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Atmospheric scientist at Illinois is on leave after refusing to provide lecture slides to student with disabilities

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 00:00

A dispute over electronic lecture slides and accommodations for a learning-disabled student may have ended the teaching career of the Nobel laureate Michael Schlesinger, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Schlesinger said Thursday that he's learned from his attorney that he is on paid administrative leave over the matter, pending a hearing. He said he has not resigned, despite previously having indicated otherwise to students.

“Although you have a doctorate, I doubt that you teach. Although you have a doctorate, I doubt that you do research,” Schlesinger wrote to a disabilities services specialist at the university, announcing his departure last week. He accused the staff member of writing him “coercive emails” about the accommodation and copied his entire class on climate and global change on the exchange.

“Yet,” he continued, “it is you who have pressured me, who has taught and researched for 41 years in university and is a Nobel Prize recipient, to do that which I will not do, advantage a single [Disability Resources and Educational Services] student over the 100-plus non-DRES students in my course by providing that student with my lectures electronically.”

Schlesinger continued, “I think the university needs to rethink having people such as you. Nonetheless, I look forward to spending the remainder of my life in Kona, Hawaii.”

Parts of the email exchange have been posted online by students, and Schlesinger confirmed their authenticity to Inside Higher Ed. The messages say that Schlesinger offered to pay for someone to take notes for the student in question, so the professor’s main contention was sharing his slides with the student to supplement the notes.

Schlesinger told Inside Higher Ed that when he sent the email about leaving for Hawaii, he thought he'd already been terminated. 

"I have not resigned and do not tend to resign," he said via email. "Rather, I intend to fight for a more balanced approach to assisting disabled students, an approach that does not disadvantage non-disabled students."

Robin Kaler, a university spokesperson, said she couldn’t comment on a personnel matter, and one with implications for student privacy, other than to say that Schlesinger is not currently teaching. But Illinois, she said, “has always been an international leader in disability resources and support, and we take very seriously our responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations to students who are living with disabilities.” (Kaler has co-authored opinion pieces for Inside Higher Ed in the past.)

In online discussion forums, some students have suggested that lecture slides may have been of use to someone using the note-taking software Sonocent. The program records lectures and students can then add notes to the lecture slides -- if professors provide them. Advocates of such technology say it's not an easy way out, though -- just a way of better organizing notes. And of accommodations in general, scholars of special education say they level the playing field instead of giving anyone an advantage.

Schlesinger declined an immediate interview request, saying he was “too bruised emotionally” to talk about the case, or rather about how he’s been treated. But he forwarded an email he wrote to Robert Rauber, chair of the department of atmospheric sciences, explaining this decision. That's after Rauber wrote him an email saying his duties had been "removed pending further review of your recent actions. ... I also want to reiterate that you are to have no further contact with students or teaching assistants until further notice."

After teaching the climate and global change class 16 times and accommodating various students with disabilities, Schlesinger wrote, he was for the first time this year asked to provide electronic copies of his slides before each lecture.

While he gave all of his students hard copies of his lecture notes before class, he said, he didn’t provide electronic copies because “based on my experience of providing all my students my lecture slides after each lecture for most if not all of the 16 times I have taught this course, I knew that one-third of my class would cease coming to my lectures if I provided them my lecture slides electronically. And their ceasing to attend my lectures would lower their course grades.”

For some reason, he said, “this was deemed unacceptable by DRES. The person at DRES responsible for this decision was concerned about only one student in my class of 108 students.”

The emails on which the class was copied did not contain the name of the student who required accommodation. 

James Basham, an associate professor of special education at the University of Kansas, said he was familiar with Sonocent, which he called “a nice program for supporting students with disabilities, but could really be useful for supporting all learners.”

Basham explained that the tool supports instructional alignment to the Universal Design for Learning framework, which is designed to make digital postsecondary content accessible to people with disabilities. That has been identified as among the top five instructional issues facing higher education.

“While I don’t know the details of this case, it would seem that this professor is holding on to traditional instructional practices that have nearly Luddite-type tendencies,” Basham said. “If the professor has such strong beliefs about sharing slides with an individual student, he should simply share with all of his students.”

Many professors have been sharing their slides with students -- those who require accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act and those who don’t -- for years, he said, encouraging his colleagues to “reflect on how we might be more learner-centered.” That includes providing access to the learning environment, whether "physical or cognitive."

The written word was once considered disruptive to the learning process; now perhaps it’s technology such as Sonocent and in the future it could be something else, Basham said. “Rather than fight progress, it is necessary for us to continually view the process of learning from the perspective of the learners.”

Of course, not all professors have such deep insight into pedagogy, and some prefer to focus on their research areas instead of changing their teaching styles. And sometimes meeting learners where they’re at can mean extra work for faculty members.

Kaler said that at Illinois, a professor is responsible for providing electronic notes to students who need them. For an accommodation that is beyond the capability of the instructor, such as one that requires special technology, she said, DRES provides support.

Schlesinger wrote an email addressed to his former students in the class Thursday, mourning the planned destruction of the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, which had been in Saturn’s orbit since 2004 and whose mission dates back to the 1980s. He shared it with reporters and administrators at Illinois.

“Although the university has forbidden me to communicate with you, on pain of ???, I am,” he wrote, saying that Cassini is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. “We puny human beings have learned incredible things from Cassini … It is important for you to understand the past, the present and the future. It is you who will decide the future of our planet, this island Earth, as I have taught you. Learn well.”

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Speaker implores NACAC attendees to change practices he believes are racist

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 00:00

BOSTON -- College admissions officers and high school guidance counselors regularly engage in racism, keynote speaker Shaun R. Harper told thousands of attendees at the National Association for College Admission Counseling's national conference Thursday, imploring them to change their ways.

“Your profession is 80 percent white,” said Harper, a professor at the University of Southern California's school of education and executive director for the university's Race and Equity Center. “It's even whiter when we get to those who are at the top levels. It sure would be nice if a mostly white professional association and its members more powerfully, more responsibly and more loudly advocated for racial justice on behalf of those who don't have the resources that they deserve in high schools across our nation.”

Harper's keynote comes weeks after white nationalists shocked the country by marching through Charlottesville, Va., the home of the University of Virginia. Days after the Virginia events, Harper addressed that university's faculty and staff members, arguing that the university is complicit in maintaining white supremacy in society and asking them to change. He wrote about the experience in an essay on Inside Higher Ed.

His NACAC speech in Boston made some similar points. Harper asked conference attendees to raise their hands if they were disgusted by the racism displayed in Virginia. Then he argued against being “selectively horrified and disgusted” by racism and its manifestations. Those manifestations include those in the college admissions process, he said.

“Racism isn't just tiki torch-carrying white nationalists,” he said. “It's not just the things Donald Trump says. It's also the things that happen in high schools and in college admissions offices.”

Harper listed numerous areas where he sees structural racism in the admissions process, drawing upon his own research visiting colleges and universities across the country to determine how young black men navigated higher education.

His list started with valuing “black lives differently” in counseling -- guidance counselors not investing as much time or energy for black students who are applying to college as they do for white students. It continued with “undermatching,” or telling students that they should not try to enroll in top colleges or universities because “kids from here don't get into schools like those,” even if those students were top performers and in all likelihood would be admitted to the country's top institutions.

Harper also spoke against telling students that historically black colleges and universities are of poor quality and against recruiting black students from only a select handful of cities and high schools. He argued that “curricular racelessness” in programs producing professionals who work in higher education is racist because it allows graduates to enter the field with implicit biases that were never challenged.

He added that racial stratification in college admissions offices is racism as well, saying top administrators are usually white while those at the bottom of the organizational chart are more likely to be people of color.

Some of his most withering criticism was targeted at the idea that colleges can't find enough college-ready, highly qualified black applicants.

“You can find them when you want them to play on the football team and the men's basketball team,” he said. “You can find them easily when you want them to earn millions of dollars for your universities. You will go to the ends of the earth to find them.”

Harper drew his presentation to a close by showing a picture of the torch-bearing marchers in Charlottesville.

The events in Charlottesville led to a loss of life, he said, referencing the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed when an Ohio man drove his car into demonstrators protesting white nationalists in Charlottesville.

But lives are also ruined when guidance counselors and admissions officers misdirect students, Harper said. Students are locked out of opportunities. They are negatively affected by counselors who say they are not smart enough.

An association as large as NACAC should be able to do something about issues like the low number of counselors serving primarily minority students in low-income communities, Harper said.

“This isn't just a one-time occurrence on a bad night in Charlottesville,” he said. “This is something that happens every day in high schools and on college campuses around the country.

“Please, do better.”

The View From Inside

The keynote came after NACAC President Nancy T. Beane laid out a host of issues in her opening remarks. The admissions profession faces challenges related to degree completion, economic disparity, student debt, mental health and systemic inequalities in the college admission process, she said.

Meanwhile, NACAC has had to weigh in after President Trump's administration took new positions on highly charged issues, such as when it moved to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and introduced an immigration ban targeting nationals of six Muslim-majority countries. NACAC is attempting to draw a line between addressing those issues and taking political stances.

“We have taken strong positions and issued statements,” said Beane, associate director of college counseling at the Westminster Schools in Georgia. “I hope you understand this: they are honestly not political but are rather aimed at protecting students, just as we always have done since NACAC was established.”

This is not the first time the issue of race has been prominent at a NACAC conference. Last year, the outgoing president, Phillip Trout, faced sharp criticism after saying “all lives matter” during the conference's opening general session.

His statement upset many who felt saying “all lives matter” amounted to minimizing the Black Lives Matter movement and its message against police killings of black men and women. Trout apologized.

AdmissionsDiversityEditorial Tags: AdmissionsDiversityImage Source: Rick Seltzer/Inside Higher EdImage Caption: Shaun R. Harper confronted attendees of NACAC's National Conference with a blunt discussion of racism.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

Accreditor denies Arizona community college's bid to expand online

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 00:00

A regional accreditor recently denied an Arizona community college’s bid to increase its online degree offerings, with a decision that highlights challenges colleges may face when seeking to expand their online presence.

Scottsdale Community College had sought to add 48 new online certificate and degree programs. The college, which is a part of the Maricopa Community College District, had proposed gradually beginning to offer the degrees, beginning this fall and continuing through 2020.

After conducting a review, the Higher Learning Commission gave the college an acceptable rating in each category for online course delivery. However, the accreditor also identified several problems, mostly revolving around inconsistency in the way Scottsdale offered its existing online programs to students. As a result, it rejected the college’s request to add the new credentials.

In a peer review report, which Inside Higher Ed obtained, HLC’s reviewers described “strong foundational components critical to online delivery and a clear passion for such delivery. At the same time, there were clear areas for improvement, including a limited amount of standardization across individual courses.”

In particular, the reviewers found a lack of required training for online instruction.

“SCC’s contract with the faculty was cited as the reason training could not be mandated. Further authority for reviewing and overseeing online delivery was pushed down to the department level. This decentralization in review and oversight authority led to variability between the 10 online courses reviewed by the team that, in the opinion of the team, made the courses more faculty- than student-centered,” the report said. “The lack of consistency may be a contributing factor in the online student success rate, which was 10 percent lower than either face-to-face or hybrid delivery modalities.”

Success rates in Scottsdale’s face-to-face courses stood at 75.2 percent compared to 65.4 percent in online courses last fall.

HLC also cited concerns about Scottsdale’s use of multiple learning management systems and about inconsistencies in course navigation and the deployment of student help facilities in courses.

The college pointed to faculty contracts as one reason why instructor training couldn’t be mandated. It also cited “the inability of the institution to control the content of online courses, ceding all course-related decisions to faculty members” as a reason for the inconsistencies in delivery, according to the report.

“The HLC review team was fair in its assessment of SCC’s embedded change application,” said Nancy Neff, executive director of institutional advancement and community engagement at Scottsdale, in an email. “The team was very positive in its response and offered valuable constructive feedback for moving forward. We have evaluated the HLC feedback and are developing a plan to address concerns. We hope to implement later this year.”

Neff said Scottsdale is also working with faculty to implement and mandate training for faculty members who teach online.

Russell Poulin, director of policy and analysis at the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, applauded HLC for setting a higher standard for online programs. But he said the push for standardization raises questions about academic freedom.

“It’s been kind of a problem distance education has had to deal with for quite a while, the idea in some places that you can’t require the training,” Poulin said. “The academic freedom issue finds itself in the contracts … when you’re doing it face-to-face, it’s a little less of a problem.”

With online learning, he said, academic freedom can become an issue because instructors are asked to run the technology themselves and initiate engaging and meaningful interactions with students they may never see.

“We’re still in a place where a lot of students are still uncomfortable with distance learning. And if you have a faculty person that is uncomfortable because they don’t have the proper preparation to succeed, is it surprising pass rates are going down?” Poulin said.

Poulin said Quality Matters, which conducts quality assurance in online courses, has tried to combat many of these issues through a peer-to-peer mentoring system.

Scottsdale uses Quality Matters as a model, which HLC noted. However, the peer-review team was concerned that just 10 of 174 faculty members at the college had formally completed the Quality Matters training and only 20 percent of courses were certified by the group.

“Using a recognized model such as Quality Matters is effective, but only to the extent that it is consistently applied and deployed,” the review said.

“We have 1,090 academic institutions that are members using Quality Matters and 1,090 different ways they do it,” said Deb Adair, executive director of Quality Matters, which is a nonprofit organization. “They’ve got different missions, different cultures, different resources -- and not just monetarily -- so they have to have the flexibility of being able to adapt the tools to their needs.”

Adair said the group is aware of resource constraints at institutions that can make consistent delivery of its training and review processes difficult.

“If you want to show you’re doing something, you have to have a consistent, rigorous process and you need to really take that next step up and develop a quality-assurance process rather than just using standards,” she said. “We’re trying to describe what that looks like at institutions. So, you do have to start mandating certain things and maybe requiring every course in a program be reviewed, maybe not certified, but reviewed every five years and provide some criteria for faculty.”

Scottsdale will reapply to its accreditior in the future for approval of the 48 online certificates and degrees, Neff said, once it has addressed HLC’s concerns and documented their success with the programs.

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Dutch academics protest selection of new leader for university group

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 00:00

Academics in the Netherlands are in revolt over the selection of a politician who called for the investigation of potential anti-conservative bias in higher education as the president of the association that represents Dutch universities.

Critics also see Pieter Duisenberg, who has stepped down as an member of parliament for the center-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) to take up the post at the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), as heralding a move toward a higher-tuition-fee, “market-driven” system.

Guy Geltner, a professor of medieval history at the University of Amsterdam, said he thought the appointment was "bizarre" and has set up an online petition to demand his resignation, which has so far garnered more than 3,500 signatures.

Earlier this year, Duisenberg proposed a motion in the Dutch parliament that asks the government "to request advice and consideration from the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences" about "whether self-censorship and limitation of diversity of perspectives" is common in universities, after being approached by conservative academics with claims of discrimination.

Geltner said the proposal to investigate the political affiliations of Dutch academics "sounds awful" and "brings us back to a very dark period in recent history."

“Even the suggestion is an intimidation,” he said. The plan was “lifted from the playbook” of “the Trumpists,” he argued, and was an attempt to paint academics as a “fifth column.”

Geltner also feared that Duisenberg wanted to make Dutch higher education “market driven,” with high student debt and university leaders commanding the salaries of “corporate executives,” ideas that were “not [for] the Netherlands,” he said.

But some believe Duisenberg's position on academics' political affiliations have been misconstrued and admire his engagement with higher education as an MP since 2012. Jo Ritzen, a former minister of education for the Labor Party, which has served in coalition with the VVD, said that Duisenberg was not calling for "government screening of academics before they are appointed."

Instead, Duisenberg was "ill at ease" with academics using their positions to express "ideological points of view," Ritzen said -- although he added that Duisenberg should make it more explicitly clear that he does not want some people excluded from academia for their views. Duisenberg has previously said that he is not advocating "quotas on political views" in Dutch universities.

His appointment nonetheless marked a "very important change" for the VSNU's approach to policy, Ritzen added, although he did not think it would pave the way for increased tuition fees in the Netherlands, which are currently around 2,000 euros ($2,400) a year for European Union students.

Instead, he would likely steer universities toward improving the employability of their students, and researching topics that "satisfy the curiosity" of ordinary people.

There is also controversy over how and why Duisenberg, who will take over as president in October, was appointed. Geltner said there was a "widely shared perception" that his appointment was part of political "horse trading" as the VVD and other parties try to hammer out a coalition deal following March's election.

But a spokesman for the VSNU said there had been no political involvement in the decision, which had been unanimously approved by the university presidents who make up the association's board. He declined to say who had put forward Duisenberg as a candidate. VSNU policy positions would also have to be agreed on by the entire board, he added.

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Pulse podcast features discussion of the road map for Blackboard Learn

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 00:00

This month’s edition of the Pulse podcast features an interview with Jim Chalex, vice president of product management at Blackboard.

In the conversation with host Rodney B. Murray, Chalex discusses the company’s plans for Blackboard Learn and its learning platform, amid other topics.

The Pulse is Inside Higher Ed’s monthly technology podcast. Murray is executive director of the office of academic technology at University of the Sciences.

Find out more, and listen to past Pulse podcasts, here.

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Mexican Universities Prepare for a Potential ‘Tsunami’ of DACA Students

The Chronicle of Higher Education (Global) - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 14:37
While the program’s fate is unclear, institutions in Mexico are taking steps to enroll students who face possible deportation.

Three quarters of students happy with international study experience ROI

The PIE News - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 08:55

Just under three quarters of international students from Asia were satisfied their overseas study experience was of benefit to their career, according to a recent survey.

Conducted by the International Alumni Job Network and analysis group Nielsen, the survey found that 72% of international students were either satisfied or very satisfied with the return on investment from studying in Australia, the UK, the US, Canada or New Zealand.

The network’s inaugural International Student and Alumni Satisfaction Survey garnered 5,200 responses from students in China, India, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, and found there were discrepancies in levels of satisfaction depending on where the students came from.

“We hear on a regular basis from international students who feel abandoned by their university after graduation”

Of the students surveyed, those from India reported the lowest levels of satisfaction with their return on investment. Forty-two per cent said they were satisfied that their UK education had a positive return, with 43% and 55% saying they were satisfied with the returns from their Australian and US education, respectively.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong students in Australia, and Singaporean and Malaysian students in the UK scored above the global average for returns on investment, with 77% and 78% satisfaction rates, respectively.

Despite the overall positivity, Shane Dillon, founder of IAJN, told The PIE News that institutions and study destinations should aim to improve their levels of satisfaction, as over a quarter of respondents indicated they were not satisfied with their return on investment.

Inaccurate expectations during the recruitment process and a lack of support from providers to help students transition from study to employment were the most likely causes of dissatisfaction, according to Dillon.

“We hear on a regular basis from international students who feel abandoned by their university after graduation; who return to home countries without a professional network or any gateways or support to employment like local students receive,” he said.

“An international education… is still a highly sought after dream for many of the world’s students”

Globally, the report also found high levels of satisfaction with the overall study experience, with 91% indicating they would recommend their country of study. Each country also scored at least 87% likelihood that respondents would recommend their institution.

As well as looking at student satisfaction, the surveys explored employment and salary outcomes, finding the average global monthly income for graduates to be $1,637, and an average 2.47 months wait between graduation and first job.

“An international education and the experience [of living] abroad is still a highly sought after dream for many of the world’s students and education providers need to live up to the promise that an international education is a good investment,” said Dillon.

“This will only be more important as globalisation and the fourth industrial revolution continue to rapidly change the workforce.”

The post Three quarters of students happy with international study experience ROI appeared first on The PIE News.

Call for papers next issue IAU Horizons, vol 22.2, December 2017

International Association of Universities - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 08:17

Theme: the next issue of the magazine focuses on Academic Freedom and University Autonomy under Threat.

Contributions: Authors interested in contributing a paper are invited to submit a proposal including a three line description of the focus of the paper they would wish to contribute.

Deadlines for Abstracts: 29 September 2017

Deadlines for Full paper (700 words max.

read more

Punishing Nicolás Maduro

Economist, North America - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 07:54

DESPITE four months of protests, more than 120 deaths and mounting diplomatic pressure, Nicolás Maduro has got away with it. Venezuela’s president has imposed a rigged constituent assembly to replace the elected, opposition-controlled parliament. He is ruling as a dictator, jailing or harassing scores of opponents. This poses a stark question: what, if anything, can be done to restore democracy?

In the short term, the answer is not much. The protests have stopped. Mr Maduro has the opposition where he wants it: split as to whether or not to participate in an overdue election for regional governors next month, organised by the same tame electoral authority that shamelessly inflated the turnout for the constituent assembly vote from under 4m to 8.5m. For now, the main threats to Mr Maduro’s regime come from elsewhere—from outsiders and from its acute shortage of money.

The United States has responded to the slide to dictatorship by ordering sanctions against 21...

The Caribbean’s pioneering form of disaster insurance

Economist, North America - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 07:54

ON SEPTEMBER 12th, before it could reckon how much damage Hurricane Irma had caused, Turks and Caicos got some heartening news. Within a fortnight the tiny Caribbean territory would get $13.6m to pay for disaster relief. Days earlier, Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis and Anguilla were pledged $15.6m. The sum, a substantial 1% of their combined GDP, won’t come from foreign do-gooders. It is a reward for home-grown prudence.

Like 13 other members of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and Nicaragua, the four had been paying into the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF). Created in 2007, it has so far doled out $69m to places battered by storms, floods and earthquakes. Unused funds are retained as reserves. Besides its own resources, CCRIF can draw on around $140m underwritten annually by reinsurers.

Spreading risk across Caricom and beyond—CCRIF is open to associate members such as Anguilla and, since 2015, to Central American...

Mexico’s quake of the century

Economist, North America - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 07:54

The strongest earthquake in a century struck the coast of Mexico on September 7th, killing at least 96 people. Most died in the southern state of Oaxaca. In the town of Juchitán the quake destroyed the hospital and made a third of the houses uninhabitable. The death toll was far lower than in the earthquake off the coast of Michoacán in 1985, in which at least 10,000 people died, many of them in Mexico City. That caused political tremors, discrediting the then-president, Miguel de la Madrid, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who seemed paralysed by the disaster. Mexico’s current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, who also belongs to PRI, is hardly more popular. But in the hope of avoiding his predecessor’s mistakes, he visited Juchitán on September 8th.

How Hurricane Irma will change the Caribbean

Economist, North America - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 07:54

FOR three days in early September Hurricane Irma ground through the eastern Caribbean like a bulldozer made out of wind and rain. Tropical breezes became 300kph (185mph) blasts, turning “tin roofs into flying razor blades”, as Maarten van Aalst of the Red Cross put it. Placid seas reared up in giant waves and rainwater coursed through streets. Even when the sun eventually came out the nightmare did not end. Shortages of food and water sparked looting on some islands. Survivors were grateful that fewer than 50 people, at last count, died in the Caribbean, but Irma’s fury left thousands homeless in the 13 island countries and territories in its path, including Cuba. Entire settlements were wiped off the map.

Most islanders want above all to return to normal life as fast as possible, which for many means reopening the hotels, bars, restaurants, surfing schools and the like that are the region’s economic lifeblood. Authorities on St Barthélemy, a territory that...

ELC helps meet English demand in Vietnam

The PIE News - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 04:33

The English Language Company based out of Australia has opened a purpose-built campus at a Vietnamese university, to help meet the demand for English language learning.

The school, which opened in this month at Hutech University in Ho Chi Minh City, has enrolled 1,300 students in its inaugural intake.

ELC set up its partnership with Hutech in April in order to help increase English language learning provision among the 35,000 students on campus.

“The number reflects the huge demand in a country like Vietnam”

David Scott, managing director of ELC, said that it was a “very quick process from contract signing to school launch”.

“The first students started studying in mid-August and by September 5, we capped enrolments at 1,300,” he told The PIE News.

“It’s been quite a challenge to build the campus, put in all the resources and staff the college in three short months but we managed to do it.”

Initially the number of students enrolling in the campus was expected to hit 500 in its first intake, and the high demand created a few logistical challenges – such as holding placement tests for 750 students in a day.

“The number reflects the huge demand in a country like Vietnam,” Scott said.

“We only recruited students from the freshman year. They are all new students this year at Hutech and we have found that most of them have a low level of English, exiting high school with an average A2 level. So the demand is definitely there.”

The school offers a variety of English courses for all levels, including general English, Cambridge English programs, IELTS preparation and academic English.

It also offers customised English programs for university faculties.

The school’s senior management comes from ELC Sydney, with teachers joining the campus from ELC’s Vietnam teaching internship program.

The school is aiming expand to enrol 2,000 students for the start of 2018, with future plans to grow to a second campus.

Hutech will also be opening an international high school next year, and ELC will offer extracurricular English language programs for those students as well.

“In total we expect to be teaching up to 5,000 students within five years,” said Scott. “But there is potential for this number to be much higher.”

The post ELC helps meet English demand in Vietnam appeared first on The PIE News.

China tells Hong Kong universities to curb 'separatists'

University World News Global Edition - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 04:14
China's official media has hit out at the unfurling of banners backing Hong Kong independence from China at a number of Hong Kong's universities, putting pressure on the Hong Kong government and o ...

Students waiting on borrower-defense claims face challenges with credit, obstacles to education

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 00:00

Dawn Thompson got an email in January with welcome news from the Department of Education. The federal government would clear $70,000 in federal graduate student loans she took out to attend an Everest University online M.B.A. program -- just a chunk of her total student loan debt, but a relief nonetheless.

Eight months later, however, Thompson’s still waiting.

“They keep saying give it more time,” she said. “How much more time do you actually need?”

For students who attended programs operated by for-profit institutions like Corinthian Colleges -- which operated Everest -- and ITT, the wait to have their claims for student loan forgiveness reviewed and processed has been a protracted ordeal. That’s true even or students like Thompson who have already had their applications -- known as borrower-defense claims -- approved by the federal government.

Student and consumer advocates have taken Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to task over her decision to block or water down regulations issued by the Obama administration to add student protections -- including a new borrower-defense rule written to clarify and expand students’ ability to clear loans taken out to attend fraudulent institutions. As of this summer, though, tens of thousands of claims were still pending from students who had filed to discharge their loans under existing statute but have yet to receive a ruling from the department.

A Department of Education official told members of Congress in July that the Trump administration had made no new reviews of claims since coming into office. A department spokeswoman said that remains the case as staff members develop a new system to adjudicate pending claims.

For borrowers still waiting on resolution of their claims months into the administration, the delay has had significant effects on financial decisions large and small. It’s also limited the ability of those borrowers to restart or continue their education at legitimate colleges. And advocates for students say the situation has placed in limbo exactly the kinds of low-income and minority students targeted by predatory institutions.

Challenges for Borrowers

Thompson, 52, attended undergraduate and graduate online programs through Everest from 2003 to 2014 -- she graduated from the bachelor’s program but dropped out of the master’s program as rumors swirled about investigations of programs operated by Corinthian. Less than a year of her leaving the graduate program, Corinthian had shut its doors. But Thompson was still stuck with more than $250,000 in private and federal student loans she said she was pushed to take out by advisers at Everest.

While she was enrolled as an undergraduate, financial aid advisers from the school would tell her she was capped out on federal student loans, which come with protections such as eligibility for borrower defense, and encourage her to take out additional private loans, Thompson said. She said she was naïve about following the guidance of advisers and "trusted them too much."

Thompson chose to attend an online program in large part because she was a single mother caring for a son with a rare immune-system disorder and couldn't sit in a physical classroom after work. But she said she found out after studying to be a paralegal for her undergraduate program that her degree was worthless in the job market, prompting her to go back to grad school and take out even more loans before leaving the program. Thompson hopes that having the $70,000 in federal loans discharged by the government will bolster an argument in court that her private loans should be forgiven, too.

She received a scholarship from Southern New Hampshire University to finish the last three courses required for her M.B.A. and is currently enrolled to finish the degree.

But she doesn’t believe she’ll ever pay all of her student loans off without debt forgiveness. She's not able to make major purchases. Both of her children are "petrified" of the cost of college. And Thompson said she fears her credit situation could block her from passing a background check on potential job opportunities.

“My credit is destroyed. Thank God I have a house and a job right now,” she said. “It’s totally destroyed my life. Trying to do something to better survive has made it 10 times worse than it ever was.”

The Obama administration crafted the borrower-defense rule in response to a flood of claims from students like Thompson who attended Corinthian programs before the chain shut down. The vast majority of the more than 65,000 pending claims were filed by former students of institutions operated by Corinthian and ITT Tech. Others, though, have filed claims arguing they should receive discharge for loans taken out to attend programs still operating.

Jarrod Thoma attended DeVry University from 2010 to 2015, originally in Columbus, Ohio, and later in Westminster, Colo., outside Denver. He received a bachelor's degree in electronics engineering technology but said the program misled students about the quality of materials and equipment used for instruction and about job placements.

DeVry promised that students would train with the latest industry-standard equipment, but Thoma, 36, said the quality of equipment was subpar and simulations from online instruction often didn't match hardware on site. Thoma said he is technically working in his field but could only find work in the Denver area as a lab technician -- for which he receives a salary half that of an engineer.

“I firmly believe the institution my degree is from is a huge barrier to being able to find and secure an engineering position,” he said.

Thoma, a former U.S. Army corporal, used up his GI Bill benefits and took out about $52,000 in loans in the course of completing his degree. He filed a borrower-defense claim in the fall of 2015 and has waited on resolution from the Department of Education since then. (The following year, DeVry reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over misleading use of employment statistics in advertising.)

While his loans have been placed in forbearance, they’ve still become a financial obstacle. Thoma and his wife have looked at buying a house in the area, but his ratio of debt to income has become a red flag in securing a mortgage.

“When the lending institutions look at that, they say, ‘What is this?’” he said. “I may be responsible for that, because there’s no guarantee my borrower-defense claim will be validated. It’s just huge. It definitely affects my ability to buy a home.”

Jennifer Wang, director of the Washington office of the Institute for College Access and Success, said the high volume of loan debt carried by many of the students filing borrower-defense claims can have negative consequences for their credit in numerous ways.

“It’s becoming increasingly hard to find a job that doesn’t require a credit check or to get an apartment that doesn’t require a credit check,” she said. “You can’t buy a car and get to work if you’ve ruined your credit.”

And even when students have their loans placed in forbearance, interest continues to accrue. In the event that the department doesn’t approve a borrower’s claim, that increases the total debt they owe, Wang said.

Student borrowers who spoke with Inside Higher Ed also said the slow process of getting a borrower-defense claim approved has dampened hopes of restarting their higher education.

Pauline Lucero grew up in Salinas, Calif., located in one of the state’s top agricultural regions. She said she was excited about the opportunity to enroll in an agriculture business program at Heald College’s Salinas campus in 2007. But two semesters into the program, Lucero said, she was told it would be discontinued because of low enrollment.

Lucero said she was pressured by campus officials into picking another Heald program offered at the campus -- she chose business administration with an emphasis on criminal justice -- and wasn’t informed of all of her options when the college ended her original program, including receiving a full refund.

Lucero, 35, eventually graduated with an associate degree but was only able to find work with a staffing and recruitment agency. One of those jobs eventually turned into a permanent position -- but not one she would have needed an associate degree to qualify for. She said she has contemplated going back to school to complete her bachelor’s degree.

But her experience at Heald and the loan debt she continues to pay off have made her less eager to pursue those options. Lucero holds about $25,000 in student loan debt she took out to attend a program she said hasn’t helped her find employment. She filed a borrower-defense claim in September 2015. Without approval, she’s not sure she can afford to complete a four-year degree.

“I’m apprehensive about it because of the bad experience I had with Heald,” Lucero said.

Big Impact for Borrowers Who Get Relief

For the small fraction of borrowers who have had borrower-defense claims approved and seen their loan discharge actually go through, the financial and emotional impact is significant.

Danielle Ramos attended the Framingham, Mass., campus of American Career Institute from 2011 to 2012. In January, the Obama administration announced that it would grant automatic borrower-defense claims to students who took out federal loans to attend ACI, which was the target of a complaint by the state's attorney general for a range of deceptive practices. It was the first time the Department of Education had granted loan forgiveness to all students who attended an institution.

Even after she was told that ACI students would receive a loan discharge, Ramos said she didn’t think it would happen until they were actually cleared by the loan servicer. Ramos, 30, received an email over the July 4 weekend from her loan servicer, Navient, saying that her loans were paid in full.

“I don’t have to stress as much,” she said. “And I can also continue my education, which is important to me.”

Ramos had filed her borrower-defense claim in January 2013 after leaving ACI with a certificate but struggling to find work in the medical field that she couldn’t have secured without higher education.

A single parent, she said she struggled to repay the $12,000 in loans she took out to attend ACI and eventually defaulted on that debt. Ramos later enrolled in a public community college in the area to pursue an associate degree because she couldn’t see a way to pay off those student loans without increasing her earning power. That meant moving back in with her father and applying for numerous scholarships to pay for her education.

“If a school is accredited, that means the government is saying this school is good and you’re getting money from the government to pay for this said school,” she said. “When it doesn’t turn out that it is good, they weren’t going to give me that money back.”

Ramos said her associate degree helped her to find gainful employment. With the remaining loans she took out to attend ACI cleared and a check for the amount she’d already paid, Ramos said she can actually imagine completing a bachelor’s degree.

It’s not clear how many of the borrowers with pending claims have already defaulted on their student loans, as Ramos did. But student advocates say the number is not negligible. Borrowers have defaulted even with options like income-driven repayment, they say, because a small payment can still be burdensome when other unexpected expenses -- car repairs, medical bills, other emergency costs -- pop up.

“If it’s a choice between keeping the lights on or making a student loan payment, which are you going to do?” said Ashley Harrington, a lawyer with the Center for Responsible Lending.

Defaulting on student loans can wreck a borrower’s credit. It also makes them ineligible to take out additional federal student loans. But the wait for resolution of borrower-defense claims limits those borrowers’ access to additional aid in other ways. If they haven’t defaulted but have maxed out their lifetime student loan eligibility, their options for pursuing a degree at a legitimate college or university are limited.

And others say their experience taking out student loans to attend institutions that left them worse off has made them hesitant about taking on additional loan debt before their borrower-defense claims are reviewed. Those roadblocks to further higher education primarily affect students from low-income communities and communities of color, Harrington said -- the demographic targeted by fraudulent for-profit chains for enrollment.

“It’s definitely an equity issue,” she said. “These are traditionally the people who have not had access to higher education in this country. Now we’re putting them in this period of limbo.”

Consumer advocates like Harrington say they want to see concrete actions from the Department of Education on remaining borrower-defense claims, including communicating steps they are currently taking and a timeline for resolving the backlog.

Elected officials at the state and federal level have spent much of the past year seeking updates on borrower-defense claims from the Trump administration.

Earlier this year, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey made multiple attempts to get an update from DeVos -- with no response -- about the slow discharge of claims already approved for ACI students. Healey's office continues to work with students submitting claims for other institutions. And other state attorneys general, in addition to Healey, are still reaching out to student borrowers who likely qualify for loan discharge but have not yet filed claims. That means that the number of pending claims will likely continue to grow. (Language included in a spending package approved by the Senate appropriations committee directs the department to identify and contact borrowers who may be eligible for loan relief via borrower defense.)

Before the Obama administration left office, it received heavy pressure from activists and some lawmakers to grant broader relief to those who attended programs operated by Corinthian, ITT and other for-profit chains. Advocates for stronger assistance for borrowers pushed for group discharge for ACI students. And they won the release of an attestation form that allowed expedited loan forgiveness for students who attended certain Corinthian programs, including Everest, between 2010 and 2014. But department officials at the time insisted that they did not have the authority to grant broad discharge without an application to students who took out loans to attend any Corinthian or ITT program.

Under the Trump administration, review of claims has slowed to a complete halt. A July 5 letter from Acting Under Secretary James Manning to Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, revealed that the department hadn’t made any new reviews of claims since January; Democrats haven’t received further updates. In a court filing last week, Manning said it could take up to six months to resolve pending borrower-defense claims.

The department says it is re-evaluating for review claims of borrower defense applications while it is still clearing already approved claims for loan discharge.

“The department is committed to adjudicating pending and new claims under the current borrower defense to repayment regulations,” said spokeswoman Liz Hill. “At this time, no new claims have been approved. As a reminder, most borrowers with pending [borrower-defense] applications are eligible to be placed in forbearance and would not be expected to make payments while their application is pending.”

Elected Democrats are anxious to see more information and more progress from the department. In a statement, Durbin said nearly 4,000 borrowers in Illinois who were defrauded by Corinthian, ITT, Westwood and other for-profits have claims pending with the department. That number will only continue to grow, he said.

“These borrowers deal every day with the emotional and financial ruin brought on by their for-profit college experiences,” Durbin said. “They wait anxiously to receive word from the Department of Education on their claim, but thus far they have been ignored by the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos. It is shameful. The department should immediately begin processing these claims and completing the discharge of those that have already been approved.”

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Kentucky's governor says universities should think about cutting programs with poor job prospects

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 00:00

Already a polarizing figure among academics, Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky touched another one of higher education’s third rails Tuesday, saying public universities should consider cutting programs that don’t graduate students who are able to fill high-paying and in-demand jobs.

The remarks come as Bevin, a Republican, has laid out a vision for making Kentucky a center of engineering and manufacturing in the country. He has emphasized apprenticeships and training people for jobs that exist.

“Find entire parts of your campus … that don’t need to be there,” Bevin said in a speech at the Governor’s Conference on Postsecondary Education Trusteeship in Louisville, Ky., the Associated Press reported. “Either physically as programs, degrees that you’re offering, buildings that … shouldn’t be there because you’re maintaining something that’s not an asset of any value, that’s not helping to produce that 21st-century educated work force.”

The remarks set off unhappy chatter among professors at Kentucky’s state universities, who fear the governor is attempting to micromanage higher education institutions while ignoring faculty members’ traditional role over academic decisions. Several worried that the fast-changing job market makes it difficult or impossible to accurately predict which programs will train students for prosperous careers in the future. They argued that diverse program offerings at universities stand the best chance of producing graduates who are able to lead fulfilling lives while bringing flexible skill sets to the workplace.

Bevin’s remarks came as experts debate the severity of the skills gap in the United States. They also come against the backdrop of a Kentucky government that is on track for a $200 million shortfall at the end of its fiscal year in the middle of 2018. His suggestion, the Associated Press reported, was that with the state budget under pressure, some academic programs on college campuses have outlived their need.

Educators should stop supporting the idea that merely going to college is sufficient, Bevin argued. College degrees are not enough for students who are not studying “the right things,” he said. He also delivered a shot at dancers that stoked memories of remarks he made in early 2016, when he said taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize the study of French literature.

“If you’re studying interpretive dance, God bless you, but there’s not a lot of jobs right now in America looking for people with that as a skill set,” he said Tuesday.

Kentucky has cut state funding for higher education by more than $200 million since 2008.

Several faculty members found it ironic Wednesday that Bevin was taking aim at specific programs. The governor received his bachelor of arts degree in East Asian studies from Washington and Lee University, they pointed out.

“I think the comments are shortsighted and a bit naïve,” said Lee Blonder, a professor in the University of Kentucky’s college of medicine and one of two faculty members elected to the university’s Board of Trustees. “I think they show a lack of understanding of how innovation, creativity and productivity are nurtured by faculty in an institute of higher education. Not everybody wants to go into a STEM field or engineering.”

Some students have talents in other areas, and they should be able to pursue their passions, Blonder said. Being exposed to liberal education and a wealth of ideas can create unexpected value, she added, pointing to how Steve Jobs drew inspiration for Apple products from a calligraphy class he took at Reed College in Portland, Ore.

Faculty members also want students to lead fulfilling lives, Blonder said. She mentioned a student she taught several years ago who majored in biology and minored in dance. While biology might have opened the door to lucrative career choices, dance helped the student stay fit and was an important part of her life.

Blonder also pushed back against outside forces, even administrators or boards, exercising too much control over curriculum.

“I think the faculty are responsible for the curriculum, and it’s the faculty that need to guide this,” she said. “We have committees that evaluate courses, that evaluate programs. We have a career center.”

Still, in a world of limited resources, there are courses and programs that might qualify as low-hanging fruit for cutting. And entities other than the faculty do exert some control. In public higher education systems across the country, councils or coordinating agencies are constantly reviewing programs.

States also attempt to influence program decisions through funding mechanisms. Take, for instance, Florida, which has built factors like postgraduation employment and programs of strategic emphasis based on economic and work-force needs into its performance-based funding model. This year Kentucky passed its own performance-based funding model, which will tie the amount of money public colleges and universities receive to certain metrics, including how many science, technology, engineering, math and health degrees they award.

Incentivizing some programs is not the same as eliminating programs, however. Cutting a program at a university can be similar to shutting down a military base, said John Thelin, a professor at the University of Kentucky who researches the history of higher education and public policy. It is extremely difficult to do politically, and once a program is closed, a university is unlikely to ever get it back, at least with comparable strength.

Evaluating a program’s effectiveness is no simple task. Giving graduates skills that will help them later in their careers is like hitting a moving target. Someone who received a computer science degree in 1988 but has not updated their skills may not be well-suited for today’s market, Thelin said.

There are other factors to consider. Which undergraduate programs best prepare students to study for an M.B.A. or law degree? Should a program be considered effective if it raises graduates’ earning potential -- even their earnings won’t approach those of an engineer? What programs prepare students for jobs in rural areas versus urban areas?

In light of the complexity, any program review would need to be done well, Thelin said.

“Do it fairly,” Thelin said. “I think there may be some surprises in which you find programs that are effective for the job or labor market and some that aren’t.”

Another key question is whom a program is benefiting financially. Bevin’s track record of comments indicates he sees some liberal arts programs as a financial drain on state coffers. But language programs tend to be less expensive for universities to run than engineering or other science programs, which often require pricey equipment and faculty members drawing high wages.

“I’m not sure the governor’s political point is consistent with the budget reality,” said Nate Johnson, who consults on education policy, affordability, student success and finance and owns Postsecondary Analytics. “The kinds of programs he’s pointing to -- engineering programs, other programs that tend to lead to high-paying jobs in health sciences -- also tend to be more expensive to offer. And so the philosophy major or the French literature major probably isn’t costing the state.”

Some states provide performance funding for STEM programs in large part because they cost more, Johnson said. Some institutions charge higher tuition for expensive programs for the same reason.

That’s not to say Bevin’s argument about considering program closures was without merit, however.

“It is reasonable to ask universities and community colleges to be more thoughtful than sometimes they are about when it’s time to downsize or close programs,” Johnson said. “It’s very easy to open programs and to respond to things that are happening in culture or technology, but they don’t tend to get shut down over time.”

Still, faculty members are leery of the possibility of Bevin micromanaging higher education decisions. Many believe the governor has overstepped his authority in the past, particularly when he overhauled the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees and engineered the departure of its then president, James Ramsey, last year.

Kentucky’s attorney general has brought Bevin to court over several of his higher ed-related moves, including the Louisville board overhaul and a unilateral decision in 2016 to slash university funding. Kentucky’s Supreme Court ruled that Bevin overstepped his authority on the budget cuts. The state Legislature passed a law this year supporting board changes at Louisville, but the court case in the matter has continued, with oral arguments taking place before the state’s Supreme Court last month.

Bevin has also effectively shifted a free community college scholarship program in Kentucky that would have paid for up to two years of college for high school graduates. Bevin vetoed legislation for the program, then issued an executive order defining scholarship limits. The scholarships are limited to students seeking certificates in areas with worker shortages: health care, advanced manufacturing, transportation and logistics, business services and internet technology, and construction.

That history has faculty feeling skittish. It is important that universities consider whether their graduates are getting good jobs, said Avery Kolers, a professor of philosophy at Louisville and former president of its chapter of the American Association of University Professors. But that isn’t the only consideration, he said.

“Universities produce public goods both for the students and for the broader community,” Kolers said. “Bevin seems to want to turn universities into training arms for the corporations. Corporations have a duty to train their employees as well, and they have been underinvesting in that for a generation or more.”

Kolers also wondered what would happen if the state’s universities drastically increased the number of engineering graduates hitting the job market. Would more companies flood the state, creating more good-paying jobs? Or would an oversupply of engineers depress wages?

Leaders at Kentucky’s most prominent public universities responded to Bevin’s comments by saying they are boosting the number of students they graduate in high-demand fields. Louisville’s interim president, Greg Postel, told the Associated Press the institution’s engineering program has been growing. But looking for academic programs to cut requires “an awful lot of thought,” he said.

Jay Blanton, a University of Kentucky spokesman, said in a statement that the university has increased its number of graduates in health, science, technology, engineering and math by 22 percent over the last six years. The university continually reviews courses and programs to make sure it positions students with the skills they need to succeed, he said.

“Employers also tell us they need graduates who communicate well, think critically and work well in teams,” Blanton said. “These soft skills are exactly what students learn in majors and classes in English, history, the humanities and fine arts, among others.”

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Reports highlight woes faced by the one-third of all college students who transfer

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 00:00

More than a third of all college students move from one college to another at least once in their academic careers, and more institutions -- public and private alike -- count on transfer students to fill their classes. Which makes it all the more perplexing, and problematic for colleges and students alike, that the path students must follow to move from one institution to another is riddled with potholes and roadblocks that stop many of them in their tracks.

A trio of new reports from different sources illustrate just how vexing the transfer process is. A Government Accountability Office study released Wednesday provides baseline data both about the number of students who change colleges (one in three) and about the cost to those students and to taxpayers when those students lose roughly four in 10 of the credits they accumulated at their first institution.

The National Student Clearinghouse's “Tracking Transfer” report broadens the lens to show that while community college students who transfer to a four-year institution are far likelier than all two-year-college students to earn a bachelor's degree (42 percent to 13 percent), those from low-income backgrounds who transfer to nonselective or rural four-year institutions are at a severe disadvantage.

And a report from the Campaign for College Opportunity calls the much-traversed transfer route in California a "complex and costly maze" that forces those who navigate it successfully to spend tens of thousands of dollars more to earn a bachelor's degree than do students who start out at one of the state's (more expensive) four-year universities.

"The confluence of these studies confirms that this is a problem, and that transfer students are one of most abused [groups of] students," said Davis Jenkins, a senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College. "They haven't been well served by most institutions, two-year and four-year alike."

The Transfer Landscape

Students change colleges for lots of reasons: shifts in their educational needs or goal, dissatisfaction with the original institution, changes in life situations, and the like. And for perhaps the largest chunk of transferring students -- those who enroll at community colleges with the goal of eventually attaining a four-year degree -- changing institutions is a central, purposeful objective.

As the GAO study shows, a significant number of students -- 35 percent of all students who started college in the 2003-04 academic year, according to the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study -- make such a change. The vast majority of those, roughly 75 percent, started at a public institution, and about two-thirds transferred from one public to another.

On the whole, public institutions within a state are thought to have the best records on transfer of credit, since they are presumably more likely to work in concert with one another, to have common goals or to have either voluntary cooperative agreements or statewide policies requiring cooperation. And in fact, the GAO estimates, students transferring between two public institutions do on average lose fewer academic credits in the process than do those crossing sector lines, as seen in the graphic below.

But the average transfer student lost a full 43 percent of their credits, roughly 13 credits, or a semester’s worth, the GAO estimates. The reasons why credits do not transfer vary: mismatches in the curricula of the different institutions, too many of the courses do not apply to a major, snobbery on the part of the receiving institutions, poor choices by students (sometimes based on inferior advising).

The costs are significant, and not just to the students who may have to repeat course work. Given that half of the students who transferred in the sample the GAO studied had received Pell Grants, and nearly two-thirds received federal loans, "credits lost in a transfer also can result in additional costs for the federal government in providing student aid," GAO wrote. "The government’s costs may increase if transfer students who receive financial aid take longer to complete a degree as a result of retaking lost credits."

The California study offers a look at how the issues play out in one state (but a mammoth one). It reaches a similar finding -- that 38 percent of community college students transfer within six years -- and estimates that those who transfer spend an estimated $36,000 to $38,000 more to get their bachelor's degrees than do students who start out at a California public institution.

It spreads the blame for the problem widely, citing:

  • "A broken remedial education system that traps students in non-credit-bearing courses."
  • Campus-level faculty autonomy that allows a "lack of curricular alignment with other campuses," often within the same system.
  • A "decentralized higher education system" in which the state's three major systems "operate as distinctive entities with no mandate for cooperation."
  • "Too many choices in general education with inaccessible information for students to make informed decisions."
  • State budget cuts that have restricted the availability of courses at community colleges, causing delays in the time to transfer.
  • A ratio of 615 students for every community college adviser or counselor, resulting in "students guiding themselves or receiving inconsistent guidance."

“Students are caught in the middle of battles between the systems, colleges and faculty, and the costs are high," said Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity. "Every day spent fighting over educational turfs, we fail to clear up the transfer maze and we lose the talented students we urgently need for our work force and economic stability.”

The third report, from the National Student Clearinghouse, provides not just data about the national picture for transfer students but a framework by which individual states and institutions (two-year and four-year) can judge their own success -- and be judged.

The clearinghouse study, which follows a 2016 study that laid out the framework, provides data on how successfully students transfer out of community colleges and into four-year institutions.

For instance, it finds that while 33.6 percent of all transfer students leave community colleges having earned a certificate or associate degree, those numbers are slightly higher at two-year colleges that are primarily occupational (35.8 percent) than primarily academic (32 percent). And while 42.2 percent of all students who transferred from a community college ultimately earned a bachelor's degree, only 35.8 percent of those from the lower socioeconomic quintiles did so, compared to 44.7 percent of those from the upper two quintiles. (Students who were enrolled full-time in a community college, unsurprisingly, earned bachelor's degrees at a rate of 61.4 percent, compared to 8.3 percent of those who studied exclusively part-time.)

The clearinghouse report assessed four-year institutions on similar grounds; 54.5 percent of students who transferred to very selective institutions completed bachelor's degrees, compared to 21.1 percent of those at nonselective colleges, and transfers to suburban institutions were likelier to graduate (38.3 percent) than those at urban (35.4 percent) or rural institutions (29.3 percent).

The days when only a small number of institutions might have worried about transfer students are gone, said Jenkins, of the Community College Research Center. "When we talk to students who've tried to transfer, it makes me want to cry, and when we talk to legislators, people are pissed off," he said.

And with many if not most regional public universities and private nonprofit colleges struggling with enrollments, "colleges are missing a huge business opportunity to invest" in making sure they are clearing pathways for transfer students, he said.

"They're failing to recognize who their students are," Jenkins said. "A lot more of them are getting most of their students through transfer, and they have to do a better job" of working with community colleges to smooth out impediments. "They should work with their suppliers like any other business that’s supplier dependent."

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Feds release data on nondegree credentials, including certificates and licenses

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 00:00

More than one-quarter of Americans hold a nondegree credential, such as a certificate or an occupational license or certification, according to new data from the federal government. And 21 percent have completed a work experience program such as an internship, residency or apprenticeship.

The new report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics is based on responses from 47,744 adults to a 2016 survey. Its goal, the department said, was to learn more about the prevalence of these credentials as well as to gauge perceptions about their value in the job market.

The new numbers arrive amid growing doubts from a broad swath of Americans about the value of a college degree.

Numerous studies show that a bachelor’s degree remains the best ticket to the middle class. Associate-degree earners also tend to do better in the job market than people with just a high school credential. However, racking up even a small amount of debt in college while not earning a degree often leads to loan default and related financial problems.

Against this backdrop, policy makers from both major parties increasingly are pushing noncollege job-training options. For example, the Trump administration is seeking an expansion of apprenticeships and has doubled federal funding for those programs to $200 million.

Federally registered apprenticeships, however, include college classroom work. And many of the “blue-collar” professions that politicians have been trumpeting as they complain about too much of a focus on traditional college -- welding is a commonly cited one -- typically require training at a community college or a vocational or trade school, including for-profits.

The federal survey found that 27 percent of working-age adults have earned a college certificate or a professional certification or license.

Among this group, 8 percent reported holding a certificate (a primarily educational credential), 18 percent hold a license and 6 percent a certification.

Certificate holders were most likely to work as administrative assistants (17 percent) or in health care (12 percent), followed by jobs in business management and operations, sales, manufacturing and farming, and grounds services. They are most likely to earn between $20,000 and $50,000 per year (42 percent), with 29 percent earning less than $20,000 and 29 percent earning more than $50,000.

Those findings jibe with previous research from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, which found college certificates to be the fastest-growing credential -- 22 percent of all college credentials issued in 2012, up from 6 percent in 1980.

The center’s report said certificate programs are relatively inexpensive, can typically be completed in a year or less, and pay off in the job market for most who earn them. However, women who hold certificates generally cluster in health care fields that pay less than IT, manufacturing or other professions where men who hold certificates tend to work.

Certificate holders typically are happy with their credential, according to results from the new federal survey.

Most respondents said their last postsecondary certificate was either very useful (49 percent) or somewhat useful (27 percent) in getting them a job. An even larger percentage (83 percent) said the certificate program had improved their work skills, while 58 percent said it was useful in increasing their pay.

Certifications and Licenses

Work credentials, meaning professional certifications or licenses, are most commonly held by adults who also have college degrees, the federal survey found.

Almost half of respondents with a graduate or professional degree (48 percent) reported holding a work credential, compared to 12 percent of respondents with a high school credential. Likewise, 23 percent of bachelor’s-degree holders have a license, 8 percent have a certification and 5 percent have a college certificate.

The two most common professions for certification holders are health care (17 percent) and business management and operations (14 percent). Other common jobs are in administrative support, education and library occupations, and sales. Relatively high-wage jobs on the list for certification holders include computer occupations (5 percent), financial specialists (4 percent) and scientists, engineers and architects (4 percent).

Fully half of certification holders reported making more than $50,000 a year, with a third making between $20,000 and $50,000, and 17 percent making less than $20,000.

License holders are most likely to work in health care (25 percent) and education and library occupations (16 percent), with business management and operations, sales, and administrative support rounding out the list. This group reported similar wages to certification holders, with 47 percent making more than $50,000.

On-the-Job Experience

The survey found that 21 percent of adults have completed a work-experience program. About half of those respondents (11 percent of the total) said those programs were of the paid variety. Types of represented programs included internships, co-ops, practicums, clerkships, externships, residencies, clinical experience or apprenticeships.

The most common type of reported work experience (14 percent) was part of an education program after high school. And 9 percent of respondents said their program included instruction, training or classes, and evaluation by a co-worker or supervisor. Just 1 percent participated in a state or federal apprenticeship.

The most common represented professions for work experience completers were in construction, installation and repair, administrative support, and sales.

The work-experience programs generally got high marks, with 64 percent reporting that it helped them get a job and 66 percent saying it was very useful for improving work skills. Additionally, 62 percent said the work experience credential was useful for increasing pay, compared to 38 percent who said it wasn’t.

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Q&A with authors of book about community college data

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 00:00

Many colleges don't lack for data on student performance. Administrators and faculty often find there is a measurement for nearly everything they and their students do as they strive to increase college completion rates.

Despite this wealth of information, colleges still struggle to use data in the best way possible so they can help their students succeed. A new book from Brad C. Phillips and Jordan E. Horowitz, Creating a Data-Informed Culture in Community Colleges: A New Model for Educators (Harvard Education Press), seeks to find the best way educators can use data.

Phillips is president and chief executive officer and Horowitz is vice president of the Institute for Evidence-Based Change, a nonprofit organization that connects educators to research. They recently responded together to questions about the book from Inside Higher Ed by email.

Q: What are some of the problems with the volume or quality of data that are currently available to community colleges?

A: The biggest issue with the amount of data -- there simply is an overwhelming amount of undifferentiated data. This leads to community college administrators, faculty and staff wanting to address all of it. Behavioral economics tells us that with too many choices, folks get overwhelmed trying to set priorities and can’t decide what are the important things to work on. So they end up trying to influence too many indicators. This means too many projects are implemented without adequate resources, efforts are diluted and going to scale is not possible with any one intervention.

To address this, we work with colleges to reduce the number of metrics and focus on leading indicators. Too many colleges focus solely on completion metrics. But these metrics, which are lagging indicators, are counting students who already are out the door -- whether they graduated or dropped out -- and are not actionable. We encourage colleges to focus on leading indicators, and only a couple of them. Leading indicators are in their control to influence with student supports, policies and programs (e.g., course success rates, course completion rates, term-to-term persistence) and lead to the lagging indicators, such as credit accumulation and completion. Because colleges focus on lagging indicators and cannot directly influence them, student completion is not being sufficiently improved.

In our book, we also describe how data quality impedes data-use efforts. It is a real problem in community colleges and, frankly, all of education. Unfortunately, even though data is one of the few things a college can control, it is often not viewed as a “sacred” resource and thus, accuracy is lacking.

Q: How can educators and institutions better use the data that are available to them, and how can those institutions that analyze data do a better job of providing educators with the information they can use to improve student performance?

A: When there is too much data, it is crucial to know what to use. How does a college do this? How do they interpret conflicting results looking at similar metrics from different sources? Educators need to be provided with clear and simple data exhibits that convey the story to be addressed. Too often educators are presented with dozens of tables and are expected to find the story themselves, which is what we call the “Where’s Waldo” approach. But educators should not have to be analysts and go searching for the problem. It should be evident in the one or two tables/figures and identified in the titles of the exhibits they’re presented with (see pages 28 and 29 in the book). Their job should be to craft the appropriate research-based, high-impact solution that fits the culture of their college.

While we base our work on theories of behavioral economics, neuroscience and psychology, we provide practical examples of how to employ what we know in practice. We take what these fields know about how people make judgments and decisions, and how organizations change, to build a practice that capitalizes on the best of this science to build good habits of data use.

Q: What is the best language to convey data to instructors?

A: Simply, clearly and in common language that tells the story. We use the neighbor rule in any communications about data. That is, pretend you have a neighbor who owns an ice cream store and you’re explaining to them the data at your college. This neighbor should be able to tell that story.

We also hear too often about educators who, reviewing the same data, have different interpretations. How can decisions be made if the judgments about the data differ among educators? The tools and techniques we detail in the book address how to get to a common understanding about what the data means and, more importantly, the decisions that need to be made. One point we emphasize is that data should only be developed for two reasons: compliance (because you have to) and to inform decision making. Data should never be developed “for information only.” We call this the “must know vs. nice to know” rule.

Q: What are the challenges to changing the way educators and colleges currently use data? What are the challenges to encouraging organizations and institutions that provide data analysis to shift to this new approach?

A: On page 175 of the book, we explicate the issues related to funding changes, lack of focus, leadership changes and resistance to change. These are all threats to making better use of data.

Habit change, however, is a big issue. Data is often presented in ways that we would see in a research journal, because that is the way it always has been organized. Unfortunately, such presentations do not automatically lead to good use of data. In order to inform policy and practice, we need to use techniques and tools that lead to making accurate judgments and decisions about the phenomenon of interest. We describe how to do that.

It is important to reiterate that we all want to make a difference in our student outcomes, helping to change lives for the better. Using the tools and techniques presented in this book will help educators better support student success efforts.

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New presidents or provosts: Bellevue Mary Hardin-Baylor MGH Morehead NYIT Quinsigamond Rochester Texas Tech

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 00:00
  • Henry C. Foley, interim chancellor of the University of Missouri-Columbia, has been chosen as president of New York Institute of Technology.
  • Michael Galyean, dean of Texas Tech University's College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, has been promoted to provost and senior vice president of academic affairs there.
  • Paula Milone-Nuzzo, dean and professor of the College of Nursing at Pennsylvania State University, has been appointed president of MGH Institute of Health Professions, in Massachusetts.
  • Joseph A. Morgan, chief academic officer and vice president for academic affairs and student success at the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, has been selected as president of Morehead State University, also in Kentucky.
  • Luis G. Pedraja, interim vice chancellor of academic affairs at the Peralta Community College District, in California, has been appointed president of Quinsigamond Community College, in Massachusetts.
  • Brian Stogner, interim president and provost at Rochester College, in New York, has been selected as president there on a permanent basis.
  • John S. Vassar, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, has been chosen as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, in Texas.
  • Jerry Weber, president of the College of Lake County, in Illinois, has been named president of Bellevue College, in Washington.
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