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ACE Names Illinois Resident Mario Sankis 2015 Student of the Year

American Council on Education - 1 hour 10 sec ago
​Mario Sankis, of Round Lake Beach, IL, will be presented with ACE's Student of the Year Award at ACE2016 during the March 14 morning plenary session.

Fifteen More Institutions Join ACE’s Alternative Credit Consortium

American Council on Education - 1 hour 10 sec ago
The selected institutions have demonstrated a strong commitment to access and attainment, particularly in the area of serving non-traditional students

Renu Khator, University of Houston President and System Chancellor, Elected ACE Board Chair

American Council on Education - 1 hour 10 sec ago
Khator became board chair during ACE's 97th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. ACE's membership also elected Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia vice chair; and Nancy J. McCallin, president of the Colorado Community College System, secretary.

Holtschneider Receives 2015 ACE Council of Fellows/Fidelity Investments Mentor Award

American Council on Education - 1 hour 10 sec ago
​The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., president of DePaul University (IL), was presented today with the 2015 Council of Fellows/Fidelity Investments Mentor Award* during the opening plenary of ACE's 97th Annual Meeting.

Georgia State University and Governors State University Receive ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation

American Council on Education - 1 hour 10 sec ago
The awards were presented at ACE’s 97th Annual Meeting and were accepted by Georgia State University President Mark P. Becker and Governors State University President Elaine P. Maimon​ on behalf of their institutions.

ACE Names Indiana Resident Jeffery Gearhart 2014 Student of the Year

American Council on Education - 1 hour 10 sec ago
​Jeffery “L.J.” Gearhart II, a McDonald’s restaurant general manager and student at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, is ACE's 2014 Student of the Year.

Madlyn Hanes, Penn State Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses, to Receive Donna Shavlik Award

American Council on Education - 1 hour 10 sec ago
The award will be presented at ACE's 97th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, during the Women's Leadership Dinner on Saturday, March 14.

American College Application Campaign Sees Record Year

American Council on Education - 1 hour 10 sec ago
​As President Obama proclaims November National College Application Month, the only nationwide college application initiative is in the midst of a record-setting year.

Survey finds increasing interest in skills-based hiring, online credentials and prehire assessments

Inside Higher Ed - 2 hours 30 min ago

Recent headlines have touted the move by several big employers to stop requiring new hires to hold college degrees. Meanwhile, a drumbeat of studies show increasing labor market returns for degrees, and employers say they value the critical thinking skills of liberal arts graduates.

These seemingly oppositional trends are both real and on display in a new report from Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy. The report sheds light on a technology-enhanced shift in the way workers are being hired in the knowledge economy.

The traditional college degree remains by far the best ticket to a good-paying job, a well-established fact bolstered by a survey the center conducted. But the results also suggest that college leaders should pay close attention to the gradual, ongoing transformation of HR functions as well as to nascent changes in how employers view alternative credentials, particularly of the digital variety.

“The way employers relate to higher education is shifting,” said Sean R. Gallagher, the center’s executive director and the report’s author. “It’s employers getting savvier.”

The center surveyed 750 hiring leaders at U.S. employers in August and September. The results are nationally representative, spanning a wide range of industries and organizational sizes.

Most respondents reported an increase (48 percent) or no change (29 percent) in how they value educational credentials in hiring during the last five years. Just 23 percent reported a decline.

A majority (54 percent) of those surveyed agreed with the statement that college degrees are "fairly reliable representations of a candidate’s skills and knowledge." And 76 percent agreed that completing a degree program is a “valuable signal of perseverance and self-direction” in a job candidate.

Likewise, 44 percent of respondents said the level of educational attainment required or preferred for the same job roles had increased over the last five years. Most who responded that way (63 percent) indicated that additional education requirements were due to evolving skills needed for jobs, rather than the mere availability of candidates with better credentials, a finding that agues against conventional wisdom on credential inflation.

In addition, 64 percent of respondents said the need for "continuous lifelong learning" in the future will drive demand for higher levels of education and more credentials.

While the traditional degree’s currency is secure for now, the survey found that employers increasingly are moving toward hiring based on applicants’ skills or competencies. And while it remains small, the market for nondegree microcredentials is growing rapidly, according to the survey.

The report points to the increasing use of data and analytics in hiring, noting that another study found 30 percent of HR departments reporting some form of analytics usage this year, up from 10 percent a few years ago.

As a result of the increasing reliance on artificial intelligence and analytics in hiring, the report predicted that employers are likely to change their preferences for credentials.

One area where this is happening is the rise of skills-based hiring that often de-emphasizes degrees and pedigrees. These typically technology-enabled strategies involve employers defining specific skills that are necessary for the job and seeking them in candidates. As examples, the report points to IBM's New Collar Jobs project and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Talent Pipeline Management Initiative.

The survey found that 23 percent of respondents are moving in this direction, with another 39 percent reporting that they are exploring or considering such a move.

Going Online and Micro

Online credentials have become mainstream, according to the report.

“Both the education market and the HR function are less digitized than many other sectors,” Gallagher said, pointing to finance and health care as examples. “It’s coming to education.”

The survey found that 71 percent of HR officials have hired someone with a degree or credential that the employee earned completely online. However, 39 percent of respondents viewed online credentials as being second class, saying they are generally lower quality than those completed in person. Yet more than half (52 percent) said they believe that in the future, most advanced degrees will be earned online.

That hunch is backed by data the Urban Institute released earlier this week about master's degrees.

The rate of enrollment in online master's courses or programs has increased substantially since 2000, the analysis found, and is more common than in bachelor's degree programs. In 2016, the institute said 31 percent of students in master’s tracks reported that their program was entirely online, with 21 percent reporting that they took some online courses.

“You can’t ignore online,” Gallagher said.

The growth of digital learning options has spawned a variety of short, subdegree awards. These microcredentials include digital badges, MicroMasters from edX and Udacity’s Nanodegrees.

Awareness of these credentials in HR departments remains relatively low, according to the survey, yet still substantial. For example, 29 percent of respondents said they had encountered MicroMasters in the hiring process, and 10 percent said they had hired a candidate who had earned one. Another 36 percent said they had never heard of the credential from edX.

Microcredentials currently appear to be functioning as a supplement to degrees, the survey found. But that could change. A majority of respondents (55 percent) agreed with the statement that microcredentials are “likely to diminish the emphasis on degrees in hiring over the next 5-10 years.”

Test Before Hire

The biggest near-term challenge to the reliance on degrees in hiring, the survey found, is the use of prehire assessments such as online tests given to job candidates.

More than a third of respondents (39 percent) expect these assessments to have an impact on hiring within three years, and nearly 70 percent within five years.

Those findings build on a report Ithaka S+R released earlier this week in an attempt to map the “Wild West” of prehire assessment.

The report documented a “wave of rapid innovation” in this space. The interest is being driven in part by the perceived gap between job candidates’ competencies and employers’ needs, the group said, which in turn is contributing to a growing distrust by employers in “signaling credentials” such as college degrees, industry association endorsements and state licensures.

“We are at the early stages of a new market, a new industry,” said Martin Kurzweil, director of the group’s educational transformation program. Kurzweil co-wrote the report with Meagan Wilson, a senior analyst there, and Rayane Alamuddin, associate director for research and evaluation at Ithaka S+R.

As an essay published by Inside Higher Ed earlier this week noted, prehiring assessment faces regulatory and legal challenges in this country, including the risk of lawsuits alleging that such screening of hires is discriminatory. Yet plenty of experimentation with the practice is occurring, said Kurzweil.

The activity around prehiring assessment brings both promise and risks, he said. Kurzweil is excited about the prospect of “hiring people based on what they can do rather than their pedigree.” But the stakes are high, he said, particularly as profit-seeking companies move into the space.

The marketplace for prehiring assessments already is flooded, according to the report. Content and software across assessments and employers' human resources systems often are incompatible. And higher education administrators and industry association officials tend to be out of touch with new methodologies used by employers and assessment providers.

The time is ripe for college leaders to play a role in shaping the use of prehire assessments, Kurzweil said, such as contributing to norms around how the tools are used.

“We think higher education should be more engaged in what’s happening,” he said. “This is a historical force that’s sweeping through. It’s going to happen.”

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Why is Bennett College losing accreditation while St. Augustine's University is keeping it?

Inside Higher Ed - 2 hours 30 min ago

Two historically black institutions in North Carolina faced similar situations heading into this month’s Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges annual meeting.

Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh and Bennett College in Greensboro had both been on probation for two years because of concerns about their finances. SACS does not allow for a third year of probation, so each institution was facing one of two outcomes: have its probation lifted or lose its accreditation.

The first possible outcome would mean the college or university would have its accreditation extended, continuing its access to all-important federal student aid. The second would jeopardize almost any institution’s ability to keep its doors open, as loss of accreditation means loss of access to those federal funds, along with the revenue they provide and the vast majority of students who depend on federal financial aid to help them pay for college.

On Tuesday, St. Augustine’s learned its probation was being lifted after it had assuaged the accreditor’s concerns. Bennett, on the other hand, was not able to satisfy SACS and is in line to have its accreditation revoked. Bennett’s president has pledged to appeal the decision at a February hearing, and the college is now widely soliciting donations to strengthen its standing. It will continue to be open and accredited during its appeal.

Even before the outcome of any appeal can be known, the cases of the two institutions demonstrate the long and difficult paths that struggling colleges and universities travel as they fight to shore up their finances -- and the way those paths diverge during the complex and sometimes opaque crucible of the accreditation process.

The two cases also stand as the latest examples of the stresses mounting on many different small tuition-dependent institutions, especially those with a mission of serving low-income students. St. Augustine’s and Bennett’s struggles resonate particularly strongly because of the unique place HBCUs hold in the American higher education landscape, and because Bennett counted itself as one of only two historically black colleges for women. But other types of institutions are cracking under pressure as well.

“I’m afraid we’re going to see more and more small private institutions either close or get dropped from membership or merge, which is what I would hope they would do so their legacy is not lost,” said Belle Wheelan, SACS president, in an interview Wednesday.

Can Bennett Be Saved?

The most immediate question is whether Bennett College can stave off the loss of its accreditation. The college has scrambled to raise additional money since learning of SACS’s decision Tuesday.

Bennett leaders aim to raise at least $4 million to $5 million over the next 45 days, they said during a Thursday press conference. They are appealing to donors, foundations, corporations and other organizations, both nationally and locally, to give.

College leaders said they had been improving this year in key metrics like enrollment, retention and student loan default rates. And the college had already been touting recent philanthropic successes, like steadily increasing fund-raising totals.

Bennett recently reported a surplus of $461,000 after annual deficits climbed over $1 million just a few years ago. College leaders told the News & Record they are currently projecting a surplus again, of about $300,000.

In light of those indicators, Bennett’s leaders were surprised when SACS decided to revoke the college’s accreditation. They still aren’t clear how much they would have to raise to keep the college accredited, although they hope to know more after receiving a final letter in January detailing the accreditor’s decision.

“The standard speaks to fiscal stability, and it’s judged in many different ways,” said Phyllis Worthy Dawkins, Bennett’s president, during Thursday’s press conference. “There’s no one way to demonstrate fiscal stability, which is why we thought we were demonstrating fiscal stability.”

Leaders have asked how much money they need to raise, said the chair of the college’s Board of Trustees, Gladys A. Robinson. The accreditor has not answered, she said.

“Now our challenge is bigger, and yet simply based on our need to lower the balance on our line of credit,” Robinson said. “We are disappointed that SACS does not seem to understand the issue of HBCUs, and especially an African American woman’s HBCU that continues to survive and strive and improve regardless of economic situations.”

Bennett and its students were severely affected by the Great Recession, Robinson said. The African American community lost much of its wealth, and the population Bennett serves, African American women, was hit particularly hard, she said.

The college will be able to submit new information about newly secured funding as part of its appeal, said Wheelan, the accreditor’s president.

“We never enjoy dropping an institution,” Wheelan said. “We worked with them for a number of years while they were on probation, and we provided guidance. They followed it. They just weren’t able to raise the money to demonstrate stability.”

The college has not discussed a shutdown, according to its president, Dawkins. It is appealing SACS’s decision, and she indicated it would initiate a lawsuit if it loses the appeal.

Bennett wouldn’t be the first institution to sue SACS over having its accreditation pulled. Paine College, a private HBCU in Augusta, Ga., was placed on probation in 2014. SACS eventually determined Paine hadn’t satisfied deficiencies in areas related to finances and the control of sponsored research or external funds. The college decided to appeal, and the dispute eventually ended up in federal court. A judge ruled earlier this year that SACS could withdraw the college’s accreditation.

Paine then indicated it would seek accreditation elsewhere, with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. It currently has candidate status with TRACS.

A college spokeswoman later said Bennett was confident its appeal would be successful. She also said that the college boosted its new student enrollment by 15 percent this fall to 243 students, and that many of the new students are strong academically.

Similar Cases With Different Outcomes

Bennett and St. Augustine’s are located about 80 miles apart in neighboring North Carolina cities. Their recent histories and some publicly available data show some striking similarities between the two.

Both colleges are affiliated with mainline Protestant churches, and both experienced presidential turnover within the last five years. Bennett is related to the United Methodist Church. St. Augustine’s is one of only two historically black institutions affiliated with the Episcopal Church.

Dawkins started at Bennett in 2015 as provost, then was promoted to interim president the next year. Her predecessor was at the college for three years. Everett B. Ward spent a year as interim president at St. Augustine’s after trustees ousted the university’s former president, then he took over the position on a permanent basis in 2015.

The two colleges each lost more than a third of their enrollment since 2010, federal data show. Bennett’s total enrollment dropped from 780 in 2010 to 493 in 2017. St. Augustine’s fell from 1,508 to 974.

Both institutions also posted losses on their latest available federal tax forms -- which do not cover their results for the most recent year. Bennett posted a deficit of $977,000 in the year ending in June 2017 after losing $1.1 million the previous year. St. Augustine’s lost $1.7 million after recording a deficit of $723,761.

The similarities even extend to financial relief recently granted by the federal government. Bennett and St. Augustine’s were both among eight private institutions receiving deferments on loans from the U.S. Department of Education.

The loan deferments, under the HBCU Capital Finance Program, were announced earlier this year. Bennett has quoted the benefits of that deferment at $9 million over six years. Ward has said St. Augustine’s deferment will save it $1 million per year over the same period.

Key differences exist between the two institutions, however. Although they are in nearby cities, Bennett faces a different local market in Greensboro than St. Augustine’s does in Raleigh. And Bennett has a history of financial trouble that includes a 2011 probation because of concerns over its financial stability.

“In Greensboro they have so many institutions around them that they’ve struggled for years,” Wheelan said. “This is not the first time they’ve been in trouble. It’s just the first time they have not been able to come out of it.”

Other key differences between the colleges include the fact that Bennett remains much smaller than St. Augustine’s at a time when many college leaders think small institutions need to grow larger in order to survive. Bennett has reported a significantly smaller net asset base on tax forms than has St. Augustine’s -- $14.2 million versus $30.4 million.

Bennett is not alone as a women’s college facing financial issues. Nonelite women’s colleges from Sweet Briar College in Virginia to Mills College in California have struggled financially to different degrees in recent years.

Nonetheless, outside observers could be forgiven for being surprised that Bennett is having its accreditation pulled while St. Augustine’s is not.

From the student perspective, Bennett costs less on average, has a higher graduation rate and sees its students go on to earn a slightly higher median salary 10 years after entering college, according to the College Scorecard. Bennett's average annual net price for financial aid recipients is listed at $22,730, its six-year graduation rate is 43 percent and the median salary of its students 10 years after enrolling is $30,600. St. Augustine’s average annual net price is listed at $26,415, its graduation rate is 28 percent and the median salary of its students 10 years after enrolling is $27,300.

On their own, those statistics aren't likely to seem attractive to many students -- regardless of which institution they favor. Both institutions trail many other colleges and universities by those metrics. They also posted debt levels for graduates that are significantly higher than the national average. The median federal loan debt for undergraduates who completed their degrees at Bennett was $38,243, excluding private loans and Parent PLUS loans. It was $36,500 at St. Augustine's.

In addition to concerns over St. Augustine’s financial issues, SACS had cited in its probation disclosure a standard about the institutional effectiveness of the university’s education programs.

St. Augustine’s also found itself the target of intense speculation over its future earlier this year after leaked documents called into question its trajectory. The leaks were summarized in an HBCU Digest report saying issues with enrollment, finances, personnel turnover and disagreements about leadership left those connected to the university increasingly worried about its accreditation.

“I am formally informing you and the Board of Trustees that in my expert opinion, I do not feel that St. Augustine’s University is ready or prepared for the upcoming accreditation site visit, and unless drastic measures are taken immediately, the institution will lose its accreditation and be closed,” a consultant wrote in a July 2018 letter to Ward, HBCU Digest reported.

That worst-case scenario did not come to pass. St. Augustine’s followed a plan of action that involved fund-raising, management improvements and cost cutting in order to keep its accreditation, said its president, Ward, in an interview Wednesday.

St. Augustine’s worked to streamline and automate accounting functions with new software, he said. It cut costs in areas including travel and administration.

“I think the university administration, along with our external partners, alumni and students, made a concerted effort,” he said. “Our alumni became extremely engaged and have continued to be very involved in recruitment and fund-raising. They have helped us in those areas extensively, as well as coming on campus and mentoring students and just being very engaged through our national and local alumni organizations.”

Ward has also thanked the Episcopal Church for administrative, advisory and financial support during the university’s probation. The university has been through rounds of job cuts as well.

Nonetheless, St. Augustine’s enrollment is down significantly this fall. It was about 800, according to Ward. That would be a drop of nearly 20 percent from numbers reported last fall.

“We attributed that decrease to the perception that was reported in some media outlets that the university was on the verge of closing because of accreditation issues,” Ward said. “When we realized targeted enrollment would not be met, we moved into a budget modification, which was approved by the board, and began to look at how we would reduce costs and live within our budgetary means.”

Ultimately, St. Augustine’s showed its accreditor that it had improved its finances to a degree that demonstrated financial stability now and beyond this year, Wheelan said. The same could not be said for Bennett.

“They were not able to demonstrate that they were financially stable,” Wheelan said. “They hadn’t gotten there yet, according to the board and the board’s opinion.”

Small Colleges Continue to Struggle

Bennett’s and St. Augustine’s recent accreditation struggles fit into a larger landscape where private liberal arts colleges in North Carolina face intense pressure. Many of those pressures echo those felt in other states around the country.

North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities is a 36-member group of private colleges accredited by SACS. Half of the students attending its member colleges are eligible for federal Pell Grants, said the group’s president, A. Hope Williams. Pell Grant eligibility is widely considered a proxy for low-income status.

At the same time, competition for students across state lines can be fierce. For example, Oglethorpe University in Atlanta recently unveiled a pricing strategy under which it will match in-state public flagship tuition rates for students from all states who meet certain requirements -- meaning some of the students who are most attractive to colleges will pay no more in tuition to attend Oglethorpe than the listed sticker price of the flagship in their home states.

In that environment, nonwealthy, tuition-driven institutions face significant difficulty balancing their own need for revenue with students’ ability and willingness to pay.

“So many students need assistance in terms of being able to make it possible for them to attend college,” Williams said. “One of the challenges that private colleges and universities have is the amount of institutional aid that they need to provide to make college affordable.”

The challenge is all the greater for a women’s college like Bennett, which starts with a smaller number of prospective students it can recruit.

“It is such an incredible institution for young women of color,” Williams said. “At the same time, that is a challenge in terms of its applicant pool. One of its most wonderful attributes can also be a challenge in the outreach for applicants.”

Bennett will likely have to make substantial changes to attract students and differentiate itself from other small liberal arts colleges and even other HBCUs, according to Marybeth Gasman, director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Even if it does not win a SACS appeal, Bennett could follow Paine College’s path and apply with another accreditor, like TRACS. Paul Quinn College, a historically black college in Texas, also took that course after SACS pulled its accreditation almost a decade ago.

Today, Paul Quinn bills itself as the country’s only urban work college, and its name surfaces alongside some of the most in-vogue, forward-looking ideas like credential programs and online courses. Its president was even rumored last year to be targeted by Texas Democrats who wanted him to run for governor.

Gasman cautioned against viewing the struggles of Bennett and St. Augustine’s solely through the lens of their identity as HBCUs. Most HBCUs in North Carolina are public, she said in an email. North Carolina A&T State University, for example, is one of the strongest HBCUs in the nation, she said.

“I do think that the experiences of St. Aug and Bennett are indicative of the struggles of some small, under-resourced, church-related HBCUs and small” predominantly white institutions, she said. “One of the most difficult issues for these two colleges is demonstrating what is unique about them and why students should attend them given the lack of resources that they suffer from. Many small colleges across the nation -- HBCU or not -- are faced with this issue.”

Indeed, SACS placed several other institutions on probation at this month’s meeting. Prairie View A&M, a public historically black institution in Texas, was placed on probation for failure to comply with an accrediting standard on federal and state responsibilities. The action was related to state audit issues, Wheelan said.

The accreditor placed other institutions that are not HBCUs on probation. Johnson University in Knoxville, Tenn., was placed on probation for a standard related to federal and state responsibilities. The university provided inadequate evidence to SACS that it had addressed an issue with reporting dating back to its 2016 financial aid audit, said Johnson’s provost, Jon Weatherly. The university has taken steps to resolve the issue.

Loyola University of New Orleans was placed on probation over its finances. Loyola issued a statement saying it has already boosted enrollment, improved retention, raised money and put in place spending reductions to address the accreditor’s concern.

SACS also removed several institutions from probation, including Johnson C. Smith University, an HBCU in Charlotte, N.C., that had been under scrutiny over concerns about its financial stability. Johnson C. Smith had been placed on probation a year ago.

DiversityAdministration and FinanceEditorial Tags: AccreditationBusiness issuesHistorically black collegesImage Caption: Bennett CollegeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

Catholic University fires professor over relationship with assistant he hired

Inside Higher Ed - 2 hours 30 min ago

Catholic University announced Thursday that it has fired Stephen McKenna, a tenured associate professor of media and communication studies, for having a sexual relationship with a graduate student whom he hired as an assistant.

A university statement said he hired the assistant when he was serving as a department chair. The assistant was a graduate student in another department, and they became sexually involved shortly after she was hired. The university received an anonymous tip about the allegation last year but was unable to get detailed information. But then the employee contacted the university about the relationship.

Catholic referred the matter to a faculty committee, which determined that McKenna had violated university rules with the relationship and that dismissal would be an "appropriate" response. The university's board this week acted on the faculty committee's report and fired McKenna.

University policy explicitly bars any romantic relationships between faculty members or administrators and those they supervise. The relevant policy states, “A consensual dating or sexual relationship between a staff employee, a member of the faculty (including adjunct faculty) and a student, or an employee that the staff/faculty directly supervises, is prohibited when the staff/faculty has any current or foreseeable professional responsibility for the student or the employee … Voluntary consent by the student/employee in such a relationship is suspect, given the fundamental nature of such a relationship.” The policy also states that “violation of this prohibition may result in disciplinary action including dismissal for unprofessional conduct.”

McKenna could not be reached for comment via phone or social media.

The university statement on his dismissal said that McKenna admitted to the relationship "but argued that dismissal was inappropriate."

Many colleges and universities that dismiss faculty members in these circumstances do not draw attention to the decisions. But the statement from Catholic said that the faculty committee that reviewed McKenna's case "encouraged the university to publicize the matter widely, in the interests of accountability and deterrence."

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British universities are accepting more students with low grades

Inside Higher Ed - 2 hours 30 min ago

The proportion of British students being accepted to university courses with lower school-leaving grades is at one of its highest rates ever, according to a report from the country’s admissions body.

Data released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show that 84 percent of applicants who achieved grades equivalent to CCC at A level, or lower, gained a higher education place this year, up five percentage points since 2013. For those with A-level points equivalent to DDD, the acceptance rate tipped past 80 percent.

There is a similar trend for applicants taking other qualifications such as Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) schools: acceptance rates for students who received three BTEC passes have risen from below 50 percent in 2013 to 70 percent this year.

The figures follow controversy over the ballooning use of unconditional offers -- where students are guaranteed a place regardless of what grades they achieve in exams -- which a separate UCAS analysis released last month showed was now at a record level.

That analysis also suggested that unconditional offers were being made at increasing rates to those with lower predicted grades, while there was also further evidence that those holding such an offer were more likely to miss their forecast grade profile.

According to the latest UCAS report, the share of applicants over all who missed their predicted A levels by three or more grades has gone up 3.3 percentage points since 2017, and 11.5 percentage points since 2013.

And placed applicants with lower grade profiles have, on average, a larger difference between their achieved and predicted grades, the figures show.

All the data are likely to be seized on by critics of the current system, with some believing that universities that are under pressure to fill places and maintain tuition income are accepting too many students with lower grades.

Clare Marchant, UCAS chief executive, said that while many applicants were accepted on the strength of factors such as interviews or personal statements, universities “must be mindful of accepting applicants with lower grades” and such students “must be appropriately supported during their studies, so they can flourish on their chosen course.”

She added that UCAS was also “working with schools and universities to improve the accuracy of predicted grades, exploring the different ways teachers make predictions, and how they are used by admissions teams when making offers,” with a “good practice guide” due to be published in the new year.

Elsewhere, a separate chapter of the report reveals that although the proportion of British 18-year-olds entering higher education continues to rise over all, there has been a fall in the entry rate for some regions for the first time since tuition fees rose.

In the east of England, the northeast, and Yorkshire and the Humber, there was a drop in the share of 18-year-olds entering higher education of between 0.1 and 0.7 percentage points compared with last year. “These decreases come after five years of consistent entry rate increases for every region of England from 2012 to 2017,” the report says.

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Updates on college fund-raising campaigns

Inside Higher Ed - 2 hours 30 min ago

Starting Out:

  • Hamilton College is starting a campaign to raise $400 million by 2023. Top goals include financial aid and living/learning communities. To date, $191 million has been raised.
  • Lawrence University is starting a campaign to raise $220 million by 2020. Top goals include financial aid, with a push to meeting the full need of all admitted students. To date, $165.5 million has been raised.
  • Saint Louis University is starting a campaign to raise $500 million by 2021. So far, $303 million has been raised with student aid and academic programs among the priorities.

Finishing Up:

  • University of Alabama at Birmingham has raised just over $1 billion in a five-year campaign for which $1 billion was the goal. Top priorities included the business school, student aid and athletics.

Track college fund-raising campaigns at Inside Higher Ed's database.

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U.S. Department of Education Blog | Ed.gov: #RethinkSchool: Alaska Magnet School Provides Career Readiness in District the Size of Indiana

Paul Bartos knew about education in rural America after serving as a 7th grade biology teacher, assistant principal and a principal in Poplar and White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

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US Department of State endorses education agencies

The PIE News - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 13:03

The US Department of State has officially endorsed the usage of education agents, for the first time, by attending the AIRC conference and speaking in collaborative tones at a plenary alongside counterparts from the US Department of Commerce.

This is an historic and significant move, given the EducationUSA network managed by the State Dept had previously not maintained business relations with agents, unlike the Department of Commerce.

It is also a coup for AIRC, the membership organisation that vets and approves education agency members, who can then connect with its US institutional members.

“It has never been more important for the sector itself, both private and public, non-profit and for-profit, to be focused on the bigger picture of working together to promote the United States as the destination choice for international students,” said Caroline Casagrande, deputy assistant secretary for academic programs in the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

A letter was distributed to all delegates from Casagrande’s superior, Marie Royce, who thanked “colleagues” at AIRC for their support of international education and Casagrande noted a new more open collaborative approach, with EducationUSA making its resources more widely available.

“We have opened up Education USA’s primary recruitment resources that were previously only available to US colleges and universities that registered with us on our website. They are now publicly accessible to everyone,” she said.

“We hope this will empower more actors and those who are working towards our common goals. This includes our signature publication, The USA Education Global Guide, which is a detailed summary of region and country-specific recruitment information and a compilation of resources.”

Mike Finnell, executive director at AIRC, called the State Department’s intervention “a monumental event” at this year’s 10th anniversary conference.

“After years of discussion, deputy secretary of state Casagrande and Eduction Bureau chief Alfred Boll formally recognised AIRC for its leadership and best practices in international recruitment during an emotional plenary session,” he related.

“AIRC, its staff, board and dedicated members are extremely optimistic that this announcement will help shape and grow international recruitment opportunities in the US in the years to come.”

Casagrande also referred the audience to the video message from Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, which was published for International Education Week.

Her impassioned presentation suggested a top-level realisation that a cohesive approach to working to maintain the USA’s competitive position is needed, after Open Doors data indicated a decline in new enrolments for 2017/18.

“This is an extremely encouraging development for US higher education,” commented David Di Maria, associate vice provost for international education at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

EducationUSA has 550 advisors and 456 offices around the world and is a significant asset to building interest in US international education. Indeed, as Casagrande put it, its offices “offer free guidance to international students on the full range of higher education institutions to help them navigate the education process to find the best US college or university of their choice”.

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No-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic”

The PIE News - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 09:16

Representatives from the NUS, Association of Colleges and The Russell Group have presented their views on the implications that Brexit could have on student exchange programs to the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee of the House of Lords, calling for more clarity on funding and describing a no-deal scenario as potentially “catastrophic”.

After the UK leaves the EU in 2019, it remains unclear whether or how the UK will continue to participate in Erasmus programs.

“At the moment the keyword is uncertainty”

But although the UK government has agreed to underwrite funding for projects under the current framework, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, full association to its successor program has not yet been guaranteed and details of UK research funding post-Brexit are lacking.

Representing The Russell Group, Gail Armistead said that while the UK government has provided some funding reassurance, the potential of a no-deal scenario is bringing to light questions about students already overseas on exchange programs.

“We have students who started courses in September who are planning to be in Europe in 2020/21, and at the moment the keyword is uncertainty,” she told the committee.

“We are trying to reassure students that we will continue to support them and deliver the exchanges and experiences they are anticipating, but greater clarity on how the underwrite funding would work, the practicalities of it would be hugely beneficial.”

Echoing this, John Latham representing the Association of Colleges added that European education partners are beginning to “hedge their bets” when it comes to partnering on projects.

“[Partners] at the moment are asking questions and are, perhaps, looking elsewhere,” he said.

“Although the [funding] guarantee is in place, it doesn’t stop [partner institutions] erring on the side of caution… and in my experience, we have been invited on to fewer projects this year.”

Speaking for the NUS, vice president (Higher Education) Amatey Doku pointed out that the underwritten funding doesn’t extend far enough for students starting in the 2018 academic year.

“If the idea behind the underwrite was to reassure students, I’m not sure that is being done,” he told the committee.

“A no-deal scenario would be catastrophic. If the immigration status of students, practitioners and academics change suddenly – which everyone expects it to in no-deal scenario – it’s unclear to me how the fallout from that could be resolved quickly and seamlessly enough to continue these programs.”

The current Erasmus+ program has supported 128,000 UK participants since 2014, while the UK is also a popular study destination for participants.

When asked about the general feeling among EU member states for the UK’s continuation into the next phase of Erasmus, Armistead said relevant national agencies and bodies have so far been “overwhelmingly supportive”.

“The message is very clear; they very much want us to be involved,” she added.

But the question as to how that mood would shift if immigration status for EU students looking to study in the UK becomes dramatically different was a point that Doku was quick to point out.

“If you think about the hoops and hurdles that non-EU students have to go through [before coming to the UK], I think if we suddenly transition to much tougher rules, we would start to lose some of that capital we have in these conversations.”

Readers can view a full recording of the debate via Parliament.tv here. 

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Justin Trudeau’s climate plans are stuck in Alberta’s tar sands

Economist, North America - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 08:44

PEDRO PEREIRA ALMAO is performing industrial magic in his lab at the University of Calgary. Lines from a row of tanks feed two greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, into a chamber the size and shape of a wasp’s nest. Less than a minute later, the other end spits out carbon fibre, a more valuable material that is used in cars, planes, golf clubs and other useful things. Mr Pereira says the process, developed with a doctoral student, Mina Zarabian, could turn power plants, steel mills, or anything that burns fossil fuels into clean, green money-makers. Using waste gases to produce cheap fibre could give rise to new uses, such as ultra-strong plywood.

Mr Pereira and Ms Zarabian are not the only ones imagining a different future for Alberta, the Canadian province of which Calgary is the largest city. In another building on campus, Ian Gates and his team are turning sticky bitumen from the tar sands into pellets that can be...

They used to kidnap tourists. Now Colombia’s ex-rebels run a hotel for them

Economist, North America - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 08:44

WHEN THE FARC was a guerrilla army, among its many illegal sources of income was the kidnapping and ransom of tourists. It started disarming in 2016 but is still making money from tourists in a more peaceful way. In Camp Mariana Páez in Meta province, about eight hours’ drive from Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, visitors can “live like a guerrilla” with 260 demobilised FARC members. “This is not the first spot you will see on TripAdvisor,” says Michael Soto, a visiting student from the University of Minnesota. But for tourists who want to explore “territories that haven’t been run over by paved roads and buildings, this is as good as it gets”. 

The Jardín de la Montaña (Mountain Garden) Hotel is among several ventures in the settlement started by ex-guerrillas who are trying to make a living after the group reached a peace agreement with the Colombian government. That has not been easy. Many are illiterate and have few skills...

Having wrecked the economy, Venezuela’s rulers see no reason to change

Economist, North America - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 08:44

ONE MORNING last month Luis Manuel Cómbita was trying to sell large green mangoes in a pedestrianised street in the historic heart of Bogotá, Colombia’s capital. He was stopped by a policeman because he lacked a permit. Mr Cómbita, aged 24, rake-thin and with a peeling fake leather jacket, said he had arrived from his home town of Mérida in Venezuela two weeks before. “There’s no future in Venezuela,” he declared. On his wages as a building worker “you go a day and half a week without eating.”

Mr Cómbita is one of at least 2.5m Venezuelans who have emigrated since 2014 (out of 32m). Some put the diaspora at over 5m. There is no sign of the exodus ending. What began as a political confrontation under Hugo Chávez, an authoritarian army officer first elected to the presidency 20 years ago this month, has under his chosen heir, Nicolás Maduro, mutated into a national collapse.

Venezuela’s economy has shrunk by half...

Aus: ISEAA launches agent training sessions

The PIE News - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 05:49

The body representing agents in Australia, the International Student Education Agents Association, has launched a series of in-person training events to broaden understanding of the visa system and best practice.

“We consider the GTE just telling the student story, so you’ve got to provide context to immigration”

The first event, held at the University of Wollongong’s Sydney campus in December, attracted 70 agents and providers to network and learn about the genuine temporary entrant requirement of Australia’s student visa.

“When you have that in-person training, you do get good interaction, and question and answer through the audience,” explained ISEAA representative and Sympled organiser Robert Parsonson.

“The other reason is networking opportunities, as agents don’t get a chance apart from parties… we provide time just to get together and talk about what’s happening.”

Parsonson said the GTE, a subjective measure used by officers for the Department of Home Affairs to gauge the legitimacy of a student’s visa application, had been an area of concern for both agents and providers.

“We consider the GTE just telling the student story, so you’ve got to provide context to immigration on what you’ve done and what you plan to do in Australia, then how to use that training back in your home country,” he told The PIE News.

Among the confusion around the GTE requirement, Parsonson said agents were unclear as to the level of information needed and the best way to frame it, with rejections allegedly coming off the back of too much or too little justification.

On occasion, visa officers had also rejected an application because the agent had not indicated they wrote the statement on behalf of the student, and officers used it as evidence of the student having better English proficiency than specified, he added.

As part of the training, Parsonson said ISEAA also focused on the difference between migration advice and providing information within the public domain, as the former can only be carried out by a registered migration agent.

The GTE requirement has also come under scrutiny from both the vocational and English language sectors, after a rise in visa rejections.

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