Higher Education News

Diablo Valley's faculty and president disagree on how to respond to the latest threat

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 08/28/2018 - 07:00

In October Albert Ponce, a political science professor at Diablo Valley College, received harassment and threats to his safety after giving a lecture on race and politics during which he called the United States “a white supremacist, patriarchal, heteronormative, capitalist system.” NPR reported on his experience and the cycle of cyberharassment triggered by articles in conservative media.

Dealing with harassment and threats is not new, and scholars who write or speak critically of white people appear to be particular targets​. But colleges are split on how best to respond to them. Last week, after someone threatened to beat up Ponce, faculty members in the English and social science division advocated for a strong public denunciation of the threat. Shortly after it was discovered, the divisions passed a resolution calling on Susan Lamb, the president of Diablo Valley, in California, to publicly denounce any such threat to faculty, staff or students. Scott MacDougall, the social science area convener, emailed the following resolution to the president on Friday.

“Whereas this morning a DVC faculty member had his life threatened (once again) on campus, be it resolved that the Social Science and English Divisions demand that Diablo Valley College issue an immediate public denunciation of this act and provides an adequate response now and in the future to any threats -- including but not limited to death, or any other physical harm to other forms of intimidation and harassment -- to DVC faculty, staff, or students and/or their extended families.”

In an email sent to the social science and English faculty Monday, Lamb said that she and Diablo Valley police services were working to address the threats, but that she would not publicly denounce them.

“It is my belief and the belief of police services that public denunciations, especially in our current political environment, tend to create more targeting and negativity,” she wrote in the email. “Thus, I cannot in good conscious [sic] do something that could escalate the situation as requested in the resolution.”

A faculty member, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said that Lamb's email was a "non-response."

“This feels like a non-response to threats of violence, which is troubling for many reasons. Do we now live in a society where leadership in public institutions are incapable of denouncing threats of violence publicly? What message does that send to the perpetrators?” they said. “For all of President Lamb’s good intentions and vocal commitment to educational values shared among faculty members, I'm not entirely confident in her reasoning for refusing to publicly denounce these threats.”

MacDougall wasn't dissatisfied with Lamb's response, but he said he was looking for an indication that the college was doing "everything that can be done" to address the threats. 

"I would be reluctant to criticize [Lamb's response], because I don’t know what she knows, and I can understand her logic," he said. "What’s happening is completely unacceptable, and I’m just looking for someone to do something productive to protect Albert and his family."

Lamb stressed to Inside Higher Ed that the threat Ponce received Friday was not a death threat, and that the safety of her employees was her top priority.

"A public denunciation isn’t going to make my faculty safer," she said. "And that’s my most important thing."

Though it wasn't an explicit death threat, MacDougall stressed that it was serious. 

"'We’re coming for you, we’re coming for your wife, we’re coming for your daughter.' And what, they’re coming to deliver a bouquet of balloons? I don’t think so," MacDougall said. 

Lamb encouraged anyone at Diablo Valley who receives a threat or anything that makes them uncomfortable to report it to police services.

Today the Academic Senate at Diablo Valley will vote on a resolution promoting academic freedom and denouncing any attempts by external groups to limit it.

Ponce did not respond to a request for comment. 

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Author discusses her new book on how white children develop ideas about race

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 08/28/2018 - 07:00

American colleges struggle with racial tensions every year. Some white students -- in incidents that attract widespread attention or in everyday interactions with their minority peers -- convey a lack of understanding about race.

A new book, White Kids: Growing Up With Privilege in a Racially Divided America (New York University Press), explores how wealthy white children develop their ideas about race. The author, Margaret A. Hagerman, assistant professor of sociology at Mississippi State University, took a qualitative approach, following young white people as they grew up. She answered questions via email about the book and how her findings relate to current tensions at colleges.

Q: Would you describe your research method? How many white wealthy young people did you talk to? How did you define privilege as you were considering whom to interview?

A: White Kids is based on a two-year ethnographic study of 30 families who identified as white and who lived in a medium-sized Midwest city. I interviewed 36 children who were between the ages of 10 and 13 as well as their parents, and I observed these families in their everyday lives. I drove kids to soccer practices and piano lessons, I went to birthday parties and private pools at country clubs, and so on. I also returned to this community a few years later when the youth were in high school and conducted follow-up interviews with a subset of them and their parents. In addition to their racial privilege, these families also experienced class privilege: at least one of the parents in these families, though oftentimes both, held a graduate or professional degree, worked in a professional occupation, and [they] owned a single-family home.

Q: High schools are increasingly segregated by race. How do young white people today learn about race?

A: Many people think that white kids learn about race based on what their parents say (or do not say) to them about the topic. For instance, after a racist hate crime, I often notice a surge in parenting blog posts and op-eds published that urge white parents to speak to their children about racism in America. One of the most important lessons of my research, though, is that “actions speak louder than words.” Whether parents use colorblind language (“We don’t see race”) or color-conscious language (“We are antiracist”), what they say often matters far less than what they actually do -- and specifically, what they do to design their child’s social environment. When parents move to a segregated white neighborhood because the kids in the integrated neighborhood are “too rough,” or when they believe a “good” school is a whiter school, or when the only people in a child’s life are also white with the exception of the economically marginalized black and brown people at the soup kitchen whom they are told they must help “save,” white children notice and develop understandings of not only the position of others in society but also of themselves -- they learn about their own power and privilege through observing and interpreting this world around them. My book tries to highlight how kids are making meaning of race through these interpretive processes.

Q: You write about young people (and also their parents) saying that they are not racist, and then having stereotypical attitudes about black people or behaving in ways that reinforce racial inequality. How do you explain this?

A: None of the kids in this book want to be considered “racist,” but I did find variations on why this was the case. Some children believed this label would mean that they were hurting their peers of color, which they knew was a real possibility, even if unintentional. Other kids did not believe it was even possible for them to be racist because racism is “no longer a problem.” Race scholars like Eduardo Bonilla-Silva have documented extensively the prevalence of colorblind ideology in America. This research illustrates how white people can say racism is no longer a problem while simultaneously explaining the existence of inequality in our society by blaming people of color through the use of culturally racist stereotypes. Other scholars have also explored differences between what white people say about race and what they do. For instance, scholars like Amanda Lewis and John Diamond demonstrate how white parents advocate for their own children in ways that protect and defend the very systems of inequality they say they otherwise reject. Additionally, scholars like Joyce Bell and Douglas Hartmann show how white people engage in the “happy talk” of diversity while avoiding real confrontations with structural inequality and avoiding the realities of how they perpetuate inequality in their own lives. Certainly, in my research, I found similar patterns.

Q: We are in a period of intense national debate about affirmative action in college admissions. What attitudes did you see among young white people that would influence their view of this question?

A: I found variation in these affluent white kids’ perspectives on programs or policies designed to promote equal opportunity and fight institutional racism. For instance, one child told me that she did not understand the relevance of spaces like that of a Black Student Union. In her words: “Like, this one high school has, like, the Black Student Union and the Asian Student Union. I don’t really get it. Like, why do they have to be like, ‘Oh, you’re black, so you’re in your own little union.’ I mean, there’s not like the White Student Union!” Similarly, I witnessed a brother tell his younger sibling with a tone of disgust that he would never get into a particular summer program because the program was more likely to accept “black and Mexican kids than white kids.” And yet, other kids told me that they understood the need for policies and programs that would help make up for the legacy of racism in America. For instance, another child explained, “I think there is still a lot of discrimination in jobs and stuff, and there has been for a long time … Some people are not given certain opportunities that maybe someone would give white people just because they look different, which I think is kind of bogus.” This child was in favor of trying to find ways to fix these problems. “We need to do something about this,” he told me.

Q: College leaders are stunned every year when white students (who deny being racist) pose in blackface or organize "illegal alien hunt" parties, etc. How do you explain this behavior, based on the attitudes you found?

A: Not only do many of the white kids in my study express limited awareness of the history of racism or the realities of contemporary forms of racism and racial inequality, but they also express what sociologist Tyrone Forman describes as “racial apathy” or the “lack of feeling or indifference toward societal racial and ethnic inequality and lack of engagement with race-related social issues.” From my perspective, racial apathy is at the heart of the day-to-day exclusionary practices of white supremacy prevalent on college campuses (e.g., microaggressions) as well as the much more incendiary racist events that receive national attention. My research shows that such apathy manifests itself in white childhood -- like when some of the young people tell me that they “don’t care” about black people who are killed by police because “when black people get shot, it is because they fucked up.” Kids who do not care about the suffering of people of color in middle school may not see a problem with hosting an “illegal alien hunt” party in college.

Q: Based on what you learned, what would be your advice to college leaders who want to promote inclusive environments on their campuses?

A: My research shows that many white kids are unprepared for living and learning in a racially inclusive environment because of their own white racial socialization in childhood and early adolescence. Integrating my own research with the important work of my colleagues, I think all students should be required to take classes designed to build their empathy, understanding and capacity to act in the face of racial inequalities -- classes based in critical race studies that, as sociologist Jennifer Mueller puts it, make “ignorance [or apathy] more difficult.” University leaders should support and value the faculty who teach these courses, recognizing the challenges of this work especially for faculty from racially marginalized groups. So too should university leaders work to address the consequences of racial apathy at all levels of the university -- e.g., syllabi that center white perspectives, administrative indifference to the concerns of students of color, uncritical hiring practices, inequitable service demands placed on faculty of color and so on. In order to challenge the normative nature of whiteness on college campuses, administrators first need to better understand the process of white racial socialization and the insidious power of racial apathy.

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Bunker Hill sees increase in part-time retention and persistence

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 08/28/2018 - 07:00

Research has shown that the more college credits students take per term, the more likely they are to graduate -- and on time.

Many colleges and states have responded to those findings and implemented new programs, offered incentives and enacted policy that encourage students to pursue at least 12 college credits per semester to graduate on time within two or four years. But every student can't attend college full-time.

That recognition led Bunker Hill Community College to refocus how instructors and advisers engage part-time students. The college started requiring the students to take learning community seminars and then adapted the seminars to fit the needs of students.

A report from the Center for American Progress found that the seminars specifically increased retention and persistence among part-time students. Marcella Bombardieri, a senior analyst at CAP who authored the report, said Bunker Hill could be a model for other colleges across the country looking to improve part-time student performance.

Although offering learning communities and accommodating students' schedules isn't new or unique, especially in a community college setting, what Bunker Hill is doing is different.

"The biggest thing that is different is that part-time students are targeted," said Bombardieri, who has been approached by several organizations interested in Bunker Hill's model since the report was released. "That's who they're paying attention to and that's what distinguishes them from a lot of the conversation about increasing completion."

There have been a few initiatives around the country directed at helping part-time students, but they've mostly focused on increasing the number of credits students earn and encouraging them to attend college full-time, she said. Bombardieri cited the City University of New York's well-regarded Accelerated Study in Associate Programs as one example.

Evelyn Waiwaiole, executive director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, also considers CUNY's program beneficial. But when it comes to helping part-time students who plan to continue attending only part-time, she said the typical approaches she hears from colleges are that they stay open later and provide services that accommodate students' schedules.

"When students are connected, they are engaged," she said in an email. "If students are in learning communities, they are connected to their peers. It's no surprise the outcomes are changing."

There are other colleges that have restructured how they offer classes in order to help part-time students. Trident Technical College in South Carolina, for instance, altered courses by dividing semesters into seven-week periods. Furthermore, if students at Trident Tech choose to withdraw after seven weeks, they don't lose the credits they accumulated.

Odessa College in Texas uses eight weeks of accelerated learning instead of the traditional 16 weeks to increase academic outcomes for part-time students, said Karen Stout, president and chief executive officer of Achieving the Dream, a completion-focused nonprofit group, of which Bunker Hill is a member institution.

"What's interesting about Bunker Hill's work is that it's inside the classroom," she said. "It's the designing and linkage of courses that's exciting."

Stout has been critical of initiatives that solely work to encourage part-time students to take on more credits than they can handle.

"This data from Bunker Hill is promising and presents a lot of questions," she said. "Can we go further with the intentional design of the part-time student experience that borrows from the best high-impact practices that work for full-time students in the learning community design?"

At Bunker Hill, students attend the seminars, for which they can earn college credit, for a few hours each week to study a single topic or theme that is relevant to their major or life experiences. The seminar topics may range from Becoming a Teacher to Parents as First Teachers, Sports Psychology: Success in Sports & Life, or Latinas: A Culture of Empowerment.

The seminars are culturally relevant, rigorous and tied into student supports, said Lori Catallozzi, dean of humanities and learning communities at Bunker Hill.

“They give part-time students more of an advantage because they won’t get that anywhere else from the college.”

While these seminars have long shown academic benefits for full-time students, in 2013 Bunker Hill began requiring first-year students with at least a nine-credit course load to also attend the seminars after administrators saw higher rates of students re-enrolling.

For instance, in 2017, 75 percent of part-time students who attended a fall seminar remained enrolled in the college the following spring, compared to 60 percent of part-time students that did not attend a seminar. In 2016, 49 percent of part-time students who enrolled in a seminar re-enrolled in the college the next year compared to 41 percent of part-time students that did not attend a seminar, according to data from the college.

About 4,700 of Bunker Hill’s nearly 14,000 students enrolled in a learning community seminar last year. More than 2,100 students were part-time for at least one of the semesters during which they took a seminar. About 65 percent of the college’s overall enrollment is part-time.

In Bunker Hill’s learning community seminars, student mentors participate in every class and help their peers with issues that arise outside the classroom, such as problems with off-campus housing. Success coaches are also on hand to help students develop their career skills or map academic plans.

“When I think about the life of a part-time student here, they’re more likely to come for a couple of classes and then they’re leaving for family reasons … leaving for full-time jobs,” Catallozzi said. “Their lives are more complex and fuller than full-time students'. If they’re going to benefit from support services or a sense of integration with the college, or relationships with faculty or peers, it’ll happen in the classroom.”

Some part-time students who come to the Boston campus in the evenings and on weekends may find student advising or support offices understaffed or closed. But success coaches or academic advisers are always present and available to students in the seminars, said Arlene Vallie, director of learning communities at Bunker Hill.

“Those are the things that make a difference,” she said.

Bunker Hill offers three types of seminars in the evenings and on weekends to accommodate the schedules of part-time students.

One seminar focuses on a topic that may be of interest to students and includes a peer mentor and success coach who works alongside the instructor. Another learning community is taught as a "cluster" seminar where a group of students takes two courses together in the same semester and the professors coordinate and plan their instruction around common themes. The college recently introduced the success coaches and peer mentors to the cluster seminars. The third seminar is a professional studies community, which is available for students majoring in fields such as information technology or nursing. These students are required to take the professional seminar as part of their degree plan, and they are also paired with coaches and mentors.

Bombardieri said that while increasing enrollment and getting students to take more classes is a worthy goal, she and her colleagues are concerned that the push to increase the number of full-time students excludes those students for whom attending part-time is the only option.

A report last year from CAP indicated that part-time students are often overlooked by colleges and policy makers. The report showed that about one-quarter of exclusively part-time students graduate and slightly more than half of the students who attend part-time during their college career earn a degree. Meanwhile, 80 percent of exclusively full-time students attain a degree.

“When I talk to people in the community college, they generally say, ‘Most of our students are part-time and everything we do is for part-time [students],’” Bombardieri said. “I know they mean that, but at the same time they aren’t necessarily looking specifically at that population and how their needs might be different.”

The challenge for Bunker Hill administrators is taking what they know works and expanding it to more students, Bombardieri said. She said it would also be interesting to look at the effect of learning communities on part-time graduation and transfer rates.

Although Bunker Hill is still analyzing the data in the CAP report, Catallozzi said discussions are underway about expanding the learning community requirement to students who are enrolled in classes totaling at least six credits, and adding internships and apprenticeships as components.

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Baylor accused of planting 'mole' in sexual assault advocacy groups

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 08/27/2018 - 07:00

A Baylor University administrator infiltrated sexual assault survivors' advocacy groups and tried to shape their messaging -- then reported their strategies to other campus officials, anonymous sources have alleged to the trade magazine PRWeek.

While the administrator in question, Matt Burchett, Baylor’s director of student activities, did work with these student groups, both he and other university representatives have refuted claims that he was a “mole,” calling an article based on the allegations “outlandish” and “inaccurate.”

“For one thing, a ‘mole’ is someone who operates secretly,” spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said in a statement to Inside Higher Ed. “Dr. Burchett was above board in his role. He was not undercover nor was he duping anyone. What’s more, the students were certainly free to reject his suggestions. As part of his official duties, Dr. Burchett regularly facilitates expressive activities by students and coordinates a variety of resources from across campus to meet their needs. Information is shared back and forth to ensure such events are safe and provide a platform for the students to communicate their message.”

PRWeek reported last week that Burchett arranged demonstrations and vigils for these survivor groups, then told administrators what he had learned planning the events, as well as afterward. When the organizations tried to collaborate and make demands of Kenneth W. Starr, the former president, Burchett would befriend student activists and pretend to help organize events on sexual assault. In reality, anonymous sources said, he was feeding information back to administrators.

Starr has since left the university. Following revelations that the university mishandled widespread sexual assault accusations against the institution’s football players, he was demoted, then he resigned from his law school professorship.

Burchett, in an interview with Inside Higher Ed, said part of his role is liaising between students who want to plan “expressive events” -- such as a vigils -- and campus departments, such as security, spiritual life, media relations and others. His “role is really clear,” he said, because he discusses with students who he will be working with and shares the expectations and feedback of administrators at the private Baptist university.

Burchett described two vigils on campus sexual assault that he helped plan with student organizers in 2016. He said he worked with one or two students in both cases -- when he was planning the first vigil, he had a face-to-face meeting with activists, but the rest of the time he was communicating via email and telephone. He never met with students face-to-face for the second vigil.

On both occasions, Burchett said, because students wanted to plan the vigils quickly, he interacted with them for less than 36 hours.

During the first vigil, students were distributing cards that included a message about why they were holding the event, Burchett said. He said he provided comments about how best to phrase the message, but he said his feedback was merely a suggestion, not a mandate.

Burchett said he shared information about the cards with other campus officials who were involved in planning the event -- he could not recall exactly who, but he said they were from the usual campus agencies he works with.

“My role is, my intent is, to listen to the students and understand what their hopes and visions are on campus, then as an adviser to ask questions, make recommendations, so they can fully realize that vision -- while also, and I believe this to be true -- provide freedom for them to do what they wish,” Burchett said, adding that he did not receive any feedback from students after events other than that they felt supported by the university in planning them.

J​​ason Cook, a spokesman for Baylor, said PRWeek contacted the university after Burchett gave a deposition -- which remains sealed -- in a lawsuit against the institution. Cook said the university does not believe the unnamed sources in PRWeek’s article are students.

Ten unnamed former students are suing Baylor, alleging that they were sexually assaulted and that the university did not adequately handle their complaints. The cases date from 2004 to 2016. Baylor has faced several scandals around campus rape and its football team, leading to the ouster not just of Starr, but of head football coach Art Briles and athletics director Ian McCaw.

In interviews, survivor advocacy groups said university officials who work with students on activism surrounding sexual assaults are usually operating with the institution’s interests in mind, not victims’.

Laura Dunn, founder of SurvJustice, a survivor advocacy group, who is now a lawyer with the Fierberg National Law Group in Washington, said she has seen cases of universities hiring “advocates” who were first and foremost campus employees, but who were held out as support for survivors.

Students would trust them, Dunn said, but these “advocates” would “eventually show their true colors.”

At one California-based institution, the advocate would ask for in-person conversations or phone calls to avoid creating records that showed policy violations, Dunn said. Another advocate, at a New York university, destroyed a student’s personal notes on a sexual assault hearing after the survivor said she wanted to file a complaint.

“That's why survivors should look to national and community-based advocates and groups for support -- because they may not able to rely on [anyone] employed or even contracted by the school to assist them,” Dunn said.

Students should only work with administrators when clear boundaries are established and they are up front about representing the institution, said Alyssa Peterson, a policy coordinator with the advocacy organization Know Your IX, a reference to the federal gender antidiscrimination law Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. She called Baylor “unethical.”

Carly Mee, the current interim director of SurvJustice, blasted Baylor’s purported actions, saying they would likely create mistrust among survivors.

“Infiltrating what should be safe, supportive spaces for survivors for the sole purpose of gaining information to protect the university's image is revictimizing, as survivors will now likely doubt who they can trust,” Mee said. “Furthermore, it sends a clear message to survivors that the administration isn't truly concerned about their safety and well-being, but solely about the school's public image.”

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Trivia app promises student loan payoffs, but higher ed experts question the benefits for borrowers

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 08/27/2018 - 07:00

Abra Belke has taken quite a few steps, some of them more unusual than others, to whittle down the six-figure loan debt she racked up between college and grad school.

A lawyer in Washington State, Belke worked two jobs for the first decade after she left law school and took on side hustles so that she could make more than the minimum payment on her loans.

Her knowledge of trivia led her to hit the game-show circuit to put a bigger dent in her loan debt, including Jeopardy! and Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Those trivia skills, though, were what piqued her interest in another off-the-wall solution for student loan debt -- a mobile gaming app called Givling that promises winners a payout of up to $50,000 on their student loan debt.

Belke started playing the game in 2015 and says she checks into the game on her phone somewhere between 10 and 15 times a day. While she’s not yet close to a loan payoff, she says the game has helped her connect to a network of other student borrowers with similar experiences.

“It’s nice to see that you’re not in this all alone,” she said. “The thing about student debt is nobody talks about how much they have.”

Givling pitches itself as not just a chance to win debt relief but also a community of borrowers and supporters working together to crowdfund student debt forgiveness -- the tagline for the game is “a force for good.” The company says it just recently passed the $1 million mark for award winnings, of which about $700,000 went directly to student loans. Users have learned personal details about one another’s debt struggles and have even organized in-person meet-ups.

The game is also part of a growing ecosystem of brands looking to target the market of mid-20- to 30-something student loan borrowers. That segment of potential customers includes many people who are educated and have some disposable income but also feel under pressure to pay off their loans.

The TruTV game show Paid Off has borrowers compete at trivia for a payout on their student loans while calling on Congress to come up with better solutions for loan debt.

In Givling’s case, the borrowers are the consumers hoping for a big payout to reduce their student loan burden. The dedicated players see themselves as part of a community crowdfunding loan payoffs through in-game purchases. They're also a target audience for advertisers and partner companies looking to market their products. Some observers who study the financial aid system question whether the game -- in which borrowers can advance in the competition by spending time and money -- takes advantage of players desperate to pay off their debt.

The company’s founder and CEO, Lizbeth Pratt, became interested in student loans because of her own financial struggles. Pratt was forced to declare bankruptcy on a business venture early in her career before a successful stint as a stock trader. After retiring early, she wanted to do something positive in others’ lives and discovered that student loan borrowers could not declare bankruptcy as she did, said Seth Beard, the company’s chief marketing officer. Pratt created Givling to give those borrowers another chance to discharge their debt.

“There’s this big problem where students who have these big life moments and get over their heads,” Beard said. “Student loans are one of the only kinds of debt not able to be dismissed through bankruptcy.”

Givling now counts about 350,000 active users. That’s a far cry from other mobile games. But the company aims to hit a million users in the next six months, a number that it says would put it on pace to offer loan forgiveness to one winner each day.

The game works like this: users can, for free, play for cash prizes by answering questions in what’s known as the “orange queue.” They get two free rounds of questions each day -- topics range from film and geography to history and literature. Teams of three players win by answering more questions in a given time period. Winners -- the payout is usually around $6,000 -- can either pocket the cash or use it for points on the “green queue.”

Getting to the end of the green queue offers the game’s most serious reward, a chance for a payoff of student loans. But the competition is heavy and players make use of a number of options to accumulate points -- they can purchase additional turns to answer questions or invite friends to play the game, or they might watch an ad or answer a survey from a Givling corporate partner. Users across the board spend an average of just under 11 minutes per day on the app, according to the company.

While the maximum amount allowed has changed, users can currently make up to $2,500 in in-game purchases toward game points in a week, the company says. The typical user pays much less, though -- less than $4 each month -- and most have never paid to play.

Belke declined to say how much she had spent in total on the game, but for a few months toward the end of last year she spent the maximum amount each week to purchase more opportunities for points in the green queue, although she says she no longer has the cash to spend that much each week. She now sits at 16th place in the orange queue and 11th in the green queue.

Those cash purchases by players are one of three main sources of revenue for the company. It generates payments every time users sign up for an offer from a corporate partner (it counts among those refinancing company SoFi, LendKey, Lemonade Insurance, Champion Empowerment Institute, Spent App, Acorns, T-Mobile, Ibotta and others). It also earns money from third-party ads.

"We look to partner with companies that provide value to our users, are trustworthy and are passionate about helping eliminate student loan debt," Beard said.

That model has allowed Givling to grow from revenue of $97 in July 2017 to $6,742 each day a year later. And it just reached its 21st loan payout.

One of those went to Amanda Limoges, who discovered the app through a Facebook post from a friend about nine months ago. Although she did not hold any student loan debt herself, Limoges’s husband, Glen, owed $86,000 in student debt between federal and private loans after completing an undergraduate degree in 2012.

When Givling changed its rules after being warned it didn’t comply with state gambling laws, the changes removed elements of chance and made the game skills based.

Limoges said she decided then to try to commit herself to winning the loan payout. She spent more time on the app in the two months before her win than in the previous seven combined, she said, eventually earning the top prize earlier this year. With the $50,000 payout, she was able to pay off the remainder of her husband’s loans as well as his brother’s.

“It took 15 years off the life of our loans and I believe about nine months off of his little brother’s debt,” she said.

Scholars See Pitfalls

Although the game has made a huge difference to a handful of borrowers like Limoges’s husband, some researchers who study higher ed take a skeptical view of the app as a solution for borrowers seeking student loan relief.

“I worry about it being addictive, just as gambling is addictive. I really worry about that,” said Lindsay Page, an assistant professor in the school of education at the University of Pittsburgh.

Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, said the game is a reflection of how many companies find the abundance of young adults in student debt a promising opportunity to cultivate new customers. Employers, too, meanwhile, are offering student loan payouts in place of traditional benefits to attract new hires.

“They’re going after young college graduates with jobs, and that’s a pretty lucrative demographic in the long term to go after,” he said.

Companies expect those borrowers to have money in the future, even if they don’t have it now, Kelchen said. And although options like income-driven repayment are available to borrowers with federal student loan debt, many are still looking for creative ways to pay down their loans faster.

“People don’t like having debt hanging over their heads,” Kelchen said. “If there’s a lottery to take care of it, they may very well take it.”

The financial situation of those borrowers, while it shapes marketing choices today, is also an outcome of policy decisions made years ago. Nick Hillman, an associate professor in the school of education at the University of Wisconsin Madison, said the game is a product of failed education policies. The appeal of the game should force people to think about the kinds of outcomes the U.S. higher ed financing system creates, Hillman said.

“This is a consequence of having a college system that was financed by credit. We have this new market now that was only created because of the way we’ve designed our education funding,” he said. “It sounds like it could work to exploit students in so many ways.”

He said he was wary of what happens to users’ data and how third-party companies might use it to target marketing to borrowers.

“The fundamental question to know is how that data is being used,” he said.

At the very least, Hillman said an app targeting student borrowers should provide users with information on options for their loans that don’t involve private companies or advertising partners.

“An ethical company would also give students more information on how they manage their loans,” he said. “If not, these companies are doing no good, just exploiting people’s data.”

Beard said one of Givling's partner companies, Champion Empowerment Institute, does offer complimentary mentoring on student loan repayment options through Facebook Live events and other venues. Champion Empowerment also offers subscription services for borrowers at $10 a month.

Limoges, though, said she never felt taken advantage of by the game.

“No, I never felt like we were being used because of our misfortune. I didn’t have to do anything silly that everyone could see to get his loans paid, although obviously many people are in a position they will take any possible opportunity to escape that debt.”

And she said the app has helped her form many real-world friendships with other players through their shared interest in student debt.

Beard said the criticisms of the company are a response to its new approach. And he said users have the choice whether or not to spend money on the game or take advantage of partner offers but still earn prizes through Givling’s orange queue.

“When you’re an innovator and you’re disrupting something and accomplishing what’s never been done before, you’re going to have those critics,” he said. “We’ve just stayed focused on our mission.”

The ultimate goal in that mission is to pay off multiple student loans a day through the app. Givling describes that goal in terms of social justice.

“They give these student loans to people who are 18 years old. There’s no credit check. They just sign on the dotted line,” Beard said. “They don’t always realize what they’re getting themselves into.”

Belke said her only concern about the game is that so few people are putting money in right now. The long-term health of the game depends on activating more players, she said, but only a fraction are playing and contributing toward loan payoffs.

"That needs to go up for us to reach our goals," she said. "Would having more free resources help? Maybe. But if we can build a model where sponsors, ads, and crowdfunding are helping change a lot of lives, it feels more like shared labor than exploitation."

Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: Financial aidAd Keyword: Student loansIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

UNT professor lectured for 26 hours, breaking a world record and raising thousands of dollars

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 08/27/2018 - 07:00

At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, after with a talk that lasted 26 hours and included hundreds of pages of notes and well over 1,000 slides, Andrew Torget broke the world record for longest lecture.

The University of North Texas professor said it was his children’s idea to give the lecture, spanning the entirety of Texas history from prehistoric times to the modern day.

“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to set a Guinness world record,” he said. “The immediate inspiration, though, was my own kids, who are eight and 10 years old. They came up with the idea of doing something like this.”

The possibility of breaking a world record was exciting, but Torget said the real reason he did it was to raise money for the Portal to Texas History, an online archive of rare, historical and primary materials from or about Texas history. The portal was created and is maintained by the University of North Texas Libraries. The lecture was streamed live on the portal’s website, and viewers were asked to donate online.

After gaining a little traction on social media, the lecture commenced at 9 a.m. Friday and reached an audience far beyond Torget’s classroom.

“I heard from people as far away as Ireland,” he said. “There was a pub in Ireland where they had a drinking game. Every time I said ‘populace,’ they took a shot.”

The history professor and his students broke the record at 9 a.m. Saturday, but by the time he ended the lecture a couple of hours later, Torget had raised close to $20,000 for the portal. He said staying awake and alert was, for the most part, surprisingly easy.

“When I got started, I felt really good. Then, about six or eight hours in, my throat started hurting on the right side, but it didn’t impede my ability to speak, just to drink water,” he said. “I think I was just really in the moment the entire time. I thought I would end up sitting a lot, but I ended up prowling across the stage, walking back and forth pretty much the entire time.”

Breaking a world record required participants to follow a few rules. Guinness World Records representatives were present to monitor the lecture. At least 10 students had to be present, they could not leave or sleep and they had to remain engaged and attentive throughout the talk. Cellphones were not allowed. Every hour, the group earned a five-minute break, which Torget said they would stack and then take 15-minute breaks every three hours, during which they eat, drink and use the bathroom.

He could have kept going, he said, but wanted to give his sleepy students a rest.

“As I was up there, I was watching them and their eyes, and they started to droop,” he said. “If they dropped out, they don’t get to be part of the record. It had to be the same students, that’s why it was so exhausting for them. They were there the entire time.”

A few students fell asleep or dropped out, but in the end about 35 students stuck it out. Even after ending, Torget didn’t go to sleep until 10:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“I can just keep on talking. I did not know before this how long I really could go. I didn’t know how long my voice would hold up, and how long I could focus and concentrate deeply on the subject matter,” he said. “It was a challenge, it was demanding, but at the same time, the thing I learned the most is that I really can keep going.”

Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: TeachingImage Caption: Andrew TorgetIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: University of North Texas

Pro-Confederate protesters clash with students at Chapel Hill

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 08/27/2018 - 07:00

The saga of Silent Sam continued Saturday as a small group of protesters hoisting Confederate flags gathered at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to protest Monday night's removal of a statue of a Confederate soldier.

There had been seven arrests, according to UNC officials:

  • Three for assault
  • Two for assault, destruction of property and inciting a riot
  • One for destruction of property
  • One for resisting an officer

At a press conference Saturday afternoon, Chancellor Carol Folt said that about 100 people were at the protest and counter-protest. She said that none of those arrested were affiliated with the university.

Video posted online suggested that the pro-Confederate group was relatively small, and that the group was shouted down by students and others. While some of the interactions were peaceful, scuffles broke out as well.

The march followed a protest Monday night in which participants pulled down Silent Sam, a Confederate statue (at right after being pulled down) whose presence has upset many students and faculty members for years. University officials (both at Chapel Hill and in the system) had insisted that they lacked the legal authority to bring down the statue, and many state politicians had urged that it not be moved. But to students and faculty members, the statue has long been associated with white supremacy and the university's former policies of segregation.

The statue has been taken off campus, and UNC officials declined at a briefing for reporters Thursday to say what would happen to it.

UNC released a statement Friday urging students not to attend today's events.

"We respect and believe in the First Amendment, the Campus Free Speech Act and the rights of peaceful protestors," the statement said. "We do not know for sure what groups may attend, but we are mindful that the current atmosphere is highly charged, and protests that begin peacefully do not always remain that way. For this reason, we urge you not to attend. For those who do attend, please know that we will do all we can to protect and keep everyone safe."

Many on campus have been applauding the student protest that took down the statue and contrasting UNC's inaction on the issue with the way Duke University responded a year ago, after the violence in Charlottesville, Va., by removing a statue of Robert E. Lee from the university chapel. Duke recently announced that it would leave empty the spot where the statue of Lee stood, symbolizing the racial problems in American society.

At the same time, UNC leaders have repeatedly since Monday denounced the protest that removed the statue, saying that it was illegal and could have resulted in harm to students or others.

In other developments:

  • On Friday, campus police issued three arrest warrants in connection with the Monday night protest.
  • A member of the Board of Governors of the UNC System took to Twitter to vow that Silent Sam would be reinstalled on campus.

Silent Sam Will Be Reinstalled as Required by State Law WITHIN 90 Days. Criminals who destroyed state property at UNC and police who did nothing will be held accountable. https://t.co/u1uPxSyph4 #unc #silencedsam #silencesam #hatecrime #ncgop #wunc #wect #wral #wtvd #wway #ncgop

— Thom Goolsby MBA, JD (@ThomGoolsby) August 23, 2018 DiversityEditorial Tags: RaceImage Caption: Saturday's protest and a call to answer itIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 1Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, August 28, 2018Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Clash at Chapel HillMagazine treatment: Trending: 
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