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SUN 28 7;10
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   VOL. 4, NO. 4     FALL 2019  

TOP STORIES  Humanities/STEM pay gap closes.... Digital literacy for the AI future....  Harvard wins affirmative-action case.... Admissions scandal still roils.... Napolitano to step down at U of California.... Pay to play is now legal.... And so is sports betting.... and more.

Pay Gap Between Humanities and STEM Closes Over Time
Yes, indeed, poets can catch up MORE

A Blast for the Past  Students like old-fashioned libraries with real librarians MORE

Digital Literacy for the Liberal Arts  Bryn Mawr leading the way to prepare students for an AI future MORE

The 60-Year Curriculum  A course of study for lifetime learners MORE

Millions Spent on Diversity Professors are still mostly white  MORE

GOVERNANCE | Enrollment Crisis Hitting Public Colleges  In the last three years 86 higher ed institutions have closed or merged MORE

U of Mississippi Hires a Consultant as Chancellor
Glenn Boyce was paid to help with the very search that resulted in his hiring  MORE

Napolitano Steps Down at U of California 
The former homeland security secretary and first woman to lead the ten-campus system is stepping down after seven years MORE 

Ivy League Hit Hard by Endowment Tax
The Trump administration levied a 1.4 percent excise tax, which cost Harvard $10 million for a first payment MORE   

Hillsdale Still Suing Mizzou
The tiny Michigan college says that MU is not spending a dead donor’s bequest properly MORE   

In Search of Students  Since 2007 higher ed has been on “a collision course with reality”  MORE     

Data Tracking Helps Bolster Graduation Rates One college increased its graduation rate by 20 percent by using WiFi to track students—with their permission—24 hours a day MORE 

UPenn Rattled After a Mental Health Administrator Kills Himself  More than a dozen UPenn students have died by suicide in recent years MORE 

Will Sports Betting Help College Athletics?  Probably not, but that hasn’t stopped 42 states from legalizing or considering legalizing the once banished practice   MORE   

Harvard Wins Affirmative-Action Case
The long-awaited decision (130 pages) could be a short-lived victory: legal experts say it’s now “fast-tracked” to a Trump-packed Supreme Court   MORE 

Court Cases Across the Midwest A popular bias-response program at U of Michigan bites the dust as a program to “quell speech” MORE 
Jury Awards $100,000 to Student Accused of Sexual Assault The pendulum swings back a bit in the sex wars, but one in four undergrad women still say they experience unwanted sexual contact  MORE   

China in the News The Trump trade war with the Asian giant is not helping, but more American colleges are shuttering Confucius Institutes and other Beijing-funded language and cultural centers. MORE 

Funding Cut Threat
A Middle East Studies program operated by Duke and U of North Carolina is accused of pervasive anti-Israel bias MORE   

Student Athletes to Profit from Endorsement Deals
The pay-to-play move by California has launched a fleet of followers    MORE   

The Myth of Meritocracy The once “wholesome and just” system for college success has been accused of favoring “students who skew dramatically, almost unbelievably, toward wealth”  MORE   

A Growing Anti-Liberal Movement Conservative Catholic thinkers at schools like Notre Dame and Georgetown are leading the way MORE   

Kowtowing to “Angry Students With Closed Minds” Those are the words of Senator Chuck Grassley, who says that the politically correct climate on campuses is “making it hard for professors to teach”  MORE   

What’s a Fair Punishment for Admissions Scandal Culprits? 
And what are colleges doing with the tainted money? MORE   

Big Changes Ahead for Maryland Faculty and Chicago PhD Students  More than 100 U of Maryland employees are fired and invited to “recompete” for their jobs. Better news for many U of Chicago grad students who will receive full-funding until they graduate MORE     

House Votes Funding for Black Colleges  Senator Lamar Alexander, outgoing but still powerful chairman of the education committee, had other ideas and stopped a vote on the bill  MORE 

Oil Money for Free College 
That’s the New Mexico’s governor’s plan, affecting some 55,000 students MORE     

DeVos Aide Quits
And he goes rogue by proposing a generous loan forgiveness plan if he wins a Senate seat in Georgia   MORE   

DeVos Held in Contempt
In an “exceedingly rare judicial rebuke of a Cabinet secretary,”  a federal judge held DeVos in contempt for violating an order to stop collecting student loans  MORE    



1     The Pay Gap Between Humanities and STEM Majors Closes Over Time Instead of being doomed to a lifetime of low-paying jobs, liberal arts majors make as much as students who major in computer science or engineering—at least eventually. When it comes to earnings, STEM (science, technology engineering, and mathematics) majors do have a big advantage in terms of their first jobs. But by mid-career, their peers who majored in subjects like the social sciences or history have caught up. One reason for the narrowing gap is the changing nature of STEM jobs; workers have to be constantly learning new skills to keep up. Another reason is that liberal arts majors often end up working in fields like business, finance, and management, which pay well. Liberal arts majors also have the “soft skills” that many employers value as much or even more than hard skills.   to the top

A Blast for the Past: Students Prefer Old-Fashioned Libraries With Real Librarians  Colleges have been on a mission to reinvent campus libraries for the 21st century—now sometimes called “media centers or “makerspaces”—pouring money into glitzy new interior designs, building renovations, and technology. “Yet much of the glitz may be just that—glitz.” Surveys show that students just want the basics: a quiet place to study, work on group projects, and access books. What’s more, many students say they like being able to ask librarians to help them do research, instead of doing a Google search. to the top

3     Digital Literacy for Liberal Arts Students  Digital skills aren’t just for students who want to work in technology fields. In 2017, Bryn Mawr College launched its “Digital Competencies” initiative to help liberal arts students gain a set of digital competencies—ranging from basic skills like database searching to more advanced ones like algorithmic thinking—through a road map of classes, internships, and campus events. The program also makes it easier for professors to incorporate digital skills into their courses. Technology and artificial intelligence will continue to have profound and transformative impacts on society. Institutions of higher learning have a responsibility to prepare students for an AI future and to use technology ethically and in ways that serve the public good. to the top

4     The 60-Year Curriculum: A New Type of Lifetime Learning  In the future, it’s doubtful that someone’s first career will be their only career. Today’s students will change jobs every five years, for 60 to 80 years, “and probably every one of those will require skills you did not learn in college.” To adapt, the continuing-education arms of universities are developing “60-year curriculum” models that are extending the relationship between students and school long after graduation. The model includes a host of offerings such as micro-credentials or badges; portable transcripts, degrees, and credentials that move with the student; more ways for students to attend classes; lifelong career services; and stronger ties between continuing ed and a university’s undergrad and grad programs.  to the top 


5    Colleges Are Spending Millions on Diversity Efforts; Professors Remain Overwhelmingly White  From 2007 to 2014, during the worst years of the Great Recession, the number of college administrators grew by 15 percent. The real growth hasn’t been in the registrar’s office or tech support, but rather in the areas of student life, sustainability, and diversity. The Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan alone employs 76 diversity officers who earn $10.6 million in salaries and benefits. While schools have also ramped up their efforts to recruit racially diverse faculty members, American professors are still overwhelmingly white. About 75 percent of faculty are white, compared with 56 percent of students. And research shows that “the cards are often stacked against academics of color,” who continue to face bias, microaggressions, and outright discrimination. to the top



6   Enrollment Crisis Now Hitting Public Colleges and Universities  In the past three years, 86 colleges and universities across the country have closed or merged. The situation is particularly acute at small mid-tier private schools with modest endowments, but public institutions are hardly immune. The University of Montana at Missoula campus has lost more students this decade than any other flagship institution. Undergraduate head count fell from 10,567 in 2011 to 6,321 in the fall of 2019—a decrease of more than 40 percent. This past summer, the University of Alaska made headlines when the state governor threatened to slash an unprecedented $135 million—in one fell swoop—from UA’s budget. He eventually reduced the cuts to $70 million over three years, and the UA Board of Regents agreed to merge its three separately accredited universities into one. The decision, however, sent shock waves through the state, and left students feeling “scared” and “spooked”; many considered transferring out of state. In an emergency meeting in October, the Board voted to “cease consideration of a single accreditation,” at least until 2021, when UA Fairbanks’s accreditation is slated to be reaffirmed. But the fact that a cut of $70 million was ever spun as a win should be an indication of “just how dire” the situation in Alaska has become.   to the top

7   U of Mississippi Hires a Paid Consultant as Its New Chancellor  Over at the University of Mississippi, the board has chosen a new chancellor, Glenn Boyce, who was paid as a consultant for the very search that resulted in his hiring! Boyce didn’t submit an official application. After several other candidates were interviewed, Boyce was granted what’s called a “back door” interview, and now faculty members, students, and even community residents are irate. The level of outrage “should be viewed as a cautionary tale,” one expert said. “Students and faculty are becoming more engaged, and they’re willing to speak out more forcefully on these issues.” to the top

8  UC President Janet Napolitano to Step Down  University of California President Janet Napolitano will step down in August 2020, ending a seven-year tenure that was often turbulent. Napolitano, a former U.S. homeland security secretary in the Obama administration and Democratic governor of Arizona, is the first woman to lead the ten-campus system. She has focused on increasing enrollment for California residents, stabilizing tuition, and revamping how the system handles sexual-assault complaints. In 2017 she came under fire when a state audit found that her office had hidden large sums of money from scrutiny. Napolitano disputed the audit. She has also been an outspoken critic of President Trump’s immigration policies.  to the top

9    Ivy League Colleges Hit Hard by New Endowment Tax    The so-called endowment tax, a 1.4 percent excise tax on net investment income that was part of President Trump’s tax-reform package, is generating intense pushback, particularly among colleges and universities with mega endowments. The tax applies to schools with at least 500 tuition-paying students and endowments worth at least $500,000 per student. More than 30 institutions joined together to warn U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin that the tax will hinder their ability to “promote excellence” in academics and award financial aid. It’s already affecting Harvard’s finances. The university had to withdraw roughly $10 million from its endowment to make its first payment. The University of California says it is divesting both its $13.4 billion endowment and its $70 billion pension fund of fossil-fuel companies. In doing so, the UC system has joined a growing list of high-profile divested institutions. While colleges may claim they’re helping to save the planet, there’s a more practical rationale. Research shows that fossil fuels have become financially risky investments. Last year, the energy sector placed dead last in the S&P 500.   to the top

10    Hillsdale College Still Battling Mizzou Over Mismanagement of Gift  Perhaps no one knew who Ludwig von Mises was when University of Missouri alumnus Sherlock Hibbs offered his alma mater $5 million to establish the Ludwig von Mises Austrian School of Economics at Mizzou. That was 2002, the year Hibbs died, age 98. And U Missouri philanthropy administrators may not have read the fine print on Hibbs' bequest when they accepted it: to endow three chairs and three professorships in its business college on the condition that each of the six be a “dedicated and articulate disciple of the free and open market economy" and that they certify in writing every four years that they were following the former financier's wishes. U Missouri may also not have known anything about Hillsdale College, which Hibbs had asked to oversee his bequest and which would receive Hibbs' money if Missouri didn't use it properly. In 2014 the tiny liberal arts college in southern Michigan, one of the nation's most conservative colleges, private or public, decided to check on Hibbs' money and found, according to one observer, that four of the six professors currently funded by the Hibbs bequest "don’t seem to qualify as `disciples'" of Mises. Missouri denies doing anything wrong. to the top


11     In Search of Students   Where have all the students gone? It’s a question that’s keeping many college administrators up at night. College enrollments have been falling for quite some time, and things are only projected to get worse as the fertility rate declines, incomes stagnate, and tuition rates continue to outpace inflation. In retrospect, “2007 seems to have been the tipping point, the final warning that we were on a collision course with reality,” one expert weighs in. The decline in the number of students majoring in liberal arts has forced many colleges to eliminate courses and, in some cases, entire majors. Enrollments in some pre-professional programs are also plummeting: the number of B.A.’s in education declined by 15 percent over ten years.    to the top

12    Data Tracking Enters a New Phase: Sacramento State Now Using Wi-Fi to Bolster Graduation Rates   When California State University at Sacramento began using predictive analytics in 2016, the four-year graduation rate was stuck at 9 percent—and it hadn’t moved in 30 years. Three years later, it has risen to 20 percent. For years, colleges have been using data from card swipes to track students’ locations on a piecemeal basis, as they enter or leave dining halls or libraries. But Sacramento took a big step forward this fall when it began using Wi-Fi to gather data on where students spend time on the campus and to identify those who might be struggling academically. Here’s how it works: This fall’s incoming freshmen received an email explaining the program. Students had to opt in by clicking on a link and agreeing to be tracked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When students enter the student union, library, dorm, or wherever, their smartphone or laptop connects to the local Wi-Fi router, and the software makes note of it. When they leave, that information is captured, too. “The university is trying to correlate behavior with performance, not profile individual students, or groups of students,” said James Dragna, Sacramento State’s “graduation czar.” Some professors are alarmed. However, the students themselves don’t really seem to care.    to the top

13  UPenn Rattled After Its Head of Mental Health Services Dies by Suicide   The University of Pennsylvania has been rattled by the very public suicide of its director of mental-health services. Gregory Eells, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, leaped to his death from the 17th floor of his building in Center City, Philadelphia. His death was ruled a suicide. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Americans aged 10 to 34. More than a dozen students at the University of Pennsylvania have died by suicide in recent years, but “on a symbolic level, Dr. Eells’ death hit harder.” Eells, 52, a prominent mental-health professional whose work was recognized nationally, had been at the university for just six months. “It used to be that we thought suicide prevention was the responsibility of the counseling center,” said a director at the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. “It’s clear that we really need to look at this as a frame of, everyone on campus has a role to play.”    to the top


14    Head Spins: Will Sports Betting Help College Athletics?    The integrity of the University of Kansas’ men’s basketball program has come under attack after it received a notice of allegations from the NCAA about significant violations, including a charge leveled against Hall of Fame coach Bill Self. The notice includes three Level 1 violations tied primarily to recruiting and cites a lack of institutional control. In a statement, the school says it “strongly disagrees with the assertions” and stands “firmly behind Coach Self.” And in a broad movement that promises to shower college athletics in even more money, forty-two states, including Indiana, have legalized or are considering legalizing sports betting. Despite this, Purdue University has approved a policy banning faculty, staff, and students from betting on events involving the university’s teams or athletes. “Employees who violate the policy could face punishment up to and including termination.”  to the top



15  Harvard Wins Affirmative-Action Case, but the Fight Isn’t Over    At a time when college admissions practices across the country are being highly scrutinized, a federal judge has ruled that Harvard University’s race-conscious admissions process does not discriminate against Asian-American applicants. The closely watched case was brought on behalf of more than two dozen plaintiffs by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), which claimed that Harvard caps the number of spots available to Asian-American students. However, Judge Allison D. Burroughs ruled that Harvard’s policy “passes constitutional muster.” In her sprawling 130-page decision, Burroughs noted that Harvard’s policy “is not perfect” and recommended that Harvard’s admissions officers take “implicit-bias training.” The lawsuit, which was filed in 2014, has drawn a lot of attention because it gave the world a peek into Harvard’s notoriously “opaque admissions practices.” On the surface, the ruling appears to be a big win for both Harvard and for affirmative action, but experts caution that institutions must be very careful in deciding which students to admit. Legal analysts say the case is now on “fast track” to the Supreme Court—and its newly conservative majority. In a separate battle, the SFFA is suing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A trial is expected next year.  to the top

16   Court Cases Across the Midwest  After battling the University of Michigan for over a year, a free speech nonprofit group finally claimed victory last month when a federal appeals court ruled that the university’s bias-response team used the “implicit threat of punishment and intimidation to quell speech” on the campus. Michigan settled with the Washington-based group, Speech First, and agreed to shut down its bias response apparatus. “[T]he very name ‘Bias-Response Team’ suggests that the accused student’s actions have been prejudged to be biased,” Judge David McKeague wrote. More than 200 schools have similar bias administrative offices and it’s unclear whether a name change is what is needed. At the University of Wisconsin, the Board of Regents has approved a policy that calls for suspending and expelling students who disrupt campus speeches and presentations. A student who is twice found to have “materially and substantially disrupted the free expression of others” will be suspended. Three such incidents and the student is out. And a federal judge has ruled that the University of Iowa violated students’ First Amendment rights when they kicked InterVarsity, a Christian group that requires its leaders to agree to its statement of faith, off campus. In a stunning twist, three university officials will have to pay out of their own pockets for any damages awarded to the plaintiffs.   to the top

17    Jury Awards Six Figures to Student Accused of Sexual Assault   A former Boston College student accused of sexual assault has won more than $100,000 in the first jury trial since the Obama administration issued sweeping new rules on how college officials should handle sexual misconduct allegations. The suit deals with an incident that happened seven years ago when the defendant, “John Doe,” was covering an event on a cruise ship for his college newspaper; he was accused of violently groping a female student. Doe, who was a senior at the time, was suspended from the college for more than a year and returned to graduate in 2014. A federal judge threw out most of his complaints in 2016, but Doe came out victorious in his jury trial. He had initially sought $3 million in damages but was awarded more than $24,800 for lost tuition and $77,600 in lost income from the delay in starting his career. Experts say the decision is a sign that juries are now less inclined to favor colleges. And while this is technically not a Title IX case, “it carries ‘Title IX overtones,’ and is likely to be remembered in the ongoing war over how colleges handle sexual assaults.” According to a new survey by the Association of American Universities, more than one in four undergraduate women experience unwanted sexual contact, and even in today’s #MeToo era, most of them don’t report it or seek out campus resources.   to the top

18   China in the News  Increasingly, colleges are closing their controversial Confucius Institutes, Chinese-government-funded language and cultural centers, in part because of fears of losing federal funding. The institutes have come under increasing scrutiny from lawmakers who view them as platforms for Chinese Communist Party propaganda. But Tufts University is bucking the trend by renewing its Institute, despite facing “potential reputational risk.” Wesleyan University is considering opening a campus in China in partnership with the Hengdian Group, one of China’s largest corporations, and the public university Shanghai Theatre Academy. While Duke and New York Universities also have branch campuses in China, they are run without private corporate partners. Wesleyan’s Chinese campus would not open before 2023.  to the top

19   Education Department Inquiry Into Mideastern Studies Program Raises Alarm Bells  In an unprecedented move, the Trump administration threatened to cut funding from a Middle East Studies program jointly operated by Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill because of what it sees as pervasive anti-Israel bias at colleges and universities. An investigation, prompted by a Republican congressman’s complaint, found that the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies “lacked viewpoint diversity” and didn’t emphasize the “positive aspects” of Christianity or Judaism. In a letter sent to university officials, the Education Department said that the consortium’s curriculum was not aligned with the terms of the $235,000 it received in Title VI grants. Alarmed advocates of free speech and academic freedom condemn what they see as a political intrusion into decisions best made by faculty. In response, UNC said it would increase its oversight of the consortium but didn’t go so far as to indicate any changes to the curriculum. The Education Department wouldn’t say if any other institutions are under investigation for misuse of Title VI grants.  to the top

20    California Allows Student Athletes to Profit From Endorsement Deals; NCAA Follows Suit  California became the first state in the union to allow student athletes to be paid when its legislature unanimously passed the Fair Pay to Play Act on September 11. The new law, which won’t take effect until 2023, allows athletes at colleges and universities in the state to accept compensation for the use of their names, likenesses, and images. It is expected to have enormous implications on college sports in particular and on higher education overall. The new law does not mean that schools will have to pay college athletes a salary. And an athlete would not be able to enter into a deal that jeopardizes a school’s existing sponsorships—for example, a player’s getting paid to wear Brand Y sneakers at a school that sponsors Brand X. However, athletes can star in commercials or earn royalties from the sale of merchandise featuring their names. They can also hire agents. Surprisingly, the issue is uniting many on both the free-market right and the social-justice left. After all, they say, why shouldn’t student athletes get paid for their hard work and talents while coaches, colleges, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association earn tens of millions of dollars off them. Not surprisingly, the NCAA immediately called the bill “unconstitutional,” promising “it would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics.” Copycat bills are already cropping up in other states across the country, federal legislation is in the works, and by the end of October the NCAA had reversed itself. Promoting its own pay to play guidelines. “We must embrace change,” said Michael Drake, chair of the board and president of Ohio State University.   to the top


21    The Myth of Meritocracy  Meritocracy in education—which centers on the idea that students are admitted to college based on their accomplishments—claims to be “wholesome and just,” but it’s not, many experts say. The vast sums of money spent at the top of the U.S. education hierarchy are “devoted to students who skew dramatically, almost unbelievably, toward wealth.” One case for going away to college is that students will learn from living with people of different races, interests, and cultural backgrounds. Some students, however, choose to live in affinity housing—residences geared toward ethnic, sexual, religious and other minority groups. While this may sound like “self-segregation” or identity politics, the students say they draw strength from immersing themselves in cultures and viewpoints that interest them. Indeed, for many students, the friendships and connections they make are the most valuable part of their education, buying “entrance into a network of classmates whose careers may intersect profitably with theirs, and alumni who can become references and open doors.”  to the top

22   A Growing Anti-Liberal Movement    It’s not only liberals who have found a growing public audience since the election of Donald Trump. Catholic conservative thinkers—at religiously affiliated institutions like Notre Dame and Georgetown, as well as liberal universities like Harvard and Stanford—are also becoming more visible and vocal. They’re seeing “in our grim political present an opportunity to broadcast their message that another world is possible.” In addition, many religious and traditionally-minded Americans are feeling more and more besieged and frustrated by the liberal views espoused on numerous college campuses, and they’re choosing to send their kids to small, liberal-arts-focused institutions. to the top

23    Kowtowing to “Angry Students With Closed Minds”  Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is seeking answers from some of the nation’s top universities about the weakening of academic freedom. “Campuses were once places of vigorous debate. Now many appear dominated by groups of angry students with closed minds and the administrators who kowtow to them,” Grassley wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. In the piece, he pointed to several incidents, including the dismissal of a faculty dean at Harvard University who agreed to join the Harvey Weinstein legal team; the firing of a veteran professor at Duke University for his “radical free speech” teaching methods; the threats a Sarah Lawrence College professor received for publishing his own op-ed about liberal college administrators; and Villanova University’s new course evaluations that ask students to rate professors on “diversity and inclusion.” “Universities have long been centers of political correctness,” the senator continued. “But campus administrations increasingly seem to be indulging students who, when faced with uncomfortable ideas, complain of feeling ‘harmed’ or ‘unsafe.’ This is reaching its breaking point and making it hard for professors to teach.”  to the top



24    What’s a Fair Punishment for Those Involved in the College Admissions Scandal? The second parent sentenced in the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal, an executive who paid $250,000 to get his son into the University of Southern California as a bogus water-polo recruit, got four months in prison, 500 hours of community service, and a $95,000 fine—a far heftier sentence than Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman received. This has raised questions over who should be punished and what factors matter most in calculating culpability. Should parents who paid the highest bribes get the longest sentences? Is “the athletics prong of the fraud” more serious and does it warrant a harsher punishment than cheating on college admissions tests? (Apparently, the federal judge handing out the sentences thinks so.) Should college officials get off scot-free? And what about the tainted money received—should institutions be allowed to keep it? According to The Wall Street Journal, two schools involved have already spent the money and have no plans to make an alternative donation to offset the funds. Two have said they will send an equivalent donation to local charities but haven’t done so yet. And one did make an offsetting donation—to a scholarship program operated by the school itself! Maybe it’s time for faculty members to take back a greater role in the admissions process, which used to be common until the adoption of data-driven admissions models.  to the top


25    Big Changes Ahead in Maryland for Faculty and in Chicago for PhD Students   More than 100 employees at the University of Maryland Global were notified that their current contracts will be terminated and that they’ll have to “recompete” for their jobs. The university, until recently known as the University of Maryland University College, serves tens of thousands of students worldwide and is one of the largest distance-learning institutions. “It is a big change. But you can’t do it incrementally,” the campus’s interim chief academic officer admitted. Many faculty members, though, are “devastated” and some worry about what this means for the broader future of the institution as it has morphed “from a mom-and-pop operation into a for-profit giant.” Big changes are ahead for some PhD students at the University of Chicago. Starting in 2021, doctoral students in the humanities, social sciences, divinity studies, and social-service administration programs will receive full funding until they graduate. In exchange, enrollment in the four divisions will be capped and new PhD students won’t be admitted until current students graduate or leave.  to the top


26   House Votes to Renew Funding for Minority Institutions, but Senate Blocks It  After months of talks, the FUTURE Act, which would have reauthorized $255 million in federal funding for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions, was blocked in the U.S. Senate. The House had voted to renew the funding, authorized under Title III of the Higher Education Act, but Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate education committee, shut down the vote when he asked to attach additional proposals to the legislation. The Republican senator’s plan includes a streamlined FAFSA application, expanded Pell Grants for incarcerated students, and the broadening of Pell eligibility to short-term programs. “Instead of a short-term patch, we should pass a long-term solution that will provide certainty to college presidents and their students,” Alexander said on the Senate floor. Although HBCUs make up only 3 percent of four-year colleges, they helped build today’s black middle class. Their alumni account for 80 percent of the black judges and 50 percent of black doctors. Some marquee institutions, like Spelman College and Hampton University, have relatively large endowments. However, the majority of HBCUs have been hit hard by rising college costs, the student loan crisis, and budget cuts and are now “on the brink of disaster.” to the top

27   Oil Revenue Could Fund Free College for All New Mexico Residents   New Mexico’s governor, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, wants to offer free tuition to all in-state residents regardless of their income or immigration status. If passed, the program would affect an estimated 55,000 students across the state’s 29 two- and four-year public colleges and universities, and would be open to recent high school graduates as well as adults going back to school. The state would rely on growing revenue from oil production to help fund the program. Seventeen states and 350 localities across the country have enacted some kind of free-college program, but tuition-free doesn’t necessarily mean debt-free. Even under the very generous New Mexico plan, students could still rack up debt paying for housing, meals, and books.  to the top

28  DeVos Aide Quits and Goes Rogue with Extremely Generous Loan Forgiveness Proposal A top-ranking Education Department official, who was appointed by Betsy DeVos, has resigned, saying the student loan system is “fundamentally broken.” A. Wayne Johnson also announced that he’s running for an open Senate seat in Georgia and will campaign on a plan to cancel hundreds of billions of dollars in student loan debt. Johnson would cancel up to $50,000 per student while providing up to $50,000 in tax credits for Americans who’ve already paid off their student loans. He also wants to replace federal student loans with a $50,000 grant that students could use at public or private colleges as well as vocational schools. Even though Johnson is running as a Republican, his student-debt relief plan is even more generous than those of many 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, which DeVos recently called “crazy.”  to the top

29    DeVos Held in Contempt of Court and Ed Department Fined $100,000   In an “exceedingly rare judicial rebuke of a Cabinet secretary,” a federal judge held Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in contempt of court for violating an order to stop collecting on student loans from thousands of former Corinthian College students. She also slapped the Education Department with a $100,000 fine. Judge Sallie Kim said she was “extremely disturbed” and “really astounded” that DeVos and the department had continued to collect on the loans despite Kim’s May 2018 order to stop doing so. The department is providing refunds to at least 3,200 of those borrowers. Some paid voluntarily after being incorrectly told they owed money; others had their wages or federal tax refunds seized.  to the top

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