Inside Higher Ed

St. Gregory's University announces plans to end operations

Thu, 2017-11-09 08:00

Two weeks ago, Memphis College of Art said it would close. Also last month, Grace University, in Nebraska, announced plans to shut down, and Wheelock College announced plans to merge into Boston University.

In another sign of the challenges facing small private colleges without substantial financial resources, St. Gregory's University, in Oklahoma, said Wednesday that it would end operations at the end of the fall semester. The university is a private liberal arts institution about 40 miles from Oklahoma City. It was established in 1875 and is Oklahoma's only Roman Catholic university.

A statement from the university said that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had turned down an application for a loan the college needed to survive. It was not clear why the university was depending on the Agriculture Department, and officials could not be reached.

But in January, The Shawnee News-Star reported that the city of Shawnee had approved a proposal to detach the university from the city. The idea for this move, officials said at the time, was to allow the university to enter into a relationship with the Citizen Potawatomi Nation through which the university had hoped to obtain support from the Agriculture Department.

The latest data from the U.S. Education Department show that the university had an enrollment of 580 undergraduates, 10 percent of whom are Native American. The Benedictine monks who founded the university had a goal of educating both Native Americans and the settlers from the eastern United States who were moving to Oklahoma.

Comments on the university's Facebook page suggest that many alumni had no sense that St. Gregory's was in danger of closing. The president, Michael Scaperlanda, was inaugurated in March.

In a statement, he said, "My heart breaks for the profound disruption in the lives of our wonderful students, staff and faculty" brought about by the end of operations.

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Zenith Education will close all but three of its campuses

Thu, 2017-11-09 08:00

The long wind-down of Corinthian Colleges continued Wednesday with the planned closure of all but three of the remaining campuses that the defunct for-profit chain formerly owned.

The nonprofit Zenith Education Group announced Wednesday that it will halt new student enrollments and teach-out 21 Altierus (formerly Everest) and WyoTech campuses. Zenith said it plans to expand academic offerings at its three remaining campuses, which together enroll 560 students and are located in Houston, Tampa Bay, Fla., and Norcross, Ga.

ECMC Group, the large student loan guarantee agency, created Zenith in 2015, when it spent $24 million for 56 Everest and WyoTech campuses and for online programs. The campuses were on the verge of immediate closure because the struggling Corinthian lacked the cash to withstand sanctions slapped on it by the Obama administration’s Education Department.

Since then Zenith and ECMC have spent more than $500 million to keep the former Corinthian programs running.

Zenith spent the money to help ensure continuity for students as they sought to finish their educations and to create a softer landing for the former Corinthian faculty and staff members, said Jeremy Wheaton, Zenith’s president and CEO since August.

“There’s been a great deal of good done here and a great deal of investment,” he said in an interview. “We absolutely would do this again.”

When Zenith took on the campuses, they collectively enrolled about 33,000 students. Wednesday, the 21 campuses slated for closure enroll 5,400 students. At its peak roughly five years ago, Corinthian institutions enrolled more than 82,000 students, mostly in health care, business, IT and other career programs. The publicly traded company was valued at $3.4 billion, making it one of the largest for-profit chains in the nation.

Before its collapse, Corinthian had been facing a wide range of state and federal investigations, mostly for deceptive advertising and fraud. California last year won a $1.1 billion court judgment against the former company for false and misleading job placement claims, unlawful debt collection, and misrepresenting the transferability of credits to students.

Some advocates complained about the deal the Obama administration brokered with ECMC, arguing that the feds should have instead offered Corinthian’s students a tuition refund or loan disbursement.

But Ted Mitchell, then the under secretary of education and currently president of the American Council on Education, at the time defended the arrangement. He said it averted disastrous consequences, including disruption and displacement for thousands of students.

“Pulling the rug out from under them under any circumstances would be problematic,” Mitchell said of the affected students. “This is a very vulnerable population of learners.”

Full refunds for all students also would have cost taxpayers up to $600 million, the department said.

ECMC instead shouldered the financial burden. Zenith said that it saved federal coffers an estimated $435 million in closed-school discharge payments. ECMC also forgave $480 million in private student debt.

After buying the campuses, ECMC and Zenith immediately began a series of reforms designed to improve academic quality at the former Corinthian institutions and to ensure that the credentials they issued had more value in the job market. Zenith also immediately cut tuition rates by 20 percent. Those changes were funded in part by $21 million from the ECMC Foundation.

The nonprofit overhauled curricula, financial aid policies and marketing strategies. It instituted a more student-friendly admissions process while creating new scholarships and expanding financial counseling and career services for students.

Zenith phased out academic programs with low graduation and job placement rates. And it gave students in some underperforming programs a choice of continuing their education or receiving a full refund of their tuition payments.

However, Zenith decided the business model was not sustainable at most of what was left of Corinthian.

“Over the past few years, it has become evident to us that many of our campuses are located in areas that are geographically inconvenient for underserved students or not built to accommodate the programs that we want and need to offer,” the nonprofit said in a written statement.

Some of the academic programs continued to struggle with an “overhang” of inadequate outcomes from the Corinthian era, Wheaton said. And the market shifted on certain programs, he said, particularly for WyoTech, which focuses on automotive and diesel technology and repair.

Zenith is applying lessons it has learned to the three remaining campuses in Florida, Georgia and Texas.

Wheaton said the career college chain would continue to develop partnerships with local employers and is considering new experiments, such as adding apprenticeship opportunities. He was optimistic about the future of the three remaining campuses, which Zenith hopes to expand. And Wheaton said Zenith would continue to focus on helping underserved student groups.

“It’s a huge need,” he said.

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Scholars plan a nonprofit alternative to ResearchGate

Thu, 2017-11-09 08:00

A nonprofit scholarly networking and publishing platform is being planned as an alternative to for-profit platforms such as ResearchGate and

The platform, called ScholarlyHub, will be member-run, but first its team must raise 500,000 euros ($579,705) to build it.

The project is led by Guy Geltner, a professor of medieval history at the University of Amsterdam, who once was an avid user of, but who said he developed concerns about how his work or metadata collected on him might be used by for-profit companies.

After deciding to leave, Geltner said, he spoke to many others who wished to do the same but felt there was no alternative. “Of course, they had a point -- there was no alternative that was as ambitious as or ResearchGate,” said Geltner. The launch of ScholarlyHub comes at a time when ResearchGate and are in hot water with publishers for allowing researchers to share copyrighted material, with the result that some papers have now been removed from public view at ResearchGate, and the site has updated its terms of service.

ScholarlyHub, as an ambitious alternative to ResearchGate or, is being planned by Geltner and a team of collaborators. After almost two years of work, the website for ScholarlyHub was launched this week, and a fund-raising campaign is due to be launched on the site in the next 10 days.

Geltner says that he and his diverse advisory board have developed plans to make the platform both fun and functional to use, but they need additional funding to complete their vision. If they reach their fund-raising goal, the proposal is that ScholarlyHub will be sustained by an annual membership fee of €25 ($29) -- a price comparable to or lower than what many already pay to belong to scholarly societies, said Geltner.

The fund-raising target is going to be tough to reach, Geltner admits, but there is no firm deadline by which the money must be raised, and he hopes that many will buy in to the project’s vision to “change the status quo” of scholarly networking and research sharing.

April Hathcock, a scholarly communications librarian and lawyer at New York University who is also on the advisory board for ScholarlyHub, agreed that collecting enough money to get the project off the ground will be a big hurdle, but she said she feels optimistic about the project’s chances.

“ScholarlyHub is coming at a great time,” said Hathcock. She said that in the past year or so, publicity around publishers’ legal battles with and ResearchGate and movements to boycott the sites caused some to become more aware of the platforms they use and how those platforms operate. She said she hopes scholars will “put their money where their mouths are” to fund a platform that will “focus on scholarship for the sake of scholarship.”

“I have high hopes for our ability to get involved in this space and stay involved in this space long term,” said Hathcock. As a nonprofit venture, ScholarlyHub would always remain in the control of scholars and not big publishers, like what happened when research management tool Mendeley was bought by Elsevier, said Geltner.

A spokeswoman for ResearchGate, in response to the announcement of the launch of ScholarlyHub, defended ResearchGate's business model, saying that it "serves our members, customers and ourselves because it connects scientists with job opportunities, resources and services they need. This makes our network sustainable and allows us to be there for scientists in the long run."

Barbara Fister, a librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College and a blogger for Inside Higher Ed, said that she supports the idea of a nonprofit platform for academic sharing and networking. Fister said the proposal of a membership fee “suggests seriousness about sustainability,” adding, “it’s also smart that the platform won’t require registration or a membership to view the site or download open-access papers. That would defeat the purpose.”

Wariness of and ResearchGate is probably at the level where people would be willing to pay a small fee for an alternative, said Fister, but a big challenge will be creating the “network effect” -- having enough uptake to make others join “because everyone else is there.”

“There’s a healthy interest in noncommercial scholarly sharing right now,” said Fister. But whether ScholarlyHub will be able to sufficiently distinguish itself from projects like Commons in a Box (the open-source software behind the Humanities Commons) remains to be seen, said Fister. “ScholarlyHub is joining an emerging field of nonprofit alternatives, but which will become big enough to become the place to go -- I don't know. I'm just happy they are popping up to support real change in the ways we share knowledge.”

Daniel Himmelstein, an OA advocate and data scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, said that he supports the idea of creating ScholarlyHub, but it is too early for him to endorse it -- “it’s still too nascent and underdeveloped,” he said. Himmelstein is not a big user of academic social networks, mostly because their interests as for-profit companies are likely to be at odds with his view that scholarly communication should be open and free.

Introducing a subscription cost for ScholarlyHub could be prohibitive to the site’s development, especially early on, said Himmelstein. “Few academics will pay to participate in a service that doesn’t already have a substantial user base,” he said. Himmelstein said he would like to see the site think carefully about ensuring that content placed on the site can be migrated easily to other platforms if necessary. “Will the source code and database be open?” he asked.

To ensure that ScholarlyHub’s content remains open in future, no matter whether the services or providers they lean on continue to exist or not, Himmelstein encouraged the developers to create a decentralized architecture -- a computer network with many control points, and therefore less vulnerability than a centralized architecture.

“There's growing development of decentralized social media tools. For example, Steemit provides a block-chain-based alternative to Medium, and Mastodon is a decentralized Twitter. Were ScholarlyHub to adopt similar technologies, they could lock their network open,” said Himmelstein.

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Graduate student union organizers seek momentum despite political shift

Thu, 2017-11-09 08:00

Advocates for graduate student unionization at private colleges, underway for decades, were hopeful in the early years of the Obama administration that they would reach a breakthrough with a Democrat-appointed National Labor Relations Board.

Despite some setbacks, they eventually made progress with the NLRB -- but it wasn't long before Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential win added to organizers' problems. In September, the U.S. Senate confirmed his second nomination to the NLRB, pushing the five-member board into a Republican majority.

As many colleges and universities have made themselves prominent and outspoken opponents of various Trump administration policies -- such as the rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, various implementations of the travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s revisions to policies regarding sexual assault investigations -- opposition to graduate student unionization could prove to be a common ground for Republicans and college administrations.

The debate around unionization centers on whether graduate students should be recognized as students or employees. Observers thought a major 2016 NLRB ruling regarding Columbia University graduate students’ efforts to unionize would be a catalyst for unionization at private institutions, but the students have yet to win recognition from the university despite a vote in favor of unionization, as extensions and appeals requested by the university have drawn out the case.

Although multiple universities have seen votes for graduate student unionization, New York University remains the only private institution to reach a contract with its graduate student union. And now, as cases remain pending, rulings from the NLRB are likely to be less sympathetic to graduate students in favor of unionizing.

Despite the changing political climate, Olga Brudastova, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia, said that she remains optimistic about the push toward unionization.

“Columbia was hoping our movement would die out by now, but it’s going on even stronger because people feel the urgency of a lot of [other political] issues that are under attack,” said Brudastova, who joined a protest at Columbia Wednesday. Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern University and Harvard University also saw demonstrations as part of an organized effort to petition their respective campuses for union recognition.

“I really don’t think it is possible, it’s not feasible” to lose momentum, Brudastova said, citing additional votes in favor of unionization at Tufts University and the University of Chicago over the past year. “The movement is not of the size that can be neglected at this point.”

Jocelyn Fuentes, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard who participated in a protest Wednesday, also expressed confidence in the Harvard unionization movement. Harvard officials did not respond to a request for comment, though the university and its graduate student organizers are disputing the results and voter rolls related to an election held in 2016 where the unionization effort was defeated.

The election of Trump “means we might have to work harder,” she said. “But I don’t think we’ve lost any momentum this semester.”

Still, union organizers appear to have hit a snag, timing-wise. A major inspiration for unionization efforts at Columbia, Brudastova said, was when NYU voluntarily recognized its graduate student union in 2013. In midterm elections the next year, Democrats lost their majority the Senate after Republicans had already worked to block and delay Obama’s NLRB appointments. Though the 2016 ruling was a bright spot, 2017 looks rough for organizers if universities and unions don’t reach agreements outside the NLRB.

In a statement, Columbia University reaffirmed its position that graduate students’ relationship to the university is of the student-university sort, rather than employee and employer.

“The daily activities and the adviser-advisee relationships involved in scholarly training define an experience very different from that of the typical workplace,” the statement read. “Involving a nonacademic third party in this training poses a substantial and perhaps unavoidable risk to the university’s core function of producing world-class scholars.”

Boston College took a similar approach.

“Our position remains that our graduate students are best characterized as students -- not employees -- and that the collegial relationship that exists between our faculty and students would be irreparably altered through graduate student unionization,” spokesman Jack Dunn said via email.

In addition, Dunn said that Boston College’s status as a faith-based institution should make it exempt from the jurisdiction of the NLRB. Labor law does give certain exemptions to religious institutions, but the NLRB under the Obama administration opened the way for unions at religious universities, provided there was a clear separation of issues for collective bargaining from issues of theology.

Writing to Harvard, Boston College and Columbia Wednesday, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders -- who during the 2016 presidential campaign often tried to engage with unionization efforts during stops at college campuses -- sided with the students' efforts.

“To appeal this decision to an antiworker, Trump-appointed National Relations Labor Board [sic] is not something that a world-class institution of higher learning should do,” the letters read.

The alignment of the Trump administration and universities on the unionization issue, and the juxtaposition that created after colleges had become outspoken against Trump, was not lost on students, either.

“It’s not particularly surprising that [Harvard is] aligning with Trump on this issue, but it is disappointing, given they have, in various public statements, said how much they’ll oppose the Trump administration,” Fuentes said. “I find it disappointing as a grad worker that they would use the Trump administration to weaken labor rights.”

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City Colleges of Chicago faces scrutiny over completion rate gains

Wed, 2017-11-08 08:00

City Colleges of Chicago has received a heaping of praise in the last few years for dramatically improving single-digit graduation rates.

But a new report is calling into question just how the system of seven two-year institutions has increased degree completions, alleging it softened standards and manipulated data in the pursuit of better graduation rates.

According to the report from the Better Government Association, an Illinois-based nonpartisan watchdog group, “Since 2010, City Colleges has watered down its curriculum, violated its own rules on what constitutes a degree, changed the way it counts statistics and bestowed thousands of degrees -- sometimes in multiples to the same person -- to current and former students who in many cases neither requested nor wanted them.”

Critics of City Colleges’ completion push see the system as having altered policy and created initiatives simply to improve its metrics and image.

The report criticized Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for proclaiming “in frequent appearances across the nation that the City Colleges’ overhaul is a trend-bucking higher education success story.”

The system and its defenders, however, say the policy and curriculum changes the system made as part of a “reinvention” it began seven years ago met all accreditation standards and have helped improve the quality of academic programs.

Despite the criticism behind how City Colleges has operated, the report said, “There is no debate over whether graduation rates and completion numbers are up -- they are.”

“Today, students are graduating and completing at more than double the rate prior to the launch of City Colleges’ reform efforts,” City Colleges Chancellor Juan Salgado said in a written statement. “We will continue to build upon national best practices to reduce barriers for students and increase the value of City Colleges credentials so that even more students reach their transfer and career goal.”

The report criticized City Colleges for awarding multiple degrees to past and current students. From 2010, when former Chancellor Cheryl Hyman arrived, to 2016, City Colleges’ federal graduation rate increased from 7 percent to 17 percent. Hyman left the system last year following a faculty vote of no confidence and was replaced by Salgado.

The report found that hundreds of degrees were retroactively awarded to students, often without the students’ consent.

The college contends that the report’s take on how City Colleges counts degrees is both misleading and inaccurate. The colleges only count the highest credential a student receives toward the federal graduation rate and a student is only counted once in the graduation rate, according to a statement from City Colleges.

“Even if one were to remove the subsequent degrees, City Colleges still more than doubled the number of degrees awarded annually since the launch of its reforms,” according to the college.

Retroactively awarding degrees isn’t too different from awarding reverse transfer degrees and is a common practice in higher education, said Davis Jenkins, senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College, adding that with reverse transfer, the focus is on awarding associate degrees to students who’ve transitioned to a university, while City Colleges’ practice was to award them to students who enrolled, achieved the credits and got nothing. (Jenkins served as an unpaid adviser to Hyman and City Colleges on many of the reforms criticized in the report.)

“Are we going to let students who earned a degree not get a degree because we didn’t track them?” he said. “Even without those auto-awards, they still more than doubled these degrees.”

Jenkins said the colleges didn’t only retroactively award degrees but spent several years hiring more advisers, establishing better tracking systems and mapping academic programs with input from universities and Chicago-area employers.

“This was first and foremost about quality, relevance and then helping students get through rather than spending years wallowing around taking general education courses that don’t add up to a degree,” he said.

The report highlights that City Colleges in particular increased the awarding of associate degrees in general studies, which according to the college’s handbook is “intended for the student who is not pursuing a specified curriculum in the lower-division transfer or professional-technical focus areas.” For instance, the report found that, in 2014, nearly one-third of all degrees awarded by City Colleges were in general studies, which is a much larger share than other community colleges in Illinois awarded. The number of credit hours required for the associate in arts and the associate in science degrees also were dropped to the minimum allowed by the Illinois Community College Board.

“It was obvious City Colleges was using [associate degrees in general studies] to ramp up their numbers, and it’s not really benefiting our students,” said Tony Johnston, president of City Colleges’ faculty union.

The report connects City Colleges’ pursuit of better completion numbers with the controversial “reinvention” initiative. The program includes a laundry list of reforms, including hiring more advisers, creating guided pathways to credentials and narrowing campus offerings so they link to specific industries. It took off before City Colleges set up a new “flat rate” payment structure that made tuition less expensive the more credits a student carried.

“There’s no doubt that the reinvention agenda went lockstep with the completion movement we’ve seen throughout the United States,” Johnston said. “Faculty and staff are still very adamant that there are parts of reinvention that need to be changed and rolled back, including the tuition schedule, consolidation and also the excitement that this administration has for dual credit, which we find disturbing because it has the potential to outsource our work.”

Despite the initiative’s unpopularity among faculty members, the system plans to continue it.

“Reinvention was my predecessor’s effort to deal with a dismal [federal] graduation rate of 7 percent and the terrible reality that our students’ degrees were not valued by employers,” said Salgado. “That effort resulted in real outcomes for students and has given me a foundation from which to chart a new course.”

Despite also having a problem with many of City Colleges’ reforms, the faculty union disagreed with the report about the idea that the curriculum has been “watered down.”

“Our faculty did not agree with that,” Johnston said. “All of our faculty are proud of the work they do in the classroom, and they know the reinvention policies have not, thankfully, impacted what goes on in the classroom … but it has made it much more difficult for our students to get the education they deserve.”

Jenkins said there isn’t any evidence that operations at City Colleges were better before the changes that the reinvention initiative brought and that the evidence shows the rates are up even without counting the retroactive degrees.

“Completion shouldn’t be about just pushing students through,” Jenkins said. “I’m sure there are places like that, but the work in Chicago and the movement nationally is to first of all look at the programs and say, ‘Are they leading somewhere?’”

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Study finds male Ph.D. candidates submit and publish papers at significantly higher rates than female peers on the same campus

Wed, 2017-11-08 08:00

Numerous studies have found that men in the sciences publish at higher rates than women. But the designs of some of those studies make it difficult to isolate the possible origins of that gap. Women are less likely than men to attend prestigious doctoral programs, complicating any study of gendered publication rates among researchers with different educational backgrounds, for example, as journals favor prestige.

A new study sought to level the contributing factor field, as it were, by considering researchers -- Ph.D. candidates -- in the same academic stage at the same institution. The authors wanted to know, specifically, how the number of scholarly works submitted for publication, first authored and published, differed between male and female students. They also asked how those differences varied by field, both within and outside the sciences.

The authors found that men submitted and published substantially more scholarly works than their female peers. That pattern occurred in both the male-dominated engineering and physical sciences, they note, as well as the more gender-balanced natural and biological sciences and even in the sometimes female-dominated humanities and creative arts and social sciences and applied health fields.

As for why, the study offers some clues: men rated their relationships with their advisers, career preparation and faculty support for research more highly than did their female peers. Those findings align with previous research suggesting that male Ph.D. students tend to receive more research mentoring from their advisers in science and other fields, the study says. Beyond that, research assistantships were also a strong predictor of publication submissions.

Yet the disparity remains largely unexplained. Possible factors meriting future study including greater teaching responsibilities for women and career goal differences between men and women, lead author Sarah Theule Lubienski, a professor of math education at Indiana University, said Tuesday.

“Universities should take stock of patterns on their own campus, including their female doctoral students’ research mentoring and productivity, as well as whether females are disproportionately serving as teaching assistants,” she said. “Universities should reward faculty for high-quality mentoring, including publishing with female students and others underrepresented in academia.”

Lubienski said individual faculty members have a role to play, as well, by monitoring the culture or climate in their labs, modeling authorship negotiation strategies, and encouraging women to submit their work for publication. “They should also be sensitive to parenting responsibilities that students may have and provide the flexibility needed to balance researcher and parenting roles,” she said.


“Disturbing” is what Lubienski called her results over all, with men and women in the same career stage in the same fields within the same institution authoring “strikingly different numbers of publications during their doctoral programs.” Citing her findings in the engineering and physical sciences group in particular, Lubienski said that men reported submitting 7.2 articles during their Ph.D. programs, compared to 5.5 articles for women. Men first authored and published more articles than their female counterparts, too. Those differences tended to be largest in the STEM fields but were also significant in the humanities and arts, as well.

The study, published recently in Education Researcher, is based on 1,285 responses to an original survey of advance science students from one unnamed Big Ten institution. The survey asked about students’ level of satisfaction with their programs and the number of research articles, chapters and other scholarly works submitted during their studies. Some 90 Ph.D. programs on the unnamed campus are divided into five disciplinary groups, mentioned above and again here: engineering and physical sciences; natural and biological sciences; humanities and creative arts; social sciences and applied health; and education and professional programs.

On average, across disciplines, men submitted an average of 5.9 manuscripts for publication (3.7 as first or solo author), versus women’s 3.7 publications submitted (2.2 as first or solo author). The number of submissions published or accepted also differed significantly: 4.9 for men and 2.9 for women. The starkest differences were seen in engineering and physical sciences and in the natural and biological sciences. Figures for the latter are 5.3 submissions for men and 3.8 for women. But significant gaps were observed in most fields. The one exception was education and professional programs, in which no significant gender differences were observed.

Source: Sarah Theule Lubienski

Wherefore the Gap?

Men tended to report slightly higher satisfaction with aspects of their Ph.D. programs, according to the study. These differences were slightly larger in some STEM fields and were significant predictors of publication submissions in later analyses. Men were slightly more likely to report being having been a research assistant at some point (85 percent versus 80 percent). Women, meanwhile, were more likely than men to report having served as a teaching assistant (82 percent versus 76 percent) and report that teaching responsibilities may have impeded their success. Advanced analysis revealed that research assistantships were strong positive predictor of publication submissions, with research assistants submitting 70 percent more manuscripts than those with no such experience.

A subsample of students were asked about faculty support for their research and chosen career paths. Men in that group were more likely than women to report that faculty members encouraged them to publish. Women were as likely as men to say that professors supported them in their chosen career paths.

Women in the subgroup were also more likely than men to say that family obligations, work or financial commitments, faculty availability, or (to a lesser degree) biased program climate negatively impacted their research progress.

Men’s and women’s stated primary career goals also differed in a subsample of survey respondents. Significantly more men than women hoped to obtain a research-intensive faculty position (34 percent versus 25 percent) or a private-sector position (27 percent versus 12 percent).

“Hence,” the paper says, “perhaps men in this study pursued more publication opportunities because they prioritized jobs that require a strong research record. On the other hand, given that career goals were reported after doctoral program completion, men’s stronger publication records might have contributed to sex differences in reported career goals.”

Lubienski co-wrote the study with Emily K. Miller, an assistant professor of math at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, and Evthokia Stephanie Saclarides, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Despite the many variables they considered, the authors say that the sources of the gap remain mysterious and further research is needed. More sensitive variables are needed to detect the most relevant forms of doctoral program bias against women, they say, and perhaps more program-specific analysis. The authors also note their study is limited by small sample size and one of its design virtues: that it considers students from only one university.

However, the study says, “it could also be that factors that go beyond faculty bias and traditional program supports should be considered, particularly given that publication disparities were substantial even in fields with gender parity.” It’s possible, for example, that that men may be more forceful in negotiating authorship -- or that men are more confident in their abilities and therefore more willing to submit their work for publication (though there are reasons that the latter may not be the case, according to the paper).

The women in this study “may have viewed publications as less essential for their future careers than the men,” Lubienski, Miller and Saclarides add.

Regardless of the cause, though, “concerns remain about long-term disadvantages women face if they publish less than their male peers,” they say.

Don’t Rule Out Gender Bias

A growing body of research -- contested by some -- suggests that gender bias in STEM is receding (and even reversed in terms of hiring), and that the faculty gender gap may be mostly about women’s professional choices. Laura L. Hoopes, professor emeritus of biology at Pomona College, is among those who have warned against looking too deeply into such findings -- or deeply enough to conclude that gender bias no longer exists in the sciences.

Hoopes on Tuesday called the new study “a valuable contribution to our knowledge of gender differences in academic field preparation.” Publications matter in hiring decisions, she said, and later matter in terms of “invitations to speak at departments and societies and in selection of nominees for awards, both areas in which women in science lag behind men.” She said Lubienski and her colleagues are right in suggesting that child-care issues are not the only important factor in holding women back in the sciences, but rather one variable among others. Hoopes also found it interesting that major variables remain unknown. A 2010 report from the American Association of University Women discussed other possibilities, she said, including "stereotype threat," impostor syndrome and, in Hoopes’s words, not "seeing publication as something you grow into, as opposed to something men are somehow born to do."

Citing a 2012 study that found subtle gender biases among faculty members hiring for a lab manager, Hoopes said she imagined that men serving more frequently as research assistants versus teaching assistants resulted at least in part from differential mentoring. During her own time as a graduate student, she said, “the men in the lab met with my adviser weekly, I only when I requested a meeting. He suggested that they go to meetings and write papers, but poured cold water on my suggestions along those lines.”

Today, Hoopes said, young women “seem to think sexism is over and don’t tend to see it even when it’s there unless it affects them personally in an unmistakable way. Later, when they are late assistant or early associate professors, they see it much more clearly.”

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Syllabus bars Duke newspaper staffers from course

Wed, 2017-11-08 08:00

For Duke University students interested in learning about hedge funds and the economic forces that drive them, Economics 381S -- Inside Hedge Funds, taught by Linsey Lebowitz Hughes, a lecturing fellow of economics -- is probably a good place to start.

There’s just one small catch, found six bullet points down on the front page of the course syllabus.

“Anyone who is on the staff of The Chronicle is not permitted to take this class.”

Upon coming across this stipulation, staffers at The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper, naturally wrote an article about it. Economics department officials have remained tight-lipped since. In full, the bullet point barring student journalists from the class reads as follows (emphasis original):

Audio recordings of this class are not permitted and students will be asked to keep the information shared by some of our guest speakers confidential. Anyone who is on the staff of The Chronicle is not permitted to take this class. Please honor this in order that we can continue to get high-quality visitors & information.

The university has said that there’s no indication the stipulation has ever been enforced -- although there would be no record of students declining to take a course after seeing the syllabus. The stipulation has since been removed from the syllabus, but its discovery caused concern and outcry from student-media advocates at Duke and elsewhere nonetheless.

Taking a cue from Hughes's apparent playbook for dealing with journalists, Emma Raisel, the associate chair of the economics department, and Connell Fullenkamp, the director of undergraduate studies for the department, referred Inside Higher Ed to university spokesman Michael Schoenfeld when asked for comment. Hughes did not respond to a request for comment.

Other than to say he was happy that, according to his understanding, a Chronicle staffer has never been denied a place in the class, economics department chair Craig Burnside also referred comment to Schoenfeld.

“I’ve been in student media for a very long time now,” said Chrissy Beck, general manager for The Chronicle since 2008. “I just don’t remember anything like this ever coming up.”

In an email, Schoenfeld said that the syllabus’s phrasing was a “clumsy way of saying that guest speakers should be considered off the record so that they could be candid in their conversations with students.” Of course, the phrase “off the record” never appears in the syllabus guidelines, and, per the syllabus’s guidelines, student journalists from other outlets aren’t explicitly barred from taking the course.

Scott McCartney, chair of the Duke Student Publishing Company, called the stipulation "absurd," especially since student journalists would be more familiar with the difference between off-the-record and on-the-record interactions than most students. He added that there are plenty of instances when other students might have a conflict taking the class, but the syllabus doesn't address them specifically.

"I thought [the policy] was appalling. These kids are first and foremost students," he said. "The notion that you would not trust those students, but you would trust other students who are on social media constantly, or have parents who are traders -- there's a million financial connections people could have."

Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, said in an email that a ban on journalists taking a class doesn’t make sense, given the general public’s ability to post to the internet via blogs or social media. Hughes’s policy of secrecy also raises questions of the content she and the speakers are delivering, LoMonte said.

“It's really a civically toxic notion that honest conversations can happen only behind closed doors,” he said. “If speakers are saying things they don't think can withstand the light of public scrutiny, that's probably a pretty good signal that they're saying something indefensible. There are plenty of high-quality speakers who won't impose such antiquated conditions, and those are the speakers that colleges should be rewarding and showcasing.”

Enrolling in the course requires permission from the instructor, and Beck said she worried if, over the years, anyone on the Chronicle staff had been denied because of their affiliation with the paper. Schoenfeld said that there was no indication that portion of the syllabus had ever been enforced, although archived versions of the fall 2014 and fall 2015 syllabi include the same stipulations.

“No one was, or ever will be, barred from enrolling in any class because they are affiliated with The Duke Chronicle or any other student organization,” Schoenfeld said.

Beck credited the paper’s coverage as a catalyst to change the policy, even if it appears it was never enforced.

In fairness to Hughes, hedge fund managers and those affiliated with them should probably be wary of journalists. Between the Panama Papers and, more recently, the Paradise Papers document leaks, journalists have made a point of holding hedge funds and other members of the international finance industry accountable for helping the ultrawealthy evade taxes by hiding money through shell companies and in tax havens.

This is, presumably, rather annoying for hedge fund managers.

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House committee takes up anti-Semitism on college campuses

Wed, 2017-11-08 08:00

College campuses nationwide have seen an escalating number of anti-Semitic incidents over the past several years, but academics, experts and politicians remain divided on how to combat them.

At a hearing of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Tuesday, some panelists depicted the Education Department as floundering without a definition with which to consider cases of harassment toward Jewish students.

While the Education Department is charged with examining claims of harassment under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it lacks any formal description of anti-Semitism, which can complicate an investigation, panelists said.

Conversation Tuesday largely centered on a bill, first introduced last year, to change that.

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act would instruct the Education Department to rely on the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. The proposal generated bitter debate, with some of its opponents claiming it would chill free speech at universities. In part, this is because the State Department’s definition includes demonizing Israel as an example of anti-Semitism, and opponents felt that this would suppress opposition to the actions of the Israeli state among both students and professors.

The bill passed the Senate but not the House last year.

At least two panelists floated the idea that faculty members who teach lessons critical of Israel could be construed to be spouting hate speech, for instance.

But advocacy group representatives on the panel, such as those from the Anti-Defamation League, characterized the troubles for Jewish students as reaching a disaster level, and they implored lawmakers to step in.

“We need your help,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Generally, there has been a jump in anti-Semitism nationwide this year. The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks such bigotry across the country, has documented almost 1,300 anti-Semitic incidents from January through the end of September. The group did not specify the number that occurred on college campuses.

But anecdotally, anti-Semitism has intruded on college campuses more frequently over the past year.

Perhaps most prominent was a white supremacist rally on the University of Virginia campus in August, where members of various white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups circled the campus wielding torches and chanting, “Jews will not replace us.”

During the hearing, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, played a clip of the march on her phone from the dais, to illustrate her “horror” at these types of incidents and the need for a fix. She said she could only imagine how the students on the campus that night felt looking at the spectacle.

And on the other side of the country, at San Francisco State University, Jewish students sued in June, alleging that the institution and the Board of Trustees who oversee the California State University system left them vulnerable and perpetuated anti-Semitism.

Jewish students said San Francisco State administrators never intervened when students were harassed and bullied and that they felt fearful, to the point they wouldn’t wear symbols that identified their religious affiliation and avoided certain campus routes.

The federal lawsuit was referenced during the hearing by Sandra Hagee Parker, chairwoman of the Christians United for Israel Action Fund. She cited incidents at other institutions -- rocks being hurled at Jewish students at the University of New Mexico, a George Mason University student wearing a pro-Israel shirt being called “a baby killer” in the middle of the cafeteria.

“Sadly, history has already clearly shown us what happens when good men and women do nothing in the face of such evil. Not to act is to act,” Parker said.

Professors on the panel, among others, said the portrayals of campuses in crisis were false, and that the legislation would contradict free speech principles on campus.

Suzanne Nossel of PEN America called the definition overly broad and inappropriate for a college campus. She said any policy that treated criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic was a mistake.

“It is undeniable that some anti-Israel sentiment is fueled by hostility toward Jews. But to declare, ipso facto, that any speech that blames Israel for regional tensions or subjects Israel to a higher standard of behavior constitutes anti-Semitism risks chilling a wide range of speech,” she said in her testimony.

To counter, some on the panel said that the State Department definition had been adapted from one used worldwide, specifically by an agency of the European Union.

If passed, the legislation could lead other minority groups, such as black or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women, to demand similar flawed blanket protections, Nossel said.

Paul Clement, solicitor general under President George W. Bush, now a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, said that the bill wouldn’t run afoul of First Amendment principles. Simple criticisms of Israel wouldn’t rise to the harassment level, he said, but the legislation would give the Education Department rules with which to investigate discrimination against Jews, and use the speech as evidence in such a case.

A definition could be developed by adjudicating these types of cases, but the Education Department has not opened any Title VI cases related to anti-Semitism, panelists said -- so Congress should intervene, according to Clement.

President Trump’s pick to lead the Office for Civil Rights, Kenneth Marcus, who also worked for the George W. Bush administration, has vehemently advocated for the legislation.

Marcus leads the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a Jewish advocacy group. He has been particularly critical of the anti-Israeli movement known as boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS.

In a Politico column, Marcus called the Office for Civil Rights “powerless” in handling cases related to anti-Semitism.

“The 115th Congress should take action on this legislation immediately and give the new secretary of education the tools necessary to stamp out this ugly blight of campus anti-Semitism,” he wrote in January.

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Roundup of colleges starting or finishing fund-raising campaigns

Wed, 2017-11-08 08:00

Starting Off

  • Hampton University has launched a campaign seeking to raise $150 million. A major emphasis -- with a $50 million goal -- will be scholarships. The university has already raised $118 million.
  • Ohio Wesleyan University has launched a campaign to raise $200 million by 2021. The university raised $140 million in the quiet phase of its campaign.
  • Tufts University is starting a campaign to raise $1.5 billion by 2023. The university has already raised $566 million. Three "core areas" have been identified for fund-raising, with one of them being "transformative experiences that enable personal and intellectual growth."
  • University of California, San Francisco, is starting a campaign to raise $5 billion. UCSF has already raised $3 billion. The $5 billion target is tied with a campaign started last year by the University of Washington as the largest campaign of any public university.
  • University of Detroit Mercy has announced a campaign to raise $100 million, having already raised $78.5 million.
  • Youngstown State University has announced a campaign to raise $100 million. The university has already raised $51.7 million.

Raising the Goal

  • Indiana University has raised the goal of its campaign, launched in 2015, from $2.5 billion to $3 billion. The end point remains 2020, but six months later than the original goal. The campaign has already raised $2 billion.

Finishing Up

  • Northeastern University has announced the completion of a campaign that raised $1.4 billion. That total exceeds two goals that were set for the campaign: $1 billion when the campaign was launched in 2013, and a new $1.25 billion target set two years ago.
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Grad students and policy experts say taxing graduate students' tuition waivers would spell disaster

Tue, 2017-11-07 08:00

House Republicans say their tax bill will stimulate the economy by increasing the take-home pay of workers across income levels. So many graduate students were stunned to learn that instead of increasing their already meager stipend checks, the bill seeks to tax their waived tuition as income. The results of such a change, many graduate students and higher education experts say, would be devastating not only to graduate students’ day-to-day finances but to research and teaching across academe.

“Never once did I think our tuition waivers would be at risk,” said Mary Grace Hébert, a Ph.D. candidate in communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “I knew there would be changes in terms of corporate taxes and individual taxes, but I did not realize they’d be pulling from graduate employees to fund those cuts, and I’m disappointed they chose to do that.”

Hébert, a Louisiana native whose husband is also an out-of-state graduate student at Illinois, said she ran some numbers and found that she’d lose about 25 to 30 percent of her $17,000 stipend under the plan. She never sees the tuition dollars that are waived, of course, so she’d have to pay taxes on them with the stipend checks she receives for her nine-month appointment as a teaching assistant.

She likened it to “taxing a coupon.”

“Because of withholding, this means that I’d actually lose paychecks -- that for a couple months out of the year there would be no pay whatsoever,” Hébert said. “That would push us to the poverty line … I don’t know what we’re going to do. Ask our parents for money? Take out loans? Save money by going to food banks?”

The tax plan would apply to graduate tuition at private and public institutions alike, both U.S. and international students.

Olga Brudastova, a Russian national, is working toward her Ph.D. in engineering at Columbia University. She said the effect of taxing tuition at private campuses such as hers, where tuition is upwards of $40,000 per year, “would be devastating. My taxable income would more than double.”

The GOP tax plan is the first major attempt at a federal tax code overhaul in decades, and the political stakes are high. Republicans want a legislative win after months of flops, most notably failed health care bills. But Brudastova and others say targeting tuition waivers is unfair and unwise.

“This exemption has existed for many years, enabling graduate students to afford to pursue a Ph.D. while providing high-quality education and research,” Brudastova said. “It's outrageous that Trump and his supporters in Congress want to eliminate this under the guise of a false tax cut.”

Hébert, at Illinois, said she thought the plan communicated a serious misunderstanding of what tuition waivers are. Rather than gifts to graduate students, she said, they’re an acknowledgment of the valuable teaching and research graduate students do while they’re on campus. Hébert, for example, works 20 hours per week teaching, grading and preparing course work for undergraduates.

The American Council on Education expressed similar concerns in a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee Monday, saying that the bill, “taken in its entirety, would discourage participation in postsecondary education, make college more expensive for those who do enroll and undermine the financial stability of public and private, two-year and four-year colleges and universities.” Citing the House committee’s own estimate that the bill would cost college students some $65 billion between 2018 and 2027, ACE wrote, “This is not in America’s national interest.”

Of the taxable tuition waiver proposal in particular, ACE said that 145,000 graduate students received a tuition reduction in 2011-12, the most recent year for which such data were available. More than half (57 percent) of waiver recipients were graduate students in science, technology, engineering and math programs. “Repeal of this provision would result in thousands of graduate students being subjected to a major tax increase,” it said. “The provision is also critical to the research endeavor at major universities, particularly in the crucial [STEM] fields."

Craig Lindwarm, director of congressional and governmental affairs at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said in an interview Monday that the bill was dangerous to the research and teaching enterprise in general, and to graduate students in particular not only because of the tuition waiver proposal but also the repeal of the Lifetime Learning Credit. Currently, the credit can be used annually for up to $2,000 to pay for tuition or related expenses in excess of $10,000. The plan would eliminate the benefit, ostensibly simplifying the tax code via a proposed fifth year add-on to the now four-year American Opportunity Tax Credit (the value of the fifth-year benefit would be halved, however). But Lindwarm pointed out that “simplification is often used as a friendlier word for elimination.”

Unlike many graduate students, Lindwarm said he wasn’t surprised by the taxable tuition proposal, since it has been pitched before. But he said the new plan would have an “immediate and deeply troubling impact” on graduate students.

“There’s a need for both institutions and students to quickly, effectively communicate their concerns about this to policy makers,” he said.

Hébert and other graduate students plan to contact their members of Congress with their concerns. They’re also using social media to speak out against the plan. The National Association of Graduate and Professional Students, for example, is helping organize against the tuition waiver provision on Twitter using the hashtag #ReworktheReform.

Unions with which graduate students are affiliated, including the American Federation of Teachers, have spoken out against the bill as well. Randi Weingarten, AFT president, said in a statement Monday that by allowing graduate students to deduct the value of their tuition benefits, the current tax code "recognizes the value of their labor." If that is reversed, "graduate education -- the jewel in the crown of American higher education, drawing students from all around the world -- would be totally unaffordable. This tax plan is a plan to end U.S. leadership in higher education. It’s not going to make America great; it’s going to take America backward."

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'Inclusive access' takes off as model for college textbook sales

Tue, 2017-11-07 08:00

Major education publishers -- including Pearson, Cengage and McGraw-Hill Education -- report that the number of colleges offering "inclusive-access" programs has grown rapidly in recent years. Where previously students might have been assigned textbooks individually, now many institutions are signing up whole classes of students to automatically receive digital course materials at a discounted rate, rather than purchasing individually. The "inclusive" aspect of the model means that every student has the same materials on the first day of class, with the charge included as part of their tuition.

For publishers with struggling print businesses, the inclusive-access model is a lifeline. Tim Peyton, vice president of strategic partnerships at Pearson, said it was no secret that publishers like Pearson had made textbooks too expensive and had seen sales drop as a result. “The print model is really a broken business model for us,” he said, adding, “we’re thinking about how to move away from print, and move towards digital.”

Pearson’s inclusive-access business is growing quickly, said Peyton. “Since the beginning of 2016, which is when we launched a repeatable and scalable model around inclusive access, we’ve signed agreements with over 200 institutions,” he said.

Scott Virkler, chief product officer at McGraw-Hill Education, said that the publisher had also seen “significant growth” in inclusive access, with its customer base doubling in the last year. Lori Hales, senior vice president of institutional partnerships at Cengage, said that Cengage, too, has seen rapid expansion in this space. The publisher currently works with more than 275 institutions and expects its revenue from inclusive access to double this fiscal year, said Hales.

The growth is not only due to new institutions trying inclusive access, but institutions that already offer inclusive access expanding it to more courses, said Hales. Typically, an institution will start with a pilot in one or two courses before scaling up, she explained. Hales said that at Cengage, which has been offering inclusive access for around four years, they are now starting to see some institutions going “all in” on the model, and more “seriously considering” the same.

A Win for Publishers, Discounts for Students

The inclusive-access explosion appears to have been precipitated by a 2015 Department of Education regulation, which enabled institutions to include books and supplies in their tuition or fees. Now instead of buying textbooks with credit cards or cash, students can be automatically charged for course materials by the institution when they enroll. To do this, institutions must give students the option to opt out, and they must have deals with publishers to ensure materials are “available to students below competitive market rates.”

Publishers can offer discounts of up to around 70 percent with inclusive access because their customer share is increasing, explained Peyton. Publishers previously lost a lot of revenue from textbooks because many students bought secondhand, rented, pirated or just skipped buying textbooks altogether. Inclusive-access programs have changed that. Now whole classes are automatically signed up and charged when they enroll in a class, with a typical opt-out period of around two weeks. “In these models, the institution charges every student that enrolls -- that uptick in volume allows us to lower the price,” said Peyton.

Publishers have moved quickly to diversify their inclusive-access offerings in the past few years. All offer digital versions of textbooks, which are often integrated into learning management systems through partner companies such as Redshelf or VitalSource. In addition, many publishers are also building new digital course materials from scratch and using their own proprietary platforms to distribute them. With enhanced features, however, come enhanced prices. While these materials are still cheaper than the retail price of equivalent print textbooks, the savings are much less impressive than for typical etextbooks.

The Lure for Institutions

Inclusive access is a simple way for institutions to bring down the cost of college attendance, said Anastacia Morrone, professor of educational philosophy and dean of information technology at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. She said that her institution, which has inclusive-access agreements with more than 25 publishers, had saved students more than $2 million this semester alone. Morrone said this figure was calculated by taking the retail price of a textbook, subtracting the cost that students paid for the equivalent etextbook and then dividing the cost saving in half to account for the fact that many students would not have bought the book new.

Many other institutions with established inclusive-access programs, such as the University of California, Davis, also say that they have saved students millions of dollars, offering average savings of 50 to 70 percent off print retail price of equivalent materials.

For faculty members, a key selling point of the inclusive-access model is that students have all the materials they need ready on the first day of class. Robin Anderson, a lecturer in child and family studies at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, said she was a fan of the inclusive-access model and used it in all her classes. She took part in a pilot two years ago and said that it wasn’t difficult to adjust for her or her students. Students like the convenience of the system, said Anderson, and all have access to the most up-to-date content, instead of some students having different editions of the same textbook.

A key difference between inclusive access and buying print textbooks is that students effectively lease the content for the duration of their course, rather than owning the material. If students want to download the content to access it beyond the duration of their course, there is often an additional fee. This model also means that students typically only have access to the material where there is Wi-Fi access, which can occasionally cause problems, such as students not being able to complete assigned in-course assessments or reading. Anderson said that problems like this were rare, though.

The Role of Campus Stores

Campus stores are often the ones driving inclusive-access initiatives, as they receive a cut of the sales. While the profit margins are smaller than for print, inclusive access means that the stores receive revenue from a larger number of customers. Donovan Garcia, course materials manager at the University of Mary Washington, said that lower margins were also mitigated by lower overheads. “We’re not purchasing books, we’re not paying shipping, we’re not having to put any time or effort into returning unused books or paying restocking fees,” said Garcia.

Garcia said that he felt inclusive access was a good deal for students. The institution works primarily with Pearson as its inclusive-access provider, as “they have the titles that we thought would work for us,” said Garcia. Typical discounts are 60 percent off print price, he said. The inclusive-access materials for one psychology course cost $86, versus $245 for the bundled print package sold previously. Garcia said that currently five courses are offering inclusive access, but the institution is looking to expand and is inviting interested faculty to discuss whether the option would work for them.

Shirley Streeter, assistant director of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s campus store, Volshop, said typical savings at her institution were around 40-45 percent across 105 courses. Knoxville does not yet have any statistics on whether inclusive access has improved student learning outcomes, but Streeter said anecdotally that faculty members felt that students having materials on the first day of class helped them to progress faster. She added that in-house surveys indicated that students like the program, and that almost all instructors who piloted inclusive access decided to stick with it.

A spokesperson for the National Association of College Stores said that stores are often best placed in the institution to lead inclusive-access programs because they have established relationships with faculty, publishers and students. The association shared the results of a soon-to-be-published survey of independent college stores, which found that 23 percent of these stores had inclusive-access programs in place for the 2017-18 academic year, and another 32 percent said they were considering it.

Mike Hale, the vice president of education in North America for VitalSource, and Tim Haitaian, the CFO and co-founder of Redshelf, both said that they had seen many more college stores introducing inclusive access in recent years, both noting, however, that they had seen greater growth at independent -- rather than leased -- college stores. Patrick Maloney, president of Barnes and Noble College, said that many leased stores were offering inclusive access through Barnes and Noble College's program First Day. He said that the number of campuses using First Day had doubled since last year, but did not indicate how many campuses this represents.

Inclusive or Exclusive?

Though inclusive access is becoming popular, there are some who criticize the model. Nicole Allen, director of open education for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, said that she feels the term “inclusive access” is a misnomer. “It’s the opposite of inclusive, because it is premised on publishers controlling when, where and for how long students have access to their materials, and denying access unless they pay for it,” she said.

Though inclusive access ostensibly solves a crisis created by too-expensive textbooks, Allen said the model replicates many of the same structures that led to high prices in the first place, with little real price competition between vendors. She also questioned whether the savings presented by publishers were genuine, since few students buy books new, and those who do often resell them.

An alternative to inclusive access is open educational resources, which Allen's organization, SPARC, supports. OER has also seen a “tremendous increase” in popularity over the last few years, said Allen. Unlike inclusive access options, OER is completely free. OER texts can also be downloaded, edited and adapted by instructors in the way that best suits their teaching approach, as there are no copyright restrictions on the materials.

Unrestricted Choices

Rajiv Jhangiani, university teaching fellow at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia and open education adviser at BCcampus, an OER initiative in Canada, said that he had concerns that inclusive access limits students’ choice. He said that many students still prefer using print over digital materials when they are offered at the same price. With OER content, institutions are free to adapt and share content without the need to obtain permissions, and print copies can be made cheaply and without restriction, said Jhangiani. In one of Jhangiani's psychology courses, for example, students can have a professionally bound 400-page copy of their OER course materials made for just $13, while the rest of the online content is free. An equivalent print textbook might cost $150, said Jhangiani.

Academic freedom for faculty using inclusive access is also a concern for Jhangiani. “Limiting faculty to one particular publisher or conglomerate of publishers is certainly an issue,” he said.

Joe Wert, professor of political science and Faculty Senate president at Indiana University Southeast, disagreed, however, that academic freedom was a big issue in inclusive access. “I don’t think it’s the case that some faculty are feeling pressured to adopt these materials,” he said. “At least, I haven’t heard any complaints or concerns from faculty along those lines.”

With OER, Jhangiani said, faculty have complete autonomy over their course materials, as everything can be customized. The quality of OER is also improving, he said. “If you look for OER that is low in quality, you will find it, because anyone can produce OER. But just like with commercial resources, many OER resources have strict criteria for what goes into their repositories,” he said.

“Ultimately, it is up to faculty what kind of content is used in their courses,” said Allen, of SPARC. “I do think it is likely that traditionally published content will continue to be used at colleges and universities, although whether or not it is through inclusive access remains to be seen. Textbook publishers have been through many iterations of models for proprietary digital content -- it is hard to know how long any one will last.”

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How a student’s tweet led to a faculty labor dispute

Tue, 2017-11-07 08:00

This article contains explicit and potentially offensive terms that are essential to reporting on this situation.

In many ways, Wil Forberg’s tweet wasn’t all that surprising. Shocking, sure, and racist, definitely, but nothing unheard-of, unfortunately. Yet again, a student at a public college put something racist on social media -- this time, using the N-word -- and the college noted that the First Amendment protects the communication of students at public colleges.

Amid discussion of the tweet and how to handle it, Monroe Community College, where the student was enrolled, announced an action plan to make the institution more inclusive, which included measures to look at evaluating the hiring processes and curriculum.

However, the tweet in question, posted in September, proved to be the seed of a labor dispute that has pitted the MCC Faculty Association against the institution’s administration, as the two groups -- union and employer -- wage a war of words on the Rochester, N.Y., college’s response to the post.

The tweet, which has since been deleted, was posted Sept. 28, after the student’s Confederate flag was apparently damaged: "Shout out to the nigger at MCC who vandalized my Confederate flag. You'll be a white man’s property soon enough. Give Trump time."

Two days later, Monroe Community College President Anne Kress spoke to local media, denouncing the tweet and acknowledging that, because it was posted from a personal account and MCC is a public institution, there could be no disciplinary action.

“I think everyone who saw that tweet found it offensive,” Kress told Spectrum News. "The reality is this student was posting from a personal account, has freedom of speech and has the right to say what he wishes to say, but we also have a right as an institution that says that’s not MCC's value.”

That denunciation, and the two-day gap it took between the tweet and Kress’s response, drew criticism from faculty members, however, as many complained that it was not forceful enough and was more focused on the First Amendment than denouncing hate speech. Criticisms of Kress would only compound Oct. 6, when Kress announced an action plan to address the incident.

Why would an inclusion plan set off criticism?

For one, faculty members are still pushing back on Kress’s original remarks. On Oct. 10 Amanda Colosimo, president of the Faculty Senate, wrote a letter to Kress expressing her disappointment in the response. In the Faculty Association’s Oct. 13 newsletter, the union commended Colosimo:

First and foremost, the leadership of MCC should have unequivocally condemned the racist tweet and reassured our students and employees that such hatred will not be tolerated. Our response, which echoes the previous statements made by many in our MCC community, is not indicative of a lack of understanding, or respect for, the First Amendment. Instead, it is a reaction to the official response to the racist tweet which failed to lead with a condemnation of racism and instead misdirected attention to the issue of free speech. When condemning racism is the secondary response, it becomes evident that white privilege has become institutionalized.

But the Faculty Association had reason beyond Kress’s statement to raise a furor. Kress’s action plan, said Bethany Gizzi, sociology professor and president of the Faculty Association, unfairly placed blame on the faculty for the lack of diversity in hiring, and ignored previous measures to combat racism on campus.

As the fallout escalated publicly, the MCC Board of Trustees would weigh in to throw their support behind Kress, while the council of department chairs and the International Services Advisory Board would back Colosimo.

Kress’s action plan, detailed here, calls for comprehensive changes and measures to examine racism on campus. It calls for the creation of an implicit bias response team, for the requirement of implicit bias training for search committee members who help determine new hires and for a review of the curriculum to make sure it meets the college’s values. The action plan came after Kress held two open forums on the tweet and the aftermath.

But Gizzi and Colosimo said the action plan did not sufficiently involve discussions with faculty.

“We were never contacted, we were never consulted. There was no discussion with us ahead of time of what those action steps would be, whether we supported them, whether we believed they would be effective, what our role would be in implementing them, et cetera,” Gizzi said.

Gizzi said that the faculty acknowledges that more can be done by everyone, including faculty, to combat racism. But she also said that a review of the curriculum was already wrapping up, so to suggest that as an item on the action plan would be redundant.

“Not only did [the plan] show a lack of consultation, but it also showed a lack of awareness of what faculty are already doing in those areas.”

Gizzi also pushed back against the way hiring processes and proposed reforms were framed by Kress’s plan. Faculty serve on search committees and review candidates, but Gizzi described MCC’s human resources department as “managing” the process.

“Yes, we have a responsibility for pursuing diversity in hiring, and faculty do play a role in that. But to place the responsibility for hiring on faculty alone is inaccurate and certainly is a misrepresentation,” she said.

In a statement to Inside Higher Ed Monday, MCC pushed back against the characterization that the report was put together without enough input, and said that the report is open for further changes going forward.

MCC's action plan was drafted after two forums that attracted more than 400 community members, including faculty, plus additional feedback from faculty and students. The plan continues to evolve as feedback is received. MCC administrators, including President Kress, respect the work that the faculty have done in curriculum review and the primary role faculty play in search, hire, tenure and promotion decisions. Our goal is to come together to build on this work to ensure all voices are heard. With regards to the Faculty Association’s recommendations on diversity hiring, MCC administration received them and has attempted to work with the Faculty Association on building a more solidified approach to increasing diversity in College hiring.

The public back-and-forth continued throughout October and into November. Kress invited Carlos Medina, chief diversity officer at the State University of New York, to visit campus from Oct. 16-18. He issued a series of recommendations in an Oct. 25 report, but those recommendations weren’t shared with faculty or made public until The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle inquired about them. The report would be not be made public until Nov. 3. While many of Medina’s points were similar to Kress’s, the suggestion that Kress’s action plan consult “a larger cross-section on campus” was not lost on faculty.

“It did feel like we were heard by SUNY, and going forward, I am hopeful that Dr. Kress will in fact engage in making the plan more collaborative in nature,” Colosimo said. She had previously told The Democrat and Chronicle that she “wouldn’t take it off the table” that the faculty would call for Kress’s resignation, and told Inside Higher Ed, “it largely depends on how Dr. Kress chooses to respond to the chief diversity officer’s report.”

On Monday, Kress issued an apology for her first remarks on the racist tweet.

"I am truly sorry that my initial response to the Sept. 28 racist tweet was disappointing and hurtful to members of the MCC community," she said in a statement. "The observations SUNY Vice Chancellor Carlos Medina drew from his time at our college following the posting are deeply troubling, and they tell us that MCC has work to do. Over the last weeks, I have met with dozens of members of our community -- employees and students -- to listen to the reality of their experiences at MCC. They have entrusted me with their stories and with the responsibility to lead MCC through the changes necessary to address the impact of structural racism."

Recommendations to make changes to the hiring processes date back to the 1990s, said Colosimo, who characterized the current hiring process as “very much managed by our human resources department.” In 2010, the Faculty Association delivered recommendations to Kress about updating the hiring process to make it more diversity friendly, and different groups at MCC have submitted hiring feedback as recently as 2015 and over the past summer. The Faculty Senate has provided recommendations "on an ongoing basis."

"Faculty and staff are unwilling to accept blame for things that they feel they aren't doing wrong," she said.

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State mergers of community colleges are spreading, but can present challenges

Tue, 2017-11-07 08:00

Mergers involving community colleges have become more popular as enrollments and state funding have declined at many institutions in recent years.

Saving money, in particular, is the driving reason behind Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark Ojakian’s plan to consolidate the state’s 12 community colleges into one accredited institution.

Georgia, Louisiana and Pennsylvania have merged institutions or considered mergers in recent years to address these issues.

“If you’re dealing with decreasing levels of enrollment at the colleges and you’re dealing with decreased state investment, which most places are, I think simply from an educational perspective it’s probably a good reason to consolidate or eliminate particular campuses or colleges,” said Iris Palmer, a senior policy analyst with New America’s education policy program.

But pushback from local legislators about proposed mergers, as well as the potential loss of a college’s connection to its region, are reasons why mergers often fail, she said, adding that the economic impact on a community when it loses a traditional community college often isn’t politically feasible or desirable for economic development.

The Connecticut proposal would shrink the community college side of the system from 12 presidents to one vice chancellor, and 36 administrative positions would be reduced to 16. It also would eliminate campus financial and academic officers. Each of the community colleges would be operated by a vice president and clustered into three groups led by a regional president.

The campus vice presidents would be responsible for local operations, delivery of academic and student programs, and community relations.

The new system would also allow students to enroll once, register and take classes across multiple campuses without needing to transfer credits. They also would be able to fill out a single financial aid form and take one placement exam. The plan would require a faculty group to develop a general education curriculum across the 12 campuses.

“There are two primary purposes for consolidation, and one is obviously the fiscal reality situation we face as a state and as a system,” said Maribel La Luz, a spokeswoman for the system. “When appropriations and enrollments are down, you have to make the system sustainable. The second is to make this easier for students.”

But some faculty members in Connecticut are skeptical that the mergers will help students.

“Everyone is extremely concerned about losing our accreditation,” said Lois Aime, the director of educational technology at Norwalk Community College and president of the College Senate. “Frankly a community college has the word ‘community’ in its name because it is there to serve students, businesses and the community itself within its service area, and by taking away our accreditation from us on an individual basis … the decision making will be made outside of the community.”

In particular, Aime points to the impact losing accreditation could have on Norwalk students. The college is a Hispanic-serving institution and receives grants that are only offered to HSIs. If Norwalk is consolidated into a statewide community college entity, it might lose that designation and lessen the ability of the college to address the needs of its student population, she said.

“We have the biggest [English as a Second Language] program in the state in our community college because of our location,” Aime said.

The demographics at Norwalk, which is near New York City, are different than those in other parts of the state, and creating one system to try to address all of those needs may hurt students, she said.

“We’re certainly in agreement in that we know the state is in trouble and there needs to be a cost saving,” Aime said. “But they certainly don’t need to step on the accreditation of each institution to do that.”

However, for Connecticut or any other state that attempts to reorganize its governance structure, the system still has to maintain the mission of community colleges, offer responsive services and connect with the local economies, said Aims McGuinness, a senior fellow with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

“They need to maintain and strengthen community college services,” he said. “And No. 2, can we do that in a way so back-office operations are done more efficiently, so from a student point of view, they don’t recognize a difference? But what’s tricky about this … you can do a lot to achieve efficiencies on non-facing-student activities, but having an administration that really understands the region and that dimension of it is also important.”

The proposed Community College of Connecticut would enroll about 52,700 students, according to 2016 data from the colleges. That enrollment level is down from about 57,000 students in 2012. This year, enrollment at the community colleges declined about 1.5 percent, La Luz said.

The administrative and campus consolidation recommendations together are expected to save the colleges $41 million, including $28 million on the campus side.

However, some are skeptical about how much money mergers actually save institutions and systems.

A recent report from the TIAA Institute that examined mergers involving two-year and four-year institutions found that the decision-making process about how to enact mergers often is costly and painful. And while there are opportunities for financial savings, the report found that such gains typically take a while to materialize.

“The research on this shows very mixed results in saving money,” Palmer, of New America, said. “It costs a lot of money up front to combine student information systems.”

Most of the savings come from salaries or by cutting jobs, which is unpopular, she said.

In Connecticut, the plan to reduce administrative roles is expected to take place through attrition or retirements.

The system is under a state labor agreement that grants job security to about 96 percent of its employees until 2020, La Luz said, adding that after that time the situation will be re-evaluated.

There’s a wide variety of governing systems community colleges have been merged into in recent years. For example, Georgia, the most aggressive higher education merger state, has combined two- and four-year institutions. In Louisiana, a merger of eight campuses in the state’s community and technical college system was announced earlier this year.

The environment each merger takes place in differs, despite mergers often being rooted in financial problems.

“Georgia is a different political environment than, say, the Northeast,” Palmer said. “It was a huge step up in branding for Georgia Perimeter College to go to Georgia State University. They were cautiously optimistic, but they were not mourning a loss of identity.”

Consolidation also can affect the relationship an institution has with its state lawmakers. A centralized system may have a stronger voice in the Legislature, she said, but may have weakened their position locally.

McGuinness points to Kentucky as an example of a system that went through consolidation and emerged as a leading example of strong central leadership.

“The Kentucky Community and Technical College System has gone through different phases, but one of the neat things is that it evolved into one of the best systems in the country,” said McGuinness, adding that in 1997 the system consolidated the technical college system with the community colleges that were operated by the University of Kentucky at the time.

KCTCS found a way to strengthen their local services by sharing across colleges, he said.

“It didn’t come easy,” said Jay Box, president of KCTCS, who entered the system in 2002 as president of Hazard Community and Technical College. “We still had an institution with separate faculty -- one at the technical college and one at the community college -- and separate rules for faculty and staff … you had to become one institution and break down those barriers.”

Box said it took several years and that KCTCS had to cut down from 28 presidents systemwide to 16 because of the merger.

“It’s not easy and it takes staying focused on the vision of what’s going to come about because of a consolidated system,” he said.

Consolidating the system, for instance, increased access as well. In the 20 years since the merger, enrollment in the Kentucky two-year system increased by 20 percent, to more than 107,000 students today.

“If you’re in a community college and running out of money, the programs that cost the most are the occupational professional programs, particularly in health,” McGuiness said. “Concentrating on administrative services can achieve some efficiencies in some ways, but what really needs to happen is sharing of content across the campuses.”

A full consolidation in Connecticut would still require approval from faculty, the system’s governing board and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges -- the system’s regional accrediting agency.

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Editors discuss new book on diversity in Christian higher education

Tue, 2017-11-07 08:00

Many colleges have goals to diversify their student bodies and faculties. A new book explores this challenge within Christian higher education, which includes many denominations that are largely white.

Diversity Matters: Race, Ethnicity and the Future of Christian Higher Education (Abilene Christian University Press) consists of numerous essays on diversity within Christian colleges and case studies of various strategies to increase it.

The primary editor is Karen A. Longman, director of the Ph.D. program in higher education at Azusa Pacific University. She responded via email to questions about the book and was joined in drafting the answers by Pete Menjares, senior director of the Institute for Faculty Development at Vanguard University of Southern California.

Q: Many colleges strive to become more diverse. How is the issue different at Christian colleges?

A: As context, the book Diversity Matters was primarily focused toward the more than 150 North American institutions aligned with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, institutions that are intentionally Christ centered while representing 35 different denominational affiliations. However, a broader range of readers who work in faith-related institutions, as well as individuals who are committed to matters of diversity and social justice, will find helpful resources in various sections of the book.

Regarding differences between Christian colleges and other institutions of higher education, the differences are both positive and negative. On the positive side, Christian colleges and universities adhere to compelling theological convictions including affirmations that every person is uniquely designed to contribute meaningfully in the world, and therefore each individual is to be treated with value and dignity. Many Christian colleges, because of their mission and theological heritage, emphasize the practice of social justice and are intrinsically motivated to work for racial harmony and interethnic healing, while also preparing their students for intercultural living and lifelong learning.

What might be viewed as a “negative” difference between these colleges and most of higher education is that the vast majority of the CCCU institutions were founded out of predominantly white denominations and their purpose was to educate students from those denominations; additionally, most were located in rural settings due to the westward expansion in the 19th century. The opening chapter documents that as of 2014, 28 percent of the student enrollment in the CCCU was nonwhite (up from 19 percent in 2004), with 21 institutions having over 40 percent students of color and 10 having a minority-majority student body. Not surprisingly, the most diverse Christian institutions are located in geographic areas such as New York, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, [Ore.], Los Angeles and the South and Southwest.

Q: Many Latinos who are religious are Roman Catholic. Many African-Americans who are religious are members of African Methodist Episcopal churches. Does this create a particular challenge for Christian colleges without ties to those faiths?

A: Yes, both for the students and the Christian colleges! A distinctive of the Christian higher education experience is the integration of faith with learning, and Christian colleges vary in the types of chapel, prayer services and Bible studies they offer. The challenge for students is when the programming offered by the institution primarily reflects a white evangelical approach to such things as the structure of the service, style of the worship, which songs or hymns are sung, the race and ethnicity of the speakers, and how the Bible is preached or taught.

The students of today who are attending these institutions reflect a much wider range of the Christian church and they long for a worship experience that reflects their individual culture, home church or parish, and that speaks the language of their multicultural soul.

In reality, more and more Christian colleges have realized the need to vary their chapel and spiritual life programming to address the needs of their diverse students. In some geographic regions, it is becoming common to offer Spanish-speaking or bilingual chapels, the creation of diverse worship teams that offer a multicultural worship experience, the ministry of gospel choirs and the inclusion of local Latino and African-American clergy, both women and men, as speakers. As one institutional example, Vanguard University of Southern California, a federally designated Hispanic-serving institution that is affiliated with the Assemblies of God denomination, offers a morning prayer series and service of Eucharist to serve the growing number of Roman Catholic students and staff who desire to begin their day with a more liturgical worship experience.

Q: People who enroll at, teach at and lead Christian colleges have a range of views on political issues. But some of the most prominent evangelical leaders in the United States have been strong backers of President Trump, even as he has made comments on immigrants, white nationalists and others that have deeply hurt many black and Latino students. How does this issue complicate diversification efforts?

A: These are matters of concern for all of American higher education, and such perspectives have complicated the diversity efforts at Christian colleges for numerous reasons. Many people who are earnest in their faith -- both white and nonwhite -- have been hurt by comments disrespecting immigrants and praising white nationalists, and they are confused by the apparent lack of a moral conscience on the part of prominent evangelical leaders who have remained silent on these issues.

But it should be noted that despite the media’s painting of evangelicals with a broad brush, the tent of Christian views is quite broad. For example, 68 percent of evangelical Christians do support a legal path to citizenship for undocumented persons, and recently over 3,000 Christian pastors and leaders signed a letter to political leaders asking them to create a legislative solution for [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] recipients.

All students and employees should be treated with respect and dignity and have confidence that their presence is welcomed and valued as part of an educational community. So, in many ways, the current political climate represents a teaching moment for higher education, and many Christian colleges are taking advantage of the times.

These current events have allowed for campus communities to more explicitly educate about racism and immigration, DACA, the differences between free speech and hate speech, how to have difficult conversations and to engage in civil discourse on topics that otherwise might have been ignored. The hope is that by confronting these issues directly and educating along the way, Christian colleges will add clarity and nuance to complex and polarizing rhetoric, while also creating climates of trust and psychological safety on their campuses.

Q: Do you see strategies that have been particularly effective at Christian colleges in recruiting a more diverse student body?

A: The most successful strategies for recruitment tap into the fact that many prospective students are serious about growing in their faith and want to study in environments where faith is respected and evidenced in vibrant, life-transformative ways. Everyone benefits when the spiritual vitality characteristic of many ethnic faith communities is embraced on a Christian college campus, and students begin to appreciate the vision of Revelation 7:9, when believers from “every nation, tribe, people and language” will worship before God’s throne.

Partly in response to this kingdom vision and the acknowledged educational benefits of studying in a campus setting that values diversity, Christian colleges have increasingly been adopting a culturally sensitive approach to recruitment. This approach includes hiring a diverse admissions staff who are able to make vital personal connections with prospective students, their families, churches and communities.

For colleges intending to recruit Latino students, it is strategic that recruitment and orientation events involve the families, including siblings, that materials and webpages be translated into Spanish and that facilitators be conversant in Spanish or provide a bilingual option as an alternative. These approaches communicate value to prospective students and their families, and they send the message that we want you, you belong here and we are going to do everything in our power to support you once you get here.

For Christian colleges located in regions that lack diversity, programs such as Degrees of Change have proven effective at coming alongside college leaders to recruit cohorts of students from urban settings that reflect diversity, have demonstrated leadership on the part of the students and have a track record of producing high graduation rates. Because many of today’s diverse students are also the first in their families to attend college, it is imperative that these institutions clearly communicate the resources available to support the social, cultural and faith needs of students, in addition to the programs and services specifically geared to support their academic success.

Programs being implemented at Christian colleges today include Summer Bridge programs (the Entrada Scholars Program is a highly successful example), robust advising and guidance counseling, enhanced tutoring and supplemental instruction options, easy access to the library and its resources, current and readily available educational technology, and a commitment to a personal, attentive and high-touch campus environment. Over all, Christian colleges are increasingly being strategic by employing culturally sensitive approaches, but must also offer competitive scholarships and grants, tuition discounts, commuter services for those students who choose not to live on campus and co-curricular programs and clubs that appeal to diverse students and their interests.

Q: How have some colleges recruited and retained black and Latino faculty members to diversify their faculties?

A: As mentioned, many Christian colleges aligned with the CCCU were founded by denominations that historically have been predominantly white, and many are located in communities and states that are not incredibly diverse. Efforts to recruit and retain faculty of color, therefore, differ based on institutional factors. In fact, most of these campuses have committees focused on diversity and inclusion, have an individual in the role of chief diversity officer (these leaders have their own conferences, networking opportunities and commission within the CCCU organizational structure), and have taken steps to ensure that faculty search processes advertise wisely and strategically as well as having faculty of color represented in the hiring process.

To offer institutional examples of various initiatives, the opening section of Diversity Matters features four case studies of campuses that have been proactively working to advance diversity, including faculty hiring and retention. For example, Nyack College, with a campus in Manhattan, proactively tapped into natural connections with urban churches when adjunct faculty were being hired; the college also began a program to assist newer faculty to pay for their doctoral degrees.

As a result of these initiatives, the diversity of Nyack’s faculty reached 45 percent as early as 2003. Two other chapters offered as case studies (North Park University in Chicago and Warner Pacific College in Portland, Ore.) also reflect how these institutions are being strategic in connecting with faith committees in those cities. At North Park, for example, all faculty candidates are asked to articulate how they will advance the mission of utilizing the city of Chicago as a classroom. The fourth case study features the impressive ongoing work at Greenville University, located in rural Illinois, which has highlighted its Free Methodist roots to attract faculty members who are passionate about social justice and diversity.

A sampling of successful retention strategies also includes offering a well-planned on-boarding process that articulates the institution's commitment to diversity in theological terms, mentoring programs designed to support new hires of color, resourcing affinity groups for faculty to connect with their Latino and African-American peers and supporting new faculty of color with publishing or presenting their dissertation research. Another successful approach to supporting faculty of color has been through their participation in the CCCU’s Multi-Ethnic Leadership Development Institute, which includes an intensive course of study in a retreat location with 20-25 peers, the opportunity to shadow a seasoned leader of color in the CCCU and a yearlong professional development experience designed to advance the ongoing growth of the participant.

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Excise taxes on colleges spark criticism but may signal a tough future for higher ed

Mon, 2017-11-06 08:00

Colleges and higher ed lobbyists are refining their attacks against House Republicans’ proposed tax overhaul, taking aim at provisions that would significantly affect institutional operations as the tax plan goes under the microscope.

Several proposals to raise taxes on wealthy colleges and universities came under fire, including a 1.4 percent excise tax on private university endowments valued at $100,000 or more per full-time student and a 20 percent excise tax on employee compensation above $1 million at all nonprofit entities. So did another proposal that would raise the cost of construction for private colleges, rich and poor, by eliminating tax-exempt private-activity bonds.

The changes would harm colleges’ financial health, drive increased costs for students and harm colleges’ ability to attract top talent to key positions, opponents say. Those arguments join criticisms of other pieces of the tax plan that could directly affect students, such as ending student loan interest deductions, eliminating part-time students’ ability to receive education tax credits and imposing new taxes on tuition assistance.

As a whole, the tax plan is notable for the numerous ways it targets higher education in order to pay for Republicans’ political priorities, like cutting corporate taxes and simplifying the individual tax code. That likely signals a difficult political path ahead, according to some observers who see wealthy institutions as actors that have long abused a friendly tax code and have now missed their chance to reform their behavior and negotiate in good faith over policy changes. To many in higher education, the proposals represent a punitive slap at institutions serving the country in many ways.

Of the proposals that would directly affect colleges’ institutional operations, the elimination of tax-exempt private-activity bonds would have one of the widest-ranging impacts. Institutions across the country make use of the bonds, for which state and local governments issue tax-exempt conduit bonds on behalf of private colleges and universities. Colleges, not governments, back the bonds, but the tax exemption lowers their cost of borrowing.

Take away access to the municipal bond market, and colleges would have to pay more to borrow and build.

“The bonds would be taxable, so the interest rate that the university would have to pay to the person who lends them money would increase, meaning their debt cost would increase,” said Charles A. Samuels, a lawyer at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo PC, who represents the National Association of Health and Educational Facilities Finance Authorities. “Any facility they built would be more expensive, or would have to be lessened or delayed in some way as they find the revenue for it.”

The tax plan’s change to municipal bonding would affect other nonprofit organizations as well, so many expect other interest groups to fight it. Nonprofit organizations, including colleges and universities, relied on tax-exempt financing in order to raise $554 billion for capital projects between 2003 and 2012, according to a 2013 study conducted for NAHEFFA. Completely eliminating the interest tax exemption would have cost nonprofits an extra $166.3 billion over that time period.

Another proposal in the GOP plan affecting a broad swath of institutions is an excise tax on high earners at private tax-exempt organizations. A 20 percent excise tax would be charged on all compensation in excess of $1 million paid to an employee. The tax would apply to organization’s five highest-paid employees.

All remuneration would be included, according to Brian Pinheiro, a partner at Ballard Spahr LLP. But additional regulations would likely have to be written to determine what compensation is included and how. For example, many believe deferred compensation would be included under the proposal. But the legislation as written does not directly address how to count deferred compensation that has not yet vested.

Regardless of those details, the excise tax would affect some of the most visible leaders at the country’s most well-known institutions.

“You’ll have coaches and athletic directors and presidents of universities,” Pinheiro said. Institutions that operate hospitals could see doctors subject to the tax.

The other excise tax in the bill, on private colleges’ endowment earnings, has come under particularly intense scrutiny as wealthy colleges and universities levy blistering attacks against it. The tax would affect about 150 private institutions with endowment values of at least $100,000 per full-time-equivalent student. That would include many of the most famous institutions in the country, such as Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale Universities, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Public universities would be exempt from the endowment tax because they are not subject to the internal revenue code.

The National Association of College and University Business Officers attacked the idea as effectively punishing colleges and universities that have a stable private revenue stream. A university with an endowment valued at $100,000 per student currently would spend about $5,000 per year per student from its endowment, assuming a standard 5 percent spending rate.

That spending on students could be curtailed by an excise tax. Colleges and universities would either have to divert money from students, spend a larger portion of their endowments or increase their endowments’ rate of return in order to pay the excise tax. Endowments are intended to exist forever, so institutions resist drawing down their overall size over time.

Critics aren’t just arguing against the idea of an excise tax. They’re arguing against the way this one would be structured.

A $100,000-per-student cutoff fails to account for the many different types of institutions that would be subject to the excise tax, said Liz Clark, NACUBO director of federal affairs, during a Friday conference call. At many universities, large endowments fund public services like research, libraries and medical education. Significant portions of those endowments are restricted by donor agreements for those and other specific purposes.

“The calculation is based on a false understanding of endowments and how colleges and universities put them to work,” Clark said. “It fails to reflect the complete and comprehensive mission that many colleges and universities have.”

Princeton uses its endowment earnings to pay for more than half of its annual budget, Robert K. Durkee, the university’s vice president and secretary, said in an email. Students from families earning less than $56,000 per year pay nothing for tuition, room and board at Princeton. Endowment earnings help to pay for academics and services so that students can graduate without debt.

In other words, universities’ tax exemptions encourage quality in higher education.

“This proposal would overturn that time-tested policy solely to add revenues to the federal treasury,” Durkee said.

A spokesman from Yale University also argued the Republican proposal would be taxing resources funding student aid, teaching, research and community service.

“It is disappointing that the legislation relies so heavily on colleges and universities, and especially the universities with some of the strongest records on financial aid, to raise revenue to enable tax cuts,” said the spokesman, Thomas Conroy, in an email.

It should be noted, however, that Yale’s endowment earned a return of 11.3 percent for the year ending June 30, growing its value to $27.2 billion. Princeton’s endowment earned a rate of return of 12.5 percent, pushing its value to $23.8 billion.

At a 5 percent spending rate, each of those endowments would contribute more than $1 billion to institutional operations. That’s about as much as the public University of Connecticut’s entire 2017 operating budget. Yale enrolls about 12,000 total students and Princeton enrolls about 8,000. UConn enrolls about 32,000.

Pressures to grow endowments are real, resulting in competition for top talent as endowment managers. Many managers could be working on Wall Street, so wealthy universities often end up paying members of their endowment management teams more than $1 million.

When the public sees those salaries and high endowment values, it could make it harder to argue against the proposed taxes.

“I am the lone guy while arrows come at me,” Charles Skorina, who recruits investment managers for endowments at his firm Charles Skorina & Co, told CNBC. “Salaries are too high and endowments are too big: end of story. That's what people say. But if you tax education salaries and endowment earnings, you really are hurting schools.”

Proposals to tax executive salaries and endowments are nothing new. But some recent proposals from Republican lawmakers had appeared to take a more incentive-based approach. A proposal from Tom Reed, a Republican from upstate New York, had proposed requiring colleges and universities with endowments of more than $1 billion to use a quarter of their earnings for grants for students or face taxes.

Such nudges toward behavior lawmakers consider desirable is largely missing from the current tax proposal. The tax plan is instead intended to apply similar rules to private endowments as it does to private foundations. It is intended to protect taxpayers from subsidizing bonds that benefit private organizations.

There is an argument that universities have too much of a tax advantage over other types of organizations, said Jason Delisle, a resident fellow focused on higher education financing at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. But he also said the current proposal is asking liberal institutions to put their money where their mouth is -- instead of saying someone else should pay higher taxes, universities will have to pay higher taxes.

“They kind of have an equity and fairness argument, but I wouldn’t completely rule out the sort of rhetorical victory someone might be willing to claim here,” Delisle said.

The budget proposal could also signal a much more vindictive stance by lawmakers toward higher education. Some see wealthy universities as having spent years taking advantage of tax benefits in order to build up their own wealth and prestige -- but without enrolling enough new low-income students. Now, Republicans seem to be saying colleges missed their chance.

The proposal seems to be a reflection of colleges and universities that were only able to come up with sand in the works when lawmakers probed their practices previously, said Dean Zerbe, who was senior counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee when Republican Senator Chuck Grassley criticized wealthy university endowments and broached the idea of minimum spending requirements a decade ago.

“I think the ship’s kind of sailed now for the universities,” he said. “I think it should be a sobering lesson for them going forward.”

Experts cautioned that the tax plan is still in the proposal stage. Its exact impact on higher ed can’t yet be quantified, said Susan Fitzgerald, senior vice president at Moody’s Investors Service.

“I will say, there is nothing there that we could really view as being a shock to the system,” she said. “The only thing we are fairly confident we can say is there are likely to be changes to what’s been proposed.”

Terminating private activity bonds would generate $38.9 billion over 10 years, according to estimates from the Joint Committee on Taxation. Another bonding change that would hit nonprofit institutions, repealing advanced refunding bonds, would bring in $17.3 billion over that time period.

The excise tax on investment income at private colleges would raise $3 billion, and the excise tax on nonprofits’ executive compensation would generate $3.6 billion.

Colleges have also charged that plans to double the size of standard tax deductions and limit charitable deductions for many taxpayers will hurt their ability to raise money. Additionally, they worry that limitations on state and local income tax deductions could lead to cuts in taxes and spending at those levels of government, leading to cuts in public higher education.

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Brandeis calls off play about Lenny Bruce

Mon, 2017-11-06 08:00

Lenny Bruce made a career of transgressing traditional social mores with his stand-up routines, culminating in his conviction for obscenity in 1964.

Now a production of a play based on Bruce’s comedy at Brandeis University has been canceled, after students and alumni rallied in opposition. They complained about what they called the play’s offensive and objectionable content, though this time objections came from the left.

The play, Buyer Beware, written by Brandeis alumnus Michael Weller, was originally scheduled to be put on by the university's theater department this month. Following backlash from students and alumni who organized against the play, faculty members postponed the play until the spring semester. Weller has since decided to take the production elsewhere, and as a result, the university has lost the script and the rights to stage the play, Brandeis spokesman Ira Jackson said via email.

The original postponement would have aligned the play with a semester-long course “that would thoroughly and deeply explore within an educational context the many uncomfortable and provocative issues it raises,” Jackson said. That course is still set to be taught next semester.

Though Bruce died in 1966, the play takes place in the present. According to drafts of the play reported on by two student publications at Brandeis, the play’s main character discovers old recordings of Bruce’s stand-up routine and makes plans to deliver a similar performance at Brandeis, which is met with university pushback and student protests.

Organizers opposing the play rallied around the play’s portrayal of the Black Lives Matter movement and its black characters. They also criticized its merits as a work of art, saying the play wasn’t well written.

“Why would we want to elevate something like this? Why do we need to put time and resources into something like this?” Andrew Child, a Brandeis theater student who read a draft of the play and helped organize opposition to the production, told The Boston Globe.

Weller told Boston NPR affiliate WBUR that the play “was trying to show a broad cross-section of people under a lot of pressure,” and the students who organized in opposition “just don’t know how to read a play.”

Weller also said that the university hasn't communicated with him since he handed in the play.

The irony of a play based on a provocateur being canceled for being too provocative was not lost on some.

"The notion that the staging of a play about comedian Lenny Bruce would be held up over incendiary content seems too ironic to be true," Globe reporter Mark Arsenault wrote. "Or like the setup for a scorching joke Bruce would have told."

Libertarian site Reason's headline was straight to its point: "Students Were Offended By a Play That Mocks Political Correctness, so Brandeis Canceled It."

"Don't think political correctness is a problem on campus? Try producing a play about it," the author wrote. "Brandeis is a private institution, and Weller does not have some right to have a play produced there. And it is of course possible that the play just isn't very good. It's also possible the play is not merely good, but a socially valuable piece of art that calls attention to a real problem."

Weller is still scheduled to be honored with the university's Creative Arts Award in January, as the course originally scheduled to accompany his play is underway.

“The course will allow Brandeis to do what it does best as an academic institution -- engage in challenging educational work -- by devoting a full semester to analyzing and openly discussing provocative works of art that may cause discomfort,” Jackson said. “The course will study a broad range of artistic genres, including visual art, theater, film, music and literature, with the help of experts and visiting artists.”

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Borrower-defense negotiators to grapple with colleges' liability for fraud claims

Mon, 2017-11-06 08:00

The U.S. Department of Education will ask the appointed panel charged with overhauling an Obama-era rule to protect student borrowers to reconsider the extent to which colleges and universities should be liable for loan discharge claims based on fraud or misrepresentation.

That question is one of many that the panelists will be asked to grapple with in a process called negotiated rule making, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced in June that she would block the student protection regulation, known as borrower defense, from going into effect and would launch a rule-making process to craft a new rule.

DeVos has said the Obama administration’s rule did not sufficiently address the concerns of colleges. For-profit colleges have been among the most vocal critics of the regulation, but higher education groups representing public and nonprofit institutions have also been critical.

Some observers of past rule-making processes said reconsidering the liability of institutions for covering borrower-defense claims would make for a more fair regulation. Student and consumer advocates said it confirmed what many suspected after the initial suspension of the Obama rule and numerous public comments from DeVos -- that the department intends to craft a rule that lets abusive colleges off the hook for the cost of discharging student loans.

“The Trump administration wants to help schools shed those borrower-defense liabilities,” said Clare McCann, the deputy director of higher education policy at New America.

McCann, a former Obama Education Department official, said lowering the liability of institutions would create a pretext for the department, as a steward of taxpayer dollars, to clamp down on relief to defrauded borrowers.

Borrower defense to repayment was a little-used provision of the Higher Education Act that allowed student borrowers to apply for discharge of their federal loans when they were misled by their institution or it engaged in violation of certain state laws. The collapse of for-profit chains Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech prompted a flood of claims to the department starting in 2015. Nearly 90,000 borrower-defense claims are pending review at the department, which is considering how to grant relief under existing 1995 regulations.

Department officials have said for months that they are working to establish a fair process for reviewing those pending claims. But DeVos said in a speech to Michigan Republicans in September that under the Obama borrower-defense rule, which provided a new, expanded federal standard for claims, borrowers simply had to raise their hands “to receive so-called free money” -- one of a number of statements that has colored perceptions of her approach to borrower relief.

The potential cost to taxpayers of the Obama rule was a major complaint from critics as it was finalized last year. The department’s estimates found the rule could lead to the discharge of $42 billion in loans over a decade -- providing a rationale, advocates say, for restricting relief if institutions come out of the rule-making process with lower liability.

The department declined to comment on whether it will ask the borrower-defense negotiators to consider the extent of institutional liability for claims or whether it would seek a rule that limits liability for colleges. A spokesman said in an email, “That's speculation and you know we aren't going to comment on speculation.”

The names of 17 negotiators were released last month, representing a range of interests, from consumer advocates and veterans' groups to college business officers, various university representatives, and accreditors. An initial three-day negotiating session will take place in Washington Nov. 13-15.

Negotiated rule making is a unique process used to produce regulations by the Education Department and other federal agencies, where an appointed committee seeks to reach a consensus on the details of a proposed rule. However, the agency can draft its own rule if and when a committee fails to reach consensus. Even so, past participants of negotiated rule-making sessions say the final rule will reflect the discussions.

Chris Lindstrom, the higher education program director at U.S. Public Interest Research Groups, said DeVos has been clear that the department views the Obama rule as unfair to colleges and universities because of the large liabilities it would create from debt-relief claims.

“To me, it’s trying to achieve a middle ground that doesn’t exist,” she said. “Ultimately, they’re going to ask the question because they have a particular goal in mind, and I think that goal is wrong.”

Lindstrom said she disagreed with that agenda but couldn’t accuse the department of negotiating the rule in bad faith -- a charge frequently lobbed in past rounds of rule making. Even though the Education Department may have a clear goal in mind for a provision of a rule, she said, it will take note of the political will of negotiators in the room.

In the negotiation of the Obama rule, the department did not ask panelists to consider the extent to which colleges should be liable for borrower-defense claims.

The department ultimately separated debate of how the federal government seeks restitution from deciding the process a borrower would follow to submit a claim, said Karen McCarthy, director of policy at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. The department plans to ask negotiators in the upcoming rule-making process to separately consider the process for filing a claim, according to a person with knowledge of those discussions. McCarthy said that would reflect the conclusion of the previous rule-making process.

Dennis Cariello, a negotiator in the previous round of borrower-defense rule making and a lawyer who advises institutions, including for-profit colleges, cautioned against reading too much into the questions for negotiators as a signal of where the department leans on the rule. He said there are legitimate issues of authority to be discussed involving what the department can recoup from colleges whose students have filed borrower-defense claims.

Cariello said the department should consider some kind of intent standard that would reflect different levels of culpability -- for example, recognizing negligence or recklessness versus intentional misrepresentation. He said the Obama administration was unwilling to consider whether a mistake on the part of a college should lead to an existential threat to its finances.

“Putting aside the reputational loss that’s not insignificant in having one of these claims, I think the monetary harm is something that needs to be understood,” he said.

Critics of the Obama rule say the department should account, for example, for whether a student who attends an elite private university and makes less than an advertised salary in their field suffered substantial harm. The Obama borrower-defense rule was heavily opposed by the for-profit sector in particular, but historically black college and nonprofit university groups also have criticized provisions of the rule as being onerous for their members.

Mike Goldstein, a lawyer with Cooley LLP, said the federal statute is clear that the secretary of education has the authority to recoup costs of borrower-defense claims from institutions. But he said there’s no description in the statute of exactly how the department should do that. Raising that question in the course of negotiations was perfectly fair, Goldstein said.

“Everybody agrees the student who suffered harm should have redress,” he said. “It’s a matter of how do you make it fair and how do you make it fair to both sides.”

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Indiana appeals court sides with Purdue Calumet in professor's free speech case

Mon, 2017-11-06 08:00

The Indiana Court of Appeals sided with Purdue University at Calumet last week in rejecting an associate professor’s claims that the institution violated his free speech and other rights. The case centers on the political scientist’s inflammatory comments in the classroom and outside it, many of which deride Muslims. The professor, Maurice Eisenstein, is still teaching at Calumet. But Eisenstein objected to how the university sanctioned him in 2011 and 2012, following complaints from professors and students.

An initial university investigation resulted in a letter of reprimand for what Calumet deemed to be Eisenstein's retaliation against fellow professors who faulted his speech. A second resulted in Calumet telling Eisenstein to remove the link to his personal blog from his official email signature block.

Eisenstein plans to pursue his case against the university. “I’m dissatisfied with the results and I will appeal,” he said on Twitter last week.

Eisenstein sued Purdue and several individual colleagues in 2012 after fellow professors and students formally accused him of discrimination based on his comments on campus and on his blog. In one instance, in 2011, a student recorded Eisenstein making numerous statements about Muslims and blacks in his Introduction to Judaism class, according to court records. Those include, “Muslims kill everybody else,” “Nothing happened to blacks in the 1960s -- not real problems” and “Except for raping 4-year-olds, Muslims are not good for anything.”

On his Facebook page, Eisenstein called one student who reported his comments to his department chair a “Jew hater,” according to court documents (the student had already dropped the class and begun an independent study). Calumet eventually received other, similar complaints against Eisenstein; one was filed by the Muslim Student Association and five by other faculty members. The rest were from a handful of individual students.

As momentum to terminate Eisenstein grew, students and professors started a petition against him and two professors amended their complaints, claiming retaliation. In one instance, Eisenstein allegedly said to a colleague, “Now I know why your son committed suicide,” after she said hello to him on campus (Eisenstein has denied this). Eisenstein also wrote in an email that his dying mother had cursed a second colleague and that he was now “cursed and therefore untouchable.”

The university investigated the claims against Eisenstein, with an initial finding that he had violated the campus antiharassment policy by retaliating against one professor and harassing the student who’d withdrawn from his class. A faculty panel considered the claims against Eisenstein, who was present at the hearing, and made recommendations about discipline. As a result of that process, Calumet’s chancellor determined that Eisenstein had not violated the policy -- except with respect to the two professors’ retaliation claims.

Letters of reprimand reflecting that decision soon went into Eisenstein’s file. He appealed the disciplinary action, but the appeal was denied. Eisenstein told members of the news media and wrote on his blog that he’d been cleared of all nine complaints, however, according to court documents. One professor against whom he’d retaliated told the Faculty Senate that Eisenstein had in fact been reprimanded in relation to the retaliation complaints.

In spring 2012, Eisenstein filed a lawsuit alleging "administrative violations” on the part of Calumet, civil rights violations (including those of thought, speech and religious opinion), and violations of his right to privacy. A trial court granted Purdue’s right to dismiss the case. But shortly before that, a sixth professor filed a complaint against Eisenstein with Purdue, citing a blog post Eisenstein had written called "Purdue Professor Yahya R. Kamalipour -- How Anti-American?” Calumet investigated the complaint and told Eisenstein to remove the link to his blog in his university email signature block, saying the blog didn’t meet university “civility standards.” It did not tell him what he could and could not say on the blog, however.

Eisenstein soon filed an amended lawsuit alleging, among other things, violations of his First Amendment rights and conspiracy to violate his civil rights.

In 2016, a trial court denied both Eisenstein’s and the university’s motions for summary judgment in their respective favors. The case proceeded to the state appeals court. In the unanimous decision for the three-judge panel, Judge Michael Barnes wrote that there was no evidence that anyone had conspired to inflict emotional harm on Eisenstein, and that the professor’s objections to the antiharassment policy (namely that it was “vague”) were not grounds for his breach of contract claim. That’s because the policy was not part of his employment contract, Barnes wrote.

Regarding the free speech claims, Barnes wrote that Eisenstein “seems to argue that anything he said to [his colleagues] should be protected by the First Amendment.” Moreover, he wrote, Purdue's antiharassment policy “specifically provides that it does not apply to speech or conduct protected by the First Amendment. The conduct here was clearly retaliatory, and Eisenstein admits that it was in response to the complaints.”

For the record, Purdue's antiharassment policy addresses harassment "in all forms" and prohibits retaliation for any related claim. But it also reaffirms Purdue's "commitment to freedom of speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Accordingly, any form of speech or conduct that is protected by the First Amendment is not subject to this policy. The university reaffirms its commitment to academic freedom, which is essential to its educational mission and is critical to diversity and intellectual life."

Brian Zink, university spokesperson, said via email, “We appreciate the court’s careful review and thorough opinion. We believe this outcome was important for maintaining a healthy environment for dialogue on our campuses while protecting from retaliation those who participate in university-established grievance procedures.”

Eisenstein did not immediately respond to a request for comment via email.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has previously appealed to Calumet on Eisenstein's behalf. “This is not the first time and it won’t be the last time we will see a university punish a student or professor for constitutionally protected speech on Facebook,” Greg Lukianoff, president, said upon Eisenstein's initial filing in 2012. “Professors at public universities should not have to go to court to defend their free speech rights.”

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E.U. data-protection law looms

Mon, 2017-11-06 08:00

PHILADELPHIA -- U.S. colleges and universities under the impression that new European data-protection laws won’t affect them have been urged to think again.

Speaking at a session on the soon-to-be-enforced European Union General Data Protection Regulation, William Hoye, executive vice president and chief operating officer at nonprofit study abroad organization IES Abroad, warned that the new E.U. rules have “very sharp teeth” and would almost certainly apply to all U.S. higher education institutions.

Failure to comply with the E.U. rules could lead to fines of up to 20 million euros, said Hoye. “That’s around $23,634,000. Do I have your attention yet?” Hoye asked.

The GDPR, which comes into force in May 2018, represents a significant expansion of protection for the personal data of E.U. residents, explained Gian Franco Borio, a lawyer who also spoke at the Educause session.

Unlike the previous E.U. Data Protection Directive, the GDPR will apply not only to organizations with a physical presence in the E.U., but also to any organization worldwide that processes the personal information of E.U. residents. Many U.S. institutions have physical outposts in Europe, but even those that don’t will need to look carefully at the new rules because they interact with faculty, students or prospective students based in the E.U., said Borio.

Any institution that receives admissions from residents in the E.U. will need to process their data according to the stipulations of the GDPR. Additionally, European study abroad programs will certainly be affected. So too will information on alumni or donors based in the E.U., said Borio.

“Every U.S. educational institution, has here and there, somehow, a relationship with Europe,” said Borio. “Your institution will for sure have a relationship with Europe or people based in Europe, therefore you need to be concerned about the new regulation.”

Anticipating questions about the status of Britain, which is a popular destination for American students studying abroad, Borio said that the GDPR would come into force before Britain leaves the E.U. Borio noted that even after the U.K. leaves the E.U., the U.K. is “unlikely to reinvent the data-privacy wheel,” therefore institutions should “consider the U.K. fully a part of GDPR, now and in future.”

The definition of data that are protected under the GDPR is broader than U.S. federal laws for data protection such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, said speakers at the session. While institutions are used to putting measures in place to protect information such as people’s names and addresses, they will now also need to think about protecting people’s IP addresses. Any unique identifiers assigned to people or their electronic devices by institutions, such as in the admissions process, will also need to be protected under the GDPR.

There are general principles laid out in the GDPR that must be implemented and respected, all of which “have to be translated into some kind of technical measure” said Borio. But the regulation does not say which kind of technical measures are needed. “This is left to the organization itself to determine,” said Borio.

The law will require that data breaches be reported to European national state authorities within 72 hours, said Borio. It also means that E.U. residents retain the right of access to their data, and the right in most cases to have their data removed. “These will be very important, very real constitutional rights,” explained Borio.

Institutions will likely need to designate a data-protection officer, either based in the U.S. or Europe, to be held accountable for these data, said Borio. All institutions must also perform “as soon as possible” an in-house assessment of their data-collection and protection procedures.

Identifying the technical measures needed to comply with the GDPR will be a difficult task for institutions, said Hoye. “But the good news is that you have six months,” he said.

In a discussion of the new rules at Educause, the consensus among attendees seemed to be that it would be prudent to begin to apply the data protections needed to comply with the GDPR to all data the institution works with, regardless of whether the data are coming from people in the E.U. or not.

Writing in the Educause Review in August, Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, advised institutions with significant engagement with the E.U. to take “immediate steps to engage in good-faith compliance.”

Nassirian advised that all institutions “should be paying close attention to the evolution of the law’s compliance requirements over the coming years.”

“These requirements, while not conceptually dissimilar to the existing array of U.S. privacy and data-safeguarding statutes and regulations, are decidedly both more rigorous and more high stakes,” said Nassirian.

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GOP tax overhaul would eliminate tax breaks used by colleges and students

Fri, 2017-11-03 07:00

The sweeping tax overhaul released by House Republicans Thursday would kill or limit key benefits for many colleges, students and borrowers paying off student loans.

House GOP leaders released this plan about half a year after President Trump issued a set of broad but vague principles for tax reform legislation. The proposal released Thursday slashes corporate tax rates, reduces the number of income tax brackets and repeals taxes on large estates.

To pay for revenue that would be lost, the plan would kill many tax breaks, some of them popular in higher education.

The plan would impose a 1.4 percent excise tax on college endowments at private universities valued at $100,000 or more per full-time student. The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities said Friday it estimated more than 150 institutions would be affected by the proposed tax based on 2014-15 endowment values.

The bill would double the standard individual tax deduction, meaning much weaker incentives for charitable contributions to colleges, higher education groups say. Phasing out the estate tax, they say, would also have a negative impact on charitable contributions.

The GOP plan would end student loan interest rate deductions and eliminate state and local income tax deductions, potentially encouraging spending cuts in states that are among the biggest supporters of public higher education.

Republican lawmakers said the legislation would eliminate costly deductions that drive up taxes and said it would deliver "unprecedented simplicity" for tax filers.

"Our legislation is focused entirely on growing our economy, bringing jobs back to our local communities, increasing paychecks for our workers and making sure Americans are able to keep more of the money they earn," said Rep. Kevin Brady, the GOP chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Higher ed groups, though, say that provisions affecting the sector, taken together, would make a postsecondary education less attainable while putting colleges' finances on shakier ground. Ted Mitchell, the president of the American Council on Education, noted that the committee's own summary of the legislation showed it would increase the cost to students of attending college by $65 billion between 2018 and 2027.

"Taken in its entirety, the House tax reform proposal released today would discourage participation in postsecondary education, make college more expensive for those who do enroll and undermine the financial stability of public and private, two-year and four-year colleges and universities," Mitchell said in a statement.

Lawmakers have for years talked about taxing large university endowments, partly in response to complaints about the rising cost of college. But higher ed groups say the provision in the House bill (the Senate finance committee is rumored to be considering a similar 2 percent excise tax on endowments of the same size) does nothing to address affordability while redirecting money that would have been spent on students and campuses to the federal government.

That new tax could actually force some institutions to reduce their endowed spending, said Brian Flahaven, senior director for advocacy at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Douglas Webber, an associate professor in Temple University’s economics department, said the endowment proposal over all amounted to a very small tax on a specific group of colleges that "have amassed a disproportionate amount of money despite educating a small fraction of the country's students."

"There are certainly valid arguments against it. The biggest concern is that this could open the door for more burdensome taxes later. But taken alone I just don't think it is a big deal or a bad idea," he said in an email. "However, just because I am comfortable with this particular tax doesn't mean I agree with how the increased revenue would be spent based on the other parts of the GOP tax plan."

Groups like CASE warn that taxing endowment contributions could hurt individuals' incentives to make charitable contributions. They say the same is true of the proposal to double the standard deduction for tax filers. That means the number of taxpayers who would benefit from itemizing deductions -- including listing charitable contributions to entities like colleges and universities -- would drop from 30 percent to 5 percent, Flahaven said.

The group had hoped to see a universal deduction in legislation from the Hill, which would allow taxpayers to subtract charitable contributions from their income before deciding whether they would itemize their tax bill or choose the standard deduction. Flahaven said CASE will work with other charitable groups to push for its inclusion in the Senate bill, as well as to push back on other harmful measures for the sector.

Students -- especially older, part-time and graduate students -- would also see negative consequences from provisions of the Republican proposal, higher ed advocates said. The bill restructures the American Opportunity Tax Credit, eliminating tax benefits for students who take more than five years to graduate, as well as part-time and graduate students. And it repeals the Lifetime Learning Credit, which is used by grad students, workers who need retraining and part-time students and nontraditional undergrads who take more than four years to graduate.

The proposal would also eliminate a provision of the tax code used by many universities to waive the cost of tuition for graduate students filling positions like teaching assistantships. If the proposal were to go through, those institutions wouldn't be able to waive tuition costs without imposing new taxable income on grad students, said Steven Bloom, director of government relations at the American Council on Education.

The legislation would kill another provision that is deeply important to college faculty members and administrators personally: Section 117(d) of the tax code allows employees of nonprofit universities and colleges to exclude from taxable income qualified undergraduate tuition reductions they, or their dependents, receive from their employer (or other colleges with which their institutions have reciprocity). This provision has long been a valued benefit colleges can offer that enables them to recruit employees at lower salaries than they might otherwise need to to compete.

Yet another provision targeted by Republicans would end a tax break for employers who cover up to several thousand dollars in educational costs for their workers.

The repeal of student loan interest deductions would also add hundreds to the cost of paying off loans for individuals in certain income brackets, advocates said.

Jason Delisle, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, noted on Twitter that the largest dollar benefits of the deduction go to borrowers in the highest income brackets. But Brianna McGurran, who follows student loan issues for NerdWallet, said the deduction is targeted to those who earn less than $65,000 per year, or $130,000 for a couple filing jointly.

"The more debt you have, the more valuable it is -- and you don’t need to itemize deductions to get it," she said. "When we know that 44 percent of adults can't cover a $400 emergency expense without borrowing money, even the small amount that borrowers in this income bracket can receive from the deduction is meaningful. It can pad savings, reduce debt and contribute to increased financial security. It's simply a reality that many consumers rely on their tax refunds to feel like they're getting ahead."

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