Welcome to Paideia Times. Our goal is to be the information gateway to the essential questions facing higher education trustees. Please examine the new issue and tell me what you think. Peter Meyer, Managing Editor

SUN 28 7;10
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TOP STORIES  Monuments of hate.... Combating censorship.... A new March Madness.... A fencing scandal at Harvard.... Not using SATs increases applications.... Bye-bye spring break—or not....  Biden fast out of the box...  and more.

PURPOSE |
Heightened Sensitivity Alert
The nation picks through its monuments of hate. MORE

Outsourcing Online Program Managers Colleges now spending $4 billion a year to for-profit OPMs. MORE

Combating Censorship It’s a two-way street. One man’s censorship is another’s law-and-order. MORE

Football Season Mostly Wasn’t Somehow Ohio State and Alabama managed to play a national championship game. MORE

Basketball? A different kind of March Madness prevails. MORE

College Sports Cancellations Cost Big Bucks? Some athletes quit athletics and some go pro. MORE

GOVERNANCE |
College Presidents Staying Put Continuity and personal pride may be the reasons. MORE

Former Harvard Fencing Coach Arrested
Bribes and money laundering not enough to foil an epee. MORE 

“Extramural Utterances”
Some instances of questionable speech. MORE   

Admissions Crisis A new panel will examine the entire pipeline. MORE

A Freefall of Foreign Student Enrollment A survey of 700 colleges finds 16 percent drop between 2019 and 2020. MORE

Wooing Foreign Students It’s virtual and round-the-clock. MORE

Does Dropping SATs Increase Applications? That’s what it looks like in California. MORE

Enrollment Decline The drop from last year is 4.4 percent; 13 percent for freshman; a “staggering” 21.7 percent drop in high school  grads going straight to college. MORE   

Bye-Bye Spring Break
Hello “Wellness Days.” MORE 

Isolated and Depressed The Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to a campus mental health crisis. MORE 
 
Aggressive Covid Testing Works A handful of colleges have been able to open successfully. MORE   

Is it Safe to Open in the Spring? Those that opened in the fall had 56 percent more cases of Covid-19. MORE   

 PUBLIC TRUST |
Why Blue State California Doesn’t Like Racial Preferences By a margin of 57 to 43 percent voters again rejected affirmative action.  MORE

Harvard Admissions Case Headed to High Court Lower court found no racial discrimination.  MORE

Investigation of Foreign Gifts Georgetown a target, will Biden shut-down the Trump-era probe? MORE

High Court to Rule on Pay-for-Play Student athletes make millions for the schools. MORE

Will the Ed Dept. Continue to Investigate Princeton for Systemic Racism?
Probably not. MORE

What Will Be Outsider DeVos’s Legacy? Advocate for school choice, ally of for-profit colleges, and more. MORE

A Case of Reverse Canceling. Should campus police be disbanded? MORE

ExTernal ORDERS |
Kamala Harris Shines a Light on HBCUs The new veep and her new boss are good for historically black colleges.  MORE

Is College Worth It? Debt-ridden and unemployed, new college grads are not emblems of optimism for the next generation. MORE 

Former ITT Technical Students Off the Debt Hook A deal reached to forgive $330 million. MORE   

A Doctor in the White House? Opinions differ. MORE 
 
What Can Higher Ed Expect from Biden A lot. MORE   

A School Teacher as Secretary of Education Biden makes good on his promise not to appoint a Betsy DeVos. MORE   

Dreamer Nightmare May End Early on Election Day, Joe Biden tweeted, “Dreamers are Americans—and it’s time we make it official.”  MORE

Biden Under Pressure to Cancel Student Debt Can the country afford it? MORE

The Real Costs of Free College Biden’s proposals for tuition breaks and debt forgiveness would cost $750 billion.  MORE

Biden Rescinds Trump Ban on Sensitivity Training But do these programs really work?  MORE

PURPOSE

CURRICULUM

1     Heightened Sensitivity Alert—Choose Words Carefully   A group of Wisconsin students seeks to banish a rock that was placed on campus as an artifact of the state’s geological history. The issue with the rock? At one time a common slang term for dark boulders such as this one incorporated a racial epithet, so some students call it a “painful reminder of the history of racism on campuses." But even though there is only one known use of the term in print for this rock, in 1925, it was a horrible one.  Perhaps, as a recent survey suggests, there is greater sensitivity among younger generations—60 percent of those in Gen Z are worried about offending others, which is 24 percent greater than the national average. Notwithstanding student sensitivities, UCLA issued a statement supporting faculty who “quote or display source material completely and accurately, even when some people find it offensive.” This occurred after a political science professor read Martin Luther King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” which includes the N-word. In another discussion on word choice, academics at Cambridge voted by an overwhelming majority (1,316 to 208) to reject plans from the vice-chancellor to insist students and staff be “respectful” of opposing views. Instead, they decided that rules should state students and staff must “tolerate” opposition. They deem “respect” as too slippery a concept. (See also #9, "`Extramural Utterances.'") to the top

2     Profit-Driven Online Program Managers Quietly Insert Themselves Into Higher Ed   Online degree programs are popping up everywhere. What most students don’t realize, however, is that many of these programs are being managed by private, for-profit outside companies they’ve never heard of. Colleges and universities are now paying $4 billion a year to online program management companies, or OPMs, which create and administer online courses; recruit and enroll students; and advise and tutor them once they start classes. That cost could increase to $10 billion by 2025. Tufts University, for example, is paying one OPM, called Noodle, $12,000 to $22,000 per month per program, plus $88 per credit hour per student. The university retains control of admissions and content and hires its own instructors. On the other end, Tufts charges students $1,697 per credit hour for most of these courses, not including mandatory fees. For institutions the cost saving and efficiency of outsourcing are pretty clear; however, the benefits to students are less so. According to one senior education-policy adviser, “What we’re seeing is a real blurring of the lines between nonprofit and for-profit higher education.”  to the top

3     Combating Censorship on Campus   A recent Williams graduate, in a published letter, cited his school president’s ban of a controversial speaker he had invited to campus as the impetus for testifying before a Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017; he was vehemently opposing his school’s censorship. Another student alleged that this January Twitter censored a tweet announcing an upcoming College Republicans’ meeting by blocking views with a “might include sensitive content” banner. The Education Department, during the last weeks of the Trump administration, set up a free-speech hotline to help those who believed their First Amendment rights were being violated: an email account monitored by attorneys for the department, whose acting general counsel said they would support those who submit concerns “as long as we are here.” Another approach to combating censorship is Governor Mike DeWine’s codification of free speech on public higher-education campuses in Ohio, where the state has established outdoor areas of campus as public forums; adopted the Supreme Court’s  definition of student-on-student harassment; that is, actions “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” that it  thwarts equal access to educational opportunities or benefits; and prevented colleges from charging security fees based on the anticipated content or reaction to an invited guest’s speech. All signs indicate a very different approach to free speech with a Biden Administration in charge. (See #30 “What Can Higher Ed Expect from the New Administration?”)  to the top

COMMUNITY

4     The Football Season That Mostly Wasn’t   Covid-19 wreaked havoc on this year’s college football schedules. Outbreaks ravaged team rosters and exiled coaches, leading to season cancellations and conference postponements. Early in the season it was expected that with the virus still raging across the country, football calendars would be in flux; and at Week 11 of the 2020 season, over 60 games were affected. Storied rivalries, conference championships, and postseason bowl games were all disrupted. The season, however, was not without highlights. This year marked the first time in history that a woman played a down of football in one of the five major conferences; Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller kicked off in the second half of a Southeastern Conference game. And the season finale was a 52–24 Alabama victory against Ohio State, marking coach Nick Saban’s sixth national title with the Crimson Tide, equaling Bear Bryant’s record.  to the top 

5     Students Paid to Take Spring Break “Staycations”   The University of California, Davis offered students “Spring Break Grants” of $75 if they agreed to stay in town during spring break and take a coronavirus test. The money came in the form of a gift card that could be used at selected local businesses. The school originally planned to give out 750 grants, but the response was so high that the number of grants was expanded to 2,000. Altogether, about 60 percent of colleges canceled spring break this year. Many offered shorter breaks or wellness days, typically in the middle of the week to discourage travel. New research shows that spring-break travel may have fueled the spread of the novel coronavirus back in March 2020, when the pandemic was ramping up in the U.S.  to the top

6    Rethinking the College Athletics Reward Structure   The disruption in college sports due to Covid-19 has highlighted the scale of the college-sports “business” and has driven players to reassess risks to their careers. One basketball-tournament cancellation reduced Division I team distributions by $375 million (see #5 “Madness Prevails”). Last summer over 150 players chose not to continue at the college level and opted instead to prepare for professional careers. More recent departures include many athletes from college football’s top five conferences—the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and Southeastern Conference. The last group decided to end their amateur careers early as the infection’s spread decimated conference-championship play. Most players are expecting to be picked up in the 2021 NFL Draft. One who is opting out said, “With only a few games left and Covid spiking, I thought it was best to step aside and start my professional career.”  There is a renewed call for reviewing compensation for college athletes. A recently published economic working paper, partially entitled, “Who Profits From Amateurism?,” studied sports-program revenues, which are boosted by television contracts for the Power Five conferences. These revenues subsidize all sports at the school, not just men’s football and basketball. The report posits that players should get a larger piece of the pie; for example, according to a detailed analysis based on market data, a starting quarterback should earn $2.5 million a year and a point guard $1.2 million. Opponents of this level of pay complain that it would negatively impact other sports, to which one of the paper’s authors says, “That’s just status quo bias.…[Some sports have] been living off the largesse of these other sports for a long time.”  to the top

    GOVERNANCE

TRUSTEESHIP

7   College Presidents Are Staying Put  Instead of being pushed out by the pandemic, fewer presidents announced their retirements last year than in each of the previous two years. Scholars who study these things aren’t surprised that the number of resignations didn’t skyrocket after the start of the global crisis in March 2020. “Presidents and boards very likely feel that the crisis requires continuity,” a Michigan State University associate professor explained. Another reason could be personal pride. “Presidents present themselves as people who can get things done,” he added. “Quitting now kind of undermines that president-as-leader narrative.”  to the top

8   Former Harvard Fencing Coach Arrested in $1.5 Million Bribery Admissions Scheme  An ex-coach at Harvard University and the parent of two of its students have been arrested in an alleged bribery scheme involving the school’s fencing team. According to federal prosecutors, Peter Brand, a longtime Harvard coach, took $1.5 million in bribes to secure spots for Jie “Jack” Zhao’s two sons as fencing recruits. Zhao allegedly paid for the coach’s car, house, and renovations, as well as tuition payments and educational loans for his sons. Zhao also allegedly donated $1 million to a fencing charity to launder money to the coach. The Boston Globe first brought the scandal to light when it reported that Brand sold his home to Zhao for nearly $1 million, almost double its assessed value. Zhao’s older son was admitted to Harvard as a fencing recruit; the other son followed in 2017 and is still listed on the fencing-team roster. Brand was later fired after an investigation concluded that he had violated Harvard’s conflict-of-interest policy.  to the top

9   “Extramural Utterances”: Are They Protected Speech?  There’s a range of repercussions for recent social media activities pursued by three different educators: the former Trump-administration official turned fellow at Carnegie Mellon University who tweeted after the U.S. election about ballot harvesting and voter fraud, the UC Merced professor who tweeted anti-Semitic remarks using “IsraHell” instead of “Israel,” and the Virginia Wesleyan University dean who took to Facebook to call Biden voters “ignorant, anti-American and anti-Christian.” In the first instance, the university president issued a statement and defended the former official’s freedom to comment; in the second case, the account was deactivated and university officials did not respond to questions; and in the third instance, the tenured professor apologized for his remarks and resigned. In a recent review of the 1915 American Association of University Professors’ “Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure,” the writers identified three areas in which faculty should have academic freedom:  scholarship, teaching, and actions as citizens (referred to as extramural utterances). On the latter it was advised that faculty should have the freedom to engage in public affairs as citizens but that they needed to clearly disassociate their personal views from those of the university where they taught. A recent policy brief highlights how colleges go about silencing those “utterances” that they consider politically incorrect. (See also #1 "Heightened Sensitivity Alert.") to the top

ADMINISTRATION

10    Simplifying the College Admissions Process to Make It More Inclusive   Everyone talks about simplifying the admissions process, but every year colleges keep adding new requirements. Now two prominent associations—the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators—are partnering on an eight-month initiative to redesign the cumbersome and often inequitable process with the aim of enrolling more underrepresented minority students. Instead of brainstorming big-picture solutions, a panel of experts will convene to examine the entire pipeline—from student recruitment and college advising to application components and financial-aid requirements—and develop specific recommendations to improve each part. “We are in crisis,” Angel B. Pérez, chief executive of NACAC said. “If we don’t see fundamental change before the world creates a new normal, we will have missed a window of opportunity.”  to the top

11    International Enrollments Fall Dramatically. Will Biden Lure Foreign Students Back to the U.S.?  The overall number of international students enrolling in the U.S. dropped 16 percent between fall 2019 and fall 2020, according to a survey of more than 700 colleges and universities. The statistics on new international students is even more dramatic—plummeting 43 percent. While some of this can be attributed to the Covid crisis, another study reveals that foreign students began abandoning American universities well before the pandemic struck. Many international students, who felt under siege during the Trump administration, are now breathing a collective sigh of relief over the Biden presidency. However, experts say that Biden faces an uphill struggle to regain the pre-eminence of the United States in the international-student recruitment race, cautioning that he will “find it difficult to shift perceptions even if he enacts policy change.” And, with all the challenges facing the new administration—surging coronavirus infections, economic turmoil, and continuing racial and social unrest—it remains to be seen how much of a priority international students will be. (See #30 “What Can Higher Ed Expect from the New Administration?")  to the top

12     New Ways to Recruit International Students: Virtual Events and Round-the-Clock Recruiting   Surveys carried out during the Covid-19 crisis show that students around the world still want to study in the United States, even as our market share declines and will continue to “do so even under a Biden presidency.” A study by the Institute of International Education found that 84 percent of colleges have adopted creative new international-recruitment strategies, including virtual recruitment fairs and 24-hour recruiting. Cornell University, for example, maintains a 24-hour chat on its admissions website, with different staff members taking turns to respond to queries—resulting in “jet lag of a different kind,” says a Macalester College admissions officer. Virtual recruiting is a boon to regional and lesser-known institutions, enabling them to reach students around the globe. But it also has its downside. In some parts of the world, students lack access to personal computers or high-speed Internet service. And recruiters and students, many of whom are already suffering from Zoom fatigue, say they miss being able to connect in person.  to the top

13    Coronavirus Pandemic Brings Big Changes to the College-Applications Process    The College Board will discontinue the optional SAT essay and subject testsand is planning to offer a digital version of the main SAT. It says the pandemic has “accelerated a process already underway.” In other news, more than 1,600 colleges and universities are going “test optional” for fall 2021 admissions, according to FairTest, a nonprofit watchdog organization. And a growing list of schools—including the California Institute of Technology, Catholic University of America, Dickinson College, some University of California campuses, and the entire California State University system—are going a step further and eliminating the ACT and SAT entirely from admissions decisions. The test-optional and test-free movements are not new, but the coronavirus pandemic and the shortage of seats at testing centers fueled their growth. Applications to UC’s nine undergraduate campuses have risen to an all-time high of 250,000 —a 15 percent increase over last year, with big hikes among Latino and Black freshmen applicants. At the same time, applications to the CSU system have tumbled. Experts say that the relaxing of admissions requirements are leading some disadvantaged students to apply to schools with generous financial aid, such as the UC system and top private institutions.  to the top

14  A Lost Generation? The Pandemic Is Causing Steep Enrollment Declines, Especially Among First-Year Students   The coronavirus pandemic continues to take a toll on enrollment numbers. Undergraduate enrollment fell by 4.4 percent compared with last year. And freshman enrollment dropped an even steeper 13 percent, according to the latest data compiled by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Enrollment at community colleges, which normally see an influx of new students during economic downturns, fell 9.5 percent. But the real Covid crisis may be the 21.7 percent drop in high school graduates going straight to college. “These are really staggering numbers,” Doug Shapiro, the research center’s executive director, told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “To see something of this magnitude is frightening.” Submissions of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, dropped nearly 17 percent, causing experts to fear that college as the next step after high school is becoming a distant dream for many young people. There are a few bright spots, though. Grad school enrollment is up. So is enrollment at online-focused schools. And “not even the novel coronavirus could scare women out of attending four-year public  colleges in even greater numbers,” Their enrollment at four-year public colleges grew by 71,000, while male enrollment dropped by 57,000. (See #27 “Is a Four-Year Degree Still Worth It?” #15 “Bye-bye Spring Break, Hello `Wellness Days,’” and #13 “Big Changes.”) to the top

campus LIFE

15    Bye-bye Spring Break, Hello “Wellness Days”    A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that face-to-face instruction is linked to higher Covid rates in the nearby community. Counties with major colleges and universities that opened for in-person classes in the fall suffered a significant rise—56 percent—in the incidence of Covid-19. Conversely, incidence fell by 18 percent in counties with large universities that opened with primarily remote learning. In the name of public safety, a growing number of universities are canceling spring break and replacing the annual tradition with “wellness days” sprinkled throughout the semester. These days will fall in the middle of the week, never on a Monday or Friday, to discourage long weekends filled with travel or drinking. But students are pushing back, saying this just shows how out of touch administrators really are. San Diego State University will offer four “rest and recovery days,” with no instruction, assignments, deadlines, or exams, instead of the usual five-day break in mid-March. Students are worried about the strain this will put on their mental health, saying that without the “real deal,” they’ll be battling more burnout and depression.  (See #15 “Isolated and Depressed” and #13 “Steep Enrollment Declines.”)  to the top

16   Isolated and Depressed—A Mental-Health Crisis for College Students.    College students are experiencing a steep decline in mental health amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Remote learning, social distancing, and restricted gatherings on campus have led to increased rates of depression and anxiety. For freshman, the “new normal” of college life—including daily Covid screenings and isolating in dorm rooms—is far from what they imagined. When many universities canceled spring break —opting instead for single days off during the semester like the “well-being breaks” at Michigan State University and “rest and recovery days” at San Diego State University—SDSU student Megan Allphin signed an online petition, along with more than 12,000 others, citing the negative mental-health impact of a 15-week semester, not including a one-week consecutive days-off break, "is a lot for students to carry,” Allphin said. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, social isolation contributed to the suicide of an 18-year-old freshman. “He was a social person,” says his mother. “Being alone was not him.”  A statement from UIUC stated that it “has been offering individual and group counseling via Zoom and 24/7 emergency triage for students in crisis.” The university has also offered meditation and wellness workshops for students throughout the pandemic.  to the top

17   Testing Proves to be a Powerful Tool for Keeping Campuses Open  The pandemic propelled higher education into crisis mode, leaving many institutions admitting…they made mistakes. Across the nation, fall openings gave way to last-minute shut-downs amid outbreaks like the one at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—students forced home just one week into the start of the fall semester and the UNC-CH administration admitting that they ignored warnings by the health department to delay in-person learning, and vowing to do better in the spring. A handful of institutions have been able to contain the virus and avoid shutdowns, including Amherst College in Massachusetts, where aggressive Covid testing allowed for in-person classes and open dorms. Strict testing mandates at the University of Maryland campus led to 150 students being referred to the conduct office for non-compliance; the school also plans to increase testing events this spring as students return to campus. The death of a sophomore from complications of Covid-19 at Appalachian State University left many institutions asking themselves if they’re doing enough to protect students and faculty. Appalachian State, part of the North Carolina University System, faced backlash from faculty when they allowed in-person classes and open dorms, despite a local spike in cases, while also opting to follow CDC guidance to not test students as they arrived on campus.  to the top

18  Pressure Builds for Spring Reopening, but Is It Safe?   Despite the continued public health threat, colleges are facing pressure to reopen campuses for the spring semester. Students are anxious to get back to classrooms and dorm life, while parents fear they’re not getting their money’s worth. As some schools move to reopen and others delay start dates, lessons from the fall will act as a road map for the spring semester—with regular surveillance testing and precautions such as masking and social distancing in place, campus infections remained limited, while off-campus gatherings proved to be a major source of viral spread. Princeton University will bring back nearly all of its 4,500 enrolled undergraduates this spring, and Christopher L. Eisgruber, the president, is confident the university can “create a bubble” to protect students, faculty, and staff, with regular Covid testing, strict visitation rules, and designated “quarantine housing.” Even with these precautions, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that colleges that opened in the fall experienced a 56 percent increase in cases, while schools primarily online had an 18 percent drop. This warning comes as case rates are now higher than in the fall and more dangerous Covid-19 variants are emerging.  to the top

     PUBLIC TRUST

Regulation

19    California Voters Once Again Reject Lifting Affirmative Action Ban   Proposition 16—a ballot referendum that would have reinstated racial preferences by state and local government agencies, including colleges and universities—was defeated 57 percent to 43 percent by California voters. This was a major blow to liberals and social-justice advocates who thought that a summer of racial unrest would translate into a repeal of the state’s affirmative action ban. Although President Joe Biden carried California nearly two to one over Donald Trump, at least 3.5 million Biden voters cast ballots against the racial-preference amendment, which was endorsed by Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris. Public institutions have been barred from taking race or gender into consideration in admissions since 1996, when California voters passed Proposition 209. Today the state is much more Democratic than it was in 1996, and Latinos, not whites, are the largest ethnic group. Nonetheless, the margin of defeat suggests that race neutrality is even more popular now than it was 25 years ago.   to the top

20   Harvard vs. Asian American Discrimination Case Inches Closer to the Supreme Court    Harvard University could continue to use race as a factor in admissions after a federal appeals court ruled in October of 2019 that the Ivy League institution did not intentionally discriminate against Asian American applicants.  And a two-judge federal appeals  panel (a third judge died before the case was decided) upheld that ruling last November. Although Harvard doesn’t say exactly how it uses race in admissions, the court said that’s fine because the school uses other subjective admissions criteria as well. The decision is a blow to the nonprofit group Students for Fair Admissions, which brought the suit. SFFA alleges that Harvard uses a “personal rating” (which measures things like curiosity and teacher recommendations) to discriminate against Asian Americans at the expense of other racial groups. However, even the “most academically promising” racial minorities have difficulty getting into Harvard, the judges noted. The battle is not over, and both parties expect the Supreme Court to strongly consider taking the case.  to the top

21  Ed Department Stands By Its Foreign Funding Investigation Following an October report by the U.S. Department of Education that Georgetown University, in addition to other universities, failed to adequately report foreign gifts, Georgetown reported that the matter was closed. The university claimed the department said it “anticipated closing the matter” and “will not be conducting further investigations.” However, a spokesperson for the department told The College Fix that its probe into Georgetown and other schools is an “ongoing investigation,” adding, “The Department stands by it.” According to the report, the department found $6.5 billion in previously unreported foreign money flowing to U.S. colleges and universities.  to the top

22    Supreme Court to Hear College Athletic-Pay Arguments  Did the NCAA unlawfully limit competition for college athletes by restricting the kinds of compensation they could receive related to their education? The Supreme Court is hearing arguments related to this question in the spring and could decide its answer in June. The NCAA, in its petition to the high court, said a lower-court ruling deprived the association of latitude in administering intercollegiate athletics and would have broader ramifications for a student athlete’s amateur status, blurring the traditional line between collegiate and professional. Restricting financial aid to cost of attendance causes athletes—especially those in lucrative sports such as Division I football and men’s and women’s basketball—to be undervalued, the appeals court decision said. The judges concluded that athletes should have the opportunity to receive scholarships to pursue a graduate degree and other education-related benefits after college competition is over. The brief submitted by athlete representatives stated: “The NCAA…schools receive billions of dollars every year through the hard work, sweat, and sometimes broken bodies of student-athletes.…Yet the schools have agreed among themselves to limit what student-athletes may receive for their work in generating these extraordinary revenues.” One group associated with college sports not constrained in earnings are “cheerlebrities”—stars from the cheerleading squads.  They do not fall under NCAA regulations and are free to sign unlimited endorsements. Some boast Instagram accounts with over 250,000 followers and earn more than $5,000 per post from large sports-apparel companies.  to the top

23  Will the Education Department Continue to Investigate Princeton for Systemic Racism?  Back in September, Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber declared in an open letter that “racist assumptions from the past also remain embedded in structures of the University itself.” This caught the eye of the federal Education Department, which swiftly launched an investigation into the matter. If Eisgruber’s statements are taken literally, this means the Ivy League institution “would be in violation of federal law and thus have to forfeit much of its $75 million in federal aid.” Before Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s abrupt departure, the department said it was still forging ahead with the investigation. But it’s undetermined whether it will continue to do so under the new administration.  to the top

24   What Will Be the Legacy of Washington Outsider Betsy DeVos?  DeVos was one of the best known—and most polarizing—education secretaries ever. The Michigan billionaire spent four contentious years “as a tireless advocate for school choice, an ally of for-profit colleges and a frequent opponent of federal consumer regulations and civil rights protections.” But her tenure was marred by “tension, if not plain distrust, between DeVos and other school leaders.” Fiercely loyal, she was one of President Trump’s longest-serving Cabinet members, but her tenure came to an abrupt end when she suddenly resigned, citing Trump’s role in the riot on Capitol Hill. DeVos oversaw sweeping changes in how colleges must handle sexual assault allegations, giving accused students more rights. She also eased regulations that were created to protect students from abusive for-profit colleges. In some ways, however, she was more of a bystander, as President Trump issued executive orders. President Biden has pledged to undo much of DeVos’s work. In part, this reflects the failings of the Trump administration to get more lasting bipartisan legislation through Congress, said Frederick Hess, director of education policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Although not many are mourning her departure, DeVos was a hero to people who are suspicious of public institutions and who advocate for school choice.  to the top

Critique

25    A Case of “Reverse Canceling”… Doing Away With Campus Cops… and Is an Equitable Campus Even Possible?  In a rare case of “reverse canceling”—firing someone because he is woke—Garrett Felber, an assistant professor of history at the University of Mississippi with a history of activism and speaking out against the university, was recently informed that his contract would not be renewed. The reason: He failed to meet with his supervisor by phone or Zoom. Supporters say this is yet another example that free speech on campus doesn’t exist…. Across the country, calls are mounting to disarm, disband, or defund university police. This is not a new trend on college campuses, but following the death of George Floyd, the movement exploded. Now nearly 50 institutions—running the gamut from Ivy League colleges to large public state universities to private liberal arts colleges—are calling for a future without campus police…. College leaders want to create diverse, inclusive campuses for all. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently convened a virtual panel to explore what that would really look like, and if it’s even possible. The consensus was that there’s a lot more work to do. As one diversity officer put it, “We’re still underserving a lot of communities who could be on our campuses.”  to the top

 external ORDERs

Tertiary Education

26    The New Vice President Puts HBCUs in the National Spotlight  The election of Vice President Kamala Harris is bringing more attention to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Harris, who spent her undergraduate years at Howard University, is the first woman, first Black American, first Asian American, and first graduate of an HBCU to serve as vice president of the U.S. While HBCUs produce about 20 percent of all African American graduates, they’re chronically underfunded. Private donations increased after the death of George Floyd, but endowments pale in comparison to those of predominantly white institutions and “megadonors” are rare. During his campaign, Joe Biden pledged more than $70 billion to HBCUs and other minority-serving schools to lower costs, create research incubators, and improve digital infrastructure. Graduates and other supporters of HBCUs will be watching closely to see if the new administration keeps its promises.   to the top

27    Is a Four-Year Degree Still Worth It?  Unless it’s from an Ivy League University, a typical four-year degree is not as valuable as it once was. Debt-ridden college graduates are increasingly finding themselves unemployed or taking jobs that do not require a college degree. At the same time, education reforms aimed at increasing enrollment and ramping up graduation rates are contributing to declining education quality and an oversaturated labor market. With cost outweighing value, college degrees are being replaced by fast-tracked credential programs and internships—working adults are looking for shorter programs where they can update their skills and earn credit for experience. Freshman enrollment has continued to trend downward during the pandemic, while credential programs are surging.  Howard Gardner, a research professor of cognition and education at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, urges universities to focus more on professional training as well as broader liberal arts education. “The best schools are the ones that are somehow going to be able to intertwine a pre-professional education with a broad education,” he says.   to the top

28    Former ITT Technical Institute Students off the Hook for $330 Million in Predatory Loans  Former students of the defunct ITT Technical Institute, which collapsed four years ago, won’t have to repay $330 million in private student loans. The agreement, which involved a federal regulator and attorneys general from 47 states, covers debts incurred through the school’s Peaks loan program. The loans were used by students who had maxed out their federal student loans. ITT Tech pressured students into accepting the loans, knowing they would never be repaid, and in some cases even signed loan documents without the borrower’s knowledge or permission. During his campaign, President Joe Biden vowed to forgive the debt of borrowers who “were deceived by the worst for-profit college or career profiteers.”   to the top

Culture

29    A Doctor in the White House? Opinions Differ.  A Wall Street Journal op-ed by Joseph Epstein, in which he advised the president’s spouse to drop the honorific “Dr.,” touched off an avalanche of criticism. He opined that “‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic,” and cited the saying “No one should call himself ‘Dr.’ unless he has delivered a child.” The backlash included his name being taken off the emeritus listing of Northwestern University, where he taught for 30 years and, ironically, received an honorary doctorate. In his piece he called Jill Biden’s dissertation “unpromising,” which is also the term Epstein’s colleagues applied to Northwestern’s reaction. They called his op-ed “silly,” but they hold that “academic freedom exists to prevent punishment, or even the fear of punishment, for advocating disfavored beliefs.” A former academic noted that the attitude expressed in the op-ed is just the tip of the iceberg: She had to go outside of higher education to get respect for her degree—a juxtaposition to the “faux collegiality” and “microaggressions” she encountered on campus. Community college advocates are very happy to have Dr. Jill Biden “in the House,” believing that by virtue of her presence and scholarship, she can lead a revival of higher education for the nation’s neediest students.  to the top

Politics

30    What Can Higher Ed Expect from the New Administration?  Under President Joe Biden, the world of higher education is set to undergo some significant changes. The new president has promised hundreds of billions of dollars in new education spending, for preschool through college; proposed college-debt forgiveness; and wants to overturn Betsy DeVos’s rules on Title IX regulations that control how schools deal with sexual assault cases. The new administration could be even tougher on for-profit colleges than Obama was—Vice President Kamala Harris was instrumental in bringing down for-profit giant Corinthian Colleges when she was California attorney general. The administration is also likely to move fast to undo many of the things that DeVos did, such as: a DOJ lawsuit alleging discrimination against white and Asian students at Yale University (dropped by Biden in early February); a ban on federal-grant recipients from holding workplace diversity training; and an investigation into Princeton University, after the university’s president spoke of institutional racism on campus. Some fear that Biden will be beholden to special interest groups, which in higher ed “means leaders of public colleges and universities and of their highly subsidized private counterparts, who want to hold on to and enhance their status and funding,” according to The American Spectator.  to the top

31    Biden Selects Public School Teacher for Top Education Job  On the campaign trail, Joe Biden promised he would hire a teacher to replace the controversial Betsy DeVos as education secretary. And he kept his promise. Miguel A. Cardona, his nominee for education secretary, is Connecticut’s commissioner of education and a longtime public school educator. He rose through the ranks of Connecticut’s public school system, beginning his career as an elementary school teacher before becoming the state’s youngest principal, at age 28. He grew up in public housing, speaking Spanish, and was the first in his family to attend college. Like Biden, Cardona got his undergraduate degree at a state college, Central Connecticut State University. Cardona’s background stands in sharp contrast to that of DeVos. A billionaire, DeVos attended private schools and spent her time in office advocating for alternatives to public education. If confirmed, Cardona will hit the ground running. Biden has pledged to reopen schools within the first 100 days in office. Cardona will also be tasked with implementing Biden’s pledge to expand resources for public schools, make public college tuition-free for families making less than $125,000 annually, and restore Obama-era student-rights guidelines that the Trump administration rescinded.  to the top

32    Dreamer Nightmare May End  While on the campaign trail, Joe Biden pledged to reinstate Obama’s Deferred Action on Childhood Arrival Program (DACA), which shielded children brought to the U.S. illegally from deportation and made them eligible for work permits. As of March 2020, there were an estimated 700,000 such “Dreamers” in the country. And they have been the subject of numerous legal battles over the last three years, including a June 2020 Supreme Court Ruling that appeared to grant them a temporary reprieve from deportation. One recent federal-judge ruling reversed a memorandum by the acting secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, that restricted new applicants and required yearly, versus two-year, renewals. The judge ruled the memo was improperly issued, as Wolf had not been properly appointed and was, therefore, serving illegally. This was along the same lines as the Supreme Court ruling, which cited improper procedures for federal policy making as the reason for not ending the program. Early on Election Day, Biden tweeted, “Dreamers are Americans—and it’s time we make it official.” He also pledged to make Dreamers eligible, for the first time, for federal student loans and Pell Grants. Advocates have always said that DACA is a stopgap fix and that they seek pathways for more permanent solutions.  to the top

33    Biden Under Pressure to Cancel Student Debt. But Can the Country Afford It?  On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order extending the pause on monthly payments for federal-student-loan borrowers through September 2021. In the president’s outline for a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, there’s nothing about canceling student debt, but administration officials say he still supports $10,000 in forgiveness per borrower. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) want Biden to go even further and erase the first $50,000 of debt for each borrower with the stroke of a pen. More than 43 million Americans hold student loans. These loans represent the second-biggest form of household debt in the U.S (behind only mortgages). Some economists believe that we can’t afford not to cancel debt, saying “a debt jubilee” is the only way to avoid a depression. Others argue that any sweeping cancellation of student debt would be “horribly regressive,” benefiting those with advanced degrees the most: Why should the working class pay off the student loans of doctors, lawyers, and MBAs? According to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, of the $1.37 trillion in student loans currently held by the government, borrowers will pay back only $935 billion in principal and interest—meaning that taxpayers are already on the hook for $435 billion.  to the top

34    The Real Costs of Biden’s Free-College Reforms  President Joe Biden wants to make a two-year degree free and do the same for a four-year degree for families making less than $125,000 a year. Under his plan, the federal government would cover 75 percent of the cost, with states contributing the rest. Back in 2019, the Biden campaign website estimated that his proposed educational reforms, which also include student-loan forgiveness, would cost $750 billion. But this was before free college was added to the platform. Other estimates put the cost at a trillion dollars. Ultimately, Biden’s reforms could lead to the demise of private institutions, particularly small liberal arts colleges. The problem with free college is that someone has to pay for it. With the feds writing checks to colleges for tuition, some predict that schools “will raise fees ferociously.” Others fear that government money will mean government control, with the feds mandating whom colleges can hire, what courses to teach, and what politics to require. Still others say the plan is anti-intellectual. With no skin in the game, what’s the incentive for students to study hard in high school?  (See #33 “Student Debt.”)  to the top

35    Biden Rescinds Trump Ban on Sensitivity Training. But Do These Programs Really Work?  President Joe Biden wasted no time reversing the Trump administration’s diversity-training order that banned federal agencies, contractors, and recipients of federal funding from conducting certain diversity training. The order had targeted programs that focused on systemic racism and privilege, which former president Donald Trump deemed “un-American” and potentially harmful to white workers. Higher education institutions are increasingly requiring employees and students to undergo “sensitivity training” to help create a more positive and welcoming environment for people from marginalized and underrepresented groups. However, studies suggest that diversity-related training programs, particularly mandatory ones, often backfire: They do not reduce harassment or discrimination, do not lead to greater cooperation between groups, and could actually be counterproductive. There’s evidence they work best when attendees can opt in (even though 80 percent of such programs in the U.S. are mandatory).  to the top

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