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Lecturers plead for help to rescue 'broke' universities

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 07:20
Academic staff have painted a gloomy picture of the financial status of public universities in Kenya and called for national dialogue to support the institutions of higher learning, writes Augusti ...

Employers favour science universities for recruitment

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 07:18
Universities known for their science and engineering majors have been ranked as employers' favourites in a survey by a Taiwanese job bank focused on where businesses are most likely to recruit the ...

Universities resist quotas on teacher-training courses

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 07:16
Third-level colleges are resisting plans by Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton to introduce quotas on the number of teachers they train in specific subjects, writes Carl O'Brien for ...

Universities to get more money for postgraduates

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 07:14
Czech public universities will receive 50% higher contributions for postgraduate students this year, Education Minister Robert Plaga said last week, adding that the ministry would like the conditi ...

No surprises for higher education in White House budget

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 07:12
The White House budget released on 12 February won't be approved by Congress and likely won't even be seriously considered by lawmakers as a framework for their spending priorities. But the docume ...

West Bank university law draws Palestinian Authority ire

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 07:08
The Palestinian Authority last week stepped up its rhetorical attacks on Israel - this time by calling on all parliaments and lawmakers around the world to boycott Knesset members who supported a ...

Staff vacancies continue to plague higher education

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 07:06
The functioning of Indian institutions of higher learning continues to be crippled due to a large number of staff vacancies. The latest government data has shown that the scale of the problem is m ...

#MeToo hits universities, despite internet censors

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 07:04
After highly-regarded Beihang University Professor Chen Xiaowu was dismissed over multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, students and alumni from dozens of top universities launched online pet ...

Report exposes universities' corruption cover-up

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 07:02
A new report by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has revealed how most allegations of corruption in federal universities in Nigeria - such as unfair allocation of grades, contr ...

China has spies across US universities - FBI chief

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 07:00
Chinese intelligence operatives are littered across United States universities, possibly to obtain information in fields like technology, and universities have little understanding of this major p ...

University quality assessment system to be revamped

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 05:38
The Russian government is set to radically revamp the system of quality assessment of domestic higher education, the Russian Ministry of Education and Science announced last Monday.

The initi ...

Hong Kong’s PolyU wins two int’l education awards

The PIE News - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 03:50

Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University has won two awards in a global competition regarded by the higher education sector to be the “Oscars in Education”.

Co-organised by Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and QS, the Reimagine Education Awards celebrates innovative higher education pedagogies that enhance student learning outcomes and employability.

“We shall strive for the best to nurture our university students to be socially responsible and ethical leaders in tomorrow’s world”

PolyU received a gold award in the “Sustainability” category and a silver award in the “Ethical Leadership” categories in the 2018 competition, which received 1,000 entries from institutions all over the world.

Winners were selected by a panel of international judges for having outstanding achievements in terms of innovation, scalability and depth across 17 award categories.

PolyU was presented a gold award in the Sustainability category for its commitment to fostering sustainable development of students and the younger generation through education.

The university’s winning project was a service-learning subject entitled “Promotion of Children and Adolescent Development”, targeting at children and adolescents in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Hong Kong.

The subject aims to enhance resilience and aspiration of service targets as well as social responsibility of university students.

PolyU’s winning entry for the Ethical Leadership category was an intra-personal development subject entitled “Tomorrow’s Leaders” offered to more than 2,000 PolyU undergraduates every year since 2012/13.

The subject aims to cultivate essential qualities of ethical leadership among students, such as morality, integrity and leadership skills.

Associate vice president for Undergraduate Programs at PolyU and the designer of the two winning subjects, Daniel Shek, said the university has been leading in the areas of service-learning and leadership education both locally and regionally.

“We are encouraged by this international recognition and we shall strive for the best to nurture our university students to be socially responsible and ethical leaders in tomorrow’s world,” he added.

The post Hong Kong’s PolyU wins two int’l education awards appeared first on The PIE News.

Ireland strengthens education links with Middle East

The PIE News - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 03:05

Students from the United Arab Emirates are able to travel to Ireland without a visa following the easing of travel restrictions to boost trade, tourism and business relationships between the two countries.

At the end of January 2018, the minister for justice and equality in Ireland, Charlie Flanagan, signed an order lifting the visa requirement for Emiratis travelling to the country.

“These students…are extremely curious, willing to learn, polyglots, aware of cultural differences, open to change, and assimilate to new environments”

Flanagan said the removal of visa requirements is a very significant step which will facilitate Ireland’s growing trade, tourism and business relationships with the UAE.

He said it represented “a further strengthening of the strategically important relationship between the two countries” and will foster increased cooperation across areas including education.

“I am very pleased we have been able to lift the visa requirement for citizens of the UAE who wish to travel to Ireland and we look forward to welcoming increased numbers of Emirati business people, students and tourists who will travel to Ireland following the lifting of the visa requirement.”

The ambassador of Ireland to the UAE, Paul Kavanagh added: “This is a big day for developing ever closer ties between Ireland and the UAE in business, education and especially in tourism.”

The easing of visa restrictions for Emiratis serves to further strengthen Ireland’s relationship with the Middle East, after two Irish universities, a third level private college and Marketing English in Ireland visited Iran in November 2017.

The schools, University College Dublin, University of Limerick and Griffith College, which already host a number of Iranian students, met with agencies, representatives of colleges and the honorary consul of Ireland in Iran as part of the excursion.

The CEO of MEI David O’ Grady told The PIE News that it was an excellent introduction to the market in Iran and an opportunity to meet students with a strong desire to learn English.

“Iranian students are marvellous students, and universities long for more of them because they are giving and committed,” he added.

Trade representative at the Embassy of Ireland Abu Dhabi, Eamon Al Sikafi was also in attendance to meet with agents and gain a better understanding of how the recruitment works.

Sikafi told The PIE that the students he met were extremely well educated through self-funding and that Iran is a market Ireland needs to explore further.

“Most Iranians have bachelor degrees, it is the minimum requirement to get a job. When faced with unemployment, they hold themselves mutually accountable; getting another degree and learning a new language is top of their ventures,” he said.

“These students…are extremely curious, willing to learn, polyglots, aware of cultural differences, open to change, and assimilate to new environments.”

The post Ireland strengthens education links with Middle East appeared first on The PIE News.

PTE owner: NZQA closure process “unbelievable”

The PIE News - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 02:23

The owner of a New Zealand private training establishment closed by NZQA has described the process as “unbelievable” and “upsetting”.

Roya Jazbani, whose Auckland-based Excellent International Academy closed on 26 January, said she did not understand why her school was closed, as she felt she had addressed quality assurance concerns identified by NZQA in 2017.

“We spent a lot of extra money, we employed a lot of extra people, we bought a lot of extra resources,” she said.

“The de-registration of EIA was the last step in a long process”

“We thought by 2018 we were compliant.”

EIA first came to the attention of NZQA in March 2017, after raising concerns around “English language proficiency testing and compliance with assessment and moderation requirements” for the PTE’s then-new Diploma of Business.

After working with EIA, NZQA issued an intention to cancel the provider’s registration as a PTE on 22 November 2017, with a response required by 13 December.

Jazbani told The PIE News that while she filed a response, she did not believe NZQA considered it fully, and on 26 January three NZQA officials entered her office to inform her EIA would close at the end of the day.

A timeline of key dates in Excellent International Academy closure: 22 Nov 2017 NZQA notifies EIA of the intention to cancel its registration as a PTE, requiring a response by 13 December 2017. 7 Dec 2017 Meeting between EIA and NZQA regarding the proposed deregistration. 13 Dec 2017 EIA provides NZQA a written submission on the proposed deregistration. 14-15 Dec 2017 NZQA considers EIA’s submission. 26 Jan 2018 NZQA advised EIA that it has decided to cancel the registration of EIA as a PTE. 26 Jan 2018 After a request from EIA, NZQA agrees not to contact the students before 5pm Thursday 1 February. 1 Feb 2018 NZQA meets with EIA and its legal representation in the morning. 1 Feb 2018 In the afternoon, NZQA advises EIA and its legal representation that it intends to proceed with the cancellation of registration. 1 Feb 2018 EIA’s legal representation confirms to NZQA no legal action will be taken by EIA regarding NZQA’s decision.

“We were doomed to close and we couldn’t do anything about it,” she claimed.

“If they told us in March 2017 when they looked at the results when they looked at the result that there was no way we can continue because the results are shocking, then we would have [done things] totally differently.”

NZQA’s deputy chief executive quality assurance, Grant Klinkum, told The PIE that the regulator undertook standard procedures when considering the future of EIA.

“NZQA fully considered the EIA submissions on the notice of intention to cancel registration and reached a decision based on serious concerns in relation to educational performance and compliance with NZQA rules,” he said.

“The de-registration of EIA was the last step in a long process.”

Klinkum added that de-registration of a provider only takes place after careful consideration.

“Any regulatory decision taken by NZQA, is not one taken lightly, and the outcome sought is considered best to ensure high-quality tertiary education outcomes in New Zealand.”

EIA enrolled around 150 international students, who Klinkum said were now the highest priority of NZQA, as it ensures they receive adequate support at this time.

The post PTE owner: NZQA closure process “unbelievable” appeared first on The PIE News.

Most vice-chancellors can have say in setting their pay

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 01:41
At 95% of universities in the United Kingdom, the vice-chancellor either sits on the committee that sets their pay or is allowed to attend its meetings, according to new research by the University ...

Colleges keep hiring experienced presidents, even in their 60s and 70s

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 01:00

When Harvard University announced Lawrence S. Bacow as its president-in-waiting on Sunday, the institution focused heavily on his illustrious academic history, past presidential experience at Tufts University and family story as the son of immigrants.

Less discussed was Bacow’s age. He’s 66, about four years older than the average college president. If he stays at Harvard for 10 years -- the tenure he has previously said is about right for a president -- he will be stepping down in his mid-70s.

And Bacow is just one of several presidents in their mid- to late 60s or 70s to take prominent leadership positions at major universities in recent years. Last year, the University of California, Berkeley, named Carol Christ its next chancellor; she was 72. When E. Gordon Gee returned to West Virginia University’s presidency in 2014 first as an interim and then on a permanent basis, he was entering his seventh decade. Ronald Crutcher was 68 when he was chosen to lead the University of Richmond in 2015.

These prominent older hires come as the university presidency has been graying for years, a fact often attributed to colleges and universities valuing past presidential experience over youthful ideas during trying times. It seems search teams often adhere to the adage that with age comes wisdom.

Critics might see generational attitudes at play. Remember, baby boomers have often been pigeonholed as an attention-seeking generation putting off retirement planning until absolutely necessary. So why should they be expected to eschew pinnacle career positions, even as many enter their 70s?

But other forces are likely at work. Simply put, life expectancy has risen, and many people are healthy later in life. A considerable pool of older, experienced presidents exists, and a sizable number of ex-presidents are willing to think about one more stint in a job they love: leading a college or university.

Nonetheless, advanced age can also bring a host of other considerations, even for presidents. Those issues echo past debates about mandatory retirement age for faculty members. They can be surprisingly hard for colleges and universities to address head-on.

From the presidents’ perspective, age-related health issues really do exist. Presidential jobs are known to be packed with travel, stress and unforeseen challenges that take a toll on even the most resilient of leaders. From a broader point of view, older cohorts of leaders tend to be less diverse than students who are currently enrolled in college, and there are concerns that those now rising through the pipeline have had their presidential options limited by older, entrenched leaders on their second or third go-rounds.

Who Wants to Take a Presidency at 70?

In light of those concerns, it’s worth asking why someone who is past the traditional retirement age would even want to go back for another stay in the fishbowl of the presidency. Those who returned for presidencies while in their 60s or 70s say they did so because they are passionate about higher education -- not because they needed a job.

“Probably for each of the individuals in the jobs, there is a different backstory,” said Crutcher. “But I would say to all of us, it’s how we are as individuals. I’d parse it as the passion for the mission.”

Crutcher did not have to take another presidency after spending 10 years leading Wheaton College in Massachusetts. He interviewed for the presidency of a symphony before realizing he didn’t feel as strongly about leading such an organization as he did about the classical music it produces. Still, he did not immediately seek another university leadership position. When a search firm called about the Richmond presidency, he initially responded with a no.

In the end, he was attracted by the chance to lead a university striving for a diverse community. Richmond’s student body has grown remarkably more diverse in the last decade. Its freshman class jumped from 11 percent students of color a decade ago to 38 percent this year, said Crutcher, who is the institution’s first black leader.

“I saw that as a real opportunity to continue to do something I’m passionate about,” he said.

Even experienced leaders can feel more comfortable in their second presidencies. Crutcher shared some insight he learned from Bacow: if, as a president, you want to be liked, buy a dog.

The lesson -- that presidents are often unpopular -- can be hard to learn in a first presidency. Experienced presidents report that it can be different the next time around.

Or, in the case of Gee, it can be different the next times around. Gee had completed six other presidencies when he was named West Virginia University’s permanent leader in 2014. He’s done multiple stints at the university.

He thinks serving as a president at the age of 74 allows him to try some ideas with urgency. He’s cognizant of the fact that his time is limited.

“I can try it without a lot of fear about what’s going to happen next,” Gee said. “Obviously, I will not be going on to any kind of a next job.”

Gee’s return to West Virginia was about feeling a sense of purpose and possibility. Some people want to move to Florida when they hit 65 years old. Others see 70 as the new 50 and want to work as long as they feel they can do a job the way they believe it needs to be done.

“I have a particular way, in terms of energy and commitment, I want to be part of the university,” Gee said. “I don’t want to have to reinvent the way that I do it. I enjoy doing it the way I want to do it.”

The Presidential Pipeline and Diversity

Research has already noted a growing preference for older, experienced presidents. It was one of the key findings from the latest version of the American College President Study from the American Council on Education, which covered years up to 2016.

The average president was 62 years old when the study came out in June. That was 10 years older than the average president’s age when the study was published for the first time 30 years ago.

A quarter of all presidents had experience in the role, ACE found. At doctorate-granting universities, like Harvard, 27 percent of presidents held a presidential or chief executive position in their most recent job -- up from 21 percent in 2011 and rebounding to about the same level seen in 2006. And 29 percent of presidents at doctorate-granting universities had held two or more presidencies during their careers, suggesting elite institutions place a premium on past presidential experience.

A preference for experienced presidents has real ramifications on diversity at the position. Older generations tended to offer fewer women and minority candidates opportunities to rise through leadership positions. As a result, colleges and universities drawn to older presidents today are hewing more closely to the model of hiring aging white men than they might otherwise.

“By prioritizing experienced presidents, colleges and universities further skew the pool of candidates toward white men, which works against efforts at diversifying the presidency,” the ACE survey found.

Such a dynamic may have been on display at Harvard, at least according to conversations playing out in public this week after Bacow was announced as the university’s next president. The news set off biting criticism -- not necessarily aimed at Bacow -- that Harvard had replaced its first woman president with its third president named Larry.

The ACE study contained another interesting wrinkle related to rising presidential age: college presidents are getting older largely because of growth in the numbers of the oldest presidents, those over 70. The share of presidents over age 60 held steady between 2011 and 2016 at 58 percent, while the share over age 70 more than doubled, from 5 percent to 11 percent.

In other words, the real graying hasn’t been driven by presidents of Bacow’s current age. It’s because of presidents who are Gee’s and Christ’s age.

Gee thinks it is important for older presidents to mentor future leaders. But he also pointed out that the presidency isn’t for everyone.

“I think we’re all discovering there are not a lot of people who want to have these jobs,” Gee said. “They are the best jobs in the country, but they are also very challenging. I think because of that a lot of people believe there’s an easier way to make a living.”

How Important Is Experience?

Regardless of whether the candidate pool has evolved, many say the characteristics sought by search committees and trustees have changed.

At a time when higher ed is challenged by shifting student demographics, financial pressures, regulation and some political hostility, colleges and universities want to hire presidents who have experience. That often means interviewing and hiring candidates who are in their 60s, said Jessica Kozloff, president and senior consultant at Academic Search.

“That old rubric of, ‘You’d better get that presidency before you hit the big six-oh,’ that’s just gone out the window, as long as everybody’s convinced this is somebody who is really coming to do the job,” she said.

Sometimes, those on search committees fear older candidates are looking for a soft landing before retirement. But it’s a sensitive subject, because search committees and boards of trustees try to stay as far away as possible from the possibility of being charged with age discrimination.

Concerns about a candidate’s age can often be assuaged through conversations about their depth of experience, energy level or planned length of stay in a position.

Questions about health are also off-limits. Health can be addressed in contracts calling for presidents to have a physical, but a candidate can’t be asked up front about their condition, said Rod McDavis, managing principal of AGB Search.

Ultimately, each board extending a hiring offer decides whether the benefits of an older, experienced president outweigh any possible drawbacks -- even if that decision isn’t openly discussed or made consciously.

“I think it’s good for higher education,” McDavis said. “I think it’s good for people who feel like they can still make contributions. Other countries across the world see the value of people who are in their 60s or 70s, and I think in America we’re just beginning to see the value.”

It should be noted that this type of conversation has played out before in higher education. When the mandatory retirement age for tenured faculty was eliminated in 1994, younger professors worried their career pathways were being blocked.

Some, however, took a longer view that may be connected to the phenomenon of older presidents today.

“It takes so long to get a Ph.D. these days -- 10 years at Columbia or Berkeley -- that people in the humanities tend to start their careers later,” Daniel Gordon, who was then a 33-year-old assistant professor of history at Harvard, told The New York Times in 1994, after federal law changed to stop mandating faculty retirement at 70 years old.

“For that reason, I'm glad about the change in the law, because I myself may not wish to retire when I'm 70,” Gordon said.

Editorial Tags: College administrationImage Source: Harvard GazetteImage Caption: Lawrence S. Bacow, 66, is Harvard's next president.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

IEEE in trouble once again for allegedly minimizing work of female historians

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 01:00

For the third time this month, scholars are questioning the integrity of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest professional organization for the advancement of technology.

Last week, scholars criticized Alexander Magoun, an outreach historian at the IEEE, for comments he made on the organization's official Twitter account about the work of a female junior scholar that he later admitted he hadn’t read. Some called the comments he made about Google search returns for “white girls” and “black girls” dismissive, inappropriate or racist.

Magoun eventually apologized, saying he was criticizing the marketing of Safiya Umoja Noble's book on how search engines reinforce racial biases, not the book itself. But then all his original tweets related to the incident -- including his apology -- disappeared from the @IEEEhistory account.

In response to academics’ questions about why IEEE’s history arm would delete the historical record of a major public relations incident, IEEE posted a tweet reiterating an earlier statement that Magoun's social media posts had been “unauthorized.” (That idea struck some as odd, since Magoun is an outreach historian at the institute.)

IEEE is aware of the series of unauthorized tweets posted by @ieeehistory that were not appropriate. Because these tweets were unauthorized, they were removed. Unfortunately, the apology that was included in the series of unauthorized tweets was removed as well. 1/2

— IEEE History Center (@IEEEhistory) February 13, 2018

The newest controversy involves allegations of plagiarism. Ahead of Valentine’s Day, IEEE’s news service, The Institute, published an article titled “Did You Know? Computer Matchmaking Started in the 1960s,” about Joan Ball, a little-known English shopkeeper who founded a matchmaking service in England and eventually the first computerized matchmaking system.

The original IEEE post referenced an article in Logic magazine, without naming its author, Marie Hicks, an assistant professor of the history of technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, who uncovered Ball’s story and wrote about in a recent book called Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing (MIT Press).

Beyond criticizing the article for failing to name Hicks and note her original work on Ball, readers of the IEEE piece familiar with Hicks’s research also said the writing itself sounded familiar.

For example, here’s what Hicks wrote in Logic: “A ‘people person’ and quick study when it came to character, [Ball] found that when trying to make matches you didn't ask people what they wanted in another person -- you asked them what they didn't want [emphasis hers]. The rest was negotiable. Within a few years, Joan decided to start her own marriage bureau.”

And here’s what the IEEE piece said: “Ball began asking clients what they didn’t [emphasis IEEE's] want in a partner -- assuming the rest was negotiable -- and had them write down their responses in a standardized way that could be compared and quantified. In 1964 she helped design the first computerized matchmaking system.”

Hicks said Thursday that she was alerted to the IEEE piece by someone who follows her work. “It looked like plagiarism of my ideas and possibly text,” she said. “The original version of the article never referred to me by name, never quoted me even though it used words from my article in almost the same exact phrasing, and never credited me with uncovering this story through my 2016 research written up for the open access media studies journal Ada.”

Why does it matter? Before that article, Hicks said, “very few people, other than Ball herself, knew about her trailblazing role in computer dating, and it was not widely acknowledged -- in fact it was not it acknowledged anywhere that I could find, other than in her own memoir -- that she was the first person to create a successful computer dating business in either the U.S. or [Great Britain].”

People tend to think it was the Operation Match men from Harvard University or others who were the first in the business, Hicks said. Moreover, Ball didn’t “help” set up her own computer service, as is stated in IEEE -- she founded it outright.

“So it's the worst of both worlds,” Hicks said. “My research gets lifted but also gets made inaccurate in the process.”

Ben Tarnoff, an editor at Logic, agreed.

This article is lifted entirely from a @logic_magazine piece by @histoftech and never once mentions Mar's name. That piece draws on years of original scholarly work by Mar. I know it's hard out there for content creators, but this is very uncool. https://t.co/EiDb7WCpTC

— Ben Tarnoff (@bentarnoff) February 14, 2018

The author of the IEEE article, Amanda Davis, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Monika Stickel, an IEEE spokesperson, defended Davis's work, saying that IEEE has a “strict editorial policy and we take any violation seriously.” In this case, she said, IEEE’s editorial policies were followed and the article is “in compliance.”

One of the sources cited in the article -- presumably Hicks -- “reached out and requested a more significant attribution, which IEEE gladly provided,” Stickel added via email.

The IEEE article now states Hicks’s name but doesn’t note the significance of her research. 

Sarah T. Roberts, an assistant professor of information studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was following the debate online, said she remained concerned about the article because it “follows a disturbing trend of the work of women historians being inappropriately rewritten without attribution due.”

Computing history goes well beyond the actual writeup of the findings and involves primary research in the field, archives, sites or interviews, she said. “The true test is to the ask the reappropriating author, ‘Where did you find your evidence?’ and ‘How did you come to your conclusions?’”

It’s doubtful that IEEE would be able to answer those questions, Roberts said.

Other scholars used the incident as a teaching moment on the value of citations.

Read thread! For those in #evm441 writing blog posts, take special note of this when you write your own posts & how you may or may not be properly attributing someone’s work!! VERY IMPORTANT! (For anyone, really) #plagiarism #writing https://t.co/mw4ehZRXz7

— Elaine Venter (@el_venter) February 15, 2018

More generally, Roberts said that women and other historically marginalized groups whose “pathbreaking scholarship and very identities challenge the status quo find themselves frequently in the multiple binds of having their contributions minimized -- unless and until that work attains a certain popular acceptance.”

And even then, she said, it runs the risk of having its origins erased “while being revived into popular consciousness as if it had always been known and therefore is up for grabs for anyone to appropriate.”

Saying she was “frustrated and distraught,” Roberts said it “hasn’t been a good few weeks for women scholars and the IEEE. I’m trying to figure out what my takeaway from all of this should be.”

“Here we are again,” she added.

ResearchFacultyEditorial Tags: HistoryInformation systems/technologyResearchTechnologyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

Senate Democrats want Public Service Loan Forgiveness fix in budget agreement

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 01:00

Tucked into last week's U.S. Senate budget deal was $4 billion for student-centered programs that aid "college completion and affordability."

Congressional leaders who struck the deal kept that language vague to avoid another prolonged government shutdown. As result, it's up to House and Senate appropriators to determine the specific uses for that money.

A summary document describing the funding -- it mentions steering the money toward programs "that help police officers, teachers and firefighters" -- hints that one specific intended purpose could be a fix for eligibility issues encountered by borrowers expecting to get Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

But the amount needed to make that fix is unclear, and various higher education groups are offering their own ideas for how the funds should be spent.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, has made oversight of student loan servicers a top priority. Along with Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, she's pushed for federal money to be spent on addressing eligibility issues for borrowers who expected to qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program but did not, she said, because of poor servicing and other bureaucratic obstacles.

“Congress promised nurses, teachers, police officers and other public servants a future without crushing student loans. Bad loan servicing, program technicalities and bureaucratic nonsense are no excuse for going back on our commitment,” Warren said in a written statement. “I’m going to keep working to make sure funding I fought for in the budget is used to honor that promise.”

The U.S. Department of Education said this week that, as of last month, it had received about 7,500 applications from borrowers for the forgiveness program. But fewer than 1,000 borrowers are expected to be eligible for loan discharge this fiscal year, in part because of the limited number of income-based repayment programs available in the early years of the program -- a requirement to make qualifying payments -- and the lengthy 10-year timeline to become eligible for loan forgiveness.

Well before the first students formally sought the relief on their loan debt, higher ed groups expressed concern about the number of borrowers who would actually qualify this year. Others have said subpar guidance from servicers and capriciousness by the department have created doubt among borrowers who for years expected to qualify.

The American Bar Association filed a lawsuit against the department in 2016 over the denial of PSLF to several attorneys. ABA argued that the borrowers relied on information from their loan servicer and "had the rug pulled out from under them" when the department said their employers did not qualify for the program.

It's those kinds of eligibility issues that Warren has made a priority of addressing, although she's talked about public-sector workers like teachers and police officers more often than the lawyers represented by ABA.

Other Options for the Money

Sen. Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat who serves as ranking member on the appropriations subcommittee for education spending, said in a written statement that she is pleased GOP members have agreed to new federal investments "to get students and borrowers much-needed relief." 

"Students should be able to earn a college degree -- especially low-income students and those who have dedicated their careers to public service, including teachers and first responders -- without crushing financial burden," she said. "This budget deal is a step in the right direction to addressing our country’s massive student debt crisis, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to ensure we’re spending this money in the smartest way possible to truly help struggling students."

Appropriators will have a number of other higher ed priorities to juggle as they decide where to spend the funds before a March 23 deadline and how much money, if any, goes to Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Several advocacy groups said new funding for higher education should go to traditional priorities like a more generous Pell Grant, which for the 2017-18 academic year topped out with a maximum award amount of $5,920. Jessica Thompson, policy and research director at the Institute for College Access and Success, said the group is focused on ensuring that Congress revisits prior proposals in the House and Senate to cut money from the Pell Grant reserve fund. The group is also pushing for an increase of $100 for the maximum Pell Grant, a measure Senate appropriators agreed to last fall.

"A modest yet meaningful one-time increase will help offset -- for at least one year -- the loss of the grant’s annual inflation adjustment after this year," she said. "While we are still thinking through the many productive ways Congress could invest that money, we commend leaders in both the House and Senate for recognizing the urgent need for new funding to help struggling students better afford college or more effectively manage their debt."

Mamie Voight, vice president of policy research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, also backs a Pell increase. But she said the funding is an opportunity to help students in new ways.

"Instead of using new funds only to reverse a prior rescission to Pell Grant program funds," she said, "lawmakers should keep Pell money for Pell and increase the buying power of this cornerstone of federal student aid."

Others have floated ideas about how Congress could amplify new funding by using it as an incentive for additional state support of public colleges.

"You could use it to increase the Pell Grant, or to index the Pell Grant to inflation for a couple of years. Or you could use it some other way, for some version of need-based or campus-based aid," said Clare McCann, deputy director of higher education policy at New America. "Or you could also invest in a state-federal partnership, to get some ripple effects from the additional funding."

David Deming, a professor of education and economics at Harvard University, suggested in a blog post this week that Congress make grants directly to institutions and require matching state funding. Such a measure, he wrote, would help push back on a trend over the last decade in which state investment in higher education has declined even as federal support has grown in the form of direct financial aid to students.

Deming said using the $4 billion to fund a matching grant program could provide a template for a successful national program. 

"Ideally a smaller matching grant program could act as a pilot -- perhaps to collect evidence on how the matching funds get spent and what (if any) implementation problems arise," he said in an email.

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Conference shows higher education's many tensions and challenges

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 01:00

WASHINGTON -- The splay of fault lines running through nearly every facet of higher education widens in sometimes unexpected places.

Yes, there are the stalwart tensions: liberal arts versus job training, free speech versus inclusive campuses, public institutions versus privates, colleges versus regulation. Then there are the less obvious, yet still very real divides: educating adult students versus traditional 18- to 22-year-olds, giving colleges more public funding versus demanding they control costs.

Underneath it all are the esoteric issues, like the gulf between the high-quality education colleges and universities believe they are imparting to students and what many companies' chief executive officers think are poorly prepared graduates entering the work force.

Issues like the hazy gulf between higher education's perception of itself and reality.

Numerous fault lines came into focus Thursday during a series of sessions at “Higher Ed in an Era of Heightened Skepticism,” the first installment in Inside Higher Ed's 2018 leadership series. In both on- and off-the-record discussions, speakers covered public confidence in higher education, leadership, branding, strategy and possible paths forward.

Some of the tensions discussed have been exposed by shifting demographics, as populations in many parts of the country grow more diverse. Others have been exposed by economics, as income inequality grows and state budgets continue to tighten.

Politics hung heavy over most conversations. And rising tension between conservatives and higher education proved to be of great concern.

Also evident was the aftermath of the populist wave that lifted Donald Trump to the presidency. It left some speakers obviously leery of the new-look Republican party and others chiding blue lines of academics on the nation's coasts who dismiss the great red swaths in its middle. Still others railed against the excesses of Ivy League spending.

Dean Zerbe was senior counsel to the U.S. Senate's finance committee when Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, scrutinized wealthy university endowments a decade ago. He characterized a new tax law that targets large university endowments as a case of colleges and universities resisting reasonable attempts to change their behavior for so long that Congress ultimately acted in spite of their protests.

Zerbe also took aim at what he sees as a broader culture of not controlling costs.

“You all can say, ‘We’re trying,’” he said. “Stop. Stop. You've been trying for years. You've got to make improvements. You've got to make them now, today.”

He was far from the only one criticizing costs -- and the prices students pay for postsecondary education.

Zakiya Smith, strategy director for finance and federal policy at the Lumina Foundation and a former Obama administration official, pointed to problems with the way Americans view higher ed.

“They think they need it,” she said. “They aspire to it, and they are frustrated by how expensive it is and how unattainable it can seem.”

With the perception of higher ed such a focus, it might have been tempting to call for a branding campaign to wash away criticism. But the idea that such an effort is possible without changes in behavior was ultimately rejected.

“To think that we can have a better brand if we don't change is ridiculous,” said Elizabeth Johnson, a partner at SimpsonScarborough, a higher education marketing firm. “It's one of the real problems. Higher education has been so slow, so slow like a snail, to adopt even the basic principles of marketing and branding.”

In spite of the challenges, some tried to strike more optimistic chords. Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University, called for meeting students' needs, building a curriculum based on outcomes and delivering when and where education is needed. To paraphrase, higher ed should be much, much more flexible.

“That's a new world for us, but the world needs us,” he said.

If a single theme can be drawn from the many tensions discussed Thursday, it is that in a rapidly evolving world, nearly everything in higher education is unsettled. If one question can capture them all, it is whether higher ed, long organized to be insulated from the whims of the outside world, can adapt fast enough to its remarkable new demands.

The longer the question goes unanswered, the more the fault lines seem to spread.

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