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T O P  S T O R I E S    Study humanities as if your life depends on it.... Online education is still a mixed bag.... The scandal heard ’round the world... “University of Spoiled Children” at the center of it.... Small colleges on the brink .... Chinese hackers pose security threat....  Trump issues free speech order.... “Free College” the rage among presidential hopefuls.... Unions Work.... and more....

PURPOSE |  Study Humanities As if Your Life Depends on It  So argue two academics who should know   1

Online Education a Mixed Bag
  Mega-universities making it work and Penn the first Ivy to offer online-only BA; not so much UT Austin  2

Education Behind Bars and Over 50  Bard goes to jail and AARP to community college 3

Dramas in Diversity  As the bureaucracy expands, there’s pushback  4

GOVERNANCE | Small Colleges on the Brink Goddard, despite Ken Burns as an alumnus, is on the ropes, as is Hampshire  5

Rise and Fall of Statues, Names, and Markers  The confederacy is losing again—but not without (another) fight  6

Why Philanthropy Isn’t Reducing College Costs
 Private donations are up 44 percent; are there too many strings attached?  7

The Scandal Heard ’Round the World When Hollywood celebs take advantage of college greed  8

“Operation Varsity Blues”: 8 Colleges, 11 Employees, 33 Parents, 45 Students  Do we wait for the movie?  9

Scandal Also Ricochets Around the Halls of Academe  Lots of soul-searching on American campuses  1

“University of Spoiled Children” at the Center of the Scandal  By making  second-tier sports important USC opened a “side door” to one man’s mischief  11

Scandal Spotlight Shifts With 761 families so far implicated, “there is some discernable paranoia” about what’s next  12

Phony Credentials, Fake Photos, Bribes, and Exploding Shoes  Maybe this is the perfect time to talk about paying college athletes  13

Where Are the Foreign Students?  Gone the way of foreign languages, apparently; do we blame Trump?  14

The Never-Ending Debate Over Affirmative Action  And we’re still waiting for the Harvard decision  15

Unions Work  But don’t tell that to Marquette  16

True and False: Getting Into College is Hard  While acceptance rates at elite schools keep going down, most of our colleges enroll pretty much anyone who applies  17

Chinese Hackers A new board game or do they really pose a security threat to American universities?   18

Addressing the Mental Health Crisis  Has “coddling” gone too far? Jonathan Haidt is back  19

A Private Police Force for Johns Hopkins  Not everybody is happy about having 100 armed officers patrolling the school’s three campuses  20

Frat Houses: Boys Should No Longer Be Boys Alexandra Robbins has a new book out  21

The Race Factor  Plenty of barriers still keep African-Americans out of college   22

PUBLIC TRUST | Trump Edict on Free Speech Satisfies Neither Right nor Left Are research grants to uphold the First Amendment good or bad?  23

Taking Speech to the Courts The challenge of balancing free speech and a diverse campus is bound to attract judicial oversight  24

California Wants More Admissions Checks and Balances A group of Golden State legislators are pushing a package of new laws   25
EXTERNAL ORDERS | The End of Brick and Mortar  While the Internet is a growing threat to the traditional university, insisting on new building projects may be a bigger one   26

Public and Private Lines Are Blurring  
Public colleges continue to look to the private sector for help with programs   27

Higher Ed Act Grinds On
It’s already five years late, will this Congress be able to renew the Higher Education Act without Lamar Alexander?   28

Trump Budget Slashes Fed Ed  
Still a work in progress, student loan forgiveness is not in the president’s spending package   29

Are We Dreaming?  
Two US Senators—a Republican and a Democrat—quietly introduced legislation to create a path to citizenship for immigrants brought to the US as children   30

“Free College” All the Rage Among Presidential Hopefuls  
For better and worse, the question remains complicated and intractable  31

Student Debt At All-Time High  
The magic number is “over $1.5 trillion”   32



1    Study Humanities As if Your Life Depends on It   Convincing students that Humanities will profoundly affect them and alter their lives is how David Steiner and Mark Bauerlein think Humanities can survive and thrive. A tall order when Humanities majors account for five percent of all B.A.s.  Yet, a popular program at Clemson, a political science minor, offers a Great Books approach and scholarships, and a Notre Dame philosophy professor has created such a popular class in “God and the Good Life” that she’s working with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to bring it to other schools. Stanford students might appreciate this class as they become disillusioned in the wake of companies like Theranos and Cambridge Analytica. Further, some say “fear not” the quantitative analysis technology that’s arrived in humanistic disciplines such as linguistics, while others bemoan what it has done to literary criticism.  

2   Some Universities Court Online Profits, Others Throw Up Hands  Several well-established “mega-universities,” (those with large, profitable online programs) (see "The End of Brick and Mortar") will face competition from the University of Massachusetts system, as it seeks to go up against 10- to 20-year-old online institutions. However, UMASS shouldn’t look to the University of Texas Austin for guidance since its ambitious Project 2021—a “Manhattan Project for Education”—was shut down due to too much bureaucracy, not enough money and not enough buy-in from all the different involved parties. Yet, hope springs eternal: Georgetown will roll out an AI Think Tank that in addition to focusing on
research and security, will, if prototypes at other schools pan out, help professors develop online courses and compose course packets from open-source documents; Arizona State will partner with employers in developing more for-profit online courses (see “Public and Private Lines Are Blurring”); and the University of Pennsylvania will become the first of the Ivies to offer a completely online B.A.

3    Education Behind Bars and Over 50   Higher education institutions have made strides providing resources for non-traditional students despite the obstacles. Pell grants are in jeopardy, as they have been in previous years, but two new programs are providing opportunities not only for academic degrees but skills for the workplace. The Bard Prison Initiative offers incarcerated individuals an opportunity for an education, a program which is the subject of a new PBS documentary by filmmaker Lynn Novick, College Behind Bars. A program sponsored by The American Association of Community Colleges and the AARP Foundation is another example of an initiative which helps non-traditional students, in this case those over 50 years old. Often these individuals already have degrees, but return to school to develop technical skills for the workforce, because they can receive flexible learning opportunities.


4   Dramas in Diversity  To mixed responses, universities continue to mount initiatives to expand the socio-economic diversity of both students and faculty.  Criticizing these steps at Ole Miss, The University of California at Berkeley, and Ohio State University are a number of conservative think tanks and news outlets.  At Yale, where 13 professors recently quit because their department didn’t have adequate resources while a “deputy provost for faculty diversity and development” was installed.  At Villanova University an initiative to include “diversity and inclusion” questions in the course and teaching evaluations that students fill out each semester prompted faculty members to protest.  Questioning of this kind will make it impossible to achieve a real liberal arts education, they argued, as it will inhibit discussion of controversial topics in the classroom.  From another direction, meanwhile, is coming a proposal for states to enact legislation to ensure intellectual diversity.  


5    Small Colleges Once Ahead of the Curve Now on the Brink Small colleges founded with experimental principles, such as no set majors or grades, now face closure. At Goddard College, founded in 1938 as “a Vermont ‘College for Living’…. located on a Plainfield sheep farm,” is on the ropes. “[U]nder the aegis of ‘financial responsibility,” says one faculty member, is a “purging of colleges that serve unconventional students.” Hampshire College, where Ken Burns produced his first documentary as a student, falls into this small-college category, and in the face of low enrollment and a proposed merger no one else wanted, its president recently resigned amid sit-ins and no-confidence votes. Kenneth Rosenthal, one of Hampshire’s founders, in 1970, is now running the college and vowing to raise $15- to $20-million in a year to keep it open. While the governor of Massachusetts has proposed regulating small colleges facing failure, a former Massachusetts inspector general opposes the measure.

‍    The Rise and Fall of Statues, Names, and Markers  Ole Miss now waits for approval from its Board of Trustees and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to move the centrally-placed statue of a Confederate soldier to a Confederate cemetery on campus. The decision, already voted affirmatively by the Associated Student Body Senate, the Graduate Student Council, the Staff Council and the Faculty Senate and approved by the Chancellor, was spurred on by a pro-Confederate rally held simultaneously as a basketball game during which several players took a knee protesting the rally. Meanwhile, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors wants the recently-toppled “Silent Sam” statue restored; donors and past administrators are telling the Board they’re intruding where they don’t belong.  

7  Why Philanthropy Isn’t Reducing College Costs  Just as the “affordability crisis” seems to be peaking (see “ʻFree College’ All the Rage Among Democratic Hopefuls”), philanthropic giving to higher education has been rising dramatically, providing a curious conundrum. In fact there has been an increase in private donations to colleges of 44 percent between 2009 and 2018. In 2017-18 alone, academic institutions raised more than $46 billion.  But one reason that  the rise in philanthropic giving hasn’t impacted college costs is because many donations come with strings attached. “The terms and conditions of donor gift agreements can unduly influence faculty hiring and retention, academic programming, and research production and, over time, can alter a university’s mission and structure,” writes Bethany Letiecq, an associate professor of human development and family science at George Mason University. There has been a call for transparency, which is being fought for on many campuses including George Mason, recipient of large donations from the politically incorrect  Koch brothers.


8    The Scandal Heard ‘Round the World    While the frantic headlines are starting to slow, the massive college admissions bribery scandal is still making front-page above-the-fold news in newspapers across the country. It also makes for compelling television; cable news has devoted hours of coverage to the scandal. And it’s a hugely hot topic in letters to the editor and on social media as well. Why so much fascination? The scandal has a little something for everyone: a “cinematic cocktail” made up of privileged families, corrupt college officials, tainted test scores, Hollywood celebrities, spoiled and entitled kids—Lori Loughlin’s social media “influencer” daughter has 1.3 million Instagram followers and 1.9 million YouTube subscribers—and the potential tarnishing of an Ivy League degree. The story also demonstrates America’s cultural obsession with prestige and the absurd lengths even the wealthiest parents will go to keep up with the Joneses. One Twitter user opined that “the fraudsters were merely acting rationally in a corrupt system.” Another likened the scandal to “a heist movie where every character is a villain. I love it so much.”  

9    “Operation Varsity Blues”: Largest-ever College Admissions Scandal    News of the nationwide college admissions bribery scandal, which broke on March 12, has provoked national outrage over the influence of wealth and privilege in higher education. Dubbed “Operations Varsity Blues,” the largest-ever college admissions scandal ever prosecuted by the Justice Department is truly stunning: involved were eight colleges and universities, 11 college employees, 45 students (three who didn’t enroll), $5.9 million paid, directly and indirectly, to college employees and 33 parents, including prominent Wall Street business leaders and TV stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

The scandal was discovered by accident when a financial executive, the target of a separate investigation, tipped off the FBI in the hopes of getting leniency for himself. The tip led the FBI to Yale, and then to other schools including the University of Southern California, Georgetown University and Stanford University. The ringleader of the scam is William “Rick” Singer, a college prep consultant who allegedly accepted $25 million in bribes from well-heeled parents between 2011 and 2018 to guarantee their children’s admission to elite schools. He employed a method that he called the “side door.”  According to Singer, the “front door” was for ordinary, law-abiding students applying the normal way, and the “back door” was for families making major donations to schools. Singer’s side door method included faked athletic credentials and cheating on standardized tests.

If Singer was the ringleader, Mark Riddell, a professional test taker, was the brains behind the operation. Riddell secretly took college entrance exams for students or swapped out the kid’s responses for his own. He had no inside knowledge of the tests, according to a U.S. district attorney: “He was just a really smart guy.” Huffman and a dozen other parents all agreed to plead guilty to using bribery and other fraud to help get their children into selective colleges. A coach also agreed to plead guilty. A former federal prosecutor told the Washington Post he wasn’t surprised, “because the evidence in the case is overwhelming, and the potential for imprisonment significant.” On the other hand, Loughlin, her husband, fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannullion, and several other parents are pleading not guilty. Prosecutors allege that the celebrity couple paid half a million dollars to help their daughters gain admission to USC as purported crew recruits.  

‍0    Admissions Scandal Also Ricochets Around the Halls of Academe  As details about the largest college-admissions scam in U.S. history continue to emerge, parents, students and administrators, both those directly involved and those looking over their shoulders, are feeling anxious about what comes next. The University of Southern California (see “ʻUniversity of Spoiled Children’ at the Center”) says it is now reviewing applications on a case-by-case basis and that anyone connected to Singer—it has identified six—will be denied admission. The university also plans to use any money received in connection with the alleged scheme to fund scholarships for underprivileged students. In Washington, lawmakers are looking into the tax-deductible status of donations and binding early-decision admissions policies. Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat in the Senate Finance Committee, plans to unveil a bill making donations taxable if the donor has a child attending or applying to college. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the scandal has prompted “soul-searching” about college admissions: Should the process be more open and transparent? How can schools better police the recruiting of college athletes? Has the obsession with getting into “a good school” become so warped that students’ best interests are not being served? Is it time for renewed support for affirmative action? And, as more schools are going “test optional,” is this the “final straw” for the SAT and ACT?  

11     ʻUniversity of Spoiled Children’ at the Center of the Admissions Scandal   At the epicenter of college admissions “most infamous scandal” is the University of Southern California. Once known as the “University of Spoiled Children,” USC in recent years has climbed into the ranks of the elites while quietly drawing top athletes to play tennis, water polo and volleyball. It was in these lower-level sports that ringleader Rick Singer allegedly found four coaches who accepted millions of dollars in bribes.

One is accused of collecting more than $1.3 million between 2014 and 2018 and also drawing $20,000 per month from Singer through a sham consultant agreement. Given the mostly unchecked power that coaches have over admissions officers, the system became a form of fundraising for athletics. When a parent seeking a child’s admission to USC asked Singer if coaches would notice anything amiss, he replied: “No, not at all.… They just don’t show up for practice, and that’s fine. Coaches are OK with that because, essentially, donations are going to help their programs, and they know that.”

For USC, the bribery scheme is the latest in a string of scandals that has plagued the university in recent years (including drug use by the former medical school dean, and sexual assault charges against a former campus gynecologist). All eyes are now on Carol Folt, USC’s new president and the ex-Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (see “Rise and Fall of Statues, Names, and Markers”), to see if she can successfully turn the page.  

12    Scandal Spotlight Shifts to Students, Grads, Other Parents, and Policy    To date, 33 prominent parents, including wealthy CEOs and celebrities, have been charged in the college admissions scandal, which erupted out of nowhere on March 12. But are more shoes about to drop? “There is some discernible paranoia (and, to be sure, some schadenfreude) in corridors of wealth like Silicon Valley.” After all, William “Rick” Singer, the mastermind behind the scheme, testified that 761 families were involved in his “side door” scheme. Also, while no students have yet been charged, some colleges and universities are now zeroing in on students and what they might have known about their parents’ activities. In addition, federal prosecutors have sent letters to some college students or graduates whose parents were implicated in the scandal, informing them that they may also be targets. These so-called “target letters” don’t necessarily mean that the students will face charges, but they could prompt them to “speak to authorities and push parents to plead in the hopes of protecting their children.” And the some of the schools involved are now facing legal charges. A group of students and parents have filed a class-action lawsuit against the University of Southern California, UCLA and other colleges, saying their admissions process was “warped and rigged by fraud” and that they never would have applied if they had known about the alleged scheme.  

13  Phony Credentials, Fake Photos, Bribes, and Exploding Shoes: College Sports   Long before he founded Edge College & Career Network (a.k.a. The Key), William “Rick” Singer, the mastermind behind the college admission scandal (see “ʻOperation Varsity Blues’: Largest-ever College Admissions Scandal"), was a high-school basketball coach. Apparently, the former scoach was also a brilliant salesman, convincing well-to-do parents, including Hollywood celebrities and prominent business leaders, to pay enormous sums of money to get their children into some of the country’s most competitive schools. One tactic involved helping kids gain a “side door” admission via school sports. Singer would create fake athletic profiles for kids who didn’t play sports, even going so far as to have their faces photoshopped onto pictures of real athletes. Parents would also make a sizable donation to a school’s sports program as well as a separate donation to Singer’s nonprofit foundation, ostensibly for underserved kids. A cut would be funneled to coaches, who would then fast-track the nonathlete student for admission. In the latest accusation to emerge, Harvard is investigating allegations that a student was admitted after his father bought the university fencing coach’s Needham, Mass., home in 2016 for nearly $1 million—almost double its valuation. The man’s younger son then gained admission to Harvard and joined the fencing team. (His older son was already a student—and on the fencing team—at Harvard.) The man later sold the house at a $324,500 loss after never having lived there.

It's perhaps a sad irony that college sports was the vehicle for the current admissions scandal, since college athletics has been the focus of many scandals and now, besides the nefarious deeds of former coach Singer, are the subject of another debate about getting money out of college sports--or increasing the compensation of student-athletes beyond scholarships. The latter movement gained momentum after  Zion Williamson, the All-American star at Duke, had his shoe explode during a game, causing an injury to his knee. The argument: if the National Basketball Association makes future NBA players play at least one year in a higher education setting, and they end up injured, shouldn’t they have been getting paid? Many coaches are already benefiting from apparel company “slush” funds. In March a federal judge in Oakland, in a 100 page document, ruled that student athlete compensation could be unlimited if directed to academics–study abroad, computers, musical instruments, etcetera—but upheld the “distinction between college sports and professional sports,” in as much as "college sports are played by students actually attending the college.”

14    Where Are the Foreign Students?    What does it mean that colleges shut down 650 foreign language programs in the last three years and that in 2016, for the first time since September 11, 2001, the number of new international students entering American colleges fell? While some colleges try to maintain a global footprint, Philip G. Altbach, founding director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, say that “The era of internationalization might be over, or on life support.”  While Donald Trump is an easy target--the Trump administration has not pushed internationalization on campuses and has instituted travel bans and visa restrictions—his State Department has endorsed the use of education agents, which serve to “offer free guidance to international students on the full range of higher education institutions.” But some professors and organizations have voiced their distrust in these agents, saying that they prioritize partner universities over students’ best interests. There is also a push against internationalization from within colleges themselves. Professors at Yale protested opening a campus in Singapore due to the country’s poor track record on civil and human rights and many schools have opted to close Confucius Institutes (see "Chinese Hackers Pose Security Threat to Universities") after a report that the Chinese government was censoring the curriculum.  

15    The Never-Ending Debate Over Affirmative Action in Admissions    At first glance, there seems to be little connection between the college admissions scandal and affirmative action. But the scandal is a reminder that there’s nothing equal about the admissions process. For many students of color, there’s a feeling that the decks are stacked against them, no matter how hard they work. One high-school senior, who doesn’t get home from her after-school job until the middle of the night, told the New York Times: “To know that these parents are throwing money at all of these people and being like, ‘Can you do this for my child,’ it’s kind of discouraging. Some of us will probably have to work our whole lifetime to see money like this.” And it’s also a reminder that “equity can, and does, mean different things to different people.” What does the average American think of affirmative action? It all depends on how the question is posed. According to a new Gallup survey, most Americans support affirmative action as a broad concept. But at the same time, three-quarters of those surveyed in a recent Pew study say that race or ethnicity should not be a major factor in college admissions. Meanwhile, under pressure from the Department of Education, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center’s medical school will no longer consider race in its admissions decisions. The agreement is the first of its kind as the Trump administration seeks to limit the extent to which universities can factor race into admissions.  

‍6    Unions Work   Salaries for adjuncts at Fordham will rise 67 to 90 percent over the next three years due to union intervention. So when Marquette urges its non-tenured faculty not to unionize because Catholic universities are “good employers” with a “unique” mission, the school may not expect professors to listen. Meanwhile, several public universities are threatening to strike—Rutgers and University of Illinois at Chicago—due to contract negotiations stalled for at least a year. undefined

17  True and False: Getting Into College Is Hard  While acceptance rates (the percentage of applicants who get in) at the nation’s most elite schools, already in the single digits,  continue to fall, most U.S. colleges and universities accept the majority of students who apply. At the very top, it’s very tight: Of the eight colleges that make up the Ivy League, all but two reported declines in their acceptance rates this year. At Harvard, only 4.5 percent of 43,330 applicants received admissions offers to the Class of 2023, a record low. And several schools linked to the bribery scandal, including Yale and the University of Southern California, also are reporting record-low rates this year. In an effort to hedge their bets, more students are applying to more schools, which pushes acceptance rates even lower. However, despite the headlines, getting into college is easier—not harder—than many stressed-out students and parents realize. The vast majority of students—more than 80 percent—attend schools that accept more than half their applicants. To put things in context: The hysteria surrounding highly competitive admissions simply doesn’t apply to most students. What’s more, community colleges play a more significant role in educating students who go on to acquire bachelor’s degrees than many realize. Of the 2 million bachelor’s degrees granted last year, about half of the recipients had taken some credits from a community college. In Texas, the rate is three out of four.


18    Chinese Hackers Pose Security Threat to Universities   While Donald Trump has shattered any illusions that “Made in China” means plastic toys, American colleges and universities are scrambling to understand the resurgent Red Dragon’s threat to their digital security. Chinese cyber attacks are on the rise, according to iDefense, a cybersecurity intelligence unit of Accenture Security. Most recently, Chinese hackers targeted more than two dozen universities to steal research about military maritime technology. A new Senate report on the Confucius Institute, a Chinese cultural education program operating in US universities and around the world, found evidence that academic freedom is compromised by promoting Chinese government messaging and restricting discussion about the Chinese government. Several colleges have already cut ties with the program.

Additionally, the Trump administration is pressuring universities to cut ties to Huawei Technologies Co., the Chinese telecommunications-equipment maker. From 2012-20118 Huawei gave $10.6 million in gifts and contracts to nine schools. Top universities, including Princeton, Stanford, Ohio State, and UC Berkeley are now rejecting this funding.

Students are also feeling the political tension as well. Tightened visa restrictions for graduate researchers in hi-tech fields began at the start of last year after several Chinese citizens were found spying on engineers and scientists. Chinese students now are facing dwindling job opportunities and said they perceive an “increasingly hostile climate towards Chinese students in the US.”

19    Addressing the Mental Health Crisis  In the 2018 book The Coddling of the American Mind, psychologist Jonathan Haidt and co-author Greg Lukianoff outline six well-meaning but bad trends stretching back to the 1980s that led to the overprotection of today’s college students. These efforts to shield young people from negative ideas and emotions have made those born after 1995—Gen Z—less able to deal with opposing points of view. And more alarmingly, they’ve had a disastrous effect on students’ mental health, according to Haidt. “There’s research showing that depressed and anxious people are more prone to put the worst possible reading on things. If there’s ambiguity, they’ll see the most threatening, negative version possible and it’s very difficult to change their minds about it,” Haidt recently said in an interview with Nautilus. That “makes it very hard to have a discussion about complex topics. So [the] rise in mental illness.” One in four college students has been diagnosed with or treated for a mental illness, according to a new study. With overwhelmed campus counseling services booked weeks in advance (the use of college counseling centers jumped 30 percent from 2009 to 2015), schools like the University of Southern California and the University of Dayton are incorporating mental health and wellness training into the curriculum. At USC, a one-credit course, “Thrive: Foundations of Well-Being,” will soon be a requirement for all undergrads. The intent is “to show students that overall wellness, including mental health, is as serious as any academic matter.”  

20    A Private Police Force for Johns Hopkins   Johns Hopkins is set to become the first private university in Maryland with its own police department. Maryland’s House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly, by a vote of 42–2, to approve the controversial legislation to authorize an armed police force for the university. The armed police force of 100 officers would patrol the school’s three campuses in Baltimore. University officials say the change is needed to ensure campus safety. While some parents strongly welcome the move, dozens of faculty members are voicing opposition and a group called Students Against Private Police said it would hold a protest rally. And for many local residents, still outraged by the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died from injuries sustained while he was in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department, “the thought of a police force accountable not to the public but to the university makes them uneasy.”

21    Frat Houses: Boys Should No Longer Be Boys   The reputation of fraternities continues to decline, writes Alexandra Robbins in her new book, Fraternity: An Inside Look at a Year of College Boys Becoming Men. Though Robbins says that not all fraternity boys are bad, the underlying theme of her book is how fraternities need to reform and rebrand themselves. This doesn’t help the protesters at Harvard, which has banned fraternities (called  same-sex or final clubs) on campus. As long as Penn State, West Virginia, and other universities are still on the radar for drug and alcohol abuse, the bad rap among fraternities is a long way from being for gone.

22    The Race Factor   Students who can afford college prep courses and have access to counselors have an advantage in the competitive college application process, but to many students the admissions scandal only underscores the racial and economic dimension of the process. “What does it take?” says Khiana Jackson,  a senior at Ewing Marion Kauffman School, a predominantly black school in Kansas City. “You work every day, they still find a way [not to let you in]." And even if admission is attained, economically disadvantaged  students then face the financial aid (which is spelled d-e-b-t) question. According to a June 2018 paper by Columbia University associate professor Judith Scott-Clayton, black students have a bigger debt burden than whites. (See "Student Debt at All-Time High.")  Scott-Clayton found that about half of African-American borrowers in 2003--04 defaulted on a student loan within twelve years, which is twice the rate of white borrowers.

Students who attend historically black universities, known as HBCUs, are also leaving with disproportionately high loans, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of the Education Department data. In February, the U.S. Senate approved two bills that will help these historically black colleges. The bills still need to be approved by the House of Representatives and President Donald Trump.  HBCUs, which educate about 300,000 students per year, receive 1 percent of their revenue from federal contracts, grants or appropriations, compared to public universities’ 43 percent, The hope is that these bills will provide HBCUs the critical funding needed to continue.


23    Trump’s Edict on Campus Free Speech Satisfies Neither Right nor Left  In early March at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Donald Trump pleased conservatives by announcing an executive order to protect free speech on campus and made good on the promise later in the month. Schools getting research grants would have to uphold the First Amendment—except that they are already required to do so. While Wall Street Journal columnist Roger Kimball applauded the order, saying government must “face up to the rot of political correctness [on campuses],” outcries from right, center, and left are more common. University of Chicago’s Robert Zimmer, who’s responsible for the Chicago Principles upholding free speech, believes it gives the federal government too much power to define free speech; several on the right  fear the “evisceration” of due process as (they contend) Obama wrought through his Title IX directives; and the American Council on Education says the order is “a solution in search of a problem.”  

24    Taking Speech to the Courts   Should courts legislate campus speech?  It may come to that if Donald Trump’s executive order (see "Trump’s Edict on Campus Free Speech Satisfies Neither Right nor Left") gets any traction. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) says it’s conservatives who angle for legislation mandating it. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education pushes back, saying legislators themselves ask conservative groups for help in law-making. In fact, left and right use the courts. South Dakota’s governor should soon sign a bill protecting “intellectual diversity” on campus and the AAUP has filed a friend-of-the-court brief for an LSU professor fired for profanity, which she defends as a teaching tool for the real world. PEN America’s recent report suggests that balancing free speech and an inclusive campus falls to administrators. When student government at Texas State University attempted to ban a conservative group from campus and a twitter storm blaming the school ensued, it was the dean who informed the campus that student government has no power to take such action.

25    California Legislators Propose More Checks and Balances in Admissions  Much of the bribery scandal drama took place in California, and now a group of California lawmakers has proposed a sweeping package of bills to level the playing field for college admissions. The measures include: banning preferential treatment for the relatives of donors and alumni; regulating some private admissions consultants; barring special admissions without approval of three college administrators; and studying the effectiveness of the SAT and ACT exams. The bills are being watched by legislators in other states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Legal experts are advising colleges and universities to take steps to monitor weak spots in their own admissions procedures and to “start thinking like a bank, where every stage of the payment process is monitored and there are internal controls,” said one legal counsel. Even schools not affected by the scandal are being advised to be proactive and review areas for improvement. Says one crisis management expert: “It’s a tremendous opportunity to show leadership on an issue that, if you think about it, is really at the forefront of everybody's mind right now.”  


26    The End of Brick and Mortar?   Debates over the future of higher education are always fun, but this era’s pivot points seem to be in the clouds as the fates of brick-and-mortar universities are now as uncertain as that of the polar bear. To fulfill the seemingly insatiable demand for digitally-delivered content, jobs and more jobs, and debt relief, many institutions are expanding online opportunities, offering job-relevant courses and confronting directly questions about the osts of college. According to an American Enterprise summary of its recent discussion with new Harvard president Larry Bacow, there are “three main challenges American universities face today: being perceived as `elite’ and caring more about their own greatness than making the world a better place; public frustration because people believe they are `politically correct' and intolerant of opposing viewpoints; and public anger at the price of a college education.”  Mega-universities, institutions which have developed extensive online degree programs, have seen an unprecedented rise in enrollment, especially because of their ability to target a wider range of potential students. With higher enrollment, costs can be reduced and sensible budgets can be restored.  At the forefront of a bipartisan solution to revamp community and vocational colleges to provide opportunities to a wider range of students is the City of Chicago.  Many blame the loss of direction at traditional institutions on the emphasis on new building projects, and teacher tenure, as well as the drain from college athletics, all of which drive up tuition costs.  

27    Public and Private Lines Are Blurring  The future of higher education is changing, for the better and worse. Many colleges and universities are turning to private firms for funding because of the drop in enrollment and budget crunch. Many nonprofit universities are becoming for-profit. Competition among colleges and universities is at an all-time high, pushing many colleges to expand into the online market. Purdue University Global is a model not only for online education but also for-profit plans. And Purdue has dropped the forced arbitration agreements among students, that Kaplan University had when Purdue purchased Kaplan in 2017, thus giving students more academic freedom and legal rights.


28    Higher Ed Act Grinds On  The debate over the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the 1965 law which provides federal aid programs for colleges and universities, is heating up as Congress and the White House offer proposals for an overhaul.  It has been ten years since it has been renewed, despite the requirement that it have the overhaul every five years. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who hopes to pass the legislation by the end of 2019, has said that for it to pass the Senate, it must be budget neutral. He has proposed automatic student loan payments through payroll withholding and program-level accountability reform. President Trump, who recently cut the budget for the Department of Education by $7 billion and eliminated the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (see "Trump Budget Slashes Fed Ed Department") has proposed to consolidate and simplify programs within the Act and has recommended a greater emphasis on workforce development programs that address specific career paths for students, including extending Pell grants to students seeking certificates and licenses.

29    Trump Budget Slashes Fed Ed   President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos want to cut  $7.1 billion from the Department of Education budget. Much of that is earmarked to hurt traditional PK—12 grades even as it provides more funds for school choice. Trump proposed eliminating 20 federal programs, including after-school programs and the Special Olympics (restored by Trump himself after a public outcry), while also making it more difficult for student loan forgiveness. The proposed budget would also give tax cuts to those who donate to so-called Education Freedom Scholarships—to be used for tuition at private institutions. Democrats like Representative Rosa DeLauro object to the plan as one which is intended to fund a private school voucher program while draining fundsfrom public education.  

30    Are We Dreaming?   As a continuation of a two-decades-long attempt, on March 26 two senators--Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL)--introduced legislation that would create a path of citizenship for Dreamers--undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. The Dream Act follows previous versions in that it would allow Dreamers to stay in the United States if they graduated from high school, obtained a GED, pursued college or military services, or had three years of employment. This follows the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 introduced by House Democrats on March 12, which would give Dreamers access to in-state tuition and federal student financial aid. So far President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) order in 2012 has withstood rescission, though Congress has not passed additional protections for Dreamers.  

31    “Free College” All the Rage Among Democratic Hopefuls   Tuition-free higher education has become one of the few safe places for 2020 Presidential candidates as they begin their campaigns.  With the college admission bribery scandal spreading a chill over the land, it allows them some pre-Spring Break sunshine, especially when yoked with the ongoing student-debt (now over a trillion dollars) debacle. Free college is popular with voters, and all the Democratic Oval Office hopefuls have provided their opinions on what is now dubbed the college-affordability crisis, though candidate solutions vary greatly. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, supports “debt-free” four-year college, while other candidates are focusing on “free” two-year community college or “tuition-free” programs.  Reports have shown that many free college programs aren’t designed to benefit low-income students because these students cannot afford the non-tuition costs, such as books, housing, and transportation, even if tuition is covered. There are also disparities in who receives the aid because the state will only cover tuition not already covered by other grant aid.  

32    Student Debt at All-Time High  Now that America’s student loan debt is over $1.5 trillion, an all-time high and giving the US the most indebted graduates in the world, our colleges may have to take a more active interest in the problem. Students are told to get a bachelor’s degree but are not told how to get the financial aid that would help prevent post-grad debt. (See “`Free College' All the Rage Among Democratic Hopefuls.") On March 13, the Committee on Education and Labor convened a hearing to discuss the high costs and ways to prioritize college completion. If students don’t complete their college education, research says, job and earning prospects are statistically worse than if they’d never attended.

In order to help manage student loan payments, which he calls “an albatross” around students’ necks, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has proposed automatic payroll deduction. (See also "Higher Ed Act Grinds On.")  Alexander also says that borrowers should not have to pay more than 10 percent of their income that is not needed for necessities. Additionally, Alexander proposes that if someone were to lose his or her job or not earn enough to make a payment, that person would not have to pay and it would not affect his or her credit score. For those looking to have their student loans forgiven, some good news arrived by way of a  federal district judge who ruled in favor of three borrowers; they had accused the Education Department of changing the policy that would cancel their student debt after ten years of public-sector jobs.  

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