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

American Council on Education - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 03:00
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 - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 03:00
​As President Obama proclaims November National College Application Month, the only nationwide college application initiative is in the midst of a record-setting year.

State judge says Yeshiva can't terminate tenure-track professors for financial reasons, based on its own policies

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 00:00

You get a tenure-track job. You meet all expectations and then some. Then, halfway through your tenure-track period, you are let go, something like an at-will employee.

Sadly, it’s not unheard for tenure-track professors to be treated like adjuncts in academe, but a recent legal decision involving Yeshiva University says it can’t happen there, based on its own policies. And elements of those policies exist elsewhere, making the ruling potentially significant to others on the tenure track.

“The question of whether a school has followed its own rules does not involve any highly specialized, academic judgment,” reads an opinion rendered this month by New York State Judge Barbara Jaffe. It orders Yeshiva to conduct a new tenure reappointment review for two professors, Michael Richter and Williams Hawkins, who were let go in 2015, after three years on the tenure track, for financial reasons.

Yeshiva hired Richter and Hawkins as assistant professors of economics in 2012. Both applied for renewal in 2015, as is customary for those on the tenure track, but were told by Selma Botman, university provost, that she was denying their reappointment due to financial considerations, including the discontinuance of “partial gift income.”

Richter and Hawkins appealed to the decision to the Faculty Review Committee, as permitted by the Faculty Handbook. That committee determined that the non-reappointment was based on inadequate consideration -- i.e., that financial considerations shouldn’t have played a role, according to the handbook. It said that Richard M. Joel, university president, should reappoint the petitioners to the tenure track immediately or pending a new, “clear and appropriate review” of their applications.

Joel responded to the committee, saying that the nonrenewal was in fact in line with university policy and that no remedial action was necessary.

Richter and Hawkins eventually took the matter to court, asserting that the university violated its own handbook and guidelines, acted arbitrarily and capriciously, and breached their employment contracts.

Jaffe, the judge, agreed with their arguments, in part, ordering a new reappointment review but not necessarily reappointment. While she found Yeshiva had violated its own policies, she did not agree that that constituted a breach of contract.

Joshua Parkhurst, the professors’ lawyer, said they were able to show that the faculty handbook doesn’t list financial considerations as a criteria for reappointment to the tenure track. Such reappointments are also subject to review by a faculty committee, he added, and the university president shall carry out an appropriate remedy for decisions determined to be inadequate, according to the handbook (Jaffe also noted that the president doesn’t get to determine whether a remedy is called for, just what it will be).

Parkhurst underscored that the university had initially argued that the professors’ lines had to be terminated because they were funded through a finite gift, but then said it was facing overall financial difficulties and had to scale back on faculty costs.

Both professors are now employed elsewhere out of financial considerations, but Parkhurst said they need to be made whole somehow, whether they’re reappointed to the tenure track or awarded financial compensation.

Over all, Parkhurst said the case shows that institutions can’t “willy-nilly eliminate lines without adequate consideration.” So tenure-track professors can’t be treated (sadly) like adjuncts. Moreover, he said, “faculty still have some say in the affairs of the university.”

Yeshiva did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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DeVos says Education Dept. will provide relief to students promised loan discharge

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 00:00

WASHINGTON -- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told lawmakers Wednesday that her department will follow through on promises to provide loan forgiveness to borrowers who attended for-profit colleges found to have defrauded students.

"Those to whom we’ve made commitments, we are going to make good on that commitment and that is in process," DeVos said at a House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee hearing on the department's budget proposal.

In a hearing in which members of Congress mostly quizzed the secretary about large proposed cuts to programs for students across the department in the White House budget, Massachusetts Democrat Katherine Clark pressed DeVos to affirm that the department would move forward with promised loan forgiveness.

Over the last week, a number of Democratic elected officials have asked for updates regarding the processing of borrower-defense claims filed by students who were defrauded by their colleges as well as on the progress of granting relief to students already promised loan forgiveness. But those requests had gone unanswered by DeVos before Wednesday.

The assurances from DeVos did not come with any commitments about a timeline for promised discharges or resolution of pending claims. She did, however, hint that the department will have more to say in the near future on its approach to borrower-defense regulations, which were finalized last fall.

"We will have something further to say on that within the next few weeks," she said.

Student debt activists and some progressive Democrats lobbied hard in the final months of the Obama administration for the department to provide automatic group discharge to the former students of failed for-profit chains Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech. Activists argued that the department had statutory authority to grant group discharges to students who attended fraudulent institutions and that Obama officials should act to provide loan forgiveness to those students as a group because the incoming Trump administration would be unlikely to provide debt relief.

Department officials insisted they did not have the authority to provide that broad relief to all students who attended the biggest for-profit chains, saying it was not clear that fraud had occurred at every campus operated by the for-profit chains.

But in January, the department announced it would grant borrower-defense relief to all student loan borrowers who attended American Career Institute in Massachusetts. In that announcement, officials also said they had approved 28,000 additional borrower-defense claims for former Corinthian students and 6,300 closed-school discharge claims for former ITT students.

Tens of thousands of borrower-defense claims from students who attended those and other institutions were still pending review at the time.

Closed-school discharge is a pathway under federal law by which a student borrower can seek to have their loan debt forgiven if an institution shuts down. A successful borrower-defense claim would lead to debt forgiveness if students affirmatively demonstrate that they were defrauded by their institution. ACI was the first institution where the department granted a group discharge to all former students.

The department said in a January email to about 23,000 borrowers who had received notice of approval, but not yet a discharge, that they could expect loan forgiveness within 90 to 120 days. As that time frame ticked to a close, Democrats have sought answers from DeVos and her staff on the status of loan discharge for those students.

"Although the maximum 120-day timeline has already passed or will soon for these borrowers, it appears many of these students have still not received the discharges they were promised by the department, and many are still in repayment or collections. These borrowers are thus being billed for unnecessary principal, interest and even collection fees," said a May 17 letter from five Democratic senators to the secretary. "In short, they continue to face significant financial burden without the debt relief they are entitled to and have been told to expect."

The letter cited news reports that indicated processing of borrower-defense claims has ground to a halt under the Trump administration, and it sought answers to detailed questions about the number of claims pending review or approved, institutions with qualifying former students, and ongoing reporting by department staff on the issue.

Liz Hill, an Education Department spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the 120-day timeline was a general window provided to borrowers and not a formal deadline the department was bound to.

"We are working with servicers on the discharges, and some borrowers could receive discharge as soon as this week," she said. "Some claims are more complex and will take longer."

While slowing action on borrower-defense claims has been reported, the office that handles those claims has experienced turnover at the top under the new administration. Robert Kaye, the head of the Federal Student Aid Enforcement Office that included the borrower-defense unit, has moved on from the department. Kaye was appointed to lead the newly formed Enforcement Office in February 2016 after coming over from the Federal Trade Commission.

Days after the letter from the Senate Democrats, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey wrote to Acting Under Secretary of Education James Manning that her office has heard from hundreds of student borrowers who attended ACI institutions. Those communications showed that none of those former students had yet received debt relief. That was only the latest attempt by Healey's office to contact the department about the issue.

Ben Miller, a senior director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said with its slow action on promised debt forgiveness so far, the administration hasn't built up a lot of trust.

"They need to act in order to earn the benefit of the doubt," he said. "The easiest way to clear up the confusion about what they’re going to do is to actually discharge the loans."

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Publisher explains how article about viewing the male organ as "conceptual" got published

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 00:00

How could a journal publish that?

That's the question many asked when they learned that Cogent Social Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal, had published “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct.” The paper argues that the penis, contrary to popular opinion, should not be viewed as an organ of the human body. “Anatomical penises may exist, but as pre-operative transgendered women also have anatomical penises, the penis vis-à-vis maleness is an incoherent construct,” the paper says. “We argue that the conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomical organ but as a social construct isomorphic to performative toxic masculinity.” (While the article has been removed from the journal's website, an archived version may be found here.)

The authors of the paper quickly came forward to say that it was a hoax -- designed to focus attention on the field of gender studies and the part of open-access publishing in which authors pay fees (as is the case at Cogent Social Sciences). In the days since the hoax became public, many have asked for answers from the journal and from Taylor & Francis, a major academic publisher with which Cogent Social Sciences is affiliated.

On Wednesday, Cogent Social Sciences published a statement with its take on the situation. In the statement it blamed a faulty referral system for Taylor & Francis journals as well as poor peer reviewing.

When the authors revealed their hoax, they said that they first submitted their piece to NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies, which is a scholarly journal published by the Nordic Association for Research on Men and Masculinities, and by Taylor & Francis. NORMA rejected the piece, but when it did so it suggested Cogent Social Sciences might be a good fit. (Journal transfers are common among publications that are part of large publishing organizations, and allow editors to suggest appropriate homes for a piece.)

Wednesday's statement from Cogent Social Sciences and Taylor & Francis said that the referral to Cogent Social Sciences was made "inadvertently."

One of the editors of NORMA, Ulf Mellström, a professor at the Center for Gender Studies at Sweden's Karlstad University, said via email that the referral was apparently automatically generated as part of the rejection process. Of the paper, he said that "we thought it was sheer nonsense" and that the intent was an outright rejection. NORMA didn't realize the automatic referral system was in place and has asked Taylor & Francis to remove it, Mellström said.

As to how Cogent Social Sciences handled the piece, the statement from that journal said, "The article was received by a senior editor and sent out for peer review as is standard. Two reviewers agreed to review the paper and it was accepted with no changes by one reviewer, and with minor amends by the other. On investigation, although the two reviewers had relevant research interests, their expertise did not fully align with this subject matter and we do not believe that they were the right choice to review this paper."

Further, the statement outlined three steps now being taken by Cogent Social Sciences: "We are working closely with the academic editorial teams of all our journals to review our processes and make changes where necessary to minimize the risk of such a situation happening again. We are reviewing our academic editor and peer reviewer education program to ensure editors and peer reviewers are fully equipped with the skills they need to assess whether a paper is fit for publication. We are working with colleagues at Taylor & Francis to examine our peer review systems and workflow so that articles deemed unsuitable for publication cannot be transferred inadvertently to another journal’s submissions system."

Via email, James Lindsay, one of the authors of the hoax paper, said, "I am glad the journal has taken the paper down and is committed to improving its standards …. If this contributes to a body of evidence that the hoax was published by a journal with problems in their peer review process … then as that evidence mounts, we will follow it and conclude that our hoax has primarily drawn attention to the problem of standards in some open-access journals."

As to gender studies, he said, "Contrary to many of our critics, we do not claim that our hoax 'proved' that gender studies has a problem. The belief that there is a problem precedes, not follows, the hoax. We hope the increased attention on gender scholarship either vindicates the field, if it has no problems, or initiates the housecleaning it needs, if it does."

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Barnes & Noble Education gains foothold in analytics market with Unizin deal

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 00:00

Barnes & Noble Education took another step beyond college bookstores and textbooks Wednesday, announcing a deal to bring predictive analytics services to universities in the digital education consortium Unizin.

BNED, as the company now likes to be called, operates nearly 1,500 bookstores, but has in recent years expanded beyond course materials. In March 2016, it acquired the software start-up LoudCloud, and it is through that company that BNED now will score a group of 22 potential new clients (or, in the cases where it already runs campus bookstores, form tighter connections with existing ones) that includes Indiana University, Pennsylvania State University and the State University System of Florida, among others.

“People don’t think of Barnes & Noble Education as a technology company,” Kanuj Malhotra, chief operating officer of digital, said in an interview. The deal with Unizin, he said, is “a little bit of our coming-out party.”

LoudCloud started as a learning management system provider and has earned a handful of clients in the for-profit sector, including Grand Canyon University. In 2014, the company expanded into competency-based education, which has proven to be a difficult market for vendors to establish themselves in. The start-up also offers an open educational resources platform.

The agreement with Unizin, however, focuses on its predictive analytics software. LoudCloud’s analytics platform, LoudSight, combines data from different systems on campus -- think learning management systems and student information systems -- into a dashboard that can, for example, help advisers and faculty members intervene with a student who shows warning signs of failing an important class.

Phil Hill, an education consultant, at the time of the acquisition of LoudCloud connected it to BNED’s slumping quarterly results. The company, like many of its rivals in the textbook market, faced declining sales and looked to diversify its offerings. By acquiring LoudCloud, BNED gained “the necessary platform and tools to effectively compete for digital courseware, OER content and services sales,” CEO Max Roberts said then.

In an interview Wednesday, Hill said the deal with Unizin suggests LoudCloud is focusing more intently on analytics after years of being “here, there and everywhere” in the ed-tech market.

Carolyn J. Brown, vice president of corporate communications at BNED, said in an email that “the ability to measure performance and behavior is central to all of our products,” and that Unizin is a “foundational partner” in the company’s efforts to expand that side of its business.

“We believe analytics is at early stages in higher education and is poised for significant growth,” Brown said. “Our goal is to be a leader in this space.”

The deal with Unizin doesn’t automatically bring 22 new clients to LoudCloud. Malhotra said member universities will come on board over time, and that their use cases will likely differ. Colorado State University has already piloted the software, while others have “expressed a strong desire to get going,” he said. Each university has to foot the bill for the LoudCloud services it uses.

Malhotra declined to say how many clients LoudCloud currently has but described the agreement with Unizin as a “big deal.”

Gates Bryant, a partner at the investment banking group Tyton Partners, said the Unizin deal, although interesting, doesn’t necessarily establish LoudCloud as a “major player” in the analytics market. “Their growth in this arena will as much be a reflection on Unizin’s evolving role and impact as it will be on the BNED LoudCloud offering,” he said in an email.

Another ‘Foundational Piece’ for Unizin

The agreement with LoudCloud is yet another piece of the “learning ecosystem” that Unizin is building, Chief Operating Officer Robin Littleworth said in an interview. The consortium, which launched in 2014, focuses on solving questions related to access, affordability and quality in higher education across institutional boundaries.

Since the launch, Unizin has worked on creating “relays” through which its member universities can share course content and data. Work on the relays has been gradual as the consortium has, through acquisitions and partnerships, pieced together the technology infrastructure needed to enable that sort of sharing.

Unizin CEO Amin Qazi elaborated on the consortium’s plans for data sharing in a blog post published earlier this month. In addition to sharing teaching and learning data, he wrote, the member universities are working on the Unizin Learning Laboratory, which will collect data about student engagement to benefit researchers across the consortium.

“Imagine that a system of collecting and analyzing data was created by academics for academics,” Qazi wrote. “You own your data; you don’t need to purchase reports or subscribe to a service to get that information. It won’t be sold to outside vendors, it is standardized, and you can, with relative ease, access de-identified data from other member institutions within the consortium for research purposes.”

However, Littleworth said, the “foundational pieces” for that type of data gathering and sharing are still being laid, and Unizin is “just getting started” with piecing together its learning ecosystem. (He struck a similar tone in 2015, when he said data analytics software vendors were not yet ready to deliver the product Unizin envisioned.)

The progress, Littleworth said, depends on several factors. For one, Unizin’s members are “all at different paces and places” of setting up the systems on their campuses. Some, like Ohio State University, have just completed the migration to the Canvas learning management system, which serves as the consortium’s foundational platform. Others, like Indiana University, have already collected years’ worth of student engagement data.

Unizin will also continue to work with LoudCloud to customize its software to fit member universities’ needs, whether they need help with data collection or using the data to boost student retention, Littleworth said.

“We’re poised to take the lead in learning analytics,” Littleworth said. “We want to be able to leverage each others’ insights. LoudCloud has some turnkey capabilities that will benefit all of us. It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s certainly a good start.”

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Minister allows foreign universities in special zones

University World News Global Edition - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 09:58
Thailand is poised to issue a new decree that will allow foreign universities to operate in its special economic zones under a plan approved this week by the cabinet and military junta, also known ...

HE opportunities limited, weak, say Syrian refugees

The PIE News - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 09:22

Despite the efforts of governments and higher education institutions in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis, higher education opportunities are still limited and often inadequate, according to a study of Syrian youth in the three countries.

A series of focus groups for the study, commissioned by the British Council, revealed that young Syrian refugees “generally felt that scholarship provision for refugees was inadequate, both in terms of quality and quantity” in the three countries.

Students felt the supply of scholarships was insufficient, while those that were available were generally not available for in-demand subject areas, such as medicine. As a result, many refugee youth ended up studying subjects not related to their previous study, or those for which they had “little aptitude or interest”.

“There as a belief that the scholarships offered to Syrian refugees were ‘leftover’ spaces”

“There was a belief that the scholarships offered to Syrian refugees were ‘leftover’ spaces at institutions after paying national students had had their first pick of majors,” the report observes.

The funding that was available was not always sufficient to support a full course of study, it adds. Scholarships frequently covered tuition but not living costs, for example, and many only covered the first year of study.

And because funding only supported study at particular institutions, students often faced long commutes of up to two hours each way.

This was especially problematic in some areas; refugee youth in Lebanon said they had to navigate numerous government and paramilitary checkpoints en route to university, and failure to carry the correct documentation could result in their detention or deportation.

Presenting the findings of her research at the British Council’s Going Global conference yesterday in London, the report’s author, Kathleen Fincham, observed that “even when education is available and accessible, it might not be acceptable”.

Cultural and community-based factors can also create barriers to accessing education, the report notes. A student’s decision to pursue higher education must usually be approved by their family, while married women must seek the approval of their husbands.

Female students also said transportation to and from campus was problematic, as they felt exposed to a risk of sexual harassment. A lack of access to childcare also had a disproportionately adverse impact on women, the study notes.

Meanwhile, male youth described feeling pressure to support their family financially. This often resulted in them taking illegal and poorly-paid jobs, detracting from study time, which was doubly problematic for those on scholarships that were dependent on academic performance.

On the institutional side, the language of instruction, difficulty obtaining refugees’ documentation, and institutional practices such as rigidly enforcing enrolment dates, all made accessing education more difficult for Syrian youth.

Online education was the least favoured option among the study participants, after university and vocational training.

One reason was that students were concerned about the accreditation of online courses, which they felt were appropriate for certificates but not degree-level qualifications.

Another was that many students did not fully understand what online learning was. Many assumed professors would be less competent than on campus, or that classes would not be interactive.

This finding indicated that universities have some work to do to educate refugees about the positives of online learning, noted Fincham. However, she cautioned that some examples given by the participants indicated “poor pedagogical practice” – some who had taken online courses said there had been little interactivity, for example.

“Sometimes, when you ask a question, you get an answer you don’t want to hear,” she said.

Practical concerns like poor internet access and electricity sources, as well as students’ own weak computer skills, compounded students’ negative perception of online education.

Students did, however, acknowledge that the flexible nature of online learning could be beneficial for marginalised groups such as women in the home, people working full time and those who are less mobile.

The post HE opportunities limited, weak, say Syrian refugees appeared first on The PIE News.

Barbara Hill, American Council on Education, US

The PIE News - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 05:28
Barbara Hill is the senior associate for internationalisation at the American Council on Education, and helps institutions in the US and beyond with their internationalisation strategies. She tells The PIE about how this process goes beyond student mobility, and the importance of perseverance in challenging political times.

The PIE: How does ACE’s Internationalization Lab work?

BH: Institutions contract with ACE to have a guided consultation for 20 months, in which we take them through an internationalisation review so that they know what their assets are. We have pieces where they define their aspirations and then we try to put together all of this in a strategic plan.

It’s a cohort model so there are usually about 10-12 institutions in a cohort. They meet in Washington three different times at the beginning of the process when they’re forming their work group, in the middle when they’re starting off the internationalisation review and at the end when they’re trying to pull everything together in either a report, or sometimes they actually get to a strategic plan. It just depends what the senior leadership wants.

“Now, it’s not just the number of international students you draw on; it has to do with how does it affect your curriculum?”

At the end I bring in a team of two other professionals from institutions that they admire and think they could learn from and we comment on their steps going forward and give them advice about things they might want to think about doing before they take the big leap.

The PIE: The big leap meaning implementation of a complete internationalisation strategy?

BH: Whatever their individual recommendations are. So it’s pretty collaborative but it’s very good. If they have gone through the review and they have a peer review report, five to seven years later I can bring in another team in order to see if they have actually made any progress. And if the leadership has stayed stable, they invariably do. If there’s been leadership change, it’s iffy – there has to be some kind of continuity.

But it’s a way of rekindling the momentum, giving credit where credit is due and since the field keeps changing, the emphasis on things keeps changing. What does that mean in terms of the direction they want to go? So they can tweak their goals too.

The PIE: Do you only work with American universities?

BH: The lab has been really interesting because even though it is primarily American, we have also worked with a Mexican institution. I’ve worked with an institution in Lebanon – even though I was not allowed to travel there – they could get money from the US Agency for International Development. So they came here, and then we did it long distance. And this year we have in the cohort a university with 23 branches in Colombia.

The PIE: Are there any countries or even institutions that you think are really doing internationalisation well?

BH: Well, a lot of countries are making gestures in that direction. Now, it’s not just the number of international students you draw on; it has to do with: how does it affect your curriculum? How does it affect all of the policies you have? What structure do you have? Is there visible articulation of this commitment at the senior leadership level? And then, what are you creating partnerships for? It used to be people only thought about study abroad and the number of international students – that’s only one of six dimensions that we work with, partly because not everybody is going to study abroad.

“As a research institution, of course you’re looking at worldwide rankings”

The Japanese government, for example, selected twenty universities to become global universities and so they had a symposium where they brought in somebody who deals with European universities more broadly and me to talk about how we conceptualised internationalisation on our own campuses.

Sometimes that’s helpful to do – to see why other people are thinking more differently about it. And it’s partly because of rankings. If you want to be a global institution and your president or your ministry is very interested in rankings then it’s the research focus, but it’s not totally comprehensive internationalisation.

The PIE: Do you have an opinion on rankings?

BH: They exist and people pay attention to them. The nature of the business has changed – we used to just think about the rankings in US News and World Report and as a president, you have to pay attention to that because your board is paying attention to it. As a research institution, of course you’re looking at worldwide rankings. That may not have been the case 50 years ago, but it is now.

The PIE: How does comprehensive internationalisation move beyond just international student mobility?

BH: You have the biggest impact if you affect your curriculum. Having agreed upon global learning outcomes is the first step and then making sure that all of your units are using the same thing. We’re doing some work now in the co-curriculum. There are 168 hours in the week and most students are in class 15 hours – can they be learning in those other 155 hours?

We used to think that study abroad was ‘send them abroad, let them have an immersion experience, they’re going to necessarily learn something’ but we never asked them. Twenty years ago we asked about their housing accommodations, things to do with tourism, not with learning. Institutions are now moving to get learning outcomes across everything they do.

The PIE: What do people most struggle with in measuring outcomes?

BH: I think 10 years ago they would have been struggling to get learning outcomes that were global, and then how do you measure them. There are tools now that help you see what you are succeeding with – so keep doing that – and what you are not succeeding with, do some change. I don’t believe in quantitative assessments as much as I do qualitative.

“Institutions are now moving to get learning outcomes across everything they do”

For example, there’s a big difference if you’ve globalised the majors and if you’re just requiring one international course as part of general education. They have a very different impact. I’ll take whatever the institution is starting with, as long as it keeps wanting to make sure they are moving into internationalising the majors. Every program can be thought of in terms of its global positioning and getting people to understand that is the hard part.

The PIE: How long have you been working in the field of international education?

BH: More or less since 2001. It started with my working with the American Association of Colleges and Universities on a definition of liberal education for the 21st century. I was in charge of the global piece and convened a group of 18 or 20 institutions that had been selected as being very good in terms of teaching level, education and having high-impact practices. We were trying to name the high-impact practices, and study abroad was certainly one of them. Then the other piece I was doing was convening a think tank about what should the globally prepared student do.

Then [former vice president for international initiatives] Madeleine Green hired me back at ACE because she had just started this new Internationalization Lab, so I came in halfway through the first cohort in 2003 and then have been pretty much running it since then.

The PIE: Looking back over your tenure with ACE, what stands out for you?

BH: The people that I get to work with! It’s very interesting. The associations can feel very removed from campus, but because I’ve had a career as a faculty member then I had a career as an administrator, I can see places where what we might conceptualise in an organisation doesn’t actually suit the way life is on campus. And so that’s one of the contributions I’ve been able to make is grounding our work in the way institutions actually behave.

The PIE: Tell me what role you think ethics should play in internationalisation.

BH: Ethics should be grounded in respect for the other – whoever that other is. It could be the other who comes to your institution and the one you send out. How do you want people to behave as representatives of your institution? For example, it would not be ethical for a religiously based institution to bring in international students with the thought of proselytising them. I mean, that one’s pretty easy.

On the larger scale, when you go to have a partnership with a university in another country, don’t just go to tell them what to do. Have some mutual benefit. What can you be learning from them that’s going to help your institution? I suppose the real trick is: Are we doing American imperialism when we’re working in Colombia or Lebanon? Well, a lot of countries think about the US and the UK as having very, very strong higher education systems. So in some cases they want to emulate us, but it plays out differently given the cultures of different places.

“The work is essential more now than ever before, and if it’s made more difficult by certain changes, keep at it”

The PIE: Is an international education still something for the elites of the world?

BH: No, but institutions are struggling to figure out how to do it. Some of the very small institutions are trying with programs where every student has to have a 10-day program abroad. That’s fine. It’s not a deep experience necessarily, but it can be a start. I think being internationalised is part of lifelong learning.

The PIE: How do you see the work of internationalisation fitting into the current political climate in the US?

BH: I’ve been thinking about this an awful lot. I may say some things in private that I don’t say in public, but whenever a group feels besieged, it’s useful. I have recently been in London and went to the Imperial War museum and bought the magnet for the kitchen that says ‘Keep calm and carry on’.

The work is essential more now than ever before, and if it’s made more difficult or if it’s constrained by certain changes that happen, keep at it and keep doing the things you can do. Have those organisations that are politically driven carry the banner for you. I know the ACE has had a letter signed by associations that responded to the executive order about the travel ban and they did another one for institutions to sign too. So keep yourself politically active.

The post Barbara Hill, American Council on Education, US appeared first on The PIE News.

African academic diaspora collaboration drive scales up

University World News Global Edition - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 05:26
Expanding the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program to implement a '10/10' initiative that supports 10,000 diaspora academics across the world over 10 years to partner with African universi ...

Innovation districts must leave no one behind locally

University World News Global Edition - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 05:09
Globally, the digital economy has benefited some communities and individuals, while leaving others behind, to effectively widen the social divide and poverty lines. Universities and innovation hub ...

‘Extreme vetting’ could deter international students, US educators warn

The PIE News - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 04:35

Plans to introduce ‘extreme vetting’ for some would-be travellers to the US would damage higher education and research collaboration and drive potential students and scholars to competitor destinations, educational and scientific organisations have said.

Earlier this month, the State Department opened up a public consultation and emergency review of supplementary questions for specified visa applicants including previous passport numbers; five years’ worth of email addresses, phone numbers and social media handles; and a 15-year address, travel and employment history.

“The notice sends a message to the global community that all international visitors may be viewed with suspicion”

Some 65,000 “immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities” would be affected, the State Department said.

But the “chilling effect” of the measures is likely to extend beyond those directly affected to all international travellers, according to a letter co-signed by 50 scientific and education organisations including NAFSA and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

The “uncertainties and confusion” surrounding the proposed legislation will not only create logistical barriers to collaboration and mobility, but also project an unwelcoming image to the international community, the letter warns.

A lack of detail as to how the policy would be enacted could create “unacceptably long delays in processing”, it argues. The published document for consultation does not define which travellers would be subject to additional scrutiny or the consequences of submitting incomplete information.

Students, scholars, and scientific collaborators are especially likely to be deterred from coming to the US, it argues, in light of the negative worldwide media coverage of previous policy shifts.

“International students and researchers have choices and by adopting unclear and ill-defined visa requirements, the United States risks sending existing and potential partners and students elsewhere,” the letter states.

International students add more than $30bn to the economy annually, contribute to the “intellectual richness” of US universities and “serve as goodwill ambassadors” upon their return home, it adds.

It also predicts a dampening effect on international scientific and research collaboration.

Creating additional barriers to travel could mean foreign academics and scientists choose not to attend US-based conferences – often used as a basis for networking – or opt to hold high-level meetings in other countries, “hurting US economic, technological, and scientific competitiveness”, it warns.

Should the legislation be enacted, the government must put out positive messages and statements to ensure legitimate visitors, especially students, scholars and scientists, are “still welcomed and encouraged”, as well as equipping consulates with additional resources to handle the administrative burden of the additional questioning, the coalition urged.

“We appreciate and support the need to secure our nation and its citizens from individuals who seek to do us and our interests harm,” the letter reads.

“As an international educator I fear these changes will deter quality students from attending our programs”

“But we caution that this security need should be balanced with the need to remain open to those pursuing academic study and scientific research.”

Federal regulations mandate that the State Department must obtain approval from the Office of Management and Budget and invite public comment in order to enforce the proposed extra scrutiny on visa applicants.

“As an international educator I fear these changes will deter quality students from attending our programs. International students bring rich diversity to our college campuses and surrounding cities,” reads one comment.

“The process of admissions is tedious and complicated; adding more supplemental items to [the] already lengthy list of items would negatively impact the desire to study in the US,” says another from a director of international students at a private university.

A second letter signed by five educational organisations including the American Council on Education and the Association of American Universities, warns that in its current state, the legislation could “inadvertently choke our nation’s pipeline of international students and scholars”.

It describes the additional evidence requirements as “burdensome, difficult to meet, and likely to deter international students, scholars, scientists, and researchers from contributing their talents to the United States”.

And because the legislation was proposed through an emergency review, rather than the regular rule-making process, it lacks crucial details on areas such as reporting requirements and privacy protections, it states, adding: “Absent specific guidelines, clear visa classifications, or specific criteria outlined, the notice is vague and sends a message to the global community that all international visitors may be viewed with suspicion.”

The post ‘Extreme vetting’ could deter international students, US educators warn appeared first on The PIE News.

Disgruntled university staff strike over unpaid bonuses

University World News Global Edition - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 01:30
Libya's higher education teaching staff - already fed up with what they believe is inadequate government funding for higher education as well as the general lack of security and political instabil ...

College hazing becoming easier to punish

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 00:00

The death of Pennsylvania State University student Timothy Piazza contained all the elements to fuel national outrage.

He was a young, affable Beta Theta Pi pledge, a former high school football player who taught the game to students with special needs. At a fraternity party in February, after rounds of heavy drinking, Piazza tumbled 15 feet down a flight of stairs. Though Piazza was clearly injured, shaking violently, other Beta Theta Pi members ignored his need for medical care, instead trying to wake him by splashing liquid on his face and striking him. He fell multiple times that night, striking his head on a hardwood floor and an iron railing, and bled internally for hours before he died two days later.

The fraternity members did not call 911 until the next morning.

An aggressive and wide response came in the months following, with the university president forever banning the fraternity from campus, postponing rush and introducing hard restrictions on Greek events. The Centre County district attorney jumped on the case, levying charges against 18 people.

Piazza’s story bears some similarities to that of Chuck Stenzel, almost 40 years ago. Stenzel, 20, a fraternity prospect at Alfred University, died in 1978 after being locked in a trunk and forced to drink multiple bottles of alcohol.

The difference: a striking, lukewarm response from Alfred officials, who at the time classified Stenzel’s death in public statements as an unfortunate alcohol overdose. No one faced criminal charges.

Experts say that public patience for hazing has run thin, and as perception changes, so too will state laws that enable prosecutors to more aggressively pursue charges -- an easy win for them.

Of the 18 prosecuted in Piazza’s death, eight were charged with involuntary manslaughter, an unusual number of federal counts in one of the biggest prosecutions of hazing in history.

Recently, too, four men initially charged with murder in the 2013 hazing death of a student at Baruch College struck a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

“I don’t see a reduction yet. What’s going to bring a reduction is what’s happening here, and that’s a public outcry. I haven’t seen a public outcry quite like this,” Hank Nuwer, a journalism professor at Franklin College who has written broadly about hazing, said of Piazza’s case.

Decades ago, hazing was practiced “in the open” on campuses, Nuwer said, but has since retreated “behind closed doors.” Particularly after Piazza’s death, fewer videos, which could be used as evidence in court proceedings, might emerge of some of these cruel tactics, he said. This takeaway by the public differs from the lesson some fraternities have learned, which is hide the evidence rather than halt hazing, Nuwer said.

With the ubiquity of mobile social media platforms, like Snapchat, comes the likelihood that such episodes will be documented, Nuwer said.

A lawyer for Piazza’s family has said surveillance footage serves as a blessing for prosecutors, who can easily disprove some of the fraternity brothers’ initial recount of events and show they did not assist Piazza for hours.

After details of the state’s grand jury investigation began to surface earlier this month, Penn State President Eric Barron released a statement calling the other students’ treatment of Piazza “inhumane.”

In the statement, he highlighted measures the university has enacted limiting alcohol at Greek events, among them downsizing the number of socials at which the chapters could serve alcohol from 45 to 10 per semester. Alcohol had already been barred from all Greek gatherings for the remainder of the academic year.

Fraternity and sorority and recruitment in the coming academic year has also been postponed from the fall to the spring.

“While some have criticized our measures as excessive, they are not. It is essential that all constituents, including these private Greek-letter organizations, alumni, parents, national organizations and all other partners involved are committed in order to ensure immediate, vital and sustainable changes,” Barron’s statement reads.

Barron’s statement references Beta Theta Pi as a “model fraternity" on the surface.

"It is clear, however, this was no 'model' fraternity," the statement reads.

College and university administrators should not fall for the aura of respectability, the award-winning, philanthropic, coat-and-tie wearing facade, said Nuwer, who went on to stress that he’s not anti-Greek, but simply would like to see the bad apples removed.

Though some may call for Penn’s Greek system to be dismantled, this almost never happens, Nuwer said -- at Alfred, where Stenzel was killed, Greek life was only dissolved in 2002, the same year another fraternity pledge, Benjamin Klein, was found dead after an apparent hazing.

“It’s like a disease that keeps popping up,” said Peter Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University. “But it appears one of the things has happened [is] that it seems more likely for prosecutors … to get involved in the incidents.”

When previously hazing might have resulted in a slap-on-the-wrist alcohol citation, prosecutors have now taken notice that these sorts of incidents can result in real jail time. As more cases crop up in the court system, they become a road map for other prosecutors, Lake said.

In the Baruch College case, 37 people were charged in the death of Chun Hsien Deng, 18, who was tackled by fraternity brothers during a hazing ritual in the Pocono Mountains. Bags of sand were tied to Deng, who fell unconscious but did not receive the necessary medical treatment in time. The brothers waited more than an hour to drive him to a hospital.

Five of the men, and the national fraternity chapter of Pi Delta Psi, were charged with murder by Monroe County, Penn., prosecutors.

District attorneys will eagerly attach to a case that has the public clamoring for punishment, said Lake. For Stacy Parks Miller, the district attorney of Centre County, prosecuting Piazza’s high-profile case serves as a blessing during her contentious re-election year.

“You’ve got the magic combination of the body politic that put you in office pushing for you to intervene and a case you can prosecute and win,” Lake said.

Though often outwardly supportive of punitive measures, national fraternities and sororities, with their deep pockets, have been criticized for shielding their chapters and members from controversy.

Bloomberg reported extensively in 2013 about the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee, the FratPac, which had stymied multiple legislative attempts to defund Greek-letter organizations that participated in hazing.

In an email, Heather Kirk, spokeswoman for the North-American Interfraternity Conference, which represents more than 65 fraternities, wrote that hazing must be treated as a serious crime.

“When a student is physically harmed by another student or group of students, we want law enforcement involved and the responsible parties charged under criminal state statutes,” Kirk wrote.

Many Greek chapters rely on educational initiatives to combat hazing, some of which Kirk cited in her email -- she said the “key to successful change is a strong system of peer governance, in which students embrace meaningful rites of passage -- not unsafe ones.”

A consortium of fraternities uses the Fraternal Health and Safety Initiative, a curriculum developed by a risk management consultant, James R. Favor & Company. On its website, the program emphasizes consistent resources and training for fraternity chapters.

Kirk pointed out that some fraternities have also simply eliminated the traditional rush, in which hazing acts are more common.

Hazing-related deaths have also forced universities to examine their practices.

Utah State University in 2011 agreed to review its hazing training as a part of a legal settlement with the Stark family, whose son, Michael, died in 2008 after being tied up and forced to chug vodka.

Lake recognized that colleges lean toward education to prevent hazing, but recommended studying the proclivity for certain age groups to engage in hazing, which is typically the undergraduate population, he said. Though bullying remains at every age, not so with hazing, he said, and the answer likely lies with the development of the brain.

“As we get more desperate to find solutions, I’m not entirely sure that more punishment is the answer,” Lake said. “Justice, yes, but ultimately what we’re looking for [is] to find a way to reduce the phenomenon. And so far we really haven’t done that.”

Editorial Tags: Student lifeFraternities/sororitiesImage Caption: Timothy Piazza and his family Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

White House budget includes tens of billions in cuts to student aid and research

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 00:00

The Trump administration released a 2018 budget proposal Tuesday that delivered on expectations for drastic cuts to student aid programs and university-based research while substantially reshaping federal student loan programs.

Higher education groups as well as many policy analysts said those cuts would make college less affordable and impede the production of new scientists and innovations in health and technology. Cutting deeply into most federal nondefense discretionary spending, the documents call for a 13.6 percent reduction in the Department of Education's current funding levels and 22 percent for the National Institutes of Health, the largest federal supporter of biomedical research.

The White House estimates that $143 billion would be saved over a decade by allowing the Perkins Loan program to expire and phasing out subsidized federal student loans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness after next year. It promises another $76 billion in savings from streamlining income-based repayment programs for student loans.

The elimination of Public Service Loan Forgiveness as well as changes to the income-based repayment program would hit graduate students particularly hard. And while the administration is touting a new approach that would shorten the time frame to loan forgiveness for undergraduates, aid advocates say that plan comes with higher monthly payments. Many undergrads, meanwhile, would lose support for programs that helped them get to college in the first place, including grant funding and college prep.

Higher ed advocates say the education budget essentially takes billions out of support for students without reinvesting in even the programs backed by Republicans.

"This budget is a recipe for more student debt, more inequality and less affordability," said Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success.

Language in the "skinny budget" released in March said those massive cuts across government were needed to dramatically increase military and defense spending. Summary documents released ahead of the full budget this week argued that streamlining government would lead to “an economic boom” and raise incomes and job opportunities.

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said in a briefing with reporters that the budget numbers represented President Trump's policies put to paper.

"We're not going to measure compassion by the amount of money that we spend but by the number of people that we help," Mulvaney said.

But critics and nonpartisan observers said the budget runs up spending on defense while eliminating or underfunding programs that many ordinary people rely on. And they say the administration relies on overly optimistic projections of 3 percent growth to balance the budget.

Among the changes to higher education-related spending called for in the budget (see a table at the bottom of the article):

  • Multiple income-based repayment programs for student loans would be consolidated into one single plan that shortens the schedule for loan forgiveness from 20 years to 15 for undergraduate borrowers. But monthly payments would also jump from 10 percent to 12.5 percent of a borrower's discretionary income. Graduate students would pay 12.5 percent of their monthly income but with a loan forgiveness schedule of 30 years.
  • The $700 million Perkins Loan program, which is due for an extension by Congress, would be allowed to expire (Congress, however, hasn't put new money in the program for years). The administration would also end Public Service Loan Forgiveness and subsidized Stafford Loans after July 2018, meaning current borrowers would be grandfathered in to those programs. The PSLF program forgives the remaining debt of a borrower working for qualifying government or nonprofit employers after 120 payments, while the subsidized loan program allows students to save thousands in accrued interest as undergrads. Grandfathered borrowers could potentially lose eligibility, however, based on a change in enrollment under the proposal.
  • The White House endorsed reinstating year-round Pell Grants -- a policy change already enacted by Congress this month in a funding deal for the current 2017 fiscal year -- but otherwise doesn't strengthen the program. The maximum size of the grant would remain unchanged and wouldn't be indexed to inflation. The administration would also take nearly $4 billion from the Pell surplus.
  • The budget eliminates the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, a $733 million program whose recipients are typically Pell-eligible college students. It also cuts the Federal Work-Study program by nearly half, to $500 million.
  • As outlined in the March "skinny budget," the administration would cut college access programs TRIO and GEAR UP by 10 percent and 30 percent, respectively. The budget documents specifically call for eliminating the McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program and Educational Opportunity Centers.
  • The proposed budget includes large cuts to science agencies: 11 percent for the National Science Foundation, 22 percent for the National Institutes of Health, and 17 percent for the Department of Energy Office of Science. The administration has promised that savings could be found without eliminating grant awards by cutting overhead payments, which reimburse institutions for the indirect costs related to campus-based research.
  • The budget plan would eliminate the AmeriCorps national service program, and slash funds for the National Endowment for the Humanities and State Department international exchange programs.

There's almost no chance that Congress passes a budget in a form even resembling what the White House has proposed. Congressional appropriators must pass their own budget resolution, and even some key Republicans reacted with shock to cuts unveiled in the skinny budget in March -- especially those targeting research agencies like the National Institutes of Health. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, said the budget would be "devastating for students trying to climb the ladder of opportunity and join the middle class" and promised she would keep fighting for "high-quality, affordable education."

The proposal is basically a messaging document, and in higher ed some policy preferences did emerge. Jason Delisle, a higher ed policy analyst and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said two clear themes of the budget proposal were simplification of financial aid and cuts to support for graduate students. But he said he was surprised to see the budget left funding untouched for both Graduate PLUS and Parent PLUS loans. Conservatives, including Delisle, have argued for eliminating the PLUS program.

There's no hiding the fact that the budget is on net a reduction in support for student aid, Delisle said.

"That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone," he said. "That has been the top-line goal of the administration, to reduce the size of the federal budget."

Most of the key provisions of the proposal had been revealed ahead of time -- either in the skinny budget or in leaks reported last week by The Washington Post. But the documents released Tuesday showed exactly how much the administration expects to find in savings from cuts to specific programs. By eliminating Public Service Loan Forgiveness, for example, the White House expects to save nearly $3 billion annually. That figure was much higher than previous cost estimates for the program.

Clare McCann, a senior policy analyst with New America's education policy program, said it's not surprising that the White House found savings in the programs it did -- both Republicans and Democrats have supported modifying or eliminating the loan-forgiveness program or subsidized student loans in the past.

"The problem is they don't have any vision to reinvest that money in ways to make higher education more accessible," she said of the Trump administration. "So at the end of the day all they've done is make college less affordable."

McCann said legislative language in the documents removing a ban on randomized control trials for TRIO programs was a positive step, if one that would make the White House few friends among TRIO supporters. But Mulvaney, in arguing that the administration sought to make budget decisions based on program effectiveness, referenced a dated statistic. An evaluation of the McNair program, he claimed, showed that only 6 percent of scholars went on to earn doctoral degrees. But that evaluation is 10 years old and researchers have raised other questions about whether that figure adequately represents the success of the program.

Former Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said the Obama administration sought to add incentives for TRIO programs based on evidence of success.

"If there's an argument for investing more in evidence-based practices, I would certainly support that," King said. "It sounds like his argument is a smoke screen."

Although the Trump budget might be dead on arrival in Congress, King said it moves the discussion on education in the wrong direction.

"Even if Congress -- as they should -- rejects this budget entirely, we will have spent several months talking about cuts when we should be talking about increasing investment," he said.

The White House has pushed job-training programs that don't result in a four-year degree. But the proposed budget includes a $2.5 billion, or 21 percent, decrease in funding for the U.S. Department of Labor, as well as cuts to job-training programs housed at the Education Department. The budget document called for shifting some of the funding responsibility for job training to states and employers, while also cutting "ineffective, duplicative and peripheral job-training grants."

For example, it seeks a roughly 40 percent cut to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which has a $3.4 billion annual budget. And while the administration is calling for another $90 million in funding for apprenticeships, building on a similar allocation for this year, it would cut career and technical education grants for states by $168 million.

"While the Trump administration talks about supporting work force and skills development, this dramatic cut is nothing short of an attack on CTE and the students and employers who benefit from it," Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education said in a written statement.

Representatives of leading research and science-oriented groups also attacked the budget for the devastating effects they said it would have on the country's research and science enterprise.

In the 2017 omnibus funding deal reached this month, Congress provided a funding boost for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion for the second year in a row. Science advocates called for Congress to break with the White House again to support research on a bipartisan basis.

"For decades, the United States has maintained its position as global innovation leader," said Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. "But this budget proposal would be a retreat from that role and cede the development of new technological breakthroughs to other countries."

And McPherson strongly rejected that the government could cut overhead payments to universities without compromising the work of lifesaving research into illnesses and disease.

"You cannot conduct cancer research in a parking lot!" he said.

The Trump Administration's Budget and Programs Important to Colleges

  2016 Appropriation (millions) 2017 Appropriation (millions) 2018 Proposed % Change, 2017 to 2018 EDUCATION DEPARTMENT         Financial Aid Programs         Maximum Pell Grant (not in millions) $5,815 $5,920 $5,920 0.0% Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants 733.1 733.7 0.0 -100.0% Federal Work-Study 989.7 989.8 500.0 -49.5% Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants 384.0 442.0 499.0 12.9% Institutional Aid         Strengthening Institutions 86.4 86.5 0.0 -100.0% Strengthening Tribal Colleges 27.6 27.5 27.5 0.0% Strengthening Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-serving Institutions 13.8 13.8 13.8 0.0% Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) 244.7 244.2 244.2 0.0% Strengthening Historically Black Graduate Institutions 63.3 63.2 63.2 0.0% Strengthening Predominantly Black Institutions 9.9 9.9 9.9 0.0% Strengthening Asian-American and Native American/Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions 3.3 3.3 3.3 0.0% Strengthening Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions 3.3 3.3 3.3 0.0% Minority Science and Engineering Improvement 9.6 9.6 9.6 0.0% Aid for Hispanic-Serving Institutions 107.8 107.6 107.6 0.0% Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans 9.7 9.6 9.6 0.0% Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Career and Technical Institutions 8.3 8.3 8.3 0.0% National Technical Institute for the Deaf 70.0 69.9 69.9 0.0% Gallaudet University 121.3 120.3 120.3 0.0% Howard U 221.8 221.8 221.8 0.0% Student Assistance         TRIO Programs 900.0 898.3 808.3 -10.0% GEAR UP 322.8 322.1 219.0 -32.0% Special Programs for Migrant Students 44.6 44.5 44.5 0.0% Child Care Access 15.1 15.1 0.0 -100.0% Program for Students With Intellectual Disabilities 11.8 11.8 11.8 0.0% HBCU Capital Financing 20.5 20.4 20.4 0.0% Career-Technical/Adult Education         Perkins State Grants 1,117.6 1,115.5 949.5 -14.9% Adult Education 582.0 580.8 485.8 -16.4% Graduate Education         Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need 29.3 29.2 5.8 -80.1% Other Areas         International Education and Foreign Language Studies 72.1 72.0 0.0 -100.0% Teacher Quality Partnerships 40.6 43.1 0.0 -100.0% Office for Civil Rights 107.0 106.8 106.8 0.0% Inspector General 59.3 59.1 61.1 3.4% Institute of Education Sciences         Research, Development and Dissemination 195.0 194.6 194.6 0.0% Statistics 112.0 111.8 111.8 0.0% Statewide Data Systems 34.5 34.5 34.5 0.0% LABOR DEPARTMENT         Adult Employment and Training 814.2 815.4 490.4 -39.9% Dislocated Workers Training 1,239.7 1,241.3 732.5 -41.0% Apprenticeship Grants 90.0 89.8 89.8 0.0% STATE DEPARTMENT         Educational and Cultural Exchanges 599.2 589.8 285.0 -51.7% OTHER AGENCIES         National Endowment for the Humanities 147.9 149.8 42.3 -71.8% Institute for Museum and Library Sciences 230.0 231.0 23.0 -90.0% AmeriCorps 386.0 386.0 2.3 -99.4% Department of Defense Basic Research 2,166.0 2,077.0 2,240.0 7.8% National Institutes of Health 31,381.0 31,674.0 25,833.0 -18.4% Health Professions Training 808.0 803.0 401.0 -50.1% National Aeronautics and Space Administration Science 5,600.0 5,765.0 5,712.0 -0.9% Department of Energy Science 5,347.0 5,337.0 4,473.0 -16.2% National Science Foundation 7,494.0 7,472.0 6,653.0 -11.0% --Research 5,998.0 6,034.0 5,362.0 -11.1% Education 884.0 880.0 761.0 -13.5% Facilities 242.0 209.0 183.0 -12.4% Commerce Department National Institute of Standards and Technology 690.0 688.0 600.0 -12.8% Agriculture Department Research 1,095.0 1,093.0 951.0 -13.0% Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: Federal policyBudgetAd Keyword: Student aidIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

Professor says Cornell is ignoring his rare victory in a tenure dispute case

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 00:00

Professors dispute negative tenure decisions all the time, but rarely do their cases end up in court. That’s because pursuing a legal case against an institution is time-consuming and costly and, most importantly, courts nearly always defer to colleges’ and universities’ initial judgments.

Not so, though, with an ongoing case at Cornell University. A state judge in November ruled that the university had so bungled a tenure review that he vacated the original decision against the professor in question and ordered a new one.

Half a year later, Mukund Vengalattore, assistant professor of physics, is still waiting as Cornell refuses to initiate a new review. Describing himself as something of a social pariah, with his status at the university in flux, Vengalattore isn’t exactly comfortable at Cornell. Yet he wants the tenure he says he’s earned.

“People avoid me in the corridors -- I’m either with students or in my office,” Vengalattore said in an interview. “It’s almost like Cornell is in denial of the court order. Their mentality seems to be, ‘Let’s make it really hard for him to succeed, regardless of the facts, so he has to leave at some point.’”

What are the facts? It’s easy to lose sight of them in the swirl of hot-button issues present in Vengalattore’s case, including a sexual assault allegation and an acrimonious relationship with a key dean. Yet one thing is clear: Cornell has not budged, despite the unlikely court order.

Starting at the beginning: Vengalattore began came to Cornell in 2009, researching ultracold atomic gases. In 2012, Vengalattore and his supporters say, a graduate student left the professor’s research group after privately complaining to another faculty member of angry interactions in the lab -- namely, accusing Vengalattore of throwing a piece of equipment (which Vengalattore denies).

The student allegedly dissuaded other students from working in the lab after her departure, causing those remaining in the lab to complain to the department about her conduct, in 2014. She also submitted a tenure review letter, included in Vengalattore’s file, that accused him of denying her appropriate authorship on certain papers.

Unconvinced that the department would take action and investigate, Vengalattore said he would take the case to university administrators. He was allegedly advised by department leaders that this was the “nuclear option,” which could negatively affect his pending tenure case.

The department nevertheless voted to award Vengalattore tenure later that year, in a lopsided vote that followed an inquiry into his mentoring abilities. According to court documents, the departed student learned of the department vote and then accused Vengalattore not just of angry conduct, but of sexually assaulting her four years earlier. She also said they had had a long-standing secret sexual relationship.

Amid the new allegations, of which Vengalattore was still unaware, Gretchen Ritter, Harold Tanner Dean of the Arts and Sciences, received his tenure file -- including the student’s letter. She appointed an ad hoc committee to weigh in on Vengalattore's bid, which recommended against tenure, citing the reports of group dynamics in his lab.

Ritter then issued an initial tenure denial, but the physics department requested that a consultant be named to re-examine Vengalattore's mentoring abilities. The resultant report said that the climate had improved, but Ritter didn’t change her mind. She forwarded the student’s letter but not the new mentoring findings to the provost, who then forwarded them to the university’s Faculty Advisory Committee on Tenure. It voted against the application, with two dissenters.

Vengalattore appealed the decision. Days later, in early 2015, he was finally informed of the allegations of rape and an inappropriate relationship against him -- months too late, according to university policy and the court. Cornell's Office of Workforce Policy and Labor Relations found no evidence of sexual assault and little evidence of any relationship, such as texts or messages, according to court documents, but Ritter still concluded that Vengalattore had had a relationship with the student.

The tenure appeals committee sided with Vengalattore, saying that his tenure review had been compromised by the allegations and that the student had a conflict of interest. It recommended a new review -- minus the letter from the student and with the new information on mentoring. Ritter sent the matter to another ad hoc committee, which unanimously recommended tenure.

Ritter again denied Vengalattore a promotion, however, referencing the alleged relationship, the alleged authorship dispute (which Vengalattore denies) and his unwillingness to accept “responsibility” for his actions. Again, the appeals committee found fault with the tenure process and recommended a new review to be sent directly to the provost, to include those from outside the university. That didn’t happen, though. Instead, Ritter sent a retracted dossier to the provost, according to court documents.

‘We are Cornell and We Are Going to Do What We Want’

Vengalattore eventually took the matter to court. In his decision and order for a new review, Judge Richard E. Rich of Schuyler County Supreme Court said that Cornell “did not follow its own procedures and acted capriciously toward Vengalattore in that it failed to advise him first of complaints concerning his teaching style so that he could have addressed the same and taken corrective action regarding his teaching style and methods.”

Further, Rich said, when "allegations of misconduct were made by a student against him involving sexual assault and an alleged romantic relationship with one of his students, these allegations were in effect used against the professor and he was not advised of the same until he filed his appeal of the tenure denial. The professor was entitled to due process and a hearing on the matter, which would establish the facts and either clear him or lead to sanctions against him.”

Cornell “speaks of a level playing field but keeping the allegations secret from Vengalattore while having those allegations sour his tenure review creates anything but a level playing field and was arbitrary and capricious,” Rich said. “It appears in effect as, ‘We are Cornell and we are going to do what we want.’”

Alan Sash, Vengalattore’s attorney, said he’d never seen a court vacate a tenure decision in his career. Quoting Rich’s “do what we want line,” Sash added, “It’s rare to get a statement like that from a judge, but clearly that’s where the evidence leads to. … Cornell has capriciously and arbitrarily applied the tenure process here to get a preordained result.”

If Vengalattore feels isolated within his department, a number of other scholars have advocated on his behalf. They include Keith Schwab, a professor of applied physics at California Institute of Technology who left a faculty position at Cornell just as Vengalattore arrived. He called Vengalattore a brilliant scholar doing cutting-edge work -- someone hired to set up an entirely new kind of research program at Cornell. Schwab agreed that wouldn’t necessarily preclude his colleague from misconduct, but he expressed concern about an academic environment in which claims for which there is little to no evidence can impact a tenure decision through what seems like a back-door process.

“My take on this whole thing is that the dean didn’t want anything to do with this guy who’d been tainted by sexual assault allegations,” Schwab said. “If you look carefully at the court documents, Ritter is always pushing forward with the allegations and manipulating the process to deny tenure to this guy. … Yet to people outside, this guy is absolutely not a marginal tenure case. This guy is world-class.”

Some of Vengalattore’s graduate students have launched their own complaint with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, alleging harassment by Ritter and others over their support for the professor. They say they’ve been threatened that their lab access would be cut off and that the facility -- along with all their work -- might be padlocked.

The student involved in the harassment complaint declined comment.

Cornell also said it was unable to comment on an active legal case.

Just this week, Cornell sent Vengalattore an email saying he’d be suspended without pay for two weeks starting June 1 -- sanctions for his alleged transgressions. The message doesn't name specific allegations, and asked which one he thought it referred to, Vengalattore said, “That's a very good question. The short answer is I don't know."

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Middlebury announces end of disciplinary process over disruption of Charles Murray visit

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 00:00

More than two months after Charles Murray visited Middlebury College and was shouted down there, the college has finished reviewing and in some cases punishing students who were involved in preventing him from giving his talk.

The college punished a total of 67 students for their (varying) roles in what happened during Murray's visit to campus. A majority of the punishments appear to be probation. Some of the students received "official college discipline," which is more serious than probation but does not involve suspension.

Middlebury on Tuesday announced the completion of its review process. The college also announced that the Middlebury Police Department (as in the Vermont town, not the college) "had concluded its investigation into the violence that took place following the event as Murray and Professor Allison Stanger left the building. The department said it has been unable to identify any specific individual responsible for the injuries sustained by Stanger. MPD also said it had established that as many as eight masked individuals were in the area and used tactics indicating training in obstruction."

While the department said that "it had identified a number of other people who were in the crowd of more than 20 people outside the event venue, on consultation with the Addison County State’s Attorney it was determined that there was insufficient information to charge any specific person who participated in damaging the car or interfering with or blocking the car’s progress as it exited the parking lot."

Ever since the Murray visit, Middlebury has been subject to national scrutiny over how it would punish those involved. Some have argued for tough punishments, while others have said that no punitive sanction would be appropriate. Murray is the co-author of The Bell Curve, a book widely denounced as racist for its conclusions on race and intelligence, but he was not planning to speak about that book. Stanger was the professor selected to lead questioning of Murray. While she defended his right to speak, she never endorsed his views.

Middlebury policy permits protests of speakers but not activities that prevent someone from speaking. While many were involved in doing just that (and were seen on social media doing so), still others were involved in what has widely been seen as a more serious incident after the talk, when Stanger was attacked outside and the car carrying her and Murray from the event was attacked. Middlebury announced early on that it asked the town police to investigate that part of the incident. In addition, college officials said early on that they believed some of those involved in the more violent portion of the protest were not students or otherwise affiliated with the college.

Middlebury officials have refused to answer detailed questions about the punishments, citing privacy issues with regard to the students. But they have indicated that they expected to have different punishments for different groups of students, depending on their level of involvement.

The college's announcement Tuesday said of the more serious "college discipline" punishment that some received that it "places a permanent record in the student’s file. Some graduate schools and employers require individuals to disclose official college discipline in their applications."

The description of "college discipline" on the college website states, "Students may receive a letter of official college discipline when their actions have demonstrated disregard for Middlebury’s community standards and policies such that an additional infraction of college policy will most likely result in suspension from Middlebury. Official college discipline is intended to encourage immediate improved behavior, and acceptance of responsibility and growth by establishing this incident on the student's permanent record. Official college discipline is a permanent part of the student's file. Students who receive official college discipline must answer affirmatively if they are asked whether they have been subject to college discipline. Parents or guardians are informed when students receive official college discipline."

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State aid program changes debated in several capitals

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 00:00

Several states are taking a hard look at high-profile student financial aid programs as they debate their budget priorities, searching for savings and reconsidering how they spend money on scholarship and grant programs.

In several cases, the issue centers on funds that help middle-class families, aid that some see as essential and others criticize as diverting public resources away from poor students who need them most.

Their discussions have not always grabbed the top headlines in a year when New York sucked up attention by creating a new tuition-free public college program -- and at a time when closely watched reports on state higher education finances and state-funded student financial aid have generally shown increases across the country. But budget debates unfolding in California, Louisiana and Oregon provide examples that even with a strengthening national economy, some states must prioritize amid budget crunches or questions about the most effective spending strategies.

Those hard choices often have lawmakers balking at the idea of cutting funding for their better-off constituents. They also have some advocates of higher education access renewing their arguments that money is best spent on students who cannot finish college without it.

The budget decisions being debated lay bare the choices states must continually make on whether to fund students based on their financial need or their academic performance -- and how much money they can provide in a world of finite resources.

“There is just sort of a lot of evolution going on,” said Frank Ballman, director of the Washington office of the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs. NASSGAP has noted states are increasingly aware of the benefits of need-based aid in recent years.

It’s not so simple on the ground, however. In California, for instance, Governor Jerry Brown has proposed phasing out the state’s relatively new Middle Class Scholarship program, which is based on students’ family income levels.

That program, which first went into effect for the 2014-15 academic year, goes to students at the University of California and California State University systems. It was intended for students whose families make too much for them to qualify for other need-based financial aid programs but do not make enough to allow them to easily pay for college in a state with many regions where the cost of living is high.

The program was to be phased in over time, offering various amounts to students based in large part on their family income. Award amounts also varied based on the number of students eligible and amount of funding set aside in the state budget, but the awards could cover up to 40 percent of a student’s tuition and fees after being combined with other publicly funded financial aid awards. Currently, California students from families with annual income of up to $156,000 are eligible. An asset cap has also been added, preventing those with household assets of more than $156,000, not including primary homes and retirement accounts, to be eligible.

Brown, a Democrat, continued to call for phasing out the Middle Class Scholarship when he released a revised budget proposal this month. Doing so would save an estimated $115 million once the phaseout is complete. Some have objected, however. State Senator Janet Nguyen, who authored a bill to preserve the scholarship, issued a statement arguing that the Middle Class Scholarship program is a “financial lifeline” that is often the only state financial assistance available to students.

The program has provided aid to an average of 50,000 students annually over the last three years. Maximum award amounts have been climbing as the program was scaled up. In theory, the maximum possible award for a Cal State student this year was $1,644, and the maximum award for a UC student was $3,690. Average award amounts have been much lower in practice, however. Cal State students averaged an $800 award this year versus $1,107 for UC students, according to data posted in February.

More than 80 percent of the program’s 46,306 recipients go to the lower-cost Cal State institutions, which also tend to attract students from lower-income backgrounds than do UC institutions. In total, the program paid about $31.2 million to Cal State students and $8 million to UC students.

That’s a relatively small amount in comparison to the total financial aid Cal State students receive, said Dean Kulju, director of student financial aid services and programs at the system.

“Those numbers sound big taken for themselves, but keep in mind that overall total financial assistance from all sources for us is $4.1 billion -- with a ‘b,’” he said.

The number of Cal State students receiving money through the Middle Class Scholarship program is also dwarfed by the number receiving money from the state’s Cal Grant program, which covers students from lower-income families. The Cal Grant income limit for a family of four was $90,500 in the most recent year -- which may seem like a solidly middle-class income if not for the fact that it can be extremely expensive to house a family in California. About 121,000 Cal State students received Cal Grants last year.

Kulju hopes to see the Middle Class Scholarship continued, but with some changes. Right now, students are not told until the summer if they are receiving an award. But students make enrollment deposits months before that. If they learned about their awards earlier, students would be able to factor them into their college choices, he said.

Still, it is too soon to judge the program’s overall effectiveness, Kulju said.

“So far, there’s not enough of a track record to see if it’s truly impactful and the most effective way to go about this for families,” Kulju said. “The budget hawks would argue that it’s still a however-many-hundred-million-dollar drain on the state general funds. Those funds could be used elsewhere.”

Recipients of the Middle Class Scholarship have tended to skew toward its upper income limits. The program makes a small amount of awards to low-income families -- 13 percent of its recipients came from families with household incomes of $50,000 or less. But the bulk of its recipients are from families earning more than six figures. Slightly more than half, 51 percent, fell into the household income brackets between $100,000 and $156,000 this year. Only 36 percent earned between $50,000 and $100,000.

Many would rather see the state use the money dedicated to the Middle Class Scholarship to shore up California’s other student aid programs. The Middle Class Scholarship was not designed to benefit the students who need the most help, said Debbie Cochrane, vice president of the Institute for College Access and Success, a nonprofit that wants to make higher education available for students from more backgrounds.

When Brown proposed eliminating the Middle Class Scholarship, the idea was that doing so would protect the Cal Grant program, Cochrane said.

“If you’re going to choose between those two things, that’s the right priority,” Cochrane said of choosing the Cal Grant program.

Brown is also proposing to stop a scheduled reduction in Cal Grant money going to private colleges. But it’s too early to tell whether that is a net positive for students, Cochrane said.

Preparing for the Next Downturn

The discussions in California fit into a national landscape in which most states are recovering or recovered from the Great Recession, she said. They are also, however, warily eyeing the next possible economic downturn. In some cases, that has policy makers deciding whether to restrict programs based on students’ family income or academic scores.

“They’re trying to make smart decisions about where to invest,” Cochrane said. “And they are making choices of need versus merit.”

The dynamic has been on display in another state widely considered to have struggled in the years since the recession, Louisiana. Lawmakers there are debating changes to the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students.

The program, known as TOPS, is a set of merit-based scholarships paying for tuition for students who finish a core high school curriculum, earn a minimum grade point average and score at or above a minimum level on the ACT.

Louisiana spent about $2.6 billion on TOPS between 1999 and 2016. But expenditures have risen drastically during that time as institutions increased tuition and the number of award recipients rose. Total TOPS expenditures jumped 391 percent from 1999 to 2016.

The program has also been criticized as developing into a giveaway disproportionately benefiting the state’s wealthy. In 2005-06 just 10.6 percent of TOPS recipients earned $150,000 or more, according to the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance. By 2014-15, 20.4 percent did so. The portion of recipients from families in income brackets earning less than $100,000 generally fell or held essentially steady over that time.

As Louisiana battles budget deficits, the program was underfunded for 2016-17. To keep the program within its funding restraints, lawmakers cut award amounts so that students only received 67.4 percent of the full award, with most of the drop coming in the spring semester.

At the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, that meant a student who normally would have received a $2,700 in TOPS funding this spring only received $1,130, said DeWayne Bowie, the university’s vice president of enrollment management. Some students had to borrow more to make up the difference, he said. Some had to decide to attend another institution where they could afford tuition.

“We had a few students who actually had to stay closer to home to be able to afford to attend school in the semester,” he said. “As far as a large number of students not attending, we didn’t see that. We just saw students -- and still see some students -- that are struggling to make payments.”

Lawmakers have debated a number of ways to rein in the program’s cost and change the way its awards are distributed when there isn’t enough money available. A 2016 law decoupled TOPS award levels from tuition, setting the 2016-17 award level as a base. That puts any future award increases in the hands of the Legislature.

This month a bill requiring higher academic standards for high school graduates starting in 2021 moved through committee. It would require students to earn a 2.75 grade point average on core high school curriculum, up from a current requirement of 2.5.

Another bill would have protected the awards of top-scoring students and those from families with incomes of about $60,000 or less in the event of a TOPS funding shortfall. It did not survive committee. Earlier this year a State Senate panel killed a bill that would have required students to pay back some of their TOPS awards if they moved out of state shortly after graduating.

In a state with a budget that is heavily dependent on the struggling energy sector, funding the TOPS program to increase every year with tuition was not sustainable over the long term, said Joseph C. Rallo, Louisiana commissioner of higher education. Public funding for educational institutions has been slashed drastically over time, forcing them to raise tuition. TOPS had been matching those tuition increases dollar for dollar.

The question now is the best way to allocate money in order to support students across the state. Are the current TOPS academic standards too low, turning it into a de facto giveaway for all students, regardless of whether they study hard? Does the program spend too much on wealthy students who could afford tuition on their own?

Or has the program simply become too broad?

“If you want it to be merit-based, then perhaps you want to look at enhancing the requirements,” Rallo said. “If you want to make it need-based, then step up.”

Rallo pointed out that Louisiana has a need-based grant, the Go Grant, that has not received additional funding in recent years. TOPS distributed $254.9 million in 2015-16. Go Grants distributed just $26.5 million. More than 50,000 students received TOPS awards. Fewer than 27,000 received Go Grant awards.

Promise Not Immune to Budget Woes

Even some states with new programs that were hailed as successes are facing tough decisions. Oregon faces a $1.5 billion deficit for its next two-year budget. The budget crunch could pinch the state’s new free community college program, Oregon Promise.

To be eligible for the Promise program, Oregon students must earn a 2.5 high school GPA. The program is structured as a last-dollar program, meaning it is awarded after other forms of financial aid.

It cost about $12 million for a single cohort of students in its first year. But continuing it means paying for multiple cohorts of students -- new students and those that are continuing their studies. The cost for doing so is estimated at as much as $50 million over the state’s next biennial budget, said Ben Cannon, executive director of the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission. The cost is also slightly higher than expected because the program was more popular than originally anticipated.

The promise has received some scrutiny after a recent report found students from higher-income families are disproportionately benefiting from it. A full 53 percent of Promise recipients did not receive Pell Grants, which are considered a proxy for students from low-income families.

Students who do not receive Pell Grants drive up the cost of the program to the state as well. The state must foot the full cost of their tuition instead of a partial cost offset by Pell Grants.

It’s possible the program could be modified to reduce student eligibility based on family income, Cannon said. The maximum award size could be capped. The $50 copay students must contribute per term could be increased. Higher grade point average requirements could be put in place.

“I don’t think the program will be eliminated,” Cannon said. “I think the Legislature will make a really robust effort to maintain it as closely as possible to what exists today as they can.”

This is far from the first time state policy makers have had conversations about aid programs, costs and priorities, said Thomas Harnisch, director of state relations at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Georgia’s well known non-need-based HOPE program has been debated -- and criticized for leaving out many low-income and minority students. Florida is considering bolstering its non-need-based Bright Futures program after curtailing it during the recession. The changes would have the program pay full tuition for top students enrolling at state universities, raising concerns that they would pour money into top-tier students, who tend to be wealthy and white.

Debates could play out in different ways based on states’ individual politics and financial situations.

“Each of these programs is unique,” Harnisch said. “The challenges confronting state financial aid programs stem from eroding funding streams, higher tuition costs and a greater number of eligible students. And these forces have collectively led to budgetary shortfalls in the programs.”

Lawmakers sometimes worry about making changes to programs that affect the middle class and wealthy because those programs are popular and benefit the people who vote the most, Harnisch said. The decisions lawmakers make reveal their true priorities -- and, by extension, the programs’ true priorities.

“It comes down to a fundamental question of what you want to achieve with these programs,” he said. “And how do you best achieve it?”

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Calls to protect exploited foreign workers in Aus

The PIE News - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 07:25

A proposal to protect international students and foreign workers from deportation in instances of workplace exploitation and allow them to issue entitlement claims has been submitted to the Australian immigration minister.

The proposal, submitted by Sydney-based Redfern Legal Centre, seeks to amend section 499 of the Migration Act to prevent the automatic cancellation of a student’s visa when they have breached the terms as well as combat employee exploitation.

“In our experience, international students frequently have a visa issue associated with their legal problem, and fears about their visa status can prevent these students from seeking advice or asserting their rights,” said Sean Stimson, RLC international student solicitor.

“Employers have hid behind the fact that international students are not going to pursue their employer because they are in breach of their visa conditions”

Under current conditions in Australia, international students can work up to 40 hours per fortnight.

But, Stimson said this condition has led to unscrupulous employers intentionally targeting students, coercing them to work in excess of their entitled hours, and then using the threat of deportation to force them into substandard employment conditions.

According to RLC, which provides free legal assistance to the community, international students are particularly vulnerable in areas including housing, employment, consumer scams and issues with their education providers.

“Students we hear from often describe working in ‘slave like’ conditions, receiving pay that is significantly below industry awards,” said Stimson. “This creates a vicious cycle, forcing students to work additional hours to survive. They are then essentially trapped by their employer, who often make threats of deportation if they speak out.”

The proposed changes would also allow international students to legally pursue employers to recover wages and entitlements, and if passed, would put employers “on notice for the first time”.

“Employers have hid behind the fact that international students are not going to pursue their employer because they are in breach of their visa conditions,” Stimson commented. “It exposes the employer to all of the breaches they have undertaken by the exploitation.”

Stimson said the timeframe for review and implementation of the amendment is uncertain, but the proposal has so far been favourably received.

Australia has had several incidents of international student exploitation, including a recent highly-publicised exposé by SBS on rampant exploitation of Vietnamese students.

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New Zealand tightens migrant visa conditions

The PIE News - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 06:53

The New Zealand government has issued a second round of changes for high- and low-skilled migrant worker visas, this time raising the minimum salary. The move has stirred up uncertainty among educators and agents.

The changes, which follow an increase in the visas’ points requirement, will see applicants needing to meet a minimum income of $48,859 per year for a high-skilled visa and $73,299 per year for a low-skilled visa. The salaries represent New Zealand’s median wage and 1.5 times New Zealand’s median wage, respectively.

“The government has a Kiwis first approach to immigration and these changes are designed to strike the right balance between reinforcing the temporary nature of Essential Skills work visas and encouraging employers to take on more Kiwis and invest in the training to upskill them,” immigration minister Michael Woodhouse said in a statement.

“It’s important that our immigration settings are attracting the right people, with the right skills”

“It’s important that our immigration settings are attracting the right people, with the right skills, to help fill genuine skill shortages and contribute to our growing economy.”

The move will not affect international students’ post-study work rights, which provide a one year open visa option for undergraduate and postgraduate students and a two year employee sponsored option for students with an acceptable qualification, with a possible third year if working towards occupational registration.

Universities New Zealand expressed disappointment with the proposed changes, labelling it a populist policy that could damage the reputation of the country’s international education industry.

“It is unfortunate that election year issues around housing pressures and record migration are being conflated into a populist policy which unintentionally impacts genuine, high quality international student migration,” UNZ executive director Chris Whelan told The PIE News.

Whelan added that market sensitivities around immigration policy changes could impact student numbers, highlighting student and agent concerns in the wake of changes announced by the US, UK and Australia.

“We are particularly concerned by the introduction of a salary threshold to be met by early career graduates,” he said.

Education New Zealand chief executive Grant McPherson said it is expected the change will have a short-term impact on international student recruitment, especially for providers targeting students at below degree level qualifications. He added that the move sends a clear signal that residency is “not always a realistic expectation” and New Zealand’s education quality should be “the prime driver” for students.

In an open letter to the industry, McPherson also pointed to the Ministry of Education’s recently published Moving Places report, which found more than half of international students with postgraduate qualifications meet the remuneration thresholds three years after graduation – around the time their post-study work visas ran out.

However, the report also found the median earnings of young international graduates were below the thresholds up to six years after completing an undergraduate degree, and up to eight years after a sub-degree qualification.

Additionally, in all but a few qualification areas, international graduates were found to earn less than their domestic counterparts.

According to Ravi Lochan Singh, managing director of Indian agency Global Reach, however, relying on salary data from the Moving Places report to gauge how many international students would be affected does not provide a complete picture.

“Students with poor English communication levels and lower skills have made it to New Zealand”

“One of the biggest reasons for low salaries for the undergrads was that over the last few years, students with poor English communication levels and lower skills have made it to New Zealand,” Singh explained.

“The regulations only started changing about a year ago and the quality of students reaching New Zealand has improved. I believe an undergrad student with decent communication ability, who has studied at a decent institution and then uses the post-study work followed by work permit, will have no issues in securing a salary above the [threshold].”

In a blog on the changes, Singh also expressed disappointment that media outlets had confounded the expected impact of visa changes in the US, Australia and New Zealand, by providing misleading and inaccurate information.

New Zealand’s announcement of the proposed changes to its work visas came a day after the US and Australia made similar announcements and echoed the “Hire American” and “Australians first” rhetoric used by both the countries’ leaders.

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