Rethinking the Humanities Crisis You don’t have to major in them to appreciate them, says one Arizona professor 1
Students Want Options—Just Not So Many More schools are limiting course choice to slow major switching 2
History Down, Cannabis Up Yes, you can get a B.S. in cannabis biology and chemistry 3
Bye-Bye, Bricks and Mortar Covid or not, online classes may be the future 4
Students Stressed by Move to Pass/Fail Grading Many students need that high GPA 5
More Pay to Play for College Athletes Legislators in more than 30 states like it; the NCAA is still handwringing, but women athletes may benefit 6
Campus Leaders Prepare for Worst-Case Scenarios The financial impact of the pandemic is serious 7
“Heart and Soul” Meets Pandemic Realities at Berkeley Theay rail a $6 billion landmark preservation campaign 8
Endowments Could Lose Billions And these assessments don’t even count the stock market meltdown 9
College Presidents Still Mostly White and Male But the number of blacks and women is increasing 10
Wanted: More Openness in Presidential Searches It’s no secret that secrecy shrouds executive searches 11
The Covid Wrecking Ball Closing campuses may be just the tip of the iceberg 12
The Demand for Coronavirus Refunds Grows Many institutions are accommodating; some are not 13
Uncertain Times Call for Aggressive Recruitment Strategies Old rules are “kaput” as Justice Department loosens ethics code 14
In the Wake of Covid, Colleges Go Test Optional The SAT slide picks up speed 15
Coming Soon: At-Home SAT, ACT, and AP Tests Key words are simple, secure, accessible, and valid 16
Did Scandal Change Admission Policies? Not so muc
Michigan Provost on Leave After Sex Misconduct More than 20 women had filed complaints 18
Staying Closed Until 2021? Many colleges are planning for it 19
Study Abroad From the Comfort of Home Nearly 37,000 Americans were studying in Italy alone when Covid hit 20
PUBLIC TRUST |
In the Midst of Pandemic Crisis DeVos Overhauls Title IX Students and employees accused of sexual assault get more protections 21
Fearing Espionage, Feds Crack Down on Foreign Funding Harvard and Yale are among those accused of failing to report foreign gifts 22
Culture Wars Continue One critic says “the conquest of academia by political correctness is complete” 23
The Diversity Bureaucracy It’s not growing as fast, but is it a Ponzi scheme? 24
External ORDERS |
The Post-Pandemic Campus Fewer students in dorms—if there are dorms25
College Subscriptions and AI Teaching Assistants More colleges may allow monthly payments for online courses that are taught by “Jill Watson,” named after IBM’s supercomputer 26
Digital Campuses Gaining Parity with Traditional Ones Purdue’s Kaplan University is leading the way 27
Free College is Still Alive California is taking the lead, as USC offers tuition-free education for families that make $80,000 or less 28
DeVos Agrees to Process Applications for Loan Forgiveness After bipartisan chiding from Congress the Secretary of Education relents 29
Congress and UC System Suspend Student Loan Payments Worth some $1.8 billion, the feds will also issue refunds to 830,000 defaulted borrowers 30
The High Cost of Income-Driven Repayment Plans Increasingly popular, they cost the government 17 cents on every dollar loaned 31
1 Rethinking the Humanities “Crisis” As more and more college students choose majors with very defined career paths, the humanities have lost their relevancy, right? Well, not so fast, says one professor. Numbers don’t tell the whole story, according to Neal A. Lester, a professor of English at Arizona State University. Lester is also the founder of Project Humanities, an initiative at ASU that pairs students with local citizens for talks and service work. He contends that you don’t have to major in the humanities to appreciate them. For example, it’s possible to be a business or kinesiology major, he says, and engage in “conversations about humanist principles and about how we are human.”
2 Students Want Options—Just Not So Many Overwhelmed by “choice overload,” one-third of students change their majors once, and one in ten switch two or more times. Now a small but growing number of schools are helping students succeed by limiting the choices they have to make. Some are even picking their first-year classes for them. Florida International University, for instance, found that graduation rates rose when students were given fewer options.
3 History Down, Cannabis Up As thenumber of students majoring in history has plunged, surveys show that only two in five adults can name all three branches of the federal government, and only one in three could pass the basic U.S. citizenship test. On the other hand, more than 300,000 undergrads nationally are majoring in computer science or related fields like cybersecurity, bioinformatics, robotics, and computer animation. Student interest is so great that there aren’t nearly enough faculty members to keep up with the demand. This fall, Colorado State University’s Pueblo campus is set to become the latest university to offer a marijuana-related degree—a B.S. in cannabis biology and chemistry—joining a handful of bachelor’s and master’s cannabis programs across the country.
4 Bye-Bye, Bricks and Mortar: Are Online Classes the Future? The sudden pivot to online instruction in response to the coronavirus pandemic could be the “most sweeping education experiment in history.” For the first time, entire student bodies have been forced to take all of their classes online, catching both students and faculty off guard. Instructors were thrust into remote instruction with little or no training, prep time, or support. And even though online education has been a staple in higher education for years, it’s not that easy to move classes online. Many students report that professors simply upload reading materials or videos, with no interaction at all. Online-education experts note there’s a huge difference between classes that were designed to be digital from the start and those hastily put together by instructors “flummoxed by the abrupt change.” Nonetheless, they say, it’s “all but certain that online learning is poised for explosive future growth.” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, acknowledging “the need for more innovation,” has proposed updated rules that would make it easier for colleges and universities to roll out new online learning models.
5 Students Stressed by Move to Pass/Fail Grading When classes moved online due to the coronavirus crisis, many schools moved to a pass/fail grading system. At some institutions, like Columbia University, it’s mandatory, with no option for a student to petition for a letter grade. While this may relieve stress for some students, it’s causing stress for others, particularly those who need high GPAs to get into medical school or honors programs or to apply for prestigious scholarships like the Rhodes Scholarship. Millions of college students across the country are now pleading with grad programs and prospective employers to relax rigid entry requirements and not penalize students who chose, or were required, to take classes pass/fail.
6 More Pay to Play for College Athletes Since California passed the Fair Pay to Play Act last September, allowing college athletes to sell the rights to their name, image, and likeness without having to forgo their NCAA eligibility, the push to let college athletes profit from their work has swiftly gained fans on both sides of the political aisle. Politicians in more than 30 states—including Florida, Nebraska, and New York—have proposed similar legislation. Although the California law doesn’t take effect until 2023, changes could come sooner—as soon as this year or next in some states. One reason lawmakers are acting so quickly: They don’t want all the best athletes choosing to go to school in California. Some officials worry that women will be reduced to an afterthought, with male football and basketball players reaping all the rewards. But many female athletes see new possibilities to gain financially, by endorsing products marketed to women or as social media influencers.
7 Campus Leaders Prepare for Worst-Case Scenarios The current financial forecast for higher ed is so bleak that Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded its outlook from “stable” to “negative,” predicting widespread instability in light of the coronavirus crisis. Thirty percent of both public and private colleges the agency tracks are already running operating deficits, and if the pandemic lasts much longer, it “could lead to a far more negative scenario.” Skyrocketing unemployment claims portend deep funding cuts for public colleges, and schools that had bet on an ongoing influx of international students could also face serious fiscal difficulties. In a survey of college and university presidents conducted in late March, 75 percent said they would “hunker down and ride the storm,” 55 percent were planning to execute across-the-board cuts, and 72 percent said layoffs or furloughs would be necessary. Two-thirds of leaders were optimistic that campus life will return to normal soon; however, one-third said “serious disruption” awaits us come the fall. One president even predicted his campus will remain “in virtual-instruction mode for all of fiscal 2021.”
8 “Heart and Soul” Meets Pandemic Realities at Berkeley The University of California, Berkeley is launching a landmark fundraising campaign, to raise $6 billion—one of the largest ever undertaken by a public university—as state funding has plummeted to just 14 percent of Berkeley’s budget. “This is not a campaign about ‘nice to have,’” said Chancellor Carol Christ, but rather a drive to preserve the “heart and soul” of the institution. The timing could be problematic, though, in light of the current economic meltdown. “A growing body of evidence” suggests that fundraising for major projects will grind to a halt—at least in the short term. In the longer term, experts say, donors may be willing to support scientific research, STEM initiatives, medical/nursing programs, or online learning modules.
9 Endowments Could Lose Billions In more coronavirus-crisis news, colleges and universities face tens of billions of dollars in potential endowment losses. According to the latest annual NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments, the average endowment had a return of 5.3 percent in 2019, down from 8.2 percent in 2018. The median endowment is $144.4 million with an average spending rate of 4.5 percent. Nearly half of that spending is directed to student financial aid. Some schools, however, have been spending more than 5 percent a year, typically to cover operating shortfalls. And in a separate survey conducted by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, more than half of trustees said they were concerned about the financial futures of their institutions. Both surveys were released in January, before the current stock market meltdown.
10 College Presidents Are Still Mostly White Males—but Women and Minorities Make Gains Harvard Business School has been searching for a new dean since November, when Nitin Nohria, the current one, announced he would step down this summer. (Nohria is now extending his stay until the end of 2020 as the school deals with the coronavirus crisis.) Student and alumni groups are urging Harvard’s president, Lawrence Bacow, to make diversity a priority by hiring a woman, person of color, or “someone who challenges orthodoxy.” While college presidents are still overwhelmingly white and male, higher education is showing more willingness to hire outside of the box. George Mason University and the University of Maryland have recently appointed African-American presidents. And the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is getting a new dean, the first woman and the first person of color to head the business school.
11 Wanted: More Openness in Presidential Searches Critics are pushing back against the growing tendency by colleges and universities to conduct “secret,” closed-door presidential searches. Long gone is the old tradition of inviting candidates to campus to meet with faculty, staff, and students before the governing board made its final choice. What’s more, nearly all institutions hire executive search firms. By 2015, more than 92 percent of presidential searches were being conducted with headhunters—which not so coincidentally coincided with the “privatization and corporatization of public universities.” Headhunters don’t come cheap: Costs can easily exceed $300,000. Imagine how many scholarships this could pay for!
12 The Covid Wrecking Ball: Colleges Adjust to a New Normal Amid Uncertainties About the Future As the coronavirus pandemic hit, in early spring of 2020, colleges and universities responded quickly by closing campuses, moving courses online, canceling graduation ceremonies, and offering dorms to local hospitals—but this was just the tip of the iceberg. Schools across the country, from endowment-rich Ivy League institutions to regional and flagship public schools, are instituting hiring freezes right and left. At Brown University, hiring is suspended through next summer. While some academic programs can shift relatively smoothly to online, arts and sports camps can’t, and hundreds of summer programs, like the American Dance Festival at Duke University, are now canceled. Empty campuses over the summer will cost colleges hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue, according to industry experts, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, and that’s “before what’s shaping up to be an even more financially devastating fall.” During the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, college enrollments surged by nearly 16 percent as older adults returned to campus. However, it remains to be seen if history will repeat itself. The “big wildcard” is whether students will be able, or willing, to return to physical campuses in the fall.
13 The Demand for Coronavirus Refunds Grows It didn’t take long for college students to begin demanding refunds after campuses were abruptly closed in March and April—even though classes moved online due to the Covid-19 outbreak. But what they get back depends on the institution they’re attending. Some schools are offering prorated rebates or credits for housing and meals, while the University of Minnesota is offering a flat $1,200 refund. But very few—if any—have offered tuition reimbursements, the rationale being that schools are fulfilling the terms of their contract since classes are still taking place, albeit in a different medium. Students, however, have a broader interpretation about what their money should buy. There are nearly 200 petitions signed by tens of thousands of students on the website Change.org, and Drexel University and the University of Miami (where total costs top $70,000 a year), have been hit with class-action lawsuits. Students argue they should be reimbursed for costs, including tuition, because online classes aren’t giving them the in-person learning experience they were promised.
14 Uncertain Times Call for Aggressive Recruitment Strategies—Including Prizes and Sweepstakes! Since the National Association for College Admission Counseling voted last fall, under pressure from the Justice Department, to strip certain provisions from its ethics code, the old rules have gone “kaput.” And with the coronavirus pandemic making it almost impossible as to which admitted students will actually show up in the fall (“yield”), many colleges and universities are embracing “louder, more over-the-top-than-before” and “supercharged” marketing tactics while also throwing the normal admissions calendar out the window. Well over 200 institutions are extending their admissions-deposit deadlines beyond the traditional May 1 date—aka National Candidates Reply Date. Others to great lengths to get students to commit before May 1. Albion College in Michigan ran an “early deposit sweepstakes,” complete with “prizes” like free room and board, for students who deposited by March 6. (It was later rebranded an “early deposit awards program.”) Still other schools, like Kalamazoo College, are simply accepting more students than ever. All this is good news for high school seniors, many of whom will be pleasantly surprised to get acceptance letters from colleges they might not have gotten into last year.
15 In the Wake of Covid-19, More Colleges Go Test Optional An unprecedented number of colleges and universities are dropping the SAT and ACT requirements for fall 2021 admissions in response to the coronavirus crisis. The test-flexible movement, which has been building for years amid concerns that they are discriminatory, has grown exponentially since the pandemic hit. More than 1,100 schools have joined in, according to FairTest, an education advocacy group critical of the exams, including some of the most selective liberal arts colleges in the country, such as Williams, Amherst, and Vassar colleges. The nine-campus University of California system is the largest and most influential institution to have suspended the standardized-testing requirement. UC is also waiving letter grades for required courses, saying that “grave disruption” to schools calls for maximum flexibility. And schools like Tufts University and David College will begin pilot programs to determine whether to eliminate standardized testing altogether, then reassess after three years.
16 Coming Soon: At-Home SAT, ACT, and AP Tests If the coronavirus crisis persists into the fall, the College Board, which sponsors the SAT, has announced that it is prepared to provide an unprecedented online, take-at-home version of the exam—which will be simple, secure, accessible, and valid. The ACT, the SAT’s big rival, is also developing a test-at-home plan for late fall or early winter. Although some students have already taken the SAT online, the exam has never been taken from home. Seconds after the College Board’s announcement, Twitter lit up with criticisms, with admissions officials raising questions about security and cheating. The College Board has also announced that traditional face-to-face Advanced Placement tests will be canceled this year and replaced by shorter 45-minute virtual exams that can also be taken at home.
17 Did Scandal Change Admission Policies? The “Varsity Blues” scandal (see Paideia Times, Operation Varsity Blues and The Scandal Heard ’Round the World) that erupted last year created a heightened distrust of the college admissions process but also a cynicism that inspired The Washington Post to advise readers, “Don’t hold your breath” about anything changing.Most of the recent headlines feature a former Canadian pro-football player, a Hot Pockets heiress, and a Silicon Valley housewife—the latest parents to be sentenced for crimes related to the scandal, from conspiracy to fraud to money laundering—all to get their children into college by bypassing the traditional admissions process. Defense attorneys representing another set of parents charged in the scandal have filed a motion to dismiss the cases against them, accusing the government of withholding potentially exonerating evidence. Parents who have pleaded not guilty are scheduled for trial in October 2020 and January 2021. One of the few signs of changes in admissions processes has been with respect to the practice that prioritizes applicants of alumni family members—the legacy exceptions—which is used in an estimated three-fourths of the nation’s most selective institutions, including the University of California system and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The first to announce a change was Johns Hopkins, which had begun phasing out legacy admissions in 2014 but didn’t say so until last January. Purdue University and the University of Florida still collect legacy information but say it “carries less weight than it once did.” But, no, don’t hold your breath. According to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, colleges received more than $1 billion from alumni in 2019. Harvard University, whose applicants are more than five times more likely to be admitted if they are legacies, says it has no plans to change its current policy. As Liz Willen, of the Hechinger Report, says, “In the face of such unfairness, it is helpful to remember that higher education has always been a business, with admissions officers at selective schools beholden to trustees, wealthy alumni, college rankings—and, in many cases, ability to pay.”
18 Michigan Provost Placed on Leave After Sexual Misconduct Accusations The University of Michigan has removed its provost after more than 20 women made sexual misconduct complaints against him. Although Michigan acted swiftly when the allegations surfaced in January, the Detroit Free Press reported the university knew about years of prior allegations when Martin A. Philbert was appointed provost in 2017. Currently on administrative leave, Philbert continues to draw a base annual salary of $570,340. Other prominent schools that have been caught up in allegations of sexual abuse—involving dozens or even hundreds of victims—include the University of Rochester, which has agreed to pay $9.4 million to settle a long-running sexual harassment lawsuit, and Ohio State, which has reached an unspecified settlement with nearly half the 357 people who sued the school over alleged abuse by a former university physician. When responding to such lawsuits, colleges typically draw from the same playbook: retain an outside law firm to investigate, set up a hotline for victims, and hire an outside PR firm to manage the flow of information to the media. Victims’ attorneys, however, question how “independent” and “transparent” these investigations really are.
19 Staying Closed Until 2021? Colleges and universities are hoping to resume in-person classes in the fall, but are preparing as best they can“ for every possible contingency.” The big fear is that online learning will drive students away. Rather than pay for online classes at a pricey four-year institution, many students might take a gap year or enroll at a community college instead. In fact, 40 percent of parents surveyed said their children may delay going to college because of the coronavirus crisis. Beloit College in Wisconsin has announced that it will split the fall semester into two seven-week modules. That way, if it’s forced to move classes online, it can do so with fewer disruptions.
20 Study Abroad From the Comfort of Home Thousands of American exchange students’ study abroad came to an abrupt halt as host countries closed their borders and airlines canceled flights to the U.S. because of the coronavirus pandemic. Programs in China were among the first to be suspended, but the arrival of the coronavirus in Italy and other parts of Europe took the chaos “to another level.” It’s not clear how many students were stranded, but in the 2017–18 academic year, more than 340,000 students from the U.S. studied overseas. Programs in Western Europe are the most popular, with nearly 37,000 Americans studying in Italy alone. Now schools are rethinking the immediate future and scrambling to put together “stay-at-home” study-abroad programs for the summer and fall. Northeastern University says nearly half of its study-abroad programs will be offered virtually this summer.
21 In the Midst of a Pandemic, Betsy DeVos Overhauls Title IX. Ignoring calls to hold off on the new Title IX rules as schools deal with the coronavirus pandemic, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos forged ahead and released new regulations that give more protections to students and employees accused of sexual assault. The new rules, announced on May 6, fill 2,000-plus pages. Among the biggest changes: The accused will be given the right to a live hearing and to cross-examine their accusers, and dating violence and stalking have been added to the definition of sexual harassment. In addition, institutions can choose one of two standards of evidence—“clear and convincing” or the lower “preponderance of the evidence”—as long as they apply the standard evenly for all cases. (Under the Obama administration’s Title IX guidance, schools were urged to use the lower standard.) The new rules, which DeVos called a “historic” break from the “kangaroo courts” of the past, will take effect on August 14. “Civil rights really can’t wait,” she said. “It’s not a surprise to institutions that it was coming.” But the American Council on Education quickly hit back, calling the timing “cruel” and “counterproductive” and reflecting “appallingly poor judgment.” Victim advocates have also strongly criticized the new rules and are promising to challenge them in court.
22 Fearing Espionage, Feds Crack Down on Universities That Fail to Disclose Foreign Funding The Department of Education has launched probes into both Harvard and Yale Universities for allegedly failing to report millions of dollars in foreign gifts. The department claims that American universities overall didn’t disclose as much as $6.5 billion in gifts and contracts from foreign countries, like China and Saudi Arabia, that are known to be hostile to the United States. For its part, Yale University may have omitted reports of at least $375 million in foreign gifts. Universities are required to disclose foreign contributions of $250,000 or more in a calendar year. Though the law is decades old, the department only recently began to step up its enforcement. In the past year, it has opened investigations into other institutions, including Georgetown University, Cornell University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A common thread in them all is “the possibility that Chinese interests are waging a hidden campaign of academic espionage at U.S. universities.” Earlier this year, the FBI arrested the chair of Harvard’s chemistry department, accusing him of lying about his involvement with China’s Thousand Talents Plan, a “talent recruitment program” launched by the Chinese Communist Party in 2008.
23 Culture Wars Continue: One Student’s Freedom of Speech is Another’s Racial Slur According to a randomized poll of students at the University of North Carolina, professors are mostly “even-handed and open-minded.” But when the results are crunched according to self-identified political persuasions, Mark Bauerlein, an editor at the conservative First Things, noticed something worrisome: 77 percent of students who called themselves liberal had never kept their opinions quiet out of fear of some kind of reprisal, while only 32 percent of conservatives said they had never kept quiet out of fear of reprisal. “The conquest of academia by political correctness is complete,” Bauerlein declared. “A repressive system succeeds when the overlords of it no longer must exert any pressure. Instead, the group that is the target of the repression censors and harasses itself.” Similarly, a Pomona College survey showed that while students support free speech, they would restrict slurs and offensive language. Matthew Mayhew, professor at Ohio State and co-author of a study on worldviews and diversity among students, suggests that students should experience intellectual “discomfort” as part of the learning process. But what to do about the student cloaked in “Make America Great Again” garb who challenged her professor about her religion? Or the professor whose peer-reviewed article “The Case for Colonialism” was pulled from publication for stating that “the notion that colonialism is always and everywhere a bad thing needs to be rethought in light of the grave human toll of a century of anti-colonial regimes and policies”? Or that only 18 percent of colleges now require any courses in American history or government? Still, Republican lawmakers in Arizona have proposed a Campus Intellectual Diversity Act, and there are copycat bills in Missouri and Iowa. A South Dakota legislator proposed a Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity bill that would, she said, be a “blow to the epidemic of leftist bias.”
24 The Diversity Bureaucracy: A Ponzi Scheme? Despite looming economic hardships at colleges and universities throughout the country, diversity departments are thriving and underrepresented minorities (URMs) they recruit are struggling. So says the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald, who compares the practice of recruiting URMs to that of a Ponzi scheme—designed to build an inflated student-services workforce she refers to as “campus diversocrats.” With a focus on enrollment rather than retention, Mac Donald says, these programs set students up for failure, with many dropping out within the first year and leaving their share of tuition dollars behind—to fund more administrative positions and grow the “diversity bureaucracy.” Whether a Ponzi scheme or not, preliminary data from the American Talent Institute (ATI) confirms that the diversity bureaucracy is growing and that enrollment and graduation rates for low-income students are leveling off and even dropping. The Bloomberg Philanthropies–supported initiative, in collaboration with dozens of colleges and universities, had promised to graduate at least 70 percent of its low-income students within six years, but an ATI report for the 2018–19 year shows those numbers dropping significantly. David Gooblar, associate director of Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching, fears that the gap in college completion facing URMs is one of the most persistent problems facing higher education. Gooblar emphasizes the need to move beyond surface-level diversity initiatives such as increasing minority faculty and diversifying curricula, focusing instead on improving teaching practices that would have real impact on URM success.
25 The Post-Pandemic Campus If and when colleges reopen with classes held on campus, things are likely to be very different: fewer students living in dorms, fewer international students, and fewer athletic events. The pandemic could be an opportunity to create a new higher education system that resembles the European model, with larger classes and smaller, more transparent administrative costs. And schools will tweak their academic calendars to make fuller use of the long winter and summer breaks. Whatever happens, most agree that except for the wealthiest and most prestigious institutions, it won’t be business as usual in 2020–21. to the top
26 College Subscriptions and AI Teaching Assistants Even without the coronavirus crisis, higher education in the not-too-distant future is sure to be radically different. Imagine students “subscribing” to college, learning foreign languages in virtual reality, and studying with AI teaching assistants. All of these ideas are currently being tested. Boise State University is piloting a subscription model, Passport to Education, that allows students to pay a monthly fee of $425 to take six credit hours, or $525 for nine. That’s 30 percent cheaper than the in-state, in-person tuition. And Georgia Tech is experimenting with a virtual teaching assistant named Jill Watson, built on IBM’s Jeopardy-winning Watson-supercomputer platform, to augment interaction with human teachers.
27 Digital Campuses Gaining Parity With Traditional Ones Since 2013, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels has kept tuition and fees under $10,000—at $9,992 to be exact. This has helped attract more students, who bring in more revenue, which in turn allows for the hiring of more and higher-quality faculty. In 2017, Daniels purchased the for-profit Kaplan University, for one dollar, and created one of the largest online educators in higher education, Purdue Global. As online educational divisions continue to gain clout, universities like Washington State, Colorado State, the University of Maryland, and Purdue have appointed chancellors to lead them—sending a clear signal that digital campuses “can operate at the same level as traditional, physical campuses.”
28 Free College Is Still Alive In April presidential hopeful Joe Biden announced his backing of Senator Bernie Sanders’s free-college platform, which would allow students whose family income is less than $125,000 to attend state and community colleges at no expense. This plan is dependent on “federal-state partnerships,” a strategy that would allow the federal government to match state spending to cover tuition for in-state students. While the idea sounds good, Jason Delisle of the National Review says that it’s “a solution in search of a problem,” because this argument for free college looks at public universities’ tuition cost at face value, rather than factoring in what students already receive in financial aid—ultimately giving states more than what’s needed. Additionally, critics argue that this would change “incentive structures in the higher education system” and would place more decisions in Washington’s hands that would have historically been made by states and universities. However, a federal plan may not be needed for some students to attend college for free. California has started to take the matter into its own hands, with the University of Southern California offering free tuition for students whose families make $80,000 or less.
29 DeVos Agrees to Process Applications for Loan Forgiveness Students who say they were defrauded by for-profit colleges are finally set to get relief. The Trump administration has agreed to process nearly 170,000 debt-cancellation claims within 18 months as part of a settlement in a long-running lawsuit. This is a rare issue that has united both Republicans and Democrats. Earlier this year, majorities in both chambers of Congress voted to revoke Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s rewritten “borrower defense” regulations, which would have made it harder to obtain loan forgiveness based on a college’s deceptions.
30 Congress and UC System Suspend Student Loan Payments As part of the coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, federal student-loan borrowers can postpone their monthly payments through September 30 without incurring any interest or penalties. The government will also refund about $1.8 billion to more than 830,000 defaulted borrowers whose wages, Social Security payments, or tax refunds were garnished on or after March 13, the day President Trump declared a national emergency. (Those who filed early and had their tax refunds seized before March 13 are out of luck.) The University of California system is offering debt relief to alumni, waiving interest and payments on $140 million in education loans it owns, also through the end of September. Included are former students with Perkins loans or Dream loans (made to undocumented students), who were excluded from the $2 trillion federal stimulus package.
31 The High Cost of Income-Driven Repayment Plans Enrollment in income-driven repayment plans has surged in recent years, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office, accounting for nearly half of student loans in repayment. They are especially popular among graduate- or professional-school borrowers with large loan balances as an alternative to fixed-payment plans. Monthly payments are typically capped at a percentage of discretionary income, with extended repayment periods of 20 to 25 years. Any remaining balance can then be canceled. However, the payments are often too small to cover the accruing interest, and for every dollar disbursed, the federal government loses almost 17 cents. By 2029 this could add up to $83 billion. to the top