By Carl Straumsheim

A federal rule change that opened the door to more fully online degree programs has not made college tuition more affordable, according to a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, but at some place-based institutions, enrollment has declined and instructional spending has increased as a result.

The paper, written by David J. Deming, Michael Lovenheim and Richard W. Patterson, explores what has happened in the postsecondary education sector in the years following the removal of the 50 percent rule. The rule change, which occurred in February 2006, meant colleges that enrolled more than half of their students in fully online programs could participate in federal financial aid programs.

At the time, much of the debate centered around what the rule change would mean to the for-profit sector. The paper expands beyond that debate, exploring how competition from online education providers affected the existing market for higher education. More specifically, it looks at the impact of online education in areas traditionally served by one or a handful of colleges that sustained themselves by enrolling local students.

“In a well-functioning marketplace, the new availability of a cost-saving technology should increase efficiency, because colleges compete with each other to provide the highest-quality education at the lowest price,” the paper, which has not yet been peer reviewed, reads. “Nonselective public institutions in less dense areas either are local monopoly providers of education or have considerable market power. Online education has the potential to disrupt these local monopolies by introducing competition from alternative providers that do not require students to leave home to attend.”

The researchers, who are based at Cornell University, the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the United States Military Academy, used data collected by the federal government’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System to track enrollment, revenue, expenditure and tuition trends between 2000-2013 — before and after the rule change. They used the data to test three predictions: that competition from more fully online programs would lower tuition rates for face-to-face programs, lead to increased spending on instruction and student support services, and drive down enrollment in areas with low competition between colleges.

The data only provided support for two of those predictions. For one, colleges located in areas with low competition were more likely than others to experience a decline in enrollment. The finding was only statistically significant for less selective private institutions, which saw enrollment declines following the 2006 rule change. Instructional spending also increased at public institutions, though the trend began before the rule change — perhaps because the colleges were anticipating increased competition from online programs, the paper suggests.

The researchers did not find any evidence that the growth of the online education market lowered the price of tuition for face-to-face programs, however. In fact, at some private four-year institutions in markets with little competition, tuition rates actually increased.

The paper presents two possible explanations why. It could be that private colleges were forced to increase tuition as a result of the enrollment declines that the researchers discovered. Alternatively, the availability of federal grants and loans could be making price less of an issue to students, which could explain why tuition rates didn’t decline.

“This evidence suggests schools likely are not competing over posted prices, which is sensible given the sizable subsidies offered to students through the financial aid system,” the paper reads. “Indeed, if prices are difficult for students to observe, higher competition could cause an increase in posted prices that are driven by university expansions in educational resources.”

Russell Poulin, director of policy and analysis for the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, said in an email that he agreed with the paper’s findings on the impact of online education in less competitive markets. However, he criticized the paper for assuming colleges are drawn to online education mainly for cost-cutting reasons, as opposed to expanding their market share and serving adult learners.

“Rather than cannibalizing existing student enrollments, online education often serves adults who are time and place bound,” Poulin wrote. “They were not in the market and now are.”

In related news, a separate paper released by the NBER explored enrollment trends in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s low-cost online master’s degree program in computer science. The study found (as Inside Higher Ed previously reported) little overlap between applicants to the program and the residential program it was based on, suggesting Georgia Tech had tapped into a population of potential students not served by existing master’s degree programs.

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By Elizabeth Redden

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Council on International Educational Exchange has pledged to fund 10,000 passports for students who apply at “Passport Caravan” events it’s holding at campuses across the country. To date, CIEE’s president and CEO, James P. Pellow, said the Passport Caravan project has issued 2,800 passports, 367 of which were funded by colleges that matched CIEE’s commitment, while the remainder have been funded by CIEE, a nonprofit exchange organization based in Portland, Me., that partners with universities to provide study abroad programs.

“What’s really interesting about the students that show up for these Passport Caravan drives is that they’re highly diverse and highly challenged economically,” Pellow said Monday at the opening plenary for the second annual Generation Study Abroad Summit organized by the Institute of International Education. “About 55 percent of students are students of color and about 48 percent are Pell eligible. It’s a very rich, very diverse group of students that typically do not participate in our semester programs who now have a passport in their sock drawer.”

This week’s summit in Washington is part of the Generation Study Abroad initiative, launched by IIE in 2014, with the goal of doubling the number of Americans studying abroad by 2020 and diversifying the pool of students participating.

More than 700 educational institutions or organizations, including 408 U.S.-based colleges or universities and 189 international universities or organizations, as well as education associations, study abroad providers and government entities, have signed on to the Generation Study Abroad initiative by making pledges aimed at increasing study abroad participation.

IIE on Monday announced that 12 partners had met the commitments they’d made to increase study abroad participation using a variety of strategies that include developing new short-term study abroad programs for freshmen, expanding the size of the study abroad office, creating a database of study abroad programs by field of study, designating faculty members as study abroad advisers and providing scholarship funding. Generation Study Abroad partners have collectively raised more than $55 million for study abroad scholarships, according to IIE.

“Just two years after joining Generation Study Abroad, colleges and universities across the country are seeing measurable results in their study abroad participation rates,” Allan Goodman, IIE’s president and CEO, said in a written statement. “Studying abroad is one of the best ways to prepare to enter and succeed in the interconnected, globalized workforce, yet 90 percent of American college students do not study or intern outside of the United States. We owe it to the next generation of Americans to explain why study abroad is more crucial than ever and to find ways to make it more accessible to a wider range of students.”

One of the sessions on Monday focused specifically on increasing study abroad participation at minority-serving institutions. Pellow of CIEE — one of the lead organizational sponsors of the conference — spoke on that panel as well. CIEE has joined with the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Minority Serving Institutions in a three-year partnership intended to increase study abroad participation at MSIs through presidential and faculty training workshops and student scholarships. In the spring CIEE pledged to donate all exhibitor fees for its annual conferences from 2016 through 2018 for study abroad scholarships for students from minority-serving institutions.

Minority-serving institutions educate about 20 percent of all U.S. undergraduates, according to Marybeth Gasman, a professor of higher education at Penn and the director of the center. But, as Gasman noted in her presentation on Monday, students from MSIs made up about 3.6 percent of all American college students going abroad in 2012-13 — 10,573 out of 289,408 students.

“One of the reasons why we all came together is that we want to change that,” Gasman said. “The majority of students who study abroad are white” — 74.3 percent, according to the latest national data collected by IIE — “and we also know that we don’t have enough students from minority-serving institutions that are studying abroad. We are trying to fundamentally change that in our partnership.”

David Wilson, the president of Morgan State University, a historically black university in Baltimore, spoke of increasing international student enrollment — now around 11 percent — and growing study abroad participation at his campus.

Wilson leads an alliance of more than 40 HBCUs that formed in response to a Chinese government commitment to provide 1,000 scholarships for students from historically black institutions. Morgan State’s first group of 10 students went to China in 2015 and a second group of 14 went last summer. In his PowerPoint presentation, Wilson highlighted several other outbound initiatives in Africa and Latin America including a health-oriented program in Cameroon, a program focused on teaching English as a foreign language in Colombia and a trip by the university’s choir to Cuba this past summer. (Statistics presented by Gasman earlier in the presentation suggest that students at HBCUs differ somewhat from the overall student profile in terms of choice of destination. While the top destinations for all U.S. students studying abroad are the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and China, for students at HBCUs China is the top destination, followed by Ghana, Spain, France and Brazil.)

Wilson said that Morgan State has established partnership agreements with more than 30 international universities in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America and the Caribbean. “The major barrier for us at Morgan is the ability to obtain the financial resources that are necessary to both support the student at Morgan who wants to go abroad and then to really operate these agreements in the way in which they were designed to operate — that is, to provide opportunities for other students in other countries to come and then to send our students to these campuses for a semester or two,” Wilson said.

The other main barrier Wilson identified for MSIs was also resource related — “the ability to provide support to enhance foreign language programs on HBCU and MSI campuses, to stimulate student interest in the language, culture, art and society.”

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By Colleen Flaherty

“Since the first decade of the new millennium, the words ranking, evaluation, metrics, h-index and impact factors have wreaked havoc in the world of higher education and research.”

So begins a new English edition of Bibliometrics and Research Evaluation: Uses and Abuses from Yves Gingras, professor and Canada Research Chair in history and sociology of science at the University of Quebec at Montreal. The book was originally published in French in 2014, and while its newest iteration, published by the MIT Press, includes some new content, it’s no friendlier to its subject. Ultimately, Bibliometrics concludes that the trend toward measuring anything and everything is a modern, academic version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” in which — quoting Hans Christian Andersen, via Gingras — “the lords of the bedchamber took greater pains than ever to appear holding up a train, although, in reality there was no train to hold.”

Gingras says, “The question is whether university leaders will behave like the emperor and continue to wear each year the ‘new clothes’ provided for them by sellers of university rankings (the scientific value of which most of them admit to be nonexistent), or if they will listen to the voice of reason and have the courage to explain to the few who still think they mean something that they are wrong, reminding them in passing that the first value in a university is truth and rigor, not cynicism and marketing.”

Although some bibliometric methods “are essential to go beyond local and anecdotal perceptions and to map comprehensively the state of research and identify trends at different levels (regional, national and global),” Gingras adds, “the proliferation of invalid indicators can only harm serious evaluations by peers, which are essential to the smooth running of any organization.”

And here is the heart of Gingras’s argument: that colleges and universities are often so eager to proclaim themselves “best in the world” — or region, state, province, etc. — that they don’t take to care to identify “precisely what ‘the best’ means, by whom it is defined and on what basis the measurement is made.” Put another way, he says, paraphrasing another researcher, if the metric is the answer, what is the question?

Without such information, Gingras warns, “the university captains who steer their vessels using bad compasses and ill-calibrated barometers risk sinking first into the storm.” The book doesn’t rule out the use of indicators to “measure” science output or quality, but Gingras says they must first be validated and then interpreted in context.

‘Evaluating Is Not Ranking’

Those looking for a highly technical overview of — or even technical screed against — bibliometrics might best look elsewhere; Bibliometrics is admittedly heavier on opinion than on detailed information science. But Gingras is an expert on bibliometrics, as scientific director of his campus’s Observatory of Science and Technology, which measures science, technology and innovation — and he draws on that expertise throughout the book.

Bibliometrics begins, for example, with a basic history of its subject, from library management in the 1950s and 1960s to science policy in the 1970s to research evaluation in the 1980s. Although evaluation of research is of course at least as old as the emergence of scientific papers hundreds of years ago, Gingras says that new layers — such as the evaluation of grants, graduate programs and research laboratories — were added in the 20th century. And beginning several decades ago, he says, qualitative, peer-led means of evaluations began to be seen as “too subjective to be taken seriously according to positivist conceptions of ‘decision making.’”

While study of publication and citation patterns, “on the proper scale, provides a unique tool for analyzing global dynamics of science over time,” the book says, the “entrenchment” of increasingly (and often ill-defined) quantitative indicators in the formal evaluation of institutions and researchers gives way to their abuses. Negative consequences of a bibliometrics-centered approach to science include the suppression of risk-taking research that might not necessarily get published, and even deliberate gaming of the system — such as paying authors to add new addresses to their papers in order to boost the position of certain institutions on various rankings.

Among other rankings systems, Gingras criticizes Nature Publishing Group’s Nature Index, which ranks countries and institutions on the basis of the papers they publish in what the index defines as high-quality science journals. Because 17 of the 68 journals included in the index are published by the Nature group, the ranking presents some conflict of interest concerns, he says — especially as institutions and researchers may begin to feel pressured into publishing in those journals. More fundamentally, measuring sheer numbers of papers published in a given group of journals — as opposed to, say, citations — “is not proof that the scientific community will find it useful or interesting.”

In a similar point that Gingras makes throughout the book, “evaluating is not ranking.”

A ‘Booming’ Evaluation Market

The intended and unintended consequences of administrative overreliance on indicators used by Academic Analytics, a productivity index and benchmarking firm that aggregates publicly available data from the web, have been cited by faculty members at Rutgers University, for example. The faculty union there has asked the university not to use information from the database in personnel and various other kinds of decisions, and to make faculty members’ profiles available to them.

David Hughes, professor of sociology and president of the American Association of University Professors- and American Federation of Teachers-affiliated faculty union at Rutgers, wrote in an essay for AAUP’s “Academe blog last year, for example, “What consequences might flow from such a warped set of metrics? I can easily imagine department chairs and their faculties attempting to ‘game the system,’ that is to publish in the journals, obtain the grants and collaborate in the ways that Academic Analytics counts. Indeed, a chair might feel obligated, for the good of her department, to push colleagues to compete in the race. If so, then we all lose.”

Hughes continued, “Faculty would put less energy into teaching, service and civic engagement– all activities ignored by the database. Scholarship would narrow to fit the seven quantifiable grooves. We would lose something of the diversity, heterodoxy and innovation that is, again, so characteristic of academia thus far. This firm creates incentives to encourage exactly that kind of decline.”

Faculty members at Rutgers also have cited concerns about errors in their profiles, either overestimating or underestimating their scholarship records. Similar concerns about accuracy after a study comparing faculty members’ curriculum vitae with their system profiles led Georgetown University to drop its subscription to Academic Analytics. In an announcement earlier this month, Robert Groves, provost, said quality coverage of the “scholarly products of those faculty studied are far from perfect.”

Even with perfect coverage, Groves said, “the data have differential value across fields that vary in book versus article production and in their cultural supports for citations of others’ work.” Without adequate coverage, “it seems best for us to seek other ways of comparing Georgetown to other universities.”

In response to such criticisms, Academic Analytics has said that it opposes using its data in faculty personnel decisions, and that it’s helpful to administrators as one tool among many in making decisions.

Other products have emerged as possible alternatives to products such as Academic Analytics, including Lyterati. The latter doesn’t do institutional benchmarking — at least not yet, in part because it’s still building up its client base. But among other capabilities, it includes searchable faculty web profiles with embedded analytics that automatically update when faculty members enter data. Its creators say that it helps researchers and administrators identify connections and experts that might otherwise be hard to find. Dossiers for faculty annual reports, promotion or tenure can be generated from a central database, instead of from a variety of different sources, in different styles.

The program is transparent to faculty members because it relies on their participation to build web profiles. “We are really focused on telling universities, ‘Don’t let external people come in and let people assess how good or productive or respected your faculty is — gather the data yourself and assess it yourself,’” said Rumy Sen, CEO of Entigence Corporation, Lyterati’s parent company.

Dianne Martin, former vice provost for faculty affairs at George Washington University, said she used it as vehicle for professors to file required annual reports and to populate a faculty expert finder web portal. With such data, “we can easily run reports about various aspects of faculty engagement,” such as which professors are engaged in activities related to the university’s strategic plan or international or local community activities, she said. Reports on teaching and research also can be generated on teaching and research for accreditation purposes.

But Lyterati, too, has been controversial on some campuses; Jonathan Rosenberg, Ruth M. Davis Professor of Mathematics at the University of Maryland at College Park, said that his institution dropped it last year after “tremendous faculty uproar.”

While making uniform faculty CVs had “reasonable objectives,” he said, “implementation was a major headache.” Particularly problematic was the electronic conversion process, he said, which ended up behind schedule and became frustrating when data — such as an invited talk for which one couldn’t remember an exact date — didn’t meet program input guidelines.

Gingras said in an interview that the recent debates at Rutgers and Georgetown show the dangers of using a centralized and especially private system “that is a kind of black box that cannot be analyzed to look at the quality of the content — ‘garbage in, garbage out.’”

Companies have identified a moneymaking niche, and some administrators think they can save money using such external systems, he said. But their use poses “grave ethical problems, for one cannot evaluate people on the basis of a proprietary system that cannot be checked for accuracy.”

The reason managers want centralization of faculty data is to “control scientists, who used to be the only ones to evaluate their peers,” Gingras added. “It is a kind of de-skilling of research evaluation. … In this new system, the paper is no [longer] a unit of knowledge and has become an accounting unit.”

Gingras said the push toward using “simplistic” indicators is probably worst in economics and biomedical sciences; history and the other social sciences are somewhat better in that they still have a handle on qualitative, peer-based evaluation. And contrary to beliefs held in some circles, he said, this process has always had some quantitative aspects.

The book criticizes the “booming” evaluation market, describing it is something of a Wild West in which invalid indicators are peddled alongside those with potential value. He says that most indicators, or variables that make up many rankings, are never explicitly tested for their validity before they are used to evaluate institutions and researchers.

Testing Indicators for Validity

To that point, Gingras proposes a set of criteria for testing indicators. The first criterion is adequacy, meaning that it corresponds to the object or concept being evaluated. Sometimes this is relatively simple, he says — for instance, a country’s level of investment in scientific research and development is a pretty good indicator of its research activity intensity.

But things become more complicated when trying to measure “quality” or “impact” of research, as opposed to sheer quantity, he says. For example, the number of citations a given paper receives might best be a measure of “visibility” instead of “quality.” And a bad indicator is one based on the number of Nobel Prize winners associated with a given university, since it measures the quality and quantity of work of an individual researcher, typically over decades — not the current quality of the institution as a whole. Gingras criticizes the international Shanghai Index for making Nobels part of its “pretend” institutional ranking formula.

Gingras’s second indicator criterion is sensitivity to the “inertia” of the object being measured, “since different objects change with more or less difficulty (and rapidity) over time.” Just as a thermometer that gave wildly different readings for the temperature of a room over a short period would be deemed faulty, he says, so should ranking systems that allow institutions to move significantly up or down within a single year.

Universities are like supertankers, he says, and simply can’t change course so quickly. So ranking institutions every year or even every couple of years is folly — bad science — and largely a marketing strategy from producers of such rankings. Gingras applauds the National Research Council, for example, for ranking doctoral departments in each discipline every 10 years, a much more valid interval that might just demonstrate actual change. (The research council ranking gets a lot of additional criticism for its system, however.)

A third, crucial property of indicators is their homogeneity. The number of articles published in leading scientific journals, for example, can measure research output at the national level. But if one were to combine the number of papers with a citation measure — as does the widely known h-index, which measures individual scholars’ productivity and citation impact — indicators become muddled, Gingras says.

“The fundamental problem with such heterogeneous composite indicators is that when they vary, it is impossible to have a clear idea of what the change really means, since it could be due to different factors related to each of its heterogeneous parts,” the book reads. “One should always keep each indicator separate and represent it on a spiderweb diagram, for example, in order to make the various components of the concept being measured.”

A fourth criterion that Gingras says should be implicit but isn’t is that if the value of the concept is higher, the value measured by the indicator should be higher. Some rankings consider the proportion of foreign faculty members as an indicator of success on the world stage, for example, but a 100 percent foreign faculty isn’t necessarily better than 20 percent foreign.

Academic ‘Moneyball’?

The AAUP earlier this year released a statement urging caution against the use of private metrics providers to gather data about faculty research.

Henry Reichman, a professor emeritus of history at California State University at East Bay who helped draft the document as chair of the association’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, said faculty bibliometrics were a corollary to the interest in outcomes assessment, in that the goals of each are understandable but the means of measurement are often flawed. Faculty members aren’t necessarily opposed to the use of all bibliometrics, he added, but they should never replace nuanced processes of peer review by subject matter experts.

Bibliometrics in many ways represent a growing gap, or “gulf,” between administrators and faculty members, Reichman added; previously, many administrators were faculty members who eventually would return to the faculty. While that’s still true in many places, he said, university leaders increasingly have been administrators for many years or are drawn from other sectors, where “bottom lines” are much clearer than they are in higher education.

Brad Fenwick, vice president of global and academic research relations for Elsevier — which runs Scopus, a major competitor of Web of Science and the world’s largest citation database for peer-reviewed literature — said that as a former faculty member he understood some of the criticisms of bibliometrics.

No one metric is a sufficient measure of who’s best, he said, and any database must be “sensitive to the uniqueness of disciplines, which have different ways of communicating and sharing their scholarly work.” Elsevier’s answer was to come up with “lots of different ways of doing it, and being very, very transparent” about their processes, he said. That means faculty members have access to their profiles, for example.

Like Reichman, Fenwick said bibliometrics is not an alternative to peer review, but a complement. He compared administrators’ use of bibliometrics to baseball’s increasingly analytic approach made famous in Michael Lewis’s Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, in which human beings use a mix of their expertise, intuition and data to make “marginally better decisions.” And those decisions aren’t always or usually negative, he said; they might mean an administrator is able to funnel additional resources toward an emerging research focus he or she wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

Cassidy Sugimoto, associate professor of informatics and computing at the University of Indiana at Bloomington and co-editor of Scholarly Metrics Under the Microscope: From Citation Analysis to Academic Auditing, said criticism of bibliometrics for evaluating scholars and scholarship is nothing new, and the field has adjusted to them over time. Issues of explicit malpractice — such as citation stacking and citation “cartels” — are addressed by suppressing data for such individuals and journals in citation indicators, for example, she said. And various distortions in interpretations, such as those caused by the “skewness” of citation indicators, wide variation in discipline and scholars’ age, have been mitigated by the adoption of more sophisticated normalizations.

“Just as with any other field of practice, scientometrics has self-corrected via organized skepticism, and bibliometrics continues to offer a productive lens to answer many questions about the structure, performance and trajectory of science,” she said.

Residual issues arising from the use of indicators for evaluation purposes are “as much sociological as scientometric problems, and are often caused not by the metric itself but in the application and interpretation of the metric,” Sugimoto added via email. “I would not call, therefore, for the cessation of the use of metrics, but rather to apply and interpret them more appropriately — at the right levels of analysis — to provide rigorous analyses of science.”

Summing up his own work, Gingras said that bibliometrics “work best at aggregate levels to indicate trends when indicators are well defined. At the level of individual evaluation they fluctuate too much to replace the usual peer review by experts who know the field and thus know what a productive scientist is.”

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By Jake New

WASHINGTON — In December, William E. Kirwan will retire from the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics after serving a decade as the group’s chair. Following his final meeting on Monday, Kirwan shared a grim prediction for the future of the Football Bowl Subdivision, the most competitive level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The “out of control expenditures” seen among the division’s top programs, Kirwan said, are creating a financial divide that will eventually force out all but the wealthiest institutions. If the prediction holds, the University of Idaho’s decision to leave the FBS in April would be only the beginning of an eventual exodus.

“The discrepancy between the haves and have-nots is just growing so significantly, and I think we will definitely see more University of Idahos in the future,” Kirwan said. “I think as this have and have-not gap gets wider and wider, more and more schools are going to drop out of the FBS and that’s when a crisis is going to start to emerge, because the model of FBS is dependent on 120 schools playing and we’re reaching a point where that’s just not going to be possible.”

The instability and heavy spending of the Football Bowl Subdivision was a common theme during the commission’s meeting here Monday.

Some at the meeting, including Kirwan, said they would support an antitrust exemption for the NCAA that would allow the association to cap coaching salaries and other athletic spending. Sandy Barbour, athletics director at Pennsylvania State University, said college sports’ current level of spending was “unsustainable.” Scott Cowen, the former president of Tulane University, also called the current model “not sustainable” and blamed the Power Five leagues — the 65 wealthiest programs, which gained the ability to create their own rules in 2014 — for driving the increase in spending.

In 2005, revenue generated by the Power Five leagues was $570 million. According to the Knight Commission, that revenue will be $2.8 billion by 2020.

During the meeting, the commission released a report that examined the various sources from which Division I institutions receive their revenue and how the money is spent. For the FBS, about 8 percent of athletic budget revenue comes from student fees, with another 11 percent coming from institutional and government support. At the Football Championship Subdivision level, student fees account for 26 percent of revenues and 43 percent of the budget is provided through institutional and government support.

For colleges that have no football program, the athletic department is mostly subsidized, with 41 percent of the funds coming from student fees and 35 percent from institutional support.

During Monday’s meeting, Jeff Bourne, athletics director at James Madison University, said $34 million of the university’s $47 million sports budget is funded by student fees. Bourne said the university is currently examining whether it should join the FBS. In recent years, other institutions that heavily subsidize their athletic budgets with student fees and institutional support have discussed making the opposite move: from the FBS to the FCS, or eliminating football completely.

  • In 2014, the University of Alabama at Birmingham became the first institution in nearly 20 years to shut down its big-time Division I football program. Citing rising costs and the growing stratification of college sports, Ray Watts, the university’s president, said killing the program would help save Birmingham $50 million over the next decade.
  • Last year, some faculty and students at the University of Akron urged the university to decrease football spending by dropping to the FCS. A $60 million deficit had prompted the university to announce staff layoffs and the elimination of its baseball team. Meanwhile, the university was spending $8 million per year to subsidize a football team with the lowest attendance in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
  • Earlier this year, the Faculty Senate and student government at Eastern Michigan University told university administrators that its heavily subsidized FBS football team should leave for the FCS.

In the end, none of these programs dropped football or moved down to the FCS, however. Alabama Birmingham’s decision created an intense backlash on campus, setting off a tumultuous six months that eventually resulted in a complete reversal of the decision. Akron’s president said that moving to the FCS was “not on the table.” When faculty members and students made their suggestion at Eastern Michigan, the university stated that it had “absolutely no plans to eliminate football or move into any other division or conference.”

Chuck Staben, president of the University of Idaho, said in an interview Monday that if the sort of change Kirwan predicts is coming, he hasn’t seen many signs that it will be soon. Since announcing Idaho’s move to the FCS in April, other institutions “have not been knocking” on the president’s door, he said.

Idaho’s decision was made easier by the Sun Belt Conference choosing not to renew the university’s membership earlier this year. For other institutions with struggling football programs, Staben said, having a place in a conference may mean it’s not worth making the transition. Even for Idaho, the move hasn’t been without complications. When the decision was announced in April, several donors expressed anger and said they would no longer donate to the university.

Interest in “Idaho athletics would virtually disappear with the move, along with any potential for financial support,” one booster warned, adding that contributions to the university would decline or “cease entirely.” As it turns out, some boosters were true to their word.

“Some of our donors got ticked off, and they pulled about a half a million dollars in fund-raising,” Staben said, adding that the university was already facing a $500,000 deficit before the move to the FCS.

Staben said he still believes the university made the right decision, and that joining FCS will help alleviate the lack of funding, as it means the football program will be able to spend far less on travel and on the salaries of coaching staff. Whether other programs will determine that such a move makes sense remains to be seen.

“So far, I don’t see anybody lining up to do it,” Staben said.

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By Rick Seltzer

An M.B.A. merger is making a mess in the University of Maine System.

Faculty members at the University of Southern Maine, in Portland, are upset at the progression of a plan that would have their institution’s M.B.A. program merged with the M.B.A. program of the flagship University of Maine in Orono. The merger is an early step in a plan to create a $150 million Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies that would eventually be built in Portland to house various merged law, M.B.A., public service and management and human service programs.

But unhappy faculty members feel they haven’t been included in the process of shaping the merged M.B.A. program or the graduate center, which some see as an early step in an attempt to create a unified state university. They feel some of the recommendations they did make were not taken into account. And they believe administrators are pushing the restructuring through too quickly and before important details are in place — placing their power over curriculum and governance in peril in order to satisfy outside influences pushing for the new graduate center.

Nerves are particularly frayed at Southern Maine, where faculty members view the University of Maine System of which they are a part with suspicion after a dispute over whether layoffs of 26 instructors in 2014 violated a faculty union contract went into arbitration that was settled largely in the university’s favor this year. There are fears that the M.B.A. merger amounts to closing Southern Maine’s program. Plans call for students of the merged program to earn University of Maine degrees even if they attend class on Southern Maine’s campus.

The local chapter of the faculty union is considering filing a grievance alleging that the university is violating its policies for closing programs. The university’s graduate council passed a motion urging Southern Maine’s administration to drop public support for the combination of the M.B.A. programs until governing structure and curriculum details are in place. To do otherwise, it said, would be misleading to current and prospective students.

Administrators maintain that they’re following procedures for establishing major university units and that they have engaged faculty members. They added that there is much work left to do on the merger and graduate center creation where faculty can be involved.

Tensions, however, have only grown in the last month as faculty members learned that the merged M.B.A. program is slated to start in the fall of 2017. The date was included last week as the university system published a business plan and announced its Board of Trustees would be voting over the weekend to endorse the graduate center concept along with a multistep implementation plan.

Trustees unanimously passed the resolution at a meeting Sunday. It specifically supports university system Chancellor James H. Page in efforts to find $15 million in grant support for an early phase of the plan. The development of a physical graduate center in Portland would follow at a later date.

“Maine’s universities are striving to be the state’s best and most responsive partner,” Page said in a statement after the measure passed. “The Maine Center plan is aspirational, exemplifying our One University commitment to move our state forward with innovative programing and stronger engagement with Maine’s business, legal and community leaders.”

Spokesman Dan Demeritt said that the implementation plan up for a vote was “very deliberate and inclusive.”

Faculty members don’t see it that way. Robert Heiser is an associate professor of marketing who directs Southern Maine’s M.B.A. program. The 2017 start date is a challenge, he said.

“At this point we have no governance, no curriculum, no processes, no admissions procedure,” Heiser said. “They have created chaos.”

Faculty members in the two business programs have been working toward agreements on issues like curriculum and governance for several years, Heiser said. There are some differences, such as the Southern Maine faculty fighting to keep specializations like data analytics and entrepreneurship. Southern Maine’s M.B.A. has more specialized programs than the flagship in Orono. It requires more credits — 36 versus 30.

There are also bound to be tensions between the two programs, especially because Southern Maine’s M.B.A. is larger than the one on the flagship campus in Orono. Southern Maine’s program had 71 students in 2015-16. The University of Maine’s had 52. Southern Maine is in Portland, which has a population of roughly 66,000 people, while the flagship campus in Orono is located in a rural municipality with a population of fewer than 11,000.

Still, Heiser thinks that faculty members would be able to come into agreement if left to their own devices. He hasn’t seen that happen with the larger graduate center being formed. He described faculty groups as being rushed and largely excluded from the design and planning of the center.

“I can still understand why, for strategic reasons, you might want to merge them together,” Heiser said. “We’re businesspeople, two schools of business, after all. It’s the how. Not the what.”

The business plan for the Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies places significant pressure on the M.B.A. merger. It says that the merged M.B.A. program has the largest untapped market potential of the programs it will include. It also says the Maine Center’s design rests in part on the idea that the M.B.A. program can grow by serving part-time and full-time students. The existing M.B.A. programs largely serve part-time students who have careers.

The plan calls for increasing M.B.A. enrollments to about 200. It also says the existing programs failed to adapt to competition from Husson University, Thomas College and Southern New Hampshire University. Southern Maine’s M.B.A. enrollment has dropped roughly by half in the last five years, it says.

“Neither of the UMS M.B.A. programs responded effectively to the disruption of a principal market (midcareer Maine students) with offerings designed to carve out a marketplace distinction and a competitive advantage,” the plan says. “Continuing to compete only in the very market where they were losing share in spite of being cost competitive, the UMS M.B.A. programs suffered steadily declining enrollment.”

There is much division in the University of Maine System over the genesis of the center. System Chancellor Page has said its creation is backed by business and legal leaders. The university system hired two-time independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler in 2015 to spearhead the center’s creation, and it’s backed by Maine’s Harold Alfond Foundation. The plan was to be forwarded to the foundation after trustees’ Sunday vote.

The foundation has provided $2.25 million for early-stage center development, the Portland Press Herald reported. But two-thirds of the capital needed to build the center has yet to be identified.

The Maine Center business plan spells out a governance structure in which program heads — deans of law and business — would report to provosts and presidents at the University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine. The M.B.A. program head would report to the University of Maine, with other heads reporting to Southern Maine.

Faculty members weren’t properly involved in the creation process, said Susan Feiner, a professor of economics and women’s and gender studies who chairs the Southern Maine chapter of the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine. The governance issues affect faculty members at both institutions involved, she said.

“The unions and Faculty Senate have already expressed how frustrated we are with the lack of inclusion of faculty in this process,” she said. “The whole M.B.A. thing has exploded in importance around the timing issues being imposed.”

Feiner also questioned whether the planned center would actually be an improvement over what the university system has in place currently. She’s not convinced the university studied the idea properly.

Additionally, she worried the M.B.A. merger could be used as a model to circumvent rules around layoffs at Southern Maine. The university system can’t close Southern Maine programs in order to hire part-time faculty members who will do the same job as those who were laid off, she said. But she worries the new model could allow a new entity to hire part-time faculty members to do the work of Southern Maine faculty whose programs were closed for the merger.

That’s not why the university system is pursuing the changes, said spokesman Demeritt. Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings said there is an agreement in place that covers M.B.A. program hiring concerns and governance issues.

“The UMaine flagship has agreed to basically roll our faculty into the M.B.A. program,” Cummings said. “A council of faculty will decide on the governance of this new entity.”

Cummings also said that the combined program does not have to be fully operational in the fall of 2017. He termed the date a soft launch, under which a few courses will need to be taught under a joint curriculum.

More broadly, the issues at hand are a reflection of how difficult it can be to bring programs and universities together, Cummings said. He sees potential positives to a graduate center on his campus despite the difficulties — it could provide important training, he said.

“There are so many agents inside and outside the university,” he said. “This is disruptive change at its best and at its worst.”

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Faculty members are unhappy over an M.B.A. merger at the University of Southern Maine.
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By Andrew Kreighbaum

Federal regulators released guidance on graduate student health insurance subsidies Friday that should provide reassurance to universities considering whether they will still offer the subsidies. The guidance likely will be viewed as great news by many graduate students.

An Internal Revenue Service interpretation of the Affordable Care Act barred large employers from subsidizing employees’ purchase of health insurance on the individual market — a view the agency applied even to student health insurance plans negotiated by a university with insurers. That interpretation had left many large public universities scrambling over the last year to identify alternative options to provide affordable insurance to graduate workers.

Many advocates for graduate students and leaders of universities said that the IRS interpretation ignored the many ways in which universities subsidizing graduate student health insurance are not typical of the kinds of employers that the health care law sought to regulate.

The government in February said agencies would wait until the 2017-18 academic year to enforce that interpretation. The new guidance released Friday by the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services indicates they will extend that nonenforcement indefinitely.

“We’re very appreciative of what regulators and the administration did today,” said Steven Bloom, director of government relations at the American Council on Education, which advocates on behalf of public and private colleges and universities. “We think it solves an immediate problem that many schools were having a difficult time figuring out what to do for the upcoming year.”

Bloom said ACE doesn’t consider the issue to be entirely resolved but for now said colleges and universities can continue what they have been doing to offer subsidized health insurance to graduate students.

The Kansas Board of Regents announced this month that public universities in the state would cease offering those subsidies next year in response to the IRS interpretation of the Affordable Care Act. Bloom said it’s possible some member universities that were considering the same decision as Kansas may reconsider in light of the additional guidance Friday.

Breeze Richardson, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Board of Regents, said there was now no reason for state institutions to stop offering subsidies currently in place.

“We are extremely pleased about this latest decision and hope that the federal agencies involved will make it a permanent one,” she said in an email.

In 2015, the University of Missouri announced shortly before the fall semester was to begin that it would stop offering subsidies for health insurance to its graduate students. In the face of protests and after the involvement of Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, the university changed course and reinstated the subsidies indefinitely.

Kristofferson Culmer, the president and CEO of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, said the group was relieved to see the extension granted indefinitely for universities.

“A lot of the options they were looking into were ultimately going to raise costs for individual students as well for the universities,” he said.

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By Carl Straumsheim

Highlights: Questions about who stands to benefit from data-driven assessments, lack of concern about cyberattacks, dissatisfaction with the scholarly publishing landscape, continued skepticism about online education quality.

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By Scott Jaschik

Black students nationwide have been inspired by and joined the protest started by Colin Kaepernick of the National Football League in which people decline to stand during the national anthem before athletic contests.

The protests continue to spread, and they are facing a backlash at some campuses. Some of the backlash consists of people making a case for standing for the anthem. But some of the backlash — especially on social media — is coming in the form of ugly comments directed against black students.

At a football game at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa on Saturday, a few dozen black students sat together and remained seated for the national anthem. (The football team at Alabama doesn’t appear on the field until after pregame activities such as the anthem, and so has not been involved in the protest.)

Saturday’s protest was the second at an Alabama football game, and students announced their plans in advance, using the hashtag #bamasits to organize and explain their views.


— cleopatra ☥ (@aminafromthesix) October 22, 2016

As at other colleges and universities where students have protested, students cited police violence against young black people and the racism that remains present in American society.

At the game on Saturday, many white fans made a point of bringing and displaying U.S. flags, of placing their hands over their hearts during the anthem, and showing great enthusiasm for the anthem. (Some people do this during any game, but the patriotic activity was much more pronounced than during typical games.)

Many of those opposed to the protest organized around a hashtag of #bamastands.

On social media, many comments directed at the black students went beyond simply disagreeing with them.

Fuck these college assholes. They don’t have a fucking clue how the world operates. “Mistreatment of blacks.” Kiss my ass! #bamasits

— Bud Davis (@slumpbuster2001) October 22, 2016

#bamasits is a bunch of whiney uneducated children who are puppets being used by the media and liberals to push a dividing agenda.

— Aaron Williams (@Worship1AMW) October 22, 2016

Other comments criticized the Black Lives Matter movement that many of the protesting students support. And others wrote that part of being at the University of Alabama is supporting the flag and not protesting in this way.

Others expressed support for the protest, and some said that they felt new pride for Alabama after seeing these students protest. Many defending them noted that the protest was entirely peaceful and did not interfere with the ability of other fans to stand during the anthem. Many wrote that the responses they saw online and in person point to the reasons they supported the protest. “Today I was brought to tears as my peers bombarded our peaceful protest …. [I don’t know] why the hate is so deep,” one student wrote on Twitter.

The Facebook page on which Alabama students trade football tickets featured many divisive remarks about the protest — and one person who posted what was deemed a criminal threat against black students has since been arrested.

The Crimson White, the student newspaper at Alabama, published an editorial (after the first protest but before Saturday’s) that defended the right of students to sit during the anthem, and said that all should be concerned about a lack of respect shown to those who protest.

“It can be difficult to adjust to new perspectives; when faced with new points of view, some react explosively and insensitively because they don’t know how to accommodate a set of ideas that differs so heavily from their own,” the editorial said. “But this extends beyond gathering new perspectives. This is about deeply ingrained, institutionalized racism that has now pervaded even the simplest of American exercises — peaceful protest. We’re never going to agree on everything. But the least we can do is understand and respect one another.”

A statement from the university said that the protests have First Amendment protection. “The university supports the rights and ability of students to protest in a way that does not infringe on the freedoms of others,” the statement said. “The UA campus community should continue to be accepting, tolerant, open to differing ideas and opinions, and should treat one another with respect despite any differences. Not everyone will agree with opinions expressed by other individuals or groups, but these conflicting opinions and views are almost always protected by the First Amendment.”

Veterans on the Field at Greenville

At Greenville College, in Illinois, some football players in recent weeks have taken a knee during the national anthem, prompting discussion at the college and in the surrounding areas.

KSDK News reported that on Saturday, members of a local Veterans of Foreign Wars lodge — without permission from the college — marched to the center of the football field before the game. The football team was then told by college officials to go back to the locker room, although some students remained on the field.

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Protesting students and those protesting the protest at Alabama
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By Matt Reed

When good intentions aren’t enough and student success is at risk.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Joshua Kim

Why meaningful progress is an untidy business.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Tracy Mitrano

What they have in common …

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By Steven Mintz

How higher education can adapt to today’s volatile environment

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)

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Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)
Looking for a new way to spark creativity in your students’ writing? Try these video writing prompts.

Source: Edutopia


By Doug Lederman

Relatively few major university presidents influence higher education more after they leave office than while they are in it. But William G. Bowen, who followed his 15-year presidency of Princeton University with nearly three decades of influential work as a foundation president and author, was one such person.

Bowen, who died Thursday at the age of 83, helped lead Princeton through co-education as its provost and, as its president (he assumed the post at the age of 38) from 1972 to 1988, oversaw the creation of the residential college system and saw its endowment more than triple.

From there he became president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, where among other things he created an in-house research program to investigate doctoral education, college admissions, independent research libraries and charitable nonprofits. His time at Mellon also brought the establishment of several organizations that have had a significant impact on higher education, including the scholarly archive JSTOR and the art-focused ARTstor, as well as Ithaka, which seeks to accelerate the adoption of productive and efficient uses of information technology in higher education).

Bill Bowen in Inside Higher Ed

Bowen may be best known of all, though, for his writings and commentary on higher education. His 2000 book The Shape of the River, co-written with Derek S. Bok, the former president of Harvard University, helped make an empirical case for the importance of affirmative action in college admissions. The Game of Life, in 2002, and Reclaiming the Game, in 2005, written with colleagues from Mellon, raised important questions about the sometimes deleterious impact of college sports at highly selective colleges and universities. Crossing the Finish Line, in 2009, provided evidence that major public universities were not fulfilling their historical mission of being engines of opportunity for disadvantaged Americans.

And 2013’s Higher Education in the Digital Age argued that technology was key to slowing the “cost disease” (a term Bowen and his fellow economist William J. Baumol coined to describe spending in higher education in the 1960s) driving up college tuitions, to the dismay of politicians and the general public.

The famously workaholically inclined Bowen hadn’t slowed down much in recent years. This year brought the release of Lesson Plan, co-written with Michael S. McPherson, which explored some of the real (and imagined) problems in higher education today.

And he continued to weigh in on the important issues of the day. In 2014, amid a series of commencement addresses canceled by protesting students, Bowen — the substitute for a speaker who withdrew at Haverford College — castigated the protesters who heralded the cancelation. Students, Bowen said in his address, “should have encouraged [the speaker] to come and engage in a genuine discussion, not to come, tail between his legs, to respond to an indictment that a self-chosen jury had reached without hearing counter-arguments.”

Bowen was a trustee of Denison University, his alma mater, and among his many honors, Bowen received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2012, and The Shape of the River won the Grawemeyer Award.

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By Kasia Kovacs

Milo Yiannopoulos may be best known for publishing alt-right crusades against feminism and liberal ideologies on Breitbart News. Or maybe he’s better known for being banned from Twitter after provoking his followers into harassing comedian Leslie Jones. Perhaps his internet fame was sparked when he called himself, a conservative gay man, “the most fabulous supervillain on the internet.”

Lately, the technology editor for Breitbart has been drawing attention for something else: the controversies surrounding his college campus tour, which he dubbed the Dangerous Faggot Tour with his characteristic attempt to provoke. His inflammatory speeches led to protests over the past academic year, and this year he’s on something of a roll with his incendiary statements — and a number of colleges are calling off planned appearances.

Yiannopoulos has said that his tour explores the social justice movement, “ultimately with the view to figure out how to stop it.” And some who disagree with his views are among those concerned that he’s being blocked from some of his campus appearances.

Most recently, at his Tuesday talk at Clemson University, he encouraged audience members to celebrate “World Patriarchy Day” on his birthday, an idea that brought cheers from his fans in the crowd.

Today, Yiannopoulos will speak at George Washington University in an event sponsored by the college Republican group there. Instead of calling on the university to cancel the event, GW student Stefan Sultan wrote a column in the student newspaper stating that Yiannopoulos should abstain from hate speech during his visit.

Sultan wrote, “Yiannopoulos should be allowed to come to GW, but he shouldn’t be allowed to target minorities within our student population. Before Yiannopoulos comes, he should assure students and administrators that he will not actively engage in hate speech at GW.

“Bringing a speaker to campus who defends free speech is admirable enough, as the protection of free speech is certainly necessary, but Yiannopoulos’s history of hate speech suggests that his appearance could very well spark bigotry and hatred among students. Why should the poster child for alt-right intolerance be allowed to come to campus and use the university as a platform to spew racist, sexist, Islamophobic and transphobic rhetoric?”

In an emailed statement to Inside Higher Ed, Yiannopoulos was not deterred.

“The left uses the term ‘hate speech’ to fight any speech they don’t care for,” he said. “The students trying to control free speech at George Washington University should grow up.”

Ultimately, GW did not impose any speech limits on Yiannopoulos, A university spokesman said in a statement, “The university supports the rights of individuals to express their opinions even when the speaker is controversial. The presentation of an event such as this implies no endorsement of the speaker’s views.”

Sultan’s suggestion is milder than decisions made by other universities, some of which stopped Yiannopoulos’ visits entirely.

  • This week, New York University announced that it was canceling a talk Yiannopoulos was scheduled to give in November. The event was canceled because of “concerns … about the safety and well-being of our community,” Marc Wais, senior vice president of student affairs, wrote in an email to NYU College Republicans. In addition, he wrote, “For example, the proposed venue in this case is proximate to the Islamic Center, the LGBTQ Student Center and the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs,” organizations that include students who are “subjects of Mr. Yiannopoulos’s attacks.”
  • The University of Miami College Republicans canceled Yiannopoulos’s speech in June after meeting with university staff members about operations and logistics of the event. Hosting Yiannopoulos would ultimately be too expensive, the group’s president said in the student newspaper.
  • At Florida Atlantic University, Yiannopoulos’s September visit was “postponed” due to a threat of violence, said a university spokesperson. The threat was directed toward someone at FAU, not Yiannopoulos, but was related to his visit and subsequently prompted a criminal investigation.
  • Although there were reports that Villanova University canceled Yiannopoulos’s event in September, his talk was never approved by the administration before it was prematurely publicized, said a spokesperson. Ultimately, the College Republicans group that had initially reached out to Yiannopoulos decided not to follow through with the event.
  • When Yiannopoulos visited DePaul University, protesters walked on stage to taunt him and interrupt his talk, and the university then “denied a request” for him to return to campus in the fall, said DePaul spokesperson Carol Hughes. “It was the university’s opinion that Mr. Yiannopoulos’s words and behavior contained inflammatory speech, contributed to a hostile environment and incited similar behavior from the crowd in attendance,” Hughes wrote in an email. “It also was clear that it would not be possible for DePaul to provide the security that would be required for such an event.”

The GW College Republicans aren’t planning on canceling Yiannopoulos’s visit today. In the past month, however, they decided to open the event to GW students only — previously the talk was listed as open to the public.

“This was done for security purposes [and] because there was high student demand,” said Allison Coukos, director of public relations for the group.

The College Republicans are covering the cost of 12 university police officers, Coukos said. The group did not have to pay for Yiannopoulos’s talk.

Although other universities have called off Yiannopoulos talks because of security concerns, some are skeptical of this excuse.

“Security must be imposed because of clear and objective criteria,” said Ari Cohn, an attorney at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. “A lot of times universities cancel events not because of objective criteria but because people are offended.”

It’s true, not everyone is thrilled when universities let Yiannopoulos speak.

Milo Yiannopoulous, aka the human embodiment of foot fungus is coming to GW … can’t wait to fight him outside of Lisner

— pumpkin spice latina (@deanna_reyess) September 20, 2016

But some on campus are actively supporting the College Republicans’ decision to invite Yiannopoulos.

“Those who oppose his right to speak on campus — it’s a novel PC convention,” said John Banzhaf, professor of public interest law at GW.

The First Amendment protects Yiannopoulos’s right to speak at universities, even if that includes hate speech, Banzhaf said. Speech is only illegal under a specific circumstance: if it is deliberately meant to incite immediate harm.

Public universities are bound to follow First Amendment law, and private universities often have free speech policies in place. At GW, which is private, rules on student-sponsored forums are included in the Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities: “Students must recognize their responsibility to uphold the right of free speech and to permit invited speakers to appear and speak without inappropriate interruption or demonstration. The members of the university community are urged to hear all sides of controversial issues represented.”

Cohn says that universities’ obligation to host controversial speakers is an ethical one, too.

“It’s incumbent on administrators to not cut off debate and discussions because people are offended by them,” Cohn said. “Nobody is being forced to go hear the speaker. In fact, students who are offended and disagree with the viewpoint should seek out the speaker to raise questions and try to them prove them wrong. It’s an intellectual exercise.”

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Students at DePaul took the stage to protest Milo Yiannopoulos.
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By Rick Seltzer

When Princeton University announced it had settled litigation with area homeowners who had argued it is a profit-making institution in order to challenge its exemption from property taxes, it appeared to be paying millions of dollars to clear long-lingering uncertainty.

But the agreement, announced Oct. 14, leaves key legal issues unresolved in New Jersey. Although the university did not admit its currently exempt property should be taxed, a court did not affirm its tax exemptions, either.

That could foreshadow additional challenges to research universities in the state — challenges many think could be copied elsewhere in the country as taxpayers or revenue-strapped municipalities search for sources of cash. And the lawyer who filed the Princeton case says the homeowners he represented could bring another lawsuit in six years.

Within New Jersey, a key development in the case took leverage from Princeton University. A judge ruled that the burden of proof for tax-exempt status was on Princeton University, meaning it would have been required to prove itself qualified for property tax exemptions it was already receiving. That’s a major difference from the homeowners bringing the suit having to prove that Princeton did not deserve tax breaks. It’s also a potentially slow and expensive process for the university.

On a larger scale, it’s not yet clear whether challenges to college and university tax exemptions will become common outside of New Jersey, although politicians have eyed the possibility in several states. But the Princeton settlement plainly fits into an era in which college and university finances, tax exemptions and operations are challenged from all sides.

The settlement comes more than five years after several residents sued Princeton over its tax-exempt status. Like other nonprofit institutions, Princeton is exempt from paying property taxes on much of its property. It does, however, pay taxes on some commercial properties that don’t qualify for exemption — like a movie theater it owns — and on others it voluntarily keeps on the tax rolls, like graduate student housing. It also makes voluntary contributions to local municipal government.

Princeton University says it is the largest property taxpayer in the Borough of Princeton municipality, with an $11.1 million property tax bill. Residents, however, argued that they have had to pay more in taxes to compensate for money the university should be paying on exempt property. The lawyer representing them has said that Princeton’s tax bill would be in the $30-40 million range if it paid taxes on all of its property.

In 2011, residents first filed their litigation to challenge Princeton’s status as a nonprofit operation. Additional residents later joined the action, which claimed Princeton University earns millions of dollars in patent royalty income that is then distributed to faculty. The action also argued the university partakes in other commercial operations.

“It shares profit with faculty; engages in profit-seeking conduct through its patent, copyright and trademark licensing businesses; sells the use of its scientific and engineering facilities to outside commercial entities; maintains an industrial associates program and other programs in which it makes available its facilities to commercial use; operates venture capital businesses; operates retail businesses; operates a commercial real estate business and a residential real estate rental business; operates a profit-seeking hedge fund operation and other profit-based investment operations; operates a[n] office and hotel development business, private mortgage banking, commercial television, among other activities,” one complaint from 2015 said.

“Since at least 2005 Princeton University has distributed approximately $150 million in profits to faculty above and beyond their normal compensation and continues to do so,” it continued.

Princeton’s Office of Technology Licensing and Intellectual Property reported patent license income rising from $95.9 million in 2010 to $115.2 million in the 2011 fiscal year, the last year in which it broke out the line in its annual research report. Most of the increase was credited to growth in sales of the anticancer drug Alimta, which is licensed to Eli Lilly and Co. Distributions to inventors rose from $28.9 million to $34.8 million.

Many colleges periodically tussle with localities over whether a given building should be tax-exempt, based on operations there. But the breadth of the challenge to Princeton’s status was unusual — and therefore of concern to research universities nationwide.

Princeton maintained that it complies with federal law when faculty member research leads to patents that are then transferred to companies. It argued the cost of supporting research was beyond any revenue generated and pointed out that it pays substantial property taxes.

The university also argued that it provides services that would otherwise be picked up by municipal authorities, like collecting trash, employing police officers and keeping up private roads that are open to the public.

Still, Tax Court Judge Vito Bianco refused to dismiss the litigation, which ultimately pitted Princeton University and the Borough of Princeton, which granted the university tax-exempt status, against nearly 30 residents. Then in November of last year the judge said the university held the burden of proof. That raised major concerns at the university and for others in the New Jersey nonprofit space.

The Center for Non-Profits, a New Jersey state association of nonprofits that filed an amicus brief supporting the university, said it worried about opening the door to future challenges to nonprofits’ tax exemptions.

“The center is deeply concerned that this standard, which appears to have little substantiation in existing case law, would make all nonprofit property owners highly vulnerable to challenges from disgruntled residents that would be extremely costly and time-consuming to defend, siphoning scarce resources,” it wrote on the development.

Princeton University, meanwhile, anticipated going building by building to defend its property tax exemptions. It projected that process to take weeks, potentially pushing the trial’s completion date into 2017.

Instead it opted to settle the case. The deal it reached, which was announced just three days before the suit was set to go to trial, will have the university paying $2 million in 2017 and $1.6 million per year for five subsequent years to fund payments to Princeton homeowners who receive benefits under New Jersey’s Homestead program for low- and moderate-income homeowners. The benefit will pay approximately $2,200 per homeowner. Some of the money will also go to a nonprofit organization providing need-based scholarships for graduates of Princeton High School who attend postsecondary institutions other than Princeton.

In addition, the university is set to contribute $416,700 per year from 2017 to 2019 to the Witherspoon Jackson Development Corp., a nonprofit organization that will direct the funds to housing and related needs for economically disadvantaged residents in Princeton. Plus, the university will make $3.48 million in annual voluntary payments to its local municipality in 2021 and 2022. That’s the same amount it’s set to contribute in 2020 under an existing seven-year agreement that had been set to end that year.

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber said the university felt the settlement payments were a better use of funding than continuing litigation. The university declined to discuss in depth the process behind its decision to settle the case. But a spokesman, John Cramer, said it would have expected to have its property tax exemption eligibility confirmed had the case gone to trial.

“New Jersey’s Constitution and decades of state policy establish that nonprofit educational institutions serve public purposes and are entitled to property tax exemption so they can devote their resources to their educational and research missions,” Cramer said in an email. “This is exactly what Princeton does.”

The lawyer representing the homeowners disagreed, though. Bruce Afran believes he would have won the case but took the settlement because it helped homeowners.

“The reason for starting this lawsuit, originally, was to stabilize the tax base, to protect the economically disadvantaged homeowners that live here,” Afran said. “That’s why we took this.”

Afran will not rule out bringing similar lawsuits in the future, in New Jersey or elsewhere. The Princeton settlement covers a six-year time frame, but homeowners could return to court at the end of that period, he said. They might do so unless the university puts more money on the table.

“I don’t know what will happen in six years,” Afran said. “If Princeton’s business commercialization continues to grow and there’s no permanent solution, I am confident the litigation will begin again — if not with me, then with someone else.”

Afran insists he has no ill will toward the academic world or intent to challenge its existence. Princeton negotiated fairly, he said, adding that now Princeton is doing more to support its local tax base than most other comparable universities.

Afran rejected several arguments for the university keeping its tax-exempt status, including the argument that it pays property tax on some of its buildings that are deemed commercial.

“That’s not the point,” he said. “The point is they’re running those out of their exempt buildings. The management comes through the university’s executive staff. There’s no way to segregate that, because the president himself is responsible for that management. So is the Board of Trustees.”

Major research institutions are vulnerable to similar challenges across the country, Afran believes. Smaller institutions that aren’t trying to commercialize research have become different from large research institutions pursuing widespread commercialization, he said.

“This is going on in major research universities all over the country,” Afran said. “There’s virtually no way to segregate the academic science and the commercial science. They’re all merged.”

Universities inside and outside of New Jersey have followed the case with concern, according to John B. Wilson, president and CEO of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey. Yet it remains to be seen whether others pick up on the settlement.

In large part, that’s because the key question in the case has not been settled — whether Princeton researchers receiving royalties from their research were equivalent to stockholders receiving dividends, Wilson said.

“What precedent it sets remains to be seen,” he said.

In New Jersey, the settlement comes at a time of intense pressure from high property tax rates, tight municipal budgets and a trend toward tax-exemption litigation. The topic of tax exemption has grown in prominence since a 2015 case finding Morristown Medical Center was not entitled to a tax exemption on most of its property.

In that case, Bianco — the same judge overseeing the Princeton case — found the hospital did not meet the legal test for operating as a charitable nonprofit organization. The judge cited several reasons in his finding, including compensation levels similar to the for-profit sector, that private physicians earned income on hospital property and that the hospital was similar in function to for-profit hospitals. He also said the hospital did not show separation between for-profit and nonprofit activity. The hospital later reached a settlement to pay property taxes on about a quarter of its property plus penalties over a decade. “New Jersey has kind of led the way in tax-exemption litigation,” said Michael Paff, a New Jersey-based lawyer who specializes in real estate matters including property tax exemptions. “The decision of Morristown hospital, that’s now snowballed into an issue where upwards of 35 other townships in New Jersey have filed litigation against their local hospitals. That’s very concerning.”

Different pieces of legislation have been drafted to address the state’s trend of property tax legislation. They have yet to result in changes to the law.

New Jersey legislators passed a law this year that would have protected the state property tax exemption for nonprofit hospitals that have profit-making activities while requiring them follow a formula for making mandatory fees to local municipalities. Governor Chris Christie pocket vetoed the measure in January. Other legislation has been drafted to limit the ability of third parties like homeowners to challenge nonprofits’ property tax exemptions, as happened in the Princeton case.

Without legislative changes, many worry about future suits against universities. In theory, those suits would not have to be won to have an impact. Legal action can provide leverage for parties trying to extract payment in lieu of tax, or PILOT agreements, from institutions to municipalities.

“I think in many ways, all these cases are tried in public opinion,” said Daphne A. Kenyon, an economist and resident fellow in tax policy at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Mass., who has studied PILOT agreements and is a former member of the New Hampshire Board of Education. “I think if I was the president of the university, I would make sure I was prepared for some cases like this and made sure I had my arguments stacked up and also made sure to keep town-gown relations cordial.”

Keeping tax disputes amicable is a key recommendation, Kenyon said. She believes it is beneficial if institutions can come to agreements for the long term, which can reduce the relative cost of negotiations.

The situation in New Jersey might not set off a wave of litigation against colleges and universities around the country, Kenyon said. Legal differences could stand in the way.

“The property tax exemption for nonprofits goes back to the earliest history of our country, and it existed before we even had an income tax,” Kenyon said. “When you look at it, the detail and the difference from state to state are mind-numbing.”

Homeowners in many locations won’t have the resources to bring a suit, either. The Princeton suit was only able to proceed because Eleanor Lewis, a public interest lawyer and former assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Insurance, left money in her estate for the cause, Afran said.

Still, some worry that the debate has highlighted the notion that universities and nonprofits should pay their fair share of taxes toward municipal services. That idea could put financial stress on small institutions while overlooking the contributions they make, said Linda Czipo, president and CEO of the Center for Non-Profits in New Jersey.

“Our concern is it completely disregards what nonprofits of all sizes and types do contribute to the well-being of localities and regions, whether it’s economically or programmatically or socially,” she said. “It’s not a one-sided equation.”

Administration and Finance
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By Jake New

The University of Louisville committed four major National Collegiate Athletic Association violations when a former men’s basketball assistant paid an escort service to provide strip shows and sex for recruits and other players, the NCAA stated in a notice of allegations sent to the university Thursday. The Level I violations charge the program’s head coach, Rick Pitino, with “failure to monitor” his employee, a serious allegation that could result in a suspension for the coach.

When the scandal first became public last year — after the head of the escort service published a tell-all book — the assistant at the center of the allegations, Andre McGee, said the claims were untrue. The university avoided confirming or denying the charges at first and backed Pitino when he said he was unaware of the misconduct. An internal university investigation and, now, an NCAA investigation have confirmed that the parties with the escorts did in fact happen, but Louisville officials maintain that Pitino, and the university at large, should not be punished any further.

“The NCAA does not allege a ‘lack of institutional control’ at Louisville, a very severe allegation,” the university said in a statement. “The NCAA does not allege that Coach Pitino failed to ‘promote an atmosphere of compliance,’ a serious allegation. The [notice of allegations] does contain a narrower allegation — which we will dispute — that Coach Pitino failed to demonstrate that he monitored Mr. McGee. We believe that Mr. McGee acted furtively and note that the NOA does not indicate that any other university employee besides Mr. McGee had knowledge of these activities. We are confident in Coach Pitino and we know he is and always has been committed to NCAA compliance.”

That the university continues to defend Pitino has angered critics of the athletics department, including some faculty members at Louisville. And experts on NCAA rules say that, while Louisville plans on fighting the charge against Pitino, the university already dodged several bullets. Other institutions that have run afoul of NCAA rules have also argued that knowledge of misconduct was limited to one or two staff members. Unlike Louisville, those programs were still hit with lack of institutional control and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

Mark Nagel, associate director of the University of South Carolina’s College Sport Research Institute, said the bizarreness of this case may have shielded the university from further violations.

“It is possible that the NCAA is saying that this type of action was unlikely to be predicted by the various compliance officials on campus,” Nagel said. “It may be that few, if anyone, on a typical campus would expect this type of behavior and so there should not have been an expectation of this happening and therefore a need to have a structure, beyond the coaches, in place to prevent it. Obviously, the standard for future cases may now be different because other schools should see what happened at Louisville and should better understand this is an area that needs tighter controls.”

While it’s true that paying for escorts is not a typical NCAA rules violation, it is also not unprecedented. The NCAA does not comment on ongoing infractions cases. The university now has 90 days to respond to the notice of allegations.

Whether Pitino or any other officials knew of the parties is irrelevant as far as the NCAA’s failure-to-monitor rules are concerned. In 2014, the association revised its rules to hold coaches more accountable for all violations within their programs even if they were unaware of the misconduct. “An institution’s head coach is presumed to be responsible for the actions of all institutional staff members who report, directly or indirectly, to the head coach,” the revised rule states.

Pitino’s contract — which runs through 2026 — contains similar language. The coach is required to “diligently supervise compliance of assistant coaches and any other employees for which [he] is administratively responsible.” The dormitory in which the parties took place is also under Pitino’s purview. The building is designated for athletes and was built at his request.

The residence hall is named after the coach’s brother-in-law, who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In widely criticized remarks made during a news conference Thursday, Pitino invoked Sept. 11 while denying his involvement in the prostitution scandal. “Fifteen-plus years ago, a plane went through the World Trade Center, and it altered the life of my family completely,” Pitino said, adding that he was not guilty of failing to monitor his employees, but was “guilty of trusting someone.”

The former escort, Katina Powell, said she was paid by McGee, the team’s former graduate assistant and director of basketball operations, to provide recruits with strip shows and sex during overnight visits in the dormitory. Powell said she was given about $10,000 by McGee for supplying dancers — including her own teenage daughters — for more than two dozen parties during a four-year period. In one instance, McGee allegedly offered the escort basketball tickets and a bottle of whiskey signed by Pitino.

The NCAA’s report largely matches Powell’s account. McGee, the association alleges, spent at least $5,400 on “impermissible inducements, offers and/or extra benefits in the form of adult entertainment” for at least 17 basketball recruits and players, as well as two coaches and a prospective athlete’s friend. The notice of allegations refers to these benefits as striptease shows and sex acts.

McGee resigned a year ago from his position as an assistant basketball coach at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, where he moved before the scandal broke, but maintained his innocence. “The university deserves a full-time assistant coach and I am not able to provide that to the basketball team while the false allegations against me are being investigated,” McGee stated. McGee did not cooperate with the NCAA investigation.

Throughout the process, the university has defended the coach, and Pitino has denied any knowledge of the parties. “I will not resign and let you down,” Pitino wrote in a blog post last year. “Someday I will walk away in celebration of many memorable years, but that time is not now. I do not fight these accusations by others, but rather turn the other cheek. Couldn’t do it at 33, but at 63 it’s the wise thing to do. Let’s let the investigators do their job and we will play basketball.”

In the post, he also referenced Pope Francis’s recent visit to the United States, saying the pope would frequently answer controversial questions with the phrase “we will let God judge.” It is advice Pitino said Louisville students and fans should remember as the investigation continues. “Let’s not try to justify,” he wrote, “but let the Lord judge.”

Earlier this year, the University of Louisville self-imposed a series of sanctions, including a postseason ban, on the basketball program. In its statement Thursday, the university reiterated that it had already taken the “appropriate punitive and corrective actions.”

Nancy Theriot, a professor and chair of women’s and gender studies at Louisville, said the university’s continued defense of the coach and the program suggests that officials are not taking the underlying issues of the charges seriously enough. Theriot said the use of dancers and escorts is an extreme example of a larger and troubling tradition in which colleges woo recruits with attractive young women.

In 2013, Sports Illustrated reported that Oklahoma State University’s football program used a group of women to entice recruits. Officially the group, called Orange Pride, was meant to show visiting high school athletes around campus. Unofficially, according to Sports Illustrated, some of the women were having sex with the players. “There’s no other way a female can convince you to come play football at a school besides sex,” one former OSU football player said. “The idea was to get [recruits] to think that if they came to Oklahoma State, it was gonna be like that all the time.”

The NCAA ruled that the allegations were “unfounded” but found the university in violation of “engaging in impermissible hosting activities” for using Orange Pride in recruiting events. Such recruitment groups, or hostess programs, are not uncommon, despite the NCAA having banned “gender-based student hosting groups.” Louisville has used such programs in the past, too.

In 2007, the University of Colorado at Boulder reached a settlement with two women who said they were gang-raped at a party for recruits. The alleged assaults stemmed from a larger recruiting scandal that included strippers hired to entertain recruits and allegations that hostesses were being paid to sleep with the athletes. Scandals involving hostess programs have also occurred at Arizona State University, the University of Oregon, the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University.

“I think the university’s challenge is an attempt to protect a coach that should have been monitoring his team and employees,” Theriot said. “The coach should be held accountable for monitoring his team and employees. Isn’t this part of why he gets such an outrageous salary? And Louisville challenging this sends a message that the university does not take this seriously. The student athletes are fair game for sanctions, but not the coach? Please!”

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By Paul Fain

PHOENIX — A group of colleges that offer competency-based education programs this week released a draft set of voluntary quality standards for the emerging form of higher education.

Competency-based education is growing rapidly, with as many as 600 colleges seeking to create new programs. The standards, which the Competency-Based Education Network released at a meeting here, seek to influence the newcomers while also holding established programs accountable.

“Our goal is to provide standards to the field that institutions can draw on to inform the design or scaling of high-quality programs,” Charla Long, the group’s executive director, said in a written statement. C-BEN is a recently created membership group of more than 30 colleges.

Competency-based education typically offers flexible schedules for students, who can master the required learning objectives at differing speeds, sometimes testing out of work by passing assessments. The programs often include online, automated material. And faculty roles are different, with coaches and mentors as well as subject matter experts.

Regulators and accreditors have sent mixed messages about competency-based education, in part due to uncertainty about where the federal government stands. For example, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General has been critical of the way the faculty role is defined and about adherence to the credit-hour standard in some programs.

Ted Mitchell, the under secretary of education, spoke here on Thursday. He stressed that the Obama administration remains excited about competency-based education’s potential.

“It means allowing time and place to vary” as students work toward a credential, Mitchell said. “I’m a big supporter.”

That said, Mitchell said underperforming programs could threaten competency-based education’s growth. He cited for-profit higher education’s inadequate “self-policing,” which might have helped differentiate bad actors from good.

“We need to be pretty strident about what counts as competency-based education and what counts as quality,” Mitchell said, adding that he expected a wide variation in the expanding field. “That doesn’t mean we live with it. We work hard to eliminate the ones that are on wrong end of the tail.”

He praised C-BEN for seeking to head off the “waste, fraud and abuse” that have dogged segments of for-profit higher education.

The risk is real, Mitchell said. That’s partially because the flexible, personalized nature of competency-based degree tracks can create “irresistible opportunities for those who maybe don’t have the best interests of students in mind.”

C-BEN created an online portal for the draft standards, saying it was accepting feedback as a team of experts works on the final version. The group plans to release the final standards early next year, but said they would be reviewed and updated based on data and other evidence for some time.

The standards focus on eight areas, seeking to assure that programs have:

  • Coherent, competency-driven program and curriculum design
  • Clear, measurable, meaningful and complete competencies
  • Credential-level assessment strategy with robust implementation
  • Intentionally designed and engaged student experience
  • Collaborative engagement with external partners
  • Transparency of student learning
  • Evidence-driven continuous improvement processes
  • Demonstrated institutional commitment to capacity for competency-based innovation

Competency-based education has plenty of critics, particularly among some faculty members who say it can be a box-checking approach that is inferior to traditional higher education. Proponents, however, said it can require more rigor and proof of learning, which in turn could influence traditional higher education.

It’s unclear if the standards eventually will help win over doubters, but C-BEN at least hopes they will show what a quality program can and should look like.

The Association of American Colleges & Universities has been a strong, nuanced voice on competency-based education. The liberal education group has pushed for coherent curricula with a strong general education core, which isn’t always easy in a form of higher education that has broken degrees into competencies.

Debra Humphreys recently was hired by Lumina Foundation, as vice president of strategic engagement, after a long stint as AAC&U’s vice president of communications, policy and public engagement. She praised C-BEN’s work on the new standards, saying the group was playing an “extremely valuable” role at an important time in the field’s development.

For example, she said the standards could help colleges define in how many areas a student in a competency-based program needs to be proficient to graduate. And strong voluntary thresholds could serve as “guardrails” for quality, which accreditors and regulators could use.

While both Humphreys and the group said the draft standards are the beginning of a long process, she said the stakes are high.

“This new innovation is going to rise and fall on its quality,” said Humphreys.

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By Andrew Kreighbaum

A new study released by the Brookings Institution finds disparities in student debt levels for black and white borrowers grow after graduation, a trend partly attributable to higher enrollment rates for black students in graduate programs, especially at for-profit institutions. That jump in enrollment is linked to higher federal borrowing rates introduced in 2006 and the weak job market — especially for black college grads — after the 2008 recession.

Graduate enrollment is a worthwhile investment, the study finds, but comes with more financial risk for African-American students both because of their concentration in the for-profit sector and because of lower rates of graduation.

The study, written by Judith Scott-Clayton, a Columbia University associate professor of economics and education, and research associate Jing Li, is based on data from two nationally representative surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education of college graduates from 1993 and 2008. It calls for comprehensive data tracking student financial aid and debt by race and argues that focusing policy on undergraduate borrowing alone will address only part of the racial disparity in student debt. A number of scholars and advocacy groups are pressuring the federal government to begin tracking borrowers by race to aid research into the causes or size of racial disparities.

The Brookings report acknowledges that lack of adequate data could lead to understatements of actual racial disparities in student loan debt. Information on amounts borrowed, future earnings and loan defaults cannot be broken down by race, the study says, and information on race is not collected on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the National Student Loan Data System, meaning researchers and policy makers don’t have information on racial disparities for those who take out debt and leave college without a degree — a group especially likely to default on student loans.

Among the key findings of the study:

  • Almost half of black graduates owe more on their federal undergraduate loans four years after leaving college than they did immediately after graduating, more than double the rate of white graduates.
  • Black borrowers have a default rate of 7.6 percent within four years — three times the rate of white graduates.
  • Black graduates with debt are more likely than white graduates to have interest accumulate faster than they pay off the balance of a loan.
  • Borrowing for graduate school accounts for 45 percent of the black-white student debt disparity.

The study also argues that income-driven repayment plans treat the symptom of the racial debt disparity without addressing the underlying causes.

“What was shocking was the magnitude of the debt four years after graduation. It’s huge,” said Scott-Clayton.

Debt shouldn’t be seen as a bad word, she said, but the study indicates that the system isn’t working the same way for everyone.

The study suggests that black graduates from the class of 2008 may have enrolled in graduate school at substantially higher rates than other groups did because of weak job markets. And more than a quarter of those graduate students enrolled in for-profit institutions, compared to 9 percent for white college graduates.

“That just begs the question what is going on in that sector,” Scott-Clayton said.

Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of education at Seton Hall University who focuses on higher education finance and student aid, said the study is revealing of the large role graduate student loan debt plays in racial disparities.

He said he had mixed feelings about collecting data on student borrowers’ race because asking about race on a form like the FAFSA could cause some students to think they would be eligible or ineligible for aid because of their race. The department would need to explain to borrowers that that information would not affect whether they received aid, Kelchen said.

But he said the only source of such data now is through national surveys with limited scope.

“It highlights the need for more data on student lending in general,” Kelchen said.

Pauline Abernathy, executive vice president of the Institute for College Access and Success, said the study underscores the need for the Department of Education to collect institution and student level data on student borrowers. TICAS was among 40 consumer advocacy and civil rights groups that sent a letter to Education Secretary John B. King Jr. in August asking that the department start collecting the data.

“It stands to reason that the disparities for more recent students could be even greater than what is in this report,” Abernathy said.

Student Aid and Loans
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Reading PEN America’s recent report on free speech on campus and thinking about the never-neutral library.

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