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  Spying apps and cheating chat bots.... Everyone has an opinion about the purpose of higher ed.... Law schools revolt over rankings.... Stanford investigates its president.... More colleges doing a “tuition reset.”... Preparing for SCOTUS affirmative action decision....  Can colleges cancel “cancel culture”?...   Student loan payment pause....   and more.

Scholars, Governors—and Just about Everyone Else—Argue Over the Purpose of the University 
Is the answer a new appreciation for “the higher value of the contemplative life”? MORE

Spying Apps and Cheating Chat Bots Technology has a Moment MORE

Free Speech Reform as an Outsider’s Game Using courts, public opinion, and government agencies to sound off on speech constraints MORE

Free Speech Reform as an Insider’s Game Tool kit includes disavowing hecklers' vetoes, free-speech zones, and cash prizes MORE

How About a “Chicago Trifecta” for Free Speech?
Educators on both sides of the political aisle want academic freedoms…so what’s the problem? MORE

Do Intro Courses Really “Drive Minoritized Students out of STEM Pathways”? Or was that conclusion based on sloppy research? MORE 

Social and Political Issues Should a college president—or its departments—speak out? MORE 

U.S. News Modifies Rankings Process as Top Law Schools Revolt Tweaks to the process were made, but the jury is out on effectiveness MORE 

"Varsity Blues" Ringleader Gets 3.5 Years in Prison  Is that really 42 months? MORE 

UF Incoming President Ben Sasse Gets a Huge Pay Raise
 Perks include housing with housekeeping services, a cell phone, a monthly service allowance, and tuition waivers, but no tenure and no house gym MORE

Ohio State President Suddenly Resigns  A board of trustees investigation is disputed MORE 

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Named Chancellor of SUNY  John King, an Obama friend and charter school proponent, is running the largest higher ed system in the country MORE 

Stanford Investigates Its Own President Over Alleged Scientific Misconduct Allegations of the prominent neuroscientist go back years MORE

Harvard Appoints Woman of Color (and Insider) as Its New President
A daughter of Haitian immigrants with a PhD from Harvard MORE

College Approves $4 Million Settlement to End Lengthy Battle With Ex-President 
One trustee proclaimed “Let him sue us” MORE 

UC Labor Settlement Breathes Life Into Unionization
48,000 students, researchers, and other academic staff to benefit MORE 

More Colleges Are Slashing Prices and Doing a “Tuition Reset”  
First-time undergrads got an average 55 percent discount MORE

Underage Suspect in Bomb Threats Against HBCUs  Month-long string of bomb threats and massive federal investigation results in arrest MORE 

Violent Deaths Shatter Sense of Safety Murders at U. of Arizona, U. of Idaho, U. of Virginia in the final months of 2022 MORE 

Security Measures Being Revised in Wake of Violent Crimes Mostly, trying to be proactive MORE

Universities Prepare for SCOTUS Decision on Affirmative Action Conservatives on the Court believe that admissions is a “zero-sum game” MORE 

Diversity After Affirmative Action Colleges urgently searching for alternatives MORE

Incoming NCAA President Charlie Baker Faces “Political Quagmire” Bring back the mud bowl MORE

GAO Blasts Colleges for Misleading Students About the True Cost of an Education 91 percent of colleges don’t include net price in financial aid award letters MORE

Florida’s Education Bureaucracy Seeks New Accreditors “Firing a shot across the bow,” says one critic MORE

Accreditation Works for Some, Not for Others  Another form of diversity MORE

Faculty Diversity and the “White Professoriate” Huge disconnect between the demographics in the country and the professoriate MORE

Can Colleges Cancel “Cancel Culture”? Short answer, “Yes.” MORE

Is the Tide Turning on Campus “Wokeness”? Or is it a plateau?MORE

Conservative Judges Boycott Yale Law School Grads  Interns viewed tinged by “cancel culture” get cancelled MORE

The Red-Blue Divide Over Higher Education Costs and Values Are campuses getting more and more blue? MORE

Biden’s Student Debt Relief Plan in Limbo as It Heads to the Supreme Court SCOTUS expected to weigh in on $400 billion education tab by June MORE

An Easier Path to Discharging Student Loan Debt Through Bankruptcy Another route to getting unburdened after being burned MORE

Biden’s Costly Student Loan Payment Pause Kicking the can down the road a bit further MORE

Report Calls Out Ed Dept. for Illegal Wage Garnishments During Covid-19 That didn’t help with living expenses MORE

Biden’s Proposed Income-Driven Repayment Plan Could Cut Payments in Half That would help with living expenses MORE

Biden’s Massive Spending Bill Increases Pell Grants by $500 Should pay for a few more books MORE



1     Scholars, Governors—and Just about Everyone Else—Argue Over the Purpose of the University Intrinsic in the ongoing debates about academic freedom and free speech on campus is the question of what higher education is for. What exactly is the purpose of a university? As Harvard Professor James Hankins puts it in a review of a new history of academic freedom, those who hope to save higher education have to reassert “the higher value of the contemplative life. If everything is political, we inevitably lose a sense of the intrinsic importance of academic disciplines and the search for truth.” Similarly, Cambridge University Professor James Orr argued in a recent interview that the politicization of academia results in “overriding the university’s foundational commitments…the pursuit of truth, the preservation of truth, and the passing on of truth.” Emeritus University of California-Santa Cruz Professor John M. Ellis put the problem even more pointedly: “Universities [are] overrun by the wrong kind of people—political zealots who don’t understand academia, have no aptitude for it, and use it to achieve ends incompatible with it.” Speaking of which, Governor Ron DeSantis recently earned a front page story in The New York Times for “tak[ing] on the education establishment” while Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro opened state jobs to seekers without a college degree. DeSantis took special aim at the College Board’s AP courses. But the scholars may be on to something for believing the only hope for higher education is remembering what the institutions were founded to do in the first place.   to the top

2     Spying Apps and Cheating Chat Bots: Technology Has a Moment The recent controversies surrounding TikTok and the emergence of ChatGPT have sparked a heated debate on the potential risks and benefits of emerging technologies in higher education. TikTok has become a source of controversy on campuses with concerns about data privacy and misinformation, particularly because of the popular app’s Chinese ownership, raising concerns about the potential for the Chinese government—no longer considered just a giant panda—to access user data. Over 30 states have banned TikTok from use on state-issued networks, and now a growing number of public universities have banned it on campus WiFi networks, to the dismay of many professors, students, and those who use it for research. While all eyes were on TikTok, ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, a San Francisco artificial intelligence lab, began catching the attention of educators in November with the launch of a chatbot that produces human-like text, an understatement—the writing was good enough to raise a tidal wave of concerns that this app could be used to cheat on assignments and even impersonate students in online discussions. In an about-face, Wikipedia, largely frowned upon by educators as a source of unreliable information, is now being used to teach the skills of editing. Amin Azzam, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, said, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,”  when he developed an elective course on Wikipedia editing. UCSF’s School of Medicine has since integrated one Wikipedia-editing assignment for all medical students.   to the top

3     Free Speech Reform as an Outsider’s Game Some who believe that campuses are not upholding free-expression and open-inquiry values are seeking reform through outside pressure, using the law and appealing to government agencies. For example, after several University of California, Berkeley School of Law student organizations pledged to boycott pro-Israel speakers, a civil rights complaint on behalf of Jewish students and faculty was filed with the Department of Education, which opened an investigation. And a Young Americans for Liberty chapter is suing the University of Alabama in Huntsville, arguing that the school’s policies requiring permits and limiting some expression to “free speech zones” violate First Amendment freedoms. Rather than using the law, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression and College Pulse pressure colleges through public opinion by ranking them; in the just-released 2023 College Free Speech Rankings, the University of Chicago, Kansas State University, and Purdue University take top spots. Schools further down in the rankings may be expectedby some alumni, donors, and trusteesto move up their positions.   to the top

4     Free Speech Reform as an Insider’s Game Universities are taking measures to protect free speech and academic freedom. Some schools are playing cleanup, as when faculty of Massachusetts Institute of Technology adopted a statement on free expression, one year after MIT withdrew its invitation to University of Chicago Professor Dorian Abbot because of his views on affirmative action. Similarly, the University of California Hastings School of Law adopted an events policy disallowing the heckler’s veto, months after legal scholar Ilya Shapiro was shouted down. Trustees at the University of Texas System and the University of Oklahoma adopted the University of Chicago statement, considered one of the first and best defenses of free speech in the business. The University of Wisconsin System, also an early adopter of the UC statement, in 2015, took new steps by surveying student perceptions of the campus climate in regard to free speech and establishing the Wisconsin Institute for Citizenship and Civil Dialogue. Some say these statements, policies, and initiatives are all well and good, but what is most needed is a culture shift so students are prepared to have their opinions challenged. To that end, the president at the University of New England has established a cash prize for faculty who excel at challenging students with robust discourse on contentious topics, while a pair of undergraduates write that their fellow students should choose to “avoid ‘identity opinion,’ in which they typecast other students as, say, dyed-in-the-wool liberals or dogmatic conservatives based on one expressed opinion.” (See The Chicago Trifecta)   to the top 

5      How About a “Chicago Trifecta” for Free Speech? A recent gathering of right-leaning academics at Stanford highlighted the difficulties that both conservative and liberal educators face in this regard, while left-leaning academics decry efforts to crack down on “woke” professors and administrators, particularly at public colleges and universities. Some recent movements have begun to actively push back. One tactic that has been gaining popularity is to encourage higher education institutions to adopt policies that ensure free speech. For example, Princeton professor Robert P. George has gone on record in support of universities’ adopting what he calls the “Chicago Trifecta,” consisting of the Chicago Principles of free speech; the Kalven report, which requires “institutional neutrality on political and social matters”; and the Shils report, which makes “academic achievement and promise the sole basis for hiring and promotion.” But critics contend that, while these proposed reforms are good, they are ultimately insufficient. Effecting real change on campus, they argue, requires cultivating a culture of civil discourse. (See Reform as an Insider’s Game) to the top

6   Do Intro Courses Really “Drive Minoritized Students Out of STEM Pathways”? A recent study, “Do Introductory Courses Disproportionately Drive Minoritized Students Out of STEM Pathways?” earned lots of social media attention. The researchers had found that minority students who earn low grades in introductory science, technology, engineering, and math classes are less likely to go on to earn degrees in these subjects than are white students, which they concluded is due to systemic racism. But Lee Jussim, a social psychologist who analyzed the study, says it was built on faulty statistics and that there could be various other explanations for why minorities drop out of STEM tracks. “Shoddy research” now abounds in academia, critics say, and is nearly always done to push a political agenda. This is a big enough problem in its own right, but one that has serious consequences for the country as a whole, according to David Randall, the research director of the National Association of Scholars. Randall suggests that schools focus on statistical training to teach people to spot bogus research. In the meantime, he observes, “The monolithic politicization of science and social-science professionals, alas, is likely to become worse.”  to the top

7  Social and Political Issues: Should the President—or Departments—Speak? College presidents are increasingly called on to make statements about social and political issues of the day, such as student protests in Iran; presidents at both public and private universities have issued statements condemning the Iranian regime and supporting protestors. But these academic officials may find themselves in a difficult spot: If they do not make a statement, they may be accused of indifference to important events or tacit endorsement of the status quo; if they do speak up, they may risk chilling the speech of those who disagree and face criticism from dissenters. And it is not just college presidents who weigh in; university departments and other academic units sometimes issue statements. Some institutions are  proactively setting guidelines for what kinds of circumstances warrant a statement and establishing procedures that limit the risk of suppressing others’ opinions. These include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Academic Senate, the University of California’s Academic Council, Brown University, and DePauw University. (See UF Incoming President Ben Sasse Gets a Huge Pay Raise and Harvard Appoints a Woman of Color.)  to the top



8   U.S. News Modifies Rankings Process as Top Law Schools Revolt The simmering tumult involving the U.S. News college rankings boiled over again last November when Yale Law School said it would no longer participate in the annual list. On the heels of that announcement other top-ranked schools followed suit and by mid-December nearly all the top 15 had withdrawn including Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, and Georgetown. Calling the rankings’ methodology “profoundly flawed…troubling,” and “ill-conceived,” Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken said in a statement, “We have reached a point where the rankings process is undermining the core commitments of the legal profession.” While some suggest Yale may have additional motives, such as fear of slipping in future rankings or anticipation of an upcoming SCOTUS ruling on affirmative action, the perennially top-ranked school is not alone in its concerns. Many law school deans say the rankings penalize schools who support students entering public-service careers, put too much weight on test scores, and favor schools that admit better-resourced students. U.S. News responded in stages, with executive chairman Eric Gertler saying schools only want to be measured by criteria that cast them in the best light, and he vowed to continue ranking all fully accredited law schools whether or not they voluntarily submit data. Then in early January, U.S. News said it would modify the process, after “conversations with more than 100 deans and representatives of law schools.” The changes would give more weight to schools’ efforts to promote public-service careers and less weight to the “perceived reputation” of the schools by legal professionals. The jury is out on what effect this will have. Yale said the new changes were not enough to make them rejoin the process, and as of January 16, U.C. Davis Law School added its name to the ongoing revolt.  to the top

9 ‘Varsity Blues’ Ringleader Gets 3.5 Years in Prison William “Rick” Singer, the mastermind behind the nationwide college admissions bribery scandal—dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues”—sentenced to 42 months in prison in January. Prosecutors called it the “most massive fraud” ever perpetrated in the U.S. education system. “The fraudulent testing scheme, bribing of university officials, lying on students’ applications and profiles, I did all of it,” the college admissions consultant acknowledged in a Boston courtroom. In addition, Singer was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $10.7 million in restitution to the IRS, forfeit more than $5.3 million in assets, and pay a $3.4 million forfeiture money judgment. Through a bogus charity, Singer funneled millions of dollars to college athletic coaches and administrators to help the children of wealthy parents cheat their way into elite universities like Yale, Georgetown, and the University of Southern California. He also paid test proctors to fix some students’ answers on the SAT and ACT. For his services, Singer paid himself more than $28 million. Singer’s sentencing marks the culmination of an extensive criminal case that first made headlines nearly four years ago. At least 50 people have been charged, including coaches, high-powered executives, and Hollywood actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. (See past Paideia Times issues for other Varsity Blues sentencing coverage, here and here.)  to the top

10    UF Incoming President Ben Sasse Gets a Huge Pay Raise. But No Tenure The Florida Board of Governors confirmed Senator Ben Sasse as the University of Florida’s 13th president, approving an annual base salary of $1 million—a nice pay bump from the $174,000 a year he was earning in Washington, D.C. According to two professors at George Mason University, Sasse’s presidential contract is the “richest” they have ever seen—with a potential value of nearly $10 million across his five-year term. Assuming he receives the maximum annual raise for which he is eligible (4 percent per year), Sasse’s total base salary will be more than $5.4 million over five years. On top of this, Sasse is eligible for a deferred compensation retention bonus of $1 million if he completes his term. Other benefits include performance bonuses that could total $812,000, additional retirement account contributions of about $800,000, standard fringe benefits of at least $1.7 million, free presidential housing with housekeeping services, a cell phone and a monthly service allowance, and tuition waivers for his spouse, children, parents, and grandchildren. Interestingly, Sasse’s contract is silent on the question of tenure. It states that he will be appointed as a full-time faculty member “upon the end of his service as president,” but there’s no mention of whether the position will be tenured. (See other PT coverage of Sasse’s appointment here.)  to the top

11  Ohio State President Suddenly Resigns Ohio State University President Kristina Johnson is resigning after just two and a half years on the job. While the full details are unclear, The Columbus Dispatch reported that Johnson is stepping down at the request of Ohio State’s board of trustees following an investigation by an external law firm into concerns raised by her staff. However, the university refutes that an investigation took place, and an attorney for Johnson disputed the details reported by the newspaper. Johnson is the latest of several high-profile presidents to step down over the past two years. In the Big Ten Conference alone, the University of Michigan ousted Mark Schlissel because of an alleged affair with an subordinate; Michigan State University President Samuel Stanley resigned over allegations that he mishandled Title IX issues; and longtime Purdue University President Mitch Daniels and Eric Barron at Pennsylvania State University also announced their retirements. Johnson said she will leave at the end of the academic year to give the university time to search for a new president and so that she can help with the transition.  to the top

12  Former U.S. Secretary of Education Named Chancellor of SUNY The State University of New York (SUNY), the largest higher education system in the country, has tapped John B. King Jr. to be its new chancellor. King led the U.S. Department of Education from January 2016 to January 2017 and before that served as New York State’s education commissioner. During his stint in the Obama administration, King called out wealthy institutions for not graduating greater numbers of low-income students and frequently clashed with for-profit colleges. As the first Black and first Puerto Rican chancellor to head SUNY, King has an ambitious agenda: to transform the 64-campus, 1.3 million-student system into one of the nation’s best while stemming demographic declines. He has described his own experience growing up in New York City—an orphan at the age of 12—as central to his commitment to disadvantaged students. “Public education quite literally saved my life when I lost both of my parents at a young age,” King said in SUNY’s announcement.  to the top

13   Stanford Investigates Its Own President Over Alleged Scientific Misconduct Stanford University’s president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, is under investigation over allegations that research papers he co-authored years before he became president contain multiple manipulated images. The university launched the probe following a report in its student newspaper, The Stanford Daily, about suspicions of altered images in at least four papers—two of which listed him as senior author. Concerns about these papers, along with others, have been publicly raised for years. Tessier-Lavigne, a prominent neuroscientist who has researched degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, took over the Stanford presidency in 2016. One paper under scrutiny dates back to 2008, while the other three came out in 2003 and 2001. In a statement, Tessier-Lavigne said he would fully cooperate with school officials. The situation is highly unusual, given that Tessier-Lavigne is a member of the board now charged with investigating him. A Stanford spokesperson said he “will not be involved in the Board of Trustees’ oversight of the review.”  to the top

14    Harvard Appoints a Woman of Color (and Insider) as Its New President Harvard University has named Claudine Gay as its 30th president, making her the first Black person and second woman to lead the institution in its nearly 400-year history. Her appointment comes several months after Harvard released a searing report on the history of its ties to slavery and racial discrimination in prior centuries. The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Gay will officially assume the position on July 1, replacing Lawrence S. Bacow, who guided the university through the Covid-19 pandemic and who is stepping down at the end of the academic year. Gay has a long history with the university. She received a doctorate in political science from Harvard in 1998 and joined the Harvard faculty in 2006. Since then she has served as Professor of Government (2006), Professor of African and African-American Studies (2008), Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government (2015), Dean of Social Science (2015), and Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (2018). Many in higher education note that a Black president at Harvard is long overdue. A 2017 study found that only 17 percent of college presidents are members of racial minorities and only 5 percent are women of color.  to the top

15  College Approves $4 Million Settlement to End Lengthy Battle With Ex-President The College of DuPage has agreed to a $4 million settlement with former president Robert Breuder, more than seven years after he sued the school’s board for wrongful termination. Breuder was fired from the Illinois community college in 2015 amid allegations of financial mismanagement, and trustees voted to withhold his $763,000 severance package. Asked at the time about the possible legal consequences, one trustee proclaimed, “Let him sue us.” Breuder did exactly that. Three years later, the board countersued Breuder, seeking $25 million in damages and legal fees. A member of the Faculty Association claimed “the institution was traumatized” by Breuder’s presidency, but in November 2022, the trustees dropped their counterclaim to avoid further legal fees. Generous severance agreements are common in higher education, with ousted presidents often collecting fat paychecks on their way out the door. However, the refusal to pay out a severance agreement when there is a clear contractual obligation to do so is rare. The drawn-out saga cost the school $9 million in litigation expenses, paid for by its insurance company.  to the top


16    UC Labor Settlement Breathes Life Into Unionization Life just became a bit easier for 48,000 University of California (UC) graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and other academic staff, who will receive expanded benefits and wage increases ranging from 20 to 80 percent. The negotiated increase came after six weeks of striking (which included finals weeks) and is among the highest ever won by workers in academia. The contract increased minimum pay for student employees from $23,250 to about $34,000 for nine months of part-time work. Slicing it another way, compounded increases (over 2023 and 2024) at UC are 46 percent higher—almost eight times higher than its 6 percent increase in 2018. This is much higher than the recent 9 percent increases negotiated for both Harvard University (2021) and Columbia (2022). This win gives fresh momentum to unionization at university campuses across the United States. Rebecca Givan, codirector of the Center for Work and Health at Rutgers University and chair of the union representing academic employees there, observed, “Academic workers everywhere are taking note.” Some UC faculty wondered about the cost and whether this could force them to cut staff and thus hurt their research. This was countered by those who say labs staffed by people who don’t have to worry about choosing between paying rent or childcare costs could be more productive. The pandemic has been blamed for exacerbating disaffection among academic workers. Graduate students forced to risk teaching in-person classes or working in labs finally found a way to push back. “There is no question that COVID was a tipping point. That combination of low wages and suddenly risking serious health conditions when you went to work spurred the organizing. Workers put up with a lot, but they don’t come to work to die,” noted Kate Bronfenbrenner, Cornell University’s director of labor education research.   to the top

17   More Colleges Are Slashing Prices and Doing a “Tuition Reset” Starting next fall, Colby-Sawyer College will cut tuition by more than 60 percent—from $46,364 to $17,500. The goal is to make pricing more transparent and attract more students. Last year, of the 800-plus undergraduates at the private New Hampshire college, none actually paid the sticker price. In fact, a recent study found that first-time undergraduates received an average discount of nearly 55 percent off the advertised price. Colby-Sawyer is part of a growing number of small private colleges that are enacting a strategy called “tuition reset” to overhaul prices to reflect what most students actually pay after discounting. The resistance to tuition increases is a reversal from 20 years ago, when families equated price with quality. Other private colleges doing a tuition reset include Lasell University in Newton, Massachusetts; Washington & Jefferson in Washington, Pennsylvania.; Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia.; and Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. Public universities are also getting into the act. Vermont State University has reset its in-state tuition to $9,999, a drop of 15 percent, and many state university systems are instituting tuition freezes, including in New York, Virginia, Nebraska, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  to the top

18   Underage Suspect in Bomb Threats Against HBCUs A month-long string of bomb threats against Historically Black Colleges and Universities in early 2022 caused terror, unease, and mental anguish at dozens of schools. After a sprawling federal investigation, the FBI announced in November that one juvenile is believed to be responsible for a majority of the threats. Due to his age, the suspect has not been publicly identified. Shortly after the announcement, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified on Capitol Hill that the minor will not be charged federally but “charged under various other state offenses, which will ensure some level of restrictions and monitoring and disruption of his criminal behavior.” At the time of the initial threats, the Biden administration said it would investigate them as a hate crime and that affected schools would be eligible for Education Department grants of up to $150,000 for security upgrades and mental health support. The threats disrupted operations and eroded the sense of safety on campus. “You wouldn’t believe how taxed our mental health resources have been,” said David Wilson, president of Morgan State University. The FBI’s announcement does bring an end to some of the consternation of HBCU leaders about the pace of the investigation, but there are lingering concerns. FBI officials are still investigating other threats made in February and March of 2022 against HBCUs that are believed to have originated overseas. Tanya Washington Hicks, a law professor at Georgia State and parent of a student at Morgan State, expressed concern about “what will happen this February” during Black History month. “It’s not like the rhetoric has died down.… Since last February we seem to be in a more agitated state…with politics and our culture wars.”  to the top


19    Violent Deaths Shatter Sense of Safety   In the final months of 2022, three incidents—separated by thousands of miles—shook the foundations of campus and student safety. On October 5, in Tucson, Arizona, University of Arizona Hydrology Professor Thomas Meixner was shot dead on campus. A suspect was apprehended within hours of the shooting—a former graduate student with a troubled past who had been expelled and banned from campus. He’s now in prison awaiting trial for first degree murder and six other felonies. On November 13, in Moscow, Idaho, four University of Idaho students were fatally stabbed in an off-campus residence. Nearly two months later a suspect was arrested—a doctoral student in criminology at Washington State University. He is currently in jail in Idaho awaiting his next court appearance and facing four charges of first degree murder. Also on November 13, in Charlottesville, Virginia, three University of Virginia football players were shot to death by a fellow student on board a bus that had just returned to campus from a field trip to Washington, D.C. Two other students were injured in the attack. The suspect was apprehended the morning after the attack and is in prison, charged with three counts of second degree murder. A sense of fear and confusion pervaded classrooms and communities after the attacks. At the University of Idaho, Assistant Professor Caitlin Cieslik-Miskimen said, “All of my students have been rattled.… All of them are nervous.… It has really unsettled everyone on campus.” After the shooting in Charlottesville, Virginia, UVa Research Associate Benjamin Bernard said the incident “has shattered the idyllic campus mood.”  to the top

20    Security Measures Being Revised in Wake of Violent Crimes The deaths of seven students and one professor in late 2022 have drawn fresh attention to campus-security procedures and how schools collect and share information about people who might pose a threat. Schools affected by these killings have already made some changes and are looking at more. The expelled graduate student facing trial in the fatal shooting of a University of Arizona professor had previously been identified as a threat, and colleagues, family, and friends said the university had not done enough to keep the campus safe. In January the school announced it would expand its criminal background checks to include all graduate assistants, along with making other security revisions. An independent, expert review of campus safety is also ongoing. After the off-campus killings of four University of Idaho students, Dean Blaine Eckles said the school “will not be [scaling back] enhanced security measures.… We are putting every effort into place to create a safe learning experience,” adding that they will maintain a large presence of security on campus. One of the victim’s fathers was critical of the process leading to the arrest of a suspect, saying a “lack of information from the University of Idaho and the local police, which only fuels false rumors and innuendo…further compounds our family’s agony after our son’s murder.” And the attorney general of Virginia has selected a special counsel to review the circumstances around the shooting deaths of three University of Virginia students, and how the school handled a threat assessment of the suspect prior to the incident. Virginia’s General Assembly is also considering legislation designed to improve how college “threat assessment teams” detect and respond to potential threats.  to the top



21  Universities Prepare for SCOTUS Decision on Affirmative Action “We don’t want to give the court any ideas,” said Angel B. Pérez, the chief executive of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, about admissions plans in response to the affirmative action case brought by Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard and University of North Carolina. It seems likely that the conservative majority of SCOTUS will limit or ban consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions. But here’s what can be considered: legacy status, gender, parental donations, athletic prowess, and hometown, although some think legacy status might be curtailed. UC Berkeley has had to deal with the barring of race consideration for years yet has worked hard to enroll Black and Latinx students; those efforts may be in jeopardy. A school could, like Michigan’s Hillsdale College—founded by abolitionists and with a diverse population—refuse federal funds, thus allowing it to do as it wants. And while many note that more children of color attend underfunded public schools and that wealthy families can offer their children tutors and such, conservatives on the Supreme Court “believe that admissions are a zero-sum game”:  If a student of color gets in, a white student doesn’t.   to the top

22   Diversity After Affirmative Action The U.S. Supreme Court will likely overturn affirmative action this spring, and this has higher education searching urgently for alternate ways to diversify. In November the Court heard five hours of arguments in lawsuits from Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard and the University of North Carolina that sought to eliminate racial preferences. The suits have been called “an argument about race-conscious university admissions—about whether diversity matters—held before the most racially diverse US Supreme Court in history.” While the court is the final arbiter on whether racial preferences can be used, colleges ultimately will have to find and adopt other procedures to diversify racially and economically. One institution has avoided the controversy for nearly two centuries. Hillsdale College in Michigan, founded in 1844, has never considered race when admitting students. Founded to educate “all persons, regardless of nationality, color, or sex,” Hillsdale has never recorded students’ racial backgrounds. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare demanded in the 1970s that the college count its students by race. The agency said it had the right to this demand because some Hillsdale students paid for a part of their education with taxpayer dollars. Campus officials say their nondiscrimination policy has yielded student populations with wide-ranging cultural, racial, and religious backgrounds from various socioeconomic groups. As academia awaits the upcoming Supreme Court ruling, a Texas state legislator, Representative Carl Tepper (R) introduced a bill in mid-December that would abolish DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) departments and programs in public universities. Any university that accepts funds from the state government would no longer be allowed to promote or exclude any group based on their inherent characteristics. to the top

23   Incoming NCAA President Charlie Baker Faces “Political Quagmire” In recent years the National Collegiate Athletic Association has seen its influence wane as it struggles to govern the shifting landscape of college sports. Enter the NCAA’s new president, Charlie Baker. The former governor of Massachusetts has a resume that differs from other NCAA presidents—he has no professional collegiate experience and is the first politician ever to lead the organization. When they made the announcement, the NCAA praised Baker for his “bipartisan leadership.” He takes over in March, facing “a whole new level of political intensity.” In 2021 a Supreme Court decision (NCAA v. Alston) slammed the NCAA’s business model. College athletes can now profit from their names, images, and likenesses (see Player Transfers Causing “Upheaval” in College Football, Paideia Times, Fall 2022), and many are pushing for a pay-for-play revenue sharing model—which the NCAA has vehemently opposed. In early January, the NCAA recommended giving more benefits to Division 1 college athletes but resisted calls to separate D2 sports programs based on their respective wealth. “The challenges we face are big, complex, and urgent, as we think about the future of college athletics and the legal, political and cultural environments,” said Linda Livingstone, chair of the NCAA’s Board of Governors. Mr. Baker also characterized the challenges ahead as “complex,” and added that he aims to “modernize college sports to suit today’s world, while preserving its essential value.” One thing that appears to be certain for Mr. Baker is a substantial pay raise. Tax forms show his embattled predecessor Mark Emmert earned an annual salary of more than $2.8 million. His salary as governor was $185,000. to the top

24   GAO Blasts Colleges for Misleading Students About the True Cost of an Education A new report from the Government Accountability Office blasts colleges for failing to tell students how much their education will actually cost them. The GAO studied a nationally representative sample of 176 (unnamed) colleges and measured their performance in their award letters against ten best practices in the field. The award letters are the first official notices from colleges to students, which are used to compare prices. The analysis found that the vast majority of colleges—91 percent— either do not include the net price in their award letters or understate the net price in their aid offers. It also revealed that 65 percent leave out important details about aid packages, 31 percent list loans as grants, and not a single school examined by the GAO used all ten best practices. The federal watchdog agency recommended that Congress consider legislation that would require institutions to provide “clear and standard information.” The bipartisan Understanding the True Cost of College Act, which is already before Congress, would require colleges to follow well-documented best practices and create a universal financial aid offer letter so students can easily compare financial aid packages between schools. to the top

25   Florida’s Education Bureaucracy Seeks New Accreditors Florida officials are taking the costly step of seeking a new accreditation body, switching from the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to the Higher Learning Commission. A four-step process, which includes Department of Education approval, accompanies the approximately $11 million price tag. The kick-off meeting at Tallahassee Community College of over 40 college and university presidents was closed to the public. Andrew Gothard, president of the United Faculty of Florida, spoke against the move: “This was about firing a shot across the bow of SACSCOC. And elected leaders, particularly the conservatives in the Florida Legislature, were willing to sink the higher education system to score those political points.” Meanwhile, a Defense of Freedom Institute press release is accusing the DOE of harassing Florida’s governor and his and the state’s efforts to “improve student outcomes and educational programs in higher ed.”  to the top

26   Accreditation Works for Some, Not for Others Whereas the Florida higher ed system hopes to welcome the Higher Learning Commission as its accreditor, the University of Arizona system wants to dump it in exchange for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College & University Commission (WSCUC). The Arizona system is attempting a merger with the University of Arizona Global Campus, formerly Ashford, the once for-profit school with low completion rates. WSCUC was its accreditor, and the powers that be think the merged university system will be better off with it. Meanwhile, the Department of Education will review all the comings and goings. Gayle Greene, a professor at Scripps College, overseen by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (the parent organization of WSCUC), bemoans the meetings and reports required in the accreditation process in which “narrowly prescribed” Student Learning Objectives (SLOs)  are filled with words like model, measure, solve, and prioritize rather than comprehend, appreciate, grasp, and—dare we say—enjoy.   to the top


27   Faculty Diversity and the “White Professoriate” The doubtful future of affirmative action awaits an upcoming Supreme Court decision. Meanwhile, higher education is also confronting calls for the diversification of the traditionally white professoriate. Following the 2020 death of George Floyd, students called for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In response, higher education leaders pledged to enhance diversity and to improve the climate on campus for minority students. The U.S. population is more diverse than ever. However, a study of equity in faculty representation, hiring, and tenure released in December by the Education Trust reported that little, if any, progress has been made to increase faculty diversity. A diverse faculty benefits all students, the report says. The greater number of Black and Latinx students in college today are more likely to finish their degrees when they are taught by faculty who look like them, mentor them, and serve as strong role models. The report adds that white students, when taught by a diverse faculty, have a greater possibility of developing meaningful critical-thinking and cross-cultural skills, and deeper empathy—all essential in today’s world. Another new study reports that higher education can achieve genuine faculty diversity within a generation. Published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, the study concludes that if universities wish to reflect the U.S. population racially by 2050, they will need to diversify their faculties at about 3.5 times the current rate. The report’s authors wrote: “Overall, the lack of progress on faculty diversity in the U.S. is a collective failure perpetuated by our focus on institution-level changes.” The authors, who studied federal data from 1,250 institutions, concluded that “when pursued at a systemic level in an evidence-based manner, faculty parity could be within our reach.”  to the top

28   Can Colleges Cancel “Cancel Culture”?  What has come to be known in conservative circles as “cancel culture”—and was once known as assaults on free speech—is making headlines again. Hamline University declined to renew an art instructor’s contract after a student complained about her showing a painting of the Prophet Mohamed; Cornell University students heckled political commentator and alumna Ann Coulter; Harvard University rescinded a fellowship offer to activist Kenneth Roth seemingly because of his criticism of Israel; archeology scholars are establishing anonymous online forums to discuss potentially fraught topics; Stanford University administrators counseled that words such as “American” and “immigrant” could be needlessly hurtful. What can be done to reverse “cancel culture”? Princeton Professor Robert P. George argues that personal courage to “refuse to be intimidated or bullied” can help to ward off “cancellation,” while University of Pennsylvania Professor Sigal Ben-Porath, in her just-released book Cancel Wars, lays out strategies for trustees, administrators, and others to create a campus culture that encourages viewpoint diversity.  to the top

29   Is the Tide Turning on Campus “Wokeness”? Some prominent voices believe that the worst of “woke” is behind us, with “peak woke” giving way to “plateau woke.” But that’s not much of a victory, they concede. However, statistics show that the tide hasn’t turned yet. According to The College Fix’s Campus Cancel Culture Database, there were 85 victims of the “woke” mentality on college campuses during the last academic year, and another 47 attempted cancellations. This averaged out to more than two such incidents per week. “For those who think cancel culture was just a fad, it’s not, and we’ve got the receipts,” said the editor of The College Fix. Among the most notable examples in the past year: a professor at New York University who was fired after students said his class was too difficult.  to the top

30   Conservative Judges Boycott Yale Law School Grads Judge James C. Ho, of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, made headlines when he announced he will no longer hire law clerks from Yale University Law School after multiple incidents of  what he called “cancel culture” on campus. Speaking at a Federal Society conference, Ho, who was appointed by former president Donald Trump, called the nation’s top-ranked law school the “most elite institution of legal education [but] the worst when it comes to legal cancellation.” He urged other judges to likewise boycott the school. Since then, more than a dozen federal judges have joined in, including Alliance Defending Freedom’s Kristen Waggoner. Last March, Yale activists and law students disrupted a bipartisan panel on civil liberties where Waggoner was speaking—creating a scene so heated that the Supreme Court litigator had to be escorted from the building by campus police. The dean of Yale’s law school reportedly now wants to mend relationships with the judges, but Waggoner remains skeptical. Yale, she said, “has created a uniquely insular and intolerant monoculture in which competing ideas are unwelcome and sometimes violently shut down.”  to the top

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31   The Red-Blue Divide Over Higher Education Costs and Values The November election pushed some hot button higher education issues back into the spotlight—student loan forgiveness, the red-blue split over the cost and value of a college education, and the degree of trust in universities. In February the U.S. Supreme Court will decide if the Department of Education, without Congressional approval, went too far when it resolved to forgive hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans. The department is also seeking to discover more ways to forgive existing loans—one is the Borrower Defense to Repayment rule. (This remedy helps borrowers who can demonstrate that an institution misled them or engaged in misconduct that was in violation of certain laws.) Another possible department tack might be to seek to forgive future loans. Loan forgiveness is one of the reasons for the national divide on higher education. The divide appears simple. Increasingly, degree holders tend to vote for Democrats, while people without degrees tend to vote Republican. As for the value of a college education, Republicans often question it, and Democrats tend to support it. After World War II most Americans generally valued advanced education as good for the country. That attitude began to change with the civil-rights and campus protests of the 1960s and the demand to expand admissions for women and minorities. When Governor Ronald Reagan of California began to call universities “liberal indoctrination factories” in the 1970s, his words continued to feed growing conservative resentment. A 2022 survey by New America found that 73 percent of Democrats believe that colleges have a positive effect on the nation. Only 37 percent of Republicans said the same. One positive development that could find support on both sides of the divide is the expansion of Pell Grants, part of a $1.5 billion package of education funding passed in late December. The maximum annual, needs-based Pell Grant award (which does not have to be repaid), increased by $500 to $7,395, will take effect in the current award year.  to the top


32   Biden’s Student Debt Relief Plan in Limbo as It Heads to the Supreme Court The legal battle over President Joe Biden’s plan to erase over $400 billion in federal student loan debt is heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. Oral arguments begin in February. The plan, which was first announced in August, would forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers who earn up to $125,000 ($250,000 for couples filing jointly). Pell Grant recipients would qualify for up to $20,000 in debt relief. The White House is basing its authority on a 2003 Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, or Heroes Act, which allows the education secretary to waive or change student financial aid rules during national emergencies. The Covid-19 pandemic qualified as such an emergency, according to the administration, but some legal scholars say the justification is weak. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the program will cost $400 billion over the next 30 years. In October, an appellate court blocked the plan, and since then, the legal challenges have only grown. Nearly 26 million borrowers have submitted applications for debt relief, and 16 million have been approved. However, no debts have been canceled, and the program has stopped accepting applications. A ruling is expected by the end of June. to the top

33   An Easier Path to Discharging Student Loan Debt Through Bankruptcy While President Biden’s plan to cancel student debt for millions of borrowers faces multiple legal challenges, his administration has announced a separate plan that could make it easier for some student loan borrowers to discharge their debt through bankruptcy. Unlike consumer debts, student loans aren’t automatically wiped away in bankruptcy. Borrowers have to file a separate lawsuit to try to do so, which can be stressful, costly, and notoriously difficult. The Justice Department, in coordination with the Education Department, has announced “a better, fairer, more transparent process.” Under the new process, debtors will fill out an “attestation form,” which the government will use to assess a borrower’s ability to repay their loans based on a set formula—whether expenses equal or exceed a debtor’s income—and other considerations, such as retirement age, disability, educational attainment, and job history. It will then use this information to determine whether to recommend a discharge.  to the top

34   Biden’s Costly Student Loan Payment Pause President Joe Biden’s pause on federal student loan payments was set to expire on December 31, but it is being extended once again. “It isn’t fair to ask tens of millions of borrowers who are eligible for relief to resume their student debt payments while the courts consider the lawsuit,” Biden said in a video posted to his Twitter account. First implemented on March 13, 2020, during the Trump administration, the payment pause has been extended multiple times since then by both administrations. Payments will resume 60 days after the department is allowed to implement the program or the litigation is resolved. If that hasn’t happened by June 30, payments will resume 60 days later, on September 1—42 months after the moratorium began. Altogether, the payment pause could end up costing $195 billion. Looking at this extension alone (from January to potentially August 2023), the cost will be around $40 billion.   to the top

35   Report Calls Out Ed Dept. for Illegal Wage Garnishments During Covid-19 According to an alarming new report, hundreds of thousands of student-loan borrowers had their wages illegally garnished during the Covid-19 pandemic, despite a congressional order to pause collections starting in March 2020. An inspector general report found that the Office of Federal Student Aid took quick action and “generally achieved positive results” in suspending most wage garnishments and refunding payments back to borrowers. However, the Student Borrower Protection Center has released a report that found that the garnishments continued through at least August 2021—18 months after the CARES Act of 2020 made it illegal and 10 months longer than the agency’s inspector general reported. Student loan repayments are potentially set to resume on June 30, unless the courts make a final decision on debt forgiveness before then. Whatever the date, the Student Borrower Protection Center argues the department has a moral obligation not to throw vulnerable borrowers back into a broken system. The Education Department says it will take up debt collection reform as a part of its regulatory agenda next year.   to the top

36   Biden’s Proposed Income-Driven Repayment Plan Could Cut Payments in Half While President Joe Biden’s one-time student loan forgiveness plan remains tied up by legal challenges, the administration is moving forward with a more far-reaching and costly plan to overhaul how student borrowers repay their loans. The overhaul of the Education Department’s income-driven repayment program—which bases monthly payments on an individual’s income and family size—would cut payments in half for undergraduates, with a cap of 5 percent on a borrower’s discretionary income. And those who take out $12,000 or less in loans would qualify for relief in 10 years. The new repayment plan would become a permanent fixture of the student loan infrastructure and apply to current and future borrowers. Roughly 8.5 million, or a third of all federal student loan borrowers, are enrolled in existing income-driven repayment plans, which is up from 1.6 million in 2013. It’s not clear when the new plan will be up and running. The proposal will be open for public comments for 30 days before the rules are finalized later this year.  to the top

37   Biden’s Massive Spending Bill Increases Pell Grants by $500 As part of its $1.7 trillion federal spending package, Congress is planning to up the annual Pell Grant award by $500—to $7,395—and put more money toward student success grant programs. This is the largest increase in a decade and will kick in beginning in the 2023-24 academic year. While advocates say this is a step in the right direction, the American Association of Community Colleges and other groups have been pushing Congress to increase the maximum Pell Grant award to $13,000. President Joe Biden’s budget proposal would do so by 2029. A report by the National College Attainment Network found that 36 states have fewer than five affordable four-year colleges, including ten states that don’t have any at all. They are Massachusetts, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin.  to the top

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