Inside Higher Ed

Professor says AU Cairo wronged him in canceling his chair after he resisted donor's demands

4 hours 10 min ago

A professor at the American University in Cairo is in a dispute with the university over the cancellation of his endowed chair after, he says, he refused to accede to the requests of the original donor’s son that he send him lectures in advance and that he encourage his non-Muslim students to convert to Islam.

Adam Duker came to AUC in fall 2016 fresh out of graduate school, after earning a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame, to accept a position as an assistant professor and the Abdulhadi H. Taher Chair in Comparative Religions. After the provost informed him in July 2017 that the university would no longer fund the chair at the donor's request, Duker has continued to use the Abdulhadi H. Taher chair title, defying senior administrators’ demands that he stop.

In April, Duker submitted a letter of resignation, saying in his letter that the university has been in breach of his contract since July 2017 by denying him the title included in his contract and retaliating against him for his refusal to stop using it.

In December, Duker was accused by his dean of a “prima facia [sic] case of faculty misconduct” for continuing to use the endowed chair title “despite clear and repeated instructions and requests to the contrary.”

The University Senate’s grievance committee determined that Duker did not commit faculty misconduct, and instead expressed its concern that the provost unilaterally changed Duker’s title without providing “an alternative and satisfactory option that would compensate him for being stripped of his hard-earned title.” The grievance committee also registered its concern “that the donor was allowed to interfere in academic matters and influence the provost’s decision to strip Dr. Duker of his title.”

It is common for colleges and universities that seek endowed chairs to specify the general topics of the chairs with donors, and to keep donors and their families engaged with the college after the gift is given. But donors of endowed chairs are not typically allowed to oversee a professor's work or cancel a chair if they disapprove. Typically, endowed chairs are just that -- endowed -- and so once set up cannot be revoked.

In written answers to questions provided by an AUC spokeswoman, AUC says that the funding for the chair was not withdrawn but that it was redirected at the donor's request to fund scholarships.

"No member of AUC's faculty or administration has interfered at any time or in any manner with the complainant's courses, curriculum, teaching, outside activities or freedom of expression," the university said. "AUC required him to desist from using the name of the deceased donor of the funds that originally had supported his work, and AUC stepped in to provide full direct funding for that work when we redirected the original funding to scholarships. Until the complainant's unsolicited and voluntary resignation in 2019, he has continued to enjoy his full rights and privileges as a faculty member. The university is deeply committed to religious and academic freedom and has stayed true to those values."

Duker maintains that AUC, a nonsectarian university with American accreditation that receives funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, infringed his religious and academic freedom by revoking his chair title at the donor's request.

“It is illegal for an academic institution receiving U.S. taxpayer money to strip a professor of his position because a Saudi billionaire objected to his refusal to favor Islam over other religions,” Duker wrote in his letter of resignation.

Donor Demands

The Abdulhadi H. Taher Chair in Comparative Religions was established in 2002 by a Saudi Arabian businessman of that name who has since died. Duker was the fifth professor to hold the chair, and he says he came to AUC in large part because of the prestige of holding an endowed professorship and the academic doors it would open for him.

“My research doesn’t pertain at all to the Arab world,” Duker says. “I work on the French wars of religion in the 16th century; there was no obvious research advantage to me coming to Egypt. The two major factors were the endowed chair and the opportunity to build a comparative religions and comparative religious history program at the most prestigious university in the Muslim-majority world.”

Within his first year of arriving at AUC, Duker says he was asked by AUC president Francis J. Ricciardone to travel to California to meet with the son of the donor, Tarek Taher, at his home in Malibu, Calif. They met in January of 2017. During that meeting, Duker says, Taher expressed concerns that the chair had previously been vacant -- it was vacant for one year before Duker’s arrival -- and made multiple demands on his teaching that were inappropriate.

“He demanded that I show him all of my lectures in advance before I give the lectures so that he be allowed to preapprove and vet my lectures. I told him he’s always welcome in my classroom, if ever he would like to stop by, but no, I wouldn’t be sending my lectures in advance,” Duker recalls.

“He demanded that I discontinue teaching Hinduism and Buddhism, that I could only teach the Abrahamic religions, and of the Abrahamic religions, I can only teach Judaism and Christianity in such a way as to show the superiority of Islam,” Duker says.

Duker says the donor was upset to learn Duker was exposing his students to the Jewish community in Cairo. “I was not allowed to expose my students to living Jews, to Jewish sites, such as synagogues, cemeteries, and most importantly he was concerned that I never take my students to Israel,” Duker says.

“He insisted that I teach a course on the truth of the miracles of the Quran. He wanted me to teach that the miracles of the Quran are true and provide evidence for that,” Duker continues.

“He also made it very clear that he wanted me to use my authority as a professor and my position as chair to encourage any non-Muslim students that I have to convert to Islam.”

In addition, Duker said, Taher objected to the English translation of the Quran he used in his class -- an Oxford University Press translation -- because it translated “Allah” as “God” and, in his view, took Allah out of the Quran.

Taher did not respond to requests for comment. Inside Higher Ed sent Taher multiple emails as well as a Facebook message and made several calls to a phone number that Duker said was valid at the time of the January 2017 visit (there was no answer and the voice-mail box was full; text messages sent to the number were undeliverable). Inside Higher Ed also sent an email to Taher's family company requesting that it be forwarded.

Duker says he tried to gently sidestep Taher’s requests and objections. “I did tell him he’s welcome to my classroom any time to attend, or if he ever wants a platform to explain why his family wants to invest in religious education, I would be happy to have him speak in my class or give a guest lecture. I wanted to accommodate him if I could, but the things he was asking for were so far out there that it would be a violation of my professional responsibilities to do that,” he says.

Duker says that despite the demands, the meeting ended on a positive note, “with kisses and hugs all around.” He returned to Cairo and kept in touch with Taher, even extending an invitation to his wedding.

Six months later, the following July, he was surprised to receive an email from the provost, Ehab Abdel-Rahman, saying that after numerous conversations, Taher “has formally requested that he no longer wants the Abdulhadi Taher Endowed Professorship in Comparative Religions. To honor his request, we will stop funding of that professorship as of July 1, 2017 … Going forward, kindly remove any reference to this endowed professorship. This may include but not limited to removing reference to it on websites, email signature, business cards, etc.”

In a subsequent email, shared with Inside Higher Ed, the provost said that Taher “clearly mentioned that he does not want his family name to be associated with this professorship … As of your contract, you will remain a faculty member in AUC but you are no longer the Abdulhadi H. Taher Chair of Comparative Religions as this professorship no longer exists.”

Contractual Obligations

It is not clear what the precise terms of the original gift agreement were, and Duker says he has not seen it. In response to a question about whether the terms of the agreement allow a donor -- or an heir to the donor -- to revoke the gift or to change its purpose, AUC said that "AUC policy, acting under law, permits the university from time to time to adjust the terms of gifts by donors, whether living or deceased, striving always to keep faith with the donors' original intent under the changing circumstances of a dynamic world."

Asked what concerns Taher had expressed to the university in asking for the revocation of the chair -- and what AUC administrators' responses to those concerns were -- the university responded, "The heir to the original donor may respond for himself to the public allegations of the complainant. The representations he made directly to us were substantially different from the core allegations made publicly by the complainant. The heir immediately and without challenge accepted that in accordance with our rigorously nondenominational university's commitment to academic and religious freedom, we would continue not only the employment of the complainant, but also the full content of his course and associated programs."

Duker’s position was that even if Taher requested that he no longer be called the Taher chair, the university couldn't grant the request without his consent because AUC had a contractual obligation to him. In an Oct. 20 email outlining his position, he said that he was willing to negotiate another title, but that would “require the university to either grant me a new nonrevocable endowed chair, provide financial compensation for the Taher title or buy me out of my contract.”

Duker says that instead of negotiating, AUC has retaliated against him for continuing to use the title, both in the form of the formal charge of faculty misconduct and in the form of legal threats. In February he received an email from AUC’s attorney, Sunanda K. Holmes, accusing him of being in breach of contract for continuing to use the Taher chair title. Holmes wrote, "Your continuous demands and threats and the continuous use of this title is causing financial and reputational damage to AUC, for which we intend to hold you fully liable under the law."

Duker says that without the chair there is technically no comparative religions program at AUC. "The simple fact is if there is no chair, there is no program -- then I’m just a history professor," Duker says. "I didn’t come here to be a history professor. I came here to teach Egyptian students to understand different religions."

Pascale Ghazaleh, the chair of the history department, Duker’s departmental home, says the situation amounts to a contractual dispute rather than a situation in which Duker's academic freedom is being violated.

“It’s unfortunate that the chair was canceled and it would have been wise of the university administration to renegotiate his contract with him, but that is not the same thing as persecution or violating academic freedoms,” Ghazaleh says.

“He wasn’t pressured to do anything,” Ghazaleh adds. “If you work anywhere and your job is canceled, I guess you could say it’s unjust in the greater scheme of things, but that doesn’t mean you’re being persecuted. No one asked him to publish anything that was different than what he was working on. Maybe the donor said, ‘this is what I want the chair’s purpose to be,’ but to my knowledge at no point was there actual pressure on Adam to conform to that.”

A Tense Environment

Duker describes a hostile environment for him at AUC. He has clashed both with senior administrators and with colleagues in his department during his three-year tenure at AUC.

His third-year review report -- he shared a copy with Inside Higher Ed with the caveat that had abridged the document to delete confidential student information but had not added anything -- is mixed. It says that his student evaluations over all are "very positive" and adds "there is little doubt that Dr. Duker is a devoted and knowledgeable instructor, able to communicate even the most sophisticated concepts in his field effectively to his students." But the report cites conflicts between Duker and his current and former department chairs and colleagues and characterizes him as having a "belligerent manner and assumption of entitlement."

The report also discusses Duker’s involvement advocating for religious minorities in Egypt, including his involvement with the Mustard Seeds Foundation, a Christian organization. “While faculty members are of course free to exercise their freedom of belief and indeed to engage in political activity if they so choose, Dr. Duker is perhaps unaware of the vulnerability of the communities he purports to defend, and the grave damage he can do them,” the third-year review report states. “This is particularly so in an authoritarian and xenophobic political context, in which Western Europeans and North Americans in particular have been associated in the past with colonial interference and missionary work. Given AUC’s place in Egyptian society, Dr. Duker’s claims of advocacy could harm far more than they will help -- not only the institution that employs him, but also those he purports to defend.”

Duker said in written response to the review that there is “a demonstrated religious and political bias” against him. He wrote that relations with several department faculty members and staff, including Ghazaleh, soured after he requested leave to attend his brother's wedding in Israel (Ghazaleh denies this was the source of any hostility, saying she only learned Duker had a brother in Israel after he accused her of being hostile to him because of it). He wrote that while there have been tensions around his refusal to accept the revocation of the chair, he has good relations with professors from other departments and with students, "who have supported me in the defense of my contract and of religious and academic liberty."

Duker also objected to the review’s description of his work with religious minorities and described the association with missionaries and colonialists as “offensive and unprofessional.”

“The leaders of the minority faith communities with whom I work certainly do not perceive me as doing more harm than good,” he wrote.

Duker says he no longer feels safe in Egypt. On a student field trip to a synagogue last fall, he was circled by police and interrogated by an official who claimed to be from the Ministry of Antiquities but who he suspects may have been from State Security (Duker says the official knew his phone number and the names of family members and mentioned the Tahers several times).

“It’s in our judgment not safe for us to be here,” he says of his family. “When I was just a single professor, that was one thing, but now that I have a wife and a son, we need to be in position where we don’t have these sorts of threats, where my work life isn’t clouded.”

He is leaving Egypt this weekend, and his last official day at AUC is Oct. 2, the day incomplete grades are due for the spring semester. “I was pretty sure that if I continue to do this that I was going to be fired or arrested,” Duker says of his decision to resign. “I didn't think this would be a long-term position once the president and provost and the dean made the decision to submit to the will of Tarek Taher.”

Duker thinks it is a shame, because the work he came to Egypt to do is so important.

“I came here to do the difficult work of teaching Muslim students how to understand Christians on the terms of Christianity, how to understand Jews on the terms of Judaism, how to understand Hindus on the terms of Hinduism, how to understand Buddhists on the terms of Buddhism,” he says. “This is incredibly important work, and no one is doing it.”

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University of St. Thomas kicked out of sports league after winning too many games

4 hours 10 min ago

The decision raised eyebrows among athletics pundits: a conference forcing out one of its member institutions over issues of “competitive parity.” Translation: the University of St. Thomas, a Roman Catholic college in Minnesota, was winning too much for its peers’ liking.

But St. Thomas’s “involuntary” separation from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference speaks to problems plaguing the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division III that harken back a decade. Then, Division III institutions faced a schism: the small private colleges that traditionally dominated the division versus relative newcomers, which were often larger, more affluent institutions, some of which were interested in models akin to the upper leagues and doing away with athletic scholarship bans in Division III.

Dan McKane, commissioner of the MIAC, said the conference presidents felt that they and St. Thomas had clashing “philosophies” around athletics, which meant something different depending on which administrator you talked to. He said, though, that the conflict was similar to the one from 10 years ago.

“In Division III, there are more 450 institutions that don’t all look alike,” McKane said. “Every school has their own advantages. I think through the lens of our presidents, [St. Thomas’s] advantages were too great.”

St. Thomas was a charter member of the MIAC, helping found the conference in 1920. Rumblings about the university leaving began a long time ago, but presidents more formally started discussing the idea about two years ago, McKane said.

The debate largely centered around St. Thomas’s enrollment of roughly 6,200 undergraduate students, double many MIAC institutions, which many felt was unfair.

All 13 members of the MIAC are private colleges in Minnesota. In the last several years, St. Thomas “made some great choices,” said McKane -- investing money in athletics facilities and bringing in high-caliber coaches. The most significant of these hires was in 2008 with the football coach, Glenn Caruso, who has led the team to six conference titles and participation in two national championship games.

The Tommies’ football prowess did not go unnoticed, particularly after a brutal game in 2017, when St. Thomas trounced St. Olaf College, 97-0. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that this match was a catalyst for trying to kick out the university.

Being larger than the other MIAC members (with more money) meant that St. Thomas could attract physically stronger, more talented football players -- to the point that some other presidents felt that the “the safety and well-being” of their teams were jeopardized, McKane said.

The St. Thomas men’s and women’s basketball teams, and the volleyball and softball teams, have also dominated the conference, winning more league championships than any other MIAC institution. St. Thomas won 47 percent of all MIAC championships -- both team and individual sports -- from 2003 to 2018.

St. Thomas wanted to stay. President Julie H. Sullivan met with other conference administrators, trying to persuade them that St. Thomas best fit in the MIAC. Her appeals didn’t work. Though an official vote never took place to remove it, St. Thomas was booted out, officials announced Wednesday.

“While this decision is extremely disappointing, we will continue to prioritize the welfare and overall experience of our student athletes,” Sullivan said in a statement. “They embrace and represent both academic and athletic excellence and are important contributors to our university’s culture. Additionally, our coaches share the values of advancing comprehensive excellence and are among the best in the country.”

Institutions would have left the conference en masse had St. Thomas not.

Nine institutions were needed to formally vote to remove St. Thomas, but most of them threatened to break off and form their own league, leaving three or four colleges with less money and resources to fend for themselves. St. Thomas administrators essentially saved the conference by agreeing to the other presidents’ demands.

“It does look wonky, but knowing the whole background, institutions need to find a good fit,” McKane said. “We want to make sure that the institutions that we’re with can find success. Ultimately that was the presidents’ goal. And clearly this does look very off, but that was not the intention.”

St. Thomas will be allowed to play in the MIAC through spring 2021. It did not break any rules and leaves the conference in good standing, the MIAC said in a statement.

The university now must find a new conference or play independently, which would make scheduling difficult. If it remains in Division III, a likely home would be the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which only has Wisconsin institutions but does not forbid out-of-state institutions from joining.

Administrators at St. Thomas do not favor joining Division II or Division I -- the jump to Division I would be particularly costly. An institution must stay in Division II for five years before even attempting to move to Division I.

Dan Dutcher, vice president for Division III, forwarded a request for comment to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which did not respond.

St. Thomas’s dilemma recalls the split 10 years ago in Division III, because at the time, some institutions wanted to break off and create a Division IV, or a subdivision with a lesser designation.

Division III institutions were already diverse in terms of enrollment, with some universities having 400 undergraduates and some having up to 40,000 at the time. And while Division III colleges can’t offer athletic scholarships, they can extend merit-based scholarships, which have been used to lure athletes to certain institutions. Some Division III colleges have been accused of bending the rules by offering athletes large merit-based scholarships, which deepens the divides between the haves and have-nots among Division III institutions.

Many institutions at the time did not want to be associated with a Division IV because Division III is already considered less prestigious than the upper two divisions, and the shift would likely have made recruitment even harder for less wealthy institutions.

“The larger schools, generally among the newest to the division, wanted to offer athletic scholarships and also to do more to emphasize athletic competition, moving closer to the DI approach,” said Josephine R. Potuto, former member of the NCAA Division I infractions committee and Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. “The smaller schools wanted to retain what they saw as an integrative model of academics and athletics -- athletics offered because of the benefit to students from participation and not to attract fans and donors and etc.”

John Thelin, professor of higher education and public policy in the University of Kentucky College of Education, said that some ambitious small colleges have tried joining the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which does allow its institutions to have athletic scholarships

“What a shame that such a historic conference has this problem,” Thelin said.

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LSU ends Elsevier bundled journal subscription

4 hours 10 min ago

Louisiana State University will terminate its “big deal” with publisher Elsevier at the end of this year, joining the growing list of U.S. institutions that have recently decided not to renew their bundled journal subscription deals with the publisher.

LSU is just the latest of several institutions, including the University of California system, Temple University and Florida State University, to announce its intentions to end its business relationship with Elsevier in the last two years.

“For decades, LSU has subscribed to a package of some 1,800 electronic journal titles from Elsevier,” Stacia Haynie, LSU's provost, said in a statement Monday. But “dramatic increases” in subscription costs have made the deal unsustainable, she said.

Renewing LSU’s current five-year contract, which is due to end in six months’ time, would cost the institution at least $2 million annually, said Haynie. Instead, the institution will allocate $1 million to subscribe individually to a smaller number of Elsevier journals on a one-year contract basis.

To access journals LSU no longer subscribes to, the library will offer two options -- an interlibrary loan service that takes about 24 hours and incurs no cost to the library, or an expedited delivery service called Reprints Desk, which takes about two hours and costs the library a fee. The fee is less than what it would cost to purchase the journal article from the publisher directly, which is typically around $30, said Stanley Wilder, dean of LSU libraries.

LSU’s Faculty Senate approved a resolution recommending the cancellation of the subscription package in April. Though the approval was near unanimous, with just one faculty member voting against it, the meeting minutes illustrate that several faculty members have concerns about how the process will be managed. Some faculty members questioned how the library would cope with more interlibrary loan requests and complained that a 24-hour wait could feel like “a lifetime” to busy academics. Others asked for details on how the library will decide which journals to subscribe to, and which not.

Wilder said he is prepared to hire more staff to handle interlibrary loan requests. Over the next six months, the library will be working with faculty to assess to which Elsevier journal titles it should continue to subscribe.

Unlike the University of California system and several European countries that also have recently canceled their Elsevier deals, LSU is not trying to make a point about open access, Wilder said. LSU simply doesn’t have the leverage to try to change the scholarly publishing landscape, he said.

“LSU is not the UC system. We’re not Germany or Hungary trying to break away from the big deal,” he said. “LSU is tiny in comparison.”

Wilder said the decision not to renew the big deal with Elsevier comes down to cost; the Elsevier deal currently accounts for almost a third of the library’s annual $6 million budget.

“We’ve reached a point where our serial expenditures are just not sustainable,” he said.

With subscription costs increasing annually by 5 percent, the library has to find an extra $300,000 in new funding each year.

“I’ve been asked why I don’t just ask for more money, and I’ve explained that the issue is not that LSU administrators are reluctant to support collections,” he said. “This is an unsustainable financial model that has to be brought under control.”

Wilder said he purposefully avoided getting into a lengthy negotiation with Elsevier over the bundled subscription.

“We know what to expect out of negotiations -- nobody gets to where they want to go,” he said. “I didn’t see a way out of our situation through the negotiation of a price reduction.”

Tom Reller, vice president of global communication at Elsevier, said the company is willing to offer universities flexible subscription options.

“University strategic objectives change and customers sometimes need to reallocate their funds, so Elsevier provides different options for its customers, including all-access options as well as title-by-title options that provide customers flexibility to choose the most appropriate titles for their collections,” he said in an emailed statement. “We value LSU’s investment in our services and look forward to working with them on the options that best meet the balance of their collection needs and costs.”

Though staff at the LSU library have been working hard to keep faculty members informed of potential changes, Wilder said there are still members of the campus that may be unaware of what is happening.

“We’ve been reaching out to all sorts of LSU departments, attending meetings, having lots of conversations, by phone, email and in person,” he said. “But we still assume the vast majority of faculty don’t yet know. It’s just hard to reach people.”

Wilder said increased press coverage of the scholarly publishing landscape over the past year due to several high-profile cancellations has helped to make faculty members more aware of the issues the library is facing. And many faculty members have a very sophisticated understanding of the scholarly publishing landscape as a result and are largely supportive of the decision to end the subscription deal.

“There were plenty of concerns raised, and almost without exception, they were legitimate and reasonable,” he said. “They were also easily answerable.”

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Authors discuss their new book on 'moral mess of higher education'

4 hours 10 min ago

A new book about higher education spares no players in academe today. The book criticizes administrators as wasteful, professors as more concerned about their own disciplines than student needs and students for cheating. Yes, Cracks in the Ivory Tower: The Moral Mess of Higher Education (Oxford University Press) likely will anger many Inside Higher Ed readers, even if different chapters may anger different readers.

The authors are Jason Brennan, the Flanagan Family Professor at Georgetown University, and Phillip W. Magness, senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research.

They responded via email to questions about their book.

Q: Your book criticizes many players in higher ed as responding to the wrong incentives. Let's start with administrators -- what do you see as the major flaw in their thinking?

A: Most administrators, we think, care about their jobs and the purpose they serve. Nevertheless, they face a common incentive problem.

Any given administrative unit has a clear sense of what it’s doing but only a vague sense of what else the university does. If administrators had purely altruistic motives, they would still have limited knowledge. They’d have an incentive to increase their budget, add new members and expand their mission. They would see the good they do, but they wouldn’t easily see the opportunity cost of such expansion -- the way it drives up costs for students or comes at the expense of other valuable pursuits. Since university resources are scarce, any money spent by one administrative unit must come from somewhere, and that means less money to do other things. But in real life, administrators are normal people. Like most people, they are predominantly if not entirely selfish. Many work in fields where it’s difficult to measure their output or get a clear sense of their value added. For any given administrator, the easiest ways to justify a salary increase, a promotion and/or increased status for yourself is to a) add additional staff beneath you, b) expand the kinds of things you and your office work on, and c) try to be as busy as possible. The same goes for entire units, which have an incentive to maximize their discretionary budget.

So every administrator and every unit has a selfish incentive to add people, activities and work. Since others pay the costs, they have little incentive to engage in cost-benefit analysis -- that is, to ask whether the marginal value of what they do is higher than the marginal value of the resources they consume to do it.

The result: the total number of full-time faculty at American universities has essentially doubled since the mid-1970s, but administrators have quadrupled in the same period. Today, there are more nonexecutive administrators in higher ed than faculty …

Q: Your book says universities are admitting too many Ph.D. students. Why do you think this is?

A: Everyone likes to blame the poor state of the academic job market -- especially in the humanities -- on alleged cuts to faculty lines … The problem is not that humanities jobs are disappearing, but that many academic fields are graduating new Ph.D.s even faster than their full-time job market grows.

U.S. Department of Education data (see, e.g., IPEDS tables 315.20 and equivalent in earlier reports) show that the total number of tenure-track assistant professors in four-year colleges has grown steadily since 2002, and is keeping pace with student enrollment … Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the total number of humanities professors (excluding part-timers) has not only increased by about 60,000 between 2000 and 2015, but that humanities professorship employment grew faster than any other field except all the health sciences.

The annual Survey of Earned Doctorates shows a similar pattern. In 2015, the humanities reported 1,383 full-time hires among newly minted Ph.D.s. The social sciences showed 1,215 hires (excluding psychology, which is sometimes categorized as a preprofessional discipline); life and agricultural sciences posted 920; math and computer science posted 441; engineering posted 399; and physical sciences posted 246 faculty commitments from the newest class of Ph.D. students …

The real problem is that while the humanities jobs are growing, Department of Education and other data sources show that the rate at which humanities departments graduate new Ph.D.s is even faster. So, the job market “shortage” is really job market glut of our own creation.

Both administrators and faculty have perverse selfish incentives to churn out Ph.D.s. (For example, professors in doctoral programs get free grading, higher salaries and more prestige.)

Q: Your book accuses professors of using general education as a tool to drive enrollments in certain disciplines. Isn't it possible that faculty members genuinely believe that a degree should be accompanied by more than the major, and that general education prepares a student for the future?

A: We believe that all college graduates should have a wide range of skills and knowledge not captured by any one major. But, unfortunately, empirical work shows gen eds don’t deliver the promised skills or knowledge. Most students do not gain any significant increase in their soft skills such as critical thinking or writing ability from gen eds -- and they generally become worse at mathematics unless they actively study it in their majors. Students forget most of what they learn outside of the narrow areas of their majors. Students don’t learn how to transfer their knowledge. College education falls far short of what most academics, including we, want it to achieve.

If faculty were genuinely interested in educating students, they’d pay great attention to work in educational psychology. They’d want to test to see what works and what doesn't, and they’d modify their methods accordingly. But most don’t do that. They just do the same old thing everyone’s done since the dawn of time, and they either yawn or get mad when you show them the scary studies saying it fails.

We also found that the more financially insecure a department is -- e.g., by having a high faculty-to-major ratio, declining enrollments, a bad job market or few opportunities for outside grants and revenue sources -- the more often its classes seem to appear as gen-ed requirements. Also, mandatory gen-ed credits have gotten more stringent over the years -- especially in writing composition, foreign languages and the “first-year experience” classes that many universities now require. Keep in mind that in most universities, the more butts in seats, the more money your department gets. If you can’t get volunteers to take your classes, you can always force students to take the classes instead and say it’s for their own good. It’s also pretty easy to convince yourself it really is for their own good.

A learning objective that looks good on paper ends up actually becoming a way to prop up departments that need enrollment, even though students are not learning much in their courses. And the students -- or others -- end up footing the bill through tuition payments on a largely ineffective product.

Q: Many of your criticisms seem to apply to institutions that have lots of money, many students, many programs, etc. I imagine a professor at a community college, or an adjunct or someone who works at a poorly resourced institutions that serves low-income students, saying that you are tarring them with the same brush. What would you say to that critique?

A: We focus mostly on four-year colleges, both rich and poor. Both face the same basic problems: they make promises they don’t know if they can keep, and that independent research shows they often fail to keep. They incentivize students to cheat, and students take the bait. They respond to perverse incentives to increase their budgets irrespective of actual value delivered. The primary form of feedback they issue to students is grades, even though psychological evidence shows that grades generally hinder learning, and even though, as we explain in the book, the mathematics of grade point average calculations are literally incoherent.

We suspect the problems are generally worse at institutions with weaker finances. Poorer colleges unfortunately draw a greater number of less prepared and lower-income students. You may know that there is a significant college wage premium. But you secure this premium only if you actually finish college. The sad fact, which we don’t know how to rectify, is that the bottom 50 percent or so of high school students (in terms of preparedness/aptitude/etc.) who begin college actually get a negative return on investment because they don’t finish. They spend time and money, often taking on significant debt they cannot repay, but don’t get the return of a completed degree. Unfortunately, many of these students also tend to be lower-income students, so the financial loss is very serious. Money isn’t the only thing that matters, sure, but it’s sure easier to say that when you have lots of it.

The adjunct issue is complex because, while adjunct faculty use has markedly increased in recent decades, it’s also typically tied to supplemental instruction, additional course offerings and reducing the teaching loads of other tenured faculty -- recall the stable 24-to-one ratio of full-time professors to enrolled students.

One point we stress in the book is that many of the unethical behaviors we see in higher ed also impose the heaviest costs upon underprivileged students. We might ask: Is it worth building a rock-climbing wall in the campus rec center, running a green sustainability drive on campus or doubling the staff of the advising office if these costs are also passed through onto students in tuition hikes and fees? Should we subsidize more faculty careers in unpopular majors if it also means saddling a first-generation college student from a lower-income background with decades of student loan debt?

Q: Are there colleges you think are well run today?

A: Brown University, Jason’s former employer, doesn’t have gen eds. The University of Chicago and Columbia University have specialized core programs which escape the criticism we make in our book, though that doesn’t mean these programs work. (We don’t know if they do.)

Hampshire College used narrative evaluations instead of grades, to its credit.

But, beyond that, our general answer is no, we can’t think of any institutions that are in general well run. Every institution we can think of makes the same basic mistakes and has the same failings.

Q: With "moral mess" in the subhead of your book, I have to ask about the admissions scandal. How does that relate to the issues you raise?

A: Jason works at Georgetown University, one of the schools involved. Georgetown’s former tennis coach allegedly accepted $2.7 million in bribes to help place about 12 students.

Universities are perplexing places. They are filled with left-leaning faculty (like Jason) and even more left-leaning staff and administrators who profess a commitment to social justice. Yet most universities work hard to increase their status by becoming ever more exclusive and elitist. Universities are hierarchical in their own operations, and reinforce other social hierarchies in their outcomes. They serve as gatekeepers of prestige, power and status. Many top institutions have plenty of physical capacity to expand the number of students they admit, but they instead work to keep admissions rates and the number of undergraduates as low as possible, all to enhance the elite status of their brand.

The main value of the Ivy League or equivalent degree is not increased learning. Indeed, the main reason Ivy League students do better than others when they graduate is not that they actually went to those Ivy League schools but that they were impressive enough to get in.

The ratio of, say, Ivy League undergrad spots to the general population is much lower now than 50 years ago, which means in turn that special status attached to having an Ivy League degree is much higher. For every student an Ivy admits, it probably has another six or so competent and qualified to attend. As a result, people have a stronger incentive to cheat their way in.

The scandal also reveals that many people believe it’s far more difficult to be admitted to an elite school than to graduate from it. Parents wouldn’t pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to game the admissions system if their kids had little chance of graduating.

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Colleges add new academic programs

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Rejecting the requirement to publish dissertations online

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 00:00

Rob Schlesinger is not your typical college student. A lawyer who worked in higher education administration for more than 25 years, he decided to take time off from his day job two years ago to pursue a doctorate degree in education at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y.

Getting an Ed.D. degree is a lifelong dream for Schlesinger. He defended his dissertation proposal, “Ethics Education in the Undergraduate Curriculum: An Action Research Analysis,” earlier this year. He said his experience at the college has been mostly positive, but it recently took an unexpected turn.

In an article published on the blog The Scholarly Kitchen last month, Schlesinger wrote of the shock he felt upon learning that all doctoral students at Manhattanville are required to submit their dissertations to an online database run by for-profit library services company ProQuest.

Schlesinger was even more surprised by the reaction he received from faculty members, administrators and fellow students when he voiced his objection to this policy.

“One would think that I was Oliver Twist asking for more porridge or I had said that I was writing my opus in crayon,” he wrote.

Requiring students to publish dissertations, particularly online, may put vulnerable students who have been victimized, threatened or stalked at risk, said Schlesinger. He believes it could also jeopardize the safety of people mentioned in the research, even if they are anonymized. ​

“My legal -- and moral -- concerns about this practice stem from the issues it raises with privacy and intellectual property rights, as well as contract law,” he said.

Aside from privacy concerns, Schlesinger believes that as the author of his dissertation, he should have the right to decide how his work is published and distributed. He also questions whether it is defensible under contract law for colleges to make the publication of a dissertation a degree requirement.

“My argument here is not against publishing online; rather, it is for giving dissertation authors -- the doctoral students themselves -- a say in the disposition of their work,” wrote Schlesinger.

Ray Harris, director of the law firm Fennemore Craig, said Schlesinger raises valid concerns about privacy, but Harris notes issues around anonymity in qualitative research can usually be identified and resolved early on through discussions about appropriate research design.

If the candidate and the university cannot reach agreement, then the candidate is left with a “Hobson’s choice” of risking harm or withdrawing from the degree program.

Harris expects that most universities would be willing to accommodate serious concerns about publishing students' work online because it is the right thing to do, and because of the liability risk institutions face if harm results from a publication.

“If the university insists on publication in exceptional circumstances where publication is objectively inappropriate, then I believe courts should deal with that situation under traditional contract doctrines,” he said.

The requirement for students to upload their doctoral theses to ProQuest is “bordering on universal” at U.S. institutions, said Rick Anderson, associate dean for collections and scholarly communications at the Marriott Library at the University of Utah.

“This practice amounts to outsourcing the digital archiving of locally produced theses and dissertations,” Anderson said in an email. By putting dissertations in a virtual space that is curated by another entity, institutions can free up institutional server space and staff time for other uses, he said.

“I don’t have a problem with this system being the default arrangement, but I think students should have the option to decline,” said Anderson. “A thesis or dissertation is the author’s original work, and it should be treated as such -- not institutional property. At the very least, if the institution is going to impose such a requirement on its graduate students, that fact should be made very clear before the student matriculates, and an agreement to that effect should be made in writing.”

Barbara Fister, a librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota (who also blogs for Inside Higher Ed) noted that this is not the first time scholars have voiced concern at the requirement to publish their work with ProQuest. In the past, scholars have been surprised to learn that their work was being sold by ProQuest through third-party retailers such as Amazon. ProQuest stopped selling dissertations on Amazon in 2014 following a number of complaints.

People forget that it is a long-standing practice for hard copies of doctoral theses to be made available in libraries for anyone to read, Fister said by email. “It’s public proof of your attainment of knowledge and your membership in the discipline. It was never controversial so far as I know,” she said.

When dissertations started to become widely available online, however, the situation changed. Some publishers became hesitant about publishing commercial books from authors who had recently published their doctoral thesis on the same topic, said Fister.

“Ownership per se is not at issue here. Authors retain copyright,” said Fister. “The issue is the nonexclusive right to distribute copies of a dissertation. ProQuest pays royalties on sales and dissertations may be embargoed, but that appears to be a decision made by institutions rather than individual authors or ProQuest.”

Jessica Horowitz, director of academic relations at ProQuest, said the company publishes dissertations and theses from more than 3,100 universities.

“The universities we work with set their own policies on publication requirements, and while we can’t give exact numbers, we find that many do require their students to publish with ProQuest,” she said in an email.

Publication with ProQuest benefits universities because it boosts the visibility of their graduate programs and makes their research widely available, said Horowitz.

“Most dissertation authors welcome the added visibility that dissemination through ProQuest offers,” she added.

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global, as the database is officially called, has been a designated off-site dissertation repository for the U.S. Library of Congress since 1999. All dissertations sent to ProQuest become part of the official national collection.

ProQuest is committed to offering flexibility to authors, said Horowitz.

“Authors’ agreements are nonexclusive with ProQuest. Authors retain copyright and full control of their work and may submit it anywhere they wish,” she said. “ProQuest is governed by any embargo that the author or university places on a work and can, upon request, remove online works within 24 hours.”

After speaking with his advisers, Schlesinger was granted an exception to the requirement to publish with ProQuest. He has encouraged other students to request the same but said none have yet done so.

Students should be made aware of the requirement to publish with ProQuest at the beginning of their studies, said Schlesinger. He also objected to the college encouraging students to have their work professionally edited to meet ProQuest’s standards, which he considers an unfair and costly expense.

Schlesinger said he objected to publishing his work online because it hampered the ability of his research interviewees to speak openly with him. When he shared this concern, his supervisors suggested he was “not masking his data well enough.” He argued it is often very easy to unmask anonymous sources in educational research, particularly if they are identified as college presidents or deans.

By not publishing online, Schlesinger is not saying he doesn’t want others to benefit from his research. In fact, he wants the opposite.

“For practitioners, dissertations and journal articles aren’t that helpful,” he said. “If I identify useful information in my dissertation, I want to boil it down into articles and practice guides that will likely be much more widely read.”

Manhattanville's School of Education has since revised its dissertation policy to say that “should a student appeal electronic filing, then a bound copy would be required.”

Tracy Muirhead, interim vice president for institutional advancement at Manhattanville, said in an email that filing with ProQuest is "not a graduation requirement" but doctoral students are "very strongly encouraged to use the electronic filing option."

She said the college's doctoral faculty members will be discussing the issues raised by Schlesinger at an upcoming retreat. But faculty members generally support uploading dissertations to ProQuest and believe it "helps to share with others, both externally and internally, the research that Manhattanville doctoral students have undertaken."

While he is happy he doesn't have to publish his dissertation online, Schlesinger said he wants the college to make it clearer to other students that they also have the option to make an appeal. Many students are still under the impression that filing with ProQuest is mandatory, he said.

"I can see the argument for encouraging students to publish their dissertations on ProQuest, and have spoken with several faculty members who believe that it is a really good thing for the students' careers," said Schlesinger. "But to gloss over the situation does not do the issue, or the college itself, justice."

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Feds release broader data on socioeconomic status and college enrollment and completion

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 00:00

The federal government on Wednesday released a wide range of updated and new data on postsecondary education, including broader measures of college completion and several indicators that show how much family wealth contributes to college students’ odds of enrolling and graduating.

For example, among people who were ninth graders a decade ago, those from the highest quintile of socioeconomic status (parental education and occupations and family income) were 50 percentage points more likely to be enrolled in college in 2016 than were their peers from the lowest quintile -- 78 percent compared to 28 percent.

Money also played a big role in which college and level of degree program students enrolled in, according to the new report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Students from the lowest quintile who attended college were more likely to first pursue an associate degree (32 percent) than a bachelor’s degree (47 percent). Their peers from the wealthiest quintile, however, were much more likely to first seek a four-year degree (78 percent) than a two-year degree (13 percent).

Likewise, the percentage of higher-income students who first enrolled at a highly selective college or university (37 percent) easily outpaced that of lower-income students (7 percent).

Wealthier students also were much more likely to enroll at a four-year college than at a community college or for-profit institution. More than half of students from the top quintile first enrolled at a public four-year institution (54 percent), while 26 percent enrolled at a four-year private college. The report found that 18 percent enrolled at a community college while less than 2 percent attended a for-profit.

Among students in the lowest quintile, however, 51 percent first enrolled at a community college compared to 28 percent at a four-year public, 8 percent at a four-year private and roughly 13 percent at a for-profit.

The report found that lower-income students from that ninth-grade Class of 2009 were less likely to enroll in college within one year of graduating from high school.

Roughly one-third of students from the lowest quintile of that cohort enrolled within one year of graduating high school and were still in college or had earned a credential by 2016, according to the report, compared to 79 percent of students from the top quintile. Likewise, 53 percent of students from the lowest quintile either never enrolled or delayed their enrollment by more than a year, compared to roughly 11 percent from the top quintile -- 88 percent from this group enrolled in college within one year after high school.

“These numbers are sobering,” said Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, director of upskilling policy at the National Skills Coalition, who called the new report an “affirmation of how diverse the higher education cohort is, and how different the college-going experience can be.”

Completion Rates for Part-Time Students

The new data arrived as the higher education sector has been rocked by increasing scrutiny of its role in perpetuating economic equality, thanks to a high-profile admissions scandal and unflattering data on social mobility.

As with the Varsity Blues scandal, the federal numbers pull back the curtain on how higher education is stacked in favor of white and wealthy students, said Phil Martin, a spokesman for the Education Trust.

"Students from the least affluent families who enrolled in college were more than three times as likely to start at a community college than their wealthier peers. Community colleges are starved for resources. No surprise their outcomes aren't great," Martin said via email. "Students from the most affluent families were about five times as likely to enroll in a selective college as students from the least affluent families. Selective colleges are typically the ones with lots of resources. So the wealthiest students get the richest campus experience."

The Education Department's annually released report, dubbed "The Condition of Education 2019," features updated and improved measures of student success. Some of those indicators can be broken out by the relative wealth and race and other characteristics of students, including whether they attended college full-time or part-time.

As was the case with students’ enrollment patters, socioeconomic status had a big impact on those outcomes, according to the data.

For example, the report includes updated completion rates for Pell Grant recipients (data that did not become available until the department recently broadened its completion metrics). The federal grants are need based and represent a subset of lower-income students within the general undergraduate population, the report said.

Completion rates after eight years for the 2009 cohort were lower for Pell recipients who attended four-year colleges across all levels of selectivity except for open-admissions institutions.

For colleges that accepted 90 percent or more of applicants, the new federal completion rates were about 12 percentage points lower for Pell recipients than for nonrecipients (35 percent compared to 47 percent). Among colleges that accepted less than a quarter of applicants, completion rates for Pell recipients lagged by 10 percentage points (79 percent compared to 89 percent).

NCES recently began publishing college completion rates that include part-time students, an improvement from the much-criticized previous limitation of only tracking graduation and transfer rates for full-time students who attend college for the first time.

“This provides the clearest picture yet of how colleges are doing in providing all of their students a credential,” said Michael Itzkowitz, president of the Edvisors Group, a consulting firm, and a former Education Department official during the Obama administration. “This is much more representative of all students who are attending college today.”

For example, the report said just 22 percent of students attended public colleges on a full-time, first-time basis, compared to 42 percent who attended part-time and had previously enrolled at another postsecondary institution.

Yet the addition of part-time students to colleges' completion report card doesn’t make them look better.

The full-time, first-time rate was the “most generous” measure, Itzkowitz said. The new report found that most institutions have eight-year graduation rates of less than 50 percent, he said, although those numbers improve substantially when transfer numbers are added.

“The typical institution leaves students with a mere 50-50 chance of graduating from the institution where they started,” he said, adding that a high percentage of part-time students are “leaving without any credential in hand.”

The “nontraditional” student is the norm for the two-year sector, with three-quarters of the 4.7 million community college students who enrolled in 2009 attending either part-time or not for the first time, meaning they were not included in traditional graduation and retention rates.

Graduation rates for students who enrolled at a community college in 2009 were higher among those who attended full-time (30 percent of first-time students and 38 percent of non-first-time students earned a credential at that college within eight years) than for part-time students (16 percent for first-time students and 21 percent for their non-first-time peers).

Transfer rates for community college students eight years after entry were higher among students who had previously enrolled elsewhere (37 percent for part-time students and 30 percent for full-time students) than among their first-time peers (24 percent for both full-time and part-time).

Part-time students also make up large shares of enrollments at four-year institutions. The report found that 44 percent of students who enrolled at a four-year public in 2009 attended full-time and first time, as did 57 percent of students at four-year privates.

Part-time students at four-year colleges were unlikely to graduate within eight years. Just 19 percent of part-time, first-time students who enrolled at a four-year public or private graduated within eight years, according to the report, compared to 32 percent of part-time students at publics who previously attended another institution and 43 percent at privates. (In most cases, similar portions of those students transferred to another college.)

The report should be a call to action for policy makers, said Martin.

"[S]tudents from low-income families are underserved at every level of the U.S. education system," he said. "That's obviously not the kind of system anybody would set up if the goal was equal opportunity."

New Data on Wages

The federal data also included updated employment outcomes for bachelor’s degree holders.

Unemployment rates for young adults (ages 25-29) with a bachelor’s degree were lower in 2017 than in 2010, when the recession was in full swing (3.1 percent compared to 5.6 percent). But median annual earnings (inflation adjusted) were not measurably different.

The median annual earnings for young adults with a bachelor’s degree were $50,500, according to the report, which included both wages and unemployment rates by selected fields of study.

Earnings ranged from $38,400 for graduates with degrees in social work and human services ($39,000 for those with degrees in liberal arts and humanities) to slightly more than $70,000 for holders of bachelor’s degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering.

Graduates with liberal arts and humanities degrees had an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent, which was the highest among fields covered by the data.

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Pew study finds more poor students attending college

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 00:00

A growing number of college students are from poor families, but they’re mostly attending less selective institutions, which may decrease their chances of earning a bachelor’s degree.

A new report from the Pew Research Center released Wednesday found that the overall number of undergraduates at U.S. colleges and universities has increased during the past 20 years, with students of color and those from low-income families making up much of that growth. Those students are mostly attending the least-selective colleges and universities, which tend to have fewer resources to help students succeed.

The total share of undergraduate college students who come from poor families increased from 12 percent in 1996 to 20 percent in 2016, according to the report. The number of undergraduates who are nonwhite also increased from 29 percent in 1996 to 47 percent in 2016. The report focused on the financial status of dependent students who are under age 23, unmarried and childless.

“This is a positive development of something that had been a concern, and what the data shows are that many more students from poor families are attending colleges and universities,” said Richard Fry, a co-author of the report and a senior economist at Pew. “On the other hand, when we look at what employers pay, there is a premium for bachelor's degrees … and you’re more likely to get a bachelor’s degree at more selective institutions or at a four-year college rather than a community college.”

While there are more students from low-income families attending all types of colleges and universities, Pew found that their growth at selective institutions is less pronounced than at less selective four-year, two-year and for-profit colleges.

The percentage of low-income, dependent undergraduates attending “very selective” institutions increased from 10 percent in 2016 to only 13 percent in 2016, according to the report. Meanwhile, at public two-year colleges, the number of low-income students increased by 14 percentage points, to 27 percent, over the same 20-year time period.

Although the report focuses on young, dependent students who presumably receive financial assistance from their parents or other family members, it also shows that there are more independent students living in poverty compared to 20 years ago. Among independent students, 42 percent were living in poverty in 2016 compared to 29 percent in 1996.

Jason Delisle, a resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said selective universities should receive more credit from the Pew researchers for enrolling more low-income students today than they did 20 years ago. Furthermore, these institutions also are enrolling more independent students, who tend to be poorer than dependent students, he said.

The Pew study found that among independent students at four-year institutions, 52 percent were poor and attended a “very selective” institution in 2016, which reflects a 20 percentage point increase from 1996.

“For all the hand-wringing about affordability, it appears that … a larger proportion of the student body is low income despite all these scary stories about affordability,” Delisle said. “One thing we do know is that the selective colleges are keeping prices really low for these students. The net price after inflation that students pay for tuition at really selective colleges has barely budged in 20 years.”

According to the College Board, the average annual net tuition and fees over time for full-time students at private nonprofit universities declined from $15,500 a year in 2007 to about $14,600 in 2018. At public, four-year colleges, the average net tuition and fees increased by about $600, from $3,100 per year in 2007 to about $3,700 in 2018.

For-profit institutions saw the share of dependent low-income undergraduates increase, as well, from 23 percent in 2016 to 36 percent in 2016 -- a 13-percentage-point gain.

“Selectivity does matter,” Fry said. “It is noteworthy that students from lower-income backgrounds are in higher education but disproportionately at least-selective colleges and universities, and that will impact their likelihood of getting a degree.”

Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, said this trend is concerning.

“These are the [institutions] with fewer resources, and among the public [colleges] they get less in state funding even as their students come with greater need,” he said.

Kelchen said states ultimately need to rethink how they fund their colleges and universities.

“It’s not enough to get a small number of low-income students into a flagship university,” Kelchen said. “How are states funding their colleges in a way that helps reduce gaps in degree attainment?”

A recent report from the Century Foundation called for more public investment in the country’s community colleges because of the growing number of low-income students enrolling. The report blamed low completion rates on a lack of state higher education funding. The report states that private, four-year colleges spend an average of $72,000 per full-time student each year, which is five times more than the $14,000 community colleges typically spend per student. Public universities spend $40,000 each year on each full-time student.

Even when research spending is excluded, private universities spend triple what community colleges do, and public four-year institutions spend 60 percent more.

“The research suggests going to a flagship public university pays off in the long term, but for many students, going hundreds of miles to a flagship isn’t possible,” Kelchen said. “The open-access institution is what’s close by, and that’s why they’re going. Even giving students more financial aid to go to a selective college may not be enough to change their decision if they have to go 300 miles away.”

Even with significant numbers of low-income students going to college, they are no more likely to take out loans than any other undergraduate, according to the Pew report. Borrowing has increased the most among higher-income students, the report said.

Thirty-three percent of students in poverty borrowed for their education in 1996, compared to 8 percent of higher-income students. But in the years since then, borrowing increased among high-income students to 30 percent, while 38 percent of poor students took out loans in 2016.

"High-income families are choosing to attend very expensive schools, and they may need the loans to do it," Delisle said. "The student loan program is as much a loan program for high-income families attending elite institutions as it is low-income families attending less selective ones."

Delisle said another reason low-income students' borrowing habits haven’t changed much is that they’re attending less selective, lower-cost colleges and receiving financial aid packages that will cover their tuition and fees.

“The amount of loans they have to take out is covering living expenses, and the decision around how much to borrow can be flexible,” he said.

Despite the increased numbers of poor students attending community college over the past 20 years, the overall share of undergraduates at two-year colleges has decreased. Community colleges educated 44 percent of the undergraduates in college in 1996, but only 36 percent of all students attended a two-year college in 2016, according to the Pew report.

“What used to be classified as a two-year college or community college has shifted over the past 20 years, and now, they’re granting bachelor’s degrees,” Fry said. “But I don’t think it explains it all -- there have been some other demographic changes in the nation’s undergrads. More of them are traditional age, 18 to 24, fewer are older or nontraditional students, and that sort of demographic shift lends itself more to a four-year college than community college.”

The Pew report also found that the growth of nonwhite students in colleges and universities reflects the growing number of Hispanic students pursuing education beyond high school. And for the first time, Hispanics are now the largest minority group among the nation’s undergraduates over all; there are now as many Hispanic undergraduates as African Americans at moderately selective institutions.

Fry said there shouldn’t be much surprise that the population of Hispanic undergraduates has grown, since they became the largest minority group among high school graduates in 2008. But another reason why more Hispanics are attending college is that high school dropout rates among this group have decreased.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the Hispanic high school dropout rate decreased from 27.8 percent to 8.6 percent from 2000 to 2016.

“Both higher education and K-12 can take some credit for this,” Fry said. “Yes, the high school dropout rates have come down a lot, but among the high school graduates, there is a notable increase in the share of Hispanic graduates going on to college.”

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Athletics officials question role of top college leaders in disciplining coaches

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 00:00

WASHINGTON -- National Collegiate Athletic Association representatives on Wednesday touted reforms that followed the men’s basketball scandal of 2017. But other officials involved in college sports questioned why top administrators hadn’t stepped in to punish bad actors -- namely coaches.

NCAA leaders presented at a meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, describing a "significant" slate of changes, including much stiffer penalties for breaches of association rules and a new entity that would investigate the most complex violations.

These changes and others -- which passed the association membership with relative speed, given the usual lag in approving NCAA policy -- were in response to a pay-for-play scheme federal law enforcement officials revealed in September 2017.

At the time, 10 men -- including Adidas executives and assistant or associate coaches at prominent institutions -- were arrested for allegedly guiding recruits to certain teams in exchange for cash payments. In the past two years, coaches and players in top programs all across the country have been implicated in the controversy.

A committee appointed by the NCAA, led by Condoleezza Rice, who was formerly U.S. secretary of state and Stanford University's provost, made recommendations last year that were largely adopted by the association and were shared with the Knight Commission on Wednesday.

But one panelist at the commission meeting, Mike Brey, the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Notre Dame and president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, questioned why athletics directors and presidents hadn’t fired corrupt coaches. Brey was responding to Michael Crow, a commission member and president of Arizona State University, who asked why basketball coaches couldn’t be more self-regulating, akin to the medical or legal professions. Crow said he was confused why the onus needed to be on the NCAA when coaches have such an understanding of their field.

Brey initially agreed with Crow, that coaches should take that responsibility, but then turned the question back on Crow with questions of his own.

“Why hasn’t an athletics director or president acted in some of these current cases already?” Brey said. “I think a lot of our coaches want to know, why hasn’t the hammer come down? Again, I’m a little naïve to it -- is it legal stuff? … I think our profession would love to see the hammer be dropped on some of these situations.”

Other coaches, Brey said, have been waiting for “an explosion back.”

In an interview, one of the commission's chairs, Arne Duncan, former U.S. education secretary, said, “There has been an absence of strong leadership” -- not just by athletics directors and presidents, but college governing boards, institutions and the NCAA.

“We would urge institutional leadership -- presidents, chancellors and others -- to look seriously at opportunities to send those strong signals,” said Carol Cartwright, president emeritus of Kent State University and Bowling Green State University and the other commission chair. “Because tone at the top really matters. And when you release a coach for reasons other than [wins], you send a pretty important signal about the values in your program.”

Earlier in the meeting, Cari Van Sensus, the NCAA vice president of policy and chief of staff, had introduced a pilot program in certifying basketball coaches. It is being modeled off a program in Division II athletics called Division II University, in which coaches take online classes on concepts such as sexual assault and mental health. Van Sensus didn't specify how institutions would administer the certification or if it would be required for coaches to keep their jobs. She said many of the details have yet to be ironed out, but that the NCAA was working with the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

The top NCAA governing panel, the Board of Governors, in January endorsed the pilot program for Division I basketball coaches with the intention that it may eventually spread to other sports. After a series of felony convictions in the men’s basketball scandal in October 2018, the Knight Commission had suggested that the NCAA develop such credentials.

Brey said that education for coaches should be ongoing. To advance in their careers -- to the spot of head coach -- a certain level of credentialing should be required, he said.

Credentialing will likely not avoid the problems that arose in the men’s basketball scandal, Josephine R. Potuto, former member of the NCAA Division I infractions committee and Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, told Inside Higher Ed.

She said that the program might teach interpersonal skills, which is a worthy goal, but it would not address coaches' ethical lapses.

“The scandal emanated not from a failure to understand rules or appreciate ethical behavior but from efforts to circumvent rules,” Potuto wrote in an email. “There have been people for many years arguing that it should be a requirement for coaches that they show they have adequate background and training to warrant their opportunity to work with students.”

Many of the reforms following the scandal will be in place in time for the next season. Cartwright and Duncan praised the NCAA for "stepping up" and approving the changes quickly, though they said the association could do more, including making public contracts with shoe and apparel companies.

University presidents and athletics staffers must now commit in their contracts to cooperate with NCAA investigations, and the NCAA now has the power to suspend coaches and staff immediately if they fail to do so.

NCAA investigators and adjudicators can also use findings from other administrative bodies -- courts, police or other governing agencies -- in rules violations cases. This will be particularly helpful in disciplining coaches or institutions implicated in the men’s basketball scandal.

And in particularly complicated cases, a separate, independent body from the NCAA can investigate.

Five new members were also recently added to the Board of Governors, with no ties to individual institutions or NCAA conferences. They are:

  • Kenneth Chenault, chairman and managing director of General Catalyst and former chairman and chief executive of American Express.
  • Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities.
  • Grant Hill, former college and National Basketball Association athlete, now a partial NBA team owner and a broadcaster.
  • Dennis McDonough, senior principal and chairman of the Rework America Task Force for the Markle Foundation and former chief of staff to President Obama.
  • Vivek Murthy, the 19th surgeon general of the United States.
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University of Kirkuk took in students fleeing the Islamic State

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 00:00

When the Islamic State began taking control of swaths of Iraq in 2014, seven universities were forced to shut their doors. But 50,000 of the students displaced were welcomed by the University of Kirkuk, which provided support for them to complete their studies, a refuge from terror -- some had fled with tales of people being drowned in cages by IS -- and an alternative to the prospect of being forced to join the jihadists.

The remarkable achievements of Kirkuk, which had 26,000 students before its humanitarian expansion, won the university the Outstanding Support for Students category in the recent inaugural Times Higher Education Awards Asia.

Abbas Hassan Taqi, Kirkuk’s president, highlighted that a young university founded only in 2003 had played “a vital role in rescuing … students from IS gangs,” helping to address “big dangers for the whole world, not Iraq only,” given that students who remained in their home cities would have been potential recruits for IS.

“I don’t think there is any [other] university in the world that is capable of rescuing more than 50,000 students, hosting them, providing them with all the facilities, all the instruments in the labs, all the financial assistance, for … nearly four years,” he told Times Higher Education.

The university opened its doors to students displaced from seven universities across three provinces of Iraq, including the Universities of Mosul -- Iraq’s second-oldest institution -- Tikrit, Anbar and Fallujah.

As IS rule wore on, increasing numbers of people sought to escape these provinces, often driven by horror at the “different, incredible ways of executing people” used by the jihadists, said Safwat Al-Bazzaz, head of the English department at Kirkuk and a member of the university’s team at the awards ceremony, which took place early this month in Abu Dhabi. “They [IS] were putting them in a closed cage [and] by use of a crane drowned them in a river … as we heard from our colleagues from the University of Mosul,” he added.

At the peak of its power, IS occupied about one-third of Iraq, encompassing territory with a population of 10 million.

The aim of IS “was to damage everything in Iraq,” said Al-Bazzaz. “They know that the youth is the basic component of the society.” The choice that IS gave to young people was “either to join them or be punished,” he added.

To accommodate the influx of students, Kirkuk allowed its classrooms and labs to be used by counterpart departments from the seven institutions on its days of closure -- Fridays and Saturdays -- as well as at the end of normal working hours. Some Kirkuk professors worked after hours, without pay, to teach these classes.

Other displaced students were taught alongside Kirkuk students. The university’s libraries were opened to the newcomers. And the university constructed new buildings to cope with the expansion.

Students were provided with accommodation, often for free, and financial assistance as well as food, thanks to donations. Some Kirkuk staff allowed displaced colleagues and students to live in their properties for free. Social events helped to combat any isolation the students, far from home, might feel and served “to raise their spirit,” said Al-Bazzaz.

There was “a very successful and strategic plan to embrace all these students” that was supported by “a lot of administrative efforts to help them continue their studies,” he said.

“So instead of making [perhaps] 30,000 terrorists, we made 50,000 graduates,” he said. “This affects [Iraqi] society a lot. Instead of reinforcing the [IS] gangs, we reinforced education.”

Kirkuk is an ethnically diverse city, with a mixed population of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Assyrians.

Iraq’s ethnic mix has often led to tension and violence. But Al-Bazzaz said that different populations could live together peacefully in Kirkuk, pinpointing this as a factor that allowed the university to welcome students from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Friendships and “even marriages” have blossomed between students at Kirkuk as a result of its hosting the displaced, he said. Students from Mosul and Tikrit, and from Mosul and Kirkuk, were married after meeting at the university.

With the displaced students now graduated and the IS “caliphate” ended, Kirkuk has returned to its normal level of 26,000 students.

But the new buildings and a new spirit will leave a legacy for the university, the city and the region, said Al-Bazzaz. “Our capability improved during this time, and our experience in teaching improved in this time,” he said.

The hosting of the displaced students happened while the city of Kirkuk itself was close to the front line of conflict. “Kirkuk was in danger,” said Al-Bazzaz. “But Kirkuk citizens didn’t leave the city … even though sometimes we were hearing the sounds of explosions near Kirkuk. But because of the high spirit of the citizens, of the Kirkuk university students, we remained there. We were able to continue our mission and our study.”

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Institutions generally don't have provisions against professors dating students they just taught

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 00:00

Last month, Princeton University’s 2016 valedictorian, Cameron Platt, announced that she was engaged -- to her former professor and mentor, Lee Clark Mitchell, Holmes Professor of Belles-Lettres.

Eventually “it became impossible to deny how fully we feel meant for each other, and neither of us has looked back since,” Platt wrote on Facebook. “Now here we are, more enthralled than ever wanting no life other than the one we make together.”

The ages of the couple -- her, 25; him, 71 -- are unusually far apart. The relationship doesn’t violate university policy, however.

Princeton, like a growing number of institutions, has banned all student-faculty relationships, including for graduate students. As one graduate student put it, “Students should be treated by faculty as scholars, not as potential sexual partners.” And even though most other colleges and universities ban student-faculty dating where a supervisory relationships exists, virtually no institution requires professors to wait any length of time before dating former students.

Platt has said that she waited until two years after her graduation to ask Mitchell out. Mitchell, who is currently on preplanned leave, is just one of a number of professors to engage in or attempt to initiate a relationship with a former student or students. The other examples don’t end in a glowing engagement announcement, however, suggesting that dating former students -- even when allowed by policy -- is questionable.

Still, experts with different positions on student-faculty dating advise against adopting any kind of timeline for dating former students.

No Sunset Provisions

Andrew T. Miltenberg, a lawyer who’s represented professors in numerous Title IX-related cases, said he hadn’t heard of any “sunset-type” provision in which faculty members can’t date former students for a given period of time. And in an environment in which more and more institutions are taking disciplinary action against professors who have had consensual relationships with students that then soured, he said, such a policy is not a good idea.

“What you should do is have a definitive policy one way or the other, where faculty and administrators decide which way is the best way to go -- not start to carve out situations,” Miltenberg said. “What if it’s a dean with no direct academic role for the student, or a professor in a different department, or an adjunct? There are a lot of questions that will arise, with too many anomalies as far as circumstances.”

A sunset provision might work in the future, when colleges and universities “start to offer a fair, transparent and equitable process” to all parties in a Title IX case, Miltenberg said. Just not now. He recalled a case in which a faculty member taught only a core class, meaning there was no chance he would teach his students twice. But a relationship between the professor and one of his former students “didn’t go well,” Miltenberg said. “There was a complaint, and the faculty member lost his job.”

That’s what happened to John Barrett, an assistant professor of developmental studies at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, in 2017. According to court documents, Barrett sent a student of his a Facebook friend request at the end of the spring 2015 semester, when she was in his class. The two corresponded over the summer about the student's writing. Back on campus in the fall, the student asked to meet Barrett for coffee, and they began dating. Their sexual relationship lasted through the next summer.

The pair remained friendly for a time after breaking up, but the student eventually confronted Barrett about a relationship he was having with a second former student of his. The first student later filed a complaint with the university, alleging that Barrett had touched her genitals while she was sleeping during their relationship. The university investigated and terminated Barrett based on his poor professional judgment and the alleged touching without consent (which he denied, and which the student never brought up during their relationship).

Barrett filed a grievance with his faculty union, and an arbitrator ordered his reinstatement. Bloomsburg fought the decision, but a state appeals court upheld it last week. Bloomsburg doesn’t prohibit student-faculty relationships unless a supervisory relationship exists, and it no longer did in Barrett’s relationships, the court determined. 

‘Toxic to All Involved’?

In another example, Hofstra University recently vowed to change its policies after an undergraduate student complained that a professor hit on her immediately after she finished his course. The professor didn’t technically violate the institution’s policy prohibiting relationships where there exists a supervisory relationship, since he was done teaching and grading her. But the student felt the overture verged on harassment, and she reported it.

The professor of music, Lee C. Carter, attached a handwritten letter to the student's final graded project, saying, “At the risk of embarrassing myself, I confess a foolish and dangerous attraction to you.” Saying he was experiencing either a midlife crisis or a schoolboy crush, Carter added, “I’ve felt this way for well over a year, but have tried to conceal it to protect both you and myself, but also everyone around us. Such feelings from a teacher toward a student -- while inevitable given that we’re only human -- are usually toxic to all involved when expressed openly.”

There was no quid pro involved. But antiharassment activists often say that this kind of move breaks trust and hurts students nevertheless, as they may then wonder whether their accomplishments in a class were due to their effort or their professor’s relationship aspirations.

Professional Norms and Power Differentials

Catherine Prendergast, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where there is no policy governing student-faculty relationships, said she opposed any kind of undergraduate-faculty dating. To her, the issue is less legal “than one of sound professional norms.”

Student-faculty relationships don’t happen in a vacuum and are instead “part of a community in which trust in one’s professor to treat all students equally is paramount to the educational experience,” she said. If a professor dates a former student who is still on campus, "that changes the community," in particular.

On Prendergast’s own campus, economist Joseph Petry recently announced that he was retiring as part of a resignation agreement related to a Title IX case, according to the The News-Gazette. A former student of Petry’s accused him of offering to change her grade in exchange for sexual favors. He’s admitted to communicating with the student online and sending photos. But he says that they first engaged on a personal level via an online platform, and that when they eventually met in his office nine months after he taught her in a large class section, he realized that she wanted him to change her grade. He also says he refused. In a strange twist, the student accuser was arrested last month for allegedly threatening a man with a knife to delete information from his computer.

Miltenberg said he was professionally agnostic as to whether colleges should allow student-faculty relationships where there is no supervisory relationship or whether all they should ban student-faculty relationships outright. But as a father of a child in college, he said he would prefer that his daughter not date a professor, given the inherent power differential between students and faculty members that seems to exist even when there is no supervisory relationship.

As for professional norms, Miltenberg said those were too subjective and differed too much between fields and institutions to be helpful.

Brett Sokolow, a higher education lawyer and president of the Association of Title IX Administrators, opposes blanket bans on student-faculty relationships on the grounds that students who can decide whether they’ll sleep with other students can also decide whether they’ll sleep with faculty members. He said he opposed any notion of a time restriction on dating former students for the same reason -- among others.

“How long is enough for a cooling-off period? Five days? Five months?” he said. “Of course there was something there before. But how about we say there can be no flirting. How about we say human beings can’t be attracted to each other?”

He added, “I just don’t know why we want to infantilize students and take away their autonomy.”

Asked why there’s still a collective recoil at these kinds of relationships, Sokolow said, “I think there’s a recognition that in our society May-December relationships don’t really work out, and that there’s some sort of leverage there, some attraction based on the person’s accomplishments.” That implies a power differential, of course, Sokolow said, but “attraction doesn’t happen in a vacuum. That’s not how the world works. People are attracted to power,” no matter the gender dynamics at play.

‘The Dynamics Shift’

The laws of attraction aside, Prendergast said that if the relationship goes south, it’s “always the student who loses something.” Even if they’ve left campus, they can’t ask that professor for a reference “or any other form of professional support that sustains alumni in their careers.”

Of course, sometimes these relationships actually work out, and even develop into loving, lifelong partnerships. An academic who did not want to be identified, given the complexity of the issue, said she began dating her professor in her first year of graduate school in the early 1980s. She was single, and he was 20 years older and divorced.

There were no prohibitions against faculty-student dating at the time, and there were other professors in the department who had married students. She took a course with the professor after the relationship started, and he participated in her preliminary exams, as did all instructors. But the effects of the relationship were felt "most acutely" in her interactions with other graduate students, she said, recalling one who was concerned she might have access to the woman's seminar paper.

“Looking back, I realize how uncomfortable it was in many ways that I didn't fully appreciate then,” she said. When there is a personal relationship, “the dynamics shift.”

Her own view on student-faculty dating now? Undergraduate students should be “protected from the moment they arrive on campus until they have no more dealings with the institution. Period.”

Graduate students are “another matter,” however.

It seems “sensible to prohibit relationships where there are any supervisory responsibilities,” she said. Otherwise, “adults should be left to determine whom they date or marry.”

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Trump administration releases new program-level loan data

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 00:00

The Education Department on Monday announced progress on delivering more comprehensive data for the College Scorecard, a consumer tool originally launched by the Obama administration.

The department added new information for 2,100 non-degree-granting institutions to the consumer-facing website. And, more significantly for the Trump administration’s priorities, it released new preliminary data on student debt for individual programs of study.

That’s a first step toward giving students access to a fuller picture on outcomes for individual higher ed programs, instead of just colleges over all. Potential students could see, for example, how liberal arts majors fare versus engineering students at nearby institutions, instead of just getting results for the college over all.

After its future initially looked uncertain with a Republican in the White House, the College Scorecard has become a central piece of the higher ed agenda for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. She’s pulled back on Obama-era accountability rules like gainful employment but argued that college students would be better served by having more data on individual programs.

“We committed to students that we would continually improve the College Scorecard so that they could access relevant, accurate and actionable data as they make decisions about their education after high school,” said DeVos in a statement. “The updates released today are another step in fulfilling that promise. We look forward to seeing how students, parents, institutions and researchers utilize this important information.”

On top of adding new certificate-granting programs, the update to the Scorecard consumer tool also includes graduation information for students previously excluded from data. Earlier iterations of the tool accounted only for first-time, full-time college students. Critics of the project had complained those limitations provided an incomplete picture of institutions. At many colleges that don't serve traditional-age, residential freshmen, most students aren't first time or full-time.

Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, said for higher ed researchers the most significant new development was the release of program-level data on student debt. The data could provide a fuller picture of which borrowers take out the highest volume of student loans -- Kelchen said graduate programs in health sciences made up most of the high-debt programs in the new data.

Kelchen said the eventual release of earnings data would also allow researchers to calculate the ratio of debt to earnings for typical program graduates, the key metric for gainful-employment ratings.

“This is a traditional conservative administration,” he said. “The goal is to get consumer information out there, and this is a step in that direction.”

The Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions, a consortium of college accreditors, praised the update to the Scorecard tool in a statement.

“Providing expanded, accessible information about college and other postsecondary performance is critical to our work to assure institutional quality and continuous improvement,” the group said.

Some college groups had criticized the Scorecard after its launch for providing an incomplete or even misleading picture of outcomes involving graduation and student loans. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities said it was pleased with the updates to the website. But Craig Lindwarm, APLU's vice president for congressional and governmental affairs, said that important gaps remain because of a federal ban on the collection of student-level data. For example, he said, although updated graduation data incudes part-time students and students who transfer into institutions, it doesn't reflect outcomes for students who transfer out of institutions.

APLU argues passing the College Transparency Act would address those shortcomings.

Adding information about program-level outcomes was a long-term goal for officials who created the College Scorecard. Michael Itzkowitz, a senior fellow at the think tank Third Way who directed the Scorecard under the Obama administration, said the department should be applauded for releasing more data.

“However, information by itself will never be a substitute for strong accountability,” he said. “Students shouldn’t be able to take out loans at programs that show no return on investment.”

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Quad Learning attempted and failed to dramatically improve transfer

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 00:00

When Quad Learning launched its American Honors program, the company expected to provide academically talented community college students with an affordable and seamless pathway to transfer to selective universities.

Over the course of five years, the program proved to be financially unsustainable and may have even hurt the academic futures of students who would have gone to a four-year college by encouraging them to attend community college instead, according to a new report from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

“Students who would’ve come to the community college anyway and were starting at the honors program did have higher rates of transfer to a four-year institution and better overall persistence,” said Shanna Smith Jaggars, a co-author of the report and assistant vice provost of research and program assessment in the Office of Student Academic Success at Ohio State University. “But for students who would’ve gone to a four-year college and instead started at a community college because they were swayed by this honors program and transfer pipeline, it didn’t seem as strong of a bargain.”

About one-third of high school graduates who entered American Honors but would have otherwise directly entered a four-year college saved nearly $12,000 per year in tuition and fees in their first two years of college, but they substantially decreased their chances of transferring and graduating with a bachelor's degree within four years, the report said.

Smith Jaggars noted that most community college students, even high-achieving students who would likely be admitted to selective universities as freshmen or as transfer students, ultimately do not transfer to those institutions. This was the problem Quad Learning wanted to solve, she said. A number of factors often prevent high-achieving students from transferring to universities, such as not getting enough financial aid after completing an associate degree or not getting sufficient advice from college counselors about navigating the transfer process.

A 2018 report from the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program found that each year more than 50,000 community college students who are prepared to do well at a university don't transfer. And 15,000 of those students have earned at least a 3.7 grade point average and could transfer to selective universities. Ultimately, only 17 percent of degree-seeking community college students transfer to a four-year college and complete their bachelor’s degrees, according to CCRC.

Those students who do transfer tend to enroll at local or regional public universities closest to where they live. But those institutions sometimes have lower graduation rates than selective universities, Smith Jaggars said.

“And the return on your degree is much greater at a selective institution,” she said. “Quad Learning wanted a career pipeline for lower-income and middle-income students to have a chance to get into selective destinations and graduate from them.”

Quad Learning used venture capitalist funding and launched the American Honors program in 2013 after conducting a pilot program the previous year. The plan was to build a network of community college honors programs with collaborative curricula and "intrusive advising" that would give students high-quality associate degrees and allow them to seamlessly transfer to a network of selective universities. The program had enrolled 650 students at seven community colleges by 2014, and Quad Learning had plans to expand to 3,000 students by 2016.

“They thought in order to scale this across the country they would create a common online honors curriculum,” Smith Jaggars said. “That idea seemed simple and elegant, but it never happened.”

Faculty members at the community colleges pushed back on the idea that the for-profit Quad Learning would create the curriculum for the American Honors courses. Some faculty also were opposed to teaching the courses online. Each community college eventually developed its own honors curriculum with assistance from Quad Learning’s American Honors design consultant.

“A start-up backed by venture capital and behaving in much the same way start-ups do, where they move fast and break things, is not the way community colleges and higher education acts,” Smith Jaggars said. “These are two very different cultures, and at the beginning, a lot of faculty were not OK with that.”

Paul Freedman, founder and chief executive officer of Entangled Ventures, an education design agency, said Quad Learning tried to reinvent general education courses, a challenge most public-private higher education partnerships don’t attempt.

“American Honors focused on the core general education experience, and that is the heart of an institution’s academic control,” Freedman said. “Most public-private partnerships have been in vocationally or professional-oriented programs outside of the core general education experience.”

Google and Facebook, for example, have been partnering with colleges across the country for cloud computing certificates or digital marketing programs, he said.

“They’re dealing with professional-oriented faculty members where the clear outcome is getting a job,” Freedman said. Those faculty understand that work-force curricula must be more flexible and open to change, unlike standard general education courses, because the industries they’re training students for are constantly evolving, he said.

Freedman has experience attempting to shake up traditional education models. His Altius Education company once ran Ivy Bridge College in collaboration with nonprofit Tiffin University to offer online, two-year degrees. Accreditor scrutiny eventually led to Tiffin pulling out of the partnership and Ivy Bridge’s collapse.

Even without the involvement of a private company, creating multi-institutional transfer agreements is difficult to tackle, he said, referring to American Honors.

While the more rigorous American Honors courses were great for community colleges, they made the transfer aspect of the program even more difficult for Quad Learning to manage because the company had to negotiate transfer agreements for multiple curricula at multiple colleges.

“Usually community colleges have pretty good articulation agreements with whatever is the close destination university,” Smith Jaggars said. “But outside of that, it’s difficult to have that kind of articulation relationship with colleges that are geographically distant or highly selective, or if they’re only sending a handful of students to a university over the course of a few years.”

Quad Learning officials believed that the selective universities would be more willing to accept transfer credits from even a small community college if the courses were backed by American Honors, Smith Jaggars said. More importantly, the universities could accept 100 American Honors students instead of just one or two from a community college they may not recognize, Smith Jaggars said.

Instead, Quad Learning found that their advisers were helping students understand which of their college courses met the requirements of the universities students wanted to attend, she said.

“It was much more of a retail operation and a lot more time intensive, much more so than Quad Learning anticipated,” Smith Jaggars said.

One positive aspect of the American Honors program was the specific advising students received.

It’s not unusual for community colleges to have one adviser serve nearly 1,000 students, Smith Jaggars said. In the American Honors program, the ratio was one adviser to about 100 students, and the advisers met with each assigned student at least once a semester.

“It’s a model most community colleges can’t afford on their own,” she said.

Quad Learning also had difficulties securing admission and transfer agreements with selective universities. The company eventually signed more than 70 transfer agreements with four-year colleges, including some “highly selective universities,” according to the report.

Even when those transfer agreements were completed, students still were not “guaranteed” admission.

“If students completed their associate degree with an American Honors designation, they would be well qualified for admission to [Michigan State University] and would almost certainly be accepted -- but by no means was MSU guaranteeing this,” according to the report.

Quad Learning also failed to understand the on-the-ground realities of transfer for many students, Smith Jaggars said.

“Just because you build program maps and align curriculum doesn’t mean student mobility is a slam dunk,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen program. Students may not have planned financially for at least four years of college, or they might not be prepared to leave their families and travel out of state or across the country.

“These are big decisions people need to make, and those are the life decisions that will make or break the capacity of community college students to transfer,” he said.

Aspen is a part of the American Talent Initiative, an alliance of about 120 four-year institutions that consistently graduate 70 percent or more of their students in six years and have partnered to enroll and graduate 50,000 low- and moderate-income students, including transfers, by 2025.

Smith Jaggars said that had the American Honors program continued, it could have served as a pipeline of students for the institutions taking part in the talent initiative.

A Clash of Business Cultures

Quad Learning built the American Honors program using a tuition model that ultimately made money, but not as much as was needed to keep the operation running, Smith Jaggars said.

Although tuition prices varied under the honors program, the rates were typically 50 percent higher than standard tuition rates at the community colleges but still lower than the costs at nearby four-year institutions. Quad Learning and the community colleges each got a share of the total tuition cost.

Ultimately, Quad Learning didn’t have enough enrollment to meet the profits of the business model they created.

“If they were able to operate under a nonprofit model, they could have pursued it, but at the offset, they had unrealistic expectations of how much they were going to make,” Smith Jaggars said.

Quad Learning needed to enroll groups of new students who wouldn’t otherwise have attended community college but were persuaded to do so by the American Honors program. But the program routinely failed to meet enrollment goals, according to the report.

“Corporate pressures on [Quad Learning] staff to meet enrollment goals became increasingly intense, some college stakeholders felt the program’s admissions standards are becoming more lax … In 2017, challenges meeting domestic student enrollment goals prompted QL to increasingly move into the international student market to recruit [American Honors] students,” according to the report.

The company shifted to pursuing international students, who pay more in tuition, as a revenue strategy, but that proved to be a difficult endeavor as well.

Smith Jaggars said the CCRC researchers didn’t have any insight into Quad Learning's budgets but believe what may have “doomed” the company was its goal to maintain a socially conscious model for domestic students while reconciling the need to make high profits and give investors a significant return on their investment.

“If they had been funded through a model where investors just wanted to be paid back or socially conscious investors who believe in this program and hope they get their money back and that’s it, they could’ve done that,” she said.

Eventually Quad dropped the American Honors program for domestic students, and the program was sold to Wellspring International Education last year. Wellspring helps colleges recruit and enroll international students.

“A source close to the deal described it as a distress sale, worth ‘a small fraction’ of what Quad Learning had raised,” according to the report.

Smith Jaggars said there are lessons future public-private partnerships can learn from Quad Learning's experience.

Companies should first understand the student customer base and what motivates them to enroll in any college, she said.

“Another takeaway for companies is that the move fast, break things approach is not the best partnership approach,” Smith Jaggars said. “You need to realize it takes time to develop trust and make it clear you have only good intentions and that scaling something up super fast is probably not doable.”

Nonetheless, the American Honors program was not completely dissolved. Some community colleges maintained their own honors programs. Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, for example, now has an Ivy Honors program that has transfer agreements with more than 60 four-year colleges and universities.

"Most of the community colleges were fine with Quad Learning dissolving," Smith Jaggars said. "They felt Quad Learning had helped them start something they felt was a good model for their students, and they planned to continue it in some form or another after Quad was gone."

Eventually, there wasn’t much incentive for colleges to hand over a quarter of their tuition and fees to the company once they saw they could replicate the program on their own, she said.

“The colleges learned a lot and received a lot of support and connection with their counterparts at other community colleges,” she said. “They were happy they had done it over all.”

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An accessibility turnaround at Atlantic Cape Community College

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 00:00

Atlantic Cape Community College administrators were shocked when the college was sued for discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act. They thought the college was doing a pretty good job providing accommodations for students with disabilities, given staff and budget constraints.

Two blind students at the college felt otherwise, however, and, backed by the National Federation for the Blind, filed a lawsuit in 2015 claiming Atlantic Cape violated the ADA.

One of the students, Anthony Lanzilotti, said in court documents that he failed several courses because the course materials were not provided in an accessible format. The other student, Mitchell Cossaboon, objected to an institutional policy requiring visually impaired students to be accompanied at all times by a sighted aide.

Atlantic Cape agreed to settle the case, entering into a consent decree that required the college to conduct a full audit of its technology and develop a plan to make all student-facing materials accessible to blind students. The consent decree also required ADA training for all faculty, among other conditions.

The college has since taken steps not only to become ADA compliant but to make accessibility part of its institutional culture. Though the college still has work to do, it has started to build a reputation as an institution that supports students with disabilities -- so much so that their numbers at the college are rising.

At the time of the consent decree in 2015, Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, commended the college on its “willingness to engage in a comprehensive program to ensure that all of its students, including the blind, receive a truly equal education.”

Riccobono said it was “especially significant” that the college agreed to make all of its technology and accessible within three years. The college has since received an extension on the consent decree.

Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum, managing partner at the law firm Brown Goldstein Levy, who represented the plaintiffs in the case, said it’s typical for such lawsuits to be settled with a consent decree. The advantage of a consent decree over a private settlement is that the court retains jurisdiction -- it’s a “stronger way to ensure compliance,” she said.

Though Atlantic Cape has made good progress toward full accessibility, Krevor-Weisbaum notes that it has taken time for the college to find the right strategy. The three-year consent decree was extended in late 2018 for another three years.

“They have certainly shown they are making this consent decree high priority, and we’re very pleased about that,” she said. “It took a while for them to get the right people in place to make the change that they needed to make, but they are doing that now.”

Michael Barnes, director of the Center for Accessibility at Atlantic Cape, said the college has made a lot of progress since 2016 toward integrating accessibility into the culture of the institution.

“Lawsuits are painful -- I don’t want to sugarcoat that at all,” said Barnes. But the impact on Atlantic Cape has been positive, he said.

“It made us look at ourselves, our processes. It made us really evaluate how we work with students and think about how to be a better, more inclusive, institution.”

One of the first actions the college took was to change the name of the Office of Disability Support Services to the Center for Accessibility, said Barnes. The college signed a $274,000 contract with accessibility consultants Interactive Accessibility Inc. in 2016 to perform a technology audit, report accessibility outcomes and help provide accessibility training to faculty and staff, as required by the consent decree.

“We rebuilt all of the policy and procedures from the top down,” said Barnes. It was important that the Board of Trustees, the president and the deans were all on board, he said.

“We wanted to make accessibility part of the culture of the institution," he said. "We didn’t want to be thinking about accessibility just for the sake of compliance.”

Rather than retroactively fixing inaccessible content created by instructors or provided by third parties, Atlantic Cape focused on encouraging the creation and procurement of accessible content, said Barnes. As part of this effort, the Center for Accessibility and the instructional technology department started working closely together to provide training to faculty members.

Michelle Perkins, director of instructional technology at Atlantic Cape, said the college now offers four accessibility workshops to instructors, from beginner level to advanced. Basic training is mandatory, but participation in the more advanced sessions is voluntary. Perkins said she has been pleased with the number of faculty members who have taken part in the more advanced training, even if they don’t have great computer skills. The training teaches faculty how to create accessible content with colors, fonts and descriptions that can be picked up by screen readers and other assistive technologies. It also teaches them how to assess whether products they purchase from publishers are accessible.

Persuading busy faculty to attend workshops is never easy, but attendance has been encouraged through emails and the work of "accessibility champions" -- faculty members who are available to offer support or answer questions should other faculty need help. The instructional technology team is also on hand to troubleshoot any specific issues faculty have, said Perkins.

Atlantic Cape uses Blackboard Ally technology that alerts faculty if the content they upload to the learning management system is not accessible, with specific feedback and instructions on how to fix each issue, said Perkins.

Nicolaas Matthijs, product director of Blackboard Ally, said the tool is now used by 550 colleges and universities. Unlike other commercially available website-accessibility checkers, Ally is designed to work with digital course content and multiple learning management systems, he said.

The Ally team is working not only to give institutions more detailed accessibility reports, but is also building out the tool to offer live feedback and support -- possibly checking the accessibility of content not just in the LMS or on a college website, but in instructors’ Google Drive or Dropbox accounts. A spokesperson for Blackboard Ally declined to comment on how much the tool costs.

According to Ally stats, 90 percent of the course material in Atlantic Cape’s LMS is now accessible to students with visual or other impairments, said Perkins. The tool also enables administrators to identify materials that are not meeting requirements. This data insight can be used to generate reports on progress in ADA compliance by departments and also pinpoint faculty who may need extra support.

“Ninety percent looks awesome, but we still have work to do,” said Barnes. “We spend a lot of time reviewing content on our LMS -- sometimes there are files that are buried.”

Though individual faculty can be identified and potentially ranked on the accessibility of their course materials, the objective is not to shame or punish anyone who is not meeting the desired standard, said Barnes.

“We’re not going to people’s bosses and telling them someone’s course materials are not accessible,” he said. “We’ll have brown-bag lunches; we’ll go through the content one on one and see how we can be of support.”

“This is not about minimizing the instructor’s experience -- some of them have been teaching for 30 or 40 years. This is about taking the valuable materials that they’ve created and asking how we can make them into an accessible digital format.”

In addition to data insights, Blackboard Ally also automates some work, said Perkins. If an instructor uploads a PDF, for example, Blackboard Ally will automatically generate the document in multiple file formats for students to download. Students can then easily access the material on their phone, tablet, e-reader or other assistive technology.

Making content available in multiple formats has benefited all students, not just those with disabilities, said Perkins. Students with long commutes can now have course materials narrated to them while they drive, for example. Accessibility isn’t just for the obvious students who need it -- it’s for the benefit of everyone, she said.

Because students with disabilities are not required to register with the Center for Accessibility, faculty are keenly aware that their classes need to be accessible to all students at all times, said Barnes.

"This has really resonated with faculty," he said. "My office could have no idea if they're here, and they have the legal right to take your class." ​

Barnes said the college has seen an increase in the enrollment of students with disabilities.

“We have students now forgoing other institutions to come here,” he said.

Since 2016, the number of students with disabilities who have registered with the Center for Accessibility has increased by 25 percent and is now at around 500 students. College administrators have no way of knowing how many others are enrolled but didn't register with the center.

Juliana Torres, a student at Atlantic Cape who is due to graduate this month, is visually impaired. In her four years at the college pursuing three majors, Torres said she has noticed major improvements in the support services available to her.

“I had a lot of anxiety deciding whether or not to go to college,” she said. A New Jersey native who wants to become a professional caterer, Torres said she was attracted to Atlantic Cape because of its strong culinary arts program.

“I don’t want to say that there weren’t support services when I started, but they have improved," she said. "I now have the accommodations that I need to have a seemingly normal day-to-day school life.”

Support staff helped her plan her course schedule and ensured she was able to access course materials in a way that worked for her.

Though the support staff has been instrumental in helping her succeed, Torres believes they are stretched too thin and feels guilty that she took up so much of a staff member's time. “The support staff needs more support,” she said.

Torres said she has nonetheless been pleased with her experience.

“Not everyone needs or wants to go to college,” she said. “But I’m very grateful for the fact that I was able to come here and get the support I needed.”

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Sentences reduced for former Penn State fraternity brothers in Piazza hazing case

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 00:00

Two years ago, a local district attorney started aggressively pursuing charges against the fraternity brothers who contributed to the death of a Pennsylvania State University freshman, Timothy Piazza.

Piazza, a Beta Theta Pi pledge, died after rounds of heavy drinking at a party in February 2017, at one point in the night tumbling down 15 steps. The university sanctioned the fraternity and Greek life broadly, and combined with the authorities' push, antihazing activists heralded the response as a new era of hazing crackdowns.

Most of the former fraternity members -- who pleaded guilty to misdemeanors ranging from hazing to furnishing alcohol to a minor -- still await sentencing. But a judge has allowed three former brothers he initially sentenced to jail to instead serve their time on house arrest.

Experts in fraternity life and hazing said the decision showed that despite more college administrative attention around these issues, the courts are still likely to be more lenient.

“This is obviously dispiriting for those who thought this is the ideal case to make a stand and to signal that hazing is intolerable,” said John Hechinger, senior editor at Bloomberg News and author of True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities.

Piazza was rushing Beta Theta Pi -- the process of joining the fraternity -- at the time of his death. After drinking heavily, he fell down a flight of basement stairs and was knocked unconscious. Fraternity members carried him to the couch but ignored his need for medical care, instead trying to wake him by splashing liquid on his face and hitting him. At one point, Piazza tried to get up but struck his head on an iron railing, which left him with significant head trauma. He bled for hours internally before dying two days later.

Fraternity members did not call 911 until the morning after the party.

The case inspired a national antihazing crusade, in part led by Piazza’s parents, Jim and Evelyn. They pushed for and eventually succeeded in getting antihazing reform passed in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly. Institutions now need to publish a report on hazing, and any incident that results in severe injury or death is classified as a felony. Piazza’s death was a particularly effective rallying point because of his story: he was young, affable and a high school football star -- and the night had been documented on surveillance footage, giving the public a gruesome picture of what had happened.

“This action signifies important movement in an ongoing conversation to identify meaningful solutions that create transformational change,” Eric Barron, Penn State’s president, said in a statement after the law was passed. “Unfortunately, hazing continues to plague universities across the country, and we hope this law will serve as a model for other state legislatures to effect critically needed national reform. Penn State has been, and continues to be, committed to addressing this serious national issue.”

After Piazza’s death, Barron kicked Beta Theta Pi off campus and postponed rushing, which many advocates generally deem a positive step. Banning fraternities or sororities outright is often not effective, they told Inside Higher Ed.

Magisterial District Judge Brian K. Marshall initially sentenced three former Penn State fraternity members, Luke Visser, Michael Bonatucci and Joshua Kurczewski, to jail time ranging between 30 days and nine months. Many antihazing activists cheered the sentences as potentially severe enough to make fraternity members take notice and change their behavior.

He later reduced the sentence -- Kurczewski to 90 days on house arrest, Bonatucci to 30 days and Visser to 45 days.

Local media reported that Marshall said that some of the fraternity members were remorseful for their actions.

Hank Nuwer, a journalism professor at Franklin College who has written broadly about hazing, said that the Piazza case reminded him of an early hazing death, Isaac William Rand, a University of North Carolina student, who died in 1912 after his throat was cut with a broken bottle. Rand’s death came with promises of change around hazing and a major media blitz, but little was accomplished, Nuwer said.

Nuwer said that hazing isn’t often looked at as a homicide -- that judges still look at the episodes as “unfortunate accidents” that involve students with no prior criminal record. Often, hazing investigations take quite a bit of time, which allows the bad actors to build up a good defense in a criminal case, he said.

Even if tougher laws, such as Pennsylvania’s, are passed, they won’t do much unless they’re enforced properly, Nuwer said.

Texas and Florida have considered bills that would toughen rules around hazing. Florida’s would make hazing a felony if it resulted in permanent injury and gives immunity to people who provide medical assistance or call 911 for help. The Texas legislation modifies the definition of hazing, adding that coercing someone to drink alcohol or use a drug is now considered hazing. Universities would also need to publish summaries on hazing, and students would be protected from liability if they reported a hazing episode.

But judges often don’t understand hazing or the psychology behind it, said Gentry McCreary, the chief executive officer of Dyad Strategies, which consults with colleges and universities to reshape their Greek life systems.

In the Piazza case, no one physically forced him to consume alcohol, but the “need to belong” is a particularly powerful motivator, McCreary said. Just like with sexual assault, in which police, judges and prosecutors have been taught trauma-informed interviewing, so should they need to learn about the nuances of hazing, he said.

The new laws are helpful because prosecuting students under manslaughter can be complex, McCreary said. The standards for those charges can be significantly higher, so making the hazing laws clearer helps, he said.

“We continue to see this as a challenge -- that it’s hard to hold people accountable,” McCreary said.

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USC Board of Trustees to undergo major changes in the wake of recent scandals

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 00:00

Over the past two years, as scandals and controversies have plagued the University of Southern California, the institution’s divided and, some argue, unwieldy Board of Trustees has been afflicted with its own array of problems.

While the university’s difficulties played out in public, the board turmoil largely took place behind the scenes, as is the norm in the usually staid culture of private university boards. But internal disagreements on the board -- replete with biting insults, leaked emails and accusations of conflicts of interests and ethics violations -- have spilled into public view in recent months.

The infighting has highlighted institutional governance challenges and prompted calls for a major restructuring and shrinking of the 56-member board. It turns out some reforms are already underway or under consideration. And despite the deep divisions on the board, many members agree a major transformation is sorely needed.

“There are significant changes being discussed, dozens and dozens of changes we're going to be bringing to the board,” said Rick Caruso (at right), chair of the Board of Trustees. He said reducing the size of the board is among several modifications being considered based on the recommendations of a committee created to address the board’s many challenges.

“When you look at different universities across the country, there are a wide range of numbers of board members,” Caruso said, adding that no decision has yet been made on the final composition of the USC board.

While it's true that university governing boards are of varying sizes, the average private university board had 29 members in 2016, according to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. Stanford University's board has 31 members, for example.

“A number of changes that are equally if not more important than the size of the board” are also under discussion, Caruso said. “What’s important is to get it right.”

Getting it right seems more consequential than ever at USC. The push for change is occurring as the university itself is in the midst of transition, with a new president set to take over in July and several top administrators already gone. The fallout from the national college admissions bribery and cheating scheme, in which employees, students and parents connected to USC predominated, is still unfolding.

The admissions scandal further hurt the already damaged reputation of the university, making it the butt of jokes on late-night talk shows and embarrassing and cutting skits on Saturday Night Live.

Students, faculty members, alumni and others with a stake in the future of the university are not amused. They say merely tinkering with board structure won't lead to real change without considering broader issues -- a culture of secrecy many say has discouraged confronting problems, a willingness to look the other way when money or athletics are involved, and a failure to seek adequate faculty input.

Ariela Gross, a professor of law and history at USC, who is on an Academic Senate task force on shared governance, considers the current composition of trustees “a board for a different era.”

"And as the current board leadership recognizes, it can’t stay this size and this composition and function the way it has in the past if it is to move forward,” she said. “I think the question is how quickly change will happen, not whether that change will happen.”

William G. Tierney, a professor of higher education and co-director of USC's Pullias Center for Higher Education, agrees the focus should be on the future.

“The real issue is to look forward, not to look backward,” he said

Tierney wrote a widely discussed op-ed in which he endorsed the idea of a reconfigured board and called on the incoming president, Carol Folt, to “convince the USC Board of Trustees … to radically restructure itself” as one of her first acts as president.

Tierney also urged Folt to work with Caruso “to convince the trustees that they should resign en masse to allow USC to build a new, smaller board tasked specifically with oversight and aligned more with the university’s future than its past.”

Reshaping the Board

Caruso said the executive committee of the Board of Trustees is in fact focused on the university’s future. Committee members attended a retreat in March to discuss changing the board's structure and came up with a list of recommendations that were “significant, meaningful and frankly necessary to govern this institution that has changed dramatically over the past 30 years,” even as “the formation and operation of the board has not changed in that time,” he said.

“There a number of ways to do it and we’re looking at many options,” Caruso said. “We haven’t taken votes yet, but I can tell you that everybody wants a change; everybody wants an effective board.”

He said the changes will occur in stages, with the most significant one taking place in the next academic year.

In the interim, the board members are still working out their personal problems.

Like any large body of individuals with various views and allegiances, the trustees sometimes disagreed, but they usually resolved differences privately. Things shifted soon after Caruso, a longtime trustee and billionaire developer, was elected chairman of the board in May 2018.

At the time, faculty members were calling for the removal of the university’s then president, C. L. Max Nikias, in the wake of a shocking sexual assault scandal involving numerous instances of abuse of students by a campus gynecologist.

The faculty members and many students and administrators believed the scandal, among the worst of several at USC, was badly mishandled by Nikias, a prolific fund-raiser popular with the trustees, many of whom did not want him removed. Critics of Nikias blamed him for fostering a campus culture where administrators and others did not report wrongdoing.

Although the effort to oust Nikias was ultimately successful, the Los Angeles Times recently reported that Nikias, who sits on the board and maintains close relationships with other trustees, continues to wield influence on campus and on the board. Some faculty members voiced concerns that his participation in board decisions may potentially undermine Folt’s ability to reform the university and may further fuel perceptions of the board as being insufficiently concerned about the best interests of the university.

Among Caruso’s most visible actions as the board's leader was his support for, and pushing through of, a highly controversial move by the interim president, Wanda Austin, to demote the dean of the university’s Marshall School of Business. The decision sharply divided business school faculty, students and, perhaps most critically, alumni, many of them wealthy donors and a few of them members of the Board of Trustees.

The dean’s removal made Caruso a lightning rod for blistering criticism about his leadership style. Trustees that supported the dean, Jim Ellis, condemned Caruso in interviews with local and national news outlets, and in bluntly disparaging letters they sent to him and made public.

Caruso was unapologetic about supporting the dean’s removal.

“The decision that Dr. Austin made was within her authority, and we approved it,” he said.

To be very honest, there was a handful of people that did not want to see change. They were not the majority; it was tough for them. Change is tough but change has to happen. From time to time, I became the focus of their frustration and that’s fine. As chair, you have to lead.

Before long, a small but vocal contingent of die-hard supporters of Ellis, including some board members, were calling for Caruso’s resignation and orchestrating a negative public information campaign against him. This prompted a trustee who supports Caruso to call on colleagues to show more civility.

“I must take this time to state that the attacks on our chairman and the challenges to his leadership and the direction of this leadership simply should stop,” Ron Tutor, chairman and chief executive officer of Tutor Perinni Corporation, one of the largest general contractors in the United States, wrote in an email to fellow board members on Jan. 21. (Two buildings on campus are named for Tutor.)

“Whether you agree or disagree with the termination of Dean Ellis, I perceived it as one of the many unfortunate products of the times where, because of many past practices that were lax, the university’s management reacted aggressively and strongly. Whether or not it was the wise thing to do is not the issue. It is done, direction is clear and we simply cannot be in an attack mode against our leadership with all of the issues facing us going forward. We must close ranks and we must accept the fact that the chairman and this Board of Trustees going forward must take a much more aggressive role than in the past and must be more supervisory over our presidents and staff so that the sort of issues that took place will not occur again.”

“I ask all of you to refrain from any further attacks, communicate in a civil manner within the board, and support our leadership going forward. If there is to be disagreements, let them be on a closed basis within the executive committee and abide by the general consensus of that committee and the board itself.”

Ming Hsieh, another trustee and major USC donor -- a cancer research institute and a department of electric and computer engineering are named for him -- responded by email that same day.

"I strongly disagree with your statement that there should be no more challenges to either Rick's leadership or the current direction of USC's leadership. How can you possibly say that?" Hsieh wrote. "It is due to the very fact that the direction of this administration is clear that we must speak up, because the direction this university is currently headed is down, not up."

“You say we should ‘close ranks’ and be ‘more supervisory over our presidents and staff so that the sort of issues that took place will not occur again,’ but these issues continue to occur, which is why this board must act to change USC's flawed leadership now.”

Hsieh also noted financial ties between Tutor and Caruso -- Tutor’s company was the general contractor on two major Caruso projects, the Rosewood Miramar Beach Resort and the Palisades Village Center -- and implied that their business relationship posed a conflict of interest and could influence or compel Tutor to vote in favor of Caruso initiatives as board chair, or in “any upcoming votes of confidence in this leadership team.”

Hsieh also called on other trustees to disclose if they have any business relationships with Caruso and recuse themselves from voting on certain matters before the board.

Relations between the trustees and the board president were further complicated by news reports connecting a USC student whose parents were implicated in the admissions scandal to Caruso. The student, Olivia Jade Giannulli, a friend of Caruso's daughter, was on Caruso's yacht in the Bahamas during spring break, along with other friends of his daughter, who is also a USC student, when the news broke of the indictments in the federal probe. Giannulli's mother, the actress Lori Loughlin, is accused of participating in the admissions scheme and paying $500,000 in bribes to get Giannulli and her sister accepted into USC. Caruso's critics cited the yacht incident as yet another example of his personal and professional ties intersecting with his role as board president and creating possible conflicts of interests.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Caruso said he personally knew two families in which parents were charged.

Caruso "declined to name the families, but said they never asked him for help in gaining admission," the Times article stated. The newspaper also reported that at least two of the parents charged socialized with USC trustees or top administrators. One parent, a wealthy financier, even bragged in a wiretapped phone call that "half the board knows me" and said he planned to seek their help to get his son admitted.

These revelations reinforced the image of the board as being the clubby bastion of rich and powerful, and sometimes famous, mostly white male donors -- movie director Steven Spielberg is on the board, for example -- on a campus dotted with buildings and departments bearing the names of several trustees, including the USC Caruso Catholic Center and the USC Caruso Department of Otolaryngology at the Keck School of Medicine.

Putting Controversies Behind Them

Caruso dismissed any suggestions that he had potential or actual conflicts of interests with Tutor or others on the board.

“There is no conflict of interest that I have. None,” he said. “Ron Tutor was the contractor on two projects of mine. My business is a small fraction of the multiple billions of dollars in business that he does. I don’t know anybody who could influence Ron -- he’s his own man.”

Caruso said business ties between trustees do not pose conflicts of interest challenges for the board.

“The conflict occurs if I’m doing business with the university,” he said, adding that such conflicts would have to be formally disclosed. “I have a fiduciary duty to the university.”

Caruso said the allegations “are all falsehoods, stirred up by one trustee, maybe two” and that accounts of widespread backbiting, finger-pointing and distrust between trustees was overstated. He also said the board had put an end to “inappropriate behavior” by certain trustees intent on tarnishing the reputation of fellow trustees.

“The board does not tolerate that anymore,” he said. “And we have made that very clear. The board has moved past these controversies and is overwhelmingly united.”

Caruso, a 1980 USC alumnus and founder and CEO of Caruso, one of the country’s largest privately held real estate companies, is intent on moving the board forward.

He laid out his vision for the board in a long memo to “Members of the USC Family” last August. Among other measures, he announced the establishment of a Special Committee on Governance Reform made up of five trustees tasked with examining “all aspects of the Board of Trustees’ structure and operations to ensure that USC is a world leader in higher education governance.”

The committee also reviewed best practices at peer institutions and involved others on campus in its efforts, according to the memo.

“As a board, we recognize that the university has grown dramatically over the past few decades,” Caruso wrote. “That success includes a fast-growing budget, staff and student body in addition to operating one of the region’s largest medical enterprises. However, the Board of Trustees is organized in much the same way as it was 30 years ago. That needs to change.”

Caruso’s detractors believe the change should start at the top of the board.

“I think if he really cared about USC, he would step down,” said a critic who did not want to be identified because of the risk of reprisal. “He speaks as if the board is one big happy family that sings ‘Kumbaya’ together. It’s not a happy family at all. This board is broken -- he can say what he wants, but the board is broken.”

The critic said Caruso makes decisions for the board without collaborating with members and instead simply presents his decisions and asks them to vote on it. The critic cited the demotion of Dean Ellis and the selection of Folt as prime examples. Trustees who questioned those decisions or wanted to discuss the decision making behind them were sidelined or silenced, he said.

For example, the critic said, the selection of Folt was announced to the board on the same day she was presented as the finalist for the job by the selection committee, whose members were handpicked by Caruso. Caruso was the chairman of the committee.

No information was provided about Folt in advance of the meeting, the critic said. Instead, the search committee members spoke highly of her, and then there was a vote.

“That’s not a choice, that’s a fait accompli,” the critic said. “He’s made the board his own fiefdom and that’s not an example of good governance.”

Not so, according to Caruso.

He said in the past when the board considered presidential candidates, the board’s personnel committee reviewed applicants and recommended finalists to the executive committee, which would then make a recommendation for a final selection to the full board for a vote.

“This time the whole board listened to the discussions of each committee,” Caruso said. “They heard the same info at the same time and were able to ask questions. And everybody involved in the decision-making process was, in turn, being accountable.”

As a result, the selection of Folt was made by “unanimous voice vote,” he noted.

“In the old days, only the executive committee would have heard the information and made a recommendation, and then the full board would have voted,” he said. "That isn’t, to me, an example of best practices. There’s a role for the executive committee to play, no doubt, but the goal here is to have the whole board engaged and acting like a fiduciary.”

Caruso said when he became president of the board, he started talking and meeting with deans, students and professors to better understand what was happening on campus.

“It was incredibly helpful,” he said.

He said he came away from those conversations with a consistent message for the board: “We have to be more engaged, more involved and more visible.”

“We can’t be accountable unless we know the facts,” he said.

Gross, the law and history professor, is chair of Concerned Faculty of USC, a group of about 360 mostly tenured professors representing about a third of all tenured faculty members on campus. She said she’s impressed with Caruso’s follow-through on his commitments to change the board, including his promise to make public the identities of the board’s executive committee, which until recently were kept secret.

The committee turned out to have 17 members, which, Gross noted, is “almost as large as university boards in their entirety.”

“Fourteen of the committee members are older white men almost entirely drawn from business, heavily in real estate, very homogenous,” she said. “Now that we know who they are, there’s a pretty wide understanding of why that has to change.”

Caruso concurred.

“Under the old system, we were not visible. Deans and faculty members were not allowed to talk directly to trustees; I was told it was taboo for them to speak to trustees,” he said. “We got our information through the president. Big, critical decisions were made by the executive committee.”

Now more decisions are made by the whole board, he said. There’s also more direct communication with the interim president, more collaboration and more hard questions asked. The trustees also have a better sense of the decision-making process.

“This board, in a very short period of time, has transitioned from not being very engaged to this past year being very engaged and very in tune,” he said.

The Caruso critic who did not want to be named believes the other trustees have simply capitulated to Caruso's demands.

“This board lacks a backbone,” the critic said. “The board rules need to be rewritten, and the members need to be more engaged than just rubber-stamping the president’s decisions and allowing him to continue making the board in his image.”

That consensus is certainly not universal on the USC campus. Tierney and other professors say they approve of the changes taking place under Caruso's leadership.

Moving Forward

Paul Adler, a professor of management and organization, sociology, and environmental studies at USC’s Marshall School of Business, was on a faculty task force created to identify some of the roots of the recent scandals and met, in that capacity, with the leaders of the Board of Trustees’ special governance committee.

“I was impressed,” Adler said. “They were very thoughtful and open to radical restructuring on the board and quite aware of the need to remake the board.”

He said he was not aware of any significant opposition to Caruso or disagreement among board members.

“From what we hear on the grapevine, there’s pretty broad contentment within the board now and consensus on the direction for change,” he said. “While there's a lot of agreement on where we need to go, there remain unresolved issues about how to get there. Many of us, but not all, feel that we need a stronger faculty voice, primarily by strengthening the Faculty Senate. Strong faculty governance is a hallmark of a world-class university.”

He said more transparency is also needed.

“USC's leadership has long had a very defensive attitude -- when bad things happen, the reflex seems to be to duck and wait for the storm to pass. A university that is confident of its place in the top tier would be more open to both its internal and external stakeholders about its failures.”

Tierney agreed and alluded to those failures in his op-ed column.

“The next set of trustees must have duties beyond giving generously, attending football games and meeting at the 11th hour to fire the president when the university is in crisis,” he wrote. “Given the egos of many board members, and their genuine affection for the university, making such a sweeping change will be no easy task, but it is crucial.”

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Pennsylvania court rules in favor of Bloomsburg U professor fired for sleeping with two students

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 00:00

Bloomsburg University must reinstate a professor it fired in 2017 over sexual relationships he had with two students, according to the appellate Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

The decision upholds an arbitrator’s earlier order that Bloomsburg reinstate the professor with back pay, based on the finding that he did not violate the university’s consensual relationship policy.

Bloomsburg’s policy says that employees may not date or have sex with students or others currently under their supervision, but does not expressly prohibit relationships with past students. The university argued, ultimately unpersuasively, that the professor had violated public policy nevertheless.

The professor, John Barrett, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Court documents say that he taught one of the students in question in 2015 and began dating her the next semester, when she was no longer in his class but still a student at Bloomsburg.

The unnamed student testified that she engaged in consensual sex with Barrett but would sometimes wake up to him touching her genitals without her consent. She said it bothered her but that she did not discuss that with Barrett at the time.

The pair ended their romantic relationship in mid-2016 but remained friendly until later that year. Soon after, the woman confronted Barrett about rumors that he was now sexually involved with another student on campus. The second student has since acknowledged the relationship.

In mid-2017, the first student complained to the university that Barrett had a pattern of targeting his female students and that Barrett had touched her when she was asleep and unable to consent.

Barrett was placed on administrative leave almost immediately, pending an investigation. Bloomsburg formally terminated him the next month, citing his lack of professional judgment in engaging in sexual relationships with two students and “engaging in sexual conduct” without the student’s consent.

Barrett’s faculty union, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, field a grievance on his behalf, on that grounds that Bloomsburg fired him without just cause. The case went to arbitration, and Barrett was awarded reinstatement and back pay. Barrett’s conduct didn’t violate any university policy against sexual harassment and discrimination because neither student was under his supervision at the time of the relationship, the arbitrator found.

In fighting that award and Barrett’s reinstatement, the university cited cases in which the state court had previously vacated arbitrators’ decisions based on a public policy exception -- namely Pennsylvania’s well-defined policy against sexual harassment. Bloomsburg relied heavily on the first student’s allegation of nonconsensual touching.

In his opinion for the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, Judge P. Kevin Brobson said that the Bloomsburg case differed from other cases cited by the university in that Bloomsburg sought to “vacate an award based on sexual conduct that occurred within the overall context of a consensual sexual relationship and asks this court to find that the conduct was criminal.”

While the first student alleged that Barrett manipulated her genitals without her consent, Brobson wrote, she continued to visit his home and have sex with him. She never brought up the touching, Brobson noted, and Barrett said it didn’t happen. And the arbitrator determined that if these acts had occurred, they happened in the context of a consensual sexual relationship and not as an act of sexual harassment.

While Bloomsburg is acting as if it must reinstate “a criminal,” Brobson wrote, the “obvious problem with the university’s contention here is that there is no record that [Barrett] was ever charged with, prosecuted for or convicted of indecent sexual assault stemming from the alleged acts.”

An arbitration award “is not the proper venue to litigate whether a grievant is guilty of a crime,” Brobson added.

Still, he said, noting the arbitrator’s comment that Barrett must going forward hold himself to a higher standard, “we are in no way ignoring [Barrett’s] appalling lack of judgment, especially as one who once held a position of trust” for the student.

The university said it is aware of the decision and in the process of reviewing it.

In March, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court refused to hear Lock Haven University’s appeal of a lower court’s order that it rehire Charles Morgan, a professor of math it fired in 2016 upon discovering his decades-old conviction for child sex abuse. That lower court decision upheld an earlier arbitration ruling in Morgan’s favor. These decisions all have cited the fact that Morgan has not engaged in criminal behavior in the many years since his conviction. The statewide public faculty union also supported Morgan in his grievance.

Morgan is suing Lock Haven in civil court.

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Oregon Promise analysis shows four-year colleges lost enrollment to community colleges

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 00:00

A recent analysis of Oregon’s tuition-free community college scholarship found that the program helped increase enrollment at the state’s two-year colleges but shifted students away from public four-year institutions in the first year of its existence.

The analysis by Oded Gurantz, an assistant professor of education policy at the University of Missouri, also found that low-income students in Oregon didn’t receive much financial aid from the Oregon Promise program because it is a last-dollar scholarship, meaning it covers tuition and fees only after students have used all federal and state financial aid for which they are eligible.

Oregon Promise was started in 2016 and became the country’s second statewide tuition-free program. In the first year, 6,971 students received the scholarship. More than 5,600 students and 5,900 students participated in the program in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Gurantz examined the graduation and college enrollment records of high school students in the state who took the Preliminary SAT, which measures college readiness, in 10th grade. He found a 4.2 percentage point increase in community college enrollment in the first year of the Promise program. Most of that increase was the result of a corresponding 2.9-percentage-point enrollment decline at the state’s four-year colleges, he said. Gurantz used PSAT data because the exam is subsidized by the state and students are more likely to take it. The PSAT and SAT student data are also linked to National Student Clearinghouse data on postsecondary enrollment.

“In that first group of eligible students for the Oregon Promise, the enrollment shifts away from four-year colleges,” Gurantz said. But that effect didn’t appear in the second year of the program, even as the community colleges continued to see enrollment gains, he said.

Gurantz said the shift of students choosing not to attend four-year colleges and instead using the Promise scholarship to attend community colleges could have occurred because it took longer for information and marketing about the program to reach students from families with no college experience, or those who hadn’t considered college as an option.

“The spread of information is quickest to the highest-income families and slowest to families less likely to go to college,” he said.

Oregon universities have been opposed to the Promise program since it began and have argued that the state should instead fund the need-based Opportunity Grant program that directly helps low-income and underrepresented students regardless of whether they attend two- or four-year colleges. The grant program provides up to $2,700 to eligible students attending community colleges and $3,300 to students attending public or private four-year institutions in the state. The program has a maximum $3,500 expected family contribution cap.

“Oregon State from the beginning has advocated funds for students with financial need should go toward improving the Oregon Opportunity Grant, which targets low-income students,” said Steve Clark, vice president of university relations for Oregon State University.

Clark said that the university doesn’t have the data to show a direct correlation between enrollment rates at community colleges in 2016 and 2017 by Oregon Promise students and enrollment rates at the university. Oregon State’s overall enrollment in 2016 increased 2.6 percent, to about 30,354 students, and in 2017 increased by 1.8 percent to nearly 30,900 students.

However, Clark noted, the university had been enrolling fewer Oregon high school graduates before the Oregon Promise started. Enrollment by graduates of the state’s high schools decreased by 0.6 percent in 2016 and by 4.1 percent in 2017.

A report from the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission found similar effects in the first year of the Promise program between four- and two-year institutional enrollments, said Ben Cannon, executive director of the HECC.

The rate of students with state and federal grants increased by 3.6 percentage points, to 29.3 percent, in 2016 among the community colleges, while the rate of students receiving grant aid at public universities in the state decreased 4.2 percentage points, to 37.2 percent, according to HECC data.

Gurantz’s analysis also shows that because of the last-dollar component of the program, fewer low-income students received actual scholarship dollars. Oregon does provide a separate $1,000 stipend to full-time Promise students if they are entirely covered by Pell Grants -- or $500 if they attend part-time -- to help offset additional costs such as textbooks, transportation or living expenses.

The first year of the Promise program did not include a limit on the maximum expected family contribution, or EFC, allowed for eligibility, which means middle- and higher-income families were able to receive the scholarship dollars. As a result, about one-fifth of Promise scholarship dollars went to students from families with an EFC of more than $20,000, according to Gurantz's analysis.

Oregon's community colleges on average cost about $5,000 a year in tuition and fees, according to the state. Gurantz's analysis found the average Promise scholarship award was $653.

“A lot of the money goes to middle- and high-income families,” he said.

Oregon placed a $20,000 EFC cap on the program in 2017 to prevent Promise dollars from going to high-income families. But that cap was removed last year, Cannon said.

The Legislature is considering imposing another EFC cap, but in the interim, the state is encouraging students of all income levels to apply for the program, he said.

“I am concerned that first-generation or low-income or other underrepresented students will be inadvertently affected by the mixed messaging that we have given over the years,” Cannon said. “When we are forced to impose EFC restrictions, or otherwise have to adjust eligibility, it confuses the message that I think we’re trying to drive around this program, which is tuition will not be a barrier for any Oregon student who wants to go to community college.”

Compared to all community college students, Oregon Promise students are less likely to be first generation. Only 31 percent of Oregon Promise students in 2016 were first generation, according to HECC data.

“We know signaling of college being free is an important and powerful magnet for students,” Gurantz said. “Even if more money is going to middle-income families, some money is still going to low-income families.”

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Colleges see rise in popularity for emotional support animals

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 00:00

Most students know the list of items they can’t bring into a university dormitory. They can’t haul in their own beds. They can’t set up a microwave. Candles usually aren’t allowed.

The family golden retriever would usually fall in this banned category.

But no longer does that stop students from asking for emotional support animals -- requests for them have skyrocketed at colleges and universities nationwide.

Washington State University’s Access Center, which handles the needs of students with both psychological and physical disabilities, only fielded two or three requests for emotional support animals in 2011.

Now the center gets 60 to 75 requests a year, said Meredyth Goodwin, its director.

The bouncing bunny, the fluffy kitten and more exotic companions -- ferrets, snakes, bearded dragons -- all of which would have been promptly exiled from a campus residence no more than a decade ago, have become widely accepted features, at least among officials who work to accommodate students with disabilities.

These creatures are meant to comfort students with anxiety, depression or some other mental health issue. They are distinct from service animals, which are legally defined as only dogs or miniature horses that can perform tasks for their handler -- think a guide dog for the blind.

Misinformation and skepticism abound when it comes to both emotional support animals and service animals. How can college administrators differentiate from the student down the hall who needs to pet his cat to ease a panic attack versus the student who just wants to room with Fido?

Students don't need to provide documentation to have a service dog. But they do need a letter from a mental health professional justifying the need for an emotional support animal.

This type of verification can be easily fudged, however, as online services can -- for a certain price -- connect students with a psychologist who would provide them with such a letter, which has led to officials being much more diligent about potential abuse of the system.

“It is one of the issues that all access centers across the country are grappling with,” Goodwin said. “If you go to professional trainings, this is one of the most common items we’re seeing.”

College administrators started taking real notice of emotional support animals seven or so years ago. Students began suing when administrators denied their requests for a furry or scaly roommate, arguing that the decisions violated the federal Fair Housing Act, which protects from discrimination when buying or renting a home. The animals have made headlines elsewhere, too, such as when passengers on airplanes try to take their emotional support turkey or peacock on a flight.

Students who sued universities have won.

In 2013, Grand Valley State University settled for $40,000 with a student who sued the previous year. The institution had told her she couldn’t live with her emotional support guinea pig. A similar, $140,000 settlement came two years later for two students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The settlement stemmed from a lawsuit in 2011 by a former student who asked to keep a four-pound miniature pinscher named Butch in her apartment for her chronic anxiety but was denied. As recently as three years ago, Kent State University paid out $100,000 to a couple living in university housing who were told they couldn’t have a dog to accommodate the woman’s anxiety.

With case law clearly defining that emotional support animals were covered by the Fair Housing Act, administrators began processing how to deal with such requests.

At Washington State, students who want an emotional support animal must submit a letter from a mental health practitioner outlining a student’s diagnosis and how the creature in question would help alleviate their symptoms, Goodwin said. The university’s housing division makes the final call whether to allow the animal once her office approves it. Officials aren’t obligated to approve every request. Goodwin recalls a dog, she believes a mastiff, that was 200 or so pounds that simply couldn’t live in a dorm room. Eight years ago, when this issue was first coming to light, the university approved a pig that damaged a residence hall, Goodwin said.

The level of scrutiny applied to these requests will vary by institution, said Courtney Cioffredi, the director of student access and accommodations at New England College. But generally the requirements are similar to Washington State’s, she said.

Many administrators in the disabilities field are aware, however, of how easy it is to secure such a doctor's note, Cioffredi said. In 2014 a New Yorker writer went online and, for $140, had a phone consult with a therapist who gave her a letter confirming she needed an emotional support animal. This was after a single call.

At Ohio State University, where about 175 support animals live in the residence halls, administrators tend to flag the “template” letters, said L. Scott Lissner, the university’s Americans With Disabilities Act coordinator and 504 compliance officer. These notes tend to lack the same detail compared to those that came from a therapist with an existing relationship with a student, Lissner said. Ohio State asks for information about a student’s history with the therapist, too, he said.

“Companies that purport to have these interactions online with a licensed psychologist who can opine on your needs [are] more than a bit problematic,” Lissner said.

Service dogs can be trickier than emotional support animals. Miniature service horses are obviously not common on college campuses, though Lissner said he’s heard of a Muslim student owning one at an institution in Michigan (in Islam, dogs are traditionally considered impure).

The ADA only allows officials to ask two questions regarding service animals: Is this animal required for a disability, and what task does the animal perform for you?

Administrators can’t pry beyond those questions -- they can’t force the student to show whatever duty the animal is trained for, and they can’t force the student to show proof of a disability. Theoretically, anyone could order a service dog vest from Amazon, slap it on a dog and take the dog wherever they like around campus, including inside buildings. Goodwin said that students could bypass all of the institution’s policies around emotional support animals by declaring their dog was a service animal.

Lissner said that administrators can ask students to remove their service dogs if they aren’t behaving appropriately, such as causing a disruption or invading personal space.

Cioffredi said she’s not worried about students exploiting the vague service animal rules, though. Students who have a service dog sometimes already have their disability confirmed by an institution, usually because they need another accommodation other than the animal. A student with a hearing deficiency might already require a strobe light in a dorm room, for instance, she said.

Often, Cioffredi has found that students who need a service dog will contact a disabilities services office immediately, too.

“It’s usually the first place they stop,” Cioffredi said. “Even before they get on campus, they are calling disability resource centers, asking, ‘What are your processes for this?’ making this transition a little easier for them.”

Because emotional support animals are only permitted under the Fair Housing Act, students who need them can’t take them anywhere they like outside a residence hall or apartment. An emotional support boa constrictor won’t be slithering around a campus dining hall.

Complaints on these animals are handled case by case, officials said. They’ve moved students who are allergic or simply don’t like living with a canine or a rodent. Some institutions have opened pet-friendly dormitories to avoid this. Stetson University started allowing animals inside dormitories as early as 2010, but two residence halls went completely to the dogs in 2015. Students don't need to prove they have mental health issues in this case -- they can bring their pet just because they want to live with their pet.

“Pets can help students socialize and provide much-needed emotional support throughout the academic year,” Lua Hancock, vice president for campus life and student success, said at the time. “They are a great stress reliever, especially during finals and other exams.”

Research is mixed as to whether the animals can help treat mental health problems. One study from 2015 did reveal short-term benefits from exposure to animals. But what is definitive is that college students are reporting anxiety and depression at higher rates. In 2018, the American College Health Association found that 63 percent of students they surveyed had experienced overwhelming anxiety in the past year. And 42 percent of students indicated they found it difficult to function because they were depressed.

Students have asked to live with any number of support animals: birds and snakes, rats. Cioffredi said she once heard of a request for an emotional support cockroach. Dogs are simple, but some of the other animals are not -- when Ohio State considers an emotional support animals, officials check on vaccinations and other potential health hazards, Lissner said. If the support animal eats live food, then administrators would vet that, too, he said.

Institutions have come up with other ways to involve animals in mental health treatment. Bringing trained therapy dogs to campus has become common, particularly around exam time. The University of South Carolina has a resident therapy pup, a year-old English cream golden retriever named Indy, short for Indigo.

Indy has “office hours,” about an hour every day Monday through Friday, said Justina Siuba, a stress-management coordinator there. Indy lives with Siuba when she’s not at work.

She will also take laps around campus and appear at events, Siuba said. When a student schedules a session to talk about stress levels, Indy can be by their side, which helps open them up, Siuba said.

“It’s really important to have a conversation around mental health in the first place,” Siuba said. “Bringing in animals as a means of support for mental health -- these conversations are just so important.”

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DeVos experiment will open work-study to more private-sector jobs

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 00:00

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Monday she will launch a pilot program allowing some colleges to use Federal Work-Study benefits for off-campus employment, including apprenticeships and clinical rotations.

The experiment delivers, if on a limited scale, on repeated proposals by the Trump administration to reform the work-study program and connect student aid more directly to careers.

It also marks DeVos’s first use of the department’s experimental sites authority, which allows the secretary to offer waivers to rules governing student aid programs in order to evaluate new policy ideas.

Her announcement Monday also noted that she would look to expand the number of colleges participating in the Second-Chance Pell experiment, which allows a limited number of incarcerated students to receive Pell Grants to attend college courses. A congressional ban on Pell Grants in prisons has been in place since 1994.

The work-study experiment, though, is the clearest reflection of the Trump administration’s ongoing priorities.

The federal government spends about $1 billion annually on the program, which supports student aid as a form of employment. Recent research has shown that the program has positive impacts on college completion, especially for low-income students. It may also help level the playing field in the professional world for disadvantaged students who can’t afford to take on unpaid internships.

But critics of work-study have said that the program is not well targeted to the students most in need of support and does little to ensure that jobs prepare them for careers after college. The government routes work-study funds directly to institutions using a funding formula that favors colleges based on past allocations. So money is skewed toward wealthy private colleges that have a high cost of attendance.

The Trump administration’s experiment doesn’t address funding allocations for work-study; that would require action from Congress. Instead, it would focus on helping colleges match job opportunities with students’ career goals, in large part by promoting more employment in the private sector. Those employment opportunities could include apprenticeships as well as clinical rotations and student teaching opportunities.

“For decades, the Federal Work-Study program has allowed students to support themselves while earning a college degree, but for too long, the majority of the work options students have had access to have been irrelevant to their chosen field of study,” said DeVos in a statement announcing the experiment. “That will change with this experimental site. We want all students to have access to relevant earn-and-learn experiences that will prepare them for future employment.”

The experiment would aim to measure the effectiveness of working more closely with private-sector employers and measure the impact of more flexible employment rules on student retention and completion and employment after graduation.

Almost 92 percent of Federal Work-Study funds go to on-campus employment, while another 8 percent goes to employment at local nonprofits. Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of funds go to support jobs for students at private-sector employers -- a share of total funds the Trump administration would like to see go up.

Judith Scott-Clayton, an associate professor of economics and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, said providing a direct pathway to careers has always been a mostly aspirational goal for the program.

“Everybody has always hoped for and had in their minds this vision of work-study as being a career-related thing,” she said. “In practice, most students don’t know what they want to do, and they don’t know what career relevant would look like yet.”

It’s also difficult for the federal government to regulate what career-relevant employment would mean to thousands of institutions across the country, she said.

But Scott-Clayton, whose research has examined the impact of work-study, said the program provides positive benefits to students even without a direct connection to a future career.

“They’re still getting exposed to professional work environments that could provide some really valuable soft skills,” she said. “Having a work-study job could be career relevant even if it’s not related to a student's major just by giving them that professional experience.”

Iris Palmer, a senior policy analyst at New America’s education policy program, said that the original rules for the work-study program included barriers to private-sector employment because the federal government didn’t want a student aid program to subsidize for-profit businesses. Yet keeping most jobs on campus hasn’t necessarily resulted in strong connections between student majors and careers, as recent reporting on Harvard University’s work-study program illustrated.

“But it doesn’t necessarily follow that this money being used for off-campus opportunities will be better aligned with a student’s course of study,” Palmer said.

Some students have also said that, even if their on-campus work-study jobs aren't career relevant, they provide the convenience of being near their classes and fellow students.

Kermit Kaleba, director of federal policy at the National Skills Coalition, said the group will watch closely to see how many colleges that currently receive work-study funds would attempt to expand partnerships with private-sector employers.

Expanding Second-Chance Pell

The Education Department’s new interest in exercising its experimental sites authority was underlined by the expansion of the Second-Chance Pell program. Sixty-four colleges are currently offering programs to incarcerated students receiving Pell Grants through the program. The experiment has awarded federal aid to 8,800 students in its first two academic years.

More than 200 colleges applied to the program in 2015, suggesting much broader interest in participating. The Education Department did not comment on the number of new institutions it’s seeking to add. But a press release from the department noted that adding more students and colleges would help efforts to evaluate the Second Chance program.

A Government Accountability Office report released in April found that the department hadn’t taken steps to adequately evaluate the experiment.

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