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Mentioned in YouTube interview, dormant music theory book takes off

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 00:00

When The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, it landed with little fanfare. It wasn’t until after F. Scott Fitzgerald died in 1940 that the book took off, being selected for distribution to U.S. soldiers during World War II.

At the State University of New York Press, co-directors James Peltz and Donna Dixon are witnessing the posthumous comeback of one of their own authors, though on a less dramatic scale, and the book involved -- on music theory -- is probably a little too technical for anyone outside a related field.

A Theory of Harmony, by the late Ernst Levy, sold about 1,000 copies over 32 years. But in April British musician and arranger Jacob Collier mentioned the text in an interview. No one at SUNY Press was even aware of the interview until they noticed a mysterious spike in sales in May. Since the interview, A Theory of Harmony has sold about 800 copies. For a specialized scholarly text, years after publication, that’s almost unheard-of.

“We’re in uncharted territory here,” said Peltz.

Born in Switzerland in 1895, Levy, a pianist, professor and composer, moved from Paris to the United States in 1941. Having already written A Theory of Harmony, he would go on to translate it into English and shop around for a publisher, although he never found one. SUNY Press took the book in 1985, four years after his death. During his academic career, Levy taught at the University of Chicago, Bennington and Brooklyn Colleges, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the New England Conservatory.

The book’s pre-April numbers -- 300 or so in lifetime hardcover sales, 677 paperbacks and 32 ebooks -- were respectable for an academic press, Peltz said. In 2016, there were 29 paperback sales, and 32 this year before Collier’s interview. The timing of its initial publishing helped keep it around for this long -- a surplus from the initial printing kept the niche book in stock until the advent of printing on demand from Amazon, which is how the press has been able to keep up with the newfound demand.

Collier, in his interview with June Lee, a graduate student at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, can hardly contain his excitement when asked about the concept of negative harmony, which is when he brings up Levy and A Theory of Harmony.

“His idea is that harmony can exist -- any chord and any key has a reflection, a polar opposite chord within that key center, based on rotating every single note around the axis of that key center,” Collier says before diving deeper into the different technicalities of the theory. In all, he only speaks about Levy’s book and theory for about two minutes before moving on.

The interview, almost 13 minutes long, with the reference to the book coming at the 1:30 mark, has gained more than 560,000 views on YouTube, and the book has since seen 773 paperback sales and 85 ebook sales. (In 2015 and 2014, the book sold a combined seven copies.)

So will Levy be the next Fitzgerald?

“I’m guessing it’s going to be a blip,” Peltz said of the surge in sales, which have been mostly concentrated in the U.S., England, Germany and Japan. “But I’ll be pleasantly happy, surprised -- I don’t think it’s going to continue to sell 300 a month, but it could sell 15, 20 a month.”

Since the book is printed on demand through Amazon, SUNY Press wasn’t aware of the spike in sales until it got its monthly report from the online retail giant, Dixon said. Her first clue to the book’s resurgence came when she received an email from a student at SUNY’s Purchase campus asking her for a free PDF of the book. She responded by directing the student to the institution’s library and wondered if a professor had assigned the book for a course, which had been the driver of sales in the past. The next week, looking over the monthly data from Amazon, she saw the sales skyrocketing, with purchases from around the world.

“I said, ‘This isn’t a few -- this is hundreds,’” she said.

Finding the reason for the sales was “a game of connect the dots,” Peltz said. He and Dixon googled the book’s title to find any chatter, then came across an Amazon review that linked it to Collier having mentioned it. Then, after researching Collier, whom they hadn’t heard of before, they found the video, which lined up with the timeline of the sales spike.

“For me, one of the most joyous things about it is that this young musician came across this book -- and he said in the video, ‘It’s decades old’ -- and was so inspired by it and could articulate the theory to the people who were watching him and incorporate it into his music in new ways,” Dixon said.

Dixon and Peltz shared their story with some mutual friends who were jazz musicians -- it turned out they were already familiar with Collier’s video.

“They said, ‘We didn’t know this was your book -- we were all over this video,’” Dixon said.

Forty years ago, this story couldn’t have happened, Peltz said. YouTube didn’t exist, obviously, and things didn’t go viral the way they do now. But most crucially, he said, with printing on demand, wait times -- especially for international sales, which he estimated to be a quarter to a third of recent sales -- are greatly reduced.

“They would have all been on back order. We would have had to reprint, ship; it would take four to six to eight weeks to get to Europe,” he said.

For Peltz and Dixon, the weird, winding story of a niche music book finding a new audience is exactly what academic presses are all about.

“That’s what university presses do -- we keep books in print forever, hoping that they find their time. And this one certainly did,” Peltz said.

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After news reports on tweets, queer advocate fired from Claremont Colleges

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 00:00

Jonathan Higgins was hired just last month to head the Claremont Colleges’ resource center for queer students.

But after conservative media publicly called him out for his tweets remarking on police, white gay people and “well-meaning white women,” Higgins is out of a job at the consortium of institutions that tout themselves as highly progressive.

Higgins’s firing follows a spate of professors being reprimanded, shamed and threatened for their social media posts or their public comments, particularly about issues of race.

In one particularly controversial case at Trinity College in Connecticut, Johnny Eric Williams, an associate professor of sociology, was put on leave for a racially insensitive social media post. At one point, Williams felt so concerned for his safety, following right-wing media reports about the post, he left town. The Trinity campus also shut down because of threats.

Higgins was a student affairs professional, and so not subject to the same type of academic freedoms as faculty members.

Higgins, who is black and queer, wrote in a message to Inside Higher Ed that he felt he was targeted because he focuses on queer students of color in his work and speaks “openly and freely about heteronormativity, homonegativity, white fragility and white supremacy.”

He later declined to be interviewed.

Pomona College, one of the Claremont institutions, confirmed in a statement Higgins does not work for the college and the search for his replacement has restarted.

Last week, The College Fix, a student-written national news website with a conservative bent, published a piece about anonymous students who were uncomfortable with some of Higgins’s Twitter postings.

The website focused first on an April tweet in which Higgins replied to the question “who are you automatically wary of/keep at a distance because of your past experiences?”

“White gays and well-meaning white women,” Higgins answered.

In another tweet the website pulled, Higgins talked about law enforcement: “I finally have nothing to say other than police are meant to service and protect white supremacy.”

In June, Higgins slammed “#heterosexualprideday,” a hashtag playing off Pride Month for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

“So y’all been real quiet about #heterosexualprideday, I mean I thought I’d see parades celebrating rape culture, homophobia and transphobia,” he wrote.

And he added in a separate tweet: “Oh wait: y’all do that every day …”

All the student criticism of Higgins in the College Fix article is attributed to anonymous sources.

At least one of the tweets has been removed.

Still, right-leaning outlets The Daily Caller and The Washington Times both published accounts of Higgins’s exit, based almost entirely on the College Fix’s reporting.

Jan Collins-Eaglin, Pomona’s associate dean of students for personal success and wellness, wrote in an email to students on Saturday that the search for the director of the Queer Resources Center would begin as soon as possible.

She indicated in the email that the college would appoint an interim leader for the center.

“Our priorities for the QRC remain the same -- to maintain in a seamless fashion the robust services of the center, including its ability to provide direct support to students, expertise in workshops and trainings, and an inclusive space focused on student success and support, with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and community,” Collins-Eaglin wrote.

Per Higgins’s website, he speaks regularly at universities, and in the past has spoken at Kansas State University, Colgate University and Wooster College. He earned his bachelor’s degree from California State University, San Bernardino, and his master’s from the University of Redlands, where he also completed his doctorate.

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US: 2017 international student yield outlook rosier than predicted

The PIE News - Mon, 07/10/2017 - 09:54

Higher education institutions in Texas are seeing a marked decline in the number of international students accepting offers to study in the state. However, an inter-association survey shows the drastic country-wide drop in international students coming to the US feared by many in the Trump era will likely not materialise.

As of mid-May, international undergraduate ‘yield’ – the proportion of applicants that received an offer to study at one of 112 participating institutions in fall 2017 who accepted the offer – did drop by 2% compared to fall 2016.

But the Shifting Tides? survey, designed by IIE and distributed by four national associations, showed that with yield standing at 24%, “the situation is not as dire as has been predicted,” Rajika Bhandari, deputy vice president, research and evaluation at IIE, told The PIE News.

“The situation is not as dire as has been predicted”

“The assumption in the field has been that due to everything happening in the US, there will probably be a large drop in the numbers of students who eventually arrive in the fall,” she said.

More than half of the students either currently or considering studying in the US who took part in one survey last year said a Trump win made them feel less inclined to study in the country.

In fact, the dip is comparable with that of domestic student yield, which the survey showed was also down 2% to 28%.

And the findings at undergraduate level were more optimistic than another recent survey referenced in the report by the Council of Graduate Schools, in which 46% of graduate deans indicated a substantial decline in admission yield for international graduate students.

But undergraduate yield for schools in the southern region did suffer a more notable decline in international students, the IIE survey showed. The proportion of admitted students who accepted offers, though higher than elsewhere in the country, fell 5% in this region from 35% to 30%.

In comparison, the west and midwest regions each saw a 2% decline, to 24% and 21% respectively, while the northeast saw no change at 24%.

The most drastic change was in Texas, the third most popular destination state for international students, where the ratio of number of offers given and offers accepted dropped from 44% to 35%.

Yield in Texas did remain higher than the national average, but the decline was particularly notable given that yield in the other top three states stayed the same or increased.

New York and Massachusetts held steady at 22% and 31% respectively, while Californian institutions reported a 2% increase in yield to 25%.

“One interpretation of the findings is that it probably has to do with concerns around safety,” commented Bhandari, pointing to an open carry gun law that came into effect in Texas in January 2016.

As of August 2016, public four-year universities in Texas must also allow concealed carry in buildings.

“It’s possible that future international students are concerned about that,” Bhandari said.

Four in five of institutions that took part in the survey said physical safety is the greatest worry among Indian students, while 31% said feeling unwelcome is also a concern among this group.

As a group, Indian students were more concerned about physical safety than those from any other country, survey respondents reported.

The report notes that given the small sample size, “country level data should be interpreted with caution”.

However, the survey does provide some insight into the mindset of students from different source markets, showing that more than a third of Indian (36%), Middle Eastern (46%) and sub-Saharan African (39%) students are worried about the probability of obtaining a visa.

When it came to predicting whether students who had received an offer would in fact arrive on campus, institutions had what the report labels “substantial and valid concerns” about Middle Eastern students.

“Colleges and universities’ commitment to boosting recruitment efforts have yielded positive tangible results”

In fact, 60% of institutions said they were either very or somewhat concerned that Middle Eastern students may not arrive in the fall. Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia were also areas of concern.

Education institutions have been working hard to preempt potential declines in international student yield, the survey noted.

Efforts include both the nationwide #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign, and individual institutional efforts.

For example, almost 20% of survey respondents said their institution had increased personal communication with international students during this admissions cycle.

With some time remaining for students to accept offers to study in the US before the fall 2017 intake, the Shifting Tides? report provides a snapshot into the current state of play, rather than a definitive comparison of international student yield in 2017.

“It is still too early to tell if international student enrolment for the 2017-18 academic year has been negatively impacted, but we remain cautiously optimistic,” commented Esther Brimmer, CEO of NAFSA, one of the five partnering organisations that distributed the survey.

“One of the most promising indicators of the survey is that colleges and universities’ commitment to boosting recruitment efforts have yielded some very positive tangible results.”

The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers, CGS and the National Association of College Admissions Counselors also distributed surveys to their members.

The post US: 2017 international student yield outlook rosier than predicted appeared first on The PIE News.

Australia eyes regional growth over city squeeze

The PIE News - Mon, 07/10/2017 - 01:57

Increasing international student numbers outside metropolitan areas could be where the Australian education industry’s growth potential lies, delegates were told at the recent IEAA Mid-Winter Research Seminar in Brisbane.

The comments, which were made during a session on the benefits of international students to Australia’s regions, urged providers to consider developing further opportunities for students in regional areas and make the most of the unique selling points available outside capital cities.

“The strongest opportunity to grow is in the regions,” TAFE Queensland director international Janelle Chapman told delegates.

“There will come a point where we won’t have the space to have infinite growth in international students”

Chapman, whose institution has several campuses outside Brisbane, said regional areas had several unique propositions for international and domestic students, such as geological and industrial opportunities, and finding a way to promote those could see significant growth for the education industry.

According to Department of Education and Training data, there is significant room for expansion within regional Australia, with less than 5% of the international student population located outside a capital city in 2015.

Chapman told The PIE News this over-reliance on the main cities created capacity issues which would force students away sooner or later.

“There will come a point where we won’t have the physical space to have infinite growth in international students [in metropolitan areas],” she said.

Australia’s shortage of purpose-built student accommodation was also mentioned in discussions as increased prices cause headaches for students in capital cities.

Research on skills shortages in Australia highlighted during the seminar found a significant employment boost, highlighting  one of the benefits to students choosing a regional provider.

Researchers Francisco Rowe and Angelina Zhi Rou Tang found graduates who studied and remained in non-metropolitan areas were not only more likely to be in full-time employment four months after completion of studies but also more likely to be in a job that matched their qualification.

About 65% of regional graduates who remained had a job related to their field of study, compared to less than half of those in metropolitan areas.

Whether this tendency will continue was uncertain, however, as the findings came with a dire warning that rates of employment and qualification match had been slipping around Australia over the past decade.

Regardless, Rowe also said regions themselves should be actively trying to attract more international students, as the evidence showed there was a positive impact on skills shortages.

“Regional areas, even though they are often getting a small percentage [of students], are getting a substantial injection to skills knowledge,”  he said.

Educators who move away from the capital cities could also be providing students with better educational outcomes, according to the findings of a different study comparing the international student experience in metropolitan and regional cities.

Kevin Brett, who compiled the report for benchmarking company i-graduate, said generally there was no difference between the overall experience in regional and metropolitan areas, however, students who chose to study with a regional provider stated that they received a better educational experience.

This benefit, he said, was unlikely to be felt by students because of differences in academics and more likely caused by smaller student populations creating reduced class sizes and increasing a student’s face-to-face time with their lecturers and tutors.

The post Australia eyes regional growth over city squeeze appeared first on The PIE News.

Pilot phase 5th IAU Global Survey launched

International Association of Universities - Mon, 07/10/2017 - 01:48

The pilot phase of the 5th IAU Global Survey has been launched. 18 institutions for all world regions have agreed to test the questionnaire before its official launch in early 2018 and provide IAU with their feedback by Saturday 30 September. Based on the feedback from the pilot group IAU will modify the questionnaire, if needed. IAU thanks all volunteer institutions.

Support builds for expanding Pell eligibility to short-term certificates

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 07/10/2017 - 00:00
Support Grows for Major Shift in Pell

Bipartisan support is building for federal legislation that would make Pell Grants available to students who are pursuing short-term certificates.

Under current law, the major federal grants for low-income students cannot be used to pay for academic programs that are shorter than 600 clock hours or 15 weeks in length. But a bill introduced in January by Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, and Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, would expand Pell eligibility to shorter job-training programs, with a minimum cutoff of 150 clock hours of instruction time over a period of at least eight weeks.

Anthony Carnevale, a research professor and director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, said the bill is part of a long-term shift toward using public funds for job-related training.

“This is inevitable,” he said. “We’re not clear how they’re going to do it, but it’s going to happen.”

The proposed legislation includes quality-control standards aimed at ensuring the resulting credentials are recognized by employers and have value in the job market. A broad array of business and higher education groups back the bill, including the Business Roundtable, the National Skills Coalition, Jobs for the Future, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Young Invincibles, and the Association of Career and Technical Education.

“From the student perspective, it makes no sense that these programs don’t qualify for financial aid,” said Kermit Kaleba, federal policy director for the National Skills Coalition.

Community colleges generally like the idea. The American Association of Community Colleges, which supports short-term Pell Grants, said roughly a quarter of all credentials community colleges issued in 2015 were for certificate programs of less than one year.

“We’re optimistic that Congress appreciates the importance of these programs on our campuses,” said David Baime, AACC’s senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis.

Republican leaders of congressional education committees are focused on the Higher Education Act, saying action on bills affecting higher education will occur in the run-up to reauthorizing HEA, which is the law that oversees federal aid.

Yet reauthorization isn’t happening any time soon -- 2018 is probably too optimistic. Some observers speculate that congressional Republicans may pivot later this year and, seeking to have some legislative successes on higher education, could try to advance several bills with broad support.

Portman and Kaine’s so-called JOBS Act would be one of the likeliest bills to get the nod under this scenario, in addition to one seeking to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and, perhaps, legislation to create a demonstration project on competency-based education. A bill to drop the federal ban on student-level records also has bipartisan backing.

A key reason for the interest in short-term Pell Grants, said Dane Linn, vice president for the Business Roundtable who oversees the group’s education and work force committee, is that the “message is finally getting through” that not all jobs require four-year degrees.

Linn said the JOBS act would help people, including adult and low-income students, to get the training they need for jobs that are open.

“This bill has to move before we can get the Higher Education Act approved,” he said. “We can’t wait until the process completes.”

Concerns About Quality Control and Funding

The idea of expanding Pell Grants to short-term certificate programs isn’t new. The Clinton administration, for example, considered creating “skills grants” for this purpose that the U.S. Department of Labor would have distributed.

Even so, the JOBS Act makes some student advocates and higher education experts nervous. Their worries include funding, data and quality control.

The initial money for this expansion of Pell almost certainly would come from the program’s $10.6 billion surplus, a rainy-day fund many student advocates want preserved.

However, congressional Republicans and the Trump administration have made clear that they would like to draw down a substantial portion of the Pell surplus. And student advocates say privately that they would rather the money go to low-income students in short-term training programs than see it be used to pay for tax cuts or defense spending.

Yet expanding Pell to short-term programs is more controversial than bringing back so-called year-round grants, which Congress did in this year’s budget. And since the Congressional Budget Office has yet to conduct a financial scoring of the JOBS Act, its estimated costs remain unclear.

AACC has proposed opening up 2 percent of Pell’s annual expenditures to high-quality, short-term certificate programs. At current funding levels, such a move would come with a relatively manageable annual price tag of $600 million.

However, if the JOBS Act were to pass and eventually generate costs that run into the billions of dollars, it could lead to discussions about lowering the maximum Pell award amount (currently $5,920) to pay for the expansion. That would almost certainly provoke fiery opposition from private college groups.

While supporters of the bill applaud its efforts to ensure quality control, several said available data are lacking for the creation of a confidence-inspiring accountability system.

Research by Carnevale’s center generally has found labor-market value in short-term certificates. But federal data are inadequate for measuring the value of these credentials, a wide range of experts agrees. And while Carnevale said there is no evidence that the one-year mark is the cutoff for a valuable certificate, there is broad variation in the earnings bump that short-term credentials can provide.

New America has struck a cautious note on using Pell for short-term certificates. The group worries that relaxing time-based eligibility requirements -- which were set based on historical experience -- could open the door to “unscrupulous” institutions that would create low-value programs to tap into the new federal money.

“Do we trust that consumer protections in this bill will hold?” said Mary Alice McCarthy, director of New America’s Center on Education and Skills and a former official at the Labor and Education Departments.

The proposed legislation would use program eligibility standards that apply under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. That federal law requires meaningful career counseling and the alignment of training programs to in-demand career pathways, among other standards.

The use of WIOA requirements is as good step, said McCarthy and other advocates. But she doubts federal data sets about the programs will be strong enough to keep tabs on quality, particularly at for-profit colleges, which tend to charge more in tuition than community colleges. Students could burn through their Pell eligibility and have little to show for a short-term certificate, she said, without federal data to hold programs accountable on measures such as graduates’ earnings and job placement rates.

“It’s hard for me to see that there’s enough there,” she said.

Another way for the feds to help ensure that students benefit from short-term programs is to encourage colleges to make the certificates “stackable,” meaning that the credits are designed to count toward degrees. Jobs for the Future, for example, has said that Pell-eligible short-term programs must be stackable and part of the path to a degree.

Carrie Warick is director of policy and advocacy for the National College Access Network, which has not taken an official position on the JOBS Act. She agrees with other experts that short-term certificates should be stackable. And Warick said the right way to view such credentials, particularly for traditional-age students, is as part of “two plan A’s” -- meaning simultaneously pursued pathways to a high-value certificate and, eventually, to a college degree.

The alternative, she said, is an unacceptable form of separate but unequal in higher education.

“I’m very nervous about the idea of low-income students getting sent to middle-skills jobs and high-income students getting sent to a four-year college to find themselves,” said Warick.

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Illinois leaders re-evaluate higher education after first state budget in two years

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 07/10/2017 - 00:00

Richard J. Helldobler doesn't think any university leader could have been ready to go through the last two years in Illinois, when the state's public institutions withered under severe funding restrictions due to a prolonged state budget standoff.

Institutions had to make do with stopgap funding that came from the state in fits and starts. When the state didn't approve funding for its large student aid program, the Monetary Award Program, known as MAP, institutions had to decide whether to credit student accounts anyway. Then they had to find ways to bolster their cash flow to make up for MAP funding until it arrived.

“Nothing in your training prepares you to deal with this kind of catastrophic funding loss,” said Helldobler, since last summer the interim president of the 9,500-student Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. “What you do is you roll up your sleeves and try to do the next best thing.”

For Northeastern Illinois -- and many of the state's other institutions -- that meant deep, painful cuts. In May of this year, the 1,200-employee Northeastern Illinois announced 180 job cuts that did not affect faculty. They followed the elimination of 65 noninstructional positions in 2015. The university has also furloughed employees, frozen hiring and delayed maintenance. It closed and canceled classes for several days this spring. It eliminated hundreds of student jobs.

So it is no surprise that college leaders sounded relieved after lawmakers last week narrowly overrode a gubernatorial veto and passed a state budget for the first time since 2015. The $36 billion spending plan enables them to move out of a triage mind-set.

“It allows us to begin to sort of plan again,” Helldobler said. “When you can't plan because you don't know if you're going to get any state appropriation, that makes it very difficult.”

But the state's spending plan is a mixed bag for the higher education sector. It cuts state support for universities and community colleges by 10 percent below 2015 levels -- although they will still receive much more than they did during the stopgap 2016 and 2017 fiscal years. It also adds more than $36 million to the MAP program, pushing it above $400 million in the 2018 fiscal year after two years of uncertainty and stop-and-start appropriations.

The full ramifications of the new budget -- and the end of the impasse -- can't be fully measured so soon. Still, it is clear that the impasse seriously hurt both institutions and students by forcing painful cuts, eroding enrollments and driving down confidence in public education. It is also clear that it has changed the outlook of many leaders for the future.

Some have pointed out that Democrats who lead the Illinois Legislature managed to pass the budget with some Republican votes despite intense opposition from the state's Republican governor, Bruce Rauner. The spending plan does not resolve fundamental disagreements over taxes, regulations and hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded state pension liabilities.

“I think most universities will engage in conversations about what it means to be in public higher education in Illinois,” Helldobler said. “People need to understand this isn't over. We really think that the budget will be a very complex conversation next year as well.”

Pressure Mounted

The dire situation at the state’s colleges and universities was a key factor for some legislators. State Senator Dale Righter, a Republican whose district includes Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, was the only Republican senator to support tax increases in the budget package. He cited damage the budget standoff has inflicted on Eastern Illinois University, according to the Chicago Tribune.

In the House, another Republican whose district includes Eastern Illinois voted for the measure.

"It doesn't make me any less of a conservative Republican than the rest of the people standing here," said Representative Reggie Phillips, according to the Tribune. "It makes a person decide he has to vote for his district. He has to think about all the people in his district to the best of his ability."

Eastern Illinois has cut hundreds of positions amid the state’s budget crisis. The university’s president, David Glassman, said in March that the university had cut low-enrollment programs, eliminated 413 positions -- almost a quarter of its employee head count -- imposed furlough days for employees, extended vendor payments and reallocated funds internally in order to continue operating.

Nonetheless, the financial sector became increasingly worried about the university in light of the state budget standoff. Moody’s Investor Service downgraded Eastern Illinois in June, saying the move reflected the university's highly stressed financial position and noting the institution had nearly exhausted its liquidity. The ratings agency also downgraded other Illinois public universities it rates, including the University of Illinois, Illinois State, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, Governors State and Northeastern Illinois.

Some universities maintained higher bond ratings than others based on stronger financial positions. Generally, the state's larger and better-known institutions, which have diverse revenue sources like federal grants and endowment income, fared better throughout the crisis than its smaller institutions, which rely more heavily on the state for funding.

Northeastern Illinois is an example of a university that struggled. In the 2015 fiscal year, the last year Illinois had a budget in place, the state provided $36.7 million in funding to Northeastern Illinois, and it fully funded MAP grants for students. Those two sources of funding were worth about 40 percent of the university’s $92 million budget.

In the 2016 fiscal year, the state provided $10.7 million in funding plus MAP grants, leaving a funding shortfall of about $26 million. After more stopgap funding was released in July 2016, the university calculated a shortfall of about $17 million for the 2017 fiscal year, according to a university spokesman.

But even the state's most prominent university system felt the pressure from the budget situation. The University of Illinois System, which in 2015 relied on state revenue for only about 12 percent of its $5.6 billion operating budget, proposed a deal with the state. The system was willing to agree to performance-based funding metrics in exchange for predictable funding over five years.

The University of Illinois stood out from most of the state's other public institutions because it was able to increase enrollment during the budget standoff. Still, it has shed staff members and reported an uptick in the number of faculty members leaving its flagship campus.

MAP Funding Problems

The way MAP funding was disbursed was problematic for institutions both public and private. MAP grants go to undergraduates from Illinois who have financial need and attend public or private institutions.

But the state only allocated stopgap MAP funding while the budget standoff dragged on. In 2016, money came late. No MAP money was available for the 2017 fiscal year before the budget deal passed Thursday. The spending bill did allocate MAP funding for 2017.

The funding uncertainty left many institutions crediting MAP grants to students' accounts and trusting that the state would one day pay. It was another source of financial stress -- and not all institutions were comfortable crediting accounts with MAP grants or in a financial position to do so.

Officials believe the uncertainty led many students to not attend college or attend out of state.

“There were students last year who dropped out,” said Lynne Baker, spokeswoman for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. “It’s a lot of damage, when you consider you’ve got students who may have been halfway through their programs, may have been almost finished with their programs.”

In order to determine the effects of the uncertainty, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission surveyed financial aid administrators at institutions approved for MAP grants in the fall of 2016. Administrators at 96 of 132 institutions responded. Just 60 percent of respondents said they credited the full MAP award to students for the year's first term. Of those crediting full MAP grants for the term, only 31 percent of respondents definitively said they would not require students to pay for any shortfall in the program -- meaning many students faced the prospect of being on the hook for the money if the state did not pay.

Behavior varied greatly by institution type. While 91 percent of public universities responding credited student accounts for the full MAP award, just 27 percent of community college respondents reported doing so. And 70 percent of private institutions said they credited the full MAP award to student accounts.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission also tabulated survey responses from 12,000 students eligible for the MAP award in late 2016. Many indicated that the budget delay on MAP funding for the first term of the 2016-17 academic year had an effect on their education goals. Some reported working more to cover expenses, taking out more student loans, taking fewer credits, transferring to less expensive institutions or not enrolling because of MAP funding issues.

“Students were really stuck,” Baker said. “Do they go part-time? Do they drop out if they can’t afford it?”

Other data indicate uncertainty over MAP funding might have caused students to think twice about attending college in the state. The volume of FAFSA applications in Illinois dropped 14 percent year over year, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission said in June.

“What’s happening in Illinois with the budget impasse and the lack of funding for both MAP programs and the public universities is creating a lot of this decline in volume,” said Eric Zarnikow, the executive director of the commission, according to Peoria Public Radio.

Institutions also faced accreditation pressure stemming from the state budget issues. The Higher Learning Commission in June sent a letter to the state's governor and legislative leaders noting effects of the budget crisis on the state's institutions. Those effects included increased tuition and fees, declining student enrollments, loss of faculty, the elimination of services, canceled capital projects, and dwindling cash reserves.

“As the accrediting agency tasked with assuring quality, I must warn you about the accreditation consequences of the failure to provide sustainable funding for Illinois higher education,” read the letter from Barbara Gellman-Danley, the president of the Higher Learning Commission, according to The Southern Illinoisan.

The Illinois Community College Trustees Association is in the middle of a survey to determine the impact of the budget impasse. Slightly more than one-third of colleges have responded so far. They said they employed almost 1,800 fewer employees as of June 30 of this year than they did at the same time in 2015, according to Michael Monaghan, the association's executive director.

Respondents also said they had eliminated almost 6,200 sections of class offerings and 70 programs.

“Students now appear to have fewer choices and therefore less access to Illinois colleges,” Monaghan said in an email.

Looking Forward

For the hardest-hit public institutions in Illinois, the passage of the state budget is only the beginning of attempts to chart a way forward.

The long-troubled Chicago State University laid off about 300 employees, a third of its work force, during the standoff. It only enrolled 86 freshmen in the fall of 2016, and enrollment had fallen from more than 7,300 in 2010 to under 3,600. Some feared its closure was unavoidable.

The stability of a state budget will allow the university room to pay its bills, restart recruiting that had been all but stopped and plan for the future, said Paul Vallas, Chicago State's chief administrative officer. Vallas, a former Chicago State board member, took the position in April along with a new interim president.

“We used to get about a third of our revenue from the state,” Vallas said. “Now it's in the high 20s. We'd like to be less dependent on state funding, and we'd like to be more financially self-sufficient.”

The university plans a $79 million budget for the 2018 fiscal year.

Northeastern Illinois is going through a similar planning process, said its interim president, Helldobler. It's evaluating programs for growth, shrinking or elimination. It's looking at different budget models.

The process might be painful. But the last two years have been painful, too.

“At least now we have an appropriation,” Helldobler said. “Let's get down to work, as opposed to negotiating furloughs or negotiating 180 position eliminations and those kinds of draconian measures.”

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University of Michigan prepares to test automated text-analysis tool

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 07/10/2017 - 00:00

High-enrollment courses often lead professors to assign multiple-choice quizzes, as more complicated forms of assessment dramatically increase the time they take to grade. This fall, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor will test whether automated text analysis can help professors integrate more writing into their courses without imposing significant new time constraints.

The automated text-analysis tool is the latest addition to M-Write, a program run by the Gayle Morris Sweetland Center for Writing at Michigan. The program targets students in large introductory science courses, using writing as a strategy to improve student learning. Michigan has funded M-Write with a $1.8 million grant, aiming to bring the program to 10,000 students by 2021.

M-Write combines automation with human oversight to lead students through writing assignments in which they draft, receive peer feedback, revise and resubmit. In addition to the new text-analysis tool, the program already uses automation for tasks such as peer review -- a student’s essay is sent to three classmates for anonymous feedback -- but oversees the process with writing fellows, former students who excelled in the class.

In interviews with Inside Higher Ed, members of the M-Write team said the addition of an automated text-analysis tool is an effort to create a “feedback loop” within the program, giving students and faculty members the kind of personalized insight they both would gain from a face-to-face conference.

“What you’d like to do is sit down and read a paper with the student in front of you, identify a misconception and have a conversation about it with them,” said Ginger Shultz, assistant professor of chemistry, who helped create M-Write. In a class of several hundred students where developing good writers isn’t the main objective, however, that sort of arrangement is virtually never feasible, she said.

At this stage of development, the automated text-analysis tool only works with pre-programmed prompts and is not intended to replace instructor grading. Yet Anne R. Gere, the Gertrude Buck Collegiate Professor of Education and professor of English language and literature who serves as director of the writing center, acknowledged that inserting the word “automated” into a conversation about writing instruction is controversial, and that there are “many, many conservative literary people who will indeed be appalled.”

Gere, the incoming president of the Modern Language Association, compared automated text analysis to radioactivity -- large blasts of it can be fatal, but targeted doses can cure disease, she said.

“Perhaps because I’m a humanist, I always think technology needs to have a human element as well,” Gere said. “This is the place where the humanities and sciences can come together to create better learning for students across the curriculum.”

As covered by EdSurge, the automated text-analysis tool will be tested in a statistics course this fall. For three semesters, students in that class have responded to the same writing prompts, producing hundreds of essays on the same topics. The M-Write team has pored over those papers, identifying the features of papers that met the assignment criteria and those that missed the mark. The findings will be used to design an algorithm that makes the text-analysis tool look for those features.

In one of the prompts that will work with the automated text-analysis tool, students are asked to review an advertisement for a pizza company and write one for a rival business, using statistical evidence to build their case. To analyze the essays, the tool will look for specific words and topics, such as if students make an argument out of statistics showing that their business sells larger pies, Gere said.

The tool is not intended to automate grading decisions, however -- only the process of giving students feedback about their writing. The M-Write team plans to use ECoach, a support platform developed at the university, to send students personalized messages. For example, if the automated text-analysis tool determines (and writing fellows agree) that a group of students haven’t grasped how to incorporate peer feedback into a revised paper, the system will send them pointers on how to do so.

“This is not a project about improving student writing per se,” Gere said. “It’s a project about helping students learn better, and writing is a very powerful form of student engagement and learning. We’re trying to harness that power.”

The tool is intended to give faculty members valuable feedback as well, Gere said. If the tool finds that many students struggle with an important course concept, faculty members would learn about it early in the semester and perhaps change an upcoming lecture to ensure the topic receives some extra attention.

“The way that we think about the automated text-analysis tool is that it’s not from a standpoint of trying to score or grade the writing,” Shultz said. “We really want to use the automated text-analysis tool in order to provide information to the faculty members to help them understand how students are learning.”

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Some 1,500 adjuncts at CUNY win three-year contracts

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 07/10/2017 - 00:00

City University of New York’s 30,000-member faculty union fought for six years for a contract that ensured a handful of must-haves. Among them was more job security for adjuncts, who previously taught on semester-to-semester appointments.

Now that provision -- secured in a contract inked this spring -- is starting to materialize: some 1,500 long-serving adjuncts have been awarded three-year appointments, to begin this fall.

“The issue of adjunct job security was the very last thing we settled at two or three in the morning on the last day,” said Barbara Bowen, a professor of English at Queens College and CUNY’s Graduate Center and president of the Professional Staff Congress union.

“It’s been a really monumental struggle, because it breaks through the cherished management notion that adjuncts are disposable employees,” she said. “Through repeated rounds of bargaining, I learned how important it was to the university to have what they would call flexibility and what I would call a total lack of job security.”

Under the agreement, professors on these multiyear appointments may only be terminated for just cause. They’re also eligible for the same health-care benefits -- including vision and dental -- available to full-time faculty members and other New York City employees.

Professors who get on the three-year track may have “every expectation” to be reappointed at the end of their term, Bowen said. “This is a breakthrough. It’s not everything we hoped for, but it’s huge.”

To be eligible for a three-year appointment, adjuncts must have taught for at least six contact hours (typically two courses) per semester within the same department for the 10 previous semesters, consecutively. 

The appointment provides the assurance of at least six contact hours of work per semester, or its equivalent. So if for some reason the department can’t meet that commitment in terms of courses, the adjunct will perform other duties for which they are qualified.

Bowen said the six-credit-hour threshold was crucial in negotiations, since that’s where eligibility for full-time faculty health-care benefits kicks in. Prior to this contract, adjuncts were eligible for benefits under a different system, but the future of funding for that pool was uncertain.

CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress represents about 7,800 full-time professors and more than 5,000 professional staff members, among others, across its campuses but adjuncts make up the biggest share of workers -- some 12,000. The majority rely on teaching as their primary source of income.

Bowen said full-timers rallied for the job-security provision both because they respect their part-time colleagues as professionals and because they understand consistent staffing makes for smoother-running departments and better learning conditions for students.

The union pushed for eligibility guidelines that would have allowed even more professors to qualify for three-year contracts, such as requiring that adjuncts have taught a certain number of credit hours over a given number of semesters, but not necessarily consecutively. So while it pains her that not everyone who may deserve a three-year appointment will get one this year, the first of a five-year pilot program, she said early word on how many professors did qualify is heartening.

A university spokesperson said via email that CUNY is “very grateful to have reached an agreement with our faculty union that, for the first time, will allow three-year appointments of selected adjunct staff. … These multiyear appointments, which are now being implemented on a pilot basis throughout CUNY, are intended to provide increased job security for our longest-serving adjuncts who teach at least six credit hours per semester.”

CUNY’s colleges notified adjuncts about their eligibility for three-year contracts by mid-May and the vast majority of those eligible have received such appointments, according to the union. Approval was subject to a comprehensive departmental review under the contract, but those adjuncts in good standing could generally expect to earn a long-term appointment. There have been some hiccups, such as what to do when an adjunct has been teaching the same discipline but was once assigned to teach it in a different department. But the Professional Staff Congress is checking in on each eligible adjunct and formally grieving problems, Bowen said.

Cory Evans, an adjunct instructor of philosophy and communication studies at Baruch College for the last seven years, secured a three-year appointment this year.

“It’s a great thing,” he told Clarion, the union newspaper. “Teaching is wonderful, but one of the things that can weigh on folks is [job] uncertainty, so knowing that you’re going to be teaching for three years is a big deal. It makes you more involved with your department and with your students, and I think it helps adjuncts feel like they’re part of the academic life of that department.”

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Samford gives up $3 million in Baptist funds amid dispute over pro-gay group

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 07/10/2017 - 00:00

It looked as though Samford University, a private Christian university just outside of Birmingham, Ala., was facing an ultimatum.

The creation of Samford Together, a student group dedicated to the discussion of LGBTQ issues and human sexuality, had created a rift between the administration and the Alabama Baptist State Convention, which asked for the group’s provisional status to be rescinded and its chances for permanent status scuttled as a condition for $3 million in annual funding.

Samford declined the convention’s $3 million, effective Jan. 1, and the institution’s president, Andrew Westmoreland, said he would work to advance Samford Together’s goals. But, at the same time, Westmoreland isn’t going to ask to Board of Trustees to give Samford Together permanent recognition.

Samford’s budget was about $166 million in 2016.

According to the university, Westmoreland decided not to ask the trustees to approve permanent recognition for the group before the terms came from the convention (the faculty voted to recommended its approval by the Board of Trustees in April). Announcing the university’s decision to forgo the Baptist funds, however, Westmoreland also said he would work to implement “each of the group’s worthy goals,” and the university hasn't made moves to take away the group's provisional status.

“I will involve these students and others across campus in taking essential steps to create new and ongoing opportunities for robustly engaging these and other important issues,” he said in a statement that didn’t mention Samford Together by name. “Our actions at Samford, irrespective of financial considerations, must demonstrate fidelity to God’s truth, abiding compassion and respect for all people, and solidarity with the timeless ideals of a strong university.”

The university declined to comment beyond its Friday news release announcing the decision to decline the funding. Declining the funding is a major decision: beyond the monetary contributions, the convention must affirm members of the university's board.

Though Samford Together’s aims are relatively limited -- providing a forum to discuss human sexuality and LGBTQ issues -- its creation drew condemnation from the ABSC. In an April statement addressing the faculty vote affirming Samford Together, John Thweatt, the state convention’s president, and Rick Lance, executive director of the state Board of Missions, expressed their disagreements with the faculty’s decision.

“We are saddened by this decision, which provides recognition for an agenda that we believe to be contrary to Scripture,” they said at the time. “We strongly believe that the Old Testament and New Testament each speak unequivocally against homosexuality. When addressing same-gender sexual relationships, the Bible without exception never affirms such behavior as an approved lifestyle.”

Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, a national LGBTQ group for college students, said the lack of formal recognition might not be ideal, but Westmoreland’s decision to “stand up” to the convention was brave.

“The decision shows a great deal of courage to tell the [convention], ‘well, take your money, we’re going to do what we need to do on our campus,’” he said. “If Samford wants to be seen as inclusive, safe and accepting, then they should allow this group to exist. Are they the worst of the worst? Well, it sounds like the president is willing to stand up and say, ‘You know what, we’re not going to take the money.’”

Windmeyer compared Samford to the University of Notre Dame, where it took years of denials before an LGBTQ student group was recognized. Many religious institutions, of all faiths, he said, are at a crossroads as to how LGBTQ members in their communities should be treated. Samford, he added, hasn’t opted for a Title IX exemption to allow discrimination against LGBTQ people on the basis of religious grounds -- Campus Pride keeps a running list of such institutions on its website.

According to its description on Samford’s website, the group’s aims are rather limited, particularly compared to gay rights groups elsewhere. Still, many religious institutions oppose recognizing any gay rights groups. While Samford's Code of Values no longer explicitly bars “homosexual acts,” the code does ban intercourse outside heterosexual marriage.

“Samford Together will provide a forum for SU students who want to discuss topics relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. In an open-minded and accepting environment, students will find community and opportunities to study an array of ideas and opinions on these subjects,” the description reads. “Samford Together is rooted in the Samford motto and core values, and its members strive to follow Christ on a path of learning and communication, knowing that the world will be better as a result of the contributions of all Samford students.”

Members or contact information for the group are not listed on the website.

In a statement after Samford declined its funds, the convention acknowledged the university’s decision and said it would withhold the funding.

“The matter of recognition of the student organization is in the hands of the leadership of Samford University. They know our concerns about the organization as expressed in person and in print,” the statement said. “As always, we will pray for Samford, its leadership and its students as they work together in a university community in these challenging times.”

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New ACE Paper Explores Challenges to HBCUs in Internationalization

American Council on Education - Sat, 07/08/2017 - 03:00
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