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SUN 28 7;10
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TOP STORIES  Gateway course reform.... “Adulting” classes....  Dirty money.... Seven-figure salaries.... Hate crimes shake Syracuse.... SAT and ACT still under the gun.... Supreme Court takes on DACA.... The $100,000 tuition.... and more.

 PURPOSE   GOVERNANCE   PUBLIC TRUST   Emergent ORDERS

PURPOSE |
Reforming Remedial Education
More colleges are sending students into regular classes, but with extra supports MORE

Tech Boom in Virginia  The governor is throwing millions of dollars at 11 colleges to boost their computer science programs MORE

Gateway Course Reform  Michigan State is addressing the high failure and dropout rates in these evergreen courses—and other schools are watching MORE

Rethinking Humanities in a STEM World  Despite a 33 percent drop in history majors (worse in English and philosophy), liberal arts champions are fighting back MORE

“Adulting” Classes From how to do laundry to applying for jobs  MORE

Lessons from the “Harkness Table” The story behind the seminar class  MORE

Sticks and Stones: Free Speech Reckons with Racism Wisconsin has a plan  MORE

GOVERNANCE |
Dirty Money
New information about Jeffrey Epstein and MIT  MORE

Rutgers Names Its First Black President 
Jonathan Holloway, who has been provost of Northwestern MORE 

“True Commitment” Is Not a Reality-TV Show
But it’s reality: U of Tulsa is cutting 40 percent of its academic programming MORE   

How Did Higher Ed Lose Its Way? Yale’s José Cabranes bemoans higher ed's “permanent state of crisis” MORE   

Small Colleges Battle for Life  Another enrollment crisis takes its toll as four more Vermont colleges close their doors MORE     

Seven-Figure Salaries—and Perks—for College Presidents 64 of them earned more than $1 million MORE 

More Colleges Abandon SAT and ACT So how do you explain a record year for number of high schoolers taking the tests?  MORE 

Hate Crimes Shake Syracuse A rolling wave of racial slurs and graffiti cripples the school   MORE   

New Tactics to Recruit Foreign Students
Colleges pushing back against Trump-era policies   MORE 

Lawsuit Challenges Standardized Tests University of California in the cross-hairs over SAT and ACT tests MORE 
 
The $100K Tuition Coming to a selective college near you  MORE   

Tracking Students Everywhere They Go Short-range phone sensors and campuswide WiFi brings Big Brother to campus MORE 

Cornell Freshman Dies After a Frat Hazing
Try drinking a bottle of vodka in one sitting. Once more fraternities show their ugly side and the parents are suing MORE   

PUBLIC TRUST |
Supreme Court Takes on DACA
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allows 700,000 undocumented to study in the U.S.    MORE   

Colleges Closing Confucius Institutes
Are they cultural bridges or Communist Party propagandists? MORE   

Trump’s Trickle-Down: Immigration and Race Policies Impact Campuses
An executive order to combat discrimination has free-speech implications  MORE

External ORDERS |
U.S. Colleges Monitoring China’s Infringements on Academic Freedom Can they do anything about policies demanding “absolute adherence” to Communist Party doctrine? MORE   

George Soros Pledges $1 Billion The longtime leftist philanthropist keeps his embattled Open Society University Network alive MORE     

Go to College, Earn More Money The evidence keeps coming in, from pharmacy to the humanities, college is worth more than no college MORE 

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
How about free college? Will the Democrats running for president back down? MORE     

Student Debt: Worse Than We Thought
Hoping to be bailed out, most student borrowers are not not paying anything  MORE   

DeVos in Standoff with Democrats
In citing college fraud, the Dems want the loans forgiven  MORE    

PURPOSE

  CURRICULUM

1     Reforming Remedial Education   Despite continuing evidence that high school graduates come to college academically challenged, more colleges are testing programs that allow such students to bypass remedial-level coursework and move directly into college-level classes. Using “corequisite remediation,” underprepared students receive supports such as tutoring or extended course time that are combined with a credit-bearing, college-level course. The nonprofit group Complete College America has been promoting the new approach across the country, encouraging lawmakers and college officials to jump on board. The California University system eliminated all of its freestanding remedial classes in 2017, replacing them with corequisites, resulting in eight times the number of remedial students’ passing college-level classes—with the highest growth among minority students. Despite these results, faculty members at many colleges have remained skeptical of the changes.  Critics worry that although promising for some students, those with the weakest skills or the biggest learning gaps may not be as successful in the long run.   to the top

Tech Boom Goads Virginia Universities to Expand Computer Science Degrees   A future Amazon headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, has prompted Governor Ralph Northam to invest millions in additional state funding to universities that will increase computer-science and related degrees. The move comes as Virginia faces a shortage of qualified tech workers and aims to prepare students to meet the growing demand. “Graduates will fill jobs at hundreds of companies around Virginia, including Amazon,” Northam says. The funding will be distributed to 11 universities that have committed to producing a certain number of graduates in computer-science-related disciplines over the next two decades. The participating universities, including historically black universities (HBCUs), were chosen to “capture a diverse range of students,” according to Northam. One participating university, Virginia Tech, helped bring Amazon to Northern Virginia with its own plan to spend $1 billion on its new “Innovation Campus,”  located closer to the new Amazon headquarters, and graduate 1,500 master’s degree students. to the top

3     Michigan State Addresses Inequities, Invests Millions In Gateway Course Reform   Gateway courses (e.g., World History 101) can be lengthy and lackluster—with a vast amount of content to cover and students with varying levels of competency. Having higher-than-average failure and withdrawal rates, particularly among low-income, first-generation, and minority students, there is increasing concern that such courses may also foster inequities. In an attempt to address these issues, Michigan State has invested $5 million in the  Foundational Course Initiative. Departments and students commit to working with learning center specialists, and course content is evaluated using data-driven research and evidence, making gateway course reform a campuswide effort. The Gateways to Completion program, offered by the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, works with dozens of colleges using many of the same strategies as Michigan, but without the steep price tag. While further work is needed, these initiatives are demonstrating preliminary success and increasing awareness of the issues. to the top

4     Rethinking Humanities in a STEM World  Since 2011 the downward spiral of the humanities has resulted in a 33 percent drop in history majors in American colleges, with English, languages, and philosophy taking even bigger hits. After the recession of 2008, students sought degrees that they perceived would guarantee future employment and financial security. Humanities departments have been forced to examine their programs, and it’s working. Purdue’s Cornerstone program, developed in response to the enrollment drop, blends liberal arts courses into the gen-ed curriculum. Students are exposed to the humanities while meeting core requirements. Other institutions are embracing STEM by introducing options including digital, urban, environmental, and even food humanities. With this new push, the humanities may just regain momentum and reintroduce the practice of critical thinking.  to the top 

5    “Adulting” Classes for College Students  As many college students experience living on their own for the first time, an increasing number are finding themselves struggling with basic life skills. “Adulting” classes like the one offered at the University of California, Berkeley, have increased in popularity, teaching students skills such as how to do laundry, apply for jobs, and even navigate relationships. Conner Wright, a 20-year-old senior at UC Berkeley, was one of the many students eager to sign up. “I need to learn how to get this adult thing down and manage life,” Wright confessed. The demand for life-skills training has increased as high schools have dropped “home economics” from the curriculum. Students are also benefiting from courses like “Paying the Game of Life,” offered at Dickinson College, teaching students how to avoid financial stressors that lead to poor academic performance. to the top

 COMMUNITY

6   Lessons from the “Harkness Table”  In the age of social media isolation and deep political polarization, it is perhaps no wonder that the seminar class is making a comeback. Once known as the “Harkness Table,” after Edward Harkness—a philanthropist who bestowed millions on New Hampshire’s Exeter Academy in 1930—the small class, with students sitting around a table, offered an opportunity for face-to-face interaction and a safe place to practice free speech. “What I have in mind,” said Harkness, “is [a classroom] where  [students] could sit around a table with a teacher who would talk with them, and instruct them by a sort of tutorial or conference method, where [each student] would feel encouraged to speak up. This would be a real revolution in methods.” It was then—and may still be.   to the top

7   Sticks and Stones: Free Speech Reckons With Racism  Following ongoing legal battles, censorious protests, and controversial speakers, leading academic publications have been revisiting the topic of free speech on college campuses. Author Jonathan Butcher argues that the “defense of free expression on campus is vital and uncomplicated,” based on a successful policy adopted by the University of Wisconsin. That policy protects both free speech and the right to protest, but may not be that simple, says Jonathan Friedman, the project director for Pen America. Many conflicts about free speech are not just about free speech. They are also about “reckoning with racism and legitimate calls to address deficits in equity and inclusion,” says Friedman. Case in point: an instance at Indiana Wesleyan University in which a student was punished after publishing an “insensitive” Facebook post about the university’s warnings over culturally appropriating Halloween costumes. While Mark Bauerlein, for Minding the Campus, argues that the student had the right to free speech, several other students complained that the post’s words were “filled with hate” and “disrespectful.” Although the issue of censorship and free speech likely won’t be solved anytime soon, Pen America is offering guidance and resources for administrators and faculty. “While there is sometimes a fine needle to be threaded,” says Friedman, “campus leaders can navigate today’s controversies with great thoughtfulness, nuance and care.” to the top

    GOVERNANCE

 TRUSTEESHIP

8  Universities Under Fire for Accepting “Dirty Money”  Jeffrey Epstein, the deceased convicted sex offender, had closer ties with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology than was previously known. According to a recent report released by the university after it hired its own investigators, Epstein visited MIT’s campus nine times from 2013 to 2017—well after his 2008 conviction—and donated $850,000 to MIT over a 15-year period. At least three top university officials knew of his sex-offender status but still accepted the donations, due to a surprising lack of policy on potentially controversial gifts. Meanwhile, Tufts University is cutting ties with the Sackler family—owners of Purdue Pharma, which makes the opioid pain medicine OxyContin—and removing the Sackler name from all buildings and programs to which the family donated. Nonetheless, Tufts is keeping the $15 million the family gave over the years. Students, faculty, and alumni are increasingly demanding that sources of funding reflect good values. But college leaders are asking: Where is the line between dirty money and clean? Is there even such a thing as clean money?  to the top

9    Rutgers Names First Black President    Rutgers University in New Jersey has named its first African-American president in its 200-plus-year history. Jonathan Holloway, the provost of Northwestern University, will take office this summer. The student body at Rutgers is now two-thirds people of color, and students say it will be exciting to have a black president at the school. In California, University of California President Janet Napolitano and California State University Chancellor Tim White are both stepping down in 2020. Given the sizes and prestige of California’s dual university systems, the search for their replacements is “a rare confluence” that will shape the future of higher education in the state—and perhaps nationally as well. Their replacements will need to be “Supermen or Superwomen” who can increase funding, protect academic prestige, bolster graduation rates, and ensure labor peace, all while working for social justice.   to the top

10    “True Commitment” Is Not a Reality-TV Show  The University of Tulsa’s Board of Trustees recently approved “True Commitment,” a controversial restructuring plan that will cut 40 percent of the institution’s academic programming, primarily focused on the liberal arts and natural sciences. Tulsa administrators claim the plan is necessary to ensure the university’s financial survival and allow them to meet the demand for a growing STEM-focused workforce. The decision has sparked months of fierce opposition from faculty and students, leading to what some call “heavy-handed tactics” to quiet that opposition. Despite the administration’s granting of a 30-day window for faculty to propose amendments, Tulsa’s president, Gerald P. Clancy, continues to support the plan. “While we welcome suggestions for improvement through established pathways, there will be no ‘repeal’ or ‘rollback’ of True Commitment,” Clancy said in a campuswide email. to the top

11     How Did American Higher Education Lose Its Way?   For decades, Yale University’s mission statement was “to create, preserve and disseminate knowledge.” Now it’s about “improving the world” and educating “aspiring leaders”—with no mention of knowledge. Ever since campus bureaucrats and students became focused on “action and social justice at the expense of free inquiry,” higher education has been in a perpetual state of crisis, José A. Cabranes, Yale’s first general counsel wrote in The Wall Street Journal. Admissions decisions are now made by admissions officers—not faculty members—who are more interested in 17-year-old “social entrepreneurs” or “change makers” than high-school seniors with old-fashioned good grades. “Concerned trustees and alumni,” Cabranes continues, “should not shy away from using all available levers, including financial and political pressure, to reassert the university’s true mission.”    to the top

12    Small Colleges Battle for Life Amid Enrollment Crisis   In Vermont, four colleges have died in just the past year: Southern Vermont, College of St. Joseph, Green Mountain College, and Marlboro College. The looming higher education enrollment crash—brought on by population declines in the Northeast, Midwest, and parts of the South—has been much talked about for years. And things will probably play out the way they usually do: “The institutions with a name and other material advantages will pull ahead and leave others behind.” Bennington College, which draws students from both the East and West Coasts, is taking no chances: It has launched a major fundraising campaign, beginning with a $12 million gift from a shopping-mall heir. During the Great Recession, the University of Rhode Island’s budget was slashed by $26 million over three years. But since then, the school has rebounded by investing heavily in student success—and in the process increasing enrollment by 9 percent and raising its on-time graduation rate by double digits. And after a tumultuous year, Hampshire College has been re-accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. The unconventional liberal arts school has launched a fundraising campaign to raise $60 million by 2024.    to the top

13  Seven-figure Salaries and Perks for College Presidents   Sixty-four college presidents earned more than $1 million, and three earned more than $5 million, in 2017 (the most recent year for which pay data is available). The 20 highest-paid presidents earned an average of more than $2.5 million. Ronald K. Machtley, of Bryant University, topped the list with a compensation package totaling $6.3 million, with more than $5.4 million originating from deferred compensation. Long-term deferred-compensation packages incentivize presidents to stay the full length of a contract for maximum financial gain. Such deals are not limited to private institutions. A study of public-university presidents’ contracts found that about half “provided for either some form of deferred compensation or a supplemental retirement benefit.” Other common presidential perks include housing and car benefits and memberships to professional and social clubs.    to the top

 ADMINISTRATION

14    Colleges Under Pressure to Abandon SAT and ACT Tests    More than a thousand colleges and universities--a new record--have stopped requiring the SAT and ACT for admission consideration amid questions of the tests' fairness. The long-standing aptitude exams, which were originally designed to level the college admissions playing field, are increasingly seen as a barrier for poor minority students and others who are disadvantaged. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, students at the nation’s wealthiest high schools score an average of 441 points higher on the SAT than students at the poorest schools. A coalition of students and nonprofit advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit against the University of California, demanding that its nine undergraduate campuses stop requiring applicants to submit results from the SAT or ACT. (See “Lawsuit Challenges," below.”) They allege that standardized tests “illegally discriminate against students based on wealth and race and violate the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution.” The testing companies deny their exams are biased. And some critics agree, saying the real problem is not the tests but rather unequal access to a high-quality education in the U.S. Ironically, the SAT has never been more popular at the secondary level.  Last year, more than 2.2 million high-school students took the exam, the highest number ever.  to the top

15  Hate Crimes Shake Syracuse    It started last November 7, when racial slurs and graffiti targeting African-Americans and Asians were found in a campus bathroom at Syracuse University. Over the next two weeks at least a dozen other such incidents were reported on or near the school's campus, including racial epithets shouted at students, a threatening anti-Semitic email sent to a Jewish professor, and a swastika stamped into the snow across from an apartment building. These episodes, dubbed the “November Hate Crimes” by The Daily Orange, the university’s independent student newspaper, prompted professors to cancel classes, touched off an FBI investigation, and led many students to fear for their safety. Students, rallying together through the social media tag #NotAgainSU, boycotted basketball games, occupied a campus building for a week, and held meetings with school officials. Left in the hot seat was Syracuse’s chancellor, Kent D. Syverud. New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo weighed in, saying in a statement that “despite his efforts, I do not believe Chancellor Syverud has handled this matter in a way that instills confidence.” Syverud finally capitulated, agreeing to 16 of 19 #NotAgainSU demands as written and to the others with minor edits; among them, diversity training for faculty and staff and campus security cameras that actually work. Meanwhile, all social activities at fraternities were suspended for the rest of the semester.  to the top

16  Colleges Try Innovative Tactics to Recruit Foreign Students   New enrollment of international students in the U.S. has declined for the third straight year. A travel ban, changing visa policies, a trade war with China, doubts about job prospects, growing competition from other countries such as Australia, Britain, and Canada, and even fears of American gun culture have all been blamed. While most American colleges don’t offer financial aid to international students, some, like Minnesota State University at Mankato, are starting to do so. And now that the enrollment boom from China seems to be over, admissions officers are increasingly seeking students from India and neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. But other schools are finding there are distinct advantages to looking in one’s own backyard and recruiting foreign students who are already in this country. “No one comes to a high school or to a community college here to turn around and go home,” says one international recruitment officer. “These students are low-hanging fruit.” And rather than operating full-scale campuses abroad, some institutions, like the University of Arizona, are awarding full American degrees abroad at microcampuses located around the globe.  to the top

17   Lawsuit Challenges Use of Standardized Tests, Fueling Debate About Fairness in Admissions  Students and community groups are suing the University of California, demanding that it stop requiring that applicants take the SAT or ACT entrance exams and using the scores in admissions decisions. Anti-testers have long argued that such standardized tests illegally discriminate against underrepresented minority and underprivileged students. Since 2018, dozens of schools, including the University of Chicago, have dropped their standardized test requirements. If the University of California—the largest university system in the country—follows suit, “the admissions landscape would fundamentally change.” The nationwide debate about meritocracy and fairness in college admissions has become increasingly vocal in recent years. In his book The Meritocracy Trap (Penguin Press, 2019), Yale Law Professor Daniel Markovits argues that “a system intended to open up opportunity has instead created an entrenched, self-perpetuating (and thoroughly miserable) ruling class.” (See “Colleges Under Pressure,” above, and stories in previous PTs: here and here.)   to the top

18    The $100K Tuition: Coming to a Selective College Near You   At the University of Chicago, the sticker price is predicted to top $100,000 by 2025, which would make it the first U.S. college to cross the six-figure advertised tuition mark, according to projections by The Hechinger Report. As admission rates continue to drop, the cost of attending college is increasing, in part because of operational costs. Many colleges and universities have spent lavishly on new construction and renovation projects, leaving some of them in the red. At other schools, personnel spending, including salaries for executives and superstar professors, is the biggest expenditure. The University of Chicago’s president is one of the highest-paid university executives in the country, taking home more than $2 million annually. (See “Seven-figure Salaries” above.) And other elite colleges across the country, such as Harvey Mudd College, Columbia University, and Southern Methodist University, may follow suit with their own six-figure price tags. “The [colleges] that are expensive are the ones that students want to apply to,” explains one professor. “Being expensive is seen as being good.”   to the top

 campus LIFE

19   Tracking Students Everywhere They Go: A Good Thing … or Creepy?  Dozens of colleges and universities across the country have started tracking the exact location of their students 24/7. Short-range phone sensors and campuswide WiFi networks let them piece together students’ daily movements from dorm room to classroom—and monitor their attendance and academic performance, and even assess their mental health. One app, SpotterEDU, not only tracks attendance, but lets students earn “attendance points.” A Syracuse University professor who has embraced the technology says his classes have never been so full, with an attendance rate of 90 percent. Schools claim that tracking helps boost student success: “If they know more about where students are going, they argue, they can intervene before problems arise,” according to the Washington Post. Others, though, are concerned about privacy rights and the micromanaging of young adults.  to the top

20   Cornell Freshman Dies After a Night of Binge-Drinking at a Frat Party. His Parents Are Suing.  An 18-year-old Cornell University freshman found dead at the bottom of a gorge was the victim of an “unauthorized and illegal hazing ritual” at a “Christmas in October” frat party, according to a lawsuit filed by the parents of the late student. The suit alleges that fraternity pledges were forced to drink dangerous quantities of alcohol in seven different Christmas-themed drinking rooms. “After the first round of drinking beer, each freshman was then held upside down over a trash can filled with water as their head was submerged under the water,” the lawsuit reveals. The pledges could not leave the “Santa Claus room” until finishing full bottles of vodka. The legal action names 11 defendants—the university, the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, its chapter adviser, and eight individuals, including seven students. Many of the pledges got so sick they lost all memory of how they got back to their rooms. The parents have also hired a private investigator and posted a $10,000 reward for new information in their son’s death. The university waited two weeks to suspend the fraternity, but since then it has adopted several policy changes governing Greek organizations. (See also "Hate Crimes Shake Syracuse" above.)  to the top

     PUBLIC TRUST

 regulation

21    Higher Ed Groups Urge Supreme Court to Allow DACA to Continue  The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up the issue of whether the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows some 700,000 undocumented immigrants to study and work in the U.S. in two-year blocks, should continue. More than 180 colleges and universities and 40 higher education associations have signed on to friend-of-the-court briefs urging the court not to end the program. A decision is expected by mid-2020. Higher education has a lot at stake: It’s estimated that more than 120,000 DACA recipients are enrolled in some form of postsecondary education. And some schools also hire DACA participants as faculty or staff.   to the top

22    American Colleges Are Closing Confucius Institutes at a Rapid Pace  The Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland at College Park, the oldest one in the country, is closing. Since 2018, after Senator Marco Rubio urged colleges to sever ties with the controversial Communist Party–funded language and cultural centers, dozens have been shut down. At their peak, there were more than 90 centers across the country.   to the top

23    Trump’s Trickle-Down: White House Immigration and Race Policies Come to American Colleges  Ostensibly a step forward by President Trump after a spate of anti-Semitic attacks across the country, the December executive order prohibiting funding to universities that fail to combat discrimination—particularly anti-Semitism—defines Judaism not just as a religion, but also as a nationality and race. Critics immediately pointed out, according to The New York Times, that the order “could be used to stifle free speech and legitimate opposition to Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.” This comes after a barrage of free speech debates and protests on college campuses (see "Sticks and Stones" above.), and it coincides with Trump’s strict immigration policy that suspends student-visa issuances from several Middle Eastern countries. But Trump’s recent order also contradicts some of his own blistering comments about racial groups.   to the top

 external ORDERs

 Culture

24    U.S. Colleges Monitoring China’s Infringements on Academic Freedom  Colleges in the U.S. are closely monitoring Beijing’s efforts to stifle free speech on campus. Three Chinese universities, including Shanghai’s prestigious Fudan University, have revised their charters to emphasize “absolute adherence” to Communist Party doctrines over academic independence, adding a new clause: “The university Communist Party committee is the core leadership of the school.” Over the past few decades, 14 American universities have opened branch campuses in China, while others have created smaller partnerships, which in most cases have resulted in increased revenue, reputation, and research opportunities. Even more chilling, perhaps, than the the Chinese "absolute adherence" policy is the news that universities in China are recruiting “student information officers” to spy on their teachers. The student informers are part of a sweeping campaign by President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party to eliminate dissent. At some schools, the aim is to have one per classroom. In exchange, the students “are promised rewards like scholarships, higher grades and advancement within prestigious Communist Party groups.” (See also "Confucius Institutes" above.) to the top

25    George Soros Pledges $1 Billion to Create Global Education Network  Hungarian-born philanthropist George Soros has announced the creation of a global network of higher education, research, and cultural institutions to be set up around his embattled Central European University, now located in Vienna. The new Open Society University Network will integrate learning and knowledge creation across geographic and demographic boundaries “to solve big problems.” He has pledged $1 billion to the project and is asking other philanthropists to contribute as well.  to the top

TERTIARY EDUCATION

26   Go to College, Earn More Money    A spate of recent reports, from Georgetown University to the Federal Reserve, have studied the value of college and—not surprisingly—found nothing new: go to college, earn more money.  That’s true for those studying pharmacy and health sciences, and, yes, even liberal arts, reports Georgetown. The Fed study found a wrinkle, concluding that while earnings for college grads may be higher than for non-grads, the former’s wealth-building isn’t better. The College Board declares that “individuals with bachelor’s degrees will earn $400,000 more in their lifetimes than those with just a high school diploma,” and the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that attendance at community colleges is linked to higher earnings. Finally, suggesting that monetary rewards may not be the only ones, Nicholas Lemann, dean emeritus at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, urges college students to engage with the world by trying to solve its problems—and perhaps make it a better place. to the top

politics

27    No Such Thing as a Free Lunch—er, Tuition  “Free college for all” advocates want public college to be free for everyone, regardless of income. But when Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg unveiled his plan, he blinked: college would be free for children of families making up to $150,000 a year. “I believe we should move to make college affordable for everybody,” he said in a recent ad. “But I only want to make promises that we can keep.” According to the National Center for Education Statistics, it would cost $79 billion a year to make public colleges and universities tuition-free. David Deming, a professor of public policy at Harvard, says it would be doable by distributing current government funding instead of subsidizing higher education in roundabout ways via tax credits and other tax programs. On the other hand, Jackson Toby, a professor emeritus at Rutgers University, believes that college is too late for “students with severe academic deficiencies.” Writing in The Wall Street Journal, he says that “for many of these students, the problem isn’t that they can’t afford college; it’s that they didn’t have sufficient academic commitment in the lower grades to get ready for college.”  to the top

28    Student Debt: It’s Worse Than We Thought New research indicates that the student debt problem may be worse than we realized. According to an analysis by the New York Federal Reserve Bank, a majority of students are not reducing their loan balance—“at all”—because they believe that Uncle Sam will forgive their debt. Federal-student-loan balances have continued to climb, in part because “schools that encourage students to take out loans have no skin in the game, facing no financial consequences when their students disproportionately default on their obligations,” higher education economist Richard Vedder wrote in an essay for the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. In an effort to make the process more transparent, the Department of Education has unveiled its new “Informed Borrower Tool” that will allow students and parents to see what they’re getting into before taking on federal student debt, including estimated monthly payments and projected median salary after graduating from a specific college.  to the top

29    DeVos in Standoff with Democrats Over Refusal to Forgive Defrauded Debt   Education Secretary Betsy DeVos finally agreed to release documents related to her policies on loan relief for defrauded college students, just hours ahead of a planned subpoena by House Democrats. The Education Department has been locked in litigation with former students of the defunct for-profit college chain Corinthian, who say they are due a full discharge of their loans under a once-obscure 1995 law known as “borrower defense to repayment.” But DeVos has continued to defend her decision to grant partial or no loan relief to tens of thousands of students who were misled by for-profit colleges, “blaming the Obama administration for overpromising debt relief.”  to the top

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