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Marlene Olsavsky, Managing Director, Pearson Canada

The PIE News - Hace 1 hora 39 mins
With a career spanning several countries, Olsavsky has spent 22 years working with Pearson. She told The PIE about how the intersection between education, technology and employment was a central theme at the Canadian Immigration Summit, and Pearson’s work in Canada.


The PIE: What were the main topics of discussion in relation to international education at the Canadian Immigration Summit?

Marlene Olsavsky: It was inspiring and invigorating to spend the day with such a diverse group of leaders, all of whom understand the importance of immigration as a vital asset to Canada. The agenda was built around the core themes of technology, employment and skills learning, and that’s a lot of the work we are doing here at Pearson – it was really interesting to see that parallel.

“It was so inspiring to see governments around the world highlighting the positive impact that immigration”

It was also really refreshing to hear that everybody believes that education has never been more important in an ever-changing and increasingly globally connected world.

There was a lot of talk about how people pursue education to get a better job and have a more prosperous life for themselves and their family. That’s the main driver for so many people coming to Canada.

One of the big talks was around the intersection between technology and learning, and one of the debates that was put forward at the conference was: will technology and especially AI take over the jobs of the future that so many people are coming to Canada to attain?

Our point of view on this is that technology is not going to displace workers, but we are going to figure out a way to see the marriage of human skills and technology and bring that to life.

And for me, what is so promising is that we are already doing this at Pearson. We are seeing the marriage of human skills and technology come to life with some of our products on offer. For example, Pearson’s own test of English was designed and developed by people, but it’s administered and evaluated by machine learning.

There’s actually a lot of benefits to this, because we use machine learning to quickly score English speaking and writing test, and the artificial intelligence underpinning of our program eliminates the bias on test taker’s looks, their accents, or other factors from scoring.

We are really proud of what we have been doing with technology, and I think we can prove that you can build fit solutions that complement human skills and technology together.

The PIE: Canada is very successful right now in the international education arena. But what are stakeholders’ main worries?

 MO: There was a lot of discussion about the anti-immigration sentiment that’s beginning to emerge as a result of the proactive immigration policies of the government. The immigration minister Ahmed Hussen talked about this when he opened the conference.

“We can do more to tell positive stories”

While it’s disappointing to see that’s happening, it’s inevitable – but it was so inspiring to see that the government of Canada, and governments around the world, are taking increasing measures to highlight the positive impact that immigration is having on individuals, on communities, and on the entire society.

One thing that’s really interesting is that IRCC launched the #whyimmigrationmatters campaign: it is a great example of an initiative to create awareness of the beneficial impact that immigration is having in revitalising communities across Canada.

Personally, I think, as individuals, friends, members of our community, we can do more to tell positive stories, and we can fight the anti-immigration sentiment with facts. That’s the message that minister Hussen left us with: you need to fight fear with facts.

I am going to adopt that stand and make sure we highlight the positive stories that are happening within our community and our business.

The PIE: What market trends are shaping the work of Pearson in Canada?

MO: It’s an exciting time to be at Pearson, in Canada and in the education space. Everywhere you look right now you can see the impact of technology and globalisation on education, we are seeing the change happening in the communities we serve. Our objective is to help Canadians and people who plan to make their life in Canada acquire the tools they need to thrive and improve their employability outcomes.

“We are seeing the demand for solutions that are more culturally relevant”

The first trend that we are seeing is an increase in demand for more resources to support English and French language training, and for more accurate and secure English language assessment.

We have been working really closely with colleges and universities and professional bodies across Canada to invest more in building up those solutions to meet the needs of the market.

We are also seeing the demand for solutions that are more culturally relevant. People who are coming to Canada or are in Canada want cultural examples to be embedded in their academic material, real opportunities to develop the skills they are going to need to apply when they are in the workforce.

Providing culturally-relevant content has always been a strength at Pearson, but we are doing more to reflect the growing and evolving diversity of Canada and we are working with a lot of partners to leverage technology, including AI, to build simulations of skills-based learning, so that students leave college and university with the skills they need to be successful in their first job.

Finally, we are seeing an increase in demand for resources and services for pre-arrival through to settlement for international students and newcomers in general.

There is a really vast ecosystem supporting this work, and we have been working closely with institutions, with local, municipal and federal government, and other partners to figure out how we can collectively work together to improve outcomes for international students and newcomers in Canada.

“I think both French for academic purposes and general French will grow a lot”

I don’t think any single organisation is going to be able to address this demand on its own, so it’s going to take partnerships and collaboration between the business, academic and political community to satisfy this need.

I think there are a lot of opportunities for Canada overall, and for the people that are coming to our wonderful country.

The PIE: How is the French training sector developing?

 MO: Certainly, there is an effort from the government to try and promote French language training. French is a really key skill for people moving to Canada.

There is funding flowing from the government into French training and assessment, and although it’s still too early to say how it will all play out, we are seeing an increasing demand for more materials available in French and more resources to help support learners that learn French for the first time. I think both French for academic purposes and general French will grow a lot.

It’s an exciting area for us, and Pearson in Canada has two main headquarters: one in Toronto and one in Montreal, and our Quebec office leads operations for training in both French and English. I think we are uniquely placed to work with the institutions and the government that are putting funding into these programs to support French language training.

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UC Davis to launch Global Learning Hub

The PIE News - Hace 2 horas 43 mins

University of California, Davis has announced it will launch a Global Learning Hub in Fall 2019 to help with its ambitious goal of providing all UC Davis students with international and intercultural learning experiences before graduation.

The ‘Global Education for All’ program aims to move beyond traditional study abroad opportunities by providing students with a variety of experiences tailored to their interests, skills and aspirations.

“One of the first things we want to do is work towards creating a one-stop-shop”

Envisioned as a locus for the UC Davis community, the Hub will link programming and resources across campus that support global learning domestically and internationally.

In addition to offering a broad portfolio of academic coursework and study abroad programs, it will also offer new opportunities through academic coursework, domestic and international experiential learning and leadership activities on the Davis and Sacramento campuses.

“Our students are graduating into a world that’s highly interconnected and interdependent,” says Nancy Erbstein, director of Global Education for All.

“We really want them to be ready to take all the skills and knowledge they’ve developed at UC Davis and effectively use them across countries and cultures and communities after graduation.”

As a university responsible for preparing students to live and work in a globalising world, Erbstein said she considers global learning experiences key to helping students thrive—regardless of where they find themselves after graduation.

“One of the first things we want to do through the Global Learning Hub is work toward creating a one-stop-shop, so students can construct global learning pathways at UC Davis that reflect their interests and aspirations.”

Zachary Frieders, director of Study Abroad said a focus on global learning is key to helping students become global agents of change, regardless of where they study.

He said the Global Learning Hub will focus on getting students to think first about why it is it important to engage in global learning, and then to think about the ways, locations, and contexts in which they want to participate.

“It’s all about supporting students to consider the types of global learning interactions that fit with their experience, interests, and academic pursuits,” he added.

Read our PIE Chat with Joanna Regulska, vice provost and associate chancellor of Global Affairs at UC Davis here

The post UC Davis to launch Global Learning Hub appeared first on The PIE News.

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

Inside Higher Ed - Hace 3 horas 57 mins

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

Inside Higher Ed - Hace 3 horas 57 mins

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

Inside Higher Ed - Hace 3 horas 57 mins

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

Inside Higher Ed - Hace 3 horas 57 mins

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

Inside Higher Ed - Hace 3 horas 57 mins

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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Chronicle of Higher Education: The Enrollment Picture for Private Colleges Isn’t Pretty. But Some Say There’s Hope.

Higher-ed experts weren’t surprised at troubling shortfalls in the Northeast. But they disagreed about what the trend meant — and how colleges should respond.

HEIs a “marvellous basis” to build from to overcome global problems

The PIE News - Mar, 05/21/2019 - 09:49

Global issues – climate change, biodiversity, food security – know no borders: it is time that international higher education, research and innovation realises its duty to address, delegates heard during Going Global in Berlin.

This is where the concept of ‘knowledge diplomacy’ – that international higher education, research and innovation has a role in building and strengthening relations between countries – comes in, according to adjunct professor of Education at the University of Toronto Jane Knight.

“Sometimes it’s easier for people coming from research and higher education to keep contacts going”

As she introduced her discussion paper Knowledge Diplomacy in Action, Knight noted the responsibility the sector has to contribute to overcoming problems around the world.

“We are moving into a post-truth era, where we need to have reliable research and verifiable evidence in terms of looking at these global challenges,” she explained.

The research details eight case studies, where the “collaborative knowledge diplomacy approach is being explored as an alternative to the more one-sided soft power approach”.

Examples cited in the report include the Pan African University, the German Jordanian University and the Sustainable Development Solution Network at the United Nations.

The knowledge diplomacy approach is different from knowledge as a source of soft power, Knight told the audience in the German capital.

“I don’t think any of us would deny that knowledge can be used as power,” she added, asking, “how do we ensure that knowledge can be used in the collaborative, mutual, reciprocal way that we are together addressing these global challenges?”

The internationalisation agenda which has developed over the past few decades is a “marvellous basis” to build knowledge diplomacy on, Dorothea Rüland secretary general of the German Academic Exchange Service – DAAD highlighted.

Higher education can work in areas where it may not be feasible for diplomats to operate, she added.

“Sometimes it’s easier for people coming from research and higher education to keep contacts going,” Rüland suggested, relaying that DAAD had been asked by the German Foreign Office to travel to North Korea to gain an idea “where we can start cooperation”.

“Sometimes we have close networks which we can make use of, in really difficult times, where it might be that politics has come to its limits,” she said.

However, it remains vital that there is a common interest for both parties to ensure knowledge diplomacy will work, Rüland explained.

“It is our access to knowledge resources that divides”

From a Pakistani perspective, Tariq Banuri, chairman of the country’s Higher Education Commission explained that knowledge diplomacy can be used to help Pakistan develop.

Knowledge diplomacy can also contribute to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, he indicated.

“The biggest driver of economic growth today has become access to knowledge,” Banuri said.

“And the problem we confront today is that we cannot tolerate, we should not tolerate, the prospect of a new form of apartheid coming up between the knowledge haves and the knowledge have nots. The entire agenda of SDGs is not only to solve problems but to overcome the gaps between us.”

Banuri noted that Pakistan has been advocating a shift towards a positive sum game in its international agenda.

“When we look in the future we do have a major challenge ahead of us.

“The challenge comes from a very different domain. The challenge is today, unlike in the past, it is not our access to human resources or industry that divides us, it is our access to knowledge resources that divides.”

“It is through cooperation that we will advance the agenda, it is not through competition,” he said.

The post HEIs a “marvellous basis” to build from to overcome global problems appeared first on The PIE News.

Bayswater to launch refugee summer program

The PIE News - Mar, 05/21/2019 - 08:46

A summer program for refugees with a focus on English and employability skills will be organised this year at the University of Nottingham by Bayswater Foundation, the charity arm of Baywater Education, as part of its one-for-one model.

The institution is now recruiting applicants in collaboration with refugee organisations in Nottingham and around the UK, and organising a fundraising drive to help fund places on the program for 100 refugees.

“It is the responsibility of international education providers to make English language training and higher education accessible”

Reports from the Refugee Council and Refugee Support Network highlight how refugees find it very hard to access support with their English language skills, Bayswater explained.

With only an estimated 1% of refugees accessing higher education worldwide, the international education sector has an important role to play, Baywater director and co-founder James Herbertson told The PIE.

“It is the responsibility of international education providers to make English language training and higher education accessible for all,” he said.

Scheduled to take place between 29 July and 12 August, the program will include English and academic skills classes, workshops on CV writing and confidence building, and guest speakers from local businesses and cultural activities.

It will be aimed at two groups: teenage refugees enrolled in secondary education and adults who may already have university education in their home country but wish to return to full time study or work.

“I hope it will be a springboard for attendees, helping them to connect with university contacts, services in the higher education sector and potential employers,” Herbertson added.

The program will include accommodation, food, activities as well as pastoral support from the Bayswater welfare team.

This is the second project for Bayswater Foundation, after the launch of the collaboration with NGO Mais Caminhos organising English language courses in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Those interested in getting involved in the program or support the fundraising drive can get in touch with project manager Jessica Dunks at foundation@bayswater.ac

The post Bayswater to launch refugee summer program appeared first on The PIE News.

Chronicle of Higher Education: What Killed a Venture-Backed Education Company? Researchers Counted the Ways.

A business called American Honors once sought to improve transfer opportunities for community-college students. A new analysis explains how those efforts went awry.

What Killed a Venture-Backed Education Company? Researchers Counted the Ways

A business called American Honors once sought to improve transfer opportunities for community-college students. A new analysis explains how those efforts went awry.

Student housing investment hit $17.1bn in 2018

The PIE News - Mar, 05/21/2019 - 04:21

Despite dipping slightly from 2017 to 2018, global investment in student accommodation totalled $17.1bn last year, entering its third year over $16bn, market research by Savills shows.

While global investment was down 2% in 2018 compared to the previous year, investment volumes are still 425% above their level a decade ago, the research shows.

“Milan, Vienna and Paris remain on top among the least supplied cities on the continent”

The year was particularly fruitful for the sector in the US, with the country reaching an all-time high with $10.8bn invested in student accommodation.

This result was driven by some “exceptionally large” deals, the research explains, including Greystar’s acquisition of EdR.

In other markets, 2018 was not as prosperous. In the UK and Western Europe, investments were down 33% and 38% respectively as fewer portfolios came to market.

Provisional data for the first quarter of 2019 shows a further $2.4bn invested in the sector globally.

Although overall transaction numbers may have been slightly lower last year, this is not the sign of a trend, Bonard head of marketing Stefan Kolibar told The PIE.

“It rather mirrors the recent status of the market – it is in front of consolidation, many deals and acquisitions are shaping up, there are 380 new projects coming to the market, worth circa €15bn,” he said.

Bonard, which provided data on the European market for Savills’ Spotlight: Global Living report (published in October 2018), tracked growing interest in southern Europe and in some cities.

“In Europe, we see a lot of interest in the south, countries such as Spain, Italy, France, but also in the CEE region,” Kolibar said.

“In terms of cities, Milan, Vienna and Paris remain on top among the least supplied cities on the continent.”

As for Australia, the market is going through the first wave of consolidation now, Kolibar explained.

“This is attracting not only domestic investors and established brands but also those based in Asia, Europe or the US,” he said.

The post Student housing investment hit $17.1bn in 2018 appeared first on The PIE News.

“Business as usual” after surprise Australian election result

The PIE News - Mar, 05/21/2019 - 02:44

Australian international education stakeholders have returned to “business as usual” after the weekend’s federal election failed to live up to expectations that a new Labor-led government would take power.

The shock result on May 18 saw the Liberal-National Coalition retain power to defy the majority of opinion polls, and has received a mixed reception from the industry as the promise of substantial reforms under Labor all but disappeared.

English Australia chief executive Brett Blacker said the government retaining power provided “continuity to the international education sector” and added that it ensured a continuation of the current work being undertaken as part of the National Strategy for International Education 2025.

“That council will continue to lose a vital perspective that they need”

In the lead up to the election, the Labor opposition had promised to revamp both the national strategy as well as the overarching Council for International Education that oversees its implementation.

While a stabilising factor, others observe the government returning to power means the same concerns and lobbying efforts from before the election continue.

In particular, Labor pledged $10 billion in university funding over ten years, a move peak bodies believed would reduce reliance on international student revenue.

“The worry now is to the effect that universities will now look to alternative revenue sources and that usually will mean they’ll up the ante on their international student recruitment,” said Phil Honeywood, chief executive of IEAA.

“We have to be very careful that we don’t go for quantity of students because this additional revenue expectation is not now forthcoming.”

Both Universities Australia and the Group of Eight, which lobbied the government to undo a series of funding freezes, welcomed the return of the government but renewed their calls to return funding to previous levels.

“We must ensure young Australians – especially from battling communities really doing it tough – don’t miss out on the chance of a university education,” said UA chair Deborah Terry.

“Our focus must continue to be on opportunities for all Australians – because without those opportunities, our economy will be less competitive and our people and communities will miss out.”

However, Andrew Norton, higher education program director at the Grattan Institute, warned universities may have their funding squeezed on dual fronts if scrutiny of English language proficiency and the impact of temporary migrants including international students on capital cities’ infrastructure continues.

“[Education minister Dan Tehan] has already indicated that he’s pursuing the English language standards issue with TEQSA and so I think that’s a clear signal that he’s interested in whether the required English is, in fact, being achieved prior to commencement,” he told The PIE News.

A reduction in international student numbers coinciding with the current funding freeze would lead to job losses and a reduction in universities’ activities, Norton continued, before adding it wasn’t a given that the scrutiny would lead to significant changes.

“Counter to that, I think [the government is] still very much seeing international students through an export and business focus and that will make them reluctant to act.”

From a vocational perspective, Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (formerly ACPET) chief executive Troy Williams said his organisation was “comfortable with the reelected government’s approach to the vocational education and training sector.”

In particular, he cited the Joyce Review into vocational education, released shortly before the election was announced, as a commitment by the government to improve the sector.

“We have to be very careful that we don’t go for quantity of students”

“ITECA was extensively involved in the Joyce Review consultation process and endorses its broad direction that seeks to speed-up the development of new qualifications, and revision to existing qualifications, so as to ensure that they provide students with job-ready outcomes,” Williams said.

While not directly related to international education, it has been understood the review could in part increase the global competitiveness of Australian vocational education.

Craig Robertson, chief executive of TAFE Directors Australia, said the election result meant his organisation would continue their lobbying efforts, particularly around the axing of the Endeavour Scholarship program which provided the only government-funded mobility program for vocational students.

“They’ve basically sacrificed that experience for the purview of trying to attract international and also domestic students to regional Australia,” he said.

“We think that sacrifice for regional Australia is too high.”

Robertson told The PIE it was also disappointing the Council for International Education would not be overhauled, as it currently did not have a TAFE representative.

“That council will continue to lose a vital perspective that they need to be able to make sure that international education works. We’re concerned about that.”

It is understood education minister Dan Tehan will remain in his portfolio.

The post “Business as usual” after surprise Australian election result appeared first on The PIE News.

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

Inside Higher Ed - Mar, 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

Inside Higher Ed - Mar, 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

Inside Higher Ed - Mar, 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

Inside Higher Ed - Mar, 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

Inside Higher Ed - Mar, 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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