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

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TOP STORIES  Woke and Critical Race Theory.... Curriculum fights rage on.... Post-pandemic Zoom fatigue.... More “transcript ransom”.... Goodbye, Columbus (again).... Debt cancellation and free tuition proposals are spreading....  and more.

The Newest Epidemic: Cheating
Perhaps caused by too much remote learning, but it includes Post-it notes on the dog. MORE

Academic Freedom on the Ropes A well-established assumption still in search of a solution. MORE

Holistic Admissions With standardized tests succumbing to “wealth test” critiques,  admissions departments search for other holy grails that may be just as bad for diversity. MORE

Affirmative Action As the Supreme Court prepares  to weigh in, the diversity issue comes to the place that once championed test-based meritocracy: Harvard. MORE

A “Slam Dunk” for Tenure—Not The battle was so fierce her name is now an acronym: NHJ. MORE

Nicole Hannah-Jones Thumbs Her Nose at UNC
By the time that UNC succumbed to public pressure and offered her tenure NHJ had moved on. MORE 

What Went Wrong at UNC
A true story about the power of a board of trustees that one professor called “craven and dangerous.” MORE   

Judge Blocks Bicoastal Merger On the verge of closing, Mills College in Oakland decided to be acquired by Northeastern University, until irate alumna went to court. MORE

Penn State Consolidates A major restructuring of the Keystone State’s higher ed system, the 10th largest in the country, promises to shed 14% of its jobs. MORE

Presidential Comings Interesting new leaders  to Lafayette College, Georgia State, and Florida State. MORE

Presidential Goings Some going with garlands of praise and at least one quits after gaffe-filled speech. MORE

Texas Woman’s University Bucks the Trend The college has grown into a “system,” the seventh in the state, and is hiring two new presidents. MORE   

Big Pros on Campus
Lots of action on campus as universities start to adjust to the new reality of student athletes making money. MORE

The UC System Goes Test Blind By next fall 60 percent of accredited colleges will make the SAT and ACT optional. MORE   

Free Tuition?
They’re trying it at Hope College and Yale’s drama school. MORE 

The Master’s Degree Scam With a 70 percent uptick in apprenticeships in the last decade, older students are flocking to online master’s degrees, raising lots of questions. MORE 
Persuading Students to Get Vaccinated At many schools on the east coast, vaccinations are mandatory. Purdue promised $9,992 to a vaccinated lottery winner. MORE   

Pandemic Steers Students to Cheaper Colleges Nearly four out of five 11th and 12th graders say Covid has changed their college plans. MORE   

Many Schools Freeze Tuition Unfortunately, most are raising tuition and room-and-board fees.  MORE

Florida Shields Colleges from Covid Lawsuits So far courts have mostly rejected attempts to punish colleges for pandemic problems.  MORE

The Delta Variant Force Colleges to Change Plans A new survey finds that right-leaning academics face much more discrimination—in hiring, promotion, and grant-writing—than the other side. MORE

Fighting Vaccine Mandates One group took their case for “bodily autonomy”  to new Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who denied the request without comment. MORE

International Students Scramble
Vaccine requirements are proving a big hurdle for this increasingly important part of higher ed’s cash flow. MORE

ExTernal ORDERS |
Some Students Emerge Better and Stronger from Pandemic Many thrived academically or discovered new talents. MORE

Working Remotely Has Its Benefits For faculty especially, many of whom want to continue working from home.  MORE

Affirmative Action This will be the seventh time the Supreme Court takes on the controversial admissions policy to give minorities a break in entrance requirements. MORE 

Telling Schools What to Teach What had been a problem mostly for K-12 schools is now impacting colleges. MORE   

College Amateurism Is Dead The Supreme Court has spoken: Colleges have built a “massive money-raising enterprise on the backs of students.” MORE 
Critical Race Theory Hint: IDR stands for Income Driven Repayment (see James Kvaal, above). MORE   

Student Debt: To Forgive or Not to Forgive Opponents of loan forgiveness want to know who will pick up the tab for the estimated $300 billion write-off, predicting massive tax increases for the working class. MORE



1     If it Ain’t Woke, Don’t Fix It? The Controversy Continues   In recent years Critical Race Theory (CRT) and other forms of “wokeness” have become a dominant paradigm for understanding reality, especially in higher education. The term “equity,” for example, has replaced “equality,” signaling a shift away from a neutral “non-racism” to an activist “anti-racism.” Yet, even as anti-racist ideas are gaining dominance on college and university campuses, some voices are pushing back. A white Smith College staffer “who made less in a year than the cost of tuition,” quit her job to protest what she called a “racially hostile environment,” according to former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss, who quit her job at the Times for much the same reason. In fact, Times reporter Michael Powell broke the Smith College story, which dated to 2018, in March, and Times columnist Bret Stephens called the incident “a striking—and increasingly familiar—tale of the battle the Woke left is now waging on well-meaning liberals who don’t seem to understand the illiberal nature of what they are facing.” Meanwhile,  Jay Hartzell, president of the University of Texas, has resisted calls to remove the theme song of the university over claims that it is racist. We'll see if a front page story in the Times makes a difference. Abroad, the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, has pushed back on “wokeness,” warning that it threatens French unity and, by extension, French society in general. to the top

2     Viewpoint Diversity Concerns—and a Proposed Solution   Most observers agree that campuses have long tilted left, even while still being intellectual homes to conservative students and faculty. Today, however, some see growing hostility to the mere presence of conservatives on campus. One piece of evidence: Although colleges have traditionally been a common perch for exiting presidential-administration officials, students and faculty are demanding that their universities not hire—or even invite for a campus talk—former members of the Trump administration. At Lehigh University, a faculty member’s controversial video on the causes of poverty was taken down before being reposted alongside a video rebuttal by multiple faculty, leading to complaints that campuses insist that conservative viewpoints be balanced and “contextualized” while progressive viewpoints stand unchallenged. Social media, which can be used to stoke a firestorm of controversy around those who express conservative or unorthodox viewpoints, heighten the tensions between the campus right and left. Information “weaponized” on social media and our national inability to understand those on the other side of the political spectrum have us “seeing red and feeling blue,” opined The Wall Street Journal. One solution (which may require new funding), according to the James G. Martin Center: initiatives to host campus-policy forums that feature diverse viewpoints.  to the top

3     Curricular Fights—Lawmakers Step In   Hey ho, Western Civ has got to go! So say critics who believe traditional curricula are out of step with today’s diverse student body. The field of classics is a current flashpoint. A Black classicist at Princeton University argues that “classics has been instrumental to the invention of ‘whiteness’ and its continued domination,” while another leading Black scholar disagrees, writing “to disregard or neglect the classics is a sign of spiritual decay, moral decline and a deep intellectual narrowness,” and lamented the decision of Howard University, an HBCU, to shutter its classics department. America’s history and civics courses are other flashpoints, ones that are prompting officials to ask questions and advance reform proposals. Those on the right and the left accuse each other--and others --of proposing reforms with an ideological slant: The bipartisan federal Civics Secures Democracy bill is criticized as a “roadmap for progressivism”; a new California ethnic-studies curriculum is said to “embrace a political agenda”; Republican lawmakers are charged with aiming to “silence left-wing speech.” Meanwhile, in France, the government is investigating its universities for imported American ideas that “corrupt society”—never mind that many of those ideas originated with French intellectuals.  to the top


4     Town and Gown Relationships Vary   The assumption that higher education is an inherent public good worthy of tax exemption in 50 states is nonetheless questioned in some local communities. In New Haven a “‘Respect Caravan’ brought downtown traffic to a halt,” said a recent Time magazine headline. Protesters were objecting to the “pocket change” payments made to the town, in comparison to Yale’s $30 billion endowment; the protesters believe that the school has abused its nonprofit status, becoming a “tax shelter for profitable research.” There is also general antipathy felt toward higher education in other  places: In an election for trustees at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene, one winning local candidate “told voters he was running because higher education has ‘failed our country’ … has slipped into ‘ever more radical-left progressive ideology’ and is dangerously promoting ‘socialist objectives.’” Not all college/town relationships are strained, however. UNC and Chapel Hill town officials announced a partnership to spur innovation and entrepreneurship and keep businesses and research ventures in town. The chair of the new town-gown partnership said, “[We] are intertwined and if the university doesn’t do something like this, the town certainly can’t achieve its full potential.”  to the top 



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

6    International Students—and the Money They Bring—May Have Influenced College Leaders   Colleges and universities across the country are bracing for a second straight year of enrollment declines among foreign students. Enrollment by new international students plunged 43 percent in fall 2020. If the trend continues, U.S. schools stand to lose billions of dollars in revenue, as international students typically pay full tuition. A working paper based on data collected by the College Crisis Initiative found a correlation between international-student enrollment and in-person instruction. Private colleges with larger shares of international students tended to offer more in-person classes last fall than colleges with smaller foreign-student populations. This is the first study to examine how colleges weighed the dangers of reopening during a pandemic against the need to generate tuition revenue.  to the top

7   Study Shows Lower Endowment Returns and Higher Spending Amid Pandemic   The Covid-19 pandemic stretched colleges and universities thin as endowments shrank and student needs grew, a new survey shows. The annual National Association of College and University Business Officers–Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (NACUBO-TIAA) survey of endowments indicates that in 2020 colleges were forced to draw from their endowments to cover expenses and provide financial aid as revenue declined.  The study looked at 705 institutions during the 2020 fiscal year, which ended in June 2020—near the height of the pandemic shutdowns. According to the study, returns averaged only 1.8 percent in 2020—the worst since 2016—and nearly half of the colleges surveyed increased endowment spending to cover operating costs. Philanthropic gifts to endowments were also down 16 percent in 2020 as compared to the previous year. While this data does not capture the market rebound later in 2020 and into early 2021, it may still prompt institutions to rethink their spending and investing strategies as they plan for the future, looking to reallocate assets or reconsider their endowment spending rates as they move into what could be a period of muted returns. At least one college, however, is in a better place than before the pandemic. Endicott College, in Beverly, Massachusetts, is reporting an improved financial position despite the pandemic, due to a strategy of diversifying revenue streams—potentially providing an example to other colleges who are still working to make their way through the challenges of 2020.  to the top


8   Big Brother Knocking: Put That BioButton On!  In an effort to limit the spread of Covid-19, colleges quickly rolled out high-tech surveillance tools. At some schools, students are required to flash “Covid-free” badges to enter classrooms, and online proctoring—in which students take exams under the watchful eyes of a human or automated third party—has surged during the pandemic. At Oakland University in Michigan, students living on campus were told they’d be expected to wear a coin-size “BioButton” attached to their chests—measuring temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate—that would let teachers know if they were cleared for class. But after angry responses flooded in from students and parents, the university reversed course and made the BioButton optional. Critics say the pandemic served as a “convenient excuse” to spy on students, and once implemented, it’s difficult to go back to the way things were before. “It’s in moments of crisis that you’re most likely to sacrifice your civil rights,” said Elizabeth Laird, director of equity in civic technology for the Center for Democracy & Technology. “But the problem is that once you sacrifice them, it’s hard to get them back.”  to the top

9   Post-Pandemic Zoom Fatigue (PPZF)  A growing number of colleges—from small private ones to the sprawling California State University system—are vowing to bring students back to campus and resume (mostly) in-person classes this fall. Faced with declining enrollments, pressure is mounting to give families hope for a return to normal. Administrators are worried that students won’t come back to campus “if normality, or some semblance of it, isn’t restored” soon. “This is a massively high-stakes situation,” according to Dr. Chris Marsicano, founder of the College Crisis Initiative, which has been tracking schools’ pandemic responses for the past year. “The willingness of students and families to give grace to institutions based on uncertainty is just not there anymore,” he said. While colleges promise more students on campus, and even concerts and cheering sports fans, they also warn that their plans could change, depending on any curveballs the pandemic could still throw out. But some changes are here to stay, including some mix of hybrid learning and more single rooms in student dorms. And as work from home has gone mainstream, many administrators and faculty members will be giving up their private, closed-door offices for open floor plans and shared workspaces. to the top

10    Colleges Jump on Vaccine Bandwagon Despite Some Experts Urging Caution   Rutgers University was the first higher education institution in the nation to mandate vaccines. Others followed.  Currently, more than 200 campuses will require Covid vaccination for enrollment this fall, among them Brown, Cornell, American, and Georgetown universities, and the entire University of California and California State University systems. But some lawyers are urging caution. They say colleges currently cannot make the vaccine mandatory because they’re not yet available to all and are under federal emergency-use authorization. International students could run into challenges, particularly in countries where the vaccines are not widely available. Vaccine advocates say that vaccinating college students would help the U.S. achieve herd immunity, but others argue that more vulnerable populations should take priority over young people. According to a new survey, a vast majority of prospective students are open to Covid-19 vaccine requirements. Texas and Utah have signed legislation barring public colleges from requiring a Covid shot, and the University of North Carolina system says it has no "legal authority" to mandate Covid-19 vaccines.  to the top

11    Vaccination Efforts Hit a Hurdle  With summer break right around the corner, many colleges were counting on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, the only one-shot Covid-19 inoculation approved for use in the U.S. Then in mid-April, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Food and Drug Administration, recommended temporarily suspending use of the J&J vaccine over reports of rare but serious blood clots suffered by six women between the ages of 18 to 48, out of 6.8 million doses administered. One of the women died, and another is in critical condition. The timing of the news is problematic, not only in regard to getting students vaccinated before they leave campus (many won’t be around for the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine) but also in assuring students that the vaccines are safe. “From a practical sense, it’s maybe a nothing,” says Michael Lauzardo, who is in charge of the University of Florida’s mass-vaccination effort (which doesn’t use the J&J vaccine). But “from a psychological sense, vaccine hesitancy is a fragile thing.”  to the top

12     Sharp Rise in Ransomware Attacks Against Colleges   According to a new report, ransomware attacks against higher education institutions doubled between 2019 and 2020, costing them $447,000 on average. It’s the No. 1 cyberthreat to universities, ahead of data breaches and data theft by nation-states. An increasing number of schools have also had to deal with hackers who infiltrate virtual classrooms with disruptive, and sometimes racist or pornographic, images. Meanwhile, students at the Maricopa Community Colleges, in Arizona, got an extra week of spring break after a possible cyberattack crippled their schools’ computer networks.  to the top

13    Pandemic Forces Colleges and Families to Get Creative About Campus Tours   In this age of social distancing, the spring tradition of school-by-school cross-country family road trips is being replaced by Zoom tours, 3-D tours on college websites that allow visitors to move around campus and inside buildings, and even unsanctioned TikTok tours, which are racking up hundreds of thousands of views online. Last year, the University of Southern Indiana replaced walking tours with “safari-style” driving tours. Prospective students and families drive through the campus, cars lined up safari-style, with a tour guide connected via Zoom leading the way. Others are paying big bucks to hire college-counseling firms to act as private tour guides. One family from Dubai flew private to New York and paid $150,000 for four days of touring, with stops at Ivy League schools. For those with less money to spend, the start-up company LiveCampusTours by Nylie offers one-on-one tours of 165 college campuses led by current undergrads and delivered via smartphone. The cost is just $39.  to the top

14  It Was the Best of Times…for Some Admissions Officers   The Covid-19 vaccine arrival was timely for college admissions officers and, after vaccination rates picked up, led to a flood of fall reopening announcements. Driven by a student need to return to normalcy after a year of social distancing, applications have reached high-water marks at many selective schools. The fact that SAT and ACT scores were optional (due to the inability to gather for testing, among other reasons) has led to an 11 percent year-over-year surge in applications through the Common App. One Ivy provost for enrollment, swimming in 17,000 more applications than ever before, theorizes that the student is thinking, “If they’re not looking at a test score, maybe I’ve actually got a chance.” The corollary statistic to this record surge in applications is a drop in acceptance rates. These data points, which have dropped to single digits in recent years for some select schools, are now even lower. Two years ago the lowest rate was 4.6 percent; now Harvard’s rate is 3.4 percent and Columbia is at 3.7 percent. Yale, which received one-third more applicants this spring than last, is now at 4.6 percent.  to the top

15    It Was the Worst of Times…for Some Students    The pandemic has exacerbated the admissions challenges encountered by those at the bottom of the income scale. Unable to get the guidance counseling needed to fill out complex forms, or get to one of the few open testing centers during the pandemic, students without support were deterred from completing the application process. According to the National College Attainment Network, there has been a 12 percent reduction in the number of federal financial-aid forms filled out overall, but the drop from high schools with a majority of low-income students was 16 percent, and in high schools with large proportions of Black and Hispanic enrollment, there has been an 18 percent decline. Also, some first-generation students face the headwinds of legacy admissions. “I kept hearing that if my parents or family members went there it would be a lot easier,” according to one student with deferred early decision at Tulane University. While Tulane doesn’t release its legacy-admission rates, by some estimates having a connection can double or quadruple an applicant’s chances of getting in at some elite colleges. Another student population facing challenges is that outside the U.S. Foreign enrollees fell by 72 percent in 2020, and this year’s travel restrictions are making fall 2021 look difficult as well. One association is appealing to the administration to waive the requirement for in-person consular interviews or allow the interviews to be conducted online.  to the top

16   Future times: Post-Pandemic, What Changes Will Stick?    The admissions cycle is a tradition-bound aspect of higher education because of its embedded systems—recruitment calendars, test and tour schedules, app deadlines, and rating scales for assessment—and all were upended in the pandemic. A reshaping due to systemic changes may be underway. It’s been predicted that less reliance on SAT/ACT scores and more on grades may lead to new migration patterns from high schools. On-line coursework will likely continue to have a role and is more desirable in some instances. Michael Crow, the president of Arizona State, writes in a new book he co-authored that to be successful universities should assume “responsibility for the success of each student” and reconfigure “the delivery of content through adaptive learning and other technology-enabled strategies.” He predicts on-line learning will serve “ten times the number of engaged learners,” resulting in “three to five times as many graduates.” One thing that hasn’t changed and is not likely to do so post-pandemic:  Prospective students need to be vigilant about their digital footprint. A recent survey reported that the vast majority (65 percent) of admissions officers say visiting applicants’ social media pages are “fair game.”  to the top

17   Colleges Resort to “Transcript Ransom” in Response to Unpaid Fees  In response to unpaid fees, more colleges are withholding degrees and transcripts from students with outstanding charges, a practice impacting over six million college students nationwide. The move is seen by many as punitive and unfair—particularly when the debt stems from an overdue library book or unpaid parking permit—but it’s not illegal. At UMass Boston, student transcripts were being held for any overdue amount, regardless of how minimal, resulting in hefty late fees in addition to a hold. In a statement by the provost, Joseph Berger, in April UMass amended its policy, now applying holds only on balances over $1,000. Berger defended the program, saying, “It’s been effective to the extent that it gives us an opportunity to talk with students about financial planning.” According to the research firm Policy Matters Ohio, low-income students and community college students are disproportionately impacted by degree and transcript holds, prompting some states to intervene. The policy dubbed “transcript ransom” has left many students in the lurch for fees they were not even aware they owed until being notified of the hold—often preventing them from finishing their degree, transferring credits, or applying for jobs that could enable them to pay their debt.  to the top

campus LIFE

18  Was Cornel West Too Radical for Harvard?   Dr. Cornel West has gone back to the Union Theological Seminary in New York for the fourth time after Harvard University denied his request for tenure. The famed scholar and activist had previously been tenured at Harvard as well as at Yale and Princeton universities; in 2017, he returned to Harvard for a non-tenured position. News that the Ivy League institution refused to tenure West sparked outrage across academe. More than 130 doctoral students released a letter challenging the decision. The loss of West at Harvard, they wrote, would “deal a devastating blow to an already near disenchanted community of color.” West, the author of books such as Democracy Matters and the memoir Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, has been politically outspoken on issues such as Palestinian rights. “My ridiculous situation at Harvard is a symptom of a much larger crisis in higher education,” West said in an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education. “First, Black scholars and too many others are too often disrespected, devalued or dismissed. Second, the fundamental aims of the quest for truth, beauty and goodness are too often trumped for the pursuit of donor money, public image, and consumer reputation.”  to the top

19    Students’ Mental Health Struggles and Food Insecurities Worsened During the Pandemic   Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have historically struggled disproportionately with mental illness, but the situation has gone from bad to worse in the last year. New evidence reveals that college students experienced even higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts in 2020 than in 2019. The events of the last year have also exacerbated the issue of hunger on campus, especially for students already struggling to get by. Faced with the choice of paying for food or tuition, “a broad swath of students” is now at risk of dropping out. Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York are among the states that have recently proposed bills that would provide colleges with financial and administrative assistance for helping food-insecure students. California and New Jersey both passed hunger-free campus laws within the past four years.   to the top



20   Goodbye, Columbus    For almost a decade, the College Board, the nonprofit company that produces the SAT test and Advanced Placement exams, has come under fire for revising its materials to fit in with leftist beliefs. This is particularly true, conservative critics contend, of the three AP history exams—AP U.S. History, AP European History, and AP World History. David Randall, director of research for the National Association of Scholars, recently weighed in, concluding that the history exams are “grossly politicized to the left.” AP European History, for example, completely ignores Christopher Columbus to avoid any appearance of Eurocentrism. The popular Fiske Guide to Colleges says it will stop publishing ACT and SAT score ranges. Many institutions report their “middle 50,” the range of scores between the 25th percentile and the 75th percentile, which helps students understand where their score falls comparatively. Before the pandemic more than 1,000 four-year institutions didn’t require the ACT or the SAT. After the Covid shutdown, another 600 colleges suspended their testing requirements, at least temporarily.  to the top

21  Academic Freedom Threats—and How to Respond? Are conservatives the victims—or the perpetrators—of threats to academic freedom? A new report based on surveys of faculty and graduate students in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom finds that both right-leaning and left-leaning academics discriminate against each other but that since left-leaning academics greatly outnumber right-leaning academics, the net effect is that conservatives are widely and severely discriminated against in hiring, promotion, grant-making, and scholarship peer review, as well as department culture. However, some believe it is conservatives who have abused academic freedom, by taking positions that are, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed penned by a public university professor, “vicious, unhinged, and/or batshit-crazy” and by bullying campus peers with posts on online platforms that prompt right-wingers to harass those peers. Not only are there disagreements about the threats to academic freedom, there are disagreements about how to respond. In the United Kingdom, the government has introduced fines on universities that demote, dismiss, or otherwise disadvantage people for their viewpoints. Stateside, many—across the ideological spectrum—are not waiting for government but are creating new academic-freedom networks and organizations. Two hundred faculty have banded together in a mutual-defense league, the Academic Freedom Alliance. Another idea that’s circulating: revive strategies used by right-leaning public intellectuals in alliance with mainstream and left-leaning writers and politicians to counter what some consider 1990s campus political correctness.  to the top


22    Biden Administration Looks Into Overhauling Betsy DeVos’s Title IX  President Joe Biden has signed an executive order directing his administration to review policies related to how schools handle allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Could this be the first step in dismantling Trump-era Title IX regulations? Since 2011, Title IX, the federal law banning sex discrimination at schools receiving federal funds, has been used to address sexual misconduct on campus. The new system, which was put in place by former education secretary Betsy DeVos in May 2020, gives greater protections to students accused of assault and schools more flexibility as to which standard of evidence they use to determine guilt. Both the accused and accuser can submit evidence and participate in cross-examination in live proceedings, and both parties can also appeal the ruling. White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to say whether the executive order would result in the Trump rule being overturned, even though Biden opposed the regulation during the campaign and said he’d get rid of it if elected president.  to the top

23  Courts Weigh in on Hot-Button Free Expression Issues  Courts across the country have issued a rush of rulings that protect the free expression rights of students and faculty. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an alumnus could seek nominal damages from Georgia Gwinnett College for infringing on his free expression rights when it  prevented him from handing out religious literature while a student. The public college has since revised its policies. The case is seen as important for shaping incentives—if a school can revise a policy after a complaint, as was the case at Georgia Gwinnett, incentives to uphold free expression rights are weakened. The Eighth Circuit also put administrators on notice when it ruled that college administrators can be held personally liable for violating students’ free expression and expressive association rights after the University of Iowa deregistered a student group that disallowed gay students from seeking a leadership position. The Sixth Circuit ruled that a professor can proceed with a lawsuit against Shawnee State University for reprimanding him when he declined to use a student’s preferred pronouns, which he said would violate his faith and his free speech rights. Although private universities have more latitude than public ones on free expression matters, another judge ruled against Syracuse University, finding that it failed to follow its own procedures when it suspended a fraternity following allegations of offensive expression.  to the top

 external ORDERs

Tertiary Education

24   Buyer Beware: Deceptive Advertising and Predatory Student Loans  For-profit colleges have come under fire for luring prospective students using deceptive advertising. Last December, the University of Phoenix reached a record $191 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission; most of that money will be used to cancel unpaid debt, the rest doled out to the thousands of students who were duped by false advertising—the university allegedly defrauded students, falsely claiming partnerships and guaranteed job opportunities with companies such as AT&T and Microsoft. The FTC is inching closer to enforcing full transparency, requiring for-profit colleges to prove the value of their degrees by reviving gainful-employment rules. The University of Phoenix and other for-profit schools have also come under scrutiny for pushing risky direct school-to-student loans—dozens of schools are currently providing direct student loans to tens of thousands of students in lieu of regulated federal or private loans, often with high-risk strings attached. With no oversight, schools are free to set the rules—some charging exorbitant interest rates and forcing repayment while students are still enrolled. Collectively, for-profit colleges have loaned billions of dollars directly to students; the former ITT Technical Institute and Corinthians College ran some of the largest loan programs before shuttering amid allegations of deceptive marketing and falsifying graduation rates.  to the top


25    Biden’s $1.8 Trillion American Families Plan Would Greatly Expand the Federal Role in Education  Marking his first 100 days in office, President Joe Biden officially unveiled the American Families Plan, a “cradle-to-college” proposal that would give Americans four additional years of free public education—pre-K for three- and four-year-olds plus two years of free community college—and infuse “hundreds of billions of dollars into virtually every level of the system.” Included in the $1.8 trillion plan is $109 billion for free community college; $80 billion to increase the Pell Grant by $1,400; $62 billion to invest in completion and retention activities at colleges and universities that serve high numbers of low-income students; and $39 billion to subsidize two years of tuition at four-year minority-serving schools. To pay for all this, Biden has to convince Congress to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and close tax loopholes. While the plan falls short of Biden’s campaign promise to make public four-year colleges tuition-free for many Americans and double the Pell grant, many in higher education applaud it. Others, however, argue the government should provide equivalent support to students attending public four-year institutions.  to the top

26    Free Community College: Lots of Details Need to Be Resolved  Providing free community college to all Americans isn’t as simple as politicians make it sound. Under a bill introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, the federal government would finance 75 percent of the cost of tuition replacement, with states matching the remaining quarter. The problem, however, is that tuition costs vary, often greatly, by state. For example, in California, home to the nation’s largest community college system, students pay only $552 per semester (and low-income students pay nothing). In Sanders’s home state of Vermont, community college tuition is six times higher: $3,360 per semester. Vermont would therefore get much more money per student, while states like California would be penalized. Nonetheless, using federal dollars is a “powerful incentive” for tuition-free initiatives, which have become increasingly popular with elected leaders across the political spectrum. Currently, 30 states already cover tuition at community colleges or universities.   to the top

27    Former Obama Advisor Likely to Be Confirmed as Department of Education Under Secretary  James Kvaal, President Joe Biden’s nominee for under secretary of education, looks likely to be headed to the full Senate for a vote on his confirmation “after a relatively drama-free committee hearing on his nomination.” Kvaal previously served as deputy under secretary of education during the Obama administration and more recently as president of the Institute for College Access and Success. Kvaal was a driving force behind some of Obama’s higher education policy achievements, including overhauling the federal student-loan system and expanding income-based repayment for student loans. He also played a key role in the Obama administration’s regulatory battle with for-profit colleges and plan for free community college. If confirmed, he’s expected to play a significant role in forming and carrying out higher education policy, particularly since Biden’s nominee for education secretary, Miguel Cardona, has focused on K-12 issues throughout his career.  to the top

28    Moving Closer to Canceling Student Debt for All   Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)  and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for student-debt cancellation up to $50,000, urging President Joe Biden to act swiftly through executive power. The president announced that he was prepared to offer $10,000 in loan forgiveness, but not $50,000, saying, “I don’t think I have the authority to do it.” Biden also indicated he will set limits, excluding borrowers from elite private universities. Congress has set the stage by including tax-free loan forgiveness in the latest stimulus package, and in a flurry of recent student-debt relief efforts, the Department of Education rolled back the Trump administration’s DOE chief Betsy Devos’s “borrower defense repayment” regulations, removing restrictions for borrowers from defrauded, for-profit universities such as the shuttered Corinthian College and ITT Technical Institute. Students who were deceived by for-profit universities will now see full loan forgiveness instead of only a partial amount. In March the Biden administration announced that over one million borrowers who defaulted on loans through the defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL) will be relieved of their debt; because the loans are held by private companies, FFEL borrowers were originally denied such relief.   to the top

29    IDRs: The Overlooked Alternative to Mass Loan Forgiveness  Income Driven Repayment (IDR) plans account for roughly half of all federal student loans and have been the status quo in student-loan assistance since 2009. Offering flexible monthly payments based on a borrower’s income, IDRs eventually allow a portion of the loan to be forgiven when enough payments are made. The recent push for student-loan forgiveness for all has left some wondering if IDR (with tweaking) may be a better alternative. Proponents of the plan argue that broad loan forgiveness could further the student-loan crisis by incentivizing over-borrowing, particularly as new groups of students anticipate future rounds of forgiveness—passing on the burden to taxpayers and opening the door for colleges to inflate tuition rates. The current IDR is not without problems—economists and advocates point out the existing IDR program has been overlooked by policymakers for being too costly for the government to maintain. Experts and advocates agree that the program would be more effective if payments were reduced and loan-forgiveness requirements loosened. For some, it may still take over 20 years to qualify for forgiveness, particularly burdensome for those who went into debt for a degree that never paid off.  to the top

30    Student Debt: To Forgive or Not to Forgive?  While the President and Congress are hashing out how much student debt should be forgiven—congressional leaders are pushing for $50,000 per student, while the president has signaled a more modest $10,000—the question remains: Who will benefit the most from student debt cancellation and who will pay for it? Opponents of loan forgiveness want to know who will pick up the tab for the estimated $300 billion write-off, warning that the working class will shoulder the burden through massive tax increases. According to a study conducted by Laura Sullivan, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice’s director of economic justice, there is a higher majority of Black than white borrowers, suggesting loan forgiveness may be a “catalyst for racial equality,” particularly when it comes to closing the wealth gap. Economists argue that broad loan forgiveness is not equitable, saying that low-income borrowers who have the least student debt would benefit less than high-income middle class graduates, who would receive the bulk of the relief—with the largest benefits going to graduate school borrowers. Anticipating a second round of loan forgiveness, incoming students may be willing to pay higher prices, raising further concern that the debt crisis will intensify if universities inflate tuition rates.  to the top

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