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  Bring back the Great Books.... How about accelerated bachelor's degrees?.... Michigan president fired.... Enrollment keeps tumbling.... Even with fake students....  Supreme Court to take up affirmative action....  Ending transcript ransom....  and more.

PURPOSE| Oh, the Humanities!  For the eighth straight year the numbers drop. MORE

Are the Great Books Dead? Or is this the time to revive Aristotle and Shakespeare? MORE

Saving College Are accelerated bachelor's degree programs the answer? MORE

Racist pasts—and presents Bomb threats at 17 HBCUs. MORE

GOVERNANCE| Spending Big Money on Failed Executive Searches Over a hundred presidents resigned in 2021. MORE

Michigan President Fired for Violating His Own Zero Tolerance Policy
While former Temple dean commits wire fraud. MORE 

More Ordinary Presidential Comings and Goings  MIT, RPI, Florida. MORE 

Alumni Donors  Who’s calling the shots? MORE 

Ending Transcript Ransom Unpaid bills as low as $25 stop the process. MORE 

Enrollment Keeps Tumbling Private for-profit colleges drop 8.5 percent. MORE   

Loan Forgiveness Expanded
But outsourcing has created a mess.  MORE

Access to Lucrative Majors Not Equitable High GPA requirements are a barrier. MORE 

Amherst Abolishes Legacy Admissions
Harvard says no. MORE 

Covid Enrollment Challenges Here to Stay
Enrollment officers’ jobs getting tougher. MORE 

Debt-Free Colleges? Ohio State is trying it out. MORE 

Nice Work if You Can Get It No more glut of PhDs. MORE

Vaccines “Boosted” by CDC
Mandates opposed by courts. MORE

Still choice-worthy for would-be scholars? MORE

High Court to Rule on Affirmative Action  Harvard and UNC cases will be on the docket. MORE

Academic Freedom on the Ropes Hillbilly Elegy author is one of many second-guessing faculty. MORE

A Bill to Outlaw Tenure in South Carolina
“Jobs for life” may be a vanishing breed. MORE

Bold New University in Austin “Dedicated to truth” and a warm welcome for “witches who refuse to burn” MORE

ExTernal ORDERS |
Other New Colleges Try Other New Ways Master's in artificial intelligence and alternative energy and more certifications in everything. MORE

Community Colleges Infiltrated by “Bots” Fake students are the new curse.  MORE

Community Colleges Face Enrollment Crisis A 15 percent decline over the last two years. MORE 

A Needed Lifeline? Bachelor's degrees from community colleges.  MORE

Pell Grant Exception No increase in aid for students at for-profit schools. MORE 



1     Oh, the Humanities!   The number of graduates with degrees in the humanities has fallen for the eighth straight year to under 200,000 degrees in 2020, according to federal data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. The drop ranges between 16 and 29 percent since 2012, depending upon which subjects are included. Historically, there has been an ebb and flow in the humanities, depending upon the economic outlook. In “up” times, humanities did well; in recessions, not so much. During the latest upturn, the flow didn’t return. Some of the attrition from the humanities is likely flowing to healthcare, engineering, and business degrees, which are all up significantly in the last 20 years. Why the switch? One recent analysis may provide a clue: Only 47 percent of graduates from the arts, and just 60 percent from the humanities, believed their college “prepared me well for life outside of college,” according to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Additionally, it found that only about 60 percent of arts and humanities graduates said they would choose the same major again. Regardless of assessment of college as preparation for life, a 2019 Gallup poll found that 90 percent of the dwindling population of humanities graduates rank their level of happiness about the same as graduates of other fields. The report attributes this to the variety of available career paths: Humanities graduates are widely distributed across occupational categories, finding careers in management, sales, business, and technology, not just in education or the arts. (See also Academe: Still Choice-Worthy for Would-Be Scholars? to the top

2     Are the Great Books Dead?   Classical studies and the “great books” are derided as a foundation of Eurocentrism, patriarchy, and racism by many on the academic left. From as early as 2003, it’s been possible to graduate from Harvard without having read Aristotle or William Shakespeare. But the “great books” aren’t just a collection of works by “dead white males,” and teaching or reading them isn’t elitist or Eurocentric, says Lisa Featherstone, a columnist for Jacobin, in her review of Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation, by Roosevelt Montás: “Montás argues that reading great literature and philosophy can make working-class people’s lives more meaningful and that everyone should have the opportunity to read great books. Instead of ceding this issue to the Right, as we often do, the Left should heed his arguments.” Mark Bauerlein, a professor emeritus of English at Emory University, agrees. “The anti-greatness theme runs throughout as I chart the ways in which educators at Princeton, Stanford, Harvard, and elsewhere have robbed young Americans of an ennobling, enriching humanities education,” he writes. “Instead, we have a mishmash and a grab-bag of this and that, 40 courses under the ‘diversity’ label, 50 freshman composition classes, none of them alike in content”—leaving students with a “superficial taste of scattered mediocrity.”  to the top

3     Colleges Explore the Option of Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree Programs   More colleges and universities—public and private, large and small—are experimenting with a three-year bachelor’s degree program that promises all the value and benefits of a four-year degree—including summer breaks, holidays, and an on-campus experience—while significantly cutting costs. Theoretically, students could save 25 percent in tuition by completing their degree in three years, but the idea has yet to catch on. The founders of the “College in 3” project—Robert Zemsky, a professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, and Lori Carrell, chancellor of the University of Minnesota at Rochester—hope to change that. Their goal isn’t to pack 120 credit hours into three years. Instead, they have recruited more than a dozen schools to take part in a pilot program to design a three-year curriculum that matches the slower pace of a four-year program. Taking part are American Public University System, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Merrimack College, New England College, Northwood University, Portland State University, Slippery Rock University, the University of Minnesota at Rochester, the University of North Texas, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, and Utica College, as well as one institution that doesn’t wish to be named.  to the top


4     Coming to Grips With Racist Pasts ...  and Presents   Colleges and universities across the country are reexamining their pasts and reviewing their racist legacies. Brown University updated its landmark “Slavery and Justice Report,” after which it installed a memorial to the victims of the slave trade, in addition to many other activities. CalTech renamed professorships and buildings after students and faculty demanded the name of the founding president, a supporter of eugenics, be expunged. William and Mary College, which “owned and exploited slave labor” since its founding until the Civil War, has, as with many other Virginia organizations, become accustomed to entanglements with slavery and white supremacy. Racial reckoning is a long process for these institutions, which continue with efforts to “remedy the lingering effects of past injustices.” Conversely, the University of Georgia governing body recently rejected the recommendations of an advisory board to rename 75 buildings and colleges. The university’s Board of Regents offered little explanation. “We acknowledge, understand and respect there are many viewpoints on this matter,” its statement said. “Going forward, the Board is committed to naming actions that reflect the strength and energy of Georgia’s diversity.” As if to highlight the difficulties in achieving equity, much less acknowledgement of a break from a hurtful and violent past, 17 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) received bomb threats in January and February, leading to class cancellations and building clearances. While no bombs were found, the disruption to learning was real.  to the top 



5      Colleges Spend Big Money on Failed Executive Searches The ever-growing list of requirements to fill the job of college president is making it harder to find a good match between what the board wants and what a candidate can actually deliver. As a result, an increasing number of presidents are calling it quits. According to Chronicle of Higher Education data, 107 presidents announced their resignations in 2021. That’s far more than the 80 presidents who announced their resignations in 2020 (although fewer than in 2019). The vast majority of colleges and universities now rely on private companies to hire new presidents, up from only 28 percent in the mid-1990s. But a surprising number of these executive searches are failing to appoint a president and/or to identify a president who ends up serving even a year. In 2020, the University of Wisconsin’s search for a new president ended when the sole finalist dropped out. The failed search cost the university system more than $216,000. Even if they leave early, many presidents walk away with hefty payouts. The most recent former presidents of Auburn University and the University of Colorado system, who both stepped down after only two years, received $4.5 million and $1.3 million, respectively. to the top

6  U of Michigan President Fired and Former Temple Dean Convicted A former dean at Temple University’s Fox School of Business has been convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for using fake data to boost the position of the school on the U.S. News & World Report rankings when he had the job. From 2014 to 2018, Moshe Porat, 74, conspired with two colleagues to give false information to the publication. During this time, the school’s online MBA program was ranked best in the country by U.S. News. Since Porat’s arrest, the program has fallen to 100th place. Meanwhile, Dr. Mark Schlissel is out as president of the University of Michigan for allegedly having a years-long affair with a female subordinate despite his own zero tolerance policy—last summer Schlissel introduced rules banning relationships between supervisors and subordinates. The university made the decision to fire him after receiving an anonymous complaint about the relationship, stating that Schlissel had been sending the woman “inappropriate” messages through his university email. The Board of Regents made public 118 pages of intimate emails, while acknowledging Schlissel’s hypocrisy in a letter: “Your conduct ... is particularly egregious considering your knowledge of and involvement in addressing incidents of harassment by University of Michigan personnel, and your declared commitment to work to ‘free’ the University community of sexual harassment or other improper conduct.”  to the top

7    Presidential Comings and Goings: New RPI President Returns to His Alma Mater After 40 Years While Beloved U of Florida President Steps Down Dr. Martin A. Schmidt has been named the 19th president of his alma mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), the nation’s oldest technological research university. Schmidt, who graduated from the institute 41 years ago, has served as a faculty member and administrative leader at MIT since 1988. He will replace longtime RPI president Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson. At the University of Florida beloved president Dr. Kent Fuchs plans to step down and return to teaching in the department of electrical and computer engineering. He will continue serving as president through at least the fall 2022 semester. The next UF president is expected to be appointed by early 2023.   to the top

8   Who’s Calling the Shots? Colleges Increasingly Cave in to the Demands of Alumni Donors  More and more wealthy alumni donors are pushing back against the “liberal indoctrination on campus” by withholding money, The Wall Street Journal reports. In recent years, about 20 “dissident alumni organizations”—many led by politically moderate or conservative men who graduated from college in the late 1960s and 1970s—have sprung up on college campuses such as Princeton, Cornell, University of Virginia, Washington and Lee, and Davidson College. When 1976 graduate of Cornell and longtime donor Carl Neuss was asked to make a seven-figure donation to the Ivy League school, he balked after some professors told him that they’re “perpetually afraid” of losing their jobs or being shunned for saying the wrong words. It’s too soon to tell how influential these groups will be, yet it’s a cause for concern. Of the $50 billion that colleges and universities raised last year from outside sources, more than $11 billion came from alumni. Charlie Munger, a Warren Buffett associate, is bankrolling a massive two-million-square-foot dorm that will house 4,500 students at the University of California, Santa Barbara. But his $200 million donation came with a catch: no windows. This is not the 97-year-old amateur architect’s first experiment in windowless housing. He previously donated $110 million to build windowless grad residences at his alma mater, the University of Michigan. (See New University Thinks It Has Answers to Academic Freedom Questions.)  to the top


9   Education Secretary Calls for an End to Transcript Ransom  The practice of withholding transcripts from students who owe institutional debt may soon be one less hurdle when trying to reenroll or transfer. Education secretary Miguel Cardona recently called for an end to the widely used practice at a Federal Financial Aid Conference in Washington, D.C., where he discussed the need for institutional leaders to embrace change and evaluate policies as we emerge from the pandemic. Cardona went on to emphasize the impact of withholding transcripts, saying, “That means evaluating longstanding institutional policies that block retention and completion for our most underserved students, such as enrollment and transcript holds for students with unpaid balances.” According to James Ward, a senior researcher with Ithka S+R, a nonprofit based in New York City, some colleges will hold a transcript for a debt as low as $25, with the average community college debt running about $600. The ripple effect is referred to as “stranded credits” when a student has no way to prove the coursework they’ve completed, leaving credits in limbo. Colleges across the country are embracing an end to the practice. Last August the City University of New York stopped withholding transcripts and paid the balance for more than 50,000 of its students. Thirteen of the 15 community colleges in Massachusetts have had an increase in transcript requests since ending the practice. And in Ohio, Ithka S+R is collaborating with four community colleges and four state universities who’ve agreed to forgive unpaid debts and release transcripts if students reenroll in one of the eight schools. Ithka S+R will also work with the students to develop a system of partial repayment.  to the top

10    College Enrollment Continues on a Downward Trend   Undergraduate enrollment is down for the second year in a row, dashing hopes that the numbers would quickly rebound after the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to data by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergrad enrollment fell 3.5 percent this fall, and since fall 2019 it has declined nearly 8 percent. Every sector is feeling the shortage of undergrads, but the decline at private for-profit four-year institutions is the worst, with an enrollment drop of 8.5 percent. International enrollment has also tumbled. The overall number of international students enrolled in U.S. higher education in 2020–21 fell below one million for the first time since the 2014 academic year, according to the annual Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education and the U.S. Department of State. This is the largest single-year decrease since IIE began tracking data in the late 1940s. Graduate enrollment, on the other hand, has seen some unexpected bright spots. Enrollment increased at many less selective baccalaureate colleges and master’s institutions, and at colleges whose grad programs were already online before the pandemic.   to the top

11    Loan Forgiveness Program Expanded, but Outsourcing of Services Is a Mess  Thousands of people are seeing their student debt balances disappear since the federal government announced a temporary expansion of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Created in 2007, the program cancels outstanding federal student debt held by public servants after 10 years of on-time payments. The Education Department relied on student loan servicers—middlemen who collect payments on the government’s behalf—to guide borrowers. But analysts found the guidance nil; in fact, many borrowers thought they were following the rules when they were not. Last fall the department temporarily eased the rules—but only until October 31, 2022. One especially egregious example outsourcing was when the University of Southern California  partnered with the for-profit company 2U Inc. to help enroll thousands of students in the school’s online social work master’s degree program. Recruiters aggressively contacted prospective applicants, sometimes targeting candidates with low grades. Many students took on massive debt to pay the tuition—$115,000 for two years—but never set foot on campus. Two years after graduation, most were earning $52,000 or less.  to the top

12  Access to Lucrative Majors Is Not Equitable, and More Students Are Admitted Early   The conversation about equity in higher education usually centers around admissions and whether colleges—especially highly selective ones—are accepting enough students of color. But a new paper suggests that even after underrepresented students are enrolled, they face restrictions that prevent them from earning top dollar salaries during their lifetimes. High GPA requirements are pushing Black, Hispanic, and Native American students away from declaring for lucrative majors like STEM, finance, and nursing. According to the report, a joint effort by researchers at Harvard University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, the gap in the economic value of college majors earned by underrepresented minority graduates compared with their white and Asian counterparts has increased more than threefold since the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, early-admission applications to the Ivies remained near historic highs this fall. Early-decision applications at Brown University were up 11 percent. Harvard admitted 7.9 percent of its 9,406 early-action applicants, a slightly higher admit rate and lower applicant count than last year, while Yale University admitted 11 percent of the 7,288 students who applied early.  to the top

13  Amherst Abolishes Legacy Admissions While Harvard Defends the Practice   Amherst College has announced it will no longer give admissions preference to the children of alumni, who currently make up about 11 percent of students. The liberal arts school joins the ranks of other schools, such as Johns Hopkins and Yale, that are rethinking legacy admissions. One holdout is Harvard University. The issue has long been debated at Harvard—even more publicly since the disclosure of admissions preferences during the Students for Fair Admissions anti-affirmative-action litigation against the Ivy League school—but President Lawrence S. Bacow continues to make the case for legacy preferences. “Each generation helps the next,” Bacow has said, and “it is important to continue to try to ensure that we have that kind of loyalty and resources.”  to the top

14    Covid Enrollment Challenges Are Here to Stay   Covid-19 has impacted everything in higher education—especially enrollment. Data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reveal that undergraduate enrollment has fallen almost 8 percent since 2019. The challenges for enrollment officers are monumental—on top of Covid, there is the abrupt decline in standardized testing, the rise of TikTok and other distracting social media platforms, and an increasing number of prospective students with mental health issues. As one enrollment officer wrote, “The job is only getting harder. And the recent discoveries of new variants of Covid-19 (hello, Omicron) only make an uncertain future even less certain.” Since the start of the pandemic, most colleges have become less selective across the board—at the doctoral, master’s, and bachelor’s degree levels. According to an analysis by The Chronicle of Higher Education, acceptance rates at nearly two-thirds of four-year institutions increased between 2019 and 2020, while the share of admitted students who subsequently enrolled went down. One bright spot: Public colleges and universities in the South saw a 12 percent increase in the number of students admitted. to the top

15  More Colleges Launch Programs to Eliminate Student Debt Ohio State University has unveiled an ambitious 10-year plan to raise $800 million for scholarships that will replace student loans in financial aid packages. On average, graduates leave the university owing about $27,000. Under the new program, that figure would be zero. “It’s not free college, it’s not free tuition,” says Kristina Johnson, the president of Ohio State, “but can we take one of the largest universities in the country and develop pathways for our students so that they can graduate debt-free?” The debt-elimination plan would cost Ohio State about $110 million a year, provided to students through scholarships, work opportunities, and paid internships. Princeton University was the first school to adopt a no-loan policy in 2001. Since then 76 colleges and universities have followed suit, but some of these programs became victims of their own success. The University of Virginia introduced AccessUVa in 2004, replacing loans with scholarships for low- and middle-income students. As enrollment grew, costs quadrupled, and UVa reintroduced loans a decade later. to the top

16    Nice Work if You Can Get It … Or Not So, Anymore?    Tight labor markets have been a feature of businesses during the pandemic—and some warn that higher education institutions may also struggle to find employees. This would be a novel situation for higher education leaders: Historically, schools have had their pick of academic staff from a glut of PhDs. and have easily attracted candidates for leadership and other staff positions. (See South Carolina Lawmakers Try to “Cancel” Tenure at State Colleges.) While universities may find it harder to attract new hires, current ones are exerting pressure on schools for better terms of employment. Through their unions, University of California contingent faculty lecturers and the California State University system faculty, lecturers, and other staff struck deals for increased compensation; the Cal State agreement even includes a $3,500 Covid service bonus. Student researchers at the University of California won recognition of their union, and unionized student workers at New York University and Columbia University won concessions after striking—with demands that won sympathy even from the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Indeed, some might say that the situation of university employees resembles that of Robyn Penrose—the heroine of David Lodge’s award-winning send-up of academic life, Nice Work—who, from her precarious perch as a temporary lecturer, discerns that her university is not much different from an industrial factory.    to the top

17   Vaccines “Boosted” by CDC but Mandates Opposed by Courts    In December 2021 the CDC recommended that all adults “should” get a booster vaccine versus “may” get one—the previous stance. Colleges with mandates for vaccines grappled with deciding whether to require compliance with the new recommendation. According to a Davidson College study of 402 higher education institutions, a majority stuck with tried-and-true mitigation strategies (masking/vaccinating/testing) to bring students back to campus in January. According to a survey of 1,200 students conducted by researchers at four universities, vaccine mandates were popular with a wide range of demographics; 60 percent of Asian Americans and students of color were for them. A San Diego student opposing a vaccine mandate on religious grounds has sued her school district and asked for an intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court to allow her an exemption. A SCOTUS decision in mid-January blocked the Biden administration mandate for vaccinations, COVID testing, and mask wearing for businesses with 100 or more employees. The decision has not yet impacted colleges and universities with workers tied to federal contracts or where local and state mandates may be in place. Case in point: The University of Tennessee system flip-flopped after a federal district court granted an injunction against enforcement. Thus, many educational institutions’ mandates remain in limbo as lawsuits make their way through the courts. (See Covid Enrollment Challenges Are Here to Stay.)   to the top


18   Academe: Still Choice-Worthy for Would-Be Scholars? As the pandemic reshapes how people are planning careers, some young, would-be social science and humanities graduate students are asking: Is the scholarly life still worth pursuing? That’s the question posed by graduate student Phillip Dolitsky in a heartfelt “Open Letter to the Authors of Public Discourse” last fall. “There is no smokescreen covering the deplorable state of the humanities and the university in the twenty-first century,” writes the master's student at the School of International Service at American University. In a flurry of responses to Public Discourse, readers suggested that answer should be yes—if students enter graduate studies with eyes wide open, understanding that success requires narrow specialization and that they’ll be taking their chances in an ever tighter academic market as more colleges close. One way of increasing the chances of landing a satisfying academic position: Don’t turn up your nose at applying for posts at regional public universities. With would-be scholars of the humanities, part of their concern is whether colleges are still places where professors ask the big questions about the meaning of the good life and the just society. Roosevelt Montás, former director of the Columbia University Center for the Core Curriculum, argues that an academic career in which one puts such big questions to students through study of canonical texts—and continually asks such questions oneself—is indeed worth pursuing. Meanwhile Jordan Peterson, the popular Canadian clinical psychologist, answered the big question by resigning his tenured job at the University of Toronto because, in part, “Diversity, Inclusivity and Equity — that radical leftist Trinity — is destroying us.”  to the top



19  High Court Agrees to Hear Harvard, UNC Affirmative Action Cases   The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments in a pair of cases challenging race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The outcome of the case, says The Harvard Gazette, which will likely begin in October, “could dramatically alter higher education in America.” Given the makeup of the court—a 6–3 conservative majority—there’s concern that the end is in sight for affirmative action and that colleges will need to find other means of enhancing diversity. One lawsuit argues that Harvard actively discriminates against Asian American applicants; the other that UNC discriminates against Asian Americans and whites. The nation’s highest court has upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action programs three times since 1978, and two lower courts found Harvard does not discriminate against Asian Americans. The cases, which the court will consolidate, were brought by Students for Fair Admissions, a group founded by conservative legal entrepreneur Edward Blum. While most Americans say it’s important to promote diversity in the workplace, nearly three-quarters also believe colleges and universities should not consider race or ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions. Harvard President Lawrence Bacow says the Ivy League school will continue to defend its admissions practices. Based on the lower courts’ unanimous rulings and Supreme Court precedent on the matter, Bacow said, “there is no persuasive, credible evidence warranting a different outcome.”   to the top

20    Academic Freedom on the Ropes Political polarization is creating increasing antagonism between political leaders and some university leaders and faculty. In a recently published op-ed, former college president Robert A. Scott defends tenure against recent challenges from politicians, as well as from J.D. Vance, author of the best-selling Hillbilly Elegy and Ohio Senate candidate. Scott says that tenure helps “full-time scholars” to be “protected from political second-guessing.” But faculty at some public institutions are currently caught up in debates over critical race theory, gender theory, and other identity politics–based issues, with their ability to teach freely coming under threat. In the recent Virginia governor’s race, Republican Glenn Youngkin beat Democratic incumbent Terry McAuliffe, largely by arguing that those issues should not be included in public K–12 curriculum. However, Judge Mark E. Walker ruled in favor of three political science professors from the University of Florida who sued the university, alleging that their academic freedom was violated after the university instituted a policy barring them from testifying before the Florida State Senate in favor of legislation pertaining to elections and voting. Three other professors, in conjunction with the African American Policy Forum and the American Association of University Professors, have drafted a template to serve as the basis for a resolution that would reject “any attempts by bodies external to the faculty to restrict or dictate university curriculum on any matter, including matters related to racial and social justice, and will stand firm against encroachment on faculty authority by the legislature or the Boards of Trustees.” According to one of the authors, it explicitly takes aim at what she describes as “the right’s stealth encroachment on academic freedom.” The resolution has been adopted or is being considered by more than a dozen faculty senates around the country. As American culture wars intensify, we may see tensions between political leaders and the academic faculties in their purview increase as well.   to the top

21   South Carolina Lawmakers Try to “Cancel” Tenure at State Colleges Republican lawmakers in South Carolina have introduced a bill that would prohibit public colleges and universities in the state from awarding tenure to faculty members hired after December 31, 2022. Employment contracts would be limited to five years, and colleges could fire professors prior to the end of their contract if they violate certain policies. Professors who currently have tenure would not be affected. The national branch of the American Association of University Professors called the bill “misguided” and said it would irreparably damage the educational quality of the University of South Carolina system by undermining academic freedom. Tenure was an early-20th-century concept designed to “protect faculty from partisan reprisals.” Today, however, tenured professors are a dying breed. One of the big myths of higher education is that the majority of professors have tenure (known as “jobs for life”). But according to Department of Education numbers, 57.4 percent of colleges and universities currently use tenure in their hiring and employment systems. The rest simply don’t offer it. (See Academic Freedom on the Ropes.)  to the top


22   New University Thinks It Has Answers to Academic Freedom Questions A group of academics and intellectuals who say they’ve been treated like “thought criminals” because of their beliefs have announced plans to start a new university. The University of Austin, or UATX for short, quickly met its initial goal of raising $10 million, mostly from individual donations. Classes will begin this summer with “Forbidden Courses,” offering “a spirited discussion about the most provocative questions that often lead to censorship or self-censorship in many universities.” Plans call for two master’s programs in the fall, an undergraduate college in 2024, and eventually PhD programs and a law school. Even though the private nonprofit liberal arts school is still “looking for land to build it and for financial backing,” among its backers are a slew of university presidents, including former Harvard president Lawrence Summers, West Virginia University’s Gordon Gee, the University of Chicago’s Robert Zimmer, and Concordia College’s John Nunes. Said founding president Pano Kanelos, who resigned in June as president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, “What unites us is a common dismay at the state of modern academia and a belief that it is time for something new.” But within weeks of the announcement, several of the big names in academia who had gathered around the project had already distanced themselves. Only time will tell if UATX will be able to deliver on its grandiose promises and be able “to raise staggering sums of money from ideologically like-minded donors.”  to the top

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Tertiary Education

23   Other New Colleges Try New Ways to Attract Students While the University of Austin is making waves, a small but largely unnoticed number of brand-new colleges are popping up around the country. The Roux Institute, a new university campus backed by $200 million of donated money, which opened last year in Portland, Maine, is one. It offers master’s degrees, certificates, and professional training in computer science, data analytics, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity, and other hot fields. Some of these new schools, like Roux, are focusing on high-demand disciplines such as technology and alternative energy. Others are serving Americans who never went to or did not graduate from college. Still others are trying to remake higher education and don’t look like conventional colleges at all. A new survey of “disengaged learners,” students who have “stopped out” of college—they intended to come back—reveals that “the top cause was financial concerns. However, 43 percent of younger students—Gen Z, ages 20 to 22—said they left because college was not a good fit for them. Enrollment officers need to move quickly because the longer a former student stays away, the less likely they are to reenroll. Seventy percent of respondents said a college embedding certifications in degrees could persuade them to return. (See New University Thinks It Has Answers to Academic Freedom Questions.)  to the top

24   California Community College System Infiltrated by “Bots” With community college enrollment steadily declining nationwide, “fake students” may be the newest threat to an already dire situation. Community college enrollment has been on a downward trajectory since the start of the pandemic: The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released data indicating that undergraduate enrollment has seen the steepest two-year decline in 50 years. And now the California community college system has taken an additional hit, discovering thousands of fake students, or “bots,” enrolled in their schools in a brazen attempt to scam the financial aid system. Eagle-eyed professors like Kim Rich, criminal justice professor at Pierce College, began to notice discrepancies such as student profile pictures pulled from the internet and students registering for the same courses multiple times. After further investigation, the California Community College Chancellor’s office revealed that nearly 20 percent of the traffic in their system, CCCApply, is malicious. With fraud detection and requirements that schools within the CCC system regularly report metrics on enrollment and financial aid, public information officer Rafael Chávez is hopeful that the CCC system’s detection model will become the gold standard for this type of fraud detection.  to the top

25   Community Colleges Face Enrollment Crisis As the pandemic stretches into a second year, community colleges throughout the country are in the midst of an historic enrollment crisis. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reports a 7.8 percent decline in undergraduate students over the last two years, with community colleges taking the biggest hit, at a staggering 15 percent decline—starkly different from some highly selective institutions that are seeing enrollment numbers return to pre-pandemic levels. It is likely low- and middle-income students who will be predominantly impacted, as some colleges have been forced to close their doors. The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) was passed as part of the $76 billion in pandemic relief to colleges and universities, and it has been used to fund much needed additional mental health programs, internships, and work study programs, among other initiatives to improve graduation rates. Experts worry that HEERF funding may have been a distraction from the fact that community colleges are grossly underfunded compared to four-year institutions, even receiving less HEERF funding. Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s Build Back Better Act, designed to provide colleges with money for services such as mental health resources, student mentoring, and emergency financial grants that will focus on improving graduation rates, is stalled in Congress.  to the top

26   Community Colleges Offer a Needed Lifeline—Bachelor’s Degrees After years of dismal statistics showing that community college students often weren't going on to graduate from four-year colleges, hope is on its way. National Student Clearinghouse Research Center data shows less than half of community college grads complete a four-year degree. The transfer process from a two- to four-year college is often a major barrier for students who want to apply, particularly for first-generation and low-income students. The prospect of navigating a new campus or financial aid system can be daunting, and according to Michael Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College, some four-year institutions doubt that community college grads can meet the academic rigor of a four-year institution—leading to bias in admissions. A new option is emerging as a growing number of community colleges across the country are now launching bachelor’s degree programs—many of them online and tailored to the local workforce. Enrollment increased over the pandemic at South Texas College Rio Grande City, Starr County Campus, where they have offered an entirely online bachelor’s degree program since 2003. According to Emma Miller, organizational leadership bachelor’s degree program chair at South Texas, most students in the program have an associate’s degree and find they need a bachelor’s degree to advance in their field. The flexibility of the program allows for completion in under two years.  to the top


27   Pell Grant Increase Denied to Students at For-Profit Colleges Under Build Back Better President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better spending package would increase the maximum annual Pell Grant by $550 for students at public and private nonprofit colleges. But tucked away in the bill is a provision that would exclude students attending for-profit schools from receiving the same $550 increase. This is a radical departure in policy. Never before has the federal government parceled financial aid by institution type. It’s perhaps an attempt to limit the tax dollars flowing to the “scandal-scarred for-profit college industry.” (The collapse several years ago of ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges left hundreds of thousands of students swimming in debt with worthless degrees.) However, critics say the policy will end up punishing people of color, the working class, and low-income Americans—the very constituencies Democrats typically champion. Democrats “clearly hoped they would be able to slip this in and nobody would notice, and the process would move so quickly that nothing could be done about it,” said Jason Altmire, the former Democratic congressman who now leads Career Education Colleges and Universities. About 14 percent of federal Pell dollars go to students at for-profit colleges. Excluding these students from the Pell increase would save the government an estimated $1.3 billion over the next decade. (See Loan Forgiveness Program Expanded.)  to the top

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