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Chronicle of Higher Education: New Retirement Deal Could Offer Relief to Pennsylvania’s Struggling Public Colleges

Under an agreement between the State System of Higher Education and its faculty union, nearly 1,000 full-time faculty members would qualify for “phased” retirement this fall.

Chronicle of Higher Education: U. of Texas Is Sued Over Affirmative Action in Admissions. Yes, Again.

The plaintiff is Students for Fair Admissions, the same group that has also sued Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Why One Scholar Sees Little Evidence on Campus of a Free-Speech ‘Crisis’ — but Plenty of Panic

Jeffrey A. Sachs, a lecturer in politics at Canada’s Acadia University, believes that an overblown fear is gripping administrators and commentators.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner threatens to upend Argentina again

Economist, North America - Thu, 05/16/2019 - 08:13

FOR DECADES the city of Quilmes, a 40-minute drive south of Buenos Aires, has had the distinction of being the name of Argentina’s national beer. A German immigrant, one Otto Bemberg, started his brewery there, on the edge of the River Plate, in the 1880s; today Quilmes (now part of the AB InBev empire) is sold from Iguazú falls to Tierra del Fuego. But there is more than beer brewing in the city.

From the fall of Argentina’s dictatorship in 1983 to 2015, the Peronists, a populist movement, ruled Quilmes and its 650,000 inhabitants for all but eight years. Then President Mauricio Macri’s Cambiemos movement ousted the mayor and city government, which had been loyal to his Peronist predecessor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in a landslide.

Little more than a year ago, Mr Macri seemed assured of another victory in this year’s elections, due in October. Then investor confidence in his economic policy of gradual reform collapsed along with the peso, prompting him to secure a record $57bn bail-out from the IMF. With inflation at 56% and unemployment having grown by half, the chances of Mr Macri winning again now seem slimmer. On May 9th Ms Fernández launched a new book (which became an instant bestseller), seemingly signalling that she will enter the race. Quilmes is a battleground for their starkly different philosophies....

Sanctions on Cuba will only slow regime change

Economist, North America - Thu, 05/16/2019 - 08:13

FOR THE past few months Cubans have faced shortages of some foodstuffs, as well as sporadic power cuts and fuel shortages that have affected never-abundant public transport. “We have to prepare for the worst,” Raúl Castro, Cuba’s communist leader, told his people last month. On May 10th the government announced that it would ration several staples, including rice, beans, chicken and eggs, as well as soap and toothpaste.

These are the first results of Donald Trump’s tightening of the American economic embargo against Cuba, as part of his effort to overthrow the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. Mr Trump’s administration is trying to halt the shipment of oil from Venezuela to Cuba. Last month it imposed fresh restrictions on tourism and remittances to the island from the United States and opened the way for thousands of lawsuits by Americans against foreign companies operating in Cuba. After ousting of Mr Maduro, Cuba’s government “will be next”, promised John Bolton, Mr Trump’s national security adviser.

The Cuban regime has survived six decades of American sanctions, and there is little reason to believe it will buckle now. But Mr Trump’s offensive does come at a complicated moment for Cuba. It coincides with a gradual handover of power from Mr Castro, who is 87, to a collective leadership including Miguel...

In Mexico, AMLO seeks to expel merit from schools

Economist, North America - Thu, 05/16/2019 - 08:13

HOW QUICKLY winds change. The school reforms signed in 2013 by Enrique Peña Nieto, then Mexico’s president, were to be the only popular legacy of an unpopular man. No longer. On May 8th the senate scrapped them. In mere months a reform deemed vital to reduce poverty lost many of its most ardent defenders. Even senators from Mr Peña’s cowed Institutional Revolutionary Party assented to the death of a law they recently favoured. So did the national teachers’ union, the STNE, despite having backed the reforms six years ago.

That is a testament to the power of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mr Peña’s populist successor, who has long opposed the reforms. It is also bad news for the millions of pupils who might have benefited, had the reforms been allowed to continue. The “new” education measures passed in their place represent a return to old ways.

Mr Peña’s project was an attempt to curb overmighty teachers’ unions. It revoked their power to hire teachers, giving it to an independent body that picked applicants through examinations. Teachers had been accustomed to jobs for life, and the right to sell their posts or bequeath them to their children upon retirement. Suddenly, they were subject to performance evaluations, and those who went on strike risked losing their jobs. And the federal government assumed responsibility for...

Colombia’s peace tribunal defies an American extradition request

Economist, North America - Thu, 05/16/2019 - 08:13

JESúS SANTRICH was supposed to become a member of Colombia’s congress in July 2018. As a former FARC commander, he was chosen to take up one of the ten congressional seats promised to the guerrilla group by the peace deal that ended the country’s 50-year armed conflict. But Mr Santrich, whose real name is Seuxis Hernández Solarte, could not be sworn in because he was arrested in April last year as part of an American-led undercover operation. A New York court indictment accuses him of conspiring to ship 10,000kg of cocaine to the United States. The Department of Justice has asked for his extradition.

Mr Santrich has put Colombia in a difficult position. The country signed an extradition treaty with the United States in 1979. But Mr Santrich is protected by the peace deal, which says FARC members can be extradited only if they committed a crime after December 1st 2016. President Ivan Duque, who was elected on a campaign pledge to modify the peace deal, wishes to extradite Mr Santrich. But his hands are tied. On May 15th the extradition was blocked by Colombia’s peace tribunal, known as the JEP, which investigates and judges members of the FARC and the armed forces for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The decision has pitched the JEP against the attorney-general, Néstor Humberto Martínez, who resigned in protest....

U.S. Department of Education Blog | Ed.gov: Signing Day: Every Team’s Most Important Recruit

As spring approaches, thousands of coaches and athletes from around the country get ready for National Signing Day, a day where press conferences are scheduled, coaches’ phones ring off the hook, a

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Chronicle of Higher Education: Transitions: New President at Iona College, U. of California at Los Angeles Selects Provost

Seamus Carey will step down as chief of Transylvania University to lead Iona. UCLA's next chief academic officer is a dean at Princeton University.

UK minister underlines importance of mobility deal for British students

The PIE News - Thu, 05/16/2019 - 05:20

The UK is keen to remain part of the Erasmus+ student mobility scheme despite Brexit, but if this is not possible, then it will build its own international mobility scheme.

This was an assertion given by UK Universities Minister Chris Skidmore who used his platform at the British Council’s Going Global conference in Berlin to reaffirm the UK’s ambition for international education, and its commitment to being networked and engaged in Europe and beyond.

“We believe that irrespective of the outcome of EU exit negotiations, the UK and European countries should continue to give young people and students the chance to benefit from each other’s world-leading universities post-exit,” he said.

“We remain open to exploring participation in the successor scheme to the current Erasmus+ program”

He added, “To this end, we remain open to exploring participation in the successor scheme to the current Erasmus+ program.

“But, as a responsible government, we are also considering a wide range of options with regards to the future of international exchange and collaboration in education and training. This includes a potential domestic alternative to the Erasmus+ program.”

Skidmore, who said he would be working on safeguarding student mobility in the coming months, suggested there might be “potential benefits” of the country having its own scheme, “which would include the ability to have a truly global exchange program”.

At present, the UK government has provided a guarantee to underwrite all “successful Erasmus+ and ESC [European Solidarity Corps] bids submitted before the end of 2020″ so that they can continue, in the event of a no deal. Any ability to continue to participate is unknown while negotiations around a withdrawal agreement continue.

Skidmore’s comments were part of a speech that highlighted the UK’s bold new strategy to build on its position as an international education destination of choice.

Simultaneously, he underlined that the UK wanted more of its own young people studying abroad and to engage with global peers more than ever.

“I can reassure you that the UK has always been global, is global, and will remain global for the future”

“The UK is not just ‘going global’ as the name of this conference suggests. But I can reassure you that the UK has always been global, is global, and will remain global for the future,” he said.

“We are here today because we want to partner with you, learn from you, and share our own learning in return.”

Skidmore spoke at the British Council’s flagship global education and policy conference, which welcomed close to 1,000 delegates and was chosen to be held in Berlin to signal the UK’s desire to remain embedded in Europe.

After attending a Russell Group event at the British Embassy to underline the importance of collaboration in science & innovation, the following day he also announced a new international research and innovation strategy.

The post UK minister underlines importance of mobility deal for British students appeared first on The PIE News.

Campus France opens office in the UK

The PIE News - Thu, 05/16/2019 - 03:54

French internationalisation agency Campus France has opened an office in London located in the French Embassy in an effort to provide support for the mobility of students and researchers.

The new centre will provide guidance on enrolment, administration, moving recommendations, student mobility programs for students, researchers and institutions participating in a mobility project.

It was inaugurated with a ceremony whose speakers included by the ambassador of France to the UK Jean-Pierre Jouyet, general director of Campus France Béatrice Khaiat, UUKi director Vivienne Stern.

“I am certain that [France] will continue to grow as a top destination for international students”

“I am delighted that Campus France is opening a London-based office. This reflects the growing demand of the British youth which, more than ever, is interested in receiving an excellent university education in France. This office will serve as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all their needs and questions,” Jean-Pierre Jouyet, ambassador of France to the UK said in a statement.

“France has always been an attractive place to study, and I am certain that in the future, it will continue to grow as a top destination for international students.”

Beyond advancing the new internationalisation strategy Choose France, one of the strategic priorities for the new UK centre was support for the UUKi Go International: Stand Out campaign, which aims to double outward mobility rates for UK students by 2020, by encouraging more UK students to study in France.

“We are delighted to welcome campus France to the UK. Our missions are aligned, particularly around our commitment to encouraging more UK students to study, work or volunteer abroad, and we look forward to working together,” UUKi director Vivienne Stern told The PIE News.

We have to double the number of British students to study abroad we want Campus France to help us achieve this goal said @viviennestern director of Universities UK I during the inauguration act of @CampusFrance UK…. it’s a deal ! answered back @BeatriceKhaiat CEO @UUKIntl pic.twitter.com/z47nXUAuAX

— Olivier Chiche (@OlivierChiche) May 10, 2019

In a statement, Campus France explained that there is room for improvement in encouraging UK students to study in France, as the flow of students between the two countries is unbalanced: while France welcomes about 4,000 British students each year, more than 12,000 French students study in the UK.

The inauguration was also an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of the relationship between France and the UK in Higher Education and Research, with another strategic priority being support and guidance for the sector through and after Brexit, it added.

The post Campus France opens office in the UK appeared first on The PIE News.

Australia: opposition’s funding pledge comes with intled caveat

The PIE News - Thu, 05/16/2019 - 02:25

In the final week of the Australian federal election campaign, the Labor opposition party has warned universities its funding pledge would come with the expectation they address concerns within the international student cohort.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, shadow education minster Tanya Plibersek reconfirmed her party’s commitment to reinstate the demand-driven system, which would provide $10 billion in revenue over ten years.

“What we want in return is for universities to consider the interests of their local communities”

“What we want in return is for universities to consider the interests of their local communities and the national interest when they are making decisions about how they expand, how they attract students, the sort of educational offering they make,” Plibersek said.

A series of ongoing funding cuts and freezes over the past seven years has seen Australian universities increasingly cross-subsidise research costs with overseas student revenue, and according to 2017 data, all but one university would have recorded a deficit without international fees.

In the first and so far only comment from either of the main Australian political parties after the Four Corner’s Cash Cows documentary, Plibersek maintained that “we don’t want to rip people off” or “develop a reputation as a hit and miss provider of university education”.

While it has not issued a public statement around the allegations of lowered English proficiency requirements for international students, the current Liberal-National coalition government has been aware of the concerns since at least February, The PIE News can now reveal.

In an email obtained by The PIE, education minister Dan Tehan requested all university vice-chancellors detail the support provided to international students. He also advised that he had requested further information and recommendations from the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Authority.

“It has been raised with me that some international students studying in Australia may not have the appropriate English language skills to actively and appropriately participate in a higher education course of study,” he wrote.

“I have also asked TEQSA to provide me with any information it has which points to a systemic failure in universities meeting their duty to not knowingly enrol an international student without the required level of English proficiency to successfully complete the course the student is enrolled in.”

The final week of the election campaign has also seen some of the major representative bodies issuing their wishlists to what they have called the “incoming government”.

In its Priority Directions 2 report, the Group of Eight supported re-investment in research, saying cuts had undermined universities’ ability to address challenges within the Australian community.

“Australian universities are ever more reliant on fee-paying students, private sector money and philanthropy to assist both domestic teaching and our research,” said Go8 chief executive Vicki Thomson.

“If this continues unabated, then Australian research efforts will be overwhelmed by the scale of our international competitors in the decades to come.”

Included in its section on international engagement, the report called for “complementary policy decisions on staff and student visas” and the reinstatement of the Endeavour Scholarships, which were recently axed to make way for regional education incentives.

“If this continues unabated, then Australian research efforts will be overwhelmed”

Interestingly, the Go8 also urged the government to negotiate with the European Union for Australia to become a formal partner of Horizon Europe, just over a month after members of parliament in the UK highlighted “total uncertainty” around its continued involvement.

Currently expected to take power on 18 May, Labor has already signalled major changes to Australia’s international education sector.

At the 2019 Universities Australia Conference, Plibersek told delegates the current national strategy was “vague” and highlighted a need to reinvigorate the council overseeing its implementation.

The post Australia: opposition’s funding pledge comes with intled caveat appeared first on The PIE News.

Gordon College eliminates 36 positions, announces cuts to many liberal arts majors

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 05/16/2019 - 00:00

Gordon College, an evangelical Christian college outside Boston, announced that it will eliminate 36 faculty and staff positions and consolidate and cut a number of majors in a budget-cutting move. Among the changes, Gordon is eliminating stand-alone majors in chemistry; French; physics; middle school and secondary education; recreation, sport and wellness; Spanish; and social work, and it is merging political science, history and philosophy into a single department.

In detailing the changes, Gordon said it is creating new multidisciplinary or “integrated” majors: for example, in lieu of a chemistry major, future Gordon students can enroll in a new biochemistry and integrated science major. Students interested in physics can take a physics track within a new physics and applied science major. A new sociology and social practice major will combine sociology and social work. Within the combined history, philosophy and political science department, stand-alone majors in political science and international relations will continue to be offered, and potential dual majors such as history and philosophy and history and political science are under review.

Rick Sweeney, Gordon’s vice president for external relations, said Gordon is cutting 7 percent of its operating budget over the next two years. Eleven faculty members are being laid off and two more retiring faculty will not be replaced. In addition, six staff members are being laid off and an additional 17 vacant staff positions will not be filled.

In information posted on its website about the changes, Gordon said it wants to make its education more “affordable and adaptable” and encourage completion of undergraduate programs within three years. Gordon is also expanding its graduate and online offerings through a newly created School for Graduate, Professional and Extended Studies, and said that a $10 million gift announced on Friday would be used for this purpose.

“We are at an inflection point in the history of Gordon and both fortunate and grateful we are being proactive now rather than reactive farther down the road,” Gordon’s president, Michael Lindsay, said in prepared remarks shared with Inside Higher Ed.

“Not all schools our size are able to pursue new opportunities while balancing their budgets,” Lindsay said. “The gift received on our April day of giving was not only totally unexpected, but to our knowledge the largest single monetary donation made to Gordon at any one time. This gift of $10 million, restricted to the endowment, is able to provide funds immediately that will support our necessary investment in creating Gordon Global, our planned digital platform within the newly created School of Graduate, Professional and Extended Studies. These funds will assist the college in getting this new initiative off the ground with the first phase to be launched in 2020. Clearly this anonymous donor is someone willing to come alongside us as we strengthen our core liberal arts education as we develop new points of access and opportunities that will make Gordon more affordable and more adaptable in meeting the needs of current and future students and families.”

Many Christian colleges are known for their strong commitment to the liberal arts, and some lamented the cuts to traditional liberal arts majors at Gordon in favor of an expansion of professional programming.

John Fea, a professor of history at Messiah College and author of, among other books, Why Study History? (Baker Publishing Group, 2013) wrote on his blog that he was saddened by the loss of a stand-alone history major at Gordon. “The skills and ways of thinking that one learns from the study of history are not something that can happen in a few courses as part of an 'integrated major' like politics-philosophy-history,” Fea wrote. “In over two decades of teaching at Christian liberal arts institutions, I can attest to the fact that a historical way of seeing the world -- one informed by contextual thinking, the understanding of contingency, the complexity of the human experience, a grasp of causality and change over time -- is something that is cultivated through a deep dive into the discipline. You can’t come to an interdisciplinary or 'integrated' conversation without grounding in a discipline.”

In an interview Fea described Gordon as one of the "big five or six" institutions within Christian higher education. “Gordon College, I would say, historically has always been a flagship evangelical liberal arts college,” he said. “When a lot of other evangelical colleges have decided to move in a direction of more professional programs, continuing education, cash-cow graduate programs, Gordon and other schools like Wheaton College, for example, have always been seen as defenders of the liberal arts and have always celebrated that. Of all places for Gordon to start making these cuts to the humanities and liberal arts, it speaks volumes and [sends] shock waves, I would say, throughout the Christian college world.”

Inside Higher Ed reached out Wednesday to eight different Gordon faculty members, none of whom agreed to comment on the changes; one said that requests for interviews with faculty had to be approved by Gordon’s external relations office. The student newspaper, The Tartan, reported on a meeting with more than 100 students on Saturday about the changes. The paper said the tone of student questions at the meeting “suggested a clear frustration; students wonder how they will be able to finish their soon-to-be defunct or 'integrated' courses of study in light of significantly reduced faculty.”

On the college's Facebook page, some commenters defended Gordon for making tough decisions, while others criticized it for laying off faculty or for, in their view, moving away from its liberal arts tradition. Commenters also criticized the timing of the announcement, coming as it did after the May 1 deadline for incoming freshmen to give colleges their decisions. Gordon said in a Facebook comment that the college’s budget for the coming year was not finalized until mid-May.

“It’s the Stevens Point story but with the evangelical twist -- to be more specific, Stevens Point with an evangelical higher education marketing twist,” said Adam Laats, a professor of education at the State University of New York at Binghamton and author of Fundamentalist U, a book about evangelical Christian education (Oxford University Press, 2018). Stevens Point is a reference to the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point’s controversial 2018 plan (since abandoned) to cut 13 liberal arts majors.

"Schools like Gordon -- and not just Gordon, small evangelical and nonevangelical institutions -- are in the same boat. They can’t raise tuition, but they can’t keep going without raising tuition because they don’t have the funding. They don’t have the big endowments. They can’t afford expensive lab equipment for every chemistry faculty person," Laats said. "Forget about evangelical: this is a [broader] higher ed story. Small colleges are struggling, and they are trying to find a niche."

At the same time, Laats said that the “evangelical twist” is Gordon’s own awkward position vis-à-vis LGBTQ rights issues and its market of evangelical Christian parents and students.

“Gordon has been sort of pushed into this awkward position,” Laats said. “It’s in Massachusetts, it’s near Boston, it has traditionally for the last 70 years been seen as one of these academically elite, religiously relatively liberal schools, so that you have things like LGBTQ students who say, 'I’m evangelical, but if I’m going to go to an evangelical school, Gordon is relatively friendly to LGBTQ students.' In the past few years, though, the newish president, Michael Lindsay, he hasn’t quite moved the school to the political right, but he has gestured that way by signing a statement to President Obama, for example, affirming the school's LGBTQ policies. He didn’t change the policies. He just officially affirmed what the school officially had agreed to, which is there’s no LGBTQ practice, you could only have sex in a heterosexual marriage -- that had been the policy forever, but he signed this letter and affirmed it, and that led to a huge row within the Gordon community.”

In short, Laats continued, “Gordon has struggled for years in terms of trying to find the sweet spot in terms of evangelical marketing, and it has signaled a move to the political right, which I think has put it in a tough spot. It’s not the tradition at Gordon. If you’re trying to move to the evangelical right, you can’t move too far to the right to out-right some of the schools that are out there. Gordon can't get conservative enough to be more conservative than Liberty [University] -- it’s not going to -- but it also can’t be seen as too liberal, because families will stop coming.”

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Webster University is looking into how it handled harassment complaint against a game design instructor

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 05/16/2019 - 00:00

Webster University hired an outside investigator to review how it handled a harassment complaint brought by a student against a professor, it said late Wednesday.

The move came days after the student -- now a graduate -- took her case public, saying that the university had ignored it for a year and promoted the professor in question during that time.

A second professor also resigned in protest of how the university handled the case, and he publicly urged Webster to do better. Students and faculty members have shared their own negative experiences with the game design program, in solidarity with the woman who brought the allegations.

“Webster definitely missed an opportunity here,” said Tamsen Reed, the original complainant and a game design major. Especially as “they boast about their diversity and inclusion to all prospective students.”

Rob M. Santos, the video game programming instructor who resigned in protest, said Webster a chance "to set the standard for addressing harassment and misconduct at this pivotal turning point in the games industry and for students who represent the next generation of game creatives.” Instead, through its “self-condemning silence or outright dismissal of student complaints, Webster chose to further institutionalize misogyny and abuse before these students have even begun their careers.” 

The accused professor and those who “enabled” him “perfectly mirror the cancer of games industry toxicity,” Santos said.

Gaming doesn’t have a good reputation for gender equity. Women regularly report being harassed or threatened for merely venturing into that world. And of course academe has a checkered history of welcoming women into its ranks and taking seriously their complaints of misconduct.

Reed said she waited until just two days before graduation to go public with her case, as, in her experience, “Webster doesn’t have the most transparent administration.”

And “given the power the harasser had over my degree,” she added, “I felt if I came forward, my graduation status might’ve been in jeopardy.”

According to accounts she shared on social media, the professor, Joshua Yates, talked about her in a sexual manner with multiple other students. Those students later told Reed that Yates had said she was “coming on to,” “flirting with” and possibly even trying to “seduce” him.

Yates, head of the game design program within the electronic and photographic media department, previously served as a visiting professor and was promoted last year to a tenure-track position. He allegedly also talked to the other students about Reed’s manner of dress, calling it “revealing.”

Reed said she filed a formal harassment complaint last spring, before Yates was promoted to assistant professor. In response, she said she was taken off of his class roster for an upcoming, second class with him that she needed to take to graduate, and moved to one taught by Santos, the professor who publicly resigned in protest.

I am resigning from @websteru to join students/faculty in protesting sexual harassment and predatory academic misconduct in the #gamedev program. Please share our stories which can be found at https://t.co/uKAA1o0VCx @websterpres these students deserved better. It’s not too late. pic.twitter.com/VjQdXKvBU8

— RobMSantos (@RobMSantos) May 11, 2019

Reed has publicly praised Santos as a teacher. But women’s advocates have long criticized the practice of removing a complainant from the situation in which she’s being harassed, rather than punishing the harasser. That’s because such moves can derail the woman’s studies or career and, on their own, do nothing to prevent the harasser from continuing the behavior with someone else.

Beyond that, however, Reed says she has not heard from the university about her complaint and that her emails about it have gone unanswered.

Santos said that "fair investigations" should be "thorough, swift, as well as transparently tied to meaningful consequences," with student protections "enforced decisively in the meantime." 

He's publicly encouraged others to contribute their stories of working within the department. About a dozen students and faculty members already have done so. Some students corroborate Reed's report about Yates's comments. Others allege incompetence on Yates’s part as a teacher and scholar.

In addition to questioning Yates’s work ethic and expertise, Lisa Brunette, a game designer and former visiting professor in the department, wrote in a public statement that at Webster, “I never felt adequate respect was paid to my substantial experience as a writer, game designer and teacher, and I often felt like I was battling the [electronic and photographic media] boys’ network. Without me, the department is comprised of 10 men and only two women.”

Yates did not respond to a request for comment.

Reed said she hasn’t heard anything from Webster since she aired her concerns last week, other than a private invitation to meet with the office that handles harassment complaints. She said she hasn’t spoken to Yates since last year but that he “glares” at her in the halls.

Webster said in a statement that it’s “committed to respecting the privacy, integrity and safety of its students, faculty and staff and all members of the extended community,” and that it must treat complaints and investigations with “strict confidentiality.” The relevant office operates “autonomously and with the independence it deserves to investigate all complaints of sexual misconduct.”

In response to “recent inquiries” about the conduct of that office, Webster “swiftly engaged an independent third-party investigator to examine” whether the office adhered to protocol. Pending the results of the independent investigation, Webster said, it will take swift and appropriate action.

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Gates and state-college group co-chair postsecondary value commission

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 05/16/2019 - 00:00

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is backing a new panel to scrutinize the value of postsecondary credentials, a move coming as college prices and returns are under intense scrutiny but that is seen by some as playing catch-up to the current political moment.

A 30-member panel of higher education leaders, business representatives and foundation experts will look at the value of degrees and post-high school certificates. It will examine ways to measure economic outcomes for students earning certificates and degrees -- outcomes that could include postcollegiate earnings and the ability to repay debt, earnings premiums for degree earners or certificate earners, and economic mobility after college.

The new panel comes as families and policy makers around the country turn their attention to the return on investment in higher education, and as the federal government moves to give consumers more data to evaluate that equation. The White House is pushing toward releasing program-level earnings data, and reauthorization of the Higher Education Act has been percolating on Capitol Hill.

Gates CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann is co-chairing the group, called the Commission on the Value of Postsecondary Education, or the Postsecondary Value Commission. Its other co-chair is Mildred García, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

The commission's members:

  • Brian Bridges, UNCF Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute
  • Anthony Carnevale, Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce
  • Michelle Asha Cooper, Institute for Higher Education Policy
  • José Luis Cruz, Lehman College, City University of New York
  • Sue Desmond-Hellmann, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Zakiya Smith Ellis, State of New Jersey
  • Ivelisse Estrada, communications and social impact strategist
  • Nichole Francis Reynolds, Mastercard
  • John Friedman, Brown University
  • Mildred García, American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  • Paul Glastris, The Washington Monthly
  • Jillian Klein, Strategic Education Inc.
  • Janice Lachance, American Geophysical Union
  • Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commission for Higher Education
  • Elisabeth Mason, Stanford Technology, Opportunity and Poverty Lab
  • Sean McGarvey, North America’s Building Trades Unions
  • Ted Mitchell, American Council on Education
  • Sahar Mohammadzadeh, Harvard University/Prichard Committee on Student Excellence
  • Marc Morial, National Urban League
  • Gloria Nemerowicz, Yes We Must Coalition
  • Eloy Ortiz Oakley, California Community Colleges
  • Cheryl Oldham, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Laura Perna, University of Pennsylvania
  • Mark Schneider, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences
  • Michele Siqueiros, Campaign for College Opportunity
  • Margaret Spellings, Texas 2036
  • Luis Talavera, Arkansas State University
  • Ivory Toldson, Howard University
  • Andy Van Kleunen, National Skills Coalition
  • Belle Wheelan, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

“We definitely are hoping that it will affect the higher ed reauthorization act, and look at the way we’re looking at things like Pell, and federal and state match,” García said during a recent conference call to discuss the effort. “We are hoping that this commission can continue its work over the year and at the same time inform the policy makers of what our findings are.”

Commission leaders say they won’t be solely focused on money. They’ll also acknowledge noneconomic returns to higher education like creative and critical thinking skills, as well as greater civic participation.

But the commission’s primary charges are tied to economic value.

Its task is to propose a definition of postsecondary value that institutions can use and to create a framework for measuring how programs at colleges and universities create value for different students. It will also make recommendations for furthering the understanding of value within and outside postsecondary education.

In other words, the commission is supposed to help colleges and universities examine how well they are improving students’ economic opportunity while also aiding policy makers who are trying to measure the returns on public investments in higher education. In addition, it’s supposed to help students and families evaluate where and what to study after high school.

“Our goal is to uncomplicate the connection between higher education and economic opportunity,” Desmond-Hellmann said. “People are talking about jobs in this country, so we want to get everybody involved, from students, families, schools, policy makers, so that people who are making life choices can make choices that are best for them.”

The commission held its first meeting in April. It’s scheduled to meet several more times and finish its work by the middle of next year.

Members of the panel include college and university leaders, researchers, business leaders, community leaders, policy makers, and students. Michelle Asha Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, is its managing partner.

“We want to bring together data on outcomes like employment, earnings and economic mobility,” she said. “Secondly, we want to show how those data play out across race and income and gender, which has not been done before in a comprehensive way. That’s how it’s going to be different than some of the things that you’ve already seen.”

At least one member of the commission sees it as Gates incorporating the latest policy developments and the current political focus.

“The basic story here is that Gates is playing catch-up,” said Anthony Carnevale, research professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Carnevale has argued that President Trump’s executive order on program-level data fits into a bipartisan move toward examining earnings data instead of just focusing on degree completion. Gates has traditionally looked under the hood of colleges and universities, working directly with institutions to change their practices, he said. But Carnevale doesn’t believe higher education is going to change without outside pressure.

That outside pressure has arrived as lawmakers, governors and reformers have stopped focusing as heavily on completion and paid more attention to outcomes and earnings.

“That’s another conversation that takes you outside of both K-12 institutions and higher education institutions,” Carnevale said. “The real action in education reform now is connecting the dots, say, middle school through high school and into higher ed, and connecting with the labor market.”

Gates declined to comment on the idea that the foundation was playing catch-up. It could easily have argued that it's traditionally addressed many of the individual areas Carnevale was discussing. But one of Carnevale's points was that foundations generally are having to break down silos between different areas.

Desmond-Hellmann did address the question of why Gates is undertaking this work when she spoke during the conference call to announce the commission. More than any time she can remember, students and families are now asking if college is worthwhile, she said. But Gates has a "fundamental belief" that opportunities and financial security are linked to higher education.

"That means for Americans today, education after high school is not a luxury, it’s a necessity," she said. "Our foundation’s learned a lot in the last 10 years about getting more students to and through college, especially low-income students and first-generation students, students of color, and working adults. But we still don’t know enough about the benefits that education beyond high school brings."

Other members of the commission pointed out that its work comes at a time when the public is increasingly questioning the value of a postsecondary education and that many consider enrolling in higher education institutions through the lens of the economic opportunities they are likely to create.

“People throw the term around a lot, ‘credential of value,’” said Cheryl Oldham, vice president of education policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Depending on who it is, you can press them, and it’s like, ‘Oh, what are you talking about when you said that?’ It is hard. And I do think a lot of the assumptions are being questioned. Is the four-year degree the gold standard? Can we get to a place where it’s not about the piece of paper but it’s about what you know and are able to do?”

It is important that the panel has representatives from the business community, she added.

Previously, Oldham served in the U.S. Department of Education during President George W. Bush’s administration, when Margaret Spellings was secretary of education. Spellings is also a member of the Postsecondary Value Commission.

“What we owe our consumers is more ability to vote with their feet, and that means we need more information,” said Spellings, who recently stepped down as president of the University of North Carolina system and is now a senior consultant with Texas 2036, a group focused on public policy. “The data is coming.”

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Malaysia considers the future of race-based admissions programs

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 05/16/2019 - 00:00

Moves by the Malaysian government to continue with a controversial affirmative action policy for its preuniversity program have reignited a debate over the fairest ways of admitting students to higher education.

The education minister, Maszlee Malik, announced last month that the number of places on the government matriculation, or preuniversity, program would increase by 60 percent to 40,000, but 90 percent of these places would still be reserved for bumiputeras, or the indigenous Malay population. The remaining 10 percent of places are open to non-bumiputeras, predominantly Chinese and Indian minorities, who tend to perform better academically.

The matriculation program was introduced in 1998 to create more opportunities for the Malay majority to enter higher education. The race-based quota was launched in 2003.

However, there have long been calls for the government to abolish the policy, with critics highlighting that it is discriminatory and does not target the most disadvantaged students.

Students are able to take an alternative national preuniversity program, known as the Malaysian Higher School Certificate (STPM), which is open to all Malaysians. However, the matriculation program is an easier and faster route to university. Meanwhile, preuniversity programs at private colleges are expensive.

There are concerns that the recent government announcement will reduce STPM graduates’ chances of entering higher education if the total number of places in public universities remains the same.

Peter Chang Thiam Chai, deputy vice chancellor (research and innovation) at the University of Malaya, said that while “Malay representation must be protected, the 90-10 formula has had serious fallout.”

“It has severely alienated the minorities and adversely impacted Malaysia’s public university academic standards,” he said.

“The need for affirmative action, and the delicate balancing act required, was vulnerable to the vicissitudes of Malaysia’s racialized politics, and the new Harapan government has not found of a way out of this dilemma.”

Koh Sin Yee, senior lecturer in global studies at Monash University Malaysia, said that the quota meant that the matriculation program “doesn’t offer the same degree of opportunity to all who … are underprivileged,” adding that the policy “does not seem to be clearly needs based nor merit based.”

“Increasing the placement numbers but keeping the 90-10 quota could result in a larger number of bumiputera students opting for matriculation rather than STPM,” she said.

“In the long run, this could result in two issues: first, higher numbers of bumiputera matriculation graduates who may not be sufficiently equipped or prepared for university education, and second, higher numbers of bumiputeras entering the work force at least a year earlier than their non-bumiputera counterparts. There seem to be compounded issues further down the line that have not been addressed.”

Lee Hwok-Aun, senior fellow and coordinator of the Malaysia Studies Program at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, said that “the rigor, breadth and quality of matriculation programs must be raised” and that the system must eventually “settle on one common entry qualification, in place of the current unequal alternatives.”

“The stark and complicated reality is that bumiputeras depend on the matriculation system, and any abrupt change to the quota, or even dismantling of this parallel preuniversity channel, is untenable socially and politically,” he said.

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