THE NEWS QUARTERLY FOR HIGHER EDUCATION TRUSTEES

 

VOL. I,  NO. 3            summer 2016

 

T O P  S T O R I E S... 
 
 

P U R P O S E  | Civics Teach-In  Getting ready for the vice-presidential debate at Longwood University  MORE

 

Ready or Not—Mostly Not—Here Comes College  Some good news on the remediation front  MORE

 

Curriculum on a WhimOr a Wing and a Prayer? Courses live and die according to the zeitgeist MORE

 

God and Manand Slavery and Halloween Costumesat Yale The famed Ivy League school has had its share of zeitgeist problems MORE

 

How Do You Finish College? Meet some colleges which are figuring it out  MORE

 

Student Activism May Be Killing Free Speech  The summer began with a rowdy New Yorker story and ended with “Learning How Not to Offend” in the Times  MORE

 

Top-Down Diversity Can Work  Working quietly to open college doors for minorities and the poor  MORE

 

 

G o v e r n a n c e  | Musical ChairsOr Summer Housecleaning?  High profile job losses from west to east may be due to campus unrest  MORE

 

A Peck of Pickled Lawsuits An infamous law firm brings a different kind of class action to a bevy of well-known universities  MORE

 

Philanthropists Big and Small Demand Their Say  Alumni donations are
dropping
MORE

Management Strategies: Decentralize That’s what a Lumina Foundation report suggests  MORE

 

Data! Data! Read All About It!  Not everything you need to knowbut close  MORE

 

Disagreement about LGBTQ Issues Continue Growing acceptance comes with controversy  MORE

 

 

P u b l i c   T r u s t  | Supremes Affirm Affirmative Action  With one vacancy and one recusal the High Court upholds race-based admissions  MORE

 

Texan War of Independence The Lone Star state bucks the bathroom bill  MORE

 

Give Us Funding or Give Us Autonomy  So say college leaders in the Bayou State  MORE

 

Kentucky Governor vs. Louisville Trustees  A governor tries to dissolve the university’s board of trustees  MORE

 

Singing ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’ at Grad School The NLRB gives grad students the right to join and form unions  MORE

 

Dollars for (Nontraditional) Scholars  A new federal initiative allows a more expansive Pell MORE

 

Campus Ammo  Guns come back to campuslegally  MORE

 

Sex Assault Gets More Complicated Some pushback to a more robust Title IX  MORE

E m e r g e n t   O r d e r s | Who to Trust, Expert or Market?  As more for-profits are shuttered, that’s the question  MORE

 

Rankings: the More the Better  So think the Times Higher Education and The Wall Street Journal, which together are launching Global Rankings  MORE

 

A Creditor Discredited  One of the largest accreditation agencies is on the ropes  MORE

 

Are There Any Jobs Out There?  Eight million young adults say No  MORE

 

Will Rich Schools Have to Step Up to the Plate?  A new report says that the schools with largest endowments do the least to enroll first-time Pell recipients  MORE

 

The Rashomon of Student Debt  There’s little agreement about whether a trillion bucks is good or bad  MORE

 

The Campaign Trail  It’s no yippee-ki-yay, but there are serious issues at stake  MORE

 

A Prison to College & Career Pipeline  New programs bring college to prison  MORE

 

Maybe College Is Not for Everyone  More K12 educators are convinced that you can’t teach for both college- and career-ready  MORE

 

MOOCs Plateau Massive open online courses may have peaked in 2014  MORE

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P U R P O S E

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CURRICULUM

 

Civics Teach-In  Convening at Longwood University in Virginia this fall, the vice-presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence promises to engage Longwood’s  students in a debate about civics, the campaign, and beyond. The college has incorporated into its curriculum such courses as “Presidential Elections” in political science and a study of the Constitution “as a piece of wordcraft” in English classes. Recently appointed to a professorship at Harvard and the author of several books on civics and American history (see Further Reading), Danielle Allen is also trying to bring more civics into higher education. In reviewing The Founders and the Idea of a National University, by George Thomas, Colleen A. Sheehan concludes with this point: “The future of America depends—as it has always depended—on the hard work of citizenship.”  TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

Ready or Not—Mostly Not—Here Comes College  Higher ed has been suffering from the non-readiness problem for quite a while, as the remediation numbers—ranging from 15 to 60 percent of incoming freshmen—show. And so college educators got some welcome news this summer when the City University of New York released a study showing that unprepared students improved faster when they took regular college courses in addition to remedial courses. But the news remains resolutely gloomy. The National Association of Scholars issued a damning report of the College Board’s new Advance Placement European History framework, saying it “warps and guts the history of Europe to make it serve today’s progressive agenda.” And the author of There’s Life After College says that “young adults no longer have as clear or straightforward a career path as previous generations did” in part because colleges are no longer teaching the “soft skills” of problem solving, critical thinking, communications, and working in teams. (See Curriculum on a Wing and a Prayer, below.)  TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

Curriculum on a WhimOr a Wing and a Prayer?  The introduction of a new diversity requirement in Hamilton College’s curriculum caused an alumni group to cry foul over the imposing of “esoteric ideological values” on the student body. Still, starting in the 2017-18 school year, all students at the small upstate New York liberal arts college will be required to pass either a course or combination of courses that examine "structural and institutional hierarchies based on one or more of the social categories of race, class, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexuality, age, and abilities/disabilities" to complete their concentration. And this is just one college in a pantheon of colleges rewriting curriculum requirements to suit the age. At Brown, according to an English professor from Providence, “a feckless administration” allowed “an ambitious student and political player…  to rewrite the whole curriculum.”  And a new report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni found that just one-third of elite colleges and universities require history majors to take even one U.S. history course. ACTA calls this “a truly breathtaking abandonment of intellectual standards and professional judgment.”   TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

God and Manand Slavery and Halloween Costumesat Yale From Erika Christakis, the professor who got censured by questioning how PC one really needed to be on Halloween, to Corey Menafee, the African-American dishwasher who deliberately broke a stained glass window picturing slaves picking cotton, Yale has had its fair share of racial problems. Ms. Christakis and her husband, Professor Nicholas Christakis resigned as resident advisors for Yale’s Silliman College although Mr. Christakis will continue teaching. Mr. Menafee admitted he chose the wrong way to express his outrage and is in discussion with Yale now about being reinstated in his job. Down at the Calhoun College at Yale, the brouhaha about Mr. Calhoun and his proclivity to slavery still hasn’t been put to rest.  Earlier this year President Salovey said, amidst protests, that Calhoun would keep its name. Now, he’s not so sure. An 11-member committee of alumni, students, staff and faculty are given the issue further study with the faculty taking the lead this time.  Meanwhile in a cheeky opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, writer Roger Kimball says that if any name should be changed, it’s Yale itself! Elihu Yale apparently was “deeply involved in the slave trade.”  TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

ACADEMICS

 

How Do You Finish College? More universities are realizing that college completion rates have costs, including those to the school’s reputation for having low graduation rates and those to the student for incurring more debt by staying in school longer—and they are taking steps to change things. Cleveland State University, for example, now charges the same price for 18 credits as for 12 in a semester and allows students to register for a full year of courses at once to help them plan more effectively. Programs at the University of Texas at Austin have increased the school’s four-year graduation rate from 51 percent to 70 percent for its 2017 class. According to Melissa Korn of The Wall Street Journal, the upsurge in four-year graduations is due to programs such as peer mentoring and predictive analytics, as well as PR campaigns by colleges themselves.  TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

COMMUNITY

 

Student Activism May Be Killing Free Speech  The debate over free, open, and robust speech continues apace, the flames fanned by a provocative story in the New Yorker in May called “The Big Uneasy” and reignited in September with a front page story in the New York Times titled, “Campus 101: Learning How Not to Offend.”  At Oberlin, “whose  norms may run a little to the left of Bernie Sanders,” according to the New Yorker, over 600 black students delivered a 14-page letter to the school’s board and president objecting to being “mark[ed] … with the words ‘equity, inclusion and diversity,’” charging that the school “functions on the premises of imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy.” The worry among many observers is that this student activism is a not-so-veiled attack on the principles of academic freedom at the heart of a liberal education. At schools across the country, speakers, faculty, students, and visitors are being silenced—often with the support of university administrators—with the concurrent recognition of “microaggressions” and “microinvalidations” that then create the need for “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces,” not to mention prohibitions of microaggressions, ostensibly to protect students from discomfiting ideas and speech. The University of Chicago was cheered by many liberal arts traditionalists when its dean of students sent a letter to incoming freshmen making it clear that the school’s “commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” But that blush of free speech fortitude was soon smudged by the Times’ front page story about the growing trend to teach college students to be nice. As one letter-writer, the father of two college students, put it, “Surely this must be satire. Microaggressions and microinvalidations?” But the fallout may be more serious than critical letters to editors. (See Philanthropists Big and Small Demand Their Say”) TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

 

Top-Down Diversity Can Work  Beyond the high-profile cases considered by the Supreme Court are many university programs that quietly work to get the diversity job done without attracting attention or lawsuits. Roderick McDavis at Ohio University in Athens, OH, instituted more recruitment from minority neighborhoods in Cleveland and doubled the number of African Americans in this mostly white college in just ten years. According to a report by the Chronicle of Higher Education, McDavis is “one of five African American leaders of primarily white institutions who have seen the enrollment of black students rise by more than 100 percent during their tenures.”  The Chronicle also profiles three other college presidents who are “trying to move their campuses past racial tensions.”  This doesn’t mean that that there aren’t dissenting voices. Writing in the National Review, Hoover Institute scholar Victor Davis Hanson suggests that “emphasizing diversity has been the pitfall, not the strength, of nations throughout history.... Campuses desperately need unity czars, not diversity czars.”  TO THE TOP

 

  Sources & Further Reading

 

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governance

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ADMINISTRATION

 

Musical ChairsOr Summer Housecleaning? Leadership shakeups at two University of California campuses cast “an intense spotlight” on Janet Napolitano, the former U.S. homeland security secretary and former governor of Arizona who now oversees the 10-campus UC system. Linda Katehi stepped down as UC-Davis chancellor in August. A week later, UC Berkeley’s chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced his resignation. Both were embroiled in numerous controversies and scandals. Opinion has been divided over Katehi’s sudden departure, with Napolitano coming under fire by some for trying the chancellor in the court of public opinion. Dirks, on the other hand, is staying on until a successor is found. Napolitano has said that stability is more important than playing “musical chairs,” but pressure is mounting on her to find a replacement ASAP. Halfway across the country, Kenneth Starr, the former Clinton prosecutor, was stripped of his title as president of Baylor University over his handling of sexual-assault allegations linked to the school’s football team.  And Dennis Holtschneider, president of DePaul University, will step down at the end of the 2016-17 academic year, amid mounting racial tension and campus unrest.  TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

A Peck of Pickled Lawsuits Facing a law firm known for taking on large corporations, a bunch of well-known  universities are defending their retirement plans against charges of mismanagement. Among the defendants in the class-action lawsuits filed by St. Louis-based Schlichter Bogard & Denton are Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Northwestern, Columbia, University of Southern California, Duke, MIT, Yale, and New York University. More than chump change is at stake: the Johns Hopkins retirement plan, for instance, covers 24,000 faculty and staff and is worth $4.3 billion. The suits contend that these institutions chose funds that charge excessive fees and are “historically underperforming funds.” John Sullivan, editor of 401(k) Specialist magazine, told the Washington Post, “The financial services industry is cheering [Jerome Schlichter] on…. [I]t was going to take something like this to clean up the industry.”   TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

Philanthropists Big and Small Demand Their Say  Fallout from the recent student protests is beginning to show up in college collection baskets, according to an August report by the New York Times. An Amherst alumnus, says the paper, cut the college out of his will because of student protests he believed “dismissed [me] as an old, white bigot who is insensitive to the needs and feelings of the current college community.” And he’s not alone. The “backlash from alumni” is especially hard on small, elite liberal arts colleges, a significant percentage of which were experiencing large drops in alumni’s giving in large part, suggests the Times, because of student protests. There is no word yet whether such protests have affected “big philanthropy,” but a new book by University of Michigan professor Megan E. Tompkins-Stange, Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence, might shed some light on what to expect. Tompkins-Stange interviewed 60 people from four of the largest and most influential foundations, according to reviewer Jacqueline Merrill, and suggests that their influence on higher education is much different than that of alumni donors: “Unelected foundation staff have had enormous policy influence,” says Merrill.    TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

Management Strategies: Decentralize While higher education commentators frequently speak out on what’s right and wrong about education finance, the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation has released  a report that recommends  “decentralizing responsibility” as the best way of running a higher education institution. It suggests giving deans and other administrators at similar levels significant financial responsibility for what they are charged with managing; thus, concludes report author Linda Kosten, “mak[ing] these managers more entrepreneurial and potentially… more aware of state objectives such as increasing completion rates,” with “a greater assurance of achieving the goals of… fiscal sustainability and student success.” Meanwhile, one quasi-management practice that Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik does not like is college presidents sitting on boards of potentially competitive institutions. Hiltzik criticizes University of California at Davis president Linda Katehi, who sat on the board of DeVry Education Group, which ran a network of for-profit schools, and James Wiley & Sons, a textbook publisher.  Katehi was eventually fired, for other reasons (see our Musical Chairs story), but Hiltzik worries that “universities are getting cozier with businesses and industrialists, and less discerning about the pitfalls of these relationships, which include accepting donations with strings attached.” Finally, Richard Vedder, a columnist for the Pope Institute, believes that college presidents are paid too much and debunks the canard that the position couldn’t be filled by the best but for a big salary. “[U]niversities are given a privileged status in our society” he argues,  and “their leaders are expected to act like public servants serving the public good.”   TO THE TOP

Sources & Further Reading

 

Data! Data! Read All About It! The Chronicle’s newly released Almanac of Higher Education 2016-17 has numbers on everything from faculty pay to cumulative student-loan debt to starting salaries for recent grads. It features 120 tables of data as well as articles on trending topics like efforts to grow Catholic colleges by diversifying their student populations and major donations—tens of thousands of dollars (and more)—by presidents and professors to their own institutions.  TO THE TOP

 

   Sources & Further Reading

 

STUDENTS

 

Disagreement about LGBTQ Issues Continue   According to a lengthy feature in Columbia Magazine, there are now thousands of LGBTQ groups on college campuses around the world; in 1966, there was only one. But the controversy over gender issues still roils many campuses.  One of the new  groups, People at Rockefeller [University] Identifying as Sexual Minorities (PRISM), recently polled 191 students and faculty at the New York college and found that 85 of the 191 identified as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or another sexual minority, but worried that not a single head of a laboratory — and there are 78 — identified as LGBTQ At Loyola Marymount University a video about noted baseball player/manager Billy Bean, a LMU graduate, who discusses his being gay, is vilified by a conservative journalist. In California, a state senator removes a provision of a proposed law allowing gay and transgender students to sue their colleges because of Catholic church opposition.  So the question is: what is the question? Why are there so few LGBTQ faculty? Or Why are so many in the closet?  And then there is the lingering questions related to North Carolina’s “bathroom bill.” Students at the University of North Carolina can relax about taking bathroom breaks since its president, Margaret Spellings, won’t enforce the ‘bathroom bill”; but there is a price to be paid, as both the N.C.A.A. and the ACC athletic conference have announced boycotts of the state because of Spellings stand.   TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

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PUBLIC TRUST

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REGULATION

 

Supremes Affirm Affirmative Action  In a surprise ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court in June narrowly—4 to 3, with Justice Kagan recusing herself and Justice Scalia dying in February—upheld the use of race as a factor in determining college admissions. The case originated with a lawsuit filed by Abigail Fisher, a white student denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008. Fisher, who went on to graduate from another school, alleges that she was discriminated against because of her race. This is the fourth time since the 1970s that the High Court has upheld racial preferences in college admissions (including the first Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case in 2013). While a huge win for supporters of affirmative action, the case does leave the door open to potential future legal challenges. It’s also expected to breathe new life into a small but growing movement for preferential admissions for poor students as another way to cultivate a diverse student body. Stay tuned.   TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

Texan War of Independence   Taking pride in its independence and “State’s Rights,” adding yet another suit to 44 others, Texas is taking issue with Obama’s dictum to let transgender students use the bathroom of their choice.  Agreeing with Texas is Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Education, who doesn’t like all the red tape. Schools might agree The Department of Education already monitors for things such as:  “late or missing audits, … questions about their ability to manage student files for federal student-aid programs and … questions surrounding their overall financial responsibility.”  TO THE TOP

Sources & Further Reading

 

Give Us Funding or Give Us Autonomy  Student fees are rising at an even faster rate than tuition, according to a new study, with fees adding  more than 20 percent to the price of tuition at the typical four-year public university. Part of the reason for this is that schools are increasingly tacking fees onto tuition bills to fund libraries, computer labs and other services that used to be included in the price of tuition. Some public colleges say they are forced to raise fees in order to make up for the loss of state funding. In Louisiana, where state funding for higher education has been cut by more than half over the past eight years, college leaders are demanding more autonomy to raise tuition and fees—and charge what the “markets will bear.” While there has been a lot of debate about the merits of “free college,” the president of Louisiana State University is calling for a federal-state partnership using federal funds to incentivize states to maintain at least a base level of support for their public colleges and universities.  TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

Kentucky Governor vs. Louisville Trustees   The top brass at the University of Louisville can breathe a collective sigh of relief, at least for the time being, as the governor’s order to “single-handedly dissolve and replace” its Board of Trustees is on hold. Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, announced in June that he would use an executive order to dissolve the university’s 20-person governing board and replace it with a 13-person member group. But in July, a judge granted the state attorney general’s request to temporarily block the overhaul. While the lawsuit is pending, Bevins is standing behind what he called his “absolute authority—constitutionally and legislatively, statutorily—to dissolve any board in the state.” In August, Bevins made 16 new trustee appointments at seven state universities other than the U of L, moves involving “no revamping of any of the other boards, but normal gubernatorial appointments to fill vacancies.” The college’s board has been in “legal limbo” ever sinceand as of this issue’s publication still is.   TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

Singing ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’ at Grad School  Recognizing the work that graduate teaching assistants and researchers do, the National Labor Relations Board ruled last month that grad students who work at private universities are legitimate employees with the right to join or form unions. Being recognized as employees also means that grad students can bargain for better health coverage and other benefits such as unpaid leave. The 3-to-1 decision overturns an earlier NLRB ruling against a graduate student union at Brown University, which had been the law of the land since 2004. The decision stems from two separate petitions filed by grad students at Columbia University and the New School to join the United Auto Workers.  TO THE TOP

Sources & Further Reading

 

Dollars for (Nontraditional) Scholars The U.S. Department of Education (FedEd) has selected eight nontraditional education providers—including the Flatiron computer coding school, Study.com, and the GE/Northeastern University accelerated BS program in advanced manufacturing—to be part of a pilot program that will allow students to apply for Pell Grants and federal student loans, up to $17 million in total. The program, offered through the Educational Quality Through Innovation Partnerships (EQUIP), could affect up to 1,500 students. This seems to be part of a trend to broaden the reach of colleges. In Georgia, Kennesaw State University has unveiled a “first-of-its-kind” emergency housing facility for homeless students, giving them a safe place to stay, for up to 14 days, while the school works to secure more permanent housing; according to the most recent statistics, more than 56,000 college students identify themselves as homeless on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Meanwhile, Roger Pielke Jr., a professor in the sports governance program at the University of Colorado, suggests that one way to keep bigtime athletes “connected to their academic objectives” is to “award degrees in athletics.” Play ball!   TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

Campus Ammo  An odd coincidence perhaps, but the day before marking the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas Austin clock tower shooting that left 14 people dead and 32 wounded, the university opened its doors to “conceal carry” guns. In fact, any students could carry a gun on to any public university campus in the Longhorn state. As a result,  some students are protesting, some carrying guns. An individual public campus can make slight adjustments to the law, so that at UT Austin, for example, professors can say no to guns in their offices, while at Texas A&M, profs must fill out forms and get the president’s approval. Students for Concealed Carry say that banning guns from professors’ offices “violates the spirit of the law.” Three UT Austin professors who challenged the law in court were told by the State Attorney General that profs who “stepped out of line” with university policy “are subject to corrective action.”  TO THE TOP

Sources & Further Reading

 

Sex Assault Gets More Complicated  Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard for a criminal conviction in a U.S. court of law, but under the Obama administration’s expanded interpretation of Title IX, college students accused of sexual misconduct or harassment can be punished without evidence. Enough is enough, say a growing number of students, attorneys, and scholars. Scores of students who’ve been disciplined for sexual misconduct under the new procedures are now fighting back in court. Suits have been brought against schools like Cornell and the University of California, San Diego, alleging that “under intense pressure to be tough on sexual assault,” they violated basic standards of fairness against the accused. In May, a group of 21 professors, including attorney Alan Dershowitz, penned an open letter sharply denouncing the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights.  And in June, a Yale basketball player, who was expelled for sexual misconduct just weeks before the NCAA championships, sued the university for breach of contract and defamation.  TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

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EMERGENT ORDERS

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HIGHER EDUCATION

 

Who to Trust, Expert or Market?  That is the question for the Department of Education, which shut down 180 nonprofit post-secondary schools in the past two years. An additional 1,400 vocational programs, educating 840,000 students, aren’t expected to survive FedEd’s  rules—the latest, the demise of ITT Technical Institute. Leading to the crackdown, complaints that for-profit colleges, taking advantage of the government’s easy-loan programs, akin to Fannie Mae’s to encourage home-buying, lure students with misleading promises, then saddle them with debts they can’t pay back. Fighting back, accusing education officials of “pursuing a political agenda,” the owner of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education chain of schools has sued. Raising questions of a different kind of corruption, meanwhile, are reports of three former top Obama officials—and friends—cashing in on the company that owns the University of Phoenix, the nation’s largest for-profit college.   TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

Rankings: the More the Better School officials routinely bash them, yet they do whatever it takes to do well in the various published rankings of colleges and universities, say two sociologists who interviewed law deans and admissions officers about the U.S. News rankings on legal education. The impact, according to the sociologists who have written a new book, Engines of Anxiety, is significant and overwhelmingly negative. In light of this, do we really need yet another ranking of American colleges and universities? The publishers of Times Higher Education and The Wall Street Journal think so. Later this month they will partner together to launch a new college ranking emphasizing student experiences, outcomes and diversity. The U.S. News & World Reports’ rankings, the best known and perhaps the most influential of them all, give no weight to diversity.   TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

An Accreditor Discredited  It should probably come as no surprise, but the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), the largest accreditor of for-profit colleges in the United States and the one which oversaw the now defunct Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, is now in trouble. Last June the federal panel that oversees accrediting agencies, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) recommended that ACICS be terminated. (The Department of Education has 90 days to make a final decision, which is expected in late September.) To assuage the overseers, ACICS, which itself oversees 245 colleges (and their 800,000 students), ousted its interim chief and formed a blue ribbon committee of accreditation experts to offer an “ in-depth examination” of its policies and procedures.   TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

GOVERNMENT

 

Are There Any Jobs Out There?  An astonishing 8 percent of young adults ages 16 to 24—about three million altogether—are neither in school nor working, according to a new study by the Brookings Institution. Off to such a bleak start, these “disconnected youth” are at increased risk for poverty, criminal behavior, substance abuse, and incarceration—problems that may follow them for the rest of their lives. But starting  college is certainly no guarantee of a bright future. A series of studies by the think tank Third Way show that many public colleges and universities are “dropout factories,” with students more likely to not graduate than graduate from that school. These findings build on a body of research advocating for greater focus on college completion. Unlike high schools, colleges are not held to any graduation standards. If they were, 74 percent of private nonprofit schools and 85 percent of public colleges would face federal sanctions. . (See “Who to Trust” above.)  TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

Will Rich Schools Step Up to the Plate? A new report by the Education Trust has found that many schools with massive endowments—defined as half a billion dollars or more—are not doing enough to invest in low-income students. Just 138 colleges and universities (or 3.6 percent of all institutions of higher education nationwide) held three-quarters of all postsecondary endowment wealth in 2013.  (The top five are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and MIT.) Yet despite their big coffers, nearly half of these schools—dubbed the “$500 million club”—are in the bottom 5 percent nationally in terms of enrolling first-time, full-time Pell Grant recipients. And nearly four out of five low-income students are priced out of the so-called $500 million club, even after financial aid is considered. Two U.S. SenatorsChris Coons a Democrat from Delaware, and Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgiahave heard and are planning to introduce a bill in Congress suggesting a Robin Hood approach to higher ed funding: taking money from wealthy colleges who don’t have enough low-income students and giving it to the less-wealthy who do.  TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

The Rashomon of Student Debt Everyone agrees that total student debt is now over a trillion dollars, four times what it was in 2000 and most of it financed by the federal government in the form of loans and grants. But that’s where agreement ends. According to a June report in The Wall Street Journal, “a significant chunk of that investment backfired, with millions of students worse off for having gone to school. Many never learned new skills because they dropped out—and now carry debt they are unwilling or unable to repay. Policy-makers worry that without a bigger intervention, those borrowers will become trapped for years and will ultimately hurt, rather than help, the nation’s economy.” Not surprisingly, a thick report from the White House released a few weeks later disagreed. “On net,” it concluded, “student loan debt is still likely to be a boost to the economy over the longer run by increasing educational levels and workers’ skills”—a conclusion supported by the American Enterprise Institute’s Jason Delisle, who praised the WH report “for dispelling a dangerous myth that we see a lot, which is that student loans hold back the economy.”   TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

The Campaign Trail  Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have vastly different ideas for dealing with the soaring coast of college and rising student loan debt. Accusing the federal government of profiting on student loans (something he and Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren agree on!), Trump calls for removing its dominance in higher education by decoupling federal financing from accreditation and restoring the role of private banks in student lending. Also under consideration is forcing colleges to share the risk of student loans and making it harder for liberal arts students at non-elite institutions to obtain loans. Clinton proposes free college tuition for families making under $85,000 a year and a hiatus on loan repayments. Critics claim Clinton’s plans amount to a “massive bailout” for higher education and a “killing off” of small, private unendowed schools.   TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

A Prison to College & Career Pipeline  Having even a low-level misdemeanor conviction on one’s record can stand in the way of getting into college. So this summer, the White House announced a new initiative called the “Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge” to make higher education more accessible to applicants with a criminal record. Admissions officers are being encouraged to move “beyond the box” and rethink how questions about an applicant’s criminal history are used in the admissions process. Even before the initiative was announced, New York University said it had begun ignoring the checkbox questions about criminal and disciplinary history on the Common Application in the early phase of the admissions process. At the other end of the prison pipeline the Obama administration is bringing back a program scuttled in the mid-90; called Second Chance Pell, it offers 12,000 prison inmates the chance to take college classes while in prison.  TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

K12 EDUCATION

 

Maybe College Is Not for Everyone  As high schools are increasingly asked to educate students toward both career- and college-readiness, K-12 education is becoming as fractured and diffuse as higher ed, with mixed results. For instance, while  27 states are now paying for the ACT and SAT college entrance exams, a barrier to many low-income students even applying for college,  the latest group of students taking the ACT test have lower scores. At the same time, according to a recent Hechinger Report story, some states are breaking out of the must-do-both syndrome by “creat[ing] a designation for career-ready that is separate and distinct from college-ready.” Southern High School in Louisville, KY, for instance, is now letting students graduate with an industry-recognized machinist operator certification and a direct line to employment. And in Los Angeles, the success of Wilson Firefighters Academy Magnet has students other than prospective firefighters clamoring to enroll. But there continues to be a long way to go, no matter what path you take. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) the nation’s  fourth-grade reading proficiency levels, a key indicator of whether a student will even graduate from high school, are abysmally low: Only 21 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders are proficient in reading, 18 percent of blacks, and 46 percent of whites. Not a good trajectory for college or career. And in this context it is truly courageous to offer a college entrance test that is even harder than the SAT, but that is what Classic Learning Initiatives does. The new nonprofit “exists as a small component of a much larger contemporary endeavor to repair the rupture between intellectual pursuit and virtue,” says CLI. And it’s offering a full tuition/room/board scholarship to any college in America to the first student to score a perfect 120 on CLI’s new test.   TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

TECHNOLOGY

 

MOOCs Plateau  Imagining the campus of the future, some warn that technologic innovations, coupled with demands made by parents and students, are leading higher education on the path to “Uber U,” where basic skills are roboticized, instruction is outsourced to faceless teachers, and everything is done online. Others insist that technological advances are guiding us to a better future. Not any time soon, however. While The New York Times dubbed 2012 “The Year of the MOOC,” searches for “MOOC” and “massive open online course” peaked in January 2014 and have remained flat ever since.   TO THE TOP

 

Sources & Further Reading

 

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