s Pima Community College; Vincennes University, a four-year, public institution based in Indiana; and Tulsa Community College, in Oklahoma.

Here’s how the coalition is designed to work.

A regional airline might tell the group it needs to hire 150 skilled workers within two years. The coalition, which is based at Wichita Area Technical College’s National Center for Aviation Training, would then work with its college partners to train 150 students through a specialized, in-person certificate or degree program. That could mean divvying up the slots, with three colleges each taking 50.

Curricula will be tailored to employers’ needs, said Vincennes President Chuck Johnson, with a focus on hands-on experience that is relevant to the work.

The partnerships will lead to some standardization across colleges, Johnson said, and will “have at least a core set of competencies and outcomes.”

Sometimes the hiring pathways will cross state lines. That’s unusual for public institutions, particularly community colleges, which typically don’t plan to train students for jobs in other states or regions.

“It’s bringing together education, business and industry to really solve a national problem,” said Sheree Utash, president of Wichita Area Technical College. “It creates a network.”

The coalition will serve as a “hub for talent acquisition,” she said, and as a “one stop for employers.”

Going National

Most of the job-market benefits of participating will be local, said several officials at participating colleges. But graduates who leave the area also will benefit.

Students who earn credentials through the coalition will have a job waiting for them. And annual salaries often start at $50,000-60,000 for entry-level technicians in aviation, with overtime typically boosting pay.

More than 90 percent of students who complete aviation programs at Pima stay near Tucson, where there are plenty of jobs in the industry, said Ian Roark, vice president of work force development for the community college. But he cited hiring shortages for well-paying aviation jobs both around Tucson and beyond.

“The labor market’s already national,” he said. “The shortage that we’re experiencing regionally is ubiquitous nationally.”

Even so, employers often struggle to get the word out to students about those jobs, said Tim Welsh, the coalition’s executive director. Students typically have outdated views about the industry, thinking about riveters rather than robotics, he said. And the companies’ hiring needs extend beyond technicians to supervisory roles.

Welsh’s group is seeking to connect companies with marketing departments at participating colleges to help them get more information about the aviation career path to students and faculty members.

“This is putting pressure on the employers to get better about telling people why they should come work with them,” he said.

Welsh said the coalition, in its role of “standing up the supply chain,” also plans to help colleges and employers assess the job readiness of students. That means conducting tests aimed at measuring both technical and soft skills, like work ethic. And some of those assessments could be used to issue certifications.

For example, the coalition plans to offer certifications from SpaceTEC, a nonprofit that receives funding from the National Science Foundation and conducts third-party assessments.

The combination of a recognized certification from SpaceTEC with academic training courses that are tailored to aviation manufacturers would be particularly valuable to employers, said Michael McDaniel, general manager of maintenance training for ExpressJet, an Atlanta-based airline.

One problem it might help fix, McDaniel said, is that many colleges’ aviation programs are designed around the Federal Aviation Administration’s relatively minimal licensing requirements, which have not been updated in decades.

“We are struggling to hire and maintain an educated work force,” he said. “The level of training they set is not adequate for our needs.”

As a result, ExpressJet spends time and money training new hires. It can take more than two years to get college-trained employees up to speed, said McDaniel. And bigger airlines often poach workers ExpressJet trains.

The coalition offers a more efficient hiring pathway, he said, by seeking to send to ExpressJet graduates who are well trained, familiar with the companies’ processes and holding a certificate from SpaceTEC.

“You’ve just completed three to six months of your training here,” he says of graduates who will complete the program. “That person’s value suddenly increases within the industry.”

Outgrowth of Federal Grant

The coalition grew directly out of a federal grant program with an exceptionally long name (and acronym): the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program (TAACCCT).

With $2 billion in funding, the grant program backed projects at community colleges that were aimed at encouraging closer coordination with employers. The money went to coalitions of two-year colleges, often from disparate regions of the country, and was intended to create projects that would outlast the federal money.

Those lofty goals weren't always realized. But the Talent Skills Coalition appears to have done exactly what the Obama administration intended with the grants, said Mary Alice McCarthy, a former official at the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education, who is now director of the Center on Education and Skills with the education policy program at New America.

Wichita Area Technical managed one of the grants from 2012 until last October, when the funding expired. The goal of that project, which included Tulsa Community College, was to promote careers in aviation manufacturing. When asked by the college, employers reported that their need for the collaboration remained, Welsh said, with plenty of shortages in well-trained hires. That research was used to create the coalition’s business plan.

Employers are the nonprofit’s primary financial sponsors, according to Welsh. And the coalition has three tiers of relatively low-cost membership fees for colleges to participate.

McCarthy called the partnership a “great outcome of the TAACCCT grants,” which appears to be one of several fledgling efforts to create an “intermediary market that is really connecting education providers with jobs.”

Jason Tyszko agreed. Tyszko, executive director of the Center for Education and Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, praised the coalition’s supply-chain approach and the fact that it stretches across state lines.

“They recognize that labor is mobile,” he said. “Whether the states recognize that is an open question.”

So far, though, college officials sound confident that the model will be viewed as a win-win by colleges and policy makers.

Roark said he expects the coalition to contribute to Pima’s growth in aviation programs, with the partnerships bringing in both more employers and students. The goal, he said, is to “empower our clients, our students, with more information about the labor market.”

For his part, Welsh said, attention to the national hiring pipeline need not be a departure from the mission of community colleges.

“It’s just a new definition of the word ‘community,’” he said.

Community CollegesEditorial Tags: Adult educationCareer/Tech EducationCommunity collegesImage Source: Talent Solutions CoalitionIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Arizona community colleges cope with state disinvestment and declining enrollments

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 01/27/2017 - 08:00

Nearly half a billion dollars.

That’s how much state money officials at Arizona’s Maricopa Community College District estimate they could have received since 2008 and used to increase services for first-generation students or to improve developmental education.

The $441 million estimate is based on the $69 million Arizona's largest community college district received from the state in 2008. Only that figure gradually decreased with each subsequent year until it reached zero.

“We kind of saw it coming,” said Gaye Murphy, vice chancellor for Maricopa’s business services. “We started losing funding around 2008, but by the time we actually lost [all] funding it was a shock. Just to see it go all the way to zero was a shock, but we really had started making cuts before we actually lost all the funding.”

Arizona’s Legislature and governor made the unprecedented move in 2015 to completely cut state support for Maricopa and Pima Community College District, another large urban district that's located in Tucson. Before that decision, Maricopa's state funding had decreased to about $7.4 million. Pima received $6.5 million.

During the last two years, both districts have made cuts to cope with the lack of state support. District officials say their employees have felt the difference through the lack of pay raises or in deferred maintenance for campuses, buildings and equipment. Meanwhile, local property taxes and students' tuition have increased, as both institutions deal with declining enrollments.

“When funding was actually eliminated, it was only approximately $7 million, which was only about 4 percent of our total revenue,” said Libby Howell, Pima’s executive director of media, community and government relations, in an email. “Don’t misunderstand me. We certainly could have found good uses for that $7 million, but the college had already implemented budget cuts, a modified hiring freeze, no pay raises for several years and employees paying a greater percent of medical insurance costs.”

Like Maricopa, Pima had begun cutting back years before they hit zero, but the district still felt the impact.

“Faculty and staff positions remain vacant, and we find it difficult to compete with neighboring states that have a Legislature that supports public education,” Ana Jimenez, a math instructor at the college and president of the Pima Community College Education Association, said in an email. “We uphold our commitment to smaller class sizes and quality education, but a lack of state financial support requires us to find grant funding for state-of-the-art materials. The lack of support from our legislators undermines our morale and forces the college to rely exclusively on taxes and tuition.”

Property taxes, however, are controlled by the Arizona Constitution. In Maricopa County, property taxes have increased about four times in the past 10 years. And the district has received about 9 percent more state revenue from new construction. But Murphy said the new money has not covered the difference in the budget.

In Pima, property taxes increased by 1 percent in 2015, and resident tuition last year rose by 4 percent, to $78.50 a credit hour, Howell said.

But there are other challenges that are affecting the district -- like declining enrollment, which at times is of equal or greater concern to Pima officials because the state funding had already dwindled away.

Enrollment has fallen to circa 1992 levels and currently stands at 15,382 full-time students, yet staffing of faculty and administrators hasn’t changed, Howell said, adding that population growth is slowing, particularly in the 18-to-25 age group that is Pima's primary demographic.

“The college is at the point where it is having to consider really difficult options, such as closing campuses or reducing personnel,” she said.

Maricopa, with about 230,000 students, remains the state’s largest two-year institution. But the district's enrollment was approximately 265,000 students in 2012.

Both Maricopa and Pima have attempted to limit the impact of the state cuts on students.

“While we aren’t able to do the type of job we want to do, we really try very hard to keep the doors open and to make the changes outside of the classroom when we had to scale down,” Murphy said.

Less Red Tape?

A Maricopa economic impact study found that for every $1 of public money spent on the community colleges, taxpayers received a $4 return in tax revenues and reduced government costs, according to the Maricopa Community Colleges Faculty Association.

“The revenue reductions have not undermined faculty’s ability to support their students,” officers from the association said in a written statement. “We believe that we should have the support of the state of Arizona … Our positive impact in both Maricopa County and around the state is significant and we would welcome support from all of our community partners.”

When Arizona disinvested from the two-year institutions, some national observers speculated that the districts would be freed from some of the state requirements and other aspects of regulatory compliance that are usually tied to funding.

At Maricopa, Murphy said, the college was able to cut away some of the “red tape and reports” that they’d been doing for the state for years. And when they did, no one at the state level questioned the move.

“I don’t know how helpful that was to them,” she said, adding that if the state were to ask them to go back to providing additional reporting or accountability measures in return for state funds, the district would certainly do it.

One area the districts got the state to change was expenditure limits. But beyond this, many federal, county, accreditation and programmatic compliance measures still have to be met, Jimenez said.

“We have found ways to work with conservative legislators to ensure that the college is unharmed by other measures being considered,” Howell said. “In the 2016 legislative session, two Republican lawmakers were willing to put forward a bill at the colleges’ request that refined how [full-time student equivalency] is calculated and ultimately gives community colleges great access to their expenditure-limitation funds.”

Besides funding, Murphy said a major concern that remains for the colleges is continuing to be a part of statewide education and work force discussions and decisions. For instance, the state is addressing a critical shortage of K-12 teachers and Internet technology and cybersecurity professionals, all areas where the community colleges could be helpful to the state, she said. The college, for example, has "asserted" itself into the state's goal to ensure 60 percent of Arizona adults have a professional certificate or degree by 2030.

“Right now our governor and Legislature are meeting and a lot of the discussion has to do with funding, but because Maricopa Colleges don’t receive state funding, my concern is that we don’t get left out of discussions about what to do to improve Arizona’s work force development,” Murphy said. “Even if the time is not right to restore any of our funding, we still want to be a part of the solution to address some critical issues in Arizona.”

Community CollegesFinancesEditorial Tags: Community collegesState policyArizonaIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

British prime minister seeks to promote technical education as alternative to universities

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 01/27/2017 - 08:00

The British government has announced a 170 million pound ($213 million) series of prestigious Institutes of Technology are to be developed to offer a “credible alternative” to the academic route of university for young people.

As part of Prime Minister Theresa May’s industrial strategy unveiled this week, technical education will get a radical shake-up to “level the playing field” for those who do not go to university.

But questions have been raised about whether the money could be better spent strengthening ties between universities and existing technical colleges.

May’s industrial strategy is designed to boost the country’s productivity and improve living standards by balancing out regional disparities in growth. The government believes that education and skills are one of the biggest factors behind variations in productivity across Britain.

The prime minister was launching the strategy at a cabinet meeting and was expected to say that it would be a “critical part” of the plan for Britain after the country leaves the European Union.

“Our action will help ensure young people develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future. That means boosting technical education and ensuring we extend the same opportunity and respect we give university graduates to those people who pursue technical routes,” May’s prepared remarks said.

A senior government source reportedly said that May thought it was “unwise to force less academic pupils into the straitjacket of university, leaving them drowning in debt for the sake of a poor degree -- particularly when we have a chronic shortage of British plumbers and engineers.”

The new funding will be used to deliver higher-level technical education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics across the country. The new system will replace thousands of existing programs, many of which the government says are of low quality.

The institutes will offer 15 core technical routes that will give learners the chance to gain the skills that are in demand by local employers and will be tailored to the needs of regional industries.

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of MillionPlus, an association of universities, said that modern universities are “well placed to play a leading role” in the strategy, but she had reservations.

“At a time of major reductions in [further education] and local authority funding, questions also have to be asked as to whether the £170 million announced by the government would be better spent in promoting collaboration between universities and colleges which are already engaged in high-quality professional, technical and vocational education,” she said.

GlobalEditorial Tags: BritainTimes Higher EdIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Research on midcareer professors makes case for support after tenure

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 08:00

SAN FRANCISCO -- Midcareer, tenured faculty members power their institutions, but many also suffer from something like middle-child syndrome. Past the defined demands of achieving tenure but often still relative newbies, they can get lost in the institutional fray. Preliminary research to be presented here today at the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities gives new insight into these professors’ thoughts and experiences and proposes a framework for thinking about them -- one that cuts through stereotypes that they’re unmotivated.

“It seemed pretty ironic that there were very highly privileged workers with a lot of autonomy who didn’t feel lit up by and aligned with their work,” said co-investigator Karla Erickson, associate dean and chair of sociology at Grinnell College, of accounts of tenured professors not having the same drive as their more junior colleagues. “And our findings go against the notion of deadwood workers who, after they receive tenure, simply ‘show up.’”

For her study, to be discussed in a session called “Rethinking the Midcareer Malaise: New Lessons From Posttenure Liberal Arts Faculty,” Erickson partnered with Jan E. Thomas, senior associate provost and professor of sociology and women’s studies at Kenyon College, and Tamara Beauboeuf, professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at DePauw University. Beyond wanting to challenge prevailing ideas about posttenure professors, they had a bit of personal motivation: all are midcareer professors themselves.

Hoping to elicit meaningful responses from their subjects -- all posttenure, pre-retirement-minded professors on their three campuses -- Erickson, Thomas and Beauboeuf avoided detailed questions about workload and focused rather on mind-set. They used developmental model language for a survey that led to subsequent in-person interviews.

Men and women responded in roughly equal numbers -- surprising for a voluntary survey, in which women respondents would typically be overrepresented. Respondents totaled 239, along with 56 interviewees.

Survey questions included, "Is being or becoming a full professor important to you? Why or why not?," and "In an ideal week, how would you spend your working hours?" (Note: Full professors who were not yet thinking about retirement were over half of respondents.)

A major finding -- again, perhaps surprising -- was that most professors enjoy teaching and want to do more of it. Over all, the researchers describe the posttenure period as an active phase of navigating “meaningful versus futile service, identifying new pathways in teaching and research, and finding synergies between organizational needs and one’s own creative and intellectual contributions.” They also define a basic tension between the need for faculty “to remain engaged while navigating what we conceptualize as ‘institutional trenches.’”

Elaborating on that tension, Erickson, Thompson and Beauboeuf designed a typology describing professors as either synergistic citizens, independent agents, weary citizens, or disgruntled and discouraged.

Synergistic citizens expressed high levels of job satisfaction because they were working hard and felt that their contributions were valued by their campuses. One professor for example, said he was able to transform his writing after tenure because his institution had afforded him the "freedom to fail."

Independent agents, meanwhile, worked hard, but did so largely on their own because they didn’t perceive their contributions were valued by their institutions. Sometimes a specific incident or break of trust prompted such feelings. Senior department women and faculty members of color were overrepresented in this group.

Weary citizens -- who were in many ways similar to synergistic citizens -- described themselves as eager to contribute to their institutions. But their service often lacked meaning, seemed undervalued or otherwise led to a sense of marginalization.

Disgruntled and discouraged professors liked aspects of their work but lacked a sense of connection to or recognition by their institutions. Morale was low.

Faculty ‘Pathways,’ Not Fixed Types

Beauboeuf said it helps to think less about types than “pathways” for posttenure faculty members to follow, pathways which reflect the "degree to which faculty needs and growth are taken up by the opportunities and rewards of their institutions." 

Ideally, she said, "there would be a synergy between both -- and we do have evidence of this -- but our research also attunes us to the ways faculty who engage in labor that is critical but invisible in the reward structure, or who have been hurt through disparagement of their contributions and competence, are placed on pathways of reduced career satisfaction and weakened connection to the institution.”

Sometimes there was a lack of fit between the professor and the institution. But some common themes emerged among dissatisfied professors. Some reported that their institutions did not have clear promotion standards, for example; Erickson recommended that institutions wanting to better support posttenure professors shore up their promotion guidelines and expectations.

“We saw faculty who were floundering at one school who probably would have been ignited at another school, because there wasn’t a nice level of synergy between what they wanted to do and what their [institutions] want them to do,” she said.

Beyond adopting clear standards for promotion, Erickson also recommended that institutions offer formal opportunities for professors to reflect on their career trajectories -- specifically in terms of service -- and their other opportunities for “reinvention and rejuvenation.”

“This would help professors feel as if this long swath of their career is punctuated” with meaningful, identified phases, Erickson said. “Or you might say, ‘Hey, why is this person on eight committees?” which might signal that service is plentiful but not meaningful.

Some subjects, for example, reported extreme pride from service on just one committee, which they felt made a real difference on their campus.

Such check-ins can help professors avoid gendered or other kinds of service “traps,” Erickson said, referring to the fact that women are more likely to perform what’s known as “invisible” labor, such as disproportionate service or advising duties, on their campuses.

The researchers chose to focus on typologies at this stage in their research over hard survey response data, in part to help institutions frame or reframe how they think about supporting midcareer professors. They plan to refer to their survey data for future publications and presentations.

Thomas said the roughly equal representation of men and women respondents from all three institutions “led us to believe we had tapped into issues that were important across our campuses,” and the “personal and thoughtful responses we got to the open-ended questions on the survey also led us to believe that faculty wanted to talk about these issues and reflect on their careers. We wanted to take advantage of that momentum.”

They also note two methodological weaknesses: those who opted in to the survey and interviews could be more engaged in their careers than nonrespondents. In other words, there may well be “deadwood” midcareer professors who simply aren't represented in the study. Erickson admitted that’s a possibility but said the near-equal representation of men and women in the sample indicates that the survey was of broad interest to professors.

“We had a lot of people thanking us for not making another survey about how much work they do,” she said.

The study also only considered professors at teaching-oriented liberal arts colleges, who may well be more likely to report liking teaching than, say, a professor at a research institution. Erickson suggested further study is needed across a variety of institution types.

“There may well be a type that we did not see,” she said.

At the very least, the study offers an alternative to the posttenure malaise narrative. Asked why that narrative remains so strong in the minds of some, Erickson said it’s a “powerful story” due to the nature of tenure itself. “There’s a kind of professional envy -- we have a level of security that almost nobody has.”

Additionally, she said, “individual actors” perpetuate it through less-than-optimal professional behavior. Reasons for that are complicated, including that many professors reach a kind of professional peak when they achieve tenure, despite the fact that they haven’t peaked intellectually.

“There’s a sense of lack of visibility, like nobody cares about their projects anymore,” Erickson said, only half kidding. She noted that posttenure faculty members are so eager for professional guidance and meaningful development that she encounters unusual gratitude from those middle-years professors she helps through her job.

“Supporting midcareer professors -- that’s when I get the notes and art and chocolate,” she laughed.

Erickson added, “What’s really important here is to see how organizational culture affected people.”

Listening to Posttenure Professors, Recognizing Their Work

Thomas said the findings matter because “we know very little about the arc of the faculty career and how faculty continue to grow and develop over the 20, 30 or 40 years that come after tenure.” The need for guidelines and general guidance doesn’t stop after tenure, she said, and may well increase, given the length of the midcareer phase. The few years after tenure can be especially critical for helping faculty members reflect on the next stage of their careers, identify new goals and create an “intentional pathway” for getting there.

Kerry Ann Rockquemore, an author and speaker on faculty development who founded the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, and an Inside Higher Ed columnist, said via email that the new typology is “incredibly useful because it helps us to understand the range and complexity of faculty members’ experiences at midcareer.”

Rockquemore’s own experiences working with midcareer faculty members also counter the deadwood theory, she said. In reality, she said, “there is a pervasive belief that once faculty members win tenure, they no longer need mentoring. And because many assume there's no need for posttenure mentoring, there are few intentional spaces, structures or programs for newly tenured faculty members to pause, breathe and ask themselves important questions like: What's next? What posttenure pathway will I choose? What kind of skills, strategies, mentors, and networks do I need to make a successful transition from assistant to associate professor? How can I contribute to my campus community in ways that are both collectively useful and draw on my skills and talents?”

She added, “These are all perfectly normal questions for someone to ask after going through the tenure-track experience, and the sooner they get resolved, the better it is for the individual and their institution.” Rockquemore’s own organization recently piloted its own posttenure pathfinders program based on volume of requests it receives for this kind of help.

“Our members are consistently requesting midcareer support services.”

What can be done? Rockquemore agreed that clarifying posttenure pathways is “an excellent idea,” as are posttenure mentoring programs, leadership development programs and opportunities for reflective conversation about meaningful work and equitable contribution.

Jeffrey Alstete, a professor of management and business administration at Iona College who has studied midcareer faculty development, also found the typologies “sensible and accurate,” but said he suspected them to vary by institution type and discipline.

“I not only believe that most midcareer professors are not deadwood, I would add that most late-career tenured professors are also actively engaged in their teaching, research and service endeavors,” he said, adding that he knew many mid- and even later-career professors who could be classified according to the framework -- especially as synergistic citizens.

Alstete said he also knew highly motivated independent agents who “find their own rewards from the process of their hard work in itself, as well as successful outcomes in seeing their students learn, finding that their research is recognized and that their service contributions are having an impact.”

Over all, posttenure faculty members face a set of complex challenges, from increased internal and external scrutiny to changing organizational cultures to rapidly changing technology, not to mention a complex workload, he said. Posttenure faculty development programs can help -- “if they seek out participation and input from a variety of faculty members, including tenured professors, and consult them in the planning process.”

Beauboeuf reiterated that pathways aren’t necessarily fixed types. But institutional support “needs to be ongoing and extend well beyond tenure and promotion,” she said. “We believe that administrators need to remember that the majority of a faculty [member]'s career occurs posttenure, and that faculty are lifelong learners. Posttenure can be a dynamic period of reinvention, particularly if institutions are willing to listen to faculty and recognize the work they do.”

Editorial Tags: LifeImage Source: iStockIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Price hikes leave some Lynda.com customers wondering whether to unsubscribe

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 08:00

Several colleges that subscribe to the online education provider Lynda.com are seeing double-digit increases in subscription costs, leading many to wonder if its acquisition by LinkedIn (which in turn was acquired by Microsoft) is behind the price hikes.

Chaminade University of Honolulu recently renewed its contract with Lynda.com, agreeing to a 20 percent increase. The University of the Arts, in Philadelphia, which has yet to decide whether to renew its subscription, is facing a 37 percent increase. Emerson College in Boston saw licensing costs go up by 57 percent over the next three years.

The increases are forcing some of the colleges, including long-term customers, to restructure their contracts with Lynda.com or consider other online education providers that provide skills-based, noncredit online courses that professors sometimes integrate into their curricula.

Indiana University is one of them. The university, due to its size and longstanding relationship with Lynda.com, earlier this decade signed a deal under which it paid less than many other institutions. When the contract expired last year, the company offered the university a one-year contract with a more than 60 percent price increase, said Anastasia Morrone, associate vice president of learning technologies.

“We simply could not justify increases like that, so we made the decision to discontinue,” Morrone said in an email. “In my view, they really are pricing themselves out of the higher education market, and that could be part of their strategy.”

Chaminade University, a liberal arts college with about 2,500 students, may soon face a similar decision.

“We’ll decline to renew next time if the increase is more than the percentage of our tuition increase,” Kyle Johnson, dean of information technology at Chaminade, said in an email. “I’ve grown frustrated with vendors thinking it’s OK to have 10 percent increases a year for the same service when my budget for renewals only goes up by around 6 percent.”

Lynda.com, an established entity in the online education market, went from being a successful start-up to becoming part of Microsoft in little over a year. LinkedIn, the professional networking site, in April 2015 acquired the company for $1.5 billion. Fourteen months later, Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion.

Thousands of Lynda.com courses are now offered through LinkedIn Learning, a professional development platform the company launched in September. An enterprise version of the platform launched in December.

Colleges that subscribe to Lynda.com sometimes use its courses for professional development, and their faculty members often use the video lectures to supplement their own teaching. Its courses cover subjects ranging from animation to K-12 education, though its most popular categories include business and web production.

Kenly Walker, a spokesperson for LinkedIn Learning, said the company last raised its prices last summer at the same time that it added more courses, features and video lectures. Emails the company sent to the University of the Arts, which were provided to Inside Higher Ed, shed some light on its rationale for doing so.

“Just in the last 12 months the Lynda platform has seen a lot of changes, as LinkedIn has really started to take an active part in the Lynda side of the business,” the company said. “One thing that has come with that is an overhaul and adjustment to the pricing structure of the LyndaCampus program.”

The company went on to say that part of the price hike can be explained by recently added features such as learning management system integration and offline access, as well as its ongoing push to expand its course library. Lynda.com added about 1,000 courses each in 2015 and 2016 and now offers more than 5,000, it said.

“The proposed single year cost … is a 30 percent increase from the rate [the college] paid in 2012,” the company wrote. “This equates to a 6 percent increase each year, which [we] feel is fair given all of the product enhancements that have been rolled out since 2012.”

Not all colleges give their IT offices annual budget increases to keep up with rising licensing costs, however.

News of price hikes spread quickly on Educause’s Listserv for chief information officers, with half a dozen colleges reporting increases ranging from 20 to more than 60 percent. Some CIOs suggested several colleges should band together and negotiate a consortium deal with Lynda.com, which could offset some the price increases.

The company hasn’t always been open to consortium deals, however. In 2013, the company was sponsored by Indiana and Princeton University for participation in Internet2’s NET+ program, a package of vetted cloud services that schools, colleges and other education or research institutions can subscribe to. Lynda.com withdrew from the program after it “determined that working on individual campus subscriptions was a better financial model for their business,” according to Shelton Waggener, senior vice president of Internet2.

Is this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Accreditor examines Alabama's public university governance

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 08:00

The agency that accredits Southern colleges and universities is scrutinizing the Governor Robert Bentley’s role at the head of Alabama university boards, pushing back on what it sees as powers that are too concentrated and potentially conflicted.

In doing so, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission on Colleges sparked criticism that it is misguided and is straying away from its primary mission. It has also stoked conversation about accreditors taking a more active role in governance issues just months after the accreditor waded into a bitter dispute over the composition of the Board of Trustees at the University of Louisville in nearby Kentucky.

The SACS college commission outlined its concerns in Alabama in a Jan. 10 letter. The accreditor had reviewed a new governance structure for Alabama’s community and technical colleges that was created after state legislators passed a bill in 2015 creating a new Alabama Community College System. The new law dictates that the governor will act as ex officio president of the community college system's board and that he will appoint its other nine members. Outside of the community college system, the governor appoints most of the members of institutions' governing boards, but he does not appoint all of them.

During its review, the accreditor's board said that Bentley's dual role as chair and selector of other members presented a conflict of interest.

“The SACSCOC Board perceives that this presents a conflict of interest in that the governor also appoints the members of that [community college] board, and has ultimate budget authority over all of the institutional budgets,” said the letter, signed by the accreditor's president, Belle S. Wheelan. “Upon further review, it also became apparent that the governor is the chair of the board of every state college or university in the state of Alabama. I am asking that the Alabama Legislature enact legislation within the state removing the governor from that position.”

SACSCOC addressed the letter to the chairs of Alabama’s Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee and its House Education Policy Committee. It also sent the letter to the State Senate’s president pro tempore, the Speaker of the state House of Representatives, the community college system’s interim chancellor, presidents of Alabama’s community colleges and U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne.

Still, the accreditor’s Board of Trustees voted in December to continue accreditation for institutions in the Alabama Community College System.

The acting chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, Jimmy Baker, issued a statement expressing concern.

“The letter from Dr. Wheelen [sic], president of SACSCOC, that has been sent to the legislators is a concern of the Alabama Community College System because accreditation for educational courses is part of our mission,” he said. “The letter raises the concerns to the level of the Alabama Legislature. At this time, we do not know the intent of the legislative body. We understand that there will be meetings with legislators scheduled for future discussions with SACSCOC.”

Bentley, a Republican, blasted the accreditor's letter in a statement.

“We disagree strongly with the assumption that the governor has undue influence on boards of institutions,” said Bentley. “It appears the recommendations outlined in this letter are misguided and politically motivated. The placement of the governor on the board is set up by statute and by our Constitution, and I'm going to obey our Constitution."

Alabama’s long and often-modified Constitution specifically calls for the governor to serve as ex officio president of the Board of Trustees for the University of Alabama and Auburn University. The governor serves on other public university boards under state statutes. Bentley is listed as a member of the state’s other institutions’ governing boards as well, typically as an ex officio member and sometimes as president.

Also raising questions about the SACSCOC action was Republican State Senator Dick Brewbaker, who chairs the Senate’s Education and Youth Affairs Committee. He said that Alabama has a weaker governor than many other states, lowering the position’s ability to concentrate power over a university or system.

“This is an old, old practice, and it doesn’t just exist in Alabama,” he said. “The governor in Alabama doesn’t have a real veto. It only takes a simple majority to override, which is the same as it takes to pass a bill. So the idea that the governor can throw his weight around and significantly affect a particular college’s budget is just not accurate.”

Brewbaker also pointed out that Alabama isn’t the only state where the governor serves on university boards. Just to the north, Tennessee’s governor serves on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, along with members the governor appoints. But SACSCOC is not reviewing other state systems for issues similar to the ones it identified in Alabama.

The Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities has compiled a database on public governing boards in different states. According to that database, governors serve as ex officio with vote in 11 states, including Alabama. They serve without a vote in five others.

Wheelan denied the Alabama governor's claim that SACSCOC’s interest in Alabama’s higher ed governance is politically motivated. Concerns over governance might not be as pronounced if the specifics of the situation were different, she said -- such as if the governor served on a board alongside elected members. And while SACSCOC understands institutions must live within a state’s rules, it is asking for a reconsideration of Alabama’s rules.

SACSCOC does not accredit systems of education, but it wants to hear from each individual institution’s president on how they are still in compliance with governance standards requiring no undue political influence.

“If they can explain it, I’m sure my board will back off,” Wheelan said. “But right now, it’s an anomaly for us.”

Wheelan declined to speculate about potential SACS action, like placing Alabama institutions on probation. Any threat to accreditation is serious for colleges and universities, because an institution must be accredited to receive federal student aid.

SACSCOC is not studying other states for issues similar to those in Alabama.

“We’re not looking for it,” Wheelan said. “It happened to surface when we were doing our due diligence with them. It’s not a witch hunt.”

Yet some faculty members say they’ve never seen evidence of political tampering in Alabama. John Mayer is a professor and associate chair of mathematics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and he chairs the institution’s Faculty Senate. “There has been no undue political influence on the UAB board that I’m aware of in the 32 years I’ve been at UAB,” he said.

Others fear SACSCOC’s actions signal misplaced effort. Michael B. Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, said accreditors are spending more energy on issues of politics and governance at a time when they have work to do on the core function of educational quality.

Accreditors should recognize that the governor is an accountable figure elected to see to the well-being of public institutions, Poliakoff said. He believes accreditors should sound alarm bells on governance issues when appropriate, but not for what he termed a “vague fear” of political infiltration.

“There should always be an eye kept on politicization of the academy,” Poliakoff said. “But that’s not what we’re talking about here. What we’re talking about here is the accreditor focusing on its own power, rather than academics.”

But others voiced concern that a governor serving as board chair could harm the free flow of ideas, particularly in U.S. higher education, where governing boards are insulated from government and politics.

Association of Governing Boards President Rick Legon worried about the practice of a governor sitting on a board as its president or chair. Doing so is at odds with effective governance and does not fit with the principles of fiduciary oversight, he said.

Boards as fiduciaries need to maintain their own autonomy, he said. That means independence from the authority that appoints members.

“The governor of a state should not be holding the gavel of a board that is sworn to serve and demonstrate -- or have in practice -- a high degree of autonomy to make the best decisions on behalf of the institutions,” he said. “It’s just a little bit too close to have the chief executive of the state, who wields so much power, direct or indirect, [as] chair of that same body.”

AGB has observed a number of instances where governance issues create uncertainty in state higher education -- like Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin overhauling Louisville’s troubled board in a move that wound its way through the courts and eventually prompted an attempted resolution through legislative action. SACSCOC placed Louisville on probation following that governance fight.

Currently, states are challenging their public institutions to be more cost-effective, more sensitive to price, more aware of completion rates and committed to addressing numerous other pressures, Legon said. At times, policy leaders end up disrupting effective governance.

Legon believes accrediting agencies have a role to play in addressing those disruptions.

“I actually applaud accrediting agencies when they hold up, as part of their process, standards related to governance,” Legon said. “They have leverage that AGB doesn’t have, but we frequently find ourselves in lockstep, not just with [Wheelan] and SACS, but with other accrediting agencies that stand up and have the sanctioning power to point out risks associated with governance structures or changes.”

Accreditation and Student LearningEditorial Tags: AccreditationTrustees/regentsImage Source: Alabama Governor's OfficeImage Caption: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said he will abide by state requirements that he serve on university boards despite an accreditor's concerns.Is this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Draft executive order would call for banning entry of individuals from some countries

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 08:00

A draft executive order that President Trump is reportedly considering signing would suspend and shrink refugee admissions and temporarily bar nationals of certain countries in the Middle East and Africa from entering the U.S.

The draft order, published Wednesday by The Washington Post and The New York Times, can be read in light of Trump’s campaign promise to temporarily suspend visa processing from certain countries “that have a history of exporting terrorism” and put new, more “extreme” vetting procedures in place. The draft order, if signed, would:

  • Direct a review of visa policies culminating in the creation of "a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals." The list would consist of countries that are determined to share inadequate information about visa applicants with the U.S. government.
  • Order an immediate 30-day suspension of entry of individuals from countries designated by a section of the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act -- a list that the Post and Times report includes the Muslim-majority countries Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
  • Direct the development of "uniform screening standards and procedures, such as in-person interviews; the creation of a database of identity documents proffered by applicants to ensure that duplicate documents are not used by multiple applicants; amended application forms that include questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent; a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be; a process to evaluate the applicant's likelihood of becoming a positive contributing member of society, and the applicant's ability to make contributions to the national interest; and, a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States."
  • Suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program.
  • Direct a 120-day suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and an indefinite suspension of the processing of refugee applications from Syria.
  • Order the secretaries of state and homeland security to process and admit a total of 50,000 refugees during fiscal year 2017, which is less than half the target of 110,000 refugees set by the Obama administration.

The draft order, framed as a counterterrorism measure, asserts that changes made to the visa issuance process after the Sept. 11 attacks have been insufficient in preventing attacks by foreign nationals. It specifically references a terrorism risk posed by foreign-born individuals entering the U.S. on student visas -- though two analyses by the RAND Corporation and New America found that the vast majority of known jihadist terrorists in the U.S. were citizens or permanent residents.

"Hundreds of foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since Sept. 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after claiming asylum; after receiving visitor, student or employment visas; or through the U.S. refugee resettlement program," the opening section of the draft order asserts. "Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter our country," the text of the draft order states. "The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism."

"As we get into the implementation of that executive order we’ll have further details, but I think the guiding principle for the president is keeping this country safe," the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said when asked about reports of the planned order at a Wednesday press briefing.

The draft order, if signed in its published form, would have immediate implications for higher education institutions bringing students and scholars from the Middle East and Africa. Figures from the Institute of International Education's annual Open Doors survey show that Iran sent 12,269 students to the U.S. in the 2015-16 academic year, making it the 11th-leading country of origin for international students in the United States, right after Mexico. Iran also sent 1,891 visiting professors or researchers to the U.S. that year, according to Open Doors figures.

Scholars and Students Hosted by U.S. Universities, 2015-16

  Number of Students Number of Professors or Researchers Iran 12,269 1,891 Iraq 1,901 171 Libya 1,514 49 Somalia 35 0 Sudan 253 32 Syria 783 145 Yemen 599 19

Source: Institute of International Education.

Figures for the other countries affected by the possible immediate 30-day entry ban are smaller (per the chart above), but universities have over the past decade made deliberate efforts to assist students and scholars from Iraq and, more recently, Syria. Iraq and Libya have both sent sizable numbers of students to the U.S. on government scholarship programs.

Esther D. Brimmer, the CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, said that though the executive order has not been signed, "given the outlines that are already evident, we have significant concerns."

"First off, it’s not at all clear that this will actually accomplish its objective. There’s no evidence that any of these actions will make the U.S. any safer. In fact, it will actually undermine our relationships with countries where we're trying to build better relationships," Brimmer said.

Brimmer said the order, if signed as drafted, would have "profound" and "immediate" effects on higher education.

"As many as 17,000 students or their families who are currently studying in the U.S.A. are affected," she said. "You might have students who went home for the holidays, who went out of the country. They might in effect be trapped and denied re-entry to the U.S. immediately after this order is signed. We could have scholars who would come to conferences this spring who would be denied entry." At one of NAFSA's member institutions, she said, a student inquired about whether family members would be able to attend his graduation.

“What’s striking to me is that there are already important, strong measures in place, and the executive order as drafted does not seem to take into account the existing measures," Brimmer said. "International students are already the most tracked visitors to the United States." Syrian refugees also go through an extensive screening process.

Robert Quinn, executive director of the Scholars at Risk Network, which assists threatened scholars and advocates for academic freedom globally, said via email that based on the provisions related to visas, universities "can at least expect rising delays in processing and very possibly an increase in denials."

"If these are excessive, we risk turning away students, scholars and other highly skilled individuals who have contributed so much to U.S. higher education, business/entrepreneurship and culture," Quinn said. "They may simply go elsewhere. Similarly, the requirement of creating new questions aimed at exposing fraud and malicious, criminal or terrorist intent, while perhaps benign enough in intent, if implemented badly, could create an even greater bias in favor of denials as individuals may be asked to prove a negative (that is, that they do not have such intent)."

Quinn added, "For my work at Scholars at Risk, I am most concerned about the impact on those fighting for freedom of thought, inquiry and expression, and human rights generally, in conflict zones, insecure states and authoritarian or repressive regimes. These individuals risk everything for values that America has traditionally stood up for, and they represent America's natural allies in promoting a more just and peaceful order.

"Their bravery is in stark contrast to the draft order, which operationalizes fear and distrust of the procedures and U.S. personnel already in place and charged with vetting admissions; I am not aware of any data since the post-9/11 reforms justifying this."

Keith David Watenpaugh, a professor and director of the human rights studies program at the University of California, Davis, said that his university has "been working very hard to bring, in cooperation with the [IIE] Scholar Rescue Fund, a dissident economist from Iran to spend time with our students and our faculty and to help us understand the situation. We’ll keep working to bring him, but this kind of policy robs the American people and our young people of an opportunity to understand the world better, and also to provide help and assistance to those people who are trying to improve repressive societies like Iran."

"I find it cruel and un-American what has just been proposed," said Watenpaugh, who has studied Syrian refugees and their access to higher education. "It's a closing of the American mind and a closing of America to the world, is what it is.”

The national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, described the draft executive order as constituting a ban on Muslims in disguise. As a presidential candidate, Trump called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

“Make no mistake -- whatever language is used in President Trump’s executive orders on refugees, immigration and visa programs -- Muslims are the sole targets of these orders,” Awad said in a statement.

“These orders are a disturbing confirmation of Islamophobic and un-American policy proposals made during the presidential election campaign.”

Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law practice at Cornell University's Law School, said that Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act gives the president broad authority to indefinitely bar the entry of people he deems detrimental to U.S. interests.

"Presidents in the past have done that for small groups of people, such as dictators and their family members, etc., but we’ve never done it on the scale that seems to be contemplated in this executive order," he said.

"It may be legally possible, but I think it’s also policy-wise inadvisable," Yale-Loehr said. "It sends the wrong message -- we’re trying to get other countries to agree with our way of life. If we’re shutting the door, that makes them more anti-American, which raises the specter of terrorism. It does not diminish it."

GlobalEditorial Tags: International higher educationIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Amid budget cuts, North Dakota University System considers tenure policy change

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 08:00

The North Dakota University System is considering a major change to its policy on firing tenured professors, prompting concern from faculty members at the system’s 11 public colleges and universities.

If passed, the new policy would reduce the termination notice given to tenured faculty members from at least 12 months to at least 90 days.

System administrators proposed the change in anticipation of deep budget cuts to higher education later this year, said Billie Jo Lorius, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota system. In 2016, the system cut about 500 full-time positions across the state's public colleges, Lorius said, and officials are bracing themselves for a similar scenario this year.

The North Dakota system will need to trim about 20 percent from its budget this year, according to Eric Murphy, president of the Council of College Faculties, the governance body for the university system.

“We wish this were something we weren’t having to think about, but we have to be flexible and adaptable,” Lorius said. “Everything needs to be on the table.”

From the administration’s perspective, the 12-month termination notice is financially unsustainable. “This timeline means that the process of eliminating the position of a tenured faculty member is generally too lengthy to produce cost savings within a biennium,” the proposal states. The proposal would allow campuses to save 75 percent of what they’re paying terminated tenured faculty members now. The proposal would not, however, change the circumstances under which tenured professors can be fired, which include financial exigency and the elimination or consolidation of academic programs, courses and units.

“We want our faculty to know that we value them. We value education. We value tenure,” Lorius said. “That’s the biggest drawback -- the human component … but we know that somehow, some way, people are going to be impacted.”

Faculty members say that termination notices should not be negotiable. Given the hiring cycle in academe, which typically aligns with the regular academic year, such a change could create long periods of unemployment for those affected, said Kathryn Gordon, president of the Faculty Senate at North Dakota State University. This, in turn, would initiate a domino effect that could eventually hurt the quality of students’ education, she said.

If professors feel their jobs are at risk, they may look for work at other institutions that offer better security. That could create a pipeline of some of the best faculty members leaving the system, and without effective instructors, the students suffer, Gordon said.

“Our main concern is that there can be disruptions to the education system if a faculty member is terminated with 90 days’ notice,” she said. “It’s likely [that person’s] class isn’t being taught. If the faculty member was mentoring a grad student, that grad student could be delayed [in graduating]. It’s not just the individual faculty members -- it’s thinking about all the different effects it might have.”

In an anonymous online survey of more than 500 faculty members at North Dakota State, 97 percent said they opposed the proposed policy change, Gordon said. Collectively, they feel the change would compromise the university’s value of “providing a superior teaching and learning environment within and outside of the traditional classroom,” which is why Gordon plans to speak out against the proposal during a Thursday morning meeting of the State Board of Higher Education.

The other 10 colleges in the system will also have a chance to voice their concerns during the hour allotted for public comment. A representative of the Council of College Faculties is expected to speak in opposition to the proposed policy change as well, Murphy said.

It’s possible the board could make a decision Thursday, Lorius said, but its members have scheduled several meetings on this issue late into February.

Last semester, Murphy asked the board to compromise by changing the policy to a 180-day termination notice, but the board opted to move ahead with 90 days. Still, he still has hope the proposal won't pass: faculty members and administrators at each college are working together to fight it, which he says is significant in itself.

"I would’ve said two weeks ago that it was probably a done deal," Murphy said. "Now, I think it’s got a chance of not making it, but I think we have to present a really good argument [in the meeting]."

Editorial Tags: TenureImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

College leaders discuss future of Title IX, sexual assault prevention efforts

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 08:00

WASHINGTON -- As the Trump administration begins its term in office, college leaders remain unsure about how the new White House will regulate institutions' approaches to campus sexual assault. A briefing Wednesday on Capitol Hill reflected that anxiety, with college presidents calling on institutions to continue the Obama administration’s increased focus on protecting students while urging the Trump administration to provide more clarity and to take a less adversarial stance.

“My hope is that whatever Congress or the administration does in terms of peeling back federal regulations, that the universities in this country do not step away from this issue,” said Diane Harrison, president of California State University, Northridge. “There are rumors that they’re going to lessen what we have to do. So we are potentially going to need to be far more assertive and far more vocal.”

The panel discussion was organized by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Those in the audience of the forum included 25 staff members of various representatives and senators, including staffers from the office of Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who leads the Senate’s education committee, and who frequently criticized how the previous administration regulated colleges’ handling of sexual violence.

Through detailed guidance documents and investigations at more than 200 institutions, the Obama administration made preventing campus sexual assault a signature issue of its Education Department. The administration's updated interpretation of the federal gender-discrimination law Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 -- delivered to colleges through a Dear Colleague letter in 2011 -- allowed the White House to sharply increase the enforcement efforts of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

The intensified focus on campus sexual assault and Title IX prompted an outpouring of complaints and lawsuits against colleges and universities over claims they mishandled reports of sexual violence. Kevin Kruger, NASPA’s president, said Wednesday that while the department’s efforts deserved praise, the Office for Civil Rights' enforcement tactics sometimes led to an “adversarial relationship” with colleges.

“What we want is a relationship where a campus has a question about how it’s doing something and can get some guidance on that, which ought to be the give-and-take we have,” Kruger said. “That doesn’t happen because of the fears that you’ll be investigated. That fear factor has created a big chasm between our community and OCR.”

Trump, who faced allegations of sexual assault and criticism over his treatment of women during the presidential campaign, has said little about how he would approach sexual violence on college campuses. His lack of a plan worried many victims’ advocates, and those fears were exacerbated by the Republican Party’s platform released at the GOP convention in July. It criticized the Obama administration’s policies, saying the White House’s “distortion of Title IX to micromanage the way colleges and universities deal with allegations of abuse contravenes our country’s legal traditions and must be halted.”

When Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for U.S. secretary of education, was asked during her Senate confirmation hearing last week whether she would uphold the Obama administration’s Title IX guidelines, DeVos said it was “premature” to discuss her plans. DeVos has also been criticized for donating $10,000 to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group that strongly opposed how Obama's Education Department approached campus sexual misconduct processes.

While the comments concerned women’s and victims’ groups, advocates for students accused of sexual assault -- who worry the Obama administration overcompensated in its attempts to provide fair hearings for victims -- are hopeful the new status quo could bolster their attempts to require more due process protections for those students. Of particular concern has been the 2011 guidance’s directive that colleges use the “preponderance of evidence” standard during campus sexual assault hearings, rather than higher burdens of proof, such as the “clear and convincing” or “beyond reasonable doubt” standards of evidence.

College presidents at Wednesday’s briefing were in agreement that they would continue to use the preponderance of evidence standard, even if the 2011 guidance were to be reversed. The majority of colleges were already using the standard prior to the Dear Colleague letter. Alisa White, president of Austin Peay State University, in Tennessee, said the lower standard is appropriate because a campus disciplinary decision does not involve “a loss of liberty.”

“I think the preponderance of the evidence standard should be one that would stand,” White said, while adding that colleges should not rush to judgment on a student’s culpability. “It’s important to us and will be important to us regardless of what guidance and policies change.”

The presidents disagreed, however, on whether students suspended or expelled over sexual assault allegations should have the charge noted on their transcripts. Last month, Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, introduced a bill that would require academic transcripts to show that a student had violated campus policies involving sexual violence. Speier said at the time that colleges and universities currently have no way of knowing if a student transferring to their campus has committed a sexual assault at a previous institution.

Speier's bill, called the Safe Transfer Act, would clarify federal privacy laws to allow such disclosures and set the disclosure requirement to sunset five years after campus disciplinary proceedings are completed or a year after a pending disciplinary proceeding is initiated. The bill would also require that an alleged perpetrator be notified of the disclosure and allowed to write a statement accompanying the disclosure.

White and John Jasinski, president of Northwest Missouri State University, both said they would be opposed to such disclosures being included on transcripts, saying the notations would alter the intended purpose of academic transcripts and campus disciplinary procedures.

Harrison, of California State, said she favored including the misconduct on transcripts, noting that a student once transferred to her institution after being accused of sexual violence elsewhere. The student was known to have a proclivity for targeting victims who are deaf or hard of hearing. California State Northridge has the second-largest population of deaf and hard of hearing students in the country.

“We did not know we were admitting a student who favored raping hard-of-hearing students,” Harrison said. “So I am a very strong advocate of making notations.”

Regardless what changes may come from Congress or the Trump administration, the panelists -- who included Title IX coordinators from Georgetown University, Howard University, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Maryland -- said they hoped colleges will be consulted before any new action is taken.

“Should government officials seek to issue new regulations or guidance, we would ask that you provide robust opportunities to sit down with us to really understand the different issues that we're trying to deal with,” said Penny Rue, vice president of campus life at Wake Forest University.

Editorial Tags: Title IXImage Source: Travis York | TwitterImage Caption: Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA (center), and a panel of Title IX coordinatorsIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

How will Trump's proposed border wall affect higher education collaborations and exchange?

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/25/2017 - 08:00

President Trump pledged to build a “great, great wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border. News reports indicate he will today sign an order to start building the wall. How would such a barrier, if built, affect cross-border higher education collaborations?

In some ways the direct impact could be minimal, as researchers and students crossing the border are generally doing so at designated border crossings, not jumping over the existing fence that already spans more than 650 miles of the 1,954-mile border, 1,279 miles of which run along the Colorado River and the Rio Grande (Trump told MSNBC last February that about 1,000 miles of wall would be needed because the rest of the border includes "natural barriers"). But while the wall itself might not prove a direct barrier to collaboration, some express concern about potential policy changes that could negatively affect U.S.-Mexico relations and the hostile message a wall could send to the U.S.’s southern neighbor.

“Much of that barrier already exists,” said Sean Manley-Casimir, executive director of the Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration (CONAHEC), which has about 170 member universities, primarily from the U.S., Mexico and Canada. The association formed in the 1990s shortly after the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has said he plans to renegotiate.

“It’s not an enormous change that he’s proposing in some respects. It is just a lot of noise,” Manley-Casimir said.

“But at the same time, I was at the ANUIES conference in Mexico City during the election and the day after when the results became evident,” he continued (ANUIES refers to Mexico’s National Association of Universities and Higher Education Institutions). “It was an interesting place to be at that time, because people were very somber …. I think many of them felt hurt by the fact that such a large number of people in the United States had supported a candidate who had such hostile rhetoric.”

In a statement after Trump’s election, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund issued a statement saying that Trump “had built his campaign around thinly veiled anti-immigrant and anti-Latino appeals.” In his kickoff speech for his presidential campaign, in June 2015, Trump described many Mexican immigrants as criminals or rapists. He said then, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best …. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Trump promised to deport millions of people living in the U.S. illegally -- more recently he has said he would focus on those with criminal records -- and said he would end an Obama-era program that granted temporary protection from deportation and work permits to young people, many of them college students, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children (he has since softened his tone somewhat, even as his administration’s exact plans for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program remain unclear).

Meanwhile, Trump’s signature promise to build a border wall, and to make Mexico pay the billions of dollars it would cost, was a rallying point for many of his supporters. “Build that wall” was a recurrent chant at his campaign events.

“The wall is symbolic,” said Josiah Heyman, director of the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies and a professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso, which sits just across the border from the Mexican city of Juárez. “It’s the United States turning its back on Mexico. I think that could erode the good relationships that we’ve built with Mexican students and with Mexican scholars.”

“I hope these relationships are resilient,” said Heyman, who is currently researching sustainable water use and agricultural irrigation in the border region. His research on a binationally shared water basin brings him to another point: “The wall is a kind of symbol that says everything just literally stops at the territorial border, but the local air shed for air pollution or the ground river or the river water don’t stop at the border,” he said.

“We can’t go into the future with what could be called a wall mentality, which is that scientifically and socially and economically important issues are stopped at the border.”

The Obama administration attempted to promote higher education exchange with Mexico through the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research, known as FOBESII, and the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund, the latter a public-private partnership that provides grant funding for higher education partnerships throughout the Americas (not just between Mexico and the U.S.). NAFSA: Association of International Educators, one of the private-sector partners for the fund, said in a statement that the 100,000 Strong program will continue in the near term.

“To date, there have been no changes to the program, and with diplomacy so vital between the United States and Latin America, the connections among the institutions brought about by this program will hopefully help bridge gaps in foreign policy for decades to come,” NAFSA's statement said. “Seventy-five percent of the funding for the program is from sources outside of the United States federal government. There are commitments from private-sector partners that will ensure the Innovation Fund will continue through at least the end of 2018, and because an NGO -- Partners of the Americas -- serves as the fiduciary agent for the grant competitions, we expect the initiative to grow and continue to thrive over the coming years.”

Fernando León García is the president of Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior, usually called CETYS, which has three campuses in the Mexican state of Baja California, just over the border with California. The private university is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges’ Senior College and University Commission and has about 350 U.S.-based students who commute across the border from California to study there.

“In terms of the proposed wall, a fence or wall so to speak already exists (it has existed for many years), and this has not been a deterrent for colleges and universities to promote and implement cross-border collaboration,” León García said via email. “The foundation and progress of said cross-border initiatives are such that collaboration is likely to continue. The dynamics of cross-border collaboration have increasingly become intertwined such that in addition to activities between colleges and universities in the U.S. and Mexico, there are also a growing number of initiatives that involve said institutions joining forces to address the challenges of multinational companies located along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.”

“It is unclear exactly what measures and when the Trump administration will be implementing (e.g., the wall or stepping back on DACA),” León García added. “But it is evident that higher education institutions are committed to continue the dialogue and promote cross-border collaboration as the basis to develop a global and diverse perspective and greater international understanding, leading to more globally competitive students.”

At the University of Monterrey, a Roman Catholic institution in the Mexican state of Nuevo León, the U.S. is the second most popular study abroad destination, after Spain. “I have concerns with the anti-Mexican rhetoric, but as far as our work is concerned, we have an attitude that we have to wait and see how it develops,” said Thomas M. Buntru, the director of international programs.

“To be honest,” he said, “anti-Mexican attitudes in the U.S. are nothing new. … The rhetoric is a bit more crude, let’s put it that way, but I think we’ve been dealing with that for a long time. I’m not concerned about the physical safety of our students at this point in time. We’ll just have to wait and see how this all develops.”

Gary Edens is vice president for student affairs at the University of Texas at El Paso, which has about 500 students who commute to campus across the border from Juárez -- typically about a two-hour process -- out of a total population of about 1,100 Mexican students. Edens expressed a similar wait-and-see mentality about the possible effects of a wall.

“We already have a fence,” Edens said. “Most of the El Paso city area has a fence that separates us from the border. I think everybody on our campus is in a wait-and-see mode. We clearly have been very closely following all the rhetoric that’s come out of D.C. and happened during the election, but there’s not a whole lot of specificity yet. This community has dealt with the political rhetoric around immigration for decades.”

Edens added, “I think the biggest factor right now for our students from Mexico is actually the peso devaluation. Any time that happens to the peso, it affects the out-of-pocket costs for students.”

“I haven’t heard much about the wall. Clearly our students are always concerned about their ability to cross into the United States, to get their appropriate visas, but until we have more definition about what changes will happen, there’s not much more we can do,” Edens said.

Richard Lange is president of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso. He thinks the proposed wall is a waste of money and resources, but said it’s unlikely to influence the institution’s work. “Because the health on both sides of the border affects the other entity, it’s imperative that we have free exchange of ideas and free exchange of information regarding health issues and diseases and that we collaborate institution-wise and research-wise as well,” Lange said. “Will a wall stop that? No. That occurs through normal exchange, through normal points of entry on either side, and with bilateral communication and collaboration. Walls won’t stop that, and they shouldn’t.”

At the same time, Lange said, “if there’s a change in policy in how we interact with our neighbors, that’s where the impact would occur.”

“That’s the wall I’m concerned about,” he said. “Not a physical wall, but a wall that prevents us from being good neighbors.”

2016 ElectionGlobalEditorial Tags: Federal policyMexicoInternational higher educationImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Guidance on agencies' communications with public create confusion, fear

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/25/2017 - 08:00

A series of directives from the Trump administration to key agencies involved in science and research have fanned fears that the new president may muzzle government employees. But it’s not clear how far the guidelines go in restricting the speech of those employed at the agencies.

This week, departments including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued new guidance to employees on communication with the public and members of the media, according to news reports. The Sunlight Foundation began keeping a list of reported actions limiting communication by staff at federal agencies.

The Agricultural Research Service, part of the Agriculture Department, sent an internal email to employees Monday saying that, "until further notice, ARS will not issue public-facing documents." The email specified news releases, fact sheets and social media posts were included in that guidance.

The agency denied that an information blackout was in effect; a spokesman, Christopher Bentley, said in a statement, "ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public as we strive to find solutions to agricultural problems affecting America." But late Tuesday the agency said in a statement to Reuters that the internal email was flawed and would be clarified.

And, according to reports from various news outlets, employees at other agencies have been told to refer correspondence with public officials to agency leaders until cabinet nominees are in place.

That includes the EPA, where grants were frozen and staff were told not to discuss the decision with anyone outside the agency, The Huffington Post reported. According to the Associated Press, emails sent to the agency’s staff since the inauguration last week banned press releases, blog posts or social media updates.

A spokeswoman for the environmental agency, Cathy Milbourn, said the agency "fully intends to continue to provide information to the public. A fresh look at public affairs and communications processes is common practice for any new administration, and a short pause in activities allows for this assessment."

The Huffington Post also reported that the Department of Health and Human Services and subagencies were told in a memo not to send "any correspondence to public officials."

Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said his organization hoped the guidance was a temporary measure until new agency heads are confirmed by the Senate. It’s not clear if the guidance was an error of inexperience or major new policy from the administration, Holt said.

“There’s a lot about this transition that is nonstandard and inexperienced,” he said. “If it really is a gag-order policy, we will be very concerned about it. Openness and communication are essential to the practice of good science.”

Asked about a precedent for the guidance, Holt said it has been an important issue for AAAS for years to protect against gagging of scientific information.

The new guidance on agency communications this week follows the decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month to abruptly cancel a long-planned conference on climate change set to take place in February, compounding fears of political interference in government science work. The agency said it was working to reschedule the Climate and Health Summit for later this year. And a spokeswoman said Tuesday that CDC was not under any freeze on external communication.

But Andrew Rosenberg, the director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the guidance issued to employees at other agencies is not a good starting signal from the incoming administration.

“It’s indicating everything is going to be politically managed,” he said. “That's not the way things should go in a science-based agency.”

Is this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Judge sides with University of Kentucky in lawsuit against student newspaper over sexual assault records

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/25/2017 - 08:00

Siding with the University of Kentucky in a lawsuit against its independent student newspaper, a state judge ruled Tuesday that the university does not have to release records related to allegations that a former professor sexually assaulted and harassed students.

Victims and their advocates have been split over the case. At first, the students identified in the documents as the professor's alleged targets appeared to side with the newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel, arguing through a representative that the public deserved to know how the university handled the dismal of the professor, who was allowed to resign quietly. In November, though, two of those students joined the lawsuit against the newspaper.

Critics of the university have said the lawsuit is just the latest example of colleges hiding behind student privacy laws to protect their image and reputation.

“It's definitely a tough case, touching on a key area of tension in campus sexual assault cases,” said Laura Dunn, a lawyer and executive director of the victims' advocacy organization SurvJustice. “When does the interest of one survivor give right to the greater needs of the campus community regarding safety? There is no set answer, and it is a case-by-case decision.”

The Kernel first requested the records last year, leading to a legal battle that pitted the university against Kentucky’s attorney general. The university argued that the documents should be considered educational records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the federal student privacy law. Kentucky’s attorney general, Andy Beshear, decided the university violated open-records laws in not providing redacted versions of the requested documents to the student newspaper and his office. Unable to appeal Beshear’s decision directly, the university sued the Kernel.

In his ruling Tuesday, Fayette Circuit Court Judge Thomas Clark agreed with the university, stating that the documents "cannot reasonably be redacted to support the privacy rights" of the students.

“This legal process has always been about one primary goal -- preserving the right of a victim survivor to determine how, when, or even if to tell her story,” Eli Capilouto, the university’s president, said in a statement. “We stand with survivors and we believe strongly that federal and state laws protect their right to privacy. Without privacy, we know victim survivors will not come forward to report. That’s what was at stake in this case.”

The Kernel plans on appealing the decision, and Beshear said he will also challenge the ruling. While many of the requested investigatory records were already leaked to the student newspaper in redacted form last year, the lawsuit has become a cause célèbre highlighting federal student privacy laws and the ways institutions use them in complaints of campus sexual assault and harassment.

In the last year, several colleges have stated that press coverage of campus sexual assault cases can deter students from coming forward when they are the victims of such crimes.

Officials at Baylor University made a similar argument in defending their decision not to release -- or even create -- any documents related to the university’s ousting of several employees, including its president and head football coach, over allegations they mishandled and ignored reports of sexual assault. “It’s really crucial, given the focus of [the] investigation was on the experiences of students impacted by sexual violence, to protect the details of those cases,” the university’s vice president and provost told Inside Higher Ed in June.

Capilouto and other Kentucky officials blamed the Kernel’s coverage for a drop in sexual misconduct reports last year.

“Based on my experience in this field, I believe the Kernel’s publication of articles related to this case has caused students to be reluctant to report incidents of interpersonal violence for fear of media attention,” Ashley Rouster, an intervention program coordinator at the university, wrote in a court affidavit. Nearly 60 people reported being sexually assaulted to Kentucky’s Violence Intervention and Prevention Center between July and October 2015. This fall, the number fell to 38 for that same time frame. In October, Capilouto sent a campuswide email, stating that “only the victim survivor should have the ability to tell” his or her story.

In November, Western Kentucky University denied similar records requests, citing the ongoing University of Kentucky lawsuit.

“There’s no way that colleges should be able to declare the entire personnel file of accused wrongdoers to be confidential student records,” said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “The ruling gives colleges a license to conceal even potentially dangerous wrongdoing by their employees. That can’t possibly be how FERPA is supposed to work. This case has never been about student privacy and well-being and has always been about protecting the image of the university. The university used student privacy as a smokescreen.”

LoMonte said the case “should be a conversation starter for Congress about whether privacy laws are being misapplied.”

Dunn, of SurvJustice, said she agreed that it’s time for FERPA “to be rewritten,” but said the court was correct in Tuesday’s ruling.

“Courts can and have chosen disclosure with redactions as a compromise, but it sounds like the court determined that even if personal identifying information was redacted, remaining information may sufficiently identify the victim to violate related privacy rights,” Dunn said. “At the end of the day, the reality is that FERPA needs to be rewritten. As it stands, FERPA also does not consider issues around misconduct that are also criminal conduct and the public interest it may raise. It also fails to do the obvious of ensuring that attorneys of a student can view their records. It's due for a rewrite.”

Students and ViolenceEditorial Tags: Sexual assaultIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Colleges announce commencement speakers

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/25/2017 - 08:00
Editorial Tags: Commencement speakersIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

The 2017 Inside Higher Ed Survey of Chief Academic Officers

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/25/2017 - 08:00

Annual survey provides chief academic officers’ views on diversifying the faculty and curriculum, using student evaluations of professors, preserving the liberal arts, assessing learning, preparing students for careers … and more.

Ad Keyword: Provost2017Is this breaking news?: 

University of Kentucky moving away from merit aid

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 01/24/2017 - 08:00

It’s a rare move for a state flagship university: the University of Kentucky is stepping back from the merit-aid rat race.

The university recently said it will seek a dramatic shift in its split between what it calls institutional merit aid -- also called non-need-based aid -- and need-based aid. That split is currently 90 percent in favor of non-need-based aid. By 2021, the university hopes to skew it largely the other way, to be 65 percent need-based aid.

That move would be a break from trends among many institutions, particularly state flagships, which in recent years have typically thrown financial aid dollars at top students who are viewed as likely to graduate and to bring impressive test scores that may boost ratings -- but are often more likely to be able to afford college on their own. UK’s administration lists various reasons for the change, including that it better serves the needs of Kentucky’s population and that as a land-grant institution, the university should prioritize access for students who need financial assistance.

But leaders also tout data-driven reasoning behind their goal. They’ve found that their students become much more likely to drop out if they have $5,000 or more in unmet financial need. By focusing on reducing students’ unmet need, they hope to drastically boost retention.

Their effort will likely be watched around the country as demographic projections indicate relatively fewer traditional, wealthy, elite students will be available for universities to recruit in coming years. Some critics have also criticized non-need-based aid as a race to the bottom that’s already played out with negative results, prompting bidding wars on wealthy students who will land in a good spot regardless of receiving a generous aid package.

Early reactions to the university’s plans have been positive. But unintended consequences could crop up. The wealthiest, best-prepared prospective students will not receive as much aid for coming to the University of Kentucky in coming years as their predecessors did, which could dissuade them from enrolling. Provost Timothy S. Tracy is up front about saying that the move will likely lead to a drop in National Merit Finalists attending Kentucky.

“We don’t know all the answers,” Tracy said. “We don’t know how this is going to turn out, but we believe that for Kentucky, this is the right thing to do.”

The overriding bet is that the effort helps more students stay enrolled, improving the university’s graduation and retention rates. Improving graduation rates was one of the top reasons UK gave when it announced the shift in financial aid policy in October, listing it along with several other changes targeting higher student success. Tracy and UK President Eli Capilouto have continued to write about the strategy and the reasoning behind it, breaking down the split in unmet financial need between students who stayed at the university and those who did not.

In the university’s fall 2015 cohort, first-year students who posted a first-year grade point average of 3.0 or higher and were retained had negative unmet need -- they received surplus funding. Students with grade point averages in the same range who were not retained had unmet need averaging about $6,000. Even among students posting lower grades, those retained had significantly lower unmet need than those who did not return to campus.

Looking at it a different way, retention rates drop as unmet need rises -- especially above the $5,000 mark. The university is defining unmet need as need remaining after a student’s expected family contribution as well as institutional, state and federal aid.

At the same time, the university, which enrolls roughly 30,000 students, has a large population whose unmet need falls between $5,000 and $15,000. Those with unmet need falling into the $5,000-10,000 range make up 14.3 percent of students. Those with unmet need in the $10,000-15,000 range make up 8.6 percent of students.

“If you look at that distribution, we saw a hollowing out of the middle,” Tracy said. “The real place where you see the most is the $5,000-10,000 and $10,000-15,000 ranges. And that’s where we want to make sure we focus.”

It’s not possible to say exactly where the final financial aid numbers will fall. But UK estimates that if the new strategy had been in place for its current first-year class, more than $17 million of financial aid would have been awarded based on need and $8 million would be based on merit and other factors. That’s a sharp difference from the actual distribution for this year’s first-year class, which saw more than $22 million dedicated to non-need-based aid.

The actual aid changes will take time. Need-based aid will grow to about 20 percent of the institutional aid budget for the class entering in the fall of 2017. The university will move the bar up toward 65 percent gradually over the next several years. Scholarships for current students won’t be affected.

The new aid strategy fits into a university goal to boost its six-year graduation rate to 70 percent by 2020, up from a current 63.4 percent. It also fits into a goal to improve the first-year retention rate to 90 percent by 2020, up from 82.7 percent among the 2014 cohort.

Modeling suggests underrepresented students will be helped by the new aid policy, Tracy said. Underrepresented students tend to have more unmet need.

Administrators are preparing for some pushback from top-level students and parents who may compare smaller aid packages to an older sibling’s or friend’s. There could be a substantial number of those students, as 37.2 percent of UK’s current students have unmet need of zero to $5,000, and 20.6 percent have unmet need of zero to negative $5,000.

The strategy doesn’t mean no aid for high-scoring students -- Tracy pointed out that top-performing students often still have unmet need. Yet he acknowledges Kentucky might lose some elite students.

“Our modeling suggests that we will probably have fewer National Merit Finalists,” he said. “We had 105 this year.”

While Tracy said UK is proud to have so many National Merit Finalists, he also pointed out that they’re 2 percent of the university’s first-year class of 5,100 students.

He believes the shift in aid strategy can be accomplished without increasing the overall financial aid budget. But he also hopes it will help UK grow that aid budget.

“We are making a major effort to take this program to our donors,” Tracy said. “It will be a major focus of what we do in the next five years for our philanthropy.”

The aid shift is one of several changes the university is putting into place under an initiative it’s calling UK LEADS -- Leveraging Economic Affordability for Developing Success. The university is also looking at other areas administrators believe are tied to student success: academic preparation, student health and wellness, and student community building. For instance, the university is evaluating applicants with a new formula that skews more heavily toward high school grade point average over standardized test scores than it has in the past. It’s also adding counselors and academic advisers.

Still, the university’s aid changes are likely its most notable. They come after decades during which public and private institutions shifted institutional aid toward non-need-based awards in order to attract the most academically prepared students, said Rosemaria Martinelli, a senior director with Huron Consulting Group’s higher education business. Martinelli and Huron work with the University of Kentucky.

“With declining demographics across the nation, schools are now focused on initiatives aimed at improving student retention,” Martinelli said in an email. “Shifting institutional dollars focused on merit to need-based aid is one strategy that has been found to be successful, particularly for students where large unmet need has been found to be one of the barriers to student success.”

Other consultants report high interest in student retention, aid and unmet financial need. Bill Hall, the founder and president of Applied Policy Research Inc., a consulting firm specializing in enrollment management, says financial aid has shifted over the last 15 years toward incentivizing middle-income and upper-middle-income students. Non-need-based aid offers increased noticeably during the recession at both public and private institutions. They were putting their money into students they were sure they could retain, Hall said.

An unprepared student is still at the greatest risk of attrition, Hall said. But APR has zeroed in on financial aid and need as well. Its analyses have generally found that $7,000 of unmet need is roughly the point at which student retention drops. That’s slightly higher than the University of Kentucky’s $5,000 mark, but as a public institution with sticker prices below those of private institutions, UK might attract students who are more price sensitive.

“Anything in that $5,000-7,000 range is getting in that danger zone with respect to unmet need,” Hall said. “It’s even more sensitive with first-generation students.”

The question of how much unmet need is too much is the right one to ask, according to Matthew Chingos, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. He believes it is sensible to ask which students need the most help and which ones are most likely to graduate if awarded financial aid.

Dedicating large chunks of budgets to non-need-based aid can be tempting for states or institutions that want to compete for top students, Chingos said. But when many institutions are pursuing that strategy, it can lose its effectiveness as students with high grades receive multiple lucrative financial offers.

“You probably end up writing a whole lot of checks to people who would have stayed in the state anyway,” Chingos said. “That’s basically wasted money.”

Observers of higher education in Kentucky say additional factors have enabled UK’s move to change its aid policies. Kentucky is moving toward a performance funding model that places a premium on degrees earned by low-income and minority students, said Robert L. King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. UK’s shift has also been made possible by the fact that it has improved its academic reputation in recent years, he said.

“What that’s doing is reducing the pressure on the so-called merit aid to try and buy students to come there, which I think is a good sign,” King said. “I think they’re seeing that they can be more selective and at the same time devote more of their resources to those students who really need them.”

The emphasis on lowering unmet need also matches what professors are seeing on the ground. John R. Thelin, a university research professor at the University of Kentucky and the author of A History of American Higher Education, said he is partial to the strategy of need-based aid and trying to assist students from modest backgrounds. But outside that, he said he was hearing stories about undergraduates dropping out of the University of Kentucky because they could not afford to stay enrolled.

“About a year ago, I was teaching a seminar, and it had graduate students who worked in financial aid and student affairs,” Thelin said. “What they were all emphasizing was that there were substantial numbers of low-income, modest-income students who were doing well academically and were dropping out. And it was due to a relatively small amount of money.”

UK’s faculty members have generally been supportive of the new strategy, said Katherine McCormick, a professor in interdisciplinary early childhood education who chairs the University Senate. Instead of having one exceptional student in class, they may have four or five strong students, she said.

“That idea of having more students who are high-quality students who will be engaged, to have five or six of those rather than only one is a real selling point,” she said.

If the effort is successful at boosting retention, it could also increase the number of students taking higher-level classes. Faculty members would welcome that as well, McCormick said.

“That retention effort might really pan out,” she said. “It’s often a good mix if you have a chance to grow your own program.”

Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: Financial aidImage Source: University of KentuckyIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Study suggests grading leniency is result rather than cause of low grading reliability

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 01/24/2017 - 08:00

Professors love to hate grade inflation, saying course marks aren’t as meaningful as they used to be. A new paper makes the case that easy grading is actually a symptom of poor assessment practices rather than a cause and that, either way, reducing leniency in grading may lead to more accurate assessment.

“The strong association between grading leniency and reduced grading reliability … calls for interpretations that go beyond the effect of restricting grades to fewer categories,” reads the paper, now available online in Studies in Higher Education. “One possible explanation is that grading leniency is the result, rather than the cause, of low grading reliability. Consider faculty members who suspect that their assessment methods are unreliable. This could occur in course subjects in which assessment of student performance requires subjective and complex judgment.”

Less “flattering reasons” for low grading reliability include “badly designed or poorly executed assessments,” the study continues. “Increasing grading leniency as a compensating mechanism for low grading reliability can be rationalized as an ethical behavior because it avoids assigning bad grades to good students. It is also a prudent strategy because, though students may accept high and unreliable grades, they might begrudge low and unreliable ones.”

“The Relationship Between Grading Leniency and Grading Reliability” is based on a data set pertaining to 53,460 courses taught at one unnamed North American university over several years. All sections included 15 or more students with passing grades, and failing grades were tossed out of the analysis to avoid any biasing effect on average grades. The primary focus was whether grades were reliable measures and whether they were lenient. Results suggest they're often neither, though there was plenty of consistent grading.

A leniency score was computed for each section as the “grade lift metric,” or the difference between the average grade a class earned and the average grade point average of the class’s students at the end of the semester. So if a course section’s average grade was B, but the students’ average GPA was 3.5, then the “lift” score was -0.5, indicating tough grading. A positive score indicated lenient grading.

“The core idea is that high grading reliability within a department should result in course grades that correlate highly with each student’s GPA,” reads the study, written by Ido Millet, a professor of business at Pennsylvania State University at Erie.

Course section grading reliability scores were computed based on the same logic. So, in an extreme example, a section in which high-GPA students received low grades and low-GPA students received high grades earned a low reliability score.

Grading reliability averaged 0.62, meaning that in most cases better students received better grades.

Grading leniency, meanwhile, ranged between a minimum of -1.36 and a maximum of 1.51. “These are extreme values, considering that a grade lift of -1.36 is equivalent to a class of straight-A (4.0 GPA) students receiving average grades slightly below a B-minus (2.67),” the study says. “Similarly, a grade lift of 1.36 is equivalent to a class of C-plus (2.33 GPA) students receiving average grades above an A-minus (3.67).”

Millet also compared grading reliability in sections with lenient grading (positive grade lift) with sections with tough grading (negative or no grade lift). Data indicated that reliability for tough graders was higher.

Over all, “grading leniency is associated with reduced grading reliability (p < 0.001),” he wrote. “This association strengthens as grading moves from tough to lenient. The standardized slope coefficient changes from -0.04 to -0.42, indicating that the decline in grading reliability associated with a one-unit increase in grading leniency is approximately 10 times larger among lenient-grading sections.”

To isolate the effect of factors other than leniency on grading reliability, Millet included several independent variables in the analysis: standard deviation of GPA within each course section, class size, instructor experience, course level and number of credits. Reliability positively correlated with the standard deviation of GPA within each course section, and with and course credits -- probably because a four-credit course provides more opportunities for student-professor interaction. There was a low and negative correlation between instructor experience and grading reliability, and classes with more students had higher reliability. There was lower reliability in upper-level courses, probably because of the relative homogeneity of students.

But even after accounting for the effects of other variables, grading leniency still had a significant negative association with grading reliability, according to the study.

Similar to results for individual course sections, the decline in grading reliability was more pronounced among departments with lenient grading (departments were anonymized in the study).

Another noteworthy finding is that variance in students’ GPA is “a strong contributor to grading reliability in lenient- as well as tough-grading course sections,” Millet says. This may also explain the “weak results” past studies have found about the relationship between grade inflation and grading reliability, Millet says, since the effect of increasing grading leniency over several decades “may have been moderated by a concurrent increase in variability of students’ abilities.”

The study notes several limitations, including that GPA is a only a “proxy” for expected performance and that replications using data from other institutions are needed. Yet Millet argues it has several important implications for higher education, such as that future studies of grading reliability should incorporate measurements of variability in students’ abilities, and that grading reliability should be incorporated as an independent variable when higher grades lead to higher scores on student evaluations of teaching.

That’s because “students may accept high and unreliable grades, but they might resent low and unreliable ones,” the study says. “This may help resolve the leniency versus validity debate. If the correlation between grading leniency and [evaluation] scores is particularly strong for lenient graders with low grading reliability, this would mean that the leniency hypothesis is correct. In such a case, rather than simply ‘buying’ student satisfaction, the effect of higher grades may be interpreted as avoiding student dissatisfaction when grading reliability is low.”

Millet has previously suggested that giving instructors information about how lenient their grading is compared to their peers’ can significantly reduce variability in grading leniency, and he says that future research may extend the same approach, to see whether this also leads to increased grading reliability.

“The rationale for this hypothesis is that, as institutional norms for grading leniency become visible, extremely lenient graders may become less lenient,” the study says. “This may force such instructors to become more reliable in order to avoid student dissatisfaction.”

At the same time, he says, administrators should “resist” the temptation to use the grading reliability metric to evaluate faculty members. Why? “Such heavy-handed use of this imperfect metric can lead to unintended consequences. For example, faculty members who are concerned about their grading reliability scores might resort to assigning good grades to students with high GPAs and low grades to students with low GPAs.”

Millet also says it would have been useful to include in this study metrics related to the number and type of assessments employed by each course section. Such data can be useful for internal diagnostics. Typical learning management systems already collect limited data about assessments, and by “adding a few more attributes to characterize each assessment, useful reports could be generated to establish and detect deviations from institutional norms.”

He reiterated in an interview that “the main issue here is that grading leniency may be a symptom, rather than a cause, of low grading reliability.” It’s possible that when professors “suspect they have low reliability in the way they grade, they compensate with grading leniency.”

While grade inflation typically gets a lot of attention, Millet said, “what we need to address, and set up some reporting system for, is grading reliability. One of the ways of doing that is to collect data on grading leniency, assessment types and assessment scope for individual course sections. And collecting data about assessments can be facilitated by learning management systems.”

Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: TeachingIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Experts warn of ethical implications of paying ransom to unlock hacked files

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 01/24/2017 - 08:00

Give us your money, or your files get it.

Imagine turning on your computer only to be greeted by that message. The computer has been infected with ransomware, a type of malware that locks users out of their data and threatens to make it unusable -- either by deleting or encrypting it -- unless the college that has been hacked agrees to pay a ransom.

The clock is ticking. Do you pay up?

Los Angeles Valley College did. The community college said earlier this month that it paid about $28,000 in Bitcoin, a digital currency, to an unknown hacker after ransomware locked the institution out of its network, including its email and voice mail systems. It settled on the decision based on an “assessment … that making a payment would offer an extremely high probability of restoring access to the affected systems,” Chancellor Francisco C. Rodriguez said in a statement.

In this case, the assessment turned out to be correct. Since paying the ransom on Jan. 4, the college has restored email and voice mail functionality and worked on unlocking files with code provided by the hacker. That work is still continuing, according to a spokesperson for the college, who stressed that classes started on time.

Others have not been so lucky. Tens of thousands of individuals and organizations that store their data in the online database MongoDB this month found their files had been replaced with ransom notes. Those who have paid have reportedly received nothing in return.

Information security experts say that’s the central risk associated with ransomware, which has been around since the late 1980s but over the last few years has become a more common threat. Do you trust the anonymous stranger holding your data hostage to keep their end of the bargain after paying the person thousands of dollars’ worth of a virtually untraceable digital currency?

“It has to be a case-by-case decision,” said Kim Milford, executive director of REN-ISAC (short for the Research and Education Networking Information Sharing and Analysis Center). In an interview, she encouraged colleges infected with ransomware to ask themselves the following question before deciding whether or not to pay: “Can we carry on with our business without this vital information that is being held ransom?”

Even if colleges go through that deliberation process -- weighing the pros and cons of paying the ransom and carefully evaluating the contents of its backed-up files and the effort it would take to restore them -- and conclude that paying is the most sensible option, there is still a larger issue to debate, experts say. By paying, colleges may recover their data, but they also sustain the hackers and give them an incentive to strike again. And the ransom may be used to fund further illicit activities.

“What we find in cyberthreats is once somebody shows success, everybody is happy to exploit that success,” Milford said. “If they pay the ransom and it gets publicized, people start targeting them more and more and more. It’s a slippery slope.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, responding to an increase in ransomware attacks, last year urged victims not to pay.

“Paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee an organization that it will get its data back -- we’ve seen cases where organizations never got a decryption key after having paid the ransom,” James Trainor, who at the time was assistant director of the agency’s cyber division, said in a statement. “Paying a ransom not only emboldens current cybercriminals to target more organizations, it also offers an incentive for other criminals to get involved in this type of illegal activity. And finally, by paying a ransom, an organization might inadvertently be funding other illicit activity associated with criminals.”

Not only are ransomware attacks becoming more frequent, but the attacks themselves are becoming more diverse. Kaspersky Lab, an antivirus software provider, last year found the number of ransomware attacks grew by 17.7 percent between April 2015 and March 2016.

Higher education is by some measures the hardest-hit sector. A study conducted last year by BitSight Technologies, which evaluates companies’ risk and security performances, estimated that 10 percent of colleges have experienced ransomware attacks, significantly higher than government entities (6 percent) or health care organizations (3.2 percent). The study looked at ransomware attacks at about 20,000 organizations.

Many of these cases are resolved quickly and without publicity. Last year, however, several cases made headlines, including attacks at Carleton University and the University of Calgary, two Canadian institutions.

Matthew Kozloski, vice president of professional services for the IT consulting firm Kelser Corporation, said there’s a simple explanation for why ransomware attacks are on the rise: money.

“I hate to say it, but [ransomware is] the easiest way today for hackers to make money,” Kozloski said. “They want you to pay up.”

Attacking an individual can net a hacker a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Attacking an organization -- colleges included -- could lead to a larger payday, which may be why attacks on corporate users more than doubled between 2014 and 2016, according to Kaspersky Lab. Individual users are still the most common targets, however, accounting for about 86 percent of all ransomware attacks.

Attacking organizations also raises the stakes, said Brian Calkin, vice president of operations for the Center for Internet Security. For colleges, it could mean losing control of sensitive personal information. For hospitals, it could be a matter of patients’ lives.

“That paints a much larger bull’s-eye on them than there already is,” Calkin said in an interview. The CIS works mainly with public-sector entities, including some public universities.

Milford said the best safeguard against a ransomware attack is a sophisticated backup system, which allows a college to restore its data to a point before hackers locked it away. She also said colleges can’t rely on technology alone to protect against online threats, and that they should educate people on campus -- administrators, faculty members, staffers and students -- about cyberthreats and how to keep information safe.

But having to turn to a backup means the attack has already taken place. In some cases, paying the ransom may be less of an effort than the time it takes to restore the files, Calkin said. Since ransomware spreads through infected email attachments, phishing attacks that lead victims to unknowingly give hackers access to their accounts and websites exploiting browser vulnerabilities, among other examples, he encouraged colleges to follow best practices such as keeping computer systems updated.

“If at all possible, people should not be paying,” Milford said. “The problem will never go away if people are paying up.”

Image Source: iStockIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 
Syndicate content