Monday, September 26, 2016

Behind the LIU Lockout

The Long Island University lockout is over. A rank-and-file librarian explains how faculty won and why it matters for public education around the country.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Accidental Gunshot Is Reported on Texas Campus That Now Allows Firearms

A gun was accidentally discharged on Wednesday night in a dormitory at Tarleton State University, The Texas Tribune reports. The incident occurred less than two months after a Texas law allowing permit holders to carry weapons on public-college campuses took effect.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Faculty at 14 Pennsylvania Universities Vote to Authorize a Strike

Faculty members at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities could soon go on strike.
More than 80 percent of faculty members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) took part in a vote last week, and 93 percent of those who participated voted to authorize a strike. Contract negotiations predating the June 2015 expiration of the union’s pact with the state system have failed to produce any results.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Your Annual Reminder to Ignore the U.S. News & World Report College Rankings

The annual college rankings by U.S. News & World Report are out today, and with their release will come a predictable round of excoriating assessments from journalists, college officials, and others. The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson has called this annual chorus a “national carpfest.” Consider mine an early voice in this year’s bray-a-thon.
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Monday, September 12, 2016

As Lockout Continues at Long Island U., Students Report Meager Classroom Instruction

When Kiyonda Hester started the final year of her master’s program in social work, on Wednesday at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus, an instructor began a course by acknowledging he was unqualified to teach it.

The temporary instructor, who is an administrator, told the students that he had to be there so he wouldn’t be fired, Ms. Hester said. He took attendance and noted that the syllabus had been posted online.
When students asked why the syllabus bore a date from another year, Ms. Hester said, the administrator responded by saying he hoped things would get back to normal next week.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Downfall of ITT Technical Institutes Was a Long Time in the Making

Doors were bolted shut and parking lots emptied at ITT Technical Institutes around the country this week after the chain of for-profit colleges announced it was closing for good.
At some campuses, though, this was not the first time students and employees found themselves locked out. More than a decade ago, in 2004, federal agents, search warrants in hand, swooped into the company’s offices in eight states, closing schools briefly as they hunted for evidence of fraud related to student recruitment, enrollment, dropout rates, grade inflation, loans, and reported job placements and salaries.
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For-profit colleges were a magnet for billions of dollars in federal student loans and grants to low-income students. In 2010, they gobbled up more than $32 billion, a quarter of all federal financial aid, nearly double their share less than a decade earlier, the Senate committee inquiry found. Hundreds of millions more flowed in from the Pentagon and veterans’ programs through the G.I. Bill.
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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

As For-Profit ITT Announces Closure, Thousands of Students and Employees Face Uncertainty


Closure includes Breckenridge Nursing School at Cascade Station in Portland.


The more than 40,000 students and 8,000 employees of ITT Educational Services Inc. on Tuesday grappled with the fallout of the for-profit’s announcement that it would close in response to heightened scrutiny from the federal government.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Unionizing of Graduate Students

The Atlantic
By Matt Vasilogambros
August 23, 2016


Graduate students at private universities can now unionize.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled 3-1 Tuesday that graduate students working as teaching or research assistants are entitled to collective-bargaining rights. The case, brought forth by Columbia University graduate students and the United Automobile Workers (which already backs the university’s clerical workers, in addition to graduate students at New York University and the University of Connecticut), is a reversal of a 12-year-old ruling by the federal board.


Monday, August 8, 2016

What's Missing in the Student Debt Debate

Inside Higher ED
By Mark Huelsman
August 8, 2016

Since student debt, free tuition and debt-free higher education have emerged as presidential campaign-level issues, a narrative has begun to emerge among elite news media that the rising price of college and ever-increasing student debt are phantom problems given the overall lifetime benefits of a college degree. Unfortunately that narrative, which has been highlighted over the past few weeks to varying degrees by major media outlets, including NPR and Vox, rests on a pretty narrow set of assumptions about college and its benefits. And, in fact, it misunderstands the entire point behind the push for debt-free public college.

For instance, a recent editorial in The Washington Post titled “Democrats’ Loose Talk on Student Loans” makes the case that we have more of a nuisance than a crisis on our hands. It argues that bold reforms to address student debt -- including the plan offered up by Hillary Clinton’s campaign -- are overkill and that we should presumably make large investments in other areas (like paying down the national debt). Unfortunately, however, like other news media these days, the Post editorial board appears to have overlooked some crucial facts, many of which have been reported by its own newspaper.

It is absolutely true that some form of postsecondary education and training has become more important, and nearly essential, in today’s workforce. Unemployment rates for college graduates are consistently low, and the average lifetime earnings boost remains high relative to a high school degree. Anyone who argues that college “isn’t worth it” is doing so with anecdotal examples or bad data.

But the reason college is so important is not because earnings for college graduates keep rising. In fact, bachelor’s degree holders earn about the same amount as they did 30 years ago. Earnings for everyone else -- including those with only some college experience -- have gone down rapidly. In effect, a degree has become more a necessary insurance policy than an investment.
This matters because students are now on the hook for financing more and more of their own education than ever before. As a result, graduates are taking on rising levels of debt while contending with stagnant incomes and the rising cost of health care and child care, all while attempting to save for retirement or for their own child’s education.

And they are some of the best-off of the bunch -- they’re able to stretch and make their minimum monthly payments. The true crisis in student loans is among those who take on student debt but do not graduate, many of whom attend high-cost for-profit institutions. Those students are more likely to default or become delinquent on student loans, potentially setting themselves up for a lifetime of economic hardship. But while some argue that what we really have is a “completion crisis,” college completion is no better or worse than it’s been in decades.


Friday, August 5, 2016

How Black Lives Matter Activists Plan to Fix Schools

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Emily Deruy
August 5, 2016


Black Lives Matter activists have already successfully pushed some colleges to address racism on campus and make curriculum more inclusive. But the movement as a whole has been less visible in the K-12 space. That’s changing.

As my colleague Vann Newkirk has noted, the Movement for Black Lives Matter coalition recently published a platform outlining a range of specific policies it would like to see take shape at the local, state, and federal levels. The education proposals are rooted in the K-12 space, activists who helped draft them told me, because the U.S. public-school system is so broken that college is never an option for many young people of color. And while many universities are privately controlled, the group sees an opportunity to return control of K-12 public schools to the students, parents, and communities they serve.

Public schools, even in the nation’s most affluent cities, remain highly segregated, with black children disproportionately likely to attend schools with fewer resources and concentrated poverty. There are more school security officers than counselors in four of the 10 biggest school districts in the country. And whereas spending on corrections increased by 324 percent between 1979 and 2013, that on education rose just 107 percent during the same time.

The coalition’s proposals are wide-ranging and, depending on who is talking, either aspirational or entirely unrealistic. They range from calling for a constitutional amendment for “fully funded” education (activists say federal funding is inadequate and not distributed equally) and a moratorium on charter schools to the removal of police from schools and the closure of all juvenile detention centers.

Mostly, said Jonathan Stith, the national coordinator for the Washington-based Alliance for Educational Justice and one of the lead authors, the propositions are an attempt to crystallize what the movement supports and to provide activists with a platform from which to move forward. “It’s always been clear what we’re against, but [articulating] what we’re for, what we want to see, was a real labor,” Stith, 41, said. The document is also an effort to connect education priorities to health care, the economy, criminal justice, and a range of other public-policy areas, and to, as Stith put it, force progress “in concert.”.

The plan, which lambasts the “privatization” of education by foundations that wield fat wallets to shape policy and criticizes charter-school networks for decimating black communities and robbing traditional neighborhood schools of resources, drew immediate criticism from education reformers who see charters and groups like Teach for America (the plan calls for its demise) as providing badly needed services to students of color. Some of these reformers said it signaled that the movement was cozy with teachers’ unions and the status quo. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the head of the National Education Association, one of the country’s two main teachers’ unions, wrote in an emailed comment, “The NEA is honored to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and proud to be a partner with the organizations that support community-based solutions to support students and public schools.”


Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Pitfalls of Free Tuition

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Emily Deruy
August 3, 2016

Bernie Sanders may be out as a presidential contender, but his proposal to make public college free has worked its way into Hillary Clinton’s education plan. While the plan is making some private colleges nervous, his campaign has succeeded in furthering a broader conversation among university admissions directors about how to make access to higher education more equitable.

The applicant pools at selective universities don’t typically reflect the broader population, acknowledged Jim Rawlins, the director of admissions and assistant vice president of enrollment management at the University of Oregon, during a recent roundtable discussion with a handful of other admissions leaders in Washington, D.C. The different schools in attendance—both public and private, small and large—agreed that needs to change.

But not all schools are convinced that making in-state public schools free for students from families earning less than $125,000 a year by 2021, the gist of Clinton’s plan, is the right approach. Monica Inzer, the vice president and dean of admission and financial aid at Hamilton College, a small private school in rural upstate New York, expressed concern that if such a proposal were to become a reality, some families might not look at private schools that could be a good fit and equally affordable.

As Jim Nondorf, the vice president for enrollment and student advancement and dean of admissions and financial aid at the University of Chicago, said, students often hear a sticker price and don’t realize the actual cost for low- and even middle-income kids may not be as steep. His school, for instance, offers need-blind admission and promises to meet 100 percent of a family’s demonstrated need. Hamilton eliminated merit aid in 2007, and went completely need blind several years later. The school also runs an emergency aid fund to help students who cannot afford to fly home to visit a sick parent, or clothes for a job interview. But many schools, including many historically black colleges, don’t have the funds (Hamilton’s financial aid budget alone is more than $38 million) to accommodate such students, and losing middle-class kids to free public schools could make supporting poor students even harder, or force schools to take only the very richest students who can pay full price.

“I think what would happen is, we would have to become more elitist, because anybody who is not really wealthy is going to go to take the free option,” Sheila Bair, the president of Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, told Politico recently. “I don’t want us to be elitist. I want us to have a diverse student population.”


Monday, August 1, 2016

What Rankings Have Wrought

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Steven Harper
August 1, 2016

Albert Einstein often gets credit for words he never spoke, including these: "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."

In 1963, the line appeared in the sociologist William Bruce Cameron’s text Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking. Two contemporary sociologists have now brought Cameron’s intuitive wisdom to life. In their new book, Engines of Anxiety: Academic Rankings, Reputation, and Accountability, Wendy Nelson Espeland, of Northwestern University, and Michael Sauder, of the University of Iowa, have added welcome scholarly heft to widespread anecdotal evidence that U.S. News & World Report rankings undermine sound decision making and encourage destructive societal behavior.

Defenders of the rankings argue that they improve transparency and accountability. The authors suggest a more problematic impact: Reducing any institution to a single and supposedly objective numerical slot masks subjectivity inherent in the methodology. Even worse, rankings create incentives that raise profound ethical issues. Espeland and Sauder prove their argument with a case study focused on the leading edge of higher education’s problems: law schools. Deans, professors, and prospective law students should pay close attention. But if past is prologue, most of them won’t.

Who created this mess?

"When Mort Zuckerman acquired U.S. News & World Report in 1984 and became its editor," the authors write, "it was a lackluster news weekly overshadowed by its more successful rivals, Newsweek and Time." Zuckerman — a Canadian with a law degree from McGill and master’s of law from Harvard — pursued a business career more consistent with his M.B.A. from Wharton. He decided to "expand the rankings and issue them annually as a way to solidify USN’s reputation as the magazine providing ‘news you can use.’"


Friday, July 29, 2016

The Slow-Motion Downfall of Linda Katehi

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Jack Stripling and Fernanda Zamudio-Suar├ęz
July 29, 2016

Picture two locomotives barreling down a single track, heading for a collision as predictable as it is unstoppable. Such is the path of Janet A. Napolitano and Linda P.B. Katehi, the president of the University of California and the chancellor of its Davis campus, respectively.
By August 1 the university is expected to receive the findings of a months-long investigation into whether Ms. Katehi violated system policies related to her family members’ employment at the university, her service on corporate boards, and the hiring of companies to suppress embarrassing internet mentions of the chancellor and the campus.

Ms. Napolitano’s decision to broadcast a litany of specific charges against the chancellor, wounding her publicly from the start, is in keeping with what those who have worked with the president describe as her take-no-prisoners approach. The chancellor’s response, which has included fiery press releases from a hired crisis manager and the filing of a formal grievance, surprises few of her colleagues, who describe her as resentful of criticism.

The face-off between Ms. Napolitano, a former Arizona governor and U.S. Homeland Security secretary, and Ms. Katehi, who has been placed on administrative leave, poses a profound leadership test for a politician-turned-president who is still relatively unschooled in the culture of academe. And, at its heart, the crisis portends an ugly denouement for Ms. Katehi, a chancellor who seems forever scarred by a years-old scandal that destabilized her administration and hardened her instincts toward self-preservation.

The Chronicle interviewed more than 20 administrators, professors, regents, and lawmakers for this article. Several former Davis administrators, who have worked directly with Ms. Katehi, would speak only on condition of anonymity, citing concerns about divulging information from private meetings or professional retribution for speaking critically of their former boss.

Both Ms. Katehi and Ms. Napolitano declined interview requests.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hillary's Free Tuition Promise: What Would It Cost? How Would It Work?

NPR - All Things Considered
Anya Kamenetz
July 27, 2016


At the Democratic National Convention this week, Bernie Sanders announced that his successful rival, Hillary Clinton, had adopted one of his most popular proposals: Free tuition at public colleges.

"During the primary campaign, Secretary Clinton and I both focused on this issue but with different approaches," the Vermont Senator noted. "Recently, however, we have come together on a proposal that will revolutionize higher education in America. It will guarantee that the children of any family [in] this country with an annual income of $125,000 a year or less – 83 percent of our population – will be able to go to a public college or university tuition free. That proposal also substantially reduces student debt."

This proposal is novel. It's dramatic. It's a broadly scaled entitlement program for the middle class directed not at older Americans, like Social Security and Medicare, but for once, at younger Americans.

So let's unpack this idea a little bit.

First of all, what would it cost?

In fiscal year 2014, the most recent year available, four-year public institutions collected $58 billion in tuition. Since 2011, they've collected more in tuition and fees than from all state sources combined.

Currently, the federal government spends $31 billion on federal grants and work-study to all institutions, not just four-year public schools. So the cost of eliminating tuition would be around double that (maybe less, since some of that grant money already goes to tuition).


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Paradox of New Buildings on Campus

The Atlantic
Jon Marcus
July 25, 2016

Akerman Hall is a gateway to the complex that houses the University of Minnesota’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. But wandering through it is more like an experience in archeology.

First, there’s the former airplane hangar, built in 1948 and renovated five years ago with alumni contributions into a state-of-the-art student lounge, faculty office, and lab. Then come drab cinderblock corridors and classrooms that also date from the 1940s and don’t look anywhere near as glamorous. Behind them, however, are more than $5 million of unseen upgrades the university was forced to make to elevators, sprinklers, fire alarms, and ventilation systems so old the school was buying replacement parts on eBay.

These hallways lead to another handsomely appointed wing for which a dean scraped up some wealthy donors to make the kinds of improvements that are essential to compete for students in a hot field such as engineering.

But just upstairs from that are offices for English faculty with cracked and peeling window frames, sputtering air conditioners poking through walls, and plywood over some of the glass. This floor is still waiting for a badly needed overhaul—but there isn’t any money in the budget.

“You’re looking at the ‘before,’” said Brian Swanson, the assistant vice president for university services, finance, and strategy.