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First-of-Its-Kind ACE Report Finds MSI Completion Rates Higher Than Federal Data Indicate

American Council on Education - 7 hours 36 min ago
A paper released by ACE utilizes data from the National Student Clearinghouse to examine enrollment and outcomes at MSIs, painting a more complete picture of the contributions MSIs make to the communities they serve.

Ted Mitchell will be the American Council on Education's next president

Inside Higher Ed - 8 hours 53 min ago

The next leader of the American Council on Education will be Ted Mitchell, who in January wrapped up an eventful and influential stint as the top higher education official in the Obama administration’s Education Department.

The industry’s chief lobbying organization said this week that Mitchell will replace Molly Broad, ACE's first woman leader, who will retire in October after a nine-year tenure.

Mitchell’s hire is sure to turn heads, and not just because he’s a former Obama official who takes the reins at a time when Republicans dominate both Washington and state capitols.

Many in higher education and beyond view Mitchell as an accessible and pragmatic straight shooter. But his career has been more wide-ranging than that of his predecessors at ACE, who tend to have left prominent college presidencies shortly before taking the job.

Previous occupations for Mitchell include president of Occidental College; history professor; administrator at the University of California, Los Angeles; president of the California State Board of Higher Education; and CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit group with roots in the charter school movement.

As a result, his range of fans and critics is as varied as his CV.

For example, when Obama appointed Mitchell under secretary three years ago, The Nation, a liberal magazine, criticized his “strong ties” to education technology companies and to what it called his efforts to privatize public education, warning darkly that he might not be a champion of the Obama administration’s attempts to crack down on for-profit colleges.

Yet the month after his arrival at the Education Department, Mitchell was involved in the administration’s move to sanction Corinthian Colleges, which contributed to the controversial for-profit chain’s collapse. He then had the unenviable task of overseeing the federal government’s response to the aftermath, including how best to help scores of thousands of students who took on debt to attend Corinthian institutions. He played a similar role in the demise last year of ITT Technical Institutes.

While some for-profit industry officials initially praised Mitchell, those opinions changed as the Obama administration accelerated its crackdown on the sector, with the under secretary playing a visible role throughout.

Likewise, Mitchell contributed to the unsuccessful White House push to create a federal ratings system for colleges (one tied to federal aid). While that project began well before his arrival, he was often at odds with ACE and other industry groups, particularly ones representing private colleges, which generally resisted the ratings system.

In one unusual spat between a Democratic administration and the higher education lobby, Arne Duncan, the education secretary at the time, called out ACE for criticizing data systems that would undergird the ratings -- an argument by the group that rankled the administration and others because ACE typically has resisted the collection of more student-level data by the federal government.

So as word got out of Mitchell being a finalist for the top job at ACE, some observers wondered whether he would stick to his guns on calling for more accountability in higher education.

In an interview, Mitchell said the focus on student outcomes by policy makers isn’t going to change. But he said getting those policies right takes a nuanced approach.

“It’s complicated to do,” said Mitchell. As a result, he said it was the right move for the department to shift from a “strict” ratings system to the more flexible approach the administration eventually took by instead releasing bulked-up and more accessible information about colleges’ performance. He praised ACE’s input for contributing to that shift.

When asked about his ability to work with Republicans, Mitchell said his focus has always been policy, not politics.

“I’m not and never pretended to be a politician,” he said. “I’ve had good working relationships on both sides of the aisle.”

Innovation and Accountability

Lawmakers tend to find more bipartisan agreement on higher education than on other issues, said Mitchell. And he cited ACE’s work to identify possible areas for deregulation with Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who leads the Senate’s education committee, as an area of past cooperation between the industry and Republicans.

Mitchell has long been seen as an advocate for innovation in higher education. At the department he played a leadership role on several projects aimed at encouraging new approaches and even alternative providers, such as through the federal EQUIP experiment, which makes federal aid available to a limited number of partnerships between traditional colleges and unaccredited institutions such as skills boot camps and online course providers.

ACE also has prodded the industry on innovation, such as through its embrace of massive open online courses.

For a century the group has pushed to expand opportunities for underserved student populations, Mitchell said, such as its longstanding efforts to help student veterans to earn college credits for their service in the U.S. military.

“ACE has been doing the work of innovation throughout its history,” he said.

The group’s track record of late, however, has been mixed.

Broad, who came to ACE after leading the University of North Carolina system, has seen a string of her high-profile hires leave after short stints, with many of the quickest departures having worked on innovation-related projects.

While observers say the group remains active and often effective on higher education policy, some think its influence has waned.

The arrival of Mitchell, who has been doing some consulting work for ACE, will excite some in higher education who would like to see a more assertive role for the group.

Paul LeBlanc is president of Southern New Hampshire University and a member of ACE’s board. He said Mitchell’s hire reflects a desire by the board to “broaden the narrative” as higher education continues to experience an enormous amount of scrutiny, including on rising tuition and student debt levels and concerns about the value of college credentials in the work force.

“There’s a foundation there, perhaps an underrated one,” he said of the group. “We need a vibrant ACE that can be a central voice.”

LeBlanc described Mitchell, with whom he worked during a brief stint as an adviser at the Education Department, as being “better suited” than almost anyone to straddle divides between innovation and accountability.

The policy environment also has changed in recent years, LeBlanc said.

“The movement toward data is inexorable,” he said. “It’s going to happen.”

Mitchell said he will overlap with Broad for a month. He’ll have plenty to keep him busy during the transition, citing the group’s advocacy on hot issues like the consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and funding for the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Job one, he said, will be to ensure that ACE has sufficient resources for its policy work. And a big part of that equation is the expertise and clout that come from its members, which include roughly 1,800 college presidents and leaders from other higher education organizations.

“The strength of ACE lives in the diversity of their members,” Mitchell said.

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Historically black colleges, universities still need work on LGBTQ issues

Inside Higher Ed - 10 hours 37 min ago

WASHINGTON -- In a speech to presidents, chancellors and leaders of historically black colleges and universities, a Georgia congressman told them what has already been widely acknowledged -- that their institutions historically have been slow to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.

The message from Representative Henry Johnson, a Democrat, was not a critical one, nor a rebuke, but a call for campus culture at HBCUs to improve for these students, to stamp out homophobia and develop resources for them.

Administrators attending the event where Johnson spoke Wednesday, the first-ever HBCU summit organized by the largest and most influential LGBTQ lobbying group, the Human Rights Campaign, said in interviews they agreed. Though their institutions to some degree have adopted pro-LGBTQ initiatives, which is why they were asked to Washington, they said continuing to do more is critical. Those historically black colleges not invited hadn't pushed much for their gay students, participants said.

Human Rights Campaign’s strategy is this: invite and pay for the leaders from the larger and more progressive of the historically black institutions to fly here, and sit them down for a daylong discussion of the benefit of LGBTQ-inclusive practices, said Leslie Hall, manager of the HBCU project for the Human Rights Campaign.

Sixteen representatives from HBCUs attended out of the close to 50 that were invited -- historically black institutions number a little more than 100. Hall picked colleges and universities with bigger student populations, but also in conservative-leaning states with perhaps unfriendly laws toward the LGBTQ community.

Hall’s hope is that the institution’s leaders who came Wednesday would model for the smaller, more old-school colleges and universities and nudge them toward inclusive measures. HRC spent roughly $15,000 on expenses for the event, including lodging, food and travel.

Hall has visited many of the HBCU campuses and said he’s found people dedicated to improving policies and the climate for LGBTQ students, but said they been tangled up in red tape -- they are willing but need to convince the presidents and governing boards.

LGBTQ students at HBCUs often seek more mental health resources in the guidance centers, said Hall, or complain frequently about requests for funding for queer student groups being rejected.

“It was important for me to shoot right for the top and bring these leaders here,” Hall said. “We are very serious that these leaders know this an important investment they need to make and expand on their campuses.”

Historically black institutions haven’t always supported the LGBTQ cause wholeheartedly, or at least have made missteps in the community. Morehouse College, an all-men’s institution, adopted a dress code in 2009 forbidding women’s clothing, which gay men on campus called a slight. And in 2007 Hampton University refused recognition for a student group there that promoted an alliance between straight students and the LGBTQ population.

About 30 percent of HBCUs have LGBTQ clubs affiliated with the universities, and only three have designated a full-time position for support of LGBTQ students -- Bowie State University, Fayetteville State University and North Carolina Central University.

Though many of the institutions in the more urban areas have dedicated space for gender-neutral bathrooms -- or, in Fayetteville State’s case, an LGBTQ center that the chancellor created by shutting down one of the dormitories -- a cultural shift is required, said Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University.

Kimbrough pointed out that many predominantly white institutions maintain spaces just for black students, but that doesn’t necessarily make them “inclusive.”

“If we aren’t dealing with the culture, these strategies of just spaces, policies, they don’t mean a thing. We have to figure out how we’re going to make a bigger engagement in changing the culture on campus. That’s what I wrestle with in mind,” he said.

At Fayetteville, Chancellor James Anderson made a public speech about changing the university’s “brand” -- it would preserve its legacy as a traditionally black institution but embrace more inclusive values. In this way, Anderson “got out in front” of more conservative alumni who might chastise him, and he could compel them to explain why the university shouldn’t be more accepting.

If the Human Rights Campaign plan doesn’t make headway, it will appeal to other institutions’ business sensibilities, Hall said -- all institutions are concerned about enrollment and graduates' ability to find jobs, both of which can be affected by negative publicity about not supporting LGBTQ students.

Traditionally, HBCUs have mulled whether their graduates will be accepted into the working world because they are people of color, said Michael Lomax, the president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund, a philanthropic group representing more than 37 private black colleges and universities.

In a session with JPMorgan Chase, a representative from the banking behemoth told leaders that graduates with experience in diversity issues are valued more, Lomax said.

“That really is a kind of different thinking for historically black colleges,” Lomax said. “I think the other issue we’re challenged now to think about is if our graduates are bringing experience and the kind of proficiency in terms of diversity and inclusion in their own behaviors and outlooks.”

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New book seeks to round out trigger warning debate with competing histories, case studies from the classroom

Inside Higher Ed - 10 hours 38 min ago

Discussions about trigger warnings now almost need trigger warnings, they’ve become so divisive. A new volume by an initially skeptical academic doesn’t settle the great trigger warning debate, but it does attempt to bring history, theory and context to it (titularly and otherwise).

Trigger Warnings: History, Theory and Context was published recently by Rowman & Littlefield. Editor Emily J. M. Knox, an assistant professor of information sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, solicited essays from as many academic Listservs as she could find, as well as from colleagues within her field of library and information sciences and on social media. Crucial to the project was a variety of perspectives on what trigger warnings are, what they mean to academe and how and whether to use them. Contributing authors include those with library and information science, communications studies, gender studies, anthropology, political science, and law backgrounds.

“I have my own feelings about trigger warnings, but I thought it was important to have a lot of different voices from different fields,” Knox told Inside Higher Ed. “The controversy over trigger warnings also always seemed somewhat ahistorical to me -- as if trigger warnings suddenly appeared on websites and then moved to college campuses. I wanted the book to provide more context for understanding the debate.”

So it does. Knox begins with her own history as someone predisposed to hating “labels” for literature. That's based on her background in library and information sciences, in which more access to information is always better. She remains “ambivalent” about trigger warnings even after editing the book, but she does describe a slight lukewarming to the idea.

Knox tells of teaching a survey course on information policy that includes a discussion of digital labor. One of the assigned readings is a bluntly titled 2014 Wired piece, “The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed.” The article describes the work of screening and censoring material for social media, performed mostly by laborers in developing nations -- many of whom suffer post-traumatic stress from looking at images such as child pornography day in and day out.

Knox didn’t offer her students a heads-up before they read the article, even though it included some graphic descriptions of the pictures in question. Did she make the right choice? She still doesn’t know; the gruesome photos were not the central part of the story -- the workers were. Yet next time she assigns the reading, she says, she will offer a heads-up that some imagery might be disturbing.

Why? “My primary research area is in intellectual freedom and censorship, and I think a lot about the power of reading and how texts can change lives. In many ways, trigger warnings are an acknowledgment of that power,” Knox said in an interview.

She added, “My basic feeling is that trigger warnings are about relationships. I want to have a good relationship with my students and I care about them, so giving a trigger warning is an important way to enact that.” At the same time, she said, she wouldn’t call it a “trigger warning” by name. That’s because the term has become “so political that I think we’ve forgotten that what we’re actually talking about is the people in our classrooms and the varied experiences that they bring with them.” (Knox also notes in her book that trigger warnings often relate to content from marginalized groups who have lived traumatic experiences -- i.e., stories that need to told and heard, not censored.)

What is a trigger warning? Knox notes that The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc. alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material.” That’s compared to “content notes,” she says, which warn the reader of material that might contain less traumatic information. Yet many people -- including some of the book’s contributors -- use the two terms interchangeably, she says.

‘Rival Histories’

The rest of the book is divided into two parts: history and theory, and case studies. Again, the former section by no means settles the debate and even presents what Knox calls “rival histories” of trigger warnings. Indeed, the book defies the now-common notion that trigger warnings originated on feminist blogs. One chapter, for example, begins with a discussion of "war neurosis" in the soldiers of ancient Greece and Rome; it argues that trigger warnings can't be understood without first understanding the history of PTSD and trauma more generally. Another chapter portrays trigger warnings as an historical human rights-oriented accommodation to those who have experienced trauma, while yet another legal analysis argues that the research on the effectiveness of trigger warnings is so thin that First Amendment arguments against them will always trump accommodation arguments for them. Several scholars, one at length, note that trigger warnings have long been used in discussions about eating disorders. Several chapters focus on the idea that trigger warnings are fundamentally about the construction of audience.

So when did they become so controversial? Bonnie Washick, a postdoctoral research associate in political science and women’s and gender studies at Illinois, argues it was “students’ advocacy of trigger warnings as a systemic solution that elevated trigger warnings to a topic of national debate.” More precisely, she says, “it was the articulation of affinities between trigger warnings as a tool of equal access and the institutionalization of the Americans With Disabilities Act; Title IX [of the Education Amendments of 1972], which bars discrimination on the basis of sex; and diversity on college campuses that made it possible to imagine that the use of trigger warnings could come to be required, expected or simply normal.”

That’s a position echoed somewhat by Barbara Jones, former director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and executive director of the Freedom to Read Foundation, in her chapter on helping write the American Association of University Professors’ statement opposing mandatory trigger warnings.

“The latest policy for creating a safe, inclusive campus environment has been trigger warnings,” Jones wrote, noting that research suggests trigger warnings are student-, not faculty-driven. “What began as a PTSD diagnosis for returning veterans and victims of violent assault has been extended … to any number of traumatic events that are very real but arguably different (for example, the undercurrent of racial bias on campus) and require different treatment.”

Policy and Practice

Jones, like several other contributors, references Oberlin College’s short-lived trigger warning guidance as a kind of cautionary tale for writing trigger warning policy (it was widely seen as too broad and potentially punitive to professors who didn’t follow it, though the college has argued it was never forced on anyone). She offers several additional points of advice for writing policy, such as preserving the U.S. tradition of academic freedom and considering that students come to college with diverse background but also that those who request trigger warnings might have deeper concerns about campus climate. Trigger warnings are just one tool among many to create an inclusive campus, she says, and “trigger warnings are a quick fix for a systemic problem.”

Ultimately, Jones says, trigger warnings “are so much like book banning. Many well-meaning people challenge books because they want to help in one small way with a contemporary problem. It might be teen suicide. It might be racism. It is their way of expressing their concern in making the world a better place.” Yet “they must be shown that censorship creates barriers for others. And to remove themselves to a safe space is a real loss to dialogue. Avoiding a topic does not make it go away. In fact, engaging in uncomfortable content, at college, where one is surrounded by peers and support groups, is the best way.”

Case studies include one of the University of Kentucky's institution-wide trigger warning for Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption, a recent pick for a common reading program for new students. The book includes a graphic firsthand account of a rape and discussions of racial discrimination, the university was concerned enough to issue a "note" to the campus. It said, in part, that Picking Cotton needs to be read and utilized on campus with great sensitivity due to the issues it raises, such as sexual assault and racial dynamics. The book carries a trigger warning." Cards saying the same were distributed in student copies of the book, and Kentucky's president, Eli Capilouto, even recorded a YouTube message about it.

Authors of the chapter, Joe C. Martin and Brandy N. Frisby, both faculty members in instructional communication at Kentucky, surveyed student and professors involved in the reading program, and the faculty members in particular had widely varied responses to the institution's warning. One professor was pragmatic, for example, saying if it helps students, it can't hurt. Another expressed concern that if a student asked for an alternate reading assignment due to a personal experience with rape, any professor would have to report the alleged assault due to mandated reporter policies applicable to faculty members.

Martin and Frisby conclude that for those working in academic contexts, "regardless of their opinion on such warnings (or even their willingness to use them at all), cannot avoid the reality of trigger warnings." While the future of trigger warnings isn't yet clear, they say, "their influence in this present moment is clearly apparent."

Pinky Hota, an assistant professor of anthropology at Smith College, meanwhile, argues that the harshest critiques of trigger warnings draw gendered connections between emotional language and the language of trauma, "thereby attempting a pejorative feminization of minority speakers who dare lay claim to pasts marked by historical oppression and reducing structural and political injury to individual pathology." She recalls the harsh criticism Smith’s students received for protesting the planned 2014 commencement address by Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, for example. After Lagarde backed out to preserve the “celebratory” spirit of the day, Hota says that students’ potentially legitimate criticisms of IMF policy were disregarded by critics who sough to portray “academic freedom and free speech as dangerously compromised on American campuses.” Ultimately, Hota doesn't endorse trigger warnings or reject them, but asks whether colleges and universities should train students to withstand "masculinist liberal ideals" against trigger warnings or instead craft new feminist pedagogical practices (which would, presumably, welcome such warnings).

Hota said via email that she wanted to contribute to Knox’s book both to play “devil’s advocate” on trigger warnings and to challenge her own thinking about them. She has the same goal for readers.

“I want people to critically interrogate their assumptions about trigger warnings as merely another symptom of the endemic vulnerability of our students, in a higher education climate characterized by the grooming of students as consumers while critiquing them for being wholly political,” she said. “I want readers to contemplate trigger warnings as the starting point of thinking of new and emergent forms of politics on campuses, that invite us to interrogate normative and long-cherished liberal ideals such as free speech.”

Kristina Ruiz-Mesa, an assistant professor of communication studies at California State University, Los Angeles, who co-wrote a chapter advocating trigger warnings, had a similar perspective -- albeit from a personal standpoint, not a political one.

“I often hear arguments claiming that trigger warnings are just another way to coddle students, and I think that this is an incredibly limited perspective,” she told Inside Higher Ed, “and one that casts instructors as toughening agents rather than educators. It’s not my job to toughen up students, it is my job to teach them. For many students, life experiences have made them tougher than we know.”

Noting that her classes include student speeches on everything from gun control to assault, Ruiz-Mesa said she sees trigger warnings “as a teaching tool to help minimize psychological noise that can disrupt student learning.”

New Books About Higher EducationEditorial Tags: TeachingIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

U of Central Florida reinstates student suspended over tweet

Inside Higher Ed - 10 hours 38 min ago

Nick Lutz, a University of Central Florida student who was recently suspended for two semesters over a tweet he posted about an ex-girlfriend, had his punishment overturned Wednesday, as coverage here and elsewhere left many criticizing both Lutz and the university.

Lutz’s tweet, which went viral, mocked the grammar of a letter his ex-girlfriend sent him, and he gave the writing and composition a D-minus. He was later suspended, drawing in lawyers who argued First Amendment and due process rights were at stake.

Lutz’s lawyer, Jacob Stuart, said that Lutz’s letter did not identify the woman in question, who is not a student at UCF. The woman had filed a cyberbullying complaint with the local sheriff's office, but prosecutors declined to move forward. Stuart also said the precedent set by the punishment would allow UCF to troll all of its students’ social media posts, and that the original findings by the disciplinary board changed after the lawyer sent an appeal, raising due process concerns. (UCF credited the change to a technical error and extended the opportunity to submit another appeal.)

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a legal advocacy group that aggressively pursues what it sees as First Amendment issues on college campuses, had been reviewing the case.

“I was really surprised and thankful for UCF taking the immediate action that they did,” said Stuart, who added that the university should be commended for its reversal. “It’s unfortunate that a lawyer was needed … that should still be concerning.”

UCF officials declined to comment, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The letter announcing the reversal of Lutz’s suspension was provided by Lutz’s lawyer, and said that a punishment could still be delivered if there were appropriate grounds identified. Lutz had been suspended for violating the student conduct code, specifically regarding bullying and disruptive conduct.

“Specifically, the charges brought forward in this case were not supported by the original documentation received,” Adrienne Otto Frame, UCF associate vice president and dean of students, said in the letter. “I hereby remand the case to the Office of Student Conduct for a new hearing with new charges, if appropriate charges are identified.”

Stuart was confident the ruling would stand.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction,” he said.

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Excess credit hour policies increase student debt

Inside Higher Ed - 10 hours 38 min ago

For years now states have been adopting various policies that work to push students to complete their degrees.

But one of those policies may be adding to student debt and harming low-income students.

A new policy analysis published by the American Educational Research Association today finds that state-adopted "excess credit hour" policies show little evidence of promoting completion and do more to increase median student debt.

Excess credit hour policies assess a tuition surcharge for any credits taken beyond a predetermined threshold. For example, Arizona charges a fee of 120 percent of the tuition rate if students cross 145 credits at four-year universities, with the assumption that most programs can be completed with 120 credits. On the other hand, Florida’s fee is 200 percent of the tuition rate if students cross 110 percent of their program of study at any of the state’s two- and four-year institutions.

The researchers found that four years after states adopted excess credit policies, overall median student debt increased between 5.7 percent and 7.2 percent. And the impact of those policies on student debt was concentrated among low- and middle-income students.

The researchers realized that student debt could be increasing in these states because of an information gap between state policy makers and individual students.

“Students are only exposed to the policy when they’re close to the threshold, and at that point, it becomes too hard to make a substantive change to their degree program,” said Dennis Kramer, a professor of higher education at the University of Florida and the report’s co-author. “These policies also shift the cost burden from the states to the individual students.”

A typical bachelor’s degree program takes 120 credit hours to achieve, but of the states with excess credit policies the fee thresholds average 145 credits, and students may not learn about the policy until they get to around 130 credit hours, Kramer said.

“We do think there is an opportunity for these policies to become enhanced by robust advising and degree planning,” he said.

But states need to find a balance between encouraging students to complete their degrees in a timely manner, while also allowing them the flexibility to explore multiple disciplines and get a liberal education, Kramer said.

“If four-year completion rates were going up and debt was going up, that may not be as bad of an outcome,” said Robert Kelchen, a professor of higher education at Seton Hall University and the report’s co-author. “But we’re not seeing an increase in completion, just debt.”

The researchers found marginal evidence that, after excess credit policies began, the six-year graduation rate for Latino students increased between 2.5 percent and 3.4 percent. However, the six-year graduation rate for black students dropped between 3.5 percent and 4.2 percent.

Other states, like Indiana, have also adopted policies to decrease students' time to completion, like the 15 to Finish model -- which pushes students to take at least 15 credits per semester, with the ultimate goal that students complete their bachelor’s degrees on time.

But there’s a difference between incentive models like 15 to Finish and those described as more punitive, like excess credit policies.

“We are completely opposed to anything that increases costs for students,” said Dhanfu Elston, vice president of strategy, guided pathways and purpose first for Complete College America, which promotes 15 to Finish. “We never want to see an environment where students are penalized or a punitive policy fails to address the issues that lead to excess credits, and that was the spirit behind 15 to Finish.”

But as more states move toward performance-funding policies and focusing on metrics and outcomes, they’re looking to use incentives as a carrot to get students to a degree.

Kelchen said 15 to Finish can become punitive for students, however, if states set policies where they lose their financial aid if they don’t achieve the 15 credits.

“But 15 to Finish doesn’t mean students finish closer to 120 credits -- they just have to take 30 credits a year to stay on track,” he said.

And students are more aware of how many credits they need to achieve a degree if they’re keeping track of them semester to semester, Kramer said, adding that a student in their first or second year of college isn’t worried about having excess credits -- that comes when they’re close to that barrier.

“We’re not advocating for these policies to go away,” Kramer said. “We’re hoping for opportunities to enhance these policies. Most higher education scholars would agree providing incentives for students to complete their degree in a timely fashion is a good thing.”

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Innovation in MBA delivery ‘top challenge’ business school leaders say

The PIE News - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 09:49

Catering to a new generation of students as well as coming up with innovative delivery methods is the biggest challenge facing MBA programs around the world, according to a recent survey of business school representatives.

Produced by the Association of MBAs and Parthenon-EY the survey of 173 business school representatives found being innovative and creative in MBA delivery was cited as the biggest challenge by business schools across all regions, but was greatest among the Americas.

Specifically schools said catering to demands of a new generation of students and staying on top of digital technology trends were the biggest challenges they face.

“A primary challenge is the younger age of the students. We have to adapt to this trend in terms of our teaching ideals and teaching objectives”

“A primary challenge is the younger age of the students. We have to adapt to this trend in terms of our teaching ideals and teaching objectives,” said a respondent in China.

Historically, offering part-time executive MBA programs for those who don’t want to break from their careers was considered delivery innovation in MBA programs, according to James Menzies, market research executive, at AMBA.

Now, business schools say there is a growing need to expand their online learning resources and learning management systems. The survey found that just over a third (36%) of business schools said they use blended learning methods with four it ten respondents saying the MBA over any other program used most blended learning techniques.

With blended learning techniques already bedded down in most business schools, the study’s interviewees said that could lead to further delivery innovation.

“In recent years, the introduction of online courses allows more students to study across the world,” noted Menzies.

Only 12% of schools from the UK offer online or distance learning while just 8% of schools in Western Europe do. Just over a quarter of schools in the Americas said they are active in this delivery method.

However, implementing and updating digital platforms is costly, said Menzies. In the Americas, 85% of business school respondents said the MBA program is profitable while just 47% of schools in the UK said the same. In Western Europe 72% of schools and in Eastern Europe 90% said the programs are cost-effective.

But, of the 18 respondents from the Americas where the need to innovate is felt most strongly, 12 did not receive funding from the state, unlike many business schools in the UK and Western Europe, said Menzies.

“Likewise, of the 18 business schools in this region that provided information on their alumni donations, eight did not receive any donations and 10 said it accounted for less than 10% of their annual funding,” he said.

Only 12% of schools from the UK offer online or distance learning while just 8% of schools in Western Europe do

“These factors could suggest as to why respondents from the Americas indicated that being innovative in MBA delivery as such a big challenge.”

All respondents said they teach more than one MBA track, with part-time two year MBAs being the most popular, offered by 70% of business schools.

The study also found that one in three MBA students on campuses across the world is international, with students from India and China each accounting for 11% of global enrolments.

However, the second biggest challenge for business schools in the field is recruiting students for programs, according to the survey results.

One interviewee in the US suggested the state of the global economy could be influencing slow recruitment phases. “Are companies hiring or not? Do people feel it’s a good time to invest in education…? Maybe I’ll do an MBA next year. Right now I’ve got a job and I’m going to stick with it.”

Read our analysis on global business schools here.

The post Innovation in MBA delivery ‘top challenge’ business school leaders say appeared first on The PIE News.

Germany: NRW confirms tuition fee proposal

The PIE News - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 06:15

The coalition CDU-FDP government in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has confirmed its intention to reintroduce tuition fees for non-EU students.

Last month, the Christian Democratic Union in the state published its coalition agreement for 2017-2022 with the Free Democratic Party outlining the plans.

Fees are being introduced to improve the teaching quality and study conditions in the state, which require additional financial resources, the party has said.

“The coalition agreement aims to improve the student-to-teacher ratio and to increase the financial resources”

However only students from non-EU countries will be required to pay the €1,500 per semester fee.

At the same time, the coalition agreement says that students from developing countries, refugees and people with special needs or social hardship will be excluded from the policy and provided with scholarship programs.

The proposal to reintroduce tuition fees is also earmarked as an additional means for the state’s 2017-2021 Higher Education Agreement, which provides universities in NRW with €250m for securing and boosting its financial framework.

“The coalition agreement aims to improve the student-to-teacher ratio and to increase the financial resources,” Ministry of Culture and Science spokesperson Verena Hoppe commented. “The plan is to reintroduce tuition fees for non-EU countries, which will be oriented on the model in Baden-Württemberg.”

The state of Baden-Württemberg reintroduced fees last year for non-EU students which excludes refugees, international students who earned their Bildungsinländer qualification in Germany, students from non-EU Erasmus member states, those with permanent residence in Europe and existing non-EU students.

The future of tuition fees in the NRW, however, is contingent on the approval by parliament. Universities in the state said they are waiting for the policy to be voted on in the coming weeks before they react.

The post Germany: NRW confirms tuition fee proposal appeared first on The PIE News.

Hiroshi Ota, Hitotsubashi University, Japan

The PIE News - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 03:03
A sense of crisis can be the driving force behind internationalisation, says Hiroshi Ota, director of the Global Education Program at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. He tells The PIE about the critical situation local cities face in Japan, shares his doubts about EMI degrees, and explains why he’s lost interest in ‘conventional’ study abroad programs.

The PIE: You’re an adviser to Hiroshima prefecture, sitting on its Committee on International Students and Internationalisation of Higher Education. What are some of the issues you look at?

HO: One is that the government’s shifting its international education budget from inbound to outbound – more money goes to outbound students rather than inbound students. I’d say this is a ‘Japanese first’ policy.

“The sense of crisis is very important – it pushes people”

But local places – Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Osaka, Kyoto, those local cities – their agenda is different. They are losing population drastically. There are still people coming to Tokyo from provincial cities, they don’t feel that crisis, but in the local cities, their projections are really bad. The sense of crisis is very important – it pushes people. So they’re seriously thinking we have to invite international students, create scholarships and have them study for two, three, four years as a soft landing to Japan, to understand the language, acquire some skills, get a job and then stay in Japan.

Another problem is Japanese people in general still believe that once you open the doors, you’ll have a huge influx of people. But that’s not the case at all.

The PIE: So what can those local cities do to attract international students?

HO: My home city, Fukuoka, is really open, the city, industry, businesses and universities, they’re working together. Hiroshima too. But it’s a problem, you understand, that people from outside think Japan means Tokyo. Or perhaps Japan means Osaka, Kyoto. But Japan means Akita, Ibaraki, too. That’s a problem. I’ve talked to the governor of Hiroshima many times, he really wants to encourage it, but even if he spends the money, the outcome is not good enough. So we are struggling.

The PIE: So let’s talk about internationalisation at Hitotsubashi University. What does your day to day job look like?

HO. I have many hats. I’m the director of the English as a Medium of Instruction program, I’m part of some of our study abroad programs, and I also carry out research into international education and policy.

“People from outside think Japan means Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto. But Japan means Akita, Ibaraki too”

The PIE: What kind of EMI programs do you offer?

HO: We have four departments – economics, business administration, law and political science, sociology – and we all work together under the umbrella of the Hitotsubashi University Global Education Program. There are not only courses in English, but also Japanese language courses for beginners, academic skills in English and TOEFL skills.

The courses in English are part of each faculty’s curriculum. So we have a cross-listing system, where Japanese students take courses in English as a requirement for their curriculum, and exchange students take them too. It’s one classroom, two doors.

However, we don’t have enough Japanese students at the moment because of English proficiency, so now we’re reforming our English education too, working with the British Council. So English proficiency is going up and those students come to our class. It takes time, but it’s working.

The PIE: But you don’t offer full degrees in English?

HO: That’s right. EMI is critical but I’m still against EMI degree programs. Because in Japan, very often EMI programs become standalone, island programs with only international students, and the faculty are non-Japanese and they’re not integrated in the campus. And very often that happens when it’s a degree program.

The PIE: Even though EMI has seen a big pick up throughout Asia?

“For people that didn’t get into the Top Global Universities project, there’s a sense of crisis. But that crisis is an opportunity”

HO: Yes, but my understanding is very often it’s very small islands, not a concerted effort. For example, the Top Global Universities project – Hitotsubashi University isn’t part of that, we don’t get the money. Because if you get money from the government, it’s easy to make another island. You can hire contract workers, temporary teachers, but once the grant is gone, the program is gone. Hitotsubashi started our programs without grants because we have to think of our own way in internationalisation.

Internationalisation is not one model fitting all, but with government initiatives, the government sets the goals. I think the goals must be set by yourself. So in a way, for people that didn’t get into the Top Global Universities project, there’s a sense of crisis. But that crisis is also becoming an opportunity.

The PIE: How many students do you have in total?

HO: 6,200.

The PIE: And how many are international?

HO: About 800. That’s both degree seeking and exchange students.

For the exchange students, we used to require two years’ language training before they came, but now they can just come and take Japanese for beginners. So some students come to Hitotsubashi and study only Japanese language programs, while others come and take only courses in English – like students who are studying economics but with a focus on East Asia. They’re not interested in Japanese, that’s fine. And others who are studying Japanese or East Asian studies, they study both the language and Japanese affairs side by side.

The PIE: Has removing that language requirement made a big difference to your intake of exchange students?

“Many of our exchange partners are scaling back their Japanese language programs”

HO: It’s made a really big difference. The reason why exchange student numbers have been dropping in the last few years was the Japanese language requirement. Many of our exchange partners are scaling back their Japanese language programs, and sometimes they even demolish the entire department to replace it with Chinese. This is the reality!

We give more options and we also encourage the Japanese students to come to the classes. Our exchange students are growing and growing, which means we also have more opportunities to send out Japanese students abroad, and studying in English is good preparation.

The PIE: What opportunities are there for home students to study abroad?

HO: We have exchange programs for a year, a semester, but we also now have internships in Spain for six weeks, a four-week program with intensive English and business immersion at Monash University. Another is going to Singapore Management University, where they study business English for two weeks and then go to Cambodia to practise their skills.

We also have the traditional programs like studying English in the UK. However, I’m not so enthusiastic in those conventional, four-week programs. Because my understanding is you can study English where you are, using the internet, TV. More important is to use English. I’m more interested now in developing programs where students can actually practise: service learning, volunteering, training. I think these lead to increasing employability eventually too.

“I’m not so enthusiastic in those conventional, four-week programs. You can study English where you are”

I tease people on our campus who work in those programs, because I say a four-week language program is like a four-week diet program. You work very hard for four weeks, that’s good. You can feel the effect. But when you return, you rebound. My way is more every day learning English. It’s like exercise, stretching every day so you become more flexible. A four-week language program is symbolic: I studied abroad. But the outcome? I don’t know. I think with language and then business learning, immersion, shadowing, they learn more.

The PIE: Do you take that same approach to employability and applied skills to your incoming international students?

HO: We do, and one way is we’re reaching out to the off campus community, for instance our alumni association. Hitotsubashi’s an old business school, so there are many, many business leaders. I reach out to them and explain the situation, and they say OK, we can work together. They’ve actually created scholarships for international students. And they also create internships. The founder of [e-commerce and internet giant] Rakuten is also a Hitotsubashi graduate, and they’ve created an internship in English in Tokyo.

The PIE: So those alumni links are really important.

HO: Another thing we said we need is ‘lectures in practice’. Macroeconomic theory, students can study at home. So what is something unique we can provide those classes? More practical, application-based courses, taught by lecturers in practice from business, banking and so on. They come to our campuses once a week to teach. That’s unique, they can’t take the same course at home. So alumni play a very important role.

At the Universities of Tokyo and Kyoto, their alumni associations are big. They can’t work together. All the faculties have their own associations. But in our case, as a small institution, all the alumni can work together.

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Number of colleges and universities drops sharply amid economic turmoil

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 00:00

It has become trendy to predict that higher education is on the verge of a major collapse, what with enrollments falling as loan debt and rising tuition cause students and families to ask harder questions about the value of a college credential.

The most extreme predictions envision hundreds and even thousands of colleges and universities closing over a decade or so. But more even-keeled analysts also have foreseen increases in the number of failing institutions: Moody’s Investors Service in 2015, for instance, said closures and mergers of small institutions would triple and double, respectively, in the coming years.

New federal data suggest the increasing financial pressures may be starting to take a toll on institutions. An annual report from the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics shows that the number of colleges and universities eligible to award federal financial aid to their students fell by 5.6 percent from 2015-16 to 2016-17. That’s the fourth straight decline since a peak of 7,416 institutions in 2012-13. It is also by far the largest (the others were 0.3, 1.2 and 2.0 percent, in order).

There’s a giant asterisk on the data for those predicting the decline and fall of traditional higher education: as in the past, the vast majority of the vanishing institutions are for-profit colleges. Some of that sector’s problems are shared with nonprofit institutions (declines in the number of traditional college-age students, concerns about debt and price), but for-profit institutions also have encountered aggressive regulation from the federal government and self-inflicted wounds from misbehavior and poor performance.

That combination of factors contributed to a one-year drop of 11.2 percent (from 3,265 to 2,899) in the number of Title IV-eligible for-profit institutions, according to the federal data, and a sharp decline of more than 20 percent since the 2012-13 academic year.

While for-profit colleges’ woes may be driving the numbers, public and private nonprofit colleges have not been immune.

The number of public colleges edged down to 1,985 in 2016-17, from 1,990 in 2015-16 and 2,009 in 2012-13.

These are likely to include the several institutions in Georgia that were part of mergers.

The number of private nonprofit institutions, meanwhile, fell by 33, or 1.7 percent, from 2015-16 to 2016-17, from 1,909 to 1,876. But the 2015-16 number had risen by almost that amount the year before, so it’s not entirely clear how significant that drop is, or how representative it is of what is to come.

Academic Year All Institutions Public Private Nonprofit For-Profit 2009-10 6,896 2,015 1,865 3,016 2010-11 7,178 2,043 1,869 3,266 2011-12 7,234 n/a n/a n/a 2012-13 7,416 2,009 1,880 3,627 2013-14 7,397 2,008 1,892 3,497 2014-15 7,310 1,991 1,883 3,436 2015-16 7,164 1,990 1,909 3,265 2016-17 6,760 1,985 1,876 2,899 Data for 2011-12 not available from National Center for Education Statistics Editorial Tags: Business issuesEnrollmentImage Source: Wikimedia CommonsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

Cal State Fullerton reinstates lecturer after arbitrator finds no evidence for most charges against him

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 00:00

California State University, Fullerton, has reinstated a part-time faculty member it terminated this year after he was accused of hitting a student at a political rally. Various news websites and right-wing blogs reported that Eric Canin, a longtime instructor of anthropology, swung at the undergraduate during a Campus Republicans counterprotest of a pro-Palestinian event. But Canin and his supporters denied that he touched anyone, and the alleged blow was not included in cellphone video footage circulating online.

An earlier campus investigation found that Canin had grabbed a student’s sign, struck another student and violated a university policy against harassing speakers -- though, again, there was no student video of the alleged assault, just before and after it was said to have occurred. Cal State’s tenure-line and non-tenure-track faculty union, the California Faculty Association, challenged the university’s decision to fire Canin, and an independent arbitrator was eventually assigned to the case. (That's after a uniformed police officer hand delivered Canin his termination letter at home, he said.)

The arbitrator decided that Canin should be reinstated but still subject to a two-month unpaid suspension for a momentary lapse in judgment -- namely attempting to grab a sign. (He continues to deny that charge.) But the arbitrator found no evidence that Canin engaged in a fight or tried to hurt anyone. Contrary to a university claim, the arbitrator also found that Canin was not claiming to speak for Cal State when he identified himself as a professor to the protesters.

Canin spoke publicly about his case for the first time Tuesday, at a meeting of CSU’s Board of Trustees and in a subsequent interview with Inside Higher Ed. He and other professors asked the board to safeguard academic freedom and faculty rights in what Canin called “a heated political climate.”

“My colleagues and I are trying to focus on teaching and research and our students,” he told the board, but “now, more than ever, we are teaching in a time of fear. This must change … You need to protect your employees from these unfair assaults on our freedom to teach and our students’ right to learn.”

Canin was referring to a number of recent calls for the dismissal of and threats against faculty members engaged in work and conversations on contentious topics. His case echoes, somewhat, that of Johnny Eric Williams, an associate professor of sociology at Trinity College in Connecticut; Williams was first put on involuntary leave for his online comments about race but then cleared of wrongdoing, following a university investigation.

Canin’s case differs from Williams’s, of course, in that he does not have tenure, and adjuncts elsewhere have been terminated -- permanently -- for controversial comments.

Reached via telephone, Canin said his case speaks to the political moment in that a group of students created the “alternative fact” that he hit one of them. Colleges and universities must double down on their mission to educate students and promote rational, nuanced discussions, he said, rejecting suggestions by some that he pursue legal action against them (Canin was put in a headlock by a student). He also warned against simple left-right, conservative-liberal explanations for the recent campus culture wars, saying the real threat was authoritarianism of any kind.

“When the incident happened, nobody really stopped, especially the students, to ask themselves whether what they said happened actually happened,” he said. “The College Republicans put it online, and soon Breitbart had it and The Washington Times and other right-wing media, without a shred of evidence. It’s a simple yet sophisticated use of media … and this is not an isolated incident.”

What Happened

The Fullerton incident happened in early February, when political tensions on many campuses were high in light of President Trump’s recent inauguration. Canin, on campus to teach a class, was walking beside the Republicans and stumbled over a bike rack. Some of what occurred remains in dispute, but witnesses recalled Canin heckling the protesters, them laughing at him after his tumble, Canin attempting to grab a protester’s sign, arms flailing and a protester being hit in the face with an open hand. Canin was restrained by a College Republicans protester. The student who was allegedly struck declined to press charges and said he was not hurt. Canin has said that if he was grabbing at anything, it was to break his fall.

Throughout arbitration, the university argued that the preponderance of evidence, including student testimony, showed Canin had engaged in unprofessional conduct. But the faculty association argued the university failed to meet its burden of proof of intentional misconduct -- especially to terminate a teacher of 20 years who colleagues said was dedicated to students and nonviolent protest. Moreover, CalFac argued, the university could not have conducted a fair investigation since it sent out a tweet condemning violence the day after the incident.

The arbitrator’s decision is final and binding, as stipulated under the union contract. The president of Fullerton’s College Republicans did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fullerton said in a statement Tuesday that it had been pursuing Canin’s termination and noted that the arbitrator “concurred with the university’s investigation in finding that Canin acted improperly.”

The university “will continue to vigorously support the free and open exchange of ideas on our campus,” it said, adding that it’s “unacceptable to respond with violence to speech with which we disagree.”

At the board meeting, Jennifer Eagan, a professor of philosophy at Cal State, East Bay, and president of CalFac, said she and her colleagues were proud to support Canin “in a troubling world where the truth is called fake and the right is targeting colleges, universities and university professors.”

Most professors are far from being “fictional heroes” in the style of Indiana Jones, she said, but they do “take the risk to tell the truth that some people don’t want to hear.” They take “unpopular positions on principle and with evidence,” she said, citing climate scientists and librarians who fight for access to information as examples.

Academic freedom is central to all of that work, Eagan said, expressing disappointment with Fullerton for rushing “to terminate a faculty member without properly weighing the evidence.” There are forces mobilizing “not only against the faculty,” she said, “but against truth, and the very principles of the university.”

Canin will return to teaching in the fall.

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Student suspended after tweeting about ex-girlfriend

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 00:00

It started with an unrequested grammar lesson. It escalated to a tweet. It might end in court.

Nick Lutz was suspended for two semesters -- summer and the upcoming fall -- by the University of Central Florida, where he is a student, for posting a tweet about his ex-girlfriend, who had sent him a letter after their breakup. He tweeted pictures of the document with his notes correcting her grammar and writing -- missed indentations, "useless fillers," too short a conclusion, etc. Lutz gave the woman -- who is not a UCF student and whom he didn't name in the tweet -- a D-minus, and the tweet went viral.

When your ex writes you an apology letter so you grade it to send it back pic.twitter.com/MczdjcCiil

— Nick Lutz (@NickLutz12) February 17, 2017

In his suspension, according to documents provided by Lutz’s lawyer, Jacob Stuart, the university found Lutz responsible for “disruptive conduct” and “harmful behavior” as outlined in the student code of conduct.

Stuart has stepped in to aid Lutz in his appeal process, which is being handled by the university, but said that if the issue isn’t resolved, he’s prepared to take the case to court. At stake, Stuart said, are First Amendment violations, as well as due process rights.

“It creates a situation where you have universities trolling through their students’ posts,” Stuart said. “You shouldn’t have a bureaucracy essentially making moral decisions … I’m not saying Nick should or shouldn’t have done this, but that’s not UCF’s decision to make. That’s a dangerous, dangerous precedent.”

As far as the due process issue, the documents show that Lutz was originally found to have been found in violation “of university policy, specifically, violation of local, state and/or federal laws of the ‘Rules of Conduct.’” After his lawyer submitted an appeal, an updated document sent to Lutz said that he had been found responsible for the disruptive conduct and harmful behavior specifically, and dropping the reference to violations of the law.

“They changed the finding of what it was after we submitted the appeal,” Stuart said. An extension to file a new appeal was given, but Stuart said it amounted to changing the decision after the fact.

A spokeswoman for UCF said there had been an error in the original document but declined further comment, citing the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The woman had filed a cyberbullying report with the local sheriff’s office, but prosecutors decided to not pursue the claim.

Rules against bullying are among those UCF says Lutz violated, under the “harmful behavior” regulation. It’s defined as follows, according to the handbook:

“Behavior of any sort (including communicative behavior) directed at another, that is severe, pervasive or persistent, and is of a nature that would cause a reasonable person in the target’s position substantial emotional distress and undermine his or her ability to work, study or participate in university life or regular activities, or which would place a reasonable person in fear of injury or death.”

In addition to arguing for Lutz on First Amendment grounds, Stuart argues against the charge in his appeal by writing that Lutz never posted “the alleged victim’s last name, address, phone number, email or any form of username/identification that would allow someone to identify her.” Those who already knew whom Lutz was talking about would be familiar with the subject of his tweet, but to most of the 121,000 users who retweeted it, the subject was anonymous.

The case is also being reviewed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an advocacy group that aggressively challenges what it sees as First Amendment issues on college campuses.

“Mean speech about another person is not unprotected by the First Amendment,” said FIRE attorney Ari Cohn. “If it was a campaign of harassment where he called her house every night at two o’clock in the morning, then perhaps there would be a hat to hang those charges [in the original suspension] on. As it stands, he posted the letter once … in fact, the state’s attorney declined to prosecute the cyberbullying [charge].”

For Cohn, the punishment handed to Lutz was an overstep of its bounds, calling it “a classic FIRE case.”

“The alleged victim doesn’t even go to UCF, and what the student posted on Twitter was clearly protected speech,” he said. “Social media is the new frontier of student-speech controversy.”

Further questions raised include how much social media speech can be deemed relevant to the campus community and the university, since it doesn’t physically take place on campus. In this case, other party isn’t a student, making it even harder for UCF to prove a campus connection, Cohn said. Unless the situation makes it out of UCF’s internal process and into court, however, those questions will remain unanswered for the legal process and First Amendment lawyers at large.

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International education program axed in House appropriations bill

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 00:00

As a doctoral student at University of California, San Diego, studying the history of modern China, Maggie Greene in 2010 received a Fulbright-Hays grant to spend a year in Shanghai in pursuit of her degree. Now an assistant professor at Montana State University, Greene said the time she spent in China was key to her career as a historian.

"I had time to develop long-term relationships that have been super helpful in getting access to sources, getting access to archives I would have a hard time getting by myself," Greene said.

But the education funding bill currently under consideration by the House appropriations committee leaves out any funding for the Fulbright-Hays program -- a financial blow to up-and-coming scholars looking to develop subject expertise in an international area. The size of the program is modest at $7 million, but it provided grant funding to 97 fellows in fiscal year 2016 for doctoral dissertation research abroad. Fulbright-Hays also supports short-term seminars and group projects abroad.

"That's really critical," Greene said. "How can we be part of this global community without having people who understand other parts of the world that are in many cases very, very different from the United States?"

Scholarly organizations, among them the National Humanities Alliance and the Association for Asian Studies, alerted their members to the cuts Tuesday ahead of a markup of the bill this morning. The groups asked members to talk about the proposed cuts on social media and to contact their representatives in Congress and ask that the funding for Fulbright-Hays be restored.

Proponents of the program say it is essential that doctoral students pursuing deep expertise in a particular area, language and culture have the ability to travel during their graduate education -- both to access resources like archives and to gain an understanding of that culture they couldn't get on their campus in the United States.

"Fulbright-Hays is a relatively small program dollarwise, which makes it all the more important for those who care about it and care about maintaining the deep expertise that it cultivates to tell the story about its role and its impact," said Stephen Kidd, executive director of the National Humanities Alliance.

Lawmakers haven't explicitly targeted Fulbright-Hays for elimination, Kidd said, but with low spending levels imposed by Republican leaders and a mandate to find cuts, they may have settled on a lower-profile program. But the White House budget proposal released in May proposed zeroing out the program, along with other support of humanities funding. The alliance noted in an analysis of the appropriations bill that lawmakers did not follow through on several of those proposals. The Department of Education, for example, would receive level funding of about $65 million for the Title VI international education programs.

But supporters say Fulbright-Hays fills an important niche that other programs don't. Funding for research in the humanities and social sciences is already extremely limited, said Tanya Golash-Boza, a professor of sociology at University of California, Merced. And most grant awards from agencies like the National Science Foundation fund specific costs, like purchases of equipment or software.

"If you're a graduate student and you want to do international research, the only way to do that is through a fellowship like this," she said.

Golash-Boza, who studies the implications of immigration policy, used a grant from the program to travel to Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Jamaica during the 2009-10 academic year and interview people deported to each of those countries from the U.S. She said eliminating the program would send a signal that Congress does not value international expertise. 

But in other ways that message has already been delivered, she said. When Golash-Boza received the grant, it still paid for faculty travel and research. But since then, faculty support has been eliminated through cuts to the program.

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Southern New Hampshire expands refugee education initiative

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 00:00

Southern New Hampshire University has received $10 million from anonymous donors to expand its refugee education initiative, which it has piloted in the Kiziba refugee camp in Rwanda.

The university, which is known for its online programs and its competency-based degrees, says the $10 million in funding will allow it to begin programming for refugees at four additional sites, including in Kenya, Lebanon and two additional locations to be determined. The university hopes ultimately to secure funding from the same group of donors to allow it to educate up to 50,000 refugees a year at 20 sites by 2022.

“The anonymous donors who are supporting this project have said to us, ‘Let’s do a phase one. Do this within two years and come back to us and show us the following: that you can have similar success as you’ve enjoyed in Rwanda in other places and that you can do it at greater scale than one camp,’” said Paul LeBlanc, Southern New Hampshire’s president.

“Understanding the refugee context is very idiosyncratic,” LeBlanc said. “It goes from camps like Kiziba, which is very remote and isolated, to someplace like Lebanon, where you don’t really have camps -- you have integration of refugees in the millions in urban areas -- to places like northern Jordan, where you have enormous sprawling tent camps with real challenges in infrastructure. They want to see our ability to do this in various contexts.”

At the Kiziba refugee camp, Southern New Hampshire just graduated its first group of 16 students with associate degrees. The university says all of the graduates work as interns outside the camp and are now pursuing their bachelor’s degrees.

SNHU partners with a Rwandan nonprofit organization, Kepler, to deliver its programs at Kiziba via a blended delivery model mixing in-person and online instruction. As it expands to other locations, SNHU expects to form similar partnerships to provide support for students enrolled in its online College for America programs, which generally cost $3,000 per year but will be free for the refugees who enroll.

The needed supports may vary. At the Kiziba camp, which was started in 1996 to house refugees fleeing the civil war in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Ikea Foundation provided a grant to upgrade wireless connectivity. SNHU provided laptops.

“It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,” LeBlanc said. “First we started with security. We needed a secure facility, a place that we could store the laptops and know that they would be there the next morning and make sure it was a good environment for our people to go in and out of.”

The university also started a program to bring in food for its students after learning that they were selling their food rations. Academically speaking, LeBlanc said, “we had to get a handle on what level of readiness students were at, and we put in a series of summer bridge programs before they could join the program. And then we struggled with the question of gender. There’s an expectation that to the extent that there’s subsistence work that needs to get done every day-- getting water, cooking, cleaning the hut -- that that fell to the oldest girls, and the oldest girls were often the young women we were seeking for our program. We had to find ways to support them and their families.”

The United Nations refugee agency estimates that just 1 percent of young refugees go to university. “We often say that this is an institution that often serves people for whom college is a guarantee,” LeBlanc said of Southern New Hampshire. “That guarantee is probably no more fragile than it is for the 65 million refugees in the world.”

LeBlanc described Southern New Hampshire's plans as unique. “No institution has tried to go into refugee camps at scale to do a full-blown American degree at no cost to refugees,” he said.

Other entities that have been involved in expanding access to online higher education to refugees in camps and elsewhere include Kiron Open Higher Education, a Berlin-based nonprofit that partners with universities and massive open online course providers to offer two-year online course modules, after which students can apply to transfer their credits to a partner university. Another initiative, the Jesuit Worldwide Learning: Higher Education at the Margins program (formerly known as Jesuit Commons), has enrolled more than 5,000 forcibly displaced people and other marginalized individuals in its programs since 2010, according to its website. The initiative, which has learning centers in about 10 countries, offers English-language and certificate-level courses as well as a 45-credit diploma program through its U.S. partner Regis University.

Arizona State University, which has a large online presence, has also recently entered this space, having announced in May a partnership with the Rwandan NGO Kepler to offer one of its online courses at the Kiziba camp to evaluate how its model works in that setting.

The University of the People, an online institution that offers tuition-free degrees, enrolls more than 1,000 refugees -- more than 10 percent of its 9,000-member student body -- including more than 500 from Syria, according to Shai Reshef, the university’s president. Reshef said the university has another 1,000 Syrian students who are waiting for scholarships (though tuition is free, the university charges a $100 exam fee per course, which adds up to $4,000 over a four-year degree).

​Another initiative, Borderless Higher Education for Refugees, expects to graduate about 80 students with bachelor’s degrees from one of three partner universities -- Kenya’s Moi and Kenyatta Universities and Canada’s York University -- next spring, according to Don Dippo, a co-lead for the BHER initiative and a professor of education at York. The program, which Dippo said is entering into its final year of funding from the Canadian government, started in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp, which primarily houses Somali refugees, but has expanded its activities in another Kenyan camp, Kakuma, after the Kenyan government began threatening to close Dadaab for security reasons. Dippo said BHER has also entered into an agreement with a Somali university to help ease completion of the program by refugees who return home. Dippo said that students in the first graduating cohort have stayed in the program -- which is free for them to attend -- even as they’ve relocated to places as varied as Mogadishu and Minneapolis.

GlobalOnline LearningEditorial Tags: Distance educationImage Caption: Southern New Hampshire University's first class of graduates at Kiziba refugee camp.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

Canada Capitalizes on a ‘Trump Bump’ — and Years of Preparation

The Chronicle of Higher Education (Global) - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 14:31
Universities there have seen a surge in international applications, but say the U.S. president’s isolationist rhetoric isn’t the only factor.

Hurdles ahead for East Africa’s Common Higher Education Area

The PIE News - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 06:27

Variations in quality and curricula adopted by different universities, inadequate financing and the length of time students take to complete degree programs, are some of the challenges that must be addressed to enable smooth actualisation of the East African Community Common Higher Education Area endorsed in May.

Increased investment in advanced information and communication technologies, the role of the private sector in higher education, and catering for students with special educational needs, are also some of the issues identified by delegates at the Inter-University Council of East Africa forum last month in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

IUCEA, the regional body charged with implementing the harmonised higher education plan between Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, also heard that universities in Africa’s newest state of South Sudan, the latest addition to the East African Community, needed to be assessed to establish what it would take to incorporate them.

“Operationalisation comes with additional demands and this will require resources for implementation”

There is also a real need to ensure equal treatment of students across the bloc as a validation of fees structure tool has already been developed which will enable universities to calculate the unit cost of programs, the IUCEA forum heard.

“Operationalisation comes with additional demands and this will require resources for implementation hence the need for resource mobilisation including grants to ameliorate tuition”, said Philip Ayoo IUCEA’s principal innovation and outreach officer.

According to Riziki Pembe Juma, Zanzibar’s Minister for Education and Vocational Training, EAC citizens are looking forward to greater and smoother free movement of labour, people and services as a result of declaration of the CHEA.

“We expect that students will soon be able to take courses in one university, accumulate credits, validate those courses in the original university and graduate,” said the minister.

Rationalisation of the labour market being one of the goals for the EAC, a graduate from one partner state should confidently be able to apply, and be considered for a job, in any of the states as the quality of graduates produced within the region will be comparable, she added.

The minister, however, expressed concern over the question of equal treatment of students, saying that as things stood, universities were charging students from partner states higher fees.

“Although all partner states have committed themselves to giving equal treatment to students coming from the community, I am informed that there are still some cases where universities charge students from EAC members fees as if they were foreigners,” Juma noted.

“In the context of the Common Higher Education Area, this challenge needs to be looked into and urgently addressed,” the minister noted.

She however expressed satisfaction that IUCEA had already developed a tool to enable universities to calculate the unit cost of programs, which would ensure higher education institutions to charge the same fees for all students from any of the EAC countries the same as would charge nationals of their respective countries.

Various tools to guide implementation of the CHEA had been developed the minister noted, including an assurance system, a qualifications framework, staff and student mobility policy, as well as benchmarks for academic programs.

“I am informed that there are still some cases where universities charge students from EAC members fees as if they were foreigners”

“What we now really want to see is that all these policies and tools are domesticated by all and effectively used by higher learning institutions,” Juma said.

The annual meeting of the regional higher education body was purely dedicated to the CHEA, with the theme: ‘The role of universities in the operationalisation of the EAC Common Higher Education Area for regional integration’.

It was the first event since the regional community’s 18th ordinary session of heads of states and governments held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in May declared East Africa a Common Higher Education Area.

The IUCEA has been tasked with the role of coordinating the implementation of the CHEA, with national higher education commissions and universities as partners.

The post Hurdles ahead for East Africa’s Common Higher Education Area appeared first on The PIE News.

UK NARIC deal to verify foreign credentials

The PIE News - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 02:44

The UK’s national qualifications agency UK NARIC has launched a new initiative to combat fraud in academic credentials, through an agreement with The DataFlow Group, a company specialising in document verification, background screening and immigration compliance.

The primary verification processes will authenticate the credentials of overseas students and professionals applying to study in the UK.

It will be open to UK NARIC members, which include education institutions, employers, professional bodies and migrant advisory organisations.

“Educational fraud and fraudulent applications for work and study are a growing problem”

Primary source verification processes can be “an invaluable step in rooting out problem applications” for these institutions, according to UK NARIC’s deputy managing director, Paul Norris, who added they can also “mitigate concerns with high-risk markets”.

“Educational fraud and fraudulent applications for work and study are a growing problem that has serious consequences for institutions and the safety of our society as a whole,” Norris commented.

“The DataFlow Group is well-placed to offer PSV across a wide geographical area, and we are pleased to offer this added feature for the benefit of UK NARIC members,” he added.

Hong Kong-based DataFlow works worldwide, liaising with a network of more than 60,000 issuing authorities to verify documents.

As well as academic qualifications, the company verifies employment certificates, practice licenses, work permits and passports.

The service also provides a paper trail that can be used as evidence in institutions’ admissions decisions or to demonstrate compliance and record-keeping.

For example, after uploading documents to the online platform, users receive a written report detailing the results of the verification process.

“By extending our PSV service to UK NARIC members, not only are we helping them make informed admissions and recruitment choices, but we are also contributing to the implementation of robust verification programs throughout the UK and Europe,” commented DataFlow Group chief commercial officer Aiman Shehabi.

Academic qualifications fraud has become an increasingly prominent topic of discussion in the international education industry worldwide, with initiatives to combat fraud multiplying in recent years.

Among them is My eQuals, a database of certified qualifications that is gathering steam in Australasia as an offshoot of the Groningen Declaration Network: an initiative dedicated to bolstering qualifications security.

The post UK NARIC deal to verify foreign credentials appeared first on The PIE News.

Study finds large share of cases involving faculty harassment of graduate students are serious

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 00:00

Like many debates about higher education, those about sexual harassment are often based on anecdotes and opinion. To some, male professors in particular are victims in waiting of the PC police anxious to punish a stray comment. To others, faculty harassers are finally being held accountable for sexually predatory behavior toward vulnerable students.

A Systematic Look at a Serial Problem: Sexual Harassment of Students by University Faculty” seeks to cut through the noise with data, analyzing nearly 300 faculty-student harassment cases for commonalities. The study, which focused on complaints by graduate students, led to two major findings: most faculty harassers are accused of physical, not verbal, harassment, and more than half of cases -- 53 percent -- involve alleged serial harassers.

Data “confirm that faculty harassment of students is more widespread than many may appreciate” says the study, forthcoming in Utah Law Review. Perhaps most importantly, it says, a “disturbingly high proportion of available cases indicate evidence of higher-severity sexual harassment that includes unwelcome physical contact and/or a pattern of serial sexual harassment of multiple victims by the same faculty member.”

In other words, data challenge what the study calls “stereotypes” about sexual harassment, including that the current reporting environment has compromised faculty members’ academic freedom.

That’s a concern held by the American Association of University Professors, though the organization says it has no problem with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender-based discrimination in education -- just how some campuses apply the law. Others, such as Laura Kipnis, a professor of media studies at Northwestern University and author of Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, go a step farther. (Kipnis expressed interest in the new study but declined immediate comment to Inside Higher Ed, citing its length -- some 89 pages.)

To study co-author William Kidder, a research associate at the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles (who doubles as chief of staff to the president at Sonoma State University), the new evidence of serious faculty harassment is persuasive.

“Compared to when I started working on this project over a year ago, the [proportion] of very serious physical contact cases surprised me a little,” he said.

Over all, Kidder said, he and his co-author, Nancy Chi Cantalupo, assistant professor of law at Barry University, “tried to shed more light than heat on the difficult topic.” While the large data set is not a random sample, he added, “the volume of serious physical contact cases” underscores “the seriousness of the sexual harassment issue on campuses across the country and the all-too-real harms that student victims encounter.”

‘Tip of the Iceberg’

Kidder and Cantalupo say their effort to inventory faculty-student harassment cases is the most comprehensive yet, taking data from news reports, federal civil rights investigations from the Education and Justice Departments, lawsuits by students alleging harassment, and lawsuits by tenure-track or tenured faculty professors fired over alleged harassment. The study is based on reports involving graduate students, who are, according to other data, more likely to be harassed by professors than are undergraduates (among whom peer-to-peer harassment is more commonly reported).

For data contained in media reports, the authors turned to the Not a Fluke webpage maintained by Julie Libarkin, a professor of geological sciences at Michigan State University. It includes only cases in which there’s been an institutional or legal finding of misconduct or a settlement, or a professor’s resignation (or death) during the review. That turned up 221 cases against faculty members at 210 institutions, the overwhelming majority of which occurred since 2000.

Kidder and Cantalupo then sorted the reports based severity of conduct, from unwelcome comments to unwanted groping to behavior that could violate criminal laws, such as sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking. They also considered whether the harasser was alleged to have targeted multiple students. Some 51 percent of the cases included unwelcome sexual contact, from hugs and kissing to criminal rape. But just 8 percent of the physical cases involved the lesser contacts of kissing and hugging, while 45 percent involved allegations of sexual assault, stalking or domestic violence.

Among the cases gathered in news reports, 48 percent included allegations of multiple victims over time. One such case is that of astronomer Geoff Marcy, who allegedly harassed students on several campuses before his fall from grace at UC Berkeley. Ten cases suggested that institutions had “passed the harasser,” or let a known harasser move on to another campus.

The authors used similar methods to analyze recent court cases involving student plaintiffs and faculty defendants, which left them with 35 cases that discussed the accusations in sufficiently helpful detail; each of these cases also included some evidence of the students’ claims. Kidder and Cantalupo also then analyzed dozens of resolution letters from federal agencies that handle sexual harassment complaints, namely the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. Findings were similar to the news sample.

Source: Kidder and Cantalupo

Last, the authors analyzed several dozen cases in which faculty members had been terminated for alleged sexual harassment and sued their institutions, dating back to 1978. The terminations were upheld in 20 cases, while courts sided with professors in six.

According to the study, these sources confirm “that most faculty whose conduct meets the definition for sexual harassment tend not only to initiate physical contact with the student(s) they are reportedly harassing, but that the physical contact initiated tends to be more ‘severe,’ to use the terminology of sexual harassment law.”

Citing outside research on what constitutes high-“intensity” harassment that generates stronger emotional reactions among victims, the study notes that a number of those factors (perpetrators who possess power, physical contact, and behavior that leads to fear over mere annoyance) are present in the data.

Again, 53 percent of all cases studied involve a professor who is alleged to have harassed more than one student. That finding, too, challenges some stereotypes about a reporting environment in which male faculty members are vulnerable to singular, career-ending missteps.

While the data are not randow, they represent just “the tip of the iceberg” in terms of sexual harassment, the authors say, since plenty of reported cases remain confidential and still many more go unreported.

Jennifer Freyd, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon and an expert on harassment and assault, called the study “important” and -- like its authors -- noted that it’s based only on cases that have made it into “the system.”

For that reason, Freyd added, rates of harassment involving physical contact may be overrepresented in the study, since “if you are a victim of verbal harassment only, you may be less inclined to tell anyone, never mind file a lawsuit.” And figuring out every day rates of repeat harassment is even harder, she said.

Freyd's own survey of graduate students on her campus found that 38 percent of female respondents had been sexually harassed by a faculty or staff member. Based on that and other, existing data, she said, what's clear is that harassment by faculty and staff members is “prevalent and damaging.”

Legal CasesStudents and ViolenceEditorial Tags: Academic freedomFacultyTitle IXImage Source: WikipediaImage Caption: Geoff Marcy is one of hundreds of alleged harassers of graduate students included in a new study.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, July 18, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Worse Than It Seems

Claremont McKenna suspends 5 students for blocking a speech

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 00:00

Claremont McKenna College announced Monday that it is punishing seven students -- five with suspensions -- for their role in blocking an audience from hearing a speech by Heather Mac Donald in April.

The Claremont McKenna protest is among those highlighted by many observers who say that some students in American higher education have become intolerant of views with which they disagree. In the case of Mac Donald, those protesting say that her views on criminal justice are racist -- a charge that she denies -- and that her views justified their protest.

As was the case at Middlebury College, where Charles Murray was prevented from speaking in March, a public appearance (with a scheduled question-and-answer period) turned into a live stream without an audience after the protests blocked the original events from going on as scheduled.

Many have been watching to see how the two colleges would punish those who blocked the speeches. Students at both campuses videotaped and photographed their protests -- posting the images to social media -- so plenty of faces were visible. Middlebury announced in May that a total of a total of 67 students had been found to have violated college policies and were punished as a result. Those punishments fell short of suspensions.

At Claremont McKenna, three students were suspended for a year, two students were suspended for a semester and two students were placed on "conduct probation." About 170 students participated in the protest that blocked Mac Donald from speaking to an audience. But many of those students were from other colleges in the Claremont system, and while Claremont McKenna referred their cases to their institutions, it does not have jurisdiction over those students. So comparing Middlebury and Claremont McKenna, the latter punished far fewer students, but the punishments were more severe.

A statement issued by the college said that the blockade of the speech site "breached institutional values of freedom of expression and assembly."

College officials have said since the incident that students had every right to protest Mac Donald, but not to prevent those who wanted to hear her from doing so. In Monday's statement, the college included the specific policy students were found to have violated. That policy bans "actions which disturb or disrupt the personal safety, peace or well-being of the community or any community members, or which disturb or disrupt the normal functions of the college (including actions which interfere with maintaining order on campus)."

Three students faced disciplinary hearings but were found not to have violated college policies.

The college said that the different punishments for the seven students were based on "the nature and degree of leadership in the blockade, the acknowledgment and acceptance of responsibility, and other factors."

Reports have circulated that one of those suspended participated in commencement this spring. A college spokeswoman said she could not be specific on the issue due to privacy policies, but she released this statement: "We cannot comment on sanctions for graduating seniors; however, we can say how the college would approach a situation in which a senior has fulfilled all of the academic requirements for graduation, participated in the commencement ceremony and received a degree, but is still undergoing a conduct and investigation process. In cases of findings of responsibility and suspension for any such student, the formal date of the degree would be suspended until such time as the student served the suspension period."

Some supporters of the students accused the college of treating them unfairly. The college statement said that "efforts to politicize and interfere with this process had no influence on timing or decisions. Students had an opportunity to be heard, pose questions, ask for further investigation and raise objections throughout the process. The independent panel of three (one panelist each from the faculty, staff and student body) determined their findings of responsibility on a preponderance of video and photographic evidence and a limited amount of witness testimony."

The statement from the college also said that it "must continue to invite the broadest array of speakers on the most pressing issues of the day. Our faculty must help us understand how to mitigate the forces that divide our society. Our students must master the skills of respectful dialogue across all barriers. Our community must protect the right to learn from others, especially those with whom we strongly disagree. And Claremont McKenna College must take every step necessary to uphold these vital commitments."

Nana Gyamfi, a lawyer with the group Justice Warriors for Black Lives, has been advising the students who faced charges. She called the college's actions "completely outrageous" and said that the students were being punished by the college "to intimidate and to bully" them.

She said that the protest was “warranted” because of Mac Donald's views. "This particular person is a person who has expressed her antagonism toward Black Lives Matter" and "has been giving excuses for extrajudicial killings of black people," she said.

Gyamfi said that Mac Donald’s free speech was not limited in any way, in that she was able to give her talk online. "What free speech rights did the students prevent? Did they jump up in her speech? Did they grab her and pull her aside? She could talk all day long." Asked about the students who wanted to hear Mac Donald, Gyamfi said that "there is no right to hear someone speak."

The real issue, Gyamfi said, is that Claremont McKenna is not committed to diversity. "They need to understand what it means to be diverse, that it's not about having a quota of marginalized people to say 'we have black people' and 'we have brown people.'" Real diversity is about "creating safe spaces" where students feel respected. She said that Claremont McKenna's leaders should enroll in a course she teaches at California State University, Los Angeles, called Race, Activism and Emotions if they want to understand how it was wrong to permit Mac Donald to be scheduled to give a lecture on campus.

That Mac Donald has criticized the Black Lives Matter movement is not in dispute. Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, attracted controversy after the 2016 publication of her book The War on Cops. In the book, she criticizes the Black Lives Matter movement and says criminals have been "emboldened" by the scrutiny of police shootings. She writes that police are the single group in society protecting black people from "criminals and gangbangers" and that the police deserve more support, not more scrutiny. She says that she is not racist and in fact is an advocate for black people who live in neighborhoods that are unsafe due to crime.

In an interview Monday after the punishments were announced, Mac Donald said that she was "glad some students were being held responsible" and that some of the punishments were significant. She noted that many more students who participated appear unlikely to be punished. She also said that she appreciated that Claremont McKenna leaders have spoken out about the value of free speech.

But Mac Donald added that the idea that her views on Black Lives Matter would justify a protest to block her from speaking was "an amazing proposition," and a dangerous one. Even if Black Lives Matter was a worthy organization, which Mac Donald offered as a hypothetical with which she disagrees, "I don't know how one could begin to justify an argument that any social movement is beyond criticism."

She also reiterated her view that students need to ask questions about Black Lives Matter. The organization and its supporters, she said, "show indifference to the thousands of black lives taken every year by street crime."

Editorial Tags: Academic freedomActivismImage Caption: Students at Claremont McKenna block entrance to speech by Heather Mac Donald.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, July 18, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: 5 Suspended for Blocking Speech

House committee moves ahead with ambitious expansion of GI Bill

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 00:00

Testifying before the House of Representatives veterans' affairs committee Monday, Will Hubbard, the vice president of government affairs at Student Veterans of America, said if student veterans sat down to write an update to the GI Bill, it would look like the proposal before the committee. 

The committee held a hearing on a long-awaited update to the Post-9/11 GI Bill Monday just days after unveiling the new legislation -- a sign of the urgency felt by lawmakers and veterans' advocates backing the bill. The legislation attempts to fill gaps in veterans' benefits in the 2008 Post-9/11 GI Bill and also would restore benefits for those affected by recent closures of large for-profit colleges. And among other provisions, it would lift a 15-year time limit in which veterans must use GI Bill benefits, give Purple Heart recipients full eligibility for benefits, and expand support for veterans pursuing STEM degrees.

"The passage of this bill will represent the start of a new era for education for veterans," Hubbard told lawmakers Monday. 

The bill also would expand access to aid for National Guard members and reservists, awarding up to $2,300 in additional tuition benefits as well as an increase in their housing allowance. And it would let veterans transfer eligibility between dependents.

Purple Heart recipients previously had to serve three years to get full access to GI Bill benefits, but the new bill would automatically provide full eligibility for those veterans.

Veterans groups said while they welcomed the legislation, it could still be improved, especially in provisions restoring benefits for veterans who attended closed institutions. The bill would give affected veterans one semester's worth of benefits if they have been affected by a closure since January 2015. The provision applies to school closures going forward as well.

"While we support this initiative, we feel it does not go far enough," said Patrick Murray, associate director for the national legislative service at Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Murray said veterans should be able to recoup the benefits for each month spent at an institution closed since 2015 such as those operated by ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges.

Hubbard said Student Veterans of America also hoped to see, among other recommendations, full funding of the state approving agencies that administer the GI Bill and restoration of GI Bill benefits used to earn any credit at a closed institution that could not be transferred elsewhere toward completion of a degree. 

The committee also sees a need for a legislative fix to school closures because of the possibility that more institutions will fail in the near future. The Department of Education in December dropped its recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, an accreditor of 269 mostly for-profit institutions, in an endorsement of a decision by the federal panel that oversees accreditors. The Trump administration in May backed that decision.

An analysis of ACICS-accredited institutions in June found that 52 either are closing, have closed or have lost access to federal aid, and another seven may lose access to aid this month. Another seven may lose federal aid eligibility next month, while 11 already have found a new accreditor.

Kevin Thompson, a U.S. Navy veteran who attended an ITT Tech campus in Phoenix from 2015 to 2016, said he had just purchased books and other materials for classes when the for-profit chain announced it was closing all 130 of its campuses last September. He was eventually able to transfer some of the credits he earned at ITT to DeVry University (now Adtalem Global Education) but has exhausted his GI Bill benefits two courses short of a bachelor's degree. Thompson said the restoration of benefits in the bill would allow him to finish his B.A. and find a job.

"I could complete those two classes and get that degree," Thompson said in an interview.

The Department of Education began in April to notify students who used aid from Pell Grants to attend closed institutions -- including those operated by ITT and Corinthian -- that their Pell eligibility would be restored so they can continue their education elsewhere. Now military students affected by those closures will see similar assistance from the federal government.

Rep. Luke Messer, an Indiana Republican, said in testimony at Monday's hearing that ITT's sudden closure last year affected 40,000 students across the country, including 7,000 veterans. 

"If a student attended ITT Tech through a Pell Grant, they had that Pell Grant restored. And if they took out a federal loan the loan as forgiven," Messer said. "But nothing has been done for the student veterans who used their GI Bill benefits to attend ITT Tech. Frankly, our veterans got a raw deal."

Limitations in the Bill

Other advocates, even as they welcomed the overall expansion of benefits in the bill, raised concerns after its unveiling about where it came up short. Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success, said she was worried that current language in the bill -- which says that students at institutions that close during a semester would have their benefits restored -- wouldn't apply to ITT students because the chain closed before the fall semester officially began last year.

Tiffany Haverly, a spokeswoman for the veterans' committee, said that the Department of Veterans Affairs has determined that ITT students would be covered by the benefit, however.

WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, a nonprofit focused on improving the quality of e-learning programs, also said ahead of Monday night's hearing that it was disappointed the bill does not address current rules at the VA that give students who take all their courses online only 50 percent of the national average housing allowance. A student may attend classes on campus one semester and receive a full housing allowance, the group said, and then take only online classes the next semester and see their housing allowance slashed by half.

The $100 million price tag over 10 years for the expanded benefits in the bill would be offset by reducing housing stipends under the GI Bill to a similar level as active-duty service members, who saw those stipends reduced by 1 percent for five years starting in 2014, committee staff said. The housing allowance for GI Bill recipients was exempted from that 2014 reduction. Current GI Bill recipients would be grandfathered in under that provision of the bill and would not see their housing stipends changed.

Representative Phil Roe, a Tennessee Republican and chairman of the veterans' affairs committee, said the bill was a "shining example" of how well members of Congress can and should work together. 

"This isn't a package that comes along every day," he said.

Representative Tim Walz, a Minnesota Democrat and the ranking member on the committee, said the committee showed members of Congress can work together toward the goal of providing the best care for veterans. 

“We would hope our Senate colleagues will follow our lead, take this thing, move it through, and I know the president wants to sign this," he said.

The bill is getting broad backing from veterans' groups. In April, a proposal from Roe’s office to pay for expanded benefits by requiring that service members pay into the GI Bill was tabled after intense backlash from several veterans' groups.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told the Associated Press last week that House leadership would move forward with the GI Bill update this month, and a similar bill is expected to be introduced with bipartisan backing in the Senate.

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