Higher Education News

Underreporting remains top issue for universities

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 16, 2019 - 12:00am

Rates of sexual assault at 33 leading research institutions slightly increased during the past four years, according to the findings of a new survey report released today. But the people most likely to be victims of such assaults are more aware of how to report them and how to access help than they were four years ago.

The Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct, released by the Association of American Universities, was the second such report by the organization. The first was in 2015.

Of the 33 elite institutions where the survey was conducted, 21 also distributed the 2015 climate survey and were able to see results over a four-year period, according to the report. The survey of 181,752 undergraduate and graduate students found no significant changes in sexual assault rates, and women and non-cisgender students continue to be more likely to be victimized by sexual misconduct than men. Respondents said they were more aware of reporting mechanisms and resources than in 2015, but the reporting of incidents remained low.

The AAU survey is not definitive or illustrative of all sexual misconduct in higher education, because it only covers a specific type of institution, said Kimberlee Eberle-Sudré, AAU’s director of policy research. But it is the most broadly distributed sexual misconduct climate survey that exists to date, said the association's president, Mary Sue Coleman.

“We believe in the validity of the work that we’ve done, but we’re not trying to say that this is true everywhere,” Coleman said. “This is the research that needs to be done before throwing around numbers.”

Institutions that conducted the survey include Boston University, Brown University, the California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Case Western Reserve University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Iowa State University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Rice University, Stanford University, Texas A&M University, Johns Hopkins University, Ohio State University, the University of Arizona, the University of Chicago, the University of Kansas, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Florida, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, the University of Missouri, the University of Oregon, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Rochester, the University of Southern California, the University of Virginia, Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis and Yale University.

All 33 institutions will release their own survey data in conjunction with Tuesday’s release of the aggregate report later in the week, Eberle-Sudré said. The survey was prepared and administered by Westat, a research corporation, in order to anonymize data and ensure respondents were not deterred by the fear that their institution would see individual responses, Eberle-Sudré said.

Westat’s full data will be made available to “legitimate researchers” one year after only being available to participating institutions, Eberle-Sudré said. The AAU faced criticism from sexual assault researchers in 2015 for not making the data open for university comparisons. Sexual violence is traditionally an issue that is hidden from view, and the way data are collected on it should not be, said Jennifer J. Freyd, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon and campus climate researcher, who co-authored a 2014 letter encouraging university presidents not to participate in the AAU climate survey.

Some of the researchers’ criticisms were addressed in the new survey's methodology -- participating universities can add custom questions that look into specific places on campus where sexual assault occurs, or include questions that analyze bystander intervention, Eberle-Sudré said. Researchers also implemented trigger warnings into the survey, after survivor advocacy groups were critical of the language used to describe sexual assaults.

“There was a long process of looking at feedback from campuses and respondents -- was this question triggering, would we still get the results if we ask it a different way,” Eberle-Sudré said. “Sometimes just getting the notice of the survey was triggering, so students could opt out on the first communication.”

The survey also found that the overall rate of nonconsensual sexual contact did not change significantly from 2015, according to the report. Coleman said this finding was “vexing” because of the attention and resources universities have dedicated to preventing campus sexual assault.

Respondents demonstrated that they are more aware of what sexual misconduct is and the resources available to them at their institutions, but only 15 percent of victims got involved with a university-provided program or reported their experience, according to the AAU report. Victims were most likely to seek counseling services or get help at campus health centers.

One explanation for the low reporting and program participation rates is that victims are doubtful they will be believed when they report, Coleman said. In survey responses, students were also likely to say they did not report because they “could handle it myself” or the misconduct was “not serious enough.” If victims were not physically harmed or believed they did not have the time to go through with an investigation of their accusation, they were less likely to report, Eberle-Sudré said, adding that there is room for improvements in “postreporting.”

The 2019 report also separated responses between undergraduate and graduate students, whose varying college and university experiences and environments contribute to differences in the type of sexual misconduct perpetrated against them, Eberle-Sudré said.

“In 2015, we talked a lot about the assaults,” Eberle-Sudré said noting that assaults were still prevalent in the 2019 survey, “but we start to see other pieces happening on our campuses.”

More than 26 percent of undergraduate female respondents reported nonconsensual sexual contact, while nearly 11 percent of graduate and professional women did, according to the 2019 report. Graduate students were most likely to be sexually harassed by a faculty member or instructor -- a quarter of these students who reported being harassed said the perpetrator was an instructor or faculty member.

Undergraduate respondents were much more vulnerable to sexual assault in their first year of college, which is not seen for graduate students, Coleman said. More than 16 percent of freshman students surveyed reported they were sexually assaulted versus about 11 percent of students in their fourth year or above, the report states. This can be valuable information for institutions to focus prevention and reporting methods on freshman students, Coleman said.

“If an institution is going to concentrate their resources, they can do a better job during their first year and can lower rates that way,” Coleman said.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Women have about half the followers of men on Twitter and otherwise diminished influence

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 15, 2019 - 6:00pm

Women on social media face disproportionate levels of harassment compared to men. A new study says that female academics also have disproportionately fewer Twitter followers, likes and retweets than their male counterparts on the platform, regardless of their Twitter activity levels or professional rank.

Women were also more likely than men to reciprocate relationships with followers and follow back, and to follow other women.

Observers of gender dynamics, casual or expert, probably won’t be surprised by the findings. But they do have implications for scientific impact and careers and the general sharing of information. And because this study, in particular, involved health policy and health services researchers, there are implications for public health. So it’s important to understand what’s happening, and why -- as best we can, since the study was more quantitative analysis than a deep dive into the psychology of Twitter.

The short answer, said lead author Jane M. Zhu, assistant professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Sciences University and a senior adjunct fellow in health economics at the University of Pennsylvania, is that the “same power dynamics that exist in the real-world office settings seem to exist online.”

The slightly longer answer, she said, is that while women may be supporting other women and “amplifying each other’s professional voices online, men may still be considered the more authoritative voices, even within the same academic rank.”

Additionally, Zhu said, “Men may not find the content of women’s tweets as compelling as other men’s, or they may not feel obligated to reciprocate relationships and follow women who follow them.”

How many fewer followers do women get than men? Half.

For their study, the researchers identified the names and institutional affiliations of authors and speakers at the 2018 AcademyHealth annual research meeting. They excluded trainees and those without medical degrees or doctorates and then pulled Twitter data -- including the most recent 3,200 tweets -- for the remaining sample. About one-third of that group had a Twitter account, some 492 women and 427 men.

The men followed about 375 people, on average, while women followed 332. In addition to following fewer people, women had been on Twitter for less time, on average -- about 4.5 years, versus 5.1 years for men. They also had fewer original tweets, at about 71 per year, compared to 98 for men. But the study asserts that that doesn’t account for the dramatic difference in followers: 567 for women, on average, versus 1,162 for men.

Similarly, women’s tweets generated fewer average likes than men, at 316 per year versus 578, respectively. Same for retweets, at 207 per year on average for women and 400 for men. Per tweet, not just per year, the same was true. Most gender differences were between full professors.

Source: JAMA Internal Medicine

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, notes that men and women are using Twitter at equal rates, and that social media offers women “opportunities for engagement, perhaps with fewer barriers than may be present in day-to-day academic interactions.” The gender disparity was also less pronounced at lower ranks, suggesting things may be changing.

Yet while some have hoped that social media would “help level the playing field in academic medicine by giving women an accessible and equitable platform on which to present themselves,” it says, the danger is that these forums “may do little to improve gender parity and may instead reinforce disparities.”

Not Just Academic Medicine

The study notes that its academic-medicine focus limits its generalizability. But academics across fields said that the findings make sense -- too much of it.

Kim Weeden, Jan Rock Zubrow Professor of the Social Sciences and director of the Center for the Study of Inequality at Cornell University, has a healthy Twitter following. But she said the study seems consistent with other, experimental research on how both men and women assess other men and women in terms of competence.

That is, “When evaluators lack background information to evaluate a person's competence or expertise, as is often the case on Twitter, they rate men as being more competent than women.”

There is a lot of research on this topic, both in and outside academic settings. Some of it pertains to student evaluations of teaching -- how students rate professors. Some it pertains to hiring practices. One study published earlier this year, for instance, found that identically qualified hypothetical candidates for a postdoctoral position with women’s names were rated as more likable than men by both physicists and biologists. Physicists rated male candidates as more competent and worth hiring than female candidates. The study also found significant racial bias: Asian and white candidates were seen as more competent and hireable than black and Latinx candidates. Black women and Latinx women and men candidates were rated significantly lower than all other candidates in physics.

Studies also have found that even when evaluators believe women are just as competent as the men they’re rating, they label women as less likeable and more hostile, Weeden said. In the context of Twitter, then, both cases would lead to fewer followers and likes for women than for men, “either because potential followers assume women are less competent or because they find competent women less likable than men,” on average. She underscored that this pattern occurs with both female and male evaluators -- or, here, potential followers.

Sarah McAnulty, assistant research professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of Connecticut, has amassed nearly 30,000 Twitter followers -- in part due to her role as executive director at Skype a Scientist. The outreach organization matches scientists with classrooms and groups of adults for video chats about various scientific topics. McAnulty is currently on a cross-country journey in her “SquidMobile” as part of that work.

Asked (via Twitter message) Monday if the study’s findings rang true with her experience, McAnulty said during a stop in the Arizona desert, “Yes, totally. People listen to men on science topics more readily, implicit bias is pervasive. There are a lot of phenomenal science communicators out there, though.” And women in biology “are certainly clawing our way toward the top.”

As for what to do about the apparent gender bias, Zhu said that it necessitates “some habit-changing strategies, not only on the part of women, but also on the part of men.” And the best place to start might be Twitter, she said, due to its accessibility -- the reason the researchers studied it in the first place. Those “with influence and power can help to advance a culture of greater gender equity, whether that be in the hospital, in research or online.”

Women Also Know Stuff is trying to change the gendered view of experience in political science by promoting female political scientists. Its history offshoot, Women Also Know History, is doing the same in that field.

Keisha N. Blain, an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh and a founding member of the latter group, said that the “very decision” people make about who to follow -- or not follow -- on Twitter “tells us a lot about how patriarchy functions in academia and society at large.” And so being “intentional about following women on Twitter is certainly one important step” users can take to “address the imbalance.”

Initiatives such as Women also Know History have “made this a lot easier, so it's no longer possible to say, ‘I don't know many women to follow,’” Blain added.

Rachel M. Werner, the new study's senior author and a professor of medicine at Penn, said that beyond Twitter, there is a "larger issue to address that relates to promoting and amplifying the research of women, and giving women equal due for their contributions." While following more women "would be great," she said, "it would be even better to have a more level playing field where women don’t have to work harder to have their voices heard."

There is some good news for women on Twitter. Samara Klar, an associate professor of political science at the University of Arizona, co-authored an article, currently under review, that didn't analyze Twitter followers. But it did find a positive correlation between citations and tweets about articles in political science and communication -- and no evidence that articles written by men generated more tweets than those written by women.

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Categories: Higher Education News

New grant to encourage graduates of tech programs to consider public-sector careers

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 15, 2019 - 6:00pm

Lots of computer science students dream of landing a lucrative job at Google or Facebook when they graduate, but a new grant program aims to shine a light on an alternative career path: the public sector.

A group of 21 universities and colleges, all members of the Public Interest Technology University Network, were awarded $3.1 million last week to fund 27 projects promoting the use of technology for the public good.

A project at Princeton University, for example, will develop a summer internship that places talented computer science students in local, state and federal consumer protection agencies. The Georgia Institute of Technology will create a fellowship program to bring together computer scientists and social scientists to address historic and ongoing equity challenges in the South. The University of Virginia will design and offer an interdisciplinary graduate-level course called Innovation in the Public Interest that will tackle real-world problems faced by government partners.

Members of the Public Interest Technology University Network

  • Arizona State University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • City University of New York
  • Columbia University
  • Florida International University
  • Georgetown University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Harvard University
  • Howard University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Miami Dade College
  • Olin College of Engineering
  • Pardee RAND Graduate School
  • Pepperdine University
  • Princeton University
  • Stanford University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • University of Virginia

The university network was convened in March and seeks to support the nascent field of public interest technology. Its ultimate aim is to train a new generation of civic-minded technologists and tech-savvy policy makers. The network is supported by the Ford Foundation, New America and the Hewlett Foundation. New college members are encouraged to join.

Public-interest tech is important to the Ford Foundation because "technology is touching everything," said Jenny Toomey, international director of technology and society at the foundation.

"The majority of technologists are taking their computer science and engineering degrees and working in the private sector," Toomey said. "The government and NGOs are missing out."

The public sector has been slow to recognize the value of technologists -- it doesn’t understand how to recruit, retain and best use these staff members, said Toomey. The private sector, on the other hand, is offering exciting and well-paid opportunities.

Speaking to many tech professionals who’ve built careers in the public sector -- including the former chief technology officer of the White House and other high-profile positions -- Toomey and her colleagues kept hearing the same sentiment: they weren't encouraged to pursue public-interest tech by their college professors. In fact, some said they were actively discouraged from taking this path.

“They all said the same thing -- no one understands how important this work is. There isn’t enough funding, there’s nowhere to publish -- there are all of these structural impediments to prevent the field developing,” said Toomey.

The 21 members of the network were selected because of their existing work in the area of public-interest technology or their expressed interest, said Afua Bruce, director of engineering for New America’s public-interest technology program.

Though many of these institutions already were thinking about public-interest tech, Bruce said, few had launched formal programs or pilots in support of this work. “There’s a lot of energy from faculty, administrators and students that wasn’t there before.”

Miami Dade College, a public, two-year institution located in Miami, secured funding for two projects through the network. One is a resource that aims to inform Miami residents about the geographical environment around them. The other is a web platform that will give Miami residents a say in the city budget.

David Freer, professor of computer science, is leading the city budget project -- a partnership between Microsoft, Code Miami and the municipal government. The project won’t be offered for credit, but it will pay student developers.

“We have a lot of students working multiple jobs,” said Freer. “If we want to encourage them to participate, then we need to make it worth their time.”

Freer recognizes that many of his students are studying computer science because they want high-paying jobs, but he wants to show his students they have options.

Nik Marda, a junior at Stanford University, is studying computer science and political science. While he supports the work the network is doing, he thinks there is a more effective approach to encouraging students to work in the public sector: loan forgiveness.

"We can create all the programs in the world to train young civic technologists, but it’s kind of all for naught when Google comes in and offers these new graduates a $150,000 starting salary," Marda said. "The public sector just can’t compete with that."

While the public sector may never match private-sector salaries, the prospect of a reasonable salary with no loan debt is an attractive one, said Marda. He is one of a small group of students spearheading a push for PICTURE grants -- Public Interest Civic Tech University Repayment Effort grants.

“If it can work for doctors and lawyers, why not technologists?” asked Marda.

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Categories: Higher Education News

College students with friends with different worldviews are more tolerant, study finds

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 15, 2019 - 6:00pm

At a time when many people are trying to figure out how to increase tolerance on college campuses (and elsewhere), the authors of a new study believe they have part of an answer: encourage students to make friends with people with worldviews different from their own.

The study done by the Interfaith Youth Core found that relationships between students from differing faiths and political views encourage them to be more empathetic and understanding of others’ beliefs. This study was a part of the organization's Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS), which focuses on undergraduate students' interactions with others of diverse worldviews and religions. The more friends students have across worldviews, the more likely they are to grow in their appreciations of those religious groups and different identity groups in general.

“Something that has really started to emerge from our findings is the role of close friendships in helping students to have more positive attitudes toward others of different walks of life,” said Alyssa Rockenbach, professor of higher education at North Carolina State University and co-principal investigator on the survey. “The goal of this report was really to help us hone in on what those experiences are like for students and also the impact those friendships have.”

“It becomes really important when you think about how colleges are recruiting international students, because a lot of international students come with different faith-based traditions,” said Matthew Mayhew, professor of educational administration at Ohio State University and the other co-principal investigator on the study.

“They leave and graduate from American universities and go back to serve as leaders in their home nations, so we have this four-year opportunity to really curate how students work with each other to build solutions and how they work across these narrative differences,” said Mayhew.

The survey also found that students who made five or more interworldview friendships during their first few weeks of college were most likely to end their first year with more interworldview friendships.

“We were pleased to see that students are either maintaining the close friendships that they have across worldviews through that year, or they are gaining more friends,” said Rockenbach. She says this gives students more pluralistic mind-sets, which makes them well prepared to graduate college and contribute to their workplaces in more productive ways.

The study showed that students who gain a friend with a particular worldview view more positively not only members of that demographic, but people with other worldviews as well. These effects seem to generalize through people’s social networks.

One of the more interesting findings in the current political and social climate is that students reported they were able to maintain friendships with those they disagreed with politically. In fact, on the spectrum of self-reported political ideologies, those that listed themselves as more to the left or right were more likely than those in the middle of the ideology spectrum to be able to maintain friendships with people they had disagreed with politically.

“Students are showing that they have friendship tenacity,” Rockenbach said. “Even in the midst of conflict, students are able to work through those and maintain relationships.”

“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that we are finally explaining peer effects,” Mayhew said. “Friendships are what drive these outcomes. It’s not just these loose, nebulous peer effects that we’ve talked about for 40 years.”

Institutions Can Play Key Role

The authors remind college leaders that friendships can't be socially engineered, and that as they craft programs, they should think about what they’re doing to nurture and create these relationships that go beyond just contact and conversations. A lot of this has to do with access.

Having meals together and sharing informal social times is a way for students to come together and should be encouraged. Beyond that, there are physical ways institutions can create greater access to diverse relationship building.

“It may be something as straightforward as having offices for different religious or worldview groups located near one another, and informal spaces around those offices where students of different backgrounds can congregate and get to know another well,” Rockenbach said.

Rockenbach said that institutions should create expectations around students becoming friends with others of different worldviews and raise awareness of the patterns students fall into with the friendships they develop.

For other formal interfaith engagement initiatives, Rockenbach recommends introducing practices in first-year orientations.

When it comes to multicultural centers and spaces, Rockenbach cautions that educators should ensure that conversations are productive and that students approach them with open-mindedness to have dialogues in a productive way. Missteps in peer relationships can easily happen when discussing difficult issues if students lack these skill sets.

Students from over 120 universities, all different types, were followed over the course of a year. Around 20,000 students were surveyed at the beginning, and just over 7,200 of those students responded to the end poll.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 15, 2019 - 6:00pm
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Georgia Southern students burn novels after author visit

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 14, 2019 - 6:00pm

Georgia Southern University defended its students’ rights to burn a university-required book on Friday, following the circulation of a video of freshmen standing around several burning copies of a novel by an author they found offensive.

The novel, Make Your Home Among Strangers, is by Jennine Capó Crucet, ​an English professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, who came to the Statesboro, Ga., campus last Wednesday to read “Imagine Me Here, or How I Became a Professor,” an essay included in the novel, according to a statement from Crucet.

Make Your Home Among Strangers was selected among a list of recommended readings for freshmen as part of Georgia Southern’s first-year experience program. It is the story of a first-generation American born to Cuban immigrant parents who is accepted into an elite university and is rejected by her family as well as the white students at the college.

Some white Georgia Southern students who attended Crucet's reading and subsequent talk felt she made “unfair generalizations” about white people, according to a statement from PEN America, an organization that advocates for freedom of expression in literature.

Crucet’s talk centered on white privilege and challenged Georgia Southern students to “think about their whiteness,” USA Today reported. During the question-and-answer period, a white student asked what authority Crucet has to address issues of white privilege on campus -- making “hostile and ignorant” comments on the author’s work, Crucet wrote on Twitter that evening. Hostile back-and-forth between students criticizing and defending Crucet proceeded.

Also want to say: I met some very amazing, brilliant students at @GeorgiaSouthern tonight. Many of them were the ones disrupting the aggressive & ignorant comments during the Q&A. At the signing, we hugged & cried. I‘m happy to know them and also legit worried for their safety.

— Jennine Capó Crucet (@crucet) October 10, 2019

Later, videos surfaced of white Georgia Southern students burning Crucet’s book, which they had purchased as required reading for their classes, Vice President for Strategic Communications and Marketing John Lester wrote in an email.

so after our FYE book’s author came to my school to talk about it... these people decide to burn her book because “it’s bad and that race is bad to talk about”. white people need to realize that they are the problem and that their privilege is toxic. author is a woman of color. pic.twitter.com/HiX4lGT7Ci

— elaina⭐️ (@elainaaan) October 10, 2019

Book burning does not align with Georgia Southern's values, Lester told USA Today. But the university does uphold students' rights to assert their freedom of expression, he said.

“From what we have been able to determine, the night’s events were another example of freedom of expression and a continuing debate of differing ideas, which are tenets of our ongoing efforts to align with our values and initiatives encompassing inclusive excellence,” Lester wrote.

Georgia Southern's department of writing and linguistics disavowed the incident.

"We were compelled to show our support for Prof. Crucet, to call our students to handle their frustrations in better ways, and to say that the actions of a few do not represent the Georgia Southern University that we are proud to serve," Russel Willerton, the department's chair, told USA Today.

PEN America condemned the book burning and said the action presents an opportunity for Georgia Southern to educate students about the “history and meaning associated with this disturbing practice,” as book burning has not been seen recently at college campuses, Jonathan Friedman, director of the campus free speech project at PEN America, wrote in an email. A statement from PEN America said the book burning exemplified “hostility” toward the freedom of expression, not an example of it, as the university contends.

“It is deeply disturbing to see a group of students engaged in this kind of conduct,” Friedman said. “Book burning has a long history as a tactic to intimidate, silence and denigrate the value of intellectual exchange.”

Friedman did acknowledge that like Crucet’s right to produce, distribute and speak about her work, students have the legal right to burn her books.

“Students have the right to exercise their own freedom of expression, and book burning is also a protected act of expression,” he said. “But this symbolic gesture aimed not just to reject or refute ideas but to obliterate the very paper on which they were written.”

Make Your Home Among Strangers has been a common reading selection at more than 30 universities, Crucet wrote in a statement. She has given the same talk at other schools prior to coming to Georgia Southern, including Stanford University and Albion College, she wrote.

Crucet called on Georgia Southern to respect students “who might understandably feel unsafe in the aftermath of the … book burning.”

Many students approached her after the event to say how they identified with her novel’s protagonist, a student of color on a primarily white campus, and thanked her for coming.

“To think of those students watching as a group of their peers burned that story -- effectively erasing them on the campus they are expected to think as a safe space -- feels devastating,” Crucet wrote.

James Meader, vice president and associate publisher of Picador, Crucet’s publisher, declined to comment further about the book burning.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Higher ed shrinks: number of colleges falls to lowest point in two decades

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 14, 2019 - 6:00pm

Higher education enrollments have been falling for years, a well-documented outcome that can be attributed to some combination of a strong U.S. economy, changes in birth rates and, perhaps, growing doubts about the value of a college degree.

Another decline is also unfolding -- this one attributable to a mix of economic and political forces: the number of colleges and universities in the United States is at its lowest ebb since at least 1998.

Data released by the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics Friday included statistics on a range of topics, including total head count of enrolled students through 2017-18 and the number of colleges and universities in the most recent academic year, 2018-19.

The enrollment data confirm what most college officials who've been paying attention already know: that the number of people enrolled in U.S. colleges has tumbled since the recession, dropping from a total head-count peak of 29.5 million in 2010-11 to 26.4 million in 2017-18.

The overall decline of more than 10 percent has been fueled by drops of 47 percent and 23 percent in total head-count enrollments in for-profit and community colleges in that seven-year period, and despite increases in enrollment at public four-year colleges (12.2 percent) and four-year private nonprofit colleges (5.2 percent) during that time.

Those enrollment trends have been fairly well documented, both by federal data and those reported regularly by the National Student Clearinghouse.

Less frequently examined, however, are what has happened to colleges and universities themselves over that time. In total, the number of American colleges and universities eligible to award federal financial aid fell to 6,138 in 2018-19, down 5.6 percent from 6,502 the year before.

As seen both in the chart below and the table at bottom, different sectors of higher education have experienced very different patterns over the last decade -- some better understood than others.

  • For-profit colleges exploded in number during the (countercyclical) boom years during and immediately after the recession, when displaced workers flooded into vocational programs, drawn both by the sometimes realistic promise of more training and better wages and by sometimes cynical (if not illegal) marketing tactics. The improvement of the economy in the early part of this decade, combined with the regulatory crackdown on for-profit colleges by the Obama administration, cut those numbers almost in half.
  • The number of public four-year colleges has grown fairly steadily throughout the last 20 years, although a fair bit of that growth has resulted from the transformation of what were once community colleges into four-year institutions, as they began offering significant numbers of bachelor's degrees. The resulting decline in the number of public two-year institutions, of more than 20 percent, can also be at least partially attributable to that shift.
  • The number of four-year private colleges grew during most of the last two decades but has dropped by a little over a percentage point in the last three years. That may be due to an uptick in the number of closures and mergers of private institutions.

Number of U.S. Postsecondary Institutions Awarding Federal Aid, by Sector

Academic Year All Institutions Public 4-year Private nonprofit 4-year Private
for-profit 4-year Public 2-year Private nonprofit
2-year Private
for-profit 2-year Public
< 2-year Private nonprofit
< 2-year Private
for-profit, < 2-year 2002-03 6,354 632 1,558 300 1,155 251 764 264 112 1,318 2003-04 6,412 635 1,564 351 1,162 233 783 250 116 1,318 2004-05 6,383 640 1,543 370 1,143 225 793 244 107 1,318 2005-06 6,463 641 1,551 408 1,154 219 821 218 96 1,355 2006-07 6,536 644 1,548 453 1,148 211 844 217 89 1,382 2007-08 6,551 654 1,547 490 1,132 181 857 218 87 1,385 2008-09 6,632 653 1,551 530 1,127 183 893 217 75 1,403 2009-10 6,742 673 1,553 564 1,094 176 963 222 80 1,417 2010-11 7,021 679 1,556 650 1,083 174 1,018 253 82 1,526 2011-12 7,234 683 1,566 734 1,072 185 1,048 256 79 1,611 2012-13 7,253 690 1,566 782 1,035 176 1,030 256 78 1,640 2013-14 7,236 692 1,597 761 1,028 162 1,019 260 75 1,642 2014-15 7,151 701 1,596 726 1,020 158 954 243 73 1,680 2015-16 7,021 710 1,602 700 1,007 171 881 248 86 1,616 2016-17 6,606 737 1,588 514 981 158 830 240 77 1,481 2017-18 6,502 751 1,597 488 969 154 782 235 75 1,451 2018-19 6,138 769 1,583 358 955 138 612 228 59 1,436 Editorial Tags: Business issuesEnrollmentInstitution typesAd Keyword: OK4FidelityIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: 
Categories: Higher Education News

CU Boulder responds to racism with push for policy change

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 14, 2019 - 6:00pm

Students at the University of Colorado at Boulder are pushing for campuswide changes in how underrepresented groups are treated at the institution after a white woman harassed a black student in a university building and called him racial slurs.

Although university officials confirmed that the woman was not a student or otherwise affiliated with the university, students from diverse backgrounds say the incident reflects larger racial tensions at CU Boulder and is just the latest example of sometimes open antagonism directed at students of color and members of other minority groups.

The woman, identified by campus police as 33-year-old Rebekah Krajacic, repeatedly harassed and directed racial slurs at the student and also got into a verbal altercation with the student's classmate. Their interaction occurred in the university’s Engineering Center on Oct. 6, according to a university press release. The racist harassment was caught on video by a student and was shared with campus police. Krajacic, whom Chancellor Philip DiStefano described as a "transient," has been seen sleeping on campus.

“I've been in this country for the past five years and have been attending this school for the past three years, and I must say this is the first time I've experienced such a thing,” the student targeted by Krajacic ​said in a statement released by the university. “It was obviously disturbing and uncomfortable.”

Krajacic was arrested on Friday, the Daily Camera reported. Police will pursue misdemeanor harassment charges, said Candace Smith, assistant vice chancellor for strategic media relations. The university will also move to “exclude” her from campus, which means she will be cited for trespassing if seen there again, said police spokesman Scott Pribble.

"This is considered a bias-motivated harassment charge, potentially, but does not rise to a hate crime level, because there was no violence, threat of violence or property damage with the words that were being used," Pribble said.

The CU Boulder Black Student Alliance issued a list of demands to university administrators the day after the incident urging them to work with groups that represent students of color to address and prevent racism and discrimination on campus. The BSA also called on the university to provide more training for all members of the university that emphasizes supporting students of color and review reporting procedures for racist incidents.

The university currently requires online training for faculty and staff on racial discrimination upon hiring and then subsequently every three years, Deborah Méndez Wilson, a spokesperson for the university, wrote in an email.

The BSA also criticized DiStefano and CU system president Mark Kennedy’s initial responses to the harassment and said the university was “centering politeness over the safety of its students.”

Kennedy tweeted a statement condemning the incident the evening it occurred and was criticized by students for calling Krajacic’s language “racially hostile” and not “racist,” although he did condemn “racist and threatening behaviors” in a subsequent tweet.

“He is going to have more things to say about the broad topic of the climate on our campuses … just not immediately,” said Ken McConnellogue, the CU system’s vice president of communications. “We have ongoing conversations about ensuring an inclusive learning environment for everybody.”

DiStefano said the issue would first be addressed at the Boulder campus before Kennedy gets more involved. The BSA said in a statement Wednesday that it and other student groups across the CU system would hold Kennedy responsible for taking action as well.

In a note to CU Boulder students, faculty and staff on Oct. 7, DiStefano called the harassment “unacceptable” and said racism “will not be tolerated.” He condemned the incident in a planned State of the Campus address on Oct. 8.

“We talk a lot about shaping tomorrow's leaders, but sometimes tomorrow's leaders shape us -- and this is one of those times,” DiStefano said during the address. “This racist incident reminds us of who we are as a campus community and the need for us to be vigilant in defending our values -- and each other -- on a daily basis.”

Alex Wolf-Root, the spokesperson for the CU Boulder Committee on Rights and Compensation, the graduate student union, said DiStefano did not adequately address the racial incident in his speech. Among the many students in attendance, a group of nearly 50 students dressed in all black as a protest statement walked out of the room after DiStefano stopped addressing the incident. Wolf-Root said these students have to deal with racism on campus all the time and that the CRC stands in solidarity with people of color.

“What was surprising was that it was caught on camera, not that it happened,” Wolf-Root, who considers himself an ally to people of color, said of the harassment incident. “We hear that CU is not friendly to nonwhite students in many degrees.”

The incident also got attention off campus -- the local chapter of the NAACP of Boulder County tweeted out a local news article describing the events and encouraged followers to "help fight racism here at home."

María Martinez, a third-year graduate student who is Latina, said she has experienced systemic racism by faculty and that it was exhibited in the material they choose to teach or not teach. She is studying equity, bilingualism and biliteracy in the School of Education and is a member of the Graduate Students of Color Collective, an interdisciplinary group.

"I’m glad that through social media we’re able to become more aware of these things happening on a daily basis … but at the same time, there’s also a tendency to think that these are isolated events, and we make spectacles of these events by highlighting them, when this is just one incident of many incidents that happen every day," she said. "They happen at different levels, but sometimes remain silent and hidden from everyone in the community."

Students at a campus protest on Wednesday told the Daily Camera that racist comments such as those made by Krajacic are not out of the ordinary, but the incident made them feel unsafe on campus.

“I hear words like this all the time getting thrown out there, and it’s just not publicized,” said Kailynn Perkins, a freshman. “I hope the school listens to our voice and realizes this is a problem and it’s way more serious than they’re treating it.”

Max Bailey, a senior, told the newspaper that the university's response to Sunday's incident lacked authenticity.

"It didn’t seem like there was a real intention to support us," Bailey said. "Moving forward, the administration has changed how they responded, and I don’t know if that’s from a genuine place of care or outside pressure."

DiStefano defended the university's response and noted that he also issued a statement on the night of the incident. His statement was not detailed because campus police were in the initial stages of their investigation, he said.

“I believe our students are very passionate about this issue,” DiStefano said. “The first memo was general because we didn’t have information, and I wanted to be sure we were accurate in what we were telling the campus community.”

These initial responses by administrators did not quell the anger on campus. Walkouts and protests were held last Tuesday and Wednesday and attended by a racially diverse group of students, as leaders from the BSA and student government met with university leaders, including DiStefano, to discuss proposed policy changes.

Ryan Passas, a senior and student body president, said she’s never seen the campus so energized and unified around a single issue.

“The BSA leadership has been absolutely instrumental in mobilizing people in making this an inclusive movement, making sure people’s voices are heard and addressing this issue as if it affects all students of color and all students in general,” Passas said. “This is something we talk a lot about, and racism occurs every single day -- especially against students of color who are on a primarily white campus.”

Although some white students have shown their support for students of color by participating in the walkout and protest, their level of involvement is difficult to determine when a majority of the university’s population is white, Martinez said.

"When I attended the events, there were white students present, and I’m very happy that they were there to hear and get informed about what is happening in our community," she said. "But if we think about how the majority of the population is white -- the majority of the students at these events were students of color."

Only 2.7 percent of undergraduate students enrolled at the campus are black, 12.7 percent are Hispanic or Latino and 8.7 percent are Asian, while 67.3 percent are white, according to the university’s fall 2019 Undergraduate Profile. Passas, who is white, said students of color tell her racism is often expressed on campus as microaggressions -- they are asked “What are you?” or “Can I touch your hair?” Sometimes students of color are the only nonwhite people in their classes, she said.

“This moment is important to acknowledge that we all have the responsibility to address racist behaviors … I’m pleased that the administration is working to address the systemic oppression that happens at our school, not just this specific incident,” Passas said.

According to a BSA statement posted online Wednesday evening, conversations between students and university leaders revolved around improving reporting methods for incidents of racism and “restructuring campus policies that impact communities of protected classes.”

“The BSA and other student organizations are grateful that Chancellor DiStefano and university leaders agreed to come to the table to address these issues,” a joint statement released by the university said. “We recognize that there is a lot of work to do in creating equitable reform for students impacted by underlying systemic failures built into the institution.”

J. Fitzgerald Pickens II, president of the BSA, declined to comment further.

There was no discussion of concrete policy changes, but the student groups and administrators, as well as the university’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement, agreed to set up future meetings to discuss specific policy changes and expansion of resources for all students -- not just students of color, DiStefano said. Some areas discussed were campus safety and mental health, and how the university could provide assistance to students who have safety concerns, stress or anxiety following the Oct. 6 racist harassment incident, DiStefano said.

“What I was most pleased about was that the students were very respectful,” DiStefano said. “They want change and they’re willing to work with us to change policies. That’s a very positive step in the right direction.”

Passas agreed that, so far, efforts by students to address racism on campus have been​ treated with urgency by administrators.

“They have given this issue the severity it deserves, and we are very happy to see students and administration working together to address this for everybody in our community,” Passas said.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Location, affordability could be drivers of CUNY enrollment

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 14, 2019 - 6:00pm

Freshman enrollment at the City University of New York is up, even as enrollment nationwide continues to decline.

Since 2010, freshman enrollment at the college system in New York City has increased by 17 percent. This fall, both the senior colleges and community colleges saw continued growth in the freshman class by 763 and 345 enrollments, respectively.

Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, the CUNY chancellor, credits the “value proposition” of CUNY colleges as well as the Excelsior Program for the growth.

The average student debt held by CUNY graduates is lower than the national average, and the system provides a high-quality education, producing several recipients of the MacArthur grant, Matos Rodríguez said.

The statewide Excelsior Program, a scholarship program aimed at making college tuition free for eligible students, has also benefited the system, he said, because more people are comparing “their choices in higher ed with more of a critical eye.”

“I think Excelsior has allowed CUNY and [the State University of New York system] to tout our value proposition in a much more powerful way,” Matos Rodríguez said. About 24,000 SUNY and CUNY students received the scholarship in its second year.

Experts say that the location of CUNY also plays a role in its growth.

Nationwide, young people are generally migrating from rural areas to urban ones, according to Robert Kelchen, an associate professor of higher education at Seton Hall University. In urban areas it’s also tougher to get a well-paying job without a college degree, he said.

“In general, colleges in urban areas are doing better than colleges in rural areas,” he said.

CUNY is unique because of the large number of immigrants who move to New York City, as well.

That, combined with CUNY’s efforts to connect students with local services and initiatives like the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, is helping them grow, Kelchen said.

What’s happening in New York City is also a factor, said Eli Dvorkin, editorial and policy director at the Center for an Urban Future.

“I think, in many other parts of country including upstate New York, there was a general sense that people could find work without a postsecondary credential” after the economy rebounded, he said. “But New York City has really shown that the value of a postsecondary degree continues to rise.”

The affordability and value of CUNY makes it an attractive option for those in the area, he said.

Brad Kelsheimer, CFO at the Lumina Foundation, said they’re seeing urban colleges do better because they’re better able to partner with employers in the job market.

“Anecdotally, if you go out and look at urban universities and really look at the programmatic offerings and differentiation, you’ll see a close tie with industry and employers,” Kelsheimer said. While it’s possible to make connections in rural areas, it’s more difficult.

CUNY, which works with the Lumina Foundation, is also “eager to innovate,” he said, so it’s better able to serve “today’s students,” who tend to be older, work and have families.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Study says when it comes to everyday mentoring and training in the sciences, postdocs are the new PIs

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 11, 2019 - 6:00pm

Finding a doctoral adviser who isn’t just a great scientist but also a skilled mentor is kind of a crapshoot. Yet while having a trainee-focused principal investigator, or PI, in the natural sciences is certainly beneficial, a new study says it’s not essential to the development of scientific skills.

Instead, the paper says, peer mentors within one’s lab play a much more important role.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, effectively compares the primary mentor-mentee model of scientific training, or the “cognitive apprenticeship,” with what’s referred to as a “cascading mentorship” model. And the authors -- including lead author David F. Feldon, professor of instructional technology and learning sciences at Utah State University, and Josipa Roksa, professor of sociology and education at the University of Virginia and co-writer of the book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses and more -- found that PIs’ lab and mentoring activities don’t significantly predict students’ skill development. Peers’ involvement really does.

In their long-term study of 336 Ph.D. students in the biological sciences from 53 U.S. institutions, Feldon, Roksa and their colleagues found a positive link between students’ skill development trajectories and the active engagement of postdoctoral fellows and more senior students in lab discussions. More precisely, students were 4.5 times as likely to have yearly skill development growth when advanced graduate students joined in lab discussions. They were five times more likely to have that kind of positive development when postdocs were involved in lab discussions. And they were 4.2 times more likely to have positive skill development trajectories for the study duration over all when postdocs were active participants in lab discussions.

What are the implications for graduate education in the natural sciences? The study says that postdocs, for one, “disproportionately enhance the doctoral training enterprise." That's despite the fact that they typically have no formal mentorship role.

Beyond the quantitative data, other qualitative data from student interviews indicate that postdocs mentor doctoral students “in myriad ways, most commonly by being present in the laboratory to provide ongoing and hands-on instruction and professional guidance,” the study says. “As the practice of science has shifted toward larger team enterprises and an increasing pace and volume of workload, the nature of the PI’s role has shifted to one that often entails less direct contact with students.” Postdocs, then, and others within the lab, may “step into the gap that is created, with unexpected dividends.”

Going forward, the study suggests that labs intentionally adopt cascading mentorship models and train postdocs to be even better mentors than they already apparently are.

Other studies have found that institutional policies surrounding postdoc working conditions are underdeveloped and that they're not fairly compensated.

Roksa said Thursday that the contributions of postdocs "go much beyond what is generally considered their role" and that "selection, training and reward structures for postdocs should reflect the full breadth" of that work. She stressed that the study is not about individuals or pitting PIs against postdocs, saying there are “great postdocs and PIs and not-so-great ones.” The issues are structural, including “how do we select, train and reward postdocs. These issues need collective attention at both institutional and national levels.”

Feldon, too, said PIs who are good mentors probably “help students develop broader strategic thinking about their science and their careers, guiding students along paths for which research skills are necessary but not sufficient.” And even if postdocs are the ones working “elbow to elbow” with students nowadays instead of PIs, given major shifts in academic science, that doesn’t mean postdocs have acquired “the full wisdom of PIs, with a decade or more of additional professional experience.”

To measure students’ development, the researchers identified a dozen different scientific skills and assessed students on them each year for four years, to see if they’d moved between low-, medium- and high-skill subgroups over time, in a “latent profile transition analysis.”

Research skills were based on students’ sole-authored writing samples, such as draft manuscripts or comprehensive examinations. The 12 skills gleaned from those samples included introducing and putting a study in context, establishing testable hypotheses, using appropriate controls and replication, experimental design, and selecting data for analysis.

From year 1 to 2, year 2 to 3 and year 3 to 4, 37, 24 and 7 percent of students had positive transitions, respectively. In an advanced analysis, those data were paired with detailed student survey data on their interactions with faculty mentors and the roles of various peers in their labs.

Roksa wasn’t necessarily surprised by the general findings in support of cascading mentorship, as close observers of academic environments know that “a lot of mentoring happens among different members of the lab.” Yet it did surprise her that postdocs and senior graduate students have such an important role in skill development.

“We often think about postdocs and senior graduate students helping younger students acclimate, manage time, navigate the unspoken rules of academia” and more, Roksa added. “Finding that postdocs have such an impact on skill development is notable.”

Feldon, who directs graduate program assessment and development at Utah State, said he was also surprised by the quality of faculty mentoring having no measurable impact.

Still, he said, “in modern laboratory science, the PI is often out of the lab, working to ensure the continuation of funding or attending to other faculty responsibilities.” So postdocs are often the “more knowledgeable others” who are “at the bench working with students in the lab day in and day out.”

PIs, therefore, might want to select their lab “teams” based on more than individual scholarly productivity, such as “willingness to engage in broader conversations and interactions within the lab” and maybe even kindness and patience, Feldon said. The lab benefits in the end, too, since better-mentored students will be able to contribute more.

A anonymous Ph.D. student in Toronto who runs several social media accounts under the name Ph.D. Diaries, in part to critique the culture of graduate school, told Inside Higher Ed that the findings “absolutely” rang true with her own experience. 

"My peers were my absolute saviors when I was getting poor mentorship,” she said, adding that she leaned heavily on a senior Ph.D. student in the lab where she studied for master’s degree. "I owe him everything.”

Yet even in a lab with a great supervisor, like her current one, “complementary” peer mentorship is crucial, she said.

"I am deeply indebted to the incredibly intelligent people around me. Real scientific learning and progress does not happen when you’re by yourself reading papers until 2 a.m. It happens in small, serendipitous conversations benchside at 2:45 p.m., 15 minutes before your weekly meeting with your boss, at coffee hour, etc."

The new study’s other major pitch is that graduate education should, and can, be based on evidence-based teaching practices -- not just the apprenticeship tradition rooted in a vanishing reality.

Echoing the paper’s review of existing literature, Feldon said that various studies demonstrate that faculty members make decisions regarding the training for their graduate students “based almost exclusively on their own personal experiences.” Empirical evidence of effective practices, meanwhile, “never comes up.”


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Categories: Higher Education News

Author explains ideas in new book on free speech on campus

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 11, 2019 - 6:00pm

Ulrich Baer wants to shake up the campus debates on free speech. In What Snowflakes Get Right: Free Speech, Truth and Equality on Campus (Oxford University Press), Baer argues that free speech can't be separated, as many try to, from issues of equity. He praises the "snowflakes" as a source of valuable ideas. And he writes that free speech is given too dominant a role in campus debate today.

Baer, a professor of comparative literature, German and English at New York University, responded via email to questions about his book.

Q: What's wrong with the way the free speech debate is understood on campus?

A: The free speech debates on campus have been framed incorrectly as a conflict between free speech and offended feelings of coddled, oversensitive students. The issue is that free speech only has meaning in the university when it's paired with the legally mandated principle of equality for all qualified participants: equality of participation and opportunity. So when a speaker proposes that some people are innately inferior, such speech conflicts directly with the university's mandate to provide equal access to its facilities and resources. Free speech, moreover, is neither a blanket permission to say anything without consequence (our courts regulate many types of speech, from child pornography to libel, incitement and false information in legal contracts, advertising etc.) nor identical with academic freedom.

Q: You write that the urge to block speech is not related to political correctness. What does it reflect?

A: The urge to block speech, which is really a reminder that the university's purpose is to vet ideas and regulate speech so that teaching and learning can proceed, is related to a new generation's realization that free speech has become a weapon for conservatives to undermine equality and the university itself. It reflects a new generation's awareness that free speech can serve as a hollow concept to advance a reactionary agenda rather than set all of us free.

Q: If, as you write, universities' role is to vet ideas, how do unpopular but perhaps worthy ideas get the time to grow and build support?

A: Vetting ideas and deciding which ones merit debate is central to the university's project of advancing knowledge and seeking the truth (teaching and research). All intellectual endeavors proceed as communities of experts pursue this common goal of advancing their insights. New ideas get accepted when their proponents can challenge the reigning orthodoxy along some agreed-upon methodology (citing evidence, using reliable sources, presenting coherent arguments, excluding deliberate falsehoods and lies, exposing real contradictions in the existing fields). All fields constantly generate unpopular ideas that battle for acceptance and may result in new paradigms of knowledge. The university strives (not always perfectly!) to be a community where everyone pursues the shared goal of advancing knowledge rather than a particular subset of ideas. Many important new insights were made by renegades, from Copernicus and Galileo to Einstein and feminist art critics such as Linda Nochlin. Their ideas first appeared often in nonmainstream venues but gained traction because they were coherent, persuasive, based on evidence and challenged the existing fields on their terms.

The problem of vetting ideas and not excluding worthy ideas is complicated, and also a bit different for sciences vs. humanities. My thinking is closer to Thomas Kuhn's paradigm shifts in Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which depend on communities of a shared value (searching for the truth in coherent ways).

The bigger problem is that universities get confused about their mission in the free speech debates and insist (the University of Chicago principles are a prime example) that open-ended and unregulated inquiry is their purpose. That is not the university's purpose: the university's purpose is open inquiry for the sake of advancing knowledge. Free speech in the university happens in the service of another ideal, namely truth/knowledge with the equal participation of all qualified participants.

Q: How could public universities operate based on your ideas?

A: They must articulate their purpose and mission -- to advance knowledge and seek the truth -- as staked on both open inquiry and equal participation. Once these values are understood as interlinked (not in conflict) then universities can subject speakers and ideas to a test of whether their appearance contributes to or conflicts with the university's mission. The First Amendment is not a good lens for this, since our courts, including the Supreme Court, have permitted universities to set their own standards to achieve their mission.

Public universities should structure student groups and faculty decisions on outside speakers in partnerships so everyone bears a shared responsibility for outside speakers. Large schools such as the University of California, Berkeley, should make the security costs for provocative speakers a matter of public debate. If need be, speakers who come with enormous costs should be Skyped in. Speaker fees from outside agencies (Turning Point USA, etc.) should be capped. Publics should insist that they have a right to refer speakers to off-campus venues, and include time/manner/space rules without breaking any laws. This has happened. Once publics explain their mission not as a free-for-all and the same as the proverbial town square but a public institution with a particular and specific goals, judges will not inevitably rule in favor of provocative speakers, the American Civil Liberties Union will (and has already done so) back off from such speakers and the media will learn what the purpose of a university is.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Biggest student hub? Late night Sunday Mass

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 11, 2019 - 6:00pm

BALTIMORE -- It’s 10 p.m. on a Sunday, and many college students are likely completing assignments, posting essays to discussion boards or otherwise preparing for classes the next day.

On most campuses, it's a time for winding down after busy weekends and for getting ready for the Monday morning wind-up. But at Loyola University Maryland, 10 p.m. is a bewitching and beloved hour when a large number of students head to a popular nighttime Mass held in a residence hall lounge on the campus of the Jesuit institution.

Some 100 students piled into the lounge last Sunday and sat in every available chair or on the floor to hear Father Joseph Rossi lead the service. Classic rock blared as they greeted each other and talked about their weekend activities while waiting for the Mass to begin.

Hundreds of red, orange and yellow plastic LED-powered candles and an altar at the front of the room were essentially all that turned the lounge into a church. But for many students, the Mass is a more essential part of their lives than an actual church.

The Hopkins Court Mass, as it is officially called, is named after the freshman dorm where it is held. It was started 15 years ago when a group of freshmen knocked on Father Rossi’s door one Sunday night when he was living as a faculty resident in a student dorm The students asked if they could have a late Mass on Sunday nights.

The professor of church history and theology invited the students into his living room and held his first simple coffee table Mass. This soon grew to a once-a-month event in his apartment. Demand grew, and the service expanded the following year.

The group eventually outgrew Father Rossi’s small apartment. He moved the Mass to a lounge in Hopkins Court, a residence hall just across the courtyard from his apartment, and a tradition was born.

“Many young people today have been alienated in some way from the Mass,” Father Rossi said. “I don’t think they’re rejecting some of the core teachings of the church, but the Mass just doesn’t reflect the world in which they live.”

The Sunday Mass is helping to address this estrangement between young Catholics and the church by providing students a place to come together in fellowship and a way to address the modern-day issues with which they may be grappling in a larger spiritual context.

“I do think there is a disconnect between the traditional Catholic church and our generation,” said Julia Scapp, a junior at Loyola. “I think that Father Rossi does a great job of tying it back to things that are important to us, and that we know of and care about.”

Scapp first heard the music and smelled the incense used at the Sunday service when she lived in the Hopkins dorm, but she didn’t start attending the Mass until after she'd joined a group of friends who went one night during her freshman year. She continued going ever since and is now a member of the student team helping coordinate publicity and social media for the Mass.

“It centers me for the start of my week,” Scapp said of why she keeps returning.

“The idea of having masses later on Sunday evening has been true at Catholic universities for a long time,” said Reverend Dennis Holtschneider, president and CEO of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

Students have nicknamed the phenomenon “last-chance Mass,” and they find them popular because it allows students to sleep in on Sunday morning and complete their homework during the day, said Holtschneider.

Dorm-based masses at universities with priests in residence are more common than some might think. Institutions such as the University of Notre Dame in Indiana also hold them.

“The heart of Mass is to bring people together, to form a community together,” said Father Holtschneider. If the extra trappings, such as the pop music, YouTube videos and televisions shows on which the message of each hourlong service is based attracts students, then it is worth it, he said.

“I’m the only old person at the Mass,” Father Rossi said with a laugh. The students often introduce him to the contemporary music he uses at each service.

During the Oct. 6 Mass, music by the alternative band Imagine Dragons was heavily featured, as was as music by artists Lukas Graham and Avicii. Avicii's song "SOS" was played as the parting "pump-up song" toward the end of the Mass, and the influence of its release after the artist's death by suicide was explained by a student.

Father Rossi has found that much contemporary Catholic music was written by older generations and is now outdated. He takes pride in finding religious and spiritual symbolism and lyrics in modern music.

“We do everything a traditional Mass would do, but at the same time we do very contemporary music, the music that the kids listen to,” he said.

“As an administrator, I know the power of having something that comes from the students,” said Sara Scalzo, the director of student engagement at Loyola University Maryland. “When something gets brought up the chain from students, it is more likely to gather that following, because they know what it is that they need and they want.”

Scalzo has seen the Mass become more popular over the past five years as it has become more student focused. She attributes this to the feeling students have of the Mass being accessible to them.

“You’ve also got a Jesuit who wants to be very in touch with students in that way,” said Scalzo. “A freshman who walks into that Mass one time is likely going to walk out feeling Father Rossi is her friend just because of the way he speaks to students.”

Students who regularly attend the Mass build a sense of community that Scalzo said she doesn’t see as much at other events.

Matthew Boland, a senior, said he was drawn to the Mass for that very reason. Everything about the service felt relevant and in the moment.

“It exceeded every expectation that I had, and I began going every week after that,” he said. “What makes it so special and what connects it to students in such a way is that it takes contemporary themes or modern pop culture events and it brings it into context with the gospel.”

He recalled a Mass where the theme of the homily was the story of Harambe, a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo that was euthanized after he dragged around a child who had fallen in his enclosure. The viral video of the gorilla and child and the subsequent killing of the gorillas sparked widespread outrage.

Although Father Rossi leads the Mass, about 20 student volunteers, including Boland, dedicate up to 25 hours per month to help organize it in a way that reflects students’ lives, experiences and concerns. They help select music, create promotional materials and set up the room for Mass -- all with the goal of creating a welcoming place for students to unwind and practice their faith before the week commences.

"When the students see this Mass, in a sense they not only see the Catholic Mass that they are used to at their home parishes or wherever they may come from, but they see a Mass that somehow speaks to them because we’re doing the music that they listen to," Father Rossi said.

He believes the Sunday night service offers students a contemporary analogy to the gospel.

“I think that’s what hits home for them, because they’re not used to seeing that in their parishes,” he said. “There are many young people who feel very apathetic about religion and possibly going to Mass on Sunday. I think it’s because the church needs to have an instrument to present the Mass in a way that speaks to this age.”

Many students who attend the Sunday night Mass said they don't go to Mass when they're home during school breaks and holidays. They said they prefer the intimacy of the Mass on campus and the emphasis on modern music.

“This is something that they want to do. They’re coming to an environment that is both spiritual and religious and at the same time contemporary,” said Father Rossi. “I think that mix is just a very attractive mix for a lot of kids.”

“A lot of Catholics right now are torn with all that has happened in the church, especially around child protection,” Father Holtschneider said. But Catholics can feel upset with the church at large and still find value in the community through the parishes they feel comfortable in and know. Similarly, students can find the liturgy at their university’s Mass more compelling than the masses at their home parishes because of the setting, relevance and being around people their own age, he added.

Students who don't attend Mass when they are at home see the Hopkins Mass as the highlight of their week, Father Rossi said. They tell him that their peers at other institutions are surprised to hear this.

This Mass could be a way for the church to attract younger members with whom they may have lost touch, said Father Rossi. Other church organizers hope this will pull young adults back into the fold, and they are implementing similar contemporary practices at masses at other parishes across the country.

“It’s so sad that the church is losing many of the people -- who I don’t think are rejecting religion or the spiritual -- but in fact they just would like something traditional presented to them in a contemporary way. Now that’s paradoxical, but at the same time, I think that can be done, and I think the Hopkins Mass proves that can be done,” Father Rossi said.

Both Boland and Scapp grew up going to Catholic churches. Boland said the Sunday night Mass has made him closer to his faith.

As the Mass has grown and attracted more people, the group has started thinking about a new, larger home for the gathering. Father Rossi is hesitant to move into the larger, more traditional Loyola Alumni Memorial Chapel on campus and lose that feeling of intimacy and informality.

“We take what looks like a very ordinary, blank space that is Hopkins Lounge and really turn it into a sacred space,” he said. “It would be hard to duplicate the intimate atmosphere.”

As students began to file out of the Oct. 6 Mass, Father Rossi offered words of encouragement for upcoming midterms and referred back to the Avicii song that had played earlier, reminding students to be more than part-time lovers of Christ -- to be full-time lovers in Christ.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Employers, governors back federal aid for students in prisons

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 11, 2019 - 6:00pm

Advocates of prison education who want to overturn a quarter-century ban on federal aid for incarcerated students have spent much of the past year slowly building support in Congress.

In the last week, those efforts have gained new momentum from outside Capitol Hill.

Telecom giant Verizon Communications issued an endorsement of bipartisan legislation to reinstate Pell Grants for incarcerated students. And a group of GOP governors said they support federal aid for those students, among other changes to the Pell program, in a letter to key Senate lawmakers.

While the prospects of Congress lifting the ban are still uncertain, the endorsements show the growing interest in prison education among industry and elected officials. Incarcerated students are receiving new attention from beyond their traditional advocates thanks to the broader criminal justice reform movement and to concerns over developing an educated labor force.

Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, has introduced legislation to overturn the ban, called the REAL Act, which has received support from organizations across the ideological spectrum. In a statement endorsing the legislation, Craig Silliman, executive vice president and chief administrative, legal and public policy officer at Verizon, cited arguments that have made the proposal popular even among conservative groups -- reduced recidivism among degree holders, cost savings for states and greater economic opportunity for students. Silliman also said restoring Pell Grants in prisons matches investments the company has made in support of tech education.

“We should cultivate our intellectual capital wherever we find it and pass the REAL Act,” he wrote.

The Verizon endorsement followed a letter to Tennessee senator Lamar Alexander and Washington senator Patty Murray, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate education committee, respectively, backing changes to the Pell program, including eligibility for short-term credential programs and college courses in prisons.

Julie Ajinkya, vice president of applied research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, said she’s hopeful that the new support from outside Washington will influence legislation to overhaul the Higher Education Act. Members of Congress need to hear from their states that restoring Pell access is a priority and that their local economies stand to gain, she said. And support from business groups in particular can hold lawmakers’ attention, Ajinkya said.

“That makes a difference, because it is the employers themselves who are looking for well-qualified workers,” she said. “They want to make sure that when individuals are released, that they can actually offer them jobs to help them succeed.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was among more than 50 organizations that encouraged Alexander and Murray to reinstate Pell Grants in prisons in a July letter. But Verizon is the first major employer to endorse repeal of the ban, and the statement has given advocates hope that more corporations will follow.

How Pell for Incarcerated Students Fits Into Higher Ed Overhaul

The arguments from IHEP and other higher ed groups for lifting the Pell ban go far beyond building a better-educated pool of workers. Access to college education can transform both individuals behind bars and the environment in prisons, advocates say. And postsecondary instruction has positive effects on both the prison environment as well as the children and family members of incarcerated people.

Ajinkya said people incarcerated in U.S. prisons are also representative of student groups traditionally underserved by colleges.

“They are first-generation, low-income, often students of color that higher education as a whole needs to do a better reaching,” she said.

In a sign of the progress advocates have made on lifting the Pell ban in Congress, Alexander introduced legislation last month that included access to the grants for incarcerated students. His bill, however, would leave restrictions on student aid in place for individuals not eligible for parole.

Ajinkya said the Alexander proposal was “a step in the right direction” but added that including any student eligibility restrictions would be disappointing.

“It’s not just a loss to that individual. If we continue to restrict eligibility for incarcerated students, it’s a loss to society,” she said.

Advocates for expanding aid to incarcerated students said the Verizon’s endorsement of the REAL Act, while impressive on its own, is also an opportunity for the company and other corporations to re-examine their own policies. That could include hiring practices involving formerly incarcerated people and their direct support for education, said Syrita Steib, executive director of Operation Restoration, which advocates for women and girls affected by the criminal justice system.

“Are they moving in a direction that is fair and equitable for people who are released from prison as well?” she said. “It’s one step for me in the larger goal of reintegrating people into society.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Colleges start academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 11, 2019 - 6:00pm
  • Hilbert College is starting an online master's program in criminal justice administration.
  • Northern Illinois University is starting its first Ph.D. programs: electrical, mechanical and industrial and systems engineering.
  • Ramapo College is starting a bachelor of science in data science and a master's in the field.
  • University of California, Irvine, is starting a master of innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • Xavier University of Louisiana is starting a master's program in speech pathology.
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Ohio University suspends fraternities

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 10, 2019 - 6:00pm

Ohio University has suspended 15 of the fraternities that operate on campus after administrators received reports that more than half of the organizations had hazed new members since the start of the fall semester.

The decision, which was announced Monday, will affect all the members of the university's Interfraternity Council, whether or not they were accused of participating in hazing. Nine of these chapters are under administrative and campus police investigation for reports of hazing new members. The fraternities received formal suspension notices Oct. 3, after seven chapters were accused of hazing within a 48-hour period from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, which prompted reports of two more chapters hazing new members.

“These troubling allegations, which will be thoroughly investigated, indicate a potentially escalating systemic culture within our IFC organizations, and Ohio University will not put at risk the health and safety of our students,” Jenny Hall-Jones, the dean of students, wrote in a letter to IFC chapters. The letter ordered an immediate halt of all chapter operations.

The suspension will impact more than 1,000 men in Ohio University’s IFC but will not apply to the 10 sororities, two Multicultural Greek Council chapters or six organizations in the National Pan-Hellenic Council on campus, who have not had reports of hazing filed against them, said Carly Leatherwood, senior director of university communications. These chapters were directed to honor the IFC suspension in Hall-Jones’s letter, which means any events in conjunction with IFC chapters will likely be canceled.

“This decision was not entered into lightly,” Leatherwood said. “We knew that it would punish students that do not participate in these behaviors.”

The sweeping disciplinary action comes nearly a year after the death of Collin Wiant, 18, a freshman whose body was found in an “annex house” of Sigma Pi, an IFC chapter at Ohio. The fraternity was later expelled from campus for hazing violations ranging from hitting new members with belts to coercing consumption of drugs and alcohol, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Wiant’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the chapter and Sigma Pi International earlier this year.

University administrators have since taken steps to address hazing more directly. A new director of Greek life was hired in August to increase staffing in the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life, and the university created a hazing-prevention task force on Sept. 25 made up of students, faculty members and other university staff members to address a culture of hazing at the university, Leatherwood said.

Similar efforts to deter hazing following student deaths on various college campuses have proved unsuccessful over the years. Experts say that all-encompassing suspensions are hard for universities to enforce and do not improve behavior over the long term. There were fewer universities using this method of punishment last year than in past years, said Judson Horras, president and CEO of the North-American Interfraternity Conference, or NIC, which provides oversight of IFC chapters at colleges and universities.

"We have seen a decline of these suspensions," Horras said. "Ohio University is the only one who has done it this year."

The six Ohio chapters that are not under investigation will have their suspension lifted on a case-by-case basis after completing a “reinstatement plan” with the university’s Greek life office, Leatherwood said. The nine chapters under investigation will have to wait until the investigation is completed and violations are determined before considering reinstatement, she said. Until then, all IFC chapters are prohibited from holding social events, meetings and new member activities on campus, and they will not be able to participate in homecoming events taking place this week.

Despite the efforts to end hazing, university administrators may have a hard time policing such behavior.

All of the fraternity houses are located off campus and are privately owned, Leatherwood said. This limits how much Ohio University can discipline the fraternities beyond banning them from university-sponsored events and eliminating their housing exemption, which allows sophomores -- who are typically required to live on campus -- to live in chapter houses. Sophomores will not be forced out of the chapter houses for now "because these are just allegations,​" Leatherwood said.

"If the fraternity house is owned privately, universities have the power to sanction student groups and generally control the relationship between the student group and the university," said Zach Greenberg, a program officer at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a students' rights advocacy group commonly known as FIRE. "But when it comes to private properties and where students can and cannot live, the universities’ power is much less, compared to on-campus housing and residential student groups."

Overarching suspensions such as those imposed by Ohio University are “fairly common” when there’s misconduct in fraternity chapters, Greenberg said. Universities have historically viewed all fraternities on campus as one big group and disciplined them as such, he said.

“Any college that purports to uphold fundamental fairness for its student groups must reject guilt by association, which is all too common when it comes to fraternities, the vast majority of which contribute positively to the campus environment,” Greenberg wrote in an email.

The NIC is strongly opposed to Ohio University's decision to suspend all the fraternities. The broad suspension sets a bad precedent for well-behaved fraternity members, Horras said. He believes the move could discourage members from reporting hazing for fear that their own fraternity could come under fire for another chapter’s wrongdoing.

“When you are a good chapter following the rules, or you are a student who knows about hazing in other chapters, you are now not motivated to do the good behaviors and report the bad ones,” Horras said. “It pits good students against the universities, instead of allowing them to work together.”

Leatherwood said more students have been coming forward to report hazing after the suspension than before, and that the suspension is an action of both the university and fraternity community “collectively taking a pause” to re-evaluate their standards and values.

Horras said the action was far from collective. He criticized the lack of involvement of chapter alumni and officers of the various fraternities' headquarters on campus -- each chapter is established at the university under a national branch, which provides guidance and oversight to local members in the decision making.

Leatherwood noted that chapter advisers, who are often alumni, and the fraternities' headquarters were made aware of the suspensions, but they are not involved with the task force working to stop hazing.

“As a general rule, cultural change and addressing these concerns requires a partnership between the students, the alumni, the parents, the national organization and the administration,” Horras said. “Expecting one entity to do it is a failed model … any action that pulls apart that system -- you can bet you’re not going to get the level of change that you want.”

He noted that Troy University, a public university in Alabama, took a targeted approach in its disciplinary process after hazing allegations were made against two of its eight IFC member fraternities at the start of the fall semester.

Troy suspended all pledging activities at its IFC chapters for a short period -- from Oct. 1 to Oct. 7 -- rather than suspending all fraternity activity indefinitely, as Ohio University did. The suspension followed a full suspension on Sept. 9 of Sigma Chi for the remainder of the semester, said Herb Reeves, the dean of student services. A second fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon, was suspended Sept. 20 and is under investigation for hazing allegations that prompted the weeklong ban on pledging.

The investigation into Sigma Chi was conducted jointly by both Sigma Chi headquarters and Troy. Reeves said the administration tries to partner with fraternities’ national organizations as much as possible when there are conduct violations at the university. Troy has also been in communication with the NIC throughout the investigation of the two chapters, he said.

In response to this semester’s hazing issues, Troy will assign adult advisers to IFC chapters and form an alumni board of former members to oversee the new member process and enforce national fraternity regulations and risk-management strategies, Reeves said.

“I’ve been here a long time, and the chapters that are more successful are the ones who have engaged alumni and adult support,” Reeves said. “We feel that the fraternities certainly have a place here. We want to strengthen and build the proper chapters that everybody would want to be a part of, and right now, that’s not what we’re seeing.”

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You’ve heard of the gig economy, but what about the 'Gig Academy'?

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 10, 2019 - 6:00pm

Adrianna Kezar, professor of higher education at the University of Southern California and director of its Pullias Center for Higher Education, has devoted much of her professional career to fighting the adjunctification of academe. And while adjuncts themselves make a strong case against it, Kezar has bolstered their cause with her own research and activism. Their cause is her cause.

Yet Kezar wouldn’t like the terms “theirs” versus “hers.” That’s because her work has shown again and again that adjuncts’ poor working conditions end up hurting everyone, including tenured professors -- and students most of all. Professors whose basic professional needs aren’t met can’t meet their students’ needs as well, Kezar has demonstrated through her work at Pullias’s Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success. She’s also spread the word during countless speaking engagements and collaborations with professional organizations and institutions that want -- or need -- to do better.

Some have done better. Kezar said recently that she sees real change happening in how some institutions think about faculty work. Still, Kezar, who recently became the sole director of the Pullias Center, sees a real threat to the academic enterprise as a whole: its giggification. She and her graduate assistant co-authors Tom DePaola and Daniel T. Scott describe the dangers of taking a gig economy-style approach to higher education in The Gig Academy: Mapping Labor in the Neoliberal University, out this month from Johns Hopkins University Press.

Kezar and her colleagues describe the gig academy in a way that at first sounds like Uber, not academe: “A cheap and deprofessionalized workforce, fissured workers through outsourcing, automation and uses of technology to reduce labor costs, offloading reproduction costs onto employees, an ethic of micro-entrepreneurship, and managerial control over labor supply and demand.”

But as Kezar continues to describe how academic labor has shifted over the past two decades from approximately 70 percent of professors being tenured or tenure track to 70 percent non-tenure track today, the metaphor becomes apt. Adjunct or part-time faculty salaries, in particular, are low, and many adjuncts have the job security of fast-food workers.

But Gig Academy's analysis isn't limited to the faculty. It notes that academic and support staff members, librarians, curators, archivists, and postdoctoral fellows have all suffered steep cuts to their ranks in recent years, as well. Many office and administrative staff are now part-time. Many earn subpoverty wages. Even core functions such as information technology and admissions are being targeted for outsourcing. And the redistributed workload onto all these remaining workers is demoralizing at best. Graduate student labor is a key part of the gig academy, too, often at the expense of these students’ mental health.

Kezar and her colleagues do note one major difference between the gig economy and the gig academy: the rise of the human “buffer” between administrators and workers. Whereas Uber and its ilk have technology mediate between workers and managers, the academy hasn’t quite caught up. And so professional or midlevel administrative positions increased by 2.5 to 5 percent per year between 2000 and 2012, the book notes -- part of why instructional cost cutting has not been reflected in overall costs. These professionals can of course be more easily “controlled” by higher-level administrators than can faculty members, the book says, but to what end?

“In the past, positive work environments were strengths of colleges and universities,” reads Gig Academy. But as various “surveys are now finding, higher education is now scoring worst compared to all sectors of organizations and businesses.” Turnover is high and the “structures and mechanisms that channel human relationships in the Gig Academy exacerbate the stress experienced by academic workers, contribute to distrust between colleagues, reform formerly collaborative supervisor-employee relationships into antagonistic ones, and push academic workers to spend a far greater proportion of their time and energy strategizing to survive within an increasingly exploitative employment setting.”

Without long-term and stable faculty and staff to interact with students, “there is no viable community for students beyond their peers,” the book also says. “Administrators have adopted logics that have dismantled the academic community that is central to a quality learning environment.” And while these administrators were not necessarily trying “to erode community, they have done so through their choices, fueled by the logics of the Gig Academy.”

It sounds bleak -- but not quite destined to continue: pessimism is not Kezar’s style, or where her research points. The book notes that unionization has improved working conditions for various workers, including part-time faculty members. Yet it advocates additional collective action in the broadest terms, saying that for “too long in higher education, different worker groups have conceived of themselves as separated by distinct, even competing interests and priorities.”

Instead, it would be “particularly effective to push for goals that span multiple types of contingent work, such as statewide living wage floors,” the book says. “United in solidarity, professional staff, classified staff, faculty, graduate students and postdocs could work across groups to develop institutional plans where all employees feel adequately supported in maintaining a quality educational environment that is conducive to student success.”

Reworking the gig academy also has implications for diversity and equity, since women and people of color are overrepresented in contingent positions and those most vulnerable to outsourcing, Kezar and her colleagues say. Those goals must be embraced “fully and unapologetically.” Technology, meanwhile, must be evaluated carefully based on its educational value, and integrated “democratically,” with an eye toward the role of community in learning. Workers who are part-time but asked to work more than that must refuse to be misclassified. And higher education advocates must connect the gig academy to larger political issues in their activism, such as taxes and debt.

Gig Academy proposes additional interim strategies, such as making contingency unattractive to administrators by pushing for higher wages for adjuncts. Campus leaders and employees may also consider cost-sharing arrangements across institutions, to provide full-time employment and benefits to faculty and staff members.

“As we discuss ways of organizing toward a redistribution of power and authority in the academy that centers educational missions and goals, we encourage administrative leaders who see their work as serving noble aims not to dismiss us out of hand,” reads Gig Academy. “We strive to disabuse the notion that such noble aims can ever be fulfilled within a set of organizational relations built on exploitation, refuting the characterization of this as the only realistic choice available to postindustrial society.”

The book doesn’t go into much detail as to possible future faculty models. (Kezar wrote another book about that a few years ago, and the Delphi Project website has lots of material.) But it notes that medical schools have had success experimenting with full-time faculty jobs that allow for customization of roles and inclusion in shared governance.

Kezar said last week that colleges and universities have changed “dramatically, with a significant growth in institutions focused on teaching, and the faculty role needs to evolve,” too. Looking to the future, within some institutions, some faculty members will conduct traditional research, she said, “but we need to dramatically expand our notions of scholarship to be aligned with the multiple types of institutions that exist and their varying missions.”

At the same time, Kezar added, “we need to guard against a hierarchy that will destroy the community of faculty.”

There is more consensus than one might think on the future of the faculty, Kezar continued, but we “really need the leadership to make it happen.” What does that look like? Foundations, national higher education groups and various student success initiatives “prioritizing and not ignoring the faculty.”

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Dual enrollment helps student success but strains college resources

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 10, 2019 - 6:00pm

Participation in dual enrollment programs has grown steadily since the early 2000s, with more high school students getting a head start on college -- and not just wealthy ones. But while dual enrollment has broad support from students and policy makers, it can place a financial strain on colleges.

“The research shows that students who participate in dual enrollment programs are more likely to graduate and go on to postsecondary education,” said Amy Williams, executive director of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP).

The flip side is the financial burden often placed on already underresourced community colleges. Juston Pate, president and CEO of Elizabethtown Community and Technical College in Kentucky, said the extra pressure of student services and additional outreach costs are difficult, though “worth it.”

Kentucky requires colleges to keep tuition pricing for dual credit courses at one-third of the regular rate. So, while Elizabethtown has hired three full-time staff members to exclusively manage dual credit courses, and students in the program can use the college’s resources, the college itself gets a smaller return.

While that saves families money, it creates “challenges and frustrations” for colleges, Pate said. The college is asking the state to increase the dual credit tuition rate, especially because neighboring states charge more.

At Cisco College in Texas, dual enrollment makes up 37 percent of the total student enrollment, according to Tianay Bralley, director of dual credit programs at the two-year college.

Cisco's tuition rate for dual credit students is $68 per credit hour, compared to $158 for other students. The discounted rate has been the same for the last five years and is sustainable, Bralley said.

“We have some competitors in the area that offer tuition-free [dual credit],” she said. “We aren’t free, but we try to be as competitive as we can be.”

However, as dual enrollment grows at the college, Bralley said Cisco will have to gradually add faculty members to accommodate needs while keeping finances stable.

“Most faculty are carrying overloads,” she said. “We are kind of, as you would say, busting at the seams.”

Another concern is that dual enrollment is reducing freshmen enrollment at community colleges. Williams said she’s heard about the issue “on an anecdotal basis,” but there’s not much formal research on it.

However, while there’s an assumption that students who take dual credit would have enrolled later anyway, both Williams and Bralley said the programs also attract students who otherwise wouldn’t have thought about college at all.

“Then you’re really talking about broadening who’s exploring postsecondary education,” Williams said.

At Cisco, the program helps capture students who don't want to stay local, as well, Bralley said.

“A lot of [students] are so anxious to get away from home, if they weren’t doing dual credit, I don’t know that they would come to us,” she said.

Both Pate and Bralley said it’s hard to determine how dual enrollment affects incoming classes. Just under 15 percent of total enrollment at Elizabethtown comes from dual credit students, but Pate would have to make assumptions to determine how many of those students would have come to the college without dual enrollment opportunities.

“I think this is just the changing landscape of higher education,” he said.

However, as community colleges are generally seeing enrollments decline, dual credit programs could help balance that out, according to Martha Parham, senior vice president of public relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.

“We look at it as, be a little more cautious in using dual enrollment [in the total] enrollment in your college, because what if that goes away?” she said.

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Report: Federal policy, not servicers, to blame for many student loan failures

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 10, 2019 - 6:00pm

During a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program last month, Democrats held a seat open for the top executive from a loan servicer responsible for managing the program.

The servicer, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, has been under fire for its alleged mismanagement of the program. And the absence of PHEAA's president and CEO, who noted in a letter to the committee that the company was bound by federal laws and regulations, didn’t do anything to mollify concerns of lawmakers on the committee. The scrutiny of PHEAA is emblematic of the place servicers have come to occupy in the debate over the federal student loan program.

In recent years, many consumer advocates and elected officials at both the federal and state level have identified loan servicers, which contract with the federal government to collect borrower payments, as among the worst actors in higher ed. Attorneys general and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have filed lawsuits against servicers over alleged misconduct they say cost borrowers debt relief and other benefits. State lawmakers this year enacted new laws adding oversight of the companies. And members of Congress have sought answers from PHEAA over the high rejection rate of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

But a report published Wednesday says much of the anger over student loans is mistakenly assigned to loan servicers. While there are real customer service failures at servicers, much of borrowers' frustration stems from the design of the federal loan program, argues the report, from the American Enterprise Institute.

The report examined a random sample of the more than 12,000 complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau against student loan servicers. More than half of those complaints cited an issue outside of servicers’ control, the report found -- issues like how payments are applied to interest before the loan balance. Only 44 percent of the complaints sampled in the report's analysis referenced an issue under the servicer's control.

“What we’re doing here is making the case using the evidence that you can’t blame all of this on servicers,” said Jason Delisle, a resident fellow at AEI and a co-author of the report, along with AEI research analyst Lexi West.

The report is not making the case that servicers don’t make real mistakes or create headaches for borrowers, Delisle said. It documents several instances of complaints citing legitimate servicer failures, like not informing a borrower of all of their payment options or failing to properly count loan payments. But many consumer complaints are driven by policy choices made by Congress or the federal government, he said.

“If it’s both, Congress can fix one part of the problem by changing the terms of the loan system,” Delisle said. “We’re trying to get at how often is it one or the other.”

The report also shows that the CFPB complaint system is an imperfect tool to assess the scope of servicing failures, Delisle said. The database automatically counts any issue involving a student loan as a complaint against the borrower’s servicer, he said, so the aggregate number of complaints for individual loan companies appears artificially high.

Calls for Improving the Federal Loan System

Colleen Campbell, director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said the number of complaints citing issues with federal policy show the loan system is so complex even well-informed borrowers don’t understand it.

“Some borrowers are really savvy and have learned the details of the system and are still unable to navigate it,” she said. “And that’s a problem.”

No program has better exemplified the complexity of the loan system than Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which requires borrowers to make 120 qualifying monthly payments in an income-driven repayment program. Those borrowers must also periodically recertify with the Education Department. Many hoping to qualify for loan forgiveness have found late in the process that federally guaranteed loans must be converted into direct loans before they can qualify. Student loans had been issued by banks with backing from the federal government, but then Congress opted to phase out those federally guaranteed loans in favor of direct lending in 2010.

Simply enrolling in income-driven repayment can be challenging as well for borrowers faced with choosing between an array of options and then proving their annual income each year.

Prominent critics of loan servicers said that policing those companies should be a priority in spite of the report's findings. The Student Borrowers Protection Center, which has helped push for new state-level enforcement actions targeting loan servicers, said misconduct by those companies has had real consequences for borrowers.

"Issues raised in the over 60,000 borrower complaints have led to law enforcement taking action from coast to coast," said Moira Vahey, a spokeswoman for the group. "Illegal servicing practices have hurt every type of borrower with every type of loan at every stage of repayment."

Campbell said it’s important for the federal government to address bad actors. But focusing on servicer misconduct can also distract from larger problems with the requirements put in place by Congress.

“It’s important to understand the larger context in which these complaints are made,” she said.

Scott Buchanan, executive director of the Student Loan Servicing Alliance, the trade group for loan servicers, said those companies are often stuck explaining to borrowers options that are set by the federal government.

“All of those things the servicer doesn’t have any control over,” he said. “We can explain it, we can walk you through it, we can explain the options you do have. But either the department or Congress has to resolve many of these issues.”

While Congress is debating an overhaul of the student loan system, servicers have offered recommendations for steps that could improve it, Buchanan said. His group has urged lawmakers to streamline the process to verify borrowers’ income for income-driven repayment plans. SLSA has also urged the federal government to create a common servicing manual to standardize how servicers contact borrowers.

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Categories: Higher Education News

India warned that lack of academic freedom will hurt drive for research excellence

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 10, 2019 - 6:00pm

India has been warned that it will struggle to achieve its higher education development goals if it does not take significant steps to guarantee academic freedom.

The country has selected 20 universities to receive 10 billion rupees ($135 million) each over the next five years under its “institutes of eminence” program, with the goal of making them “world-class teaching and research institutions.” In the same period, India aims to quadruple the number of international students in the country to 200,000.

However, academics across the country remain concerned about continuing assaults on freedom of expression -- widely regarded as a prerequisite for the creation of a successful university sector that is attractive to foreign academics and students.

Concern is highest over the status of universities in the disputed Kashmir region, which has been the subject of a communications blackout since August. Professors from six universities warned in The Hindu last month that academics and students in the region had no access to the internet or mobile phone networks and had only limited access to landlines.

“Teaching and activities there have been dealt a devastating blow,” the professors wrote.

Nandini Sundar, professor of sociology at the University of Delhi, told Times Higher Education that the problems went beyond Kashmir’s borders. “The rest of India is also being silenced about Kashmir. There’s such a clampdown on universities that nobody can discuss anything about Kashmir, except to praise the government,” she said.

Sundar saw a broader deterioration of liberties across India. “Academic freedom has been under threat for a while, from institutional control and lack of support. But the thought control and restrictions have got much worse since 2014” -- the year Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power.

In July, officials at the University of Delhi said curricula should contain no “controversial” or “provocative” content, “which may hurt the sentiments of any organization and community.” That edict led to the departments of sociology, political science, history and English “revisiting” their syllabi.

Sundar’s work was removed from reading lists by the political science department because it makes references to India’s agrarian crisis and Maoists, according to local reports. But she took issue with the term “controversial.” “It’s only controversial to the BJP,” Sundar said.

Other recent cases have also given cause for concern. Last month, the renowned historian Romila Thapar said she would refuse to comply with a request from Jawaharlal Nehru University that she resubmit her CV in order to retain her post as professor emerita.

While JNU said the move was a routine procedure, Thapar has long been critical of the authorities. In a May column in The New York Times, she said the Modi government was writing “make-believe versions of the past.”

N. Sai Balaji, president of JNU’s students’ union, told India Today that asking for Thapar’s CV was “part of larger agenda of this government that wants destroy research and learning.”

In August, six students at the University of Hyderabad were detained briefly by police for organizing a screening of the 1992 documentary In the Name of God, which some BJP supporters regard as anti-Hindu.

“There is no free discussion and instead, demoralization,” Sundar concluded. “Under these circumstances, high world rankings are just not going to happen.”

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What's at stake in the search for a new president at Miami Dade College

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 9, 2019 - 6:00pm

Many see Miami Dade College as an example of how to get student success right. Led by Eduardo Padrón, who stepped down in August after more than two decades as president, the college has nearly closed the racial equity gap for underrepresented minorities and served as an engine for economic mobility in the region, achievements that helped it win this year's Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

But the so-called dream factory is experiencing some turbulence. After Padrón announced his retirement, a search committee produced four candidates to replace him to the Board of Trustees.

However, amid politicized acrimony, the work has been scrapped. After some newly appointed trustees voiced concerns about not being involved with the search from the beginning, the board voted 6 to 1 in July to start the process over.

As a result, some community stakeholders feel uneasy about the future.

“As an alumnus, I’m very concerned about what lies ahead for the people’s college. And as mayor of Miami-Dade County, I’m hearing from our constituents, who are outraged,” Carlos A. Gimenez said in a statement to Inside Higher Ed. “The search process that began in February and involved some of the most high-level executives and legal minds in Miami-Dade County, along with top Miami Dade College faculty and students, seems to have been sidetracked by petty political moves.”

Juan Mendieta, a spokesman for the college, said the trustees “have shared their thoughts on the record during meetings. They have nothing to add at this time and want the new search process to speak for itself as it unfolds.”

Mendieta also said the issue was not one for the interim or past presidents to comment on.

Some trustees previously have made statements pushing back on accusations about political motives and alleging that the college’s staff was rigging the search to favor one candidate, Lenore Rodicio, the college’s executive vice president and provost.

‘The People’s College’

Miami Dade College, which has an annual enrollment topping 150,000 students, says it enrolls more underrepresented minorities than any other college in the United States. With eight campuses located across the predominantly Hispanic county, it serves as the “people’s college,” according to Gimenez.

Not only does the school have a three-year graduation rate of 45 percent, four percentage points above the national average, but its graduates also have better earning outcomes. Graduates earn on average more than $40,000 a year out of college, which is 20 percent more than what new hires earn in the region, according to the Aspen Institute.

“Miami Dade College is an exceptional institution where hundreds of thousands of Miami-Dade County residents have graduated and gone on to great things. It is truly the people’s college and is critical to greater Miami’s economic and social well-being,” Gimenez said. “Miami Dade College has a rightful spot on the national stage and has long been a tremendous source of pride for me, personally, as an alumnus, and beyond that, as mayor of Miami-Dade County.”

However, the sudden setback in the search for a new president has led some to worry about who the next president could be and whether they would continue the college's mission of serving as a public good.

“We are very concerned about the contraction of the institution itself,” said Elizabeth Ramsay, president of the United Faculty of Miami Dade College, which started a campaign to raise awareness about the issue called SOS Miami Dade College. “We’re really concerned that accessibility could be threatened.”

A search committee presented four finalists to the Board of Trustees, which abruptly voted to start the search again and retain only one of the four candidates from the prior search.

Some have speculated the move was political, because five of the seven trustees had been recently appointed by Ron DeSantis, Florida's Republican governor, who was elected in 2018.

One board member -- Marcell Felipe -- also proposed changing the requirements for applicants for the position. Applicants must have a doctoral degree and six years of administrative experience in an academic environment, which Felipe in a letter to the board published by Politico argued narrowed the pool and prevented qualified nontraditional applicants from applying. Ultimately, the board couldn’t agree on new criteria, and nothing was changed.

In the meantime, Rolando Montoya was appointed interim president of the college. Montoya is a retired provost and former trustee for the college.

The board met on Sept. 24 with prospective search firms, including AGB Search, CarterBaldwin Executive Search and Spelman Johnson. Diversified Search led the scrapped first search for a $167,000 fee.

At a special board meeting and workshop Monday morning, the trustees voted unanimously to hire AGB Search. Carlos Migoya, the board's vice chair, said the firm seemed to have "done more homework" and showed more interest than the other two applicants. The college will pay the firm 33 percent of the total compensation package for the new president, which is slightly more than the negotiated price of 30 percent with Diversified Search. AGB Search has committed to finishing the search in five months and guarantees a placement.

The proposal from AGB Search includes a high level of detail but still lacks some information, according to Judith Wilde, chief operating officer and professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. While the firm includes several ways to evaluate candidates, it also proposes assisting with negotiations, which Wilde said is problematic, because its fee is a portion of the salary.

In a response, AGB Search said it doesn't participate in negotiations but instead serves as an intermediary between the candidate and institution by gathering pay expectation information and assisting as a third party in initial negotiations "to ensure that all parties are satisfied with the outcome."  

Importance of Leadership

There is a lot at stake for the college, community and greater world of community colleges with this presidential search, some say.

“Miami Dade College is an icon in the high-access college world,” said Sanford Shugart, president of Valencia College. “It has been for 40 years.”

Shugart said it creates a “vacuum in leadership when someone like Padrón moves on.”

Leadership is the “No. 1 factor” in college success, according to Josh Wyner, vice president of the D.C.-based Aspen Institute and executive director of its College Excellence Program. After recognizing this from its data-driven work on the excellence prize, the organization researched what qualities are found in the most successful community college leaders.

Wyner explained the findings in a letter to Miami Dade's board, encouraging it to look for those qualities in the new search process. They include a deep commitment to student access and success; the capacity to lead internal change; a willingness to take strategic risks; the ability to build external partnerships; and expertise with raising and allocating money.

“As your search continues, we hope you will keep these qualities -- and student success -- in the foreground of your thinking,” Wyner said in the letter.

Padrón’s long tenure at Miami Dade also is an important factor. Only one institution that has won the Aspen Prize had a president with a tenure of less than a decade.

Wyner said in an interview that while there is enough institutional leadership to keep Miami Dade afloat for years, its success couldn’t be sustained for a long period without “an exceptional leader.”

“It’s very hard to sustain real reform” in less than five to seven years, Wyner said, so it’s as important to find a leader who will stay as it is to find one of high quality.

The faculty union intends to keep watch over the process as it unfolds, with an eye for transparency. Some members of the union and retired faculty filed a lawsuit against the board, alleging violation of due process, but withdrew the suit in September to move forward in “good faith.”

Ramsay, the faculty union president, who was part of the lawsuit, said litigation isn’t off the table if they start to feel the board isn’t being transparent. She is satisfied with the process so far, though. The trustees at the last board workshop discussed their thoughts on the search firms openly, which is what she’d “expect to see.”

The union is concerned that colleges in Florida could face the same dilemma as the K-12 system, which is seeing its public funding diverted to charter schools, she said. She worries the next president could eliminate programs or constrict the college’s open-access model, which could affect Miami Dade’s impact.

“We’re really vigilant, really concerned and really alert to the possibility and the threat of a similar diversion of public funds into the private sector and for-profit colleges,” she said. “Our institution is a vehicle for social change, and unfortunately there are those who really don’t believe in social change in the ways that the college manifests it.”

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Categories: Higher Education News