Inside Higher Ed

NCAA spending on outside lawyers rises 50 percent in two years

Tue, 2019-07-16 07:00

AUSTIN, Tex. -- The National Collegiate Athletic Association is paying more than twice as much in outside legal fees as it did four years ago in order to fight a slew of lawsuits, according to figures shared by its chief financial officer Monday during an appearance at the National Association of College and University Business Officers annual meeting.

High-profile concussion and antitrust lawsuits have forced the NCAA to hire high-powered lawyers at a time when it is also spending millions of dollars to try to shore up the college basketball ecosystem in the wake of a damaging recruiting scandal. Those expenses put financial pressure on the athletic association at a time when it is also facing uncertainty and risk from major changes to the landscape such as a 2018 court case giving states the ability to legalize sports gambling.

The NCAA is spending about $54 million in third-party legal fees for its fiscal year ending in August 2019, said Kathleen T. McNeely, NCAA senior vice president of administration and CFO. That's up from $46 million the previous year and $36 million in 2017. For the year ending in August 2015, the NCAA spent $25 million, its federal tax filing for the year shows.

“One of our biggest challenges financially -- and by we I mean the NCAA -- I'd say for the last five years has been the growth in our third-party legal fees,” McNeely said. “Our third-party legal fees are escalating to the point where it is affecting our ability to provide additional resources for our schools.”

Despite increasing sharply, outside legal fees are still only a small slice of the money passing through the NCAA's hands. The association reports more than $1 billion in annual revenue, and a 2019 revenue distribution plan called for it to pay about $590 million to individual institutions and conferences at the Division I level alone.

But NCAA leaders worry about continued antitrust suits or other lawsuits that ultimately seek to make sure college athletes are paid for their efforts. The NCAA and its member institutions have in recent years increased what can be offered to athletes in terms of food, stipends and scholarships, but the association still opposes institutions paying athletes.

“We really can't lose these suits,” McNeely said. “This is fundamentally what college sports are about. And so that means we're hiring really good attorneys with national reputations and who have argued in front of the Supreme Court so that we can win.”

All of the lawsuits have had indirect effects as well. General liability insurance premiums have been rising, as have premiums for directors, McNeely said. Some conferences have been informed that general liability claims cannot include head injuries going forward.

Business officers and other leaders at colleges and universities need to think about the financial implications and trickle-down effects those developments may have on their individual institutions, McNeely said.

“They're not just suing us now,” she said. “They're suing your conferences, and in some situations they're suing your schools.”

As different states legalize sports betting in the wake of a landmark 2018 Supreme Court decision overturning a federal ban outside Nevada, the NCAA put together both an internal working group and an ad hoc member committee to look at related issues and new steps. Sports wagering will affect athletes, their coaches and officials, according to McNeely.

The NCAA will develop educational materials for athletes, coaches and administrators. It is exploring changes to how it performs background checks for referees and game officials. It has hired a Minneapolis-based company to look for signs of game fixing.

All three divisions will be monitored. A total of 12,500 events were monitored under a pilot program last year.

Work that the NCAA does on wagering means institutions and conferences don't have to pick up expenses themselves, McNeely said.

Meanwhile, a working group has been studying issues related to athletes being compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses. Lawmakers in at least two states, California and North Carolina, have introduced bills pressuring the NCAA to allow athletes to profit from use of their images.

“It is really about their ability to sponsor something,” McNeely said of the bills' potential impact on athletes. “Membership has not been accepting or wanting to change this.”

The resistance is rooted in worries about recruiting, she added. Recruiting could become unfair if wealthy and well-connected institutions are able to entice athletes to enroll by offering sponsorship opportunities.

Of course, critics can contend that powerhouse institutions already have the ability to dangle future sponsorship opportunities, athletic connections or business ties in order to tilt the recruiting playing field. And the blurry lines between booster and university, between company and athletic department, make a coherent argument difficult.

“This is not paying the student athlete,” McNeely told university business officers in attendance Monday. “You wouldn't be paying them. We wouldn't be paying them, which is really why this is one of the ones that's hard for us to argue. Although I will say it's difficult if you understand the way recruiting works.”

On the topic of the recent high-profile college basketball recruiting scandal, the NCAA is implementing recommendations from a commission chaired by Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. secretary of state and Stanford University provost. It will cost about $15 million annually, McNeely said.

She also touted work the NCAA has done to address athlete health, concussion safety and transparency about health risks athletes take.

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Full repeal of Pell ban in prisons top of mind at annual convening on Second Chance pilot

Tue, 2019-07-16 07:00

Vivian Nixon was a key voice in the Education Department’s decision in 2015 to reinstate Pell Grants for a limited number of incarcerated students. On Monday, the executive director of the College and Community Fellowship exhorted lawmakers to take what criminal justice reformers view as the next step: lifting the 1994 ban on federal student aid in prisons.

“To succeed after a criminal conviction, one must navigate countless hurdles and barriers,” Nixon told a roomful of supporters from higher education and corrections backgrounds. “Education is one of the most effective ways to help people negotiate that process.”

Proponents of college education in prison on Monday marked the successes so far of the Second Chance Pell pilot program, the Obama administration initiative that will soon enter its fourth year, at a convening organized by the Vera Institute. The larger goal for many in the room, though, was full reinstatement of Pell Grants for incarcerated students, a priority that many think has been advanced by the progress of Second Chance Pell. Many supporters see the personal stories of students pursuing college course work through the program as the strongest argument for reinstating federal student aid in prisons.

The initiative, which offers Pell Grants through 64 participating colleges, has proved to have staying power through part of two administrations. And it’s given advocates new ammunition to argue for lifting a quarter-century ban on the grants in prisons. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reaffirmed her support for the program at the Vera event and said it would be up to lawmakers to decide how prison education should be expanded further.

“It’s Congress’s chance to act and do its job to make sure to extend this opportunity in a very sustainable and predictable way to many more people across our country,” DeVos said.

About 1,000 students have graduated with degrees or postsecondary certificates since the Second Chance program began in 2016. Although Republicans criticized the pilot as an overreach by the Obama administration at the time, signs of bipartisan support for prison education have emerged since then.

The Trump administration and Senator Lamar Alexander, the Republican chairman of the Senate education committee, have offered support for including a repeal of the 1994 ban in a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. And earlier this year, legislation to repeal the ban got GOP co-sponsors in the House and Senate for the first time.

Nixon, who herself served three and a half years in prison, said in an interview that she expected difficult conversations around carve-outs for Pell eligibility in prisons -- who gets federal aid and who doesn’t based on types of convictions, length of sentence or other factors.

“That’s why I think they’re moving slowly. Not because there’s a lack of will to move forward,” she said.

Nixon said she disagrees with restrictions on grant eligibility because any person has the ability to change and because the length of prison sentences can always change as a result of exoneration, pardons or compassionate release.

And she said the comments from DeVos -- and her personal visits to two prison education programs -- were encouraging for supporters of expanding aid to incarcerated students.

“Her recommendations were all about broad access, and that was a pleasant surprise,” Nixon said.

Making the Case for Pell Reinstatement

Panelists at the Vera event took stock of the shifting support for restoring aid to incarcerated students.

“We’ve come a lot farther on this issue than we ever anticipated,” said Hayne Moon, the government affairs director at the Vera Institute. “Partly as a result of this pilot program and as a result, I think, of synergy between the right and the left. It’s really moved the issue forward on Capitol Hill.”

John Wetzel, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, said the majority of the incarcerated population in the U.S. will eventually re-enter their communities and education is the best tool to help them succeed -- a message correctional administrators have brought to lawmakers and their staffs on Capitol Hill.

“If they’re getting back out, why aren’t we giving them the tools to be successful?” he said.

Expanding postsecondary education in prisons hasn’t been without serious challenges in the first years of the Second Chance program. Various reports have documented problems obtaining adequate classroom space or keeping a ready supply of textbooks in some prisons. Many prisons also offer few chances to access the internet or even computers, making it more difficult for students to research assignments.

Participants at the convening Monday also acknowledged the significant difference it can make for students when there is buy-in not only from top corrections officials, but prison staff as well. A Vera report released this year noted tensions with a guard at a New Jersey prison that led to a sit-in by students.

Because the Education Department has collected little data on the Second Chance Pell program, there are also serious barriers for researchers looking to study the effectiveness of the pilot. The Government Accountability Office urged the department in a report earlier this year to undertake a rigorous evaluation of the program. That’s yet to happen, although DeVos said in May that a planned expansion of the number of participating colleges would help efforts to evaluate Second Chance Pell.

But some lawmakers continue to offer philosophical objections to expanding Pell Grants for incarcerated students.

Representative Virginia Foxx, the ranking Republican on the House education committee, said in May that states should cover the cost of educating incarcerated students -- that despite restrictions on student aid in her home state, North Carolina. And some higher ed officials offered a heavy dose of realism Monday about the continued opposition to lifting the Pell ban.

“We absolutely are in no position to take political success for granted,” said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges. “There are just a whole lot of people out there at this moment who are not sympathetic to this concept.”

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Author discusses his new book on teaching undergraduates

Tue, 2019-07-16 07:00

Professors teach; most them teach undergraduates. This is their path to self-redemption, according to The Happy Professor: How to Teach Undergraduates and Feel Good About It (Rowman & Littlefield). Bill Coplin, the author, is director and professor in the policy studies program at Syracuse University. He responded to queries about his new book.

Q: You talk about priorities in a career. What if you are at a university where a faculty member can't make teaching undergraduates a priority?

A: This is a major cause of unhappiness. If you are asked to teach undergraduates and want to be happy, give the job enough priority to help students prepare for careers and become effective citizens along with your content. Follow the strategies and tactics in the book. Research for your career can still be No. 1 if it puts food on the table, but in that case, undergraduate teaching has to be No. 2 if you want to find peace in teaching undergraduates. Once you are a tenured full professor, the priorities should reverse if you include graduate teaching. I choose to make teaching my top priority at a research university because I didn’t feel good treating paying customers [as] less than they should be. That choice has been extremely rewarding and hence, the happy professor.

Q: Assuming you are a professor where you can focus on teaching, how can you use the skills continua you outline?

A: You can do many things, but first you must focus on the important skills for careers and citizenship that your course will help students practice. Then list the skills in your syllabus and on your course evaluations. Always mention in class the skills that are being practiced and how they will help in careers and effective citizenship. For example, if you are having students conduct or think about surveys, mention that surveys are used in all professional careers, whether business, nonprofit or government, and also note that citizens need to understand the principles of survey design when making judgments about government policies and politicians.

Q: You advocate for “andragogy, not pedagogy.” What does that mean?

A: “Andragogy” is a term developed many years ago and championed by Malcolm Knowles in the 1960s. It means teaching adults, while “peda” means children. I advocate treating undergraduates as if they were adults even though many are not far along on the children-adult continuum. Treating undergraduates as children being told what to do and what to learn breeds distrust. Distrust breeds late and poorly written papers and zoning out in class. The question “why do I have to learn this?” needs to be answered with something other than “it’s good for you.” Teachers should check out Knowles’s writing to see the many and powerful differences between viewing your student as a child and not an adult.

Q: How can a faculty members become more experimental in the classroom?

A: I wrote the book so faculty can try out things that worked for me, many of which are small and don’t take a lot of time or effort. The most powerful thing they can do is to treat students or former students as advisers in some capacity. They will make suggestions on what the teacher is now doing, and after a while the teacher will come up with ideas and ask for their advice.

Q: Your advice on teaching assistants may surprise faculty members. What is their positive role?

A: I found that graduate teaching assistants did not know the content of my course since they had not taken it. Teachers will not know the abilities and knowledge base of their graduate students. They will know it for their undergraduates. Undergraduate TAs who took the course know what students need. They will help teachers avoid the tendency to teach over the heads of the majority of their students. They make it easy in a big class to make the class have a small-group feel to it. They can be used for mundane things like taking attendance or grading multichoice tests. They can help in writing and evaluating the tests. They will recruit new students. They will serve as junior partners. Just as importantly, the undergraduate TAs will learn to take responsibility, how difficult teaching is and many other things for career and citizenship. Teachers need more help as the technology becomes a larger part of education in both designing course work and coaching students on how to navigate software.

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NCAA notifies NC State it may have broken rules in connection with men's basketball corruption case

Tue, 2019-07-16 07:00

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has begun cracking down on institutions connected to the massive pay-for-play scandal that rocked men’s basketball nearly two years ago -- and North Carolina State University is its first target.

Corruption charges were first made public in September 2017, when 10 people, including Adidas executives and four assistant coaches in prominent programs, were arrested for allegedly orchestrating tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of payments to basketball recruits. The NCAA has waited until the conclusion of the federal trials in New York, which began in October, to start its own investigation.

The association notified NC State last week that it may have run afoul of the association’s rules, including committing two Level I violations, the most egregious charge the NCAA can levy, which is subject to the most severe of penalties.

College sports pundits told Inside Higher Ed they believe the association is attempting a scare tactic -- a way to deter other coaches from unethical conduct. And the NCAA’s pick of NC State is intentional, they said -- an institution large and visible enough to be considered part of big-time athletics, but not in the same tier as Big 10 programs such as Ohio State University or the University of Michigan, which bring in major revenue for the association and thus would likely escape the NCAA’s wrath.

The allegations against NC State largely relate to a star recruit, Dennis Smith Jr., who played with the Wolfpack for a single season in 2016-17 before becoming a top-10 pick in the professional draft.

Former assistant coach Orlando Early purportedly helped arrange a $40,000 payout to Smith’s father to secure Smith’s commitment to the university. The payment came from an Adidas consultant, Thomas (T. J.) Gassnola, who testified during the fraud trial of former Adidas executive Jim Gatto that he gave the money to Early. (Gatto, another representative of the shoe company and an aspiring sports agent were all found guilty of federal wire fraud last year).

Smith also received other “impermissible benefits,” the NCAA alleges -- more than 100 complimentary tickets to 13 games in the 2016-17 season that were worth $4,500. Shawn Farmer, who was Smith’s former trainer, also got 44 complimentary tickets worth more than $2,100, according to the NCAA.

The NCAA is also charging Mark Gottfried, the former head men’s basketball coach at NC State, with failing to monitor his program, the other Level I violation. The association is alleging two Level II violations related to the complimentary tickets and for the institution as a whole not monitoring the provision of the tickets. Players are supposed to receive only four complimentary tickets per home game.

Gottfried was fired in 2017. Despite no longer being at NC State (he’s now the head coach at California State University at Northridge), he could find his position in jeopardy if the NCAA finds that he did not promote an “atmosphere of compliance.” The Division I Committee on Infractions could slap Gottfried with a show-cause order that would essentially make him unemployable at an NCAA institution for a period of years.

His lawyer, Scott Tompsett, provided a written statement on the allegations: “Coach Gottfried has cooperated fully with the NCAA’s investigation and he will continue to cooperate. He is disappointed that allegations have been brought against his former program at NC State, and he takes these allegations very seriously.

“While we disagree with the enforcement staff’s position that Coach Gottfried did not adequately monitor certain aspects of his program, we are pleased that the NCAA agrees that he was not involved in any illicit payments.”

Walter Harrison, president emeritus of the University of Hartford and former chairman of the NCAA Executive Committee, the top leadership board of the association -- now known as the Board of Governors -- said, “It strains credulity to think that the head coaches had no knowledge of these activities.”

“It is very important to stress to all head coaches that they are responsible for all members of their staff complying to both NCAA regulations and the law,” Harrison said.

Some are skeptical whether the NCAA would challenge the sport's most valuable coaches, the (in some cases) revered figures who buoy certain programs and generate significant revenue for the NCAA. Dave Ridpath, president of the Drake Group, an ethics watchdog group in college athletics, said he would be interested to see the NCAA go after a coach like Sean Miller, head coach of the University of Arizona's men's team and one of the highest-paid coaches in the country. Miller was initially subpoenaed in the federal corruption case but ultimately did not testify.

"I'm still very skeptical," Ridpath, also an associate professor of sports management at Ohio University, said. "Mark Gottfried, he's not a big fish … he's not going to a big-time job. Sean Miller, that's a whole different story."

NC State has 90 days to respond to the NCAA, which will then issue a rebuttal within 60 days. After that, within three to six months, the Committee on Infractions will meet to debate the case.

The university noted in a statement that the coaches who were involved in the potential rule breaking were no longer employed there.

“NC State is committed to the highest levels of compliance, honesty and integrity,” Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement. “As the university carefully reviews the NCAA’s allegations and thoroughly evaluates the evidence in order to determine our response, we are prepared to be accountable where we believe it is appropriate and to vigorously defend this great university and its athletics program where we feel it is necessary.”

Marc Edelman, professor of law at Baruch College and a sports law specialist, compared the NCAA’s behavior to that of an economic cartel’s.

The NCAA is made up of member institutions that try to maximize the revenue to them and to the coaches and athletics directors, Edelman said. So when coaches cheat the system by trying to pay players illicitly, it threatens the cartel’s stability, and the NCAA is more likely to discipline the offending parties, he said.

This was evident with Southern Methodist University in 1987, when the NCAA handed down its strongest sanction: the death penalty. The football program was canceled for an entire season after the university was found to have been paying players to commit to the university.

It destroyed the SMU football team and sent a strong message to other institutions at the time, Edelman said -- and for a time, violations were minimal.

Edelman said he was unsurprised that the NCAA was coming down so hard on NC State compared to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which avoided all punishments in a major academic fraud case.

“NC State is probably not seen as nearly as powerful, useful or important as the University of North Carolina, because the NC State athletic program presumably brings in less revenue and has less brand equity than a school such as UNC,” Edelman said.

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Parents of slain University of Utah student sue under Title IX

Mon, 2019-07-15 07:00

Last October, Lauren McCluskey, a student at the University of Utah, was being harassed by her ex-boyfriend.

Melvin Rowland sent the young track-and-field star threatening text messages, told her he would release her nude photographs unless she paid him $1,000, stalked her and ultimately murdered her on campus. He abducted her while she was on the phone with her mother, shooting her several times and leaving her body in a car he had borrowed.

Rowland ended his life when campus police pursued him.

But when twin investigations (one commissioned by the university, the other by the state) revealed that the university’s law enforcement and housing offices had disregarded McCluskey’s and her friends' reports about Rowland, officials didn’t admit fault. They doubled down.

“There is no way to know for certain whether this tragic murder could have been prevented,” Utah president Ruth Watkins said in December.

Lauren’s parents disagree.

They learned about their daughter’s multiple phone calls to the campus police, her frantic reports of extortion, the fact that her friends told housing administrators that Rowland had cut Lauren off from her friends for weeks, was obsessed with her whereabouts and said he would buy her a gun to protect her from other men.

Rowland was a felon on parole, having spent a decade in prison for enticing a minor over the internet and attempted forcible sexual abuse. But he had lied to Lauren about his age and his name and didn’t disclose his crimes to her.

Now Jill and Matt McCluskey are suing university officials, including campus police chief Dale Brophy, whom many have called to be fired, for $56 million. They’re alleging that administrators' and law enforcement's indifference and lack of training in dating violence led to violations of a key federal law barring sex discrimination, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

The university has declined to discuss the lawsuit. Watkins said in a written statement it would be “addressed through the appropriate channels.”

“While there are differences in how we would characterize some of the events leading to Lauren’s tragic murder, let me say again that we share the McCluskey family’s commitment to improving campus safety,” Watkins said in her statement. “We continue to address the recommendations identified by the independent review of the university’s safety policies, procedures and resources, and we are making ongoing improvements designed to protect our students and our entire campus community.”

Title IX has been a major focus for the public (and for institutions) after the Obama administration released guidance around the law that activists credited with providing significant protections for survivors of sexual violence -- but critics said the new guidance ignored the rights of students accused of rape. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pulled the Obama rules almost two years ago, replacing them with new draft regulations unpopular among survivor advocates, but favored by those accused.

But Lauren McCluskey’s case does not focus on a struggle between an accused and accuser, or an accused student suing the university over a lack of due process, as is typical with many Title IX lawsuits.

The McCluskey suit deals with an aspect of sexual violence that many Title IX practitioners say is overlooked on college campuses: intimate partner, or dating, violence.

“Unfortunately the national discussion is very focused on the accuser. And we treat Title IX almost like a penal code system,” said Taylor Parker, a partner with Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses and the deputy Title IX coordinator at the Ringling College of Art and Design. “In reality, we need to reframe that situation. It’s a civil rights statute -- these are civil rights laws and regulations. And because we have become so fixated on whether we can punish the accused of wrongdoing, there’s this growing trend toward the other obligations and the other responsibilities falling to the wayside.”

A Turbulent Relationship

Lauren McCluskey began dating Rowland in September 2018. He convinced McCluskey and her peers that he was a 28-year-old community college student named Shawn Fields.

While Rowland was initially respectful, the relationship soured quickly. Rowland was controlling, telling McCluskey what she could and could not wear. He monitored her location both on and off campus, following her around in some cases. He informed her that she couldn’t go places or talk to certain people without him being present.

McCluskey’s friends took notice -- after a short period, McCluskey lost weight, her eyes appeared glassy and she ignored her academics. Her friends saw bruises on her body, which seemed to indicate Rowland was being physically abusive, too.

Near the end of the month, McCluskey told one of her close friends that Rowland intended to buy her a gun to ward off the advances of other men. Concerned, several of McCluskey’s friends reported the situation to a graduate assistant in one of the dormitories, who tried to take the information to her superiors, but she was rebuffed. Housing administrators were unconcerned and eventually said McCluskey needed her privacy.

In October, McCluskey discovered Rowland’s real name and searched the internet for him -- unearthing his criminal history. She intended to break up with him in a public place after returning to the campus after fall break, but when she got back to her room, she found Rowland peering in through her window. Rowland “effectively held [her] hostage in her dorm room by refusing to leave and aggressively choosing to stay through the night,” the lawsuit states. In an attempt to have him leave peacefully the next day, McCluskey loaned Rowland her car so he could run errands.

McCluskey’s mother helped arrange for campus security to escort McCluskey to retrieve the car, but the police department never followed up about potential domestic violence.

For days, McCluskey received nasty and threatening texts -- purportedly from Rowland’s friends. One said that he was suicidal, that he’d been in an accident and McCluskey needed to see him. McCluskey believed these were from Rowland and reported them to police continually.

But the campus police said initially they couldn’t help unless the situation “escalated,” the lawsuit states. McCluskey, after reporting the extortion attempt, went to the police station and spoke with multiple police officers in person, among them Officer Miguel Deras.

Deras has been singled out because the two investigations flagged that he had mishandled McCluskey’s case. He was later subject to training to better recognize the signs of dating violence. Deras subsequently flubbed another woman’s case after the training, The Salt Lake Tribune reported, but only got a warning letter in his personnel file, according to the newspaper. This is the only disciplinary action against an officer that has been made public after the university made changes within the department. The university said in December it will add staffers to both its Public Safety Department and its Behavioral Intervention Team, a counseling center group designed to handle students who are a threat to themselves or others who are worried about being harmed.

The president, Watkins, has declined to punish any of the officers involved with McCluskey’s call.

Campus police officers also weren’t properly trained to identify whether Rowland was on active parole. They checked Rowland’s criminal history, which did reveal his conviction but not his parole status. He was out on parole for the third time.

Later, Rowland impersonated a police officer in a text message in an apparent attempt to lure McCluskey to him. Rowland checked with an officer, who confirmed that the message was fake but did not investigate further. The same night McCluskey got the text message, she was on the phone with her mother walking from a class when Rowland grabbed her. Her parents heard her scream “no, no, no” before being disconnected. McCluskey was later found in the back of a car, dead. Campus police finally discovered Rowland’s status as a parolee and went to track him down, following him to a church close to the university, where he shot himself in the head.

McCluskey’s parents allege the university violated Title IX by ignoring their daughter’s pleas for help.

Brett Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX Administrators, said he was unsure whether the Title IX arguments would hold up in court. The university could have banned Rowland from campus, but it did not have jurisdiction to punish him, as a nonstudent, and so Title IX may not apply, he said. While other officials knew about McCluskey’s plight, it is unclear when or whether the Title IX office learned about it, Sokolow said.

“I think this is new territory,” Sokolow said, adding he had never seen a murder in a Title IX lawsuit before.

The lawsuit also states that campus police have continually failed to investigate reports of sexual assault because the victims were women. In one case officers allegedly didn’t respond immediately to reports of a Peeping Tom who had sexually assaulted another woman on the campus three hours before.

Campus police operate “based on the assumption that Lauren, like most women, was unreasonable, hysterical, hypersensitive, paranoid, overreacting to the situation and not being truthful,” the lawsuit states.

Parker, from Ringling College, said that colleges and universities generally need to do more to improve their training around dating violence. Typically, most of the lessons around sexual assault are frontloaded in the beginning of the academic year, during orientation, and address consent when alcohol is involved, she said. This is an attempt to mitigate what is known as the “red zone,” the initial weeks of the first semester when most campus sexual assaults occur.

But equal attention needs to be given to partner violence, Parker said. Nearly one in five women in Utah will be the victim of dating violence -- some form of psychological, physical or sexual abuse by a partner -- in a single year, according to statistics from the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.

“Utah’s first step needs to be how has this impacted their climate campus,” Parker said. “That’s the utmost important. One of their peers was murdered on campus -- their trainings need to address that.”

The campus remains shaken by the episode.

One student, Isaac Reese, wrote to the campus newspaper, The Daily Utah Chronicle, to say that the university “has a laundry list of inadequacies it must address.”

Reese called for Brophy’s firing. Under his watch, the department not only failed to prevent McCluskey’s death, but also was tone-deaf for including McCluskey’s name in an awards ceremony program honoring officers, Reese wrote.

The lawsuit was what the university “deserves,” Reese wrote.

“The administration has failed to take responsibility for their inaction,” he wrote. “This has forced Lauren’s parents to seek justice on their own, and rightfully so. However, they should not have to go through the legal hoops that the university has forced upon them in order for them to seek justice for Lauren. The university, administration, campus law enforcement, housing office and President Watkins should feel ashamed for their inaction and for their refusal to accept accountability for that inaction.”

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Hackers demand $2 million from Monroe College in ransomware attack

Mon, 2019-07-15 07:00

A cyberattack disabled many of Monroe College’s technology systems and platforms last week. Students and faculty and staff members were locked out of the college’s website, learning management system and email, with hackers demanding payment of around $2 million in Bitcoin to restore access.

Marc Jerome, president of Monroe College, a for-profit institution in New York City, confirmed the cyberattack in a statement July 11. “Our team is working feverishly to bring everything back online, and we are working with the appropriate authorities to resolve the situation as quickly as possible,” he said.

“In the meantime, Monroe continues to operate,” said Jerome. “We’re simply doing it the way colleges did before email and the internet, which results in more personal interactions. As we have done throughout our 86-year history, we are coming together to assure that our students, faculty and staff are well served."

Jackie Ruegger, executive director of public affairs at the college, said in an interview Friday that the institution did not know who had orchestrated the attack. She said the college is working with local law enforcement officials and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She did not comment on whether the college plans to pay the $2 million ransom.

Despite the college’s learning management system, Blackboard, going down, students continued to attend classes last week, handing in homework on paper, said Ruegger. The college’s online students have been advised to contact the college through their personal email accounts.

ATTENTION: To all of our Online Students pic.twitter.com/ni4PiHlLDg

— Monroe College (@monroe_college) July 12, 2019

Over the weekend, the college’s main website came back online. The college has not publicly shared whether access to its IT systems has yet been restored.

Jared Phipps, vice president of worldwide sales engineering for cybersecurity company SentinelOne, said these types of attacks have been linked to a small number of sophisticated criminal groups.

“They scope out the size of the organization and its ability to pay the ransom,” said Phipps. “They’re determining your pain threshold.”

Earlier this year, Grinnell, Oberlin and Hamilton Colleges were subject to a ransomware attack on their admissions systems, but the hackers demanded just a few thousand dollars, which was later reduced to $60. Local governments, police departments and health organizations have also recently been attacked. In Baltimore, for example, the city government has refused to pay hackers after a cyberattack earlier this year, opting instead to rebuild its systems at a cost of over $18 million. The hackers originally demanded $76,000.

Typically these attacks start with a phishing email -- an email disguised to look as if it is from a trusted source, said Phipps. If someone unwittingly clicks on a link in a fraudulent email or enters their personal log-in information, hackers can install malicious software known as ransomware, which will encrypt and block access to the users’ computer files. The hackers then demand money for the encryption key. If there are no backups of the system elsewhere, institutions are left with few options, said Phipps -- rebuild or pay.

Attempted ransomware attacks happen every day, but it is difficult to gauge how many of the attacks are successful, as “nobody is required to disclose it,” said Phipps. “If nobody’s personal information is lost, you don’t have to disclose,” he said. Information from cyberinsurance companies suggests, however, that attacks are on the rise, and many organizations are choosing to pay because they aren’t able to restore their systems from backups, he said.

Ben Woelk, information security office program manager at the Rochester Institute of Technology, said that successful attacks in higher education at the institutional level are unusual as attacks are “more often targeted at specific individuals, and the ransom demands are nowhere near as high.”

Both Woelk and Phipps agree that the attack on Monroe is notable because of the large ransom the hackers are demanding from the college. “This is the highest amount I’ve seen in higher education,” said Phipps.

Ensuring institutions have isolated backups so that systems can be restored if they become compromised is critical, said Woelk. Software that monitors unusual computer activity and filters out suspicious email is also useful, but the most important defense against a ransomware attack is education, he said.

“You need to train your community to recognize anything suspicious and report it ASAP,” said Woelk. In the past few years, many colleges have started to use simulated phishing programs -- deliberately sending fraudulent-looking emails to faculty, staff and students to see how they respond. Previously, many institutions were unwilling to take this approach because they didn’t want to “trick” their community, but it’s increasingly seen as necessary, said Woelk.

Michael Corn, chief information security officer at the University of California San Diego, said crippling ransomware attacks like the one Monroe College experienced are the “exception and not the rule.” Nonetheless, Corn said higher education institutions should be doing more to prevent and prepare for these kinds of attacks.

At his institution, Corn has encouraged his colleagues to think through how to respond to a crippling cyberattack just as they would for an active shooter situation or an earthquake as part of their “all-hazards” emergency operations planning. “We’ve carried out a drill asking how we would respond to this. That kind of planning makes me feel much better about our preparedness and raises awareness,” he said.

Corn said that his institution has agreed that it would not pay a ransom in the event of an attack. There is no guarantee that once you pay, the hackers will give you a working encryption key, said Corn. And paying up might indicate that you’re an easy target for future attacks, he said. He acknowledges, however, that there are data -- medical records, for example -- that might make the institution think differently. “It’s a decision we’d have to make in the heat of the moment.”

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Faculty call for new search as trustees consider secret approach in South Carolina

Mon, 2019-07-15 07:00

Amid an increasingly chaotic search for a new president, the University of South Carolina’s Faculty Senate sharply rebuked the Board of Trustees -- members of which say they could move forward with choosing a new candidate entirely in secret.

The board reopened the search in April after the favorite candidate, Robert Caslen, a retired three-star army general and former West Point superintendent, drew protests and division on campus. According to the Post and Courier, Caslen drew criticism for comments blaming sexual assault on binge drinking, a lack of a research background, and for being one of the top choices to be President Trump’s national security adviser. Caslen was one of four candidates recommended by the search committee that the board passed over in favor of beginning a new search.

Though it appeared the board had the votes to approve Caslen as president by a thin margin, a court blocked the Friday vote for lacking to give appropriate notice for the meeting. The board plans to vote now on July 19.

However, three members of the board told the Post and Courier that they could select a new candidate whose name has not been revealed to the public, since they were still technically in a continuation of the search. The longest-serving member of the board said there’s another candidate who has support among the board and has yet to be revealed.

"This would be an even bigger breach of trust than hiring General Caslen. It’s incredible that they would even consider such a move," said Christian Anderson, a South Carolina professor of higher education, in an email. "The whole point of the campus visits is to vet the candidate -- to see if that person is a good fit for the institution. Even if they hire someone who is qualified, how does this person come to campus and have the trust and support of the institution and community?"

Marco Valtorta, South Carolina professor and chair of the Faculty Senate, said he wouldn’t provide an opinion on the idea that the board could vote on a secret candidate. The Faculty Senate voted last Thursday calling for the board to begin the search again, with public input. The board also voted to say they had no confidence in potentially naming Caslen as the president.

The senate’s resolution regarding a new search also denounced political pressure placed on the board from South Carolina’s Republican governor, Henry McMaster, who has lobbied trustees to approve Caslen as president.

“Whereas, political interference in the selection of the university president conflicts with good governance of the university,” the Faculty Senate resolution reads, “and whereas the governor’s action has already transformed selection of our next president into a partisan conflict, defiant of deliberative process and destructive of trust, and whereas, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has demonstrated concern over gubernatorial interference in governing boards …”

Caslen has the support of many members of the state Legislature as well as the governor, which would play a significant role in the public university’s ability to lobby for funding.

The Faculty Senate resolution urged the trustees to also consider a public search in the hopes that it could yield the best candidates for the university. The senate said the university should conduct a new search compliant with the recommendations of the American Association of University Professors. The association recommends increased faculty participation in the search and that finalists should always meet with constituencies before their appointment to the executive position.

Anderson said he believed if Caslen was chosen after all that had happened, relations between the campus constituencies and the trustees would be deeply harmed.

"Relations between the board and faculty were always cordial, professional and respectful," Anderson said. "I think the faculty would lose trust in the board. So would students, alumni, staff and members of the community. This would be a terrible blow to campus relations."

With the extended search and chaos surrounding the process and outgoing South Carolina president Harris Pastides’s retirement date approaching, the board has appointed Brendan Kelly, the chancellor of the University of South Carolina Upstate, to serve as interim president. Kelly will take over for Harris Aug. 1.

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Number of Latinx presidents not consistent with growth of Latinx student population

Mon, 2019-07-15 07:00

Despite the fact that the number of Latinx students has grown significantly over the last couple of years, Latinx administrators continue to find difficulty in advancing to the top positions in higher education.

While 19 percent of all students enrolled at universities in the United States are Latinx, only 4 percent of college or university presidents were Latinx as of 2016, according to data from the American Council on Education. The percentage of Latinx presidents remained unchanged between 2001 and 2016, while the number of black university presidents rose from 6 percent to 8 percent.

This gap is particularly prevalent in places like Texas, said Excelencia in Education CEO Deborah Santiago. There isn’t one Latinx president in the University of Texas system despite the larger population of Latinx students in the state over others. Santiago said seeing more Latinx administrators would be beneficial for Latinx students.

“I think [Latinx students] do want to see themselves in their leaders and at least assume and hope that those in leadership positions know how to serve them better,” Santiago said. “Many Latino presidents have gone through nontraditional pathways, and that creates new ways of thinking about students who are also dealing with very post-traditional approaches to going to college and creates real opportunities for them, because the institution may evolve to serve a population like Latinos, but not solely Latinos.”

Excelencia in Education works towards the advancement of Latinx students in education, as well as the advancement of Latinx administrators and faculty members. Santiago listed many barriers that could make it more difficult for Latinx administrators to rise to the level of president.

Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, chancellor of the City University of New York system, said Latinx leaders would have a greater understanding of how to create an institution more sensitive to Latinx students. Rodríguez is also the chair of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU).

“You would expect Latino administrators would be particularly sensitive to the specific needs of Latino students as their numbers increase on campuses,” Rodríguez said. “The expertise to be able to help them achieve success will become more important, therefore the need for more administrators and presidents. That’s one of the real concerns in this trend.”

Rodríguez said HACU is approaching this gap by creating a leadership academy to help those interested in seeking university leadership learn how to connect with the appropriate groups and understand what will be necessary to accomplish the task.

Barriers for Latinx Administrators

Rodríguez said that while a number of factors play a role in to contributing to this gap, one of the biggest comes in the hiring process for presidential positions -- a lack of diversity on governing boards and within executive search firms.

“I think that there hasn’t been an increase in the percentage in the boards of trustees that end up making the appointments at both public and private institutions,” Rodríguez said. “I think that lack of representation on those boards has been a hindrance and continues to be an impediment to the expectation that there should be more Latino and Latina presidents in higher ed.”

Executive search firms have been used more frequently in recent decades in searches for university presidents, and Rodríguez said in his experience there’s been a lack of diversity within those firms and that they’re “less familiar with the potential Latino talent bank.”

Miguel Martinez-Saenz, president of St. Francis College in New York, said he had similar experiences in his interactions with search firms.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of searches, and there is a cultural dynamic under the surface that is problematic,” Martinez-Saenz said. “Everybody that engages you, almost without exception, is white. How does somebody approach underrepresented groups if they don’t understand the cultural dynamics that are at play?”

Martinez-Saenz said the larger issue in this gap, however, was reflective of the fact that hiring and advancement practices in higher ed haven’t changed that drastically as demographics have shifted, which predominantly support the advancement of white administrators. One example Martinez-Saenz has observed is that search committees often want sitting presidents to hire for presidential positions. Eighty-three percent of university presidents were white in the 2016 ACE study.

“If the population of sitting presidents is predominantly white and male, your pool of candidates is going to be predominantly white and male,” Martinez-Saenz said. “The provost role is also predominantly white and male. Part of it is that the conventional wisdom of what positions a candidate well for a presidency hasn’t changed.”

Santiago said there are some states and systems making progress in this field -- Connecticut colleges and universities have four Latino presidents, and in Massachusetts, Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago has made strides in an effort to identify candidates.

Rodríguez said a good starting place to move toward solving these issues would be to continue to advance Latinx administrators and faculty within universities, to help poise them to be able to seek higher offices.

“We need to help larger numbers of Latino students in Ph.D. programs, becoming faculty, rising through the ranks to become deans and provosts,” Rodríguez said. “We need to make sure that pipeline is consistent with the growth of students, and we all need to be a lot more intentional about identifying potential Latino candidates.”

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Challenges for Regional Publics: A Survey of Business Officers

Fri, 2019-07-12 07:00

July 12, 2019 -- Inside Higher Ed’s 2019 Survey of College and University Business Officers was conducted in conjunction with researchers from Gallup. A copy of the report can be downloaded here.

On Tuesday, Inside Higher Ed’s Doug Lederman and business officers from the College of Lake County and the Universities of Memphis and New England will discuss the survey at the annual meeting of the National Association of College and University Business Officers. More information on that session can be found here.

On Tuesday, Aug. 6, at 2 p.m. Eastern, Inside Higher Ed editors will analyze the survey’s findings and answer readers’ questions in a free webcast. To register, please click here.

The Inside Higher Ed survey of business officers was made possible in part by support from EY-Parthenon, Jenzabar, Laserfiche, Oracle and TouchNet.

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Pennsylvania state system tries to draw redesign efforts off the page and into reality

Fri, 2019-07-12 07:00

Two key developments this week have the potential to give momentum to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s much-watched redesign effort.

But it remains to be seen if the system will have enough time to escape a tightening financial vise in a state where competition is fierce for a diminished pool of college-aged students. Also yet to be seen is whether leaders can maintain the buy-in needed to lock in major cultural and structural changes they believe are necessary.

Wednesday, the system’s Board of Governors froze tuition for the upcoming academic year for the first time since 1998-99. It followed that action Thursday with a move that’s likely to draw less attention from students but could feel more important to faculty members -- beginning a process to create a systemwide faculty senate or faculty advisory council.

PASSHE is “missing out” by not having a systemwide shared faculty governance structure, said the chair of the Board of Governors, Cynthia D. Shapira, during Thursday’s board meeting.

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“We’re missing out on getting real, direct advice on consultation from the people we are entrusting at the most basic level, at the most grass-roots level, to carry out our mission,” she said.

In a vacuum, neither change is necessarily groundbreaking. While a tuition freeze is virtually unheard-of across the state system’s 14 universities, it’s also only a one-year show of good faith that leaders hope will reassure the lawmakers who control Pennsylvania’s purse strings. And the action to set up some sort of systemwide faculty governance came as a request from Shapira to have a commission study the idea and report back by May 1.

However, in a state system that has been trying to emphasize culture change and accountability, the developments could prove to be key early decisions. The idea of systemwide shared governance is of particular importance from a structural standpoint, according to Dan Greenstein, PASSHE's chancellor.

“We’re moving in the direction of this system redesign, where we’re looking at how we enable students at any one of our 14 universities to have access to programs and courses at any of the other 13 universities,” Greenstein said in an interview. “And of course, that gets you into all sorts of interesting conversations around shared academic programming, student portability, credit mobility. And those are typically the kinds of conversations you need to have with academic faculty, because that’s right in the heart of what academic faculty do.”

No vehicle has existed at the statewide level for those conversations, Greenstein added.

Pennsylvania does have a strong statewide union for faculty members, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, or APSCUF. It has traditionally served in a consultative statewide role in the absence of a faculty senate or advisory council, Shapira said. It could continue to do so, at least in part, going forward.

But the board chair wants the new shared governance body to be stakeholders in a different kind of conversation outside the sometimes-combative labor-and-management focus that comes with the union relationship.

The faculty governance idea could turn into a source of tension with the union if it’s seen as undercutting APSCUF’s traditional position in any way. Any tension would come at a critical time, as the union’s collective bargaining agreement expired at the beginning of July and leaders are currently working to negotiate a new contract.

Kenneth Mash, president of the union, isn’t worried.

“I know where the faculty are,” Mash said in an interview. “I know that the faculty know that we are their organization and we are their voice.”

APSCUF’s roots are as a professional organization, Mash said. It has always expressed ideas and concerns about every aspect of the system and its universities, including academics.

If Mash had his way, APSCUF would continue to fill the systemwide shared governance role that PASSHE leaders are emphasizing. Still, he declined to fault Thursday’s move to create a new systemwide shared governance structure, saying he hopes the specifics turn out to be in everyone’s best interest.

“Everything they’ve been doing looks to be of great intention,” Mash said. “It’s just the devil is in the details.”

The union president struck a similar tone on the topic of the one-year tuition freeze. He called it a gambit.

PASSHE may need such a calculated risk to prove to lawmakers that it is serious about halting steady increases in tuition in hopes of securing more state funding. The system can’t continue with today’s low levels of state funding, Mash said. Only 27 percent of funding per full-time-equivalent student at public institutions in Pennsylvania comes from state support, with the rest coming from net tuition revenue, according to data from the State Higher Education Executive Officers association that covers multiple institutions and systems.

“You can’t maintain it,” Mash said. “It’s not doable.”

The tuition freeze nonetheless leaves the system facing a $62.7 million budget gap. That’s after state lawmakers increased funding for the system by 2 percent this year. They appropriated $477 million, $29 million less than system leaders had requested.

A tuition freeze will be felt by those working on university campuses, Mash said, addressing the board Thursday.

“The pain really is felt much more by those people who have to work directly with students every single day,” he said. “They are the ones who are going to witness major cuts to their departmental budgets. We’re going to see internships and other experiences cut, like they’ve been cut before.”

Over all, Mash thinks it’s the right move to hold the line on tuition. The system has been in the same pattern for long enough, he said.

PASSHE leaders are hoping for a one-time investment from the state in educational and operational infrastructure, recurring funding, and legislative changes to ease regulations in areas like purchasing. They hope the tuition freeze and other changes designed to make their governance more transparent, improve student success, find operating efficiencies, attract new students and find new revenue sources can help to sway lawmakers.

Powerful legislators have been skeptical of the system in the past. The chair of the state House Appropriations Committee earlier this year said lawmakers had lost faith in the system and that it hasn’t lived up to its mission of educating students from poor and middle-class families.

PASSHE's Problems

Leaders across the state have expressed concern that enrollment has dropped across PASSHE’s 14 institutions among students from low- and middle-income families. The system includes regional public institutions but not state-related research universities like Pennsylvania State University or the University of Pittsburgh.

The system redesign dates to a comprehensive review in 2016-17. Merging or closing some of the system’s institutions, which are scattered unevenly across the state, has been the source of much discussion over the years. One consulting group warned against mergers, closures or spin-offs, while another recommended them.

System leaders have rejected the idea of closing or merging institutions. Instead, they’ve pursued the redesign process with the goal of improving the system’s completion, job placement and social mobility metrics, as well as its affordability and the alignment between degree offerings and work-force openings.

Greenstein’s hiring, in 2018, came after the process had already begun. He’s thrown himself into the effort, preaching culture change and pushing for a detailed redesign framework. Still, polling of about 900 faculty, staff and students has shown that just 39 percent perceived their universities as being able to change.

While this week’s changes are early developments in the redesign process, they aren’t the very first to be approved.

In April, the system approved a new policy that for the first time will allow individual universities to set their own multiyear tuition strategies. It goes into effect next year, although the strategies will still be subject to approval from the Board of Governors.

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British universities see big jump in Chinese undergraduate applicants

Fri, 2019-07-12 07:00

The number of Chinese students applying for undergraduate study in the United Kingdom jumped by 30 percent this year, according to data released Thursday by the Universities and Colleges Admission Service, a centralized admission service for U.K. higher education.

A total of 19,760 Chinese students applied to U.K. universities during the 2019 admission cycle, compared to 15,240 the year before.

  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 Number of Chinese Applicants 8,500 9,660 10,510 10,690 10,730 11,540 12,450 13,390 15,240 19,760 Percent Change From Prior Year -- +13.6% +8.8% +1.7% +0.4% +7.5% +7.9% +7.6% +13.8% +29.7%

Over all, the number of international applicants from countries outside the European Union increased by about 8 percent, while the number from elsewhere in the E.U. increased by 1 percent.

While application data are less telling than enrollment data, and some international students may be applying to universities in multiple countries, the data nevertheless point to a surge in interest in British universities among prospective international undergraduates in general and among students from China in particular.

Comparable application data are not available for U.S. colleges for this fall, but U.S. universities have seen a decline in the number of new international students for the last two academic years. International education professionals have raised concerns that visa policies, anti-immigrant rhetoric and perceptions of a less welcoming or safe environment may be contributing to the declines.

Students from China make up the single largest group of international students in the U.S. by far. As their numbers have grown, many U.S. universities have come to rely on Chinese undergraduates who can pay full tuition to help balance their budgets.

“The trend with China clearly shows that there is a strong appetite and demand among international students to study overseas. If the U.S. is making things more difficult for international students, they are going to find alternative destinations,” said Rahul Choudaha, the executive vice president for research and global engagement at StudyPortals, an online marketing and recruitment platform.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, an Oxford-based think tank, said he thinks Britain is likely benefiting from the trade war between the U.S. and China, as well as from tensions between China and Australia. But he stressed that’s not the only factor in the increase in international applicants from China and elsewhere.

“I think the fact that is too often overlooked is the value of the pound,” he said. The pound dropped sharply in value following the 2016 referendum in favor of Britain exiting the European Union. With a Brexit deadline still looming, the pound has yet to recover fully in value, making British higher education comparably more affordable to students converting foreign currencies.

At the same time, Hillman said that while the trend of international student numbers was positive, “it’s not as good as it should be.” Data from the Institute of International Education show that the U.K. has 10 percent of the world's share of globally mobile students, second only to the U.S., which has 22 percent, and tied with China.

“We have a very strong university sector, we speak English, the U.K. is a very diverse and interesting place to study, and the global market for international students is growing. As the market is growing, you need to be taking extra students just to stand still in terms of your market share,” Hillman said.

Another notable change in the UCAS data is a continuing increase in the number of Indian students applying for undergraduate study in the U.K., which increased by 30 percent over two years, from 4,790 students in 2017 to 6,210 this year.

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New research shows reducing borrowing can hurt students' success in college

Fri, 2019-07-12 07:00

The student debt crisis has become ubiquitous in headlines and even in the mouths of some lawmakers.

New research, though, suggests that if many students are taking out unnecessary loan debt, others aren’t borrowing enough to support their pursuit of a degree.

The studies found that community college students who borrow more have stronger academic outcomes than those who took out fewer loans or reduced their borrowing. And one experiment involving Maryland community college students found that positive effects of increased borrowing carry over to students’ financial well-being after college -- whether or not they actually completed the degrees.

As both federal officials and college administrators raise concerns about overborrowing, the new research points to the possible downsides of messaging that could make low-income students averse to loan debt.

Andrew Barr, an assistant professor of economics at Texas A&M University, who co-wrote the study involving Community College of Baltimore County, said the findings show more nuance is necessary in discussions of student loan debt.

“There clearly are downsides to borrowing for certain people. But there is a reason we have student loans,” he said. “It allows students to finance their education. And for certain students, if you reduce the amount they perceive they can borrow, they seem to do worse.”

Barr, along with Kelli Bird, an assistant professor of education at the University of Virginia, and Ben Castleman, an associate professor of education at UVA, tracked the effects of a monthlong outreach campaign that used text messages to inform students at the Baltimore community college about their student loan debt. Students who received the texts reduced their borrowing through unsubsidized federal loans by about $200, or 7 percent, on average.

That reduced borrowing resulted in students performing worse in their courses. Those who received the texts and subsequently took out lower loan amounts were less likely to earn any credits and more likely to fail a class in the semester studied. Barr said that could be because students cut back on costs like food or spent more time working outside class to cover additional costs after reducing their borrowing amount.

The study also notably found that students who borrowed less were 2.5 percentage points more likely to default on their loans within three years. But those who borrowed more were less likely to default whether or not they completed a degree, Barr said.

“Even for people very unlikely to get a degree, academic performance matters for their likelihood of eventual default,” he said.

Higher ed researchers have found that students who leave college without a degree or credential are at the highest risk of default. But the study suggests that those with worse academic performance are at even greater risk of default. Barr said it’s not clear why that’s the case, but credit accumulation, a higher grade point average or some other factor involving academic achievement appeared to make a difference for students who borrowed more in the experiment.

The study builds on previous findings from a study by Benjamin Marx, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Lesley Turner, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Maryland at College Park. In a separate study of community college students released earlier this year, Marx and Turner found that messaging from a college could lead students to make substantial reductions in their borrowing.

The study looked at the results when an unnamed college didn’t include student loans in financial aid packages. Colleges that participate in the federal student loan program can’t dictate the amount of loans available to students. But they can choose the loan amount displayed in financial aid letters.

Students who randomly received financial aid offers including student loans were 40 percent more likely to borrow than were those who got an offer with no student loan funds. And students who received award letters with student loan aid borrowed an additional $4,000 and completed 30 percent more course credits.

“It’s important to avoid a knee-jerk reaction that we need to get rid of student loans,” Marx said. “Lots of community colleges are dropping out of the federal loan program entirely. And there’s evidence that that’s harming students.”

Some community colleges have incentives not to participate in the federal loan program. Consistently high default rates on student loans can lead an institution to lose access to any federal student aid, although very few institutions have suffered that consequence for loan outcomes.

Nine percent of community college students in the U.S. attend institutions that have opted out of the federal loan program, the Institute for College Access and Success found in 2016. Some public four-year institutions have also pursued policies to encourage students to limit their borrowing levels.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has warned that outstanding student loan debt has created a looming “crisis” for higher education. And top department officials have pushed for tools that would allow colleges to restrict improper spending by student aid recipients.

Matt Chingos, director of the Urban Institute’s Center on Education Data and Policy, said there are clearly people who are borrowing too much -- usually those pursuing a credential with little economic value. While researchers have raised questions about whether others aren’t borrowing enough, he said until recently there wasn’t good evidence showing the effects of underborrowing by college students.

“What these papers give us is some solid evidence, at least with the two community colleges studied, that borrowing too little is a real thing and that people benefit from borrowing more,” he said.

Chingos said it’s important to note that those findings don’t say anything about whether it would be preferable to give low-income students a larger Pell Grant or to make college free instead of offering loans. But given current higher ed policy, he said, the studies indicate borrowing can lead to more academic success.

Mark Huelsman, associate director of policy and research at the progressive think tank Demos, said the studies make clear that taking away one financing tool for college will have a negative impact on students. But those concerned with the effects of student loans don’t want to see reduced borrowing with no other financial backstop for students, he said.

“If a student, today, is on the margins of dropping out or working too many hours, I would advise them to use the tools at their disposal, including loans,” he said. “But from a policy perspective, it makes little sense why we’re asking community college students to borrow in the first place rather than meeting their financial need at the outset.”

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Colleges award tenure

Fri, 2019-07-12 07:00

Kalamazoo College

  • Menelik Geremew, money and banking
  • Brittany Liu, psychology
  • Amanda Wollenberg, biology
  • Michael Wollenberg, biology

Widener University

  • Jennifer Cullen, human service professions
  • Richard Hopkins, arts and sciences
  • Cary Leung, arts and sciences
  • Dipendu Saha, engineering
  • Anita Singh, engineering
  • Darrell Spurlock, nursing
  • Xiaochao Tang, engineering
  • Eamonn Tweedy, arts and sciences
  • Brooke Wells, human service professions
  • Zora Wolfe, human service professions

Winthrop University

  • Zach Abernathy, mathematics
  • Diana Boyer, geology
  • Monique Constance-Huggins, social work
  • Adriana Cordis, accounting
  • Philip Gibson, finance
  • Adam Glover, Spanish
  • Stephanie Lawson, marketing
  • Tracy Patterson, music
  • Duane Neff, social work
  • Andrew Seth Rouser, fine arts
  • Mary Slade, curriculum and pedagogy
  • Matthew Stern, biology
  • Nicki Washington, computer science.
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University of Puerto Rico faces deep cuts to appropriations

Thu, 2019-07-11 07:00

The move by Alaska governor Mike Dunleavy to slash $130 million in state support for the University of Alaska in a line-item veto -- an amount equivalent to 41 percent of the university’s state appropriation -- sent shock waves through the world of public higher education, and for good reason. Even against a backdrop of state disinvestment from public higher education nationally, the magnitude, manner and speed of the threatened cuts to Alaska’s budget were highly unusual, and university leaders warned they will have to take drastic cost-cutting measures if the Legislature does not act to override the governor’s veto.

But not as well-known is the fact that elsewhere in the U.S., another public university system is facing cuts of a similar magnitude, and on a similar, albeit somewhat longer, time frame. The appropriation for the University of Puerto Rico's operating expenses was slashed by $86 million this year, to about $501 million, following on a $44 million cut the year before that and a $203 million cut the year before that.

A fiscal plan for the university certified by the island’s Financial Oversight and Management Board in June calls for the appropriation to continue to fall over the next several years, so that by fiscal year 2022 it will be under $400 million, 56 percent lower than the $879 million baseline figure at which the Puerto Rican government historically funded the university's operations.

Professors say the cuts being imposed by the government and the financial oversight board -- which was established by Congress to oversee the U.S. territory's finances as it confronts a $123 billion debt crisis -- are straining faculty and staff resources and imperiling access for students.

The president of UPR, Jorge Haddock, disagrees, and argues that the cuts have not affected academic quality or access to the institution. The university's accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, in June reaffirmed accreditation for all 11 of UPR's campuses after having placed them on show-cause directives requiring them to provide evidence of compliance with various standards, including those relating to adequacy of financial resources and financial monitoring and reporting.

Appropriation Cuts and Tuition Hikes

Professors say the deep cuts to UPR's government appropriations and hikes in tuition will jeopardize the primary engine for social mobility and economic growth for the island, which -- in addition to facing a financial crisis -- is still recovering from the extensive damage wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

"They're destroying the source of professionals, the source that is going to sustain the local economy, but they’re not interested in building the economy of the island. They're trying to privatize everything on the island," said Charles R. Venator-Santiago, an associate professor of political science at the University of Connecticut and executive director and president-elect of the Puerto Rican Studies Association.

In November the association's leadership issued an open letter expressing "alarm at the draconian budget cuts being imposed on the University of Puerto Rico by the Fiscal Oversight Management Board (FOMB) with the acquiescence of government and university authorities." The letter argued that the cuts to Commonwealth support "will endanger the future of the island’s premier institution of higher education."

“It’s becoming harder and harder to maintain the level of excellence that we need at the university,” said Angel Rodriguez, the president of the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors. Rodriguez estimates that the university has lost about 40 percent of its professors from attrition over the past decade. In that same time frame, enrollment has decreased by about 9,000 students, from about 64,000 to 55,000, as the island's population has fallen.

While there have not been program closures or terminations, faculty say they are feeling the effects of faculty and staff lost through attrition who are not replaced.

“The objective is to shrink the public university and to make it less competitive,” said Isar Godreau, a researcher at the UPR Cayey campus's Institute of Interdisciplinary Research and an anthropologist. “As faculty retire, there are no replacements, so departments keep getting smaller and smaller. Nonfaculty are also not being replaced, so the administrative processes in an already bureaucratic system have come to a status of inefficiency. It feels like they are just letting the system deteriorate on its own.”

“I can’t say I’ve seen a decrease in the quality yet, but I do see the exhaustion in my colleagues,” Godreau added. “We’re trying to keep it up in spite of everything that’s been happening.”

Meanwhile, the undergraduate tuition rate has more than doubled from $57 per credit in 2017-18 to $124 this coming academic year, and is slated to increase to $157 by fiscal year 2023. That may seem low -- and indeed by mainland U.S. standards, it is -- but professors say it must be contextualized against the median household income in Puerto Rico, which at $19,775 is about a third of the $57,652 median income across the U.S. The island’s 44.4 percent poverty level is more than three times the national average of 12.3 percent.

Natalie Jaresko, executive director of the financial oversight board, said the tuition increases were developed with the objective that the maximum annual tuition would be about $1,000 less than the maximum Pell Grant award, which sits at a little more than $6,000. The fiscal plan also calls for an expansion of need-based scholarship funds.

Jaresko said that Puerto Rico can't afford to subsidize the university at the level it historically has. In the past the Puerto Rican government contributed about 70 percent of the university's budget.

"The Commonwealth is unable at this time to make the same contribution," she said. "Given that the Commonwealth is in bankruptcy, everyone is sharing in this pain. It’s a time of right-sizing."

At the same time, Jaresko said, “UPR isn’t taking advantage of all of the opportunities it has to diversify its revenues. When you look at diversifying your revenues by increasing tuition, when you subsidize tuition, the greatest subsidy goes to the most wealthy. The idea here would be to use the resources in a way where, yes, you subsidize but you subsidize those who are in need, not those who are not in need.”

"There are other pieces," she added. "I don’t know another university that doesn’t ask its alumni for contributions. UPR has extraordinary alumni who when I meet with them either on the island or off the island they proactively comment that they have never been asked -- not to mentor students, not to take interns, not to offer financial help. UPR has been lulled into a sense of financial security in a way with this level of subsidies that hasn’t forced them to develop these other tools that are really valuable."

The fiscal plan for the university certified by the oversight board in June also discusses UPR's pension system, which according to plan is funded only at a 43-percent level. It recommends that UPR can either increase its spending on pensions and make what the board determined is "the full actuarially required" contribution of about $160 million per year -- a step that will require it to find savings in other places, likely by further increasing tuition, reducing faculty or closing some of its 11 campuses -- or that it freeze or cut retirement benefits.

The fiscal year 2020 budget certified by the financial oversight board called for the university to make $160 million in contributions to the pension plan, $80 million more than the university budgeted based on earlier projections and more than double what it paid last year. UPR said it cannot make the additional $80 million payment, which UPR President Haddock said came as an "out-of-the-blue" demand from the fiscal board.

The rightful role of the seven-member financial oversight board is a highly contested subject in Puerto Rico. Asked who has the final say on UPR's finances -- the university's governing board or the financial oversight board -- Haddock said the answer depends on whom you ask but that according to Puerto Rican law he is supposed to enact the budget set by the governing board. Jaresko said that in refusing to adhere to the budget certified by the financial oversight board the university is not complying with Promesa, the 2016 federal law that established the financial oversight mechanism for agencies on the island.

"We don’t have the money on top of the $86 million cuts -- now they want us to add another $80 million contribution. It's almost like they want to hurt us," Haddock said.

“I don’t know where they think we can get this money, because it would have to come from further cuts.”

"Essential Service"

Haddock said that the university has responsibly managed the cuts without suffering any damage to its academic programs.

"It has not caused any damage on the academic quality or the academic programs," he said. "We have not cut one single program because of the budget cuts, and we have continued to increase the quality based on the rankings, and based on the feedback from Middle States in the accreditation process."

Haddock said the university is seeing increased revenues from federal grants and from other sources. "We’re looking at all this new income and then the savings are in nonacademic areas that do not affect our academic deliveries directly," he said. "We have savings on power, electricity, we have savings on paper -- we’re moving towards paperless. We also have attrition in nonacademic personnel. There alone the reduction [in this year's budget] was $40 million." At the same time, he said, the budget calls for increasing faculty by 3 percent per year.

"It's obvious," he said, "that there was room for savings."

Haddock said that after the projected cuts to appropriations are phased in, the university still stands to derive about 40 percent of its budget from central government appropriations (or, to be more precise per the fiscal plan, 38 percent).

"As a president, of course I would love to have more money from everywhere from every source," Haddock said. "But I think that we’re still one of the best-funded state universities in the U.S. Forty percent -- that doesn’t exist in many universities any longer."

Though Haddock argues that the cuts have been managed so as to not damage academics, others assert that the cuts have contributed to reductions to the full-time faculty workforce. In May testimony to a congressional committee, Ana Cristina Gómez Pérez, a professor of law at UPR’s Rio Piedras campus and a coordinator of the budget committee for the University Board, an advisory board consisting of campus administrators, faculty and students, said the university has frozen hiring for tenure-track positions in favor of hiring part-time adjunct lecturers. She said that as of Dec. 31, 746 full-time professor positions were frozen. (The UPR president's office was unable to verify the figure or provide requested data on faculty attrition and changes in full-time versus part-time faculty prior to deadline.)

Speaking on behalf of the University Board (which is a separate entity than the UPR governing board), Gómez Pérez called on Congress to amend Promesa to classify UPR as an “essential service” and to guarantee funding of at least $800 million a year.

“Within the context of this crisis and the aftermath of the hurricanes, the University of Puerto Rico is the only institution that can provide the island with the platform for recovery and restructuring,” Gómez Pérez said in her written testimony. “Currently, the University of Puerto Rico has a diverse array of research and projects aimed to recovery in the areas of health, education, safety and renewable energy, among others. It is also the first and only public institution of higher education in the island and custodian of its cultural heritage. Moreover, it has the best graduation rates compared to other higher education institutions of the island. We believe that the FOMB is misguided in its conception and designing of the fiscal austerity measures of the University of Puerto Rico.”

"We have an austerity-on-steroids problem, but we also have the problem of not being fairly represented at the governmental or institutional level," said Godreau. "We have a representative in Congress that has no vote. Puerto Rican people cannot vote in the election for president. Seven unelected members of the fiscal control board are imposing these measures, these policies, and they have power over the governor, over the Legislature, finances. Who tells these seven members that they can't impose these measures?"

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Top Education Department official discusses focus on public-facing data rather than regulation

Thu, 2019-07-11 07:00

BALTIMORE -- So far the Trump administration’s take on trying to hold colleges more accountable has relied largely on releasing more public-facing data about their performance at the program level, while also deregulating and dropping sanction-bearing rules from the Obama era.

The U.S. Department of Education’s top higher education official, Diane Auer Jones, the principal deputy under secretary, described this approach on Wednesday at an event held here by Inside Higher Ed on the future of public higher education.

“Our philosophy on accountability is that government has an obligation to make data and information available to consumers. But we don’t think government knows better than an individual what is right for that individual,” she said. “People should know what the outcomes might be so that they borrow responsibly. But somebody who’s interested in philosophy should still pursue philosophy, and somebody who’s interested in welding should pursue welding.”

In May the department updated the College Scorecard, for the first time including preliminary data on student loan debt at the academic program level. More is on the way for the consumer tool created by the Obama administration, Jones said, including annual earnings of graduates one year after college and data on college debt held by parents, such as through Parent PLUS loans.

The administration has reached out to the private sector for help with the updated Scorecard. “We’ve been working with Google, because one thing I know is that Google will do it better than the government can do it,” Jones said. “So we will have a student-facing website. But if we really want data usable by students, Google’s going to do a much better job.”

Jones reiterated the department’s caveats about the Scorecard's new data being preliminary and still a work in progress. She said the plan is to publish a limited amount of high-value metrics for students and parents, but to also release much more for researchers to use.

"You have to start somewhere," she said. "We had a decision to make -- do you wait until you have the perfect site to put data out or do you put it out as you get it? And we’re putting it out as we get it."

The Scorecard is a welcome step toward more transparency in higher education, said F. King Alexander, president of the Louisiana State University system, who joined Jones as a participant in the panel discussion.

“We spent 40 years without providing any information to anybody. And we know more about used cars we bought,” Alexander said.

In the Great Recession’s wake, Alexander said, students and parents started asking more about college outcomes. Yet the new data haven’t come easily.

“It was a fight the last 10 years to get the Scorecard up,” said Alexander, adding that trade groups for higher education, private colleges and for-profits “fought it every step of the way.”

Carrots, Sticks and Performance Funding

Many have criticized the Trump administration for dropping the gainful-employment rule, which the Obama administration largely aimed at for-profit institutions and designed to punish colleges where relatively large shares of graduates were unable to repay their student loans. Likewise, some say the department’s recently concluded rule making on accreditation gives those agencies too much latitude to avoid punishing low-performing colleges.

Jones defended the move toward relying more on transparency and the market than on regulations. And she said the executive action on accreditation creates a higher standard of accountability, in part because it gives colleges more time to correct problems.

“We think we have better tools, because we will have tools that look at every program at every institution, so it won’t just be a subset,” she said. “We are hoping that carrots work, and that transparency works.”

She also said federal regulations come with a cost to colleges.

“We’re trying to figure out how to responsibly reduce the regulation to the big things, which is the student experience, so that you can shift more of your resources to students and faculty,” said Jones.

The feds won’t be tying college aid to outcomes at the program or college level under this administration, Jones said. But such policies currently are on the books in roughly 35 states, which have linked a portion of support for public colleges to metrics such as graduation and retention rates, numbers of degrees issued, and, increasingly, attempts to measure equity, such as enrollment levels of students who are low income or from minority groups.

Alexander said the move toward performance funding in the states began shortly before 1980, when legislatures began disinvesting in public colleges by failing to keep pace with enrollment gains.

“We’ve never seen new money. We’re fighting over a constrained set of money,” he said. “We’ll meet some of these new standards. We will do these things. The problem is not that we’re having to do it. The problem is that we’re allowing state legislators to avoid their responsibility.”

Kate Shaw, executive director of Research for Action and a speaker at the session, agreed with Alexander that states generally are failing on their side of the bargain.

“States are backing away from their responsibility to higher education,” she said.

However, Shaw, who is a former state-level higher education executive officer in Pennsylvania and whose organization studies performance funding for colleges, said so-called outcomes-based funding formulas -- when well designed -- have created important incentives and bargaining power in statehouses for public colleges.

“Until outcomes funding came around, no higher education [institution] was accountable to anybody, and state legislators and policy makers knew it,” said Shaw. She also said the formulas can identify inequity in systems and colleges.

Alexander said graduation rates have been overused as an accountability tool.

“I can get our graduation rate up: you turn away the low-income kids and you turn away the males. I know the numbers,” he said. “If you’re going to use a rate, you better use how many are graduating, how many graduates are you putting in the economy for the good of the local region and the state, and are they increasing their number of low-income students, who are the ones who need higher ed the most.”

Shaw agreed that performance funding should include a broad, nuanced set of metrics. But she said colleges with selective admissions typically are the ones that can game performance formulas.

“Most institutions in this country don’t have the luxury of cherry-picking,” said Shaw.

While the Trump administration won’t use the Scorecard to set bright lines for colleges, it could be done, said Jones, perhaps successfully.

“I’m sure that there will be researchers out there who use College Scorecard data to come up with a formula that would be a pass-fail line,” said Jones. “There are going to be people out there doing it. It’s not going to be us. It could be a future administration. It could be researchers.”

‘Supplement or Supplant’

Jones said the Obama administration undertook an interesting experiment by allocating new money to community colleges, specifically through a $2 billion grant program. The question, she said, was whether the funding would “supplement or supplant” state support.

“What we saw was, in many cases, it didn’t supplement,” she said. “How do you put federal resources out in such a way that it doesn’t gives states the excuse to just pull more money out of higher ed? Because the federal resource isn’t always going to be there. This idea that we prime the pump so that states take over just kind of hasn’t worked so well.”

Alexander said that in K-12 policy, the feds have included “supplant” clauses, and he argued for the creation of federal-state partnerships that incentivize states to better fund public colleges. If that doesn’t happen soon, he said, several states in coming years will stop supporting public higher education entirely.

“We created a federal voucher system with no accountability,” he said. “States started figuring out that they could pull their money out, and let the institutions raise tuition and fees, and they could get re-elected by not raising taxes.”

The Trump administration has spent much of its energy on higher education reversing the Obama administration’s take on accountability and regulation. And a future Democratic White House is likely to go the opposite direction.

Jones was asked how college leaders should plan amid the regulatory whiplash.

“If you are focused on serving your students well, and making sure that employers in your community want to hire your students, you will survive almost any shift in political focus,” she said.

“Regardless of political party, we have different ideas about how to get there, but what we all agree upon is that we want schools to be serving their students to the best of their ability,” said Jones. “And we know it’s what you want as well. If you always keep that in mind, you’re going to be fine.”

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Indiana lecturer under scrutiny for alleged verbal abuse of mentally disabled employee

Thu, 2019-07-11 07:00

This article contains explicit and potentially offensive terms that are essential to reporting on this situation.

A biology lecturer at Indiana University Bloomington has gained criticism for using derogatory language toward an intellectually disabled restaurant employee, prompting a petition calling for an investigation of the incident.

A video circulated on social media Monday apparently depicting Claire Nisonger, a senior lecturer of biology at IU Bloomington, becoming confrontational with an intellectually disabled employee at McDonald's. The video has since been removed from Facebook, where it was originally posted. The original poster of the video said Nisonger called the employee a “stupid retard” during the confrontation. Nisonger allegedly also verbally accosted another intellectually disabled individual who was in the customer line. The video has been taken down from Facebook, apparently for violating rules regarding bullying.

The incident prompted condemnation from the IU Neurodiversity Coalition. The group defines neurodiverse individuals as individuals with autism, dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia, Tourette’s syndrome and other conditions. The group started a petition shortly after to call on the university’s Board of Trustees to investigate the incident, and it issued a statement affirming “the value that neurodiverse individuals bring to our campus and our community.”

The petition also called for the board to “ensure that no neurodiverse IU students will be subjected to abuse by Ms. Nisonger by immediately removing her from all interactions with IU students and taking all necessary measures to ensure that any future interactions Ms. Nisonger may have with IU students will not include hate speech or abuse toward neurodiverse people.”

A spokesperson said in an emailed statement the university was gathering more information about the incident.

“Indiana University is aware of the off-campus incident involving an IU employee and the associated social media response,” said Rebecca Carl, university spokesperson. “University leaders have heard from individuals engaged in or concerned about the matter and are taking steps to learn more.”

A request for comment from Nisonger was not returned. Nisonger posted on the IU Neurodiversity Coalition’s Facebook page issuing an apology for the incident.

“I regret that my use of the term ‘retarded’ offended people. I did not abbreviate it and it was not directed at the cashier on duty,” Nisonger wrote. “I had no intention of offending people and sincerely apologize. I should note that I have received a number of awards for my work with diversity groups at IU over the years. Look at my whole record.”

Members of the Neurodiversity Coalition chose not to accept Nisonger’s apology after nearly two hours of internal debate, according to the group’s faculty adviser, Nejla Routsong. Routsong is a visiting lecturer in IU Bloomington’s Kelley School of Business.

“We discussed pretty passionately for a few hours, but finally we agreed that her apology wasn’t a real apology,” Routsong said. “I thought that she hadn’t fully absorbed the impact of her actions on the person in question who she abused and moreover on our community. This is obviously a triggering event for our community, and there’s a reason people are so upset by this. It’s not just this one incident -- it's one symptom of behavior that happens way too much in our society.”

The Neurodiversity Coalition had just formed at Indiana University in April and only recently set up a Facebook page, hoping to become a more active organization in the upcoming fall semester. However, Routsong said the event involving Nisonger has motivated the group to take action. Routsong said she believed this issue was an “aberration” among IU faculty, and she believes the university will act appropriately in response to the issue.

“I trust they’re doing a very detailed investigation, and I hope they’re getting in touch with the victim in this case, because the neurodiversity movement is really about allowing these individuals to speak for themselves and not be spoken for,” Routsong said. “This has been a time that the members of our coalition can say, ‘Now that people are listening, what do we want say?’”

The petition circulated gathered 1,300 signatures in 48 hours and is still gaining signatures, according to the group’s Facebook page.

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Report details lack of accommodations for College Park students with disabilities

Thu, 2019-07-11 07:00

The bathroom in the University of Maryland, College Park’s South Campus dining hall is on the third floor, up a couple flights of steps. But students in wheelchairs can’t reach it the way most students would. They need to take a side entrance, up an elevator -- where they’ll find that the restroom door isn’t powered by an automatic opener and isn’t even large enough to accommodate some of their wheelchairs.

This is just one student testimonial in a more than 20-page report detailing deficiencies with accommodations for students with physical disabilities at College Park.

While a wheelchair lift and a new bathroom are being installed at the South Campus dining hall, the report lists many more examples of inaccessible bathrooms and buildings at the state’s flagship institution, as well as crosswalks without the necessary ramps for wheelchairs. The report does not discuss technology accommodations.

While colleges and universities in many cases are keen to help students with their individual accommodations, campuswide projects that help students with physical disabilities are sometimes lacking, despite requirements by the federal Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

“As accessibility standards have changed over time, we will continue to evaluate the campus landscape and facilities,” Natifia Mullings, a College Park spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Our aim is to address accessibility concerns so that we can create an inclusive campus for all students, faculty and staff.”

The report was created by Adith Thummalapalli, a student who uses a wheelchair. Thummalapalli, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment, was almost unable to get to his classes in the J. M. Patterson building for weeks earlier this year when the elevator there went down for maintenance. Thummalapalli would need to call a representative in Facilities Management, who would meet him at the elevator, pry open the doors by hand and take him up. Thummalapalli was unaware the elevator was being fixed when the semester began. The university has since changed its protocol to notify Accessibility and Disability Service of all maintenance around campus.

The Student Government Association took notice of Thummalapalli’s work and passed a resolution to publish the report and use its findings to push the administration to make the campus more accessible. Student government representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Mullings said that the report was “reviewed” -- she did not elaborate how or by whom -- and said, “We want to hear from members of the community who are experiencing accessibility issues on campus so that we can better understand their current accessibility needs and concerns.”

In addition to the inaccessible bathroom at the South Campus hall, the report identifies problematic restrooms in several academic building, as well as the Adele H. Stamp Student Union and McKeldin Library. Mullings said at least one new accessible bathroom is being created -- in the biology/psychology building.

The report also found that at least 10 campus crosswalks lacked at least one of the ramps that enable people using wheelchairs to safely navigate from the sidewalk onto a roadway.

At least four dormitories on the campus are also not accessible, the report states. The buildings, which are on the south side of campus, all opened in the 1940s (as most of the buildings on campus did) and take advantage of an exception with ADA standards -- they are thus legally compliant.

But the report states that it is “morally deceptive” to call them accessible. At one, Kent Hall, only a side entrance in the basement doesn’t have stairs leading to the door.

“No infrastructural changes can really be made in these old buildings, but UMD should not claim that they are ADA-accessible when so many other buildings actually deserve that designation,” the report reads.

Many of the issues the report identifies have also been tracked in the university’s ADA Transition Plan, which the law requires. Institutions must identify barriers for students with disabilities and then develop a strategy for how to eliminate those barriers. The university’s initial plan was prepared in 2000 and updated most recently in 2016.

From 2013 to 2016, the university spent more than $2 million on physical improvements to the campus, largely in restroom upgrades. Officials intend to spend at least $43 million on construction for disability accommodations, again mostly on bathrooms and elevators.

Some on the campus have praised the university administration for helping students with physical disabilities -- specifically for the “Will You Stand Up for Me?” campaign out of the college’s Department of Transportation that encouraged bus riders to move from their seats for people who needed them most. But other students have been more critical.

In the campus newspaper, The Diamondback, one student, Liyanga de Silva, wrote that “people with disabilities shouldn’t be an afterthought.”

She was particularly harsh on the administration for Thummalapalli’s encounter with the elevators. De Silva wrote that the College Park campus is already hard to navigate because it’s so large and hilly. But she wrote that the issues with Thummalapalli illustrate a much larger problem.

“Why didn’t anyone consider the impact an elevator outage would have on Thummalapalli and other students who use wheelchairs? It seems like a pretty logical conclusion to make, but because no one made it, students with disabilities were treated as an afterthought,” she wrote.

“I appreciate Facilities Management’s attempts to accommodate Thummalapalli by telling him that if he needed the elevator, an employee would come and open it for him. However, even that backup plan meant he could still be 10 to 15 minutes later to his class than his able-bodied classmates. A simpler solution to this issue is better communication between the parties and departments involved.”

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New Chinese model for higher education

Thu, 2019-07-11 07:00

Some Chinese universities are switching to a hybrid model of combined academic and vocational education as the country grapples with its unique demographic challenges as well as graduate employability problems akin to those afflicting higher education sectors elsewhere.

Universities and vocational colleges in about 10 Chinese provinces are piloting the “1+X” system, whereby students emerge with both academic degrees and a cluster of vocational certificates, under a plan that could see hundreds of undergraduate institutions assume a more applied focus by 2022.

The pilot, which started in March, is part of a broader pivot from higher to vocational education unveiled in February. The government has committed 100 billion yen ($15 billion) from the country’s unemployment insurance fund to overhaul vocational education teaching and facilities, upgrade the skills of a reported 15 million people -- including recruiting a million additional vocational students this year alone -- and tackle a mind-set that vocational education is inferior to university study.

The plans illustrate not only the scale of reform in China but also the pace at which it can unfold, and the way in which demographics, economics, culture and labor-force needs can collide to force a deflection in social policy.

The Chinese Ministry of Education’s director of vocational and adult education, Wang Jiping, said that while vocational and academic education were different, they had “the same important status,” according to the translation of a government-sanctioned press conference transcript.

The focus on vocational education has emerged amid record university graduations, with 8.34 million Chinese obtaining degrees this year -- 140,000 more than in 2018 and about two million more than in 2010, according to Tsinghua University education researcher Zhou Zhong.

However, international education market intelligence site ICEF Monitor reported that the pool of jobs per graduate was shrinking, while the South China Morning Post recounted survey findings that graduates were competing for “a dwindling number of vacancies” in an economy struggling to sustain growth amid the trade war with the U.S.

In comments reported by business news channel CNBC, China’s top economic planning body said that domestic companies were cutting their intake of new university graduates. “Recruitment demand for university graduates is tightening in internet, finance and other industries,” said the statement from the National Development and Reform Commission. It said that some companies had reduced, postponed or suspended their campus recruiting efforts.

People without degrees are also finding it tougher to get jobs, according to the chair of Australian studies at Peking University, Pookong Kee.

Meanwhile, China is grappling with a dwindling pool of workers. China’s working-age population shrank by almost 3 percent between 2011 and 2018, according to a report compiled by the Australian embassy in Beijing, and now accounts for about 65 percent of the country’s population -- with projections that this will have slumped to 57 percent by 2030.

Kee said that during festivals such as Chinese New Year, when workers returned to their home provinces, factories closed down for lack of technicians. “As China upgrades its manufacturing and other industries, they are looking for people with high skills,” he said.

But a “strong social stigma” had developed against training for such jobs in China and nearby South Korea, where a Confucian approach militated against vocational education. This attitude “places a premium on university,” he said.

Kee said that new workers in some technical areas now commanded higher salaries than university graduates. Nevertheless, parents did not want their children working as technicians.

“Everybody wants their kids to go to the top universities,” he said, adding that the 1+X system -- with its job-delivering vocational certificates as well as its face-saving degree -- was a cultural as well as practical solution.

While information is sketchy on the number of universities offering 1+X, the Australian Embassy said those that embraced the model would be rebadged as “universities of applied sciences.” Reports on government websites do not specify how many institutions are expected to sign up, but participation this year is not limited to the officially sanctioned pilot regions.

Zhong said that the ministry planned to “scale up” to more regions in 2020 and to introduce the model throughout China’s higher vocational colleges, which collectively account for 53 percent of the country’s higher education institutions. She added, “The plan is to have all [the colleges], if not yet all of their programs, adopt the model in 2022.

“The Ministry of Education’s increased funding and rapid expansion of vocational education sends a signal to the Chinese people about [its] growing value.”

Zhong said that China’s tertiary gross enrollment rate was expected to reach 50 percent in 2020. “For those who go [into] the labor market after undergraduate education, there is increased need to distinguish themselves,” she added.

“The 1+X qualification may well differentiate the bearers from those who only have academic degrees from general higher education institutions.”

Hiroshima University education researcher Futao Huang said that Chinese universities would inevitably become more practically oriented if higher education enrollments continued to rise.

He said that the government’s plan would also foster utilization of vocational colleges -- some of which have reportedly been at 30 percent capacity -- by focusing on employability, strengthening ties with industry and creating “more flexible pathways” for their graduates.

Zhong said that the government also planned to widen vocational colleges’ admissions from the traditional intake of high school leavers to include retired servicemen, laid-off workers and migrants from rural areas.

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U of Alaska's accreditor warns that funding cuts could threaten system's status

Wed, 2019-07-10 07:00

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities is warning Alaska legislators that a 41 percent cut to the state university system’s budget could threaten its accreditation status.

“I write today to share my concern over the proposed reduction in funding, and urge you and your colleagues to ensure the University of Alaska campuses are provided adequate funding to continue the delivery of high-quality public education to the citizens of Alaska,” Sonny Ramaswamy, the commission's president, wrote in a letter to the Alaska Legislature. “Failure to properly fund these institutions could have disastrous effects, including the potential loss of accreditation, that could be felt for generations. I urge you to please reconsider this year’s drastic budget reductions being proposed.”

Other groups have urged Alaska’s Legislature to override a $130 million system budget veto by Republican governor Mike Dunleavy. Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, for example, wrote to the Alaska Legislature earlier this week, “I understand that Alaska is grappling with tough decisions and weighing competing priorities. But gutting the state’s universities is a short-term step in the wrong direction, one that would trigger a series of damaging long-term aftershocks to the state’s social fabric and economic future.”

Still, the commission’s intervention is unusual in that accreditors typically do not weigh in on state budget and policy debates. Ramaswamy’s letter is a sign of the scale of the cuts.

Abel Bult-Ito, president of Alaska’s American Federation of Teachers and American Association of University Professors-affiliated faculty union, said in a statement that when the commission sends a letter to the Alaska Legislature “to address concerns about the effects of a $135 million cut to the university on the accreditation of our three separately accredited universities, we should all pay attention.”

Ramaswamy said that the proposed 41 percent reduction in state funding to Alaska’s public institutions poses “material and significant risk to the quality of education provided to the students within those institutions.” If student success and achievement “are demonstrably affected, it could potentially jeopardize the accreditation status of these institutions.”

Regulatory agencies and others “recognize that accredited institutions offer universally accepted degrees and programs,” Ramaswamy added, saying that only students at accredited institutions are eligible for federal aid and grants.

Of course, losing federal funding is a worst-case scenario for any institution.

Mitchell added that like “all state university systems, Alaska’s specializes in research and education in areas unique to its state’s needs, such as, in your case, fisheries, mining, petroleum and natural-resource development.” And “all of those programs will suffer if these cuts are made.”

State lawmakers are meeting this week to decide whether to override Dunleavy’s budget cuts, which go beyond those to higher education. The governor has said that the statewide cuts are for the health of the Alaska Permanent Fund, which provides state residents a dividend based on oil revenue.

University of Alaska president Jim Johnsen argued for an override even before Dunleavy's veto. He explained in a local op-ed that the Legislature had already passed a budget that included a "reasonable $5 million general fund reduction" for the university system.

“Make no mistake,” he continued, that the university “cannot absorb an additional, substantial reduction in state general funds without abruptly halting numerous student career pathways midstream, eliminating services or shutting down community campuses or universities.” An additional reduction of even $10 million, on top of the $51 million in cuts the system has endured previously, “will mean the discontinuation of programs and services with little or no notice, and that in turn will have ripple effects, damaging UA’s ability to generate revenue and causing even greater harm across the state.” One or more universities might be forced to close, he also said.

The system has already frozen hiring and all travel and is lobbying for a veto override. It will require the support of 45 legislators out of 60 total.

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Texas becomes second state to require FAFSA completion

Wed, 2019-07-10 07:00

In a bid to boost the number of students receiving financial support for college, Texas will soon become the second state to require high school seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid before graduating.

A handful of states have looked at making FAFSA completion mandatory for graduating high school students. Beginning with the 2020-21 academic year, Texas will provide a serious test case for the policy after big successes in Louisiana, which enacted the requirement last year.

Completing the form is a leading indicator of college enrollment. And there’s ample evidence that more financial aid is associated with outcomes like college completion. Actually achieving big gains in FAFSA completion, though, requires significant investment and outreach by schools and state officials.

During the past academic year, Louisiana saw FAFSA completions by high school students climb by more than 25 percent. College access groups say high school seniors leave millions of aid dollars on the table each year by not completing the form -- often because it’s too difficult or they don’t believe they’ll qualify for aid.

“As the forerunner of this kind of policy, the early successes that Louisiana has seen with mandatory FAFSA has to be encouraging for other states,” said Bill DeBaun, director of data and evaluation at the National College Access Network. “We shouldn’t assume Texas will see the same effects Louisiana did. But given the scale of the state, even a modest effect could make a big splash on the FAFSA completion cycle.”

If Texas has 25 percent of the growth Louisiana saw in FAFSA completions, that would mean an additional 12,700 students submit the application, DeBaun said.

According to numbers from NCAN, Louisiana ranks first among all states this financial aid cycle, with a completion rate of 78.7 percent. Texas ranks a distant 31, with a completion rate of 55.2 percent.

The complexity of the FAFSA application has come under increasing scrutiny at the federal level. Senate lawmakers negotiating a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act have identified a streamlined application as a top priority.

The Education Department in recent years has rolled out changes designed to simplify FAFSA completion, like the IRS data retrieval tool and the use of prior-prior year family income. But only Congress could alter the application itself.

Sujuan Boutte, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, said the complexity of the form remains the biggest obstacle for students and parents, whether or not a state requires completion.

“It’s not just going to happen. There are going to have to be strategies in place,” she said.

In Louisiana, that meant a multipronged approach to FAFSA completion backed by funding from the Kresge Foundation. The organization worked one on one with students during the school day and with parents in the evening on completing separate portions of the application. It also launched a peer support program where current college students assisted high school seniors in completing the form.

The organization also used automated phone messages to remind parents about completing the form. And it offered financial vouchers for students to purchase items like a graduation cap and gown if they completed the form.

Boutte said school officials also have to be there to assist students even after the FAFSA is submitted -- many need assistance making sense of financial aid offers when deciding on a college.

In Louisiana, students can get certain waivers to the requirement. The same is true under the Texas law. A parent or student aged 18 or older can opt out. A school counselor can grant a waiver for good cause. And students can also fulfill the obligation by completing the Texas Application for State Financial Aid.

There are still details to be worked out in how the requirement would work in practice on Texas high school campuses. The Texas Education Agency will appoint an advisory committee to develop expectations for those campuses.

High school counselors for the most part don’t track whether students have submitted a FAFSA, said Lesa Pritchard, president-elect of the Texas School Counselor Association and executive director of student support services at Boerne Independent School District outside San Antonio.

“I don’t know what tool there is going to be for tracking it,” she said.

Colleges in the state can currently track FAFSA completion; school counselors can’t.

They’re also already tasked with a number of compliance activities -- students in the state must receive CPR instruction and training on how to interact with a police officer before graduating high school. Both requirements must be documented on a student’s transcript.

“We need a lot more students to get a postsecondary education,” said Pritchard. “If this will help, obviously we’re game for that.”

Some states, like Colorado, have begun sharing FAFSA completion records with high school counselors, noted Nick Hillman, an associate professor of educational leadership at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. With few states seriously scaling up their student aid programs, boosting FAFSA completion may be the most effective way to get more financial support to college students who need it, he said.

Research strongly suggests more financial aid can lead to improvements in graduation rates and other outcomes.

“I prefer states do this over financial literacy requirements,” Hillman said. “There’s a lot of good evidence behind this.”

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