More than 30 presidents of historically black colleges on Wednesday issued a joint letter calling for "peace and unity" after the shootings of black men and of police officers in several cities. The presidents pledged to organize a symposium on gun violence and to raise awareness about "the debilitating impact of trauma on the lives of those who have been exposed to loss as a result of gun violence."
"HBCUs, by virtue of their special place in this nation, have always understood the hard work and sacrifices that must be made in order for America to live up to its ideals," says the letter. "From the moment that our doors first opened in 1842, the roles that our institutions have played were never narrowly confined to educating the men and women who sat in our classes and walked our campuses. Instead, ours was a much broader and more vital mission. We were charged with providing a light in the darkness for a people who had been constitutionally bound to the dark. Our very creation, existence and persistence were and always have been a duality of collaboration and protest. In this respect, America’s HBCUs were the birthplace of the idea that black lives matter to our country."
Columbia U announces major pay increases for graduate student workers ahead of a major NLRB decision on their union eligibility. The would-be union is happy but says collective bargaining is still the way forward.
Yale University on Tuesday announced that it would offer Corey Menafee, the former employee who left after breaking a window depicting slaves, the chance to return to the university.
A statement from Yale said that the university "has informed Mr. Menafee’s attorney that we are willing to grant his request for a second chance at Yale. Mr. Menafee, who resigned in June after he admitted intentionally breaking a stained-glass window, has expressed deep remorse about his actions and informed us that he would like to rescind his resignation. He will be allowed to return to a position in a different setting, starting on Monday, after serving a five-week unpaid suspension (including the time since his resignation on June 21). Yale has already asked the state’s attorney to drop all charges. We are willing to take these unusual steps given the unique circumstances of this matter, and it is now up to Mr. Menafee whether he wishes to return to Yale."
Bob Proto, president of Local 35 Unite Here, Menafee's union, issued this statement: "Mr. Menafee, together with representatives from our union, talked with Yale yesterday. We stood firm in asking that the university rehire him. We are now waiting on a draft agreement from Yale and will continue to stand with Mr. Menafee until he is back at work."
College is not free, and never will be. Someone is always paying -- taxpayers, private donors, students or some mix of the three. That obvious truth is missing from much of our political debate and the growing panic over student loans, which casts education debt as a tragedy rather than an investment. The hardening rhetoric against student loans threatens to undermine national success in broadening access to higher education, discouraging the very students we need.
This may sound strange coming from someone whose signature career achievement is a no-loans aid program. The whole idea behind the Carolina Covenant, which we launched at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2003, was to assuage growing worry about student debt by eliminating loans for our lowest-income students.
But if we’re going to put higher education within reach of the millions more who would benefit, loans are going to be a crucial part of the equation. And that means students from all backgrounds -- especially low-income, first-generation and minority students -- need to understand reasonable student debt as an opportunity, not a crushing burden.
Middle- and upper-income families already have that view, which is why they’ve been willing to shoulder modest loans to earn valuable degrees. The vast majority of the increase in aggregate debt over the past few years -- the much-decried $1.3 trillion in student debt -- has come from more Americans pursuing a degree, a public policy success we ought to be celebrating. Millions of Americans have correctly seen higher education as a bridge to a better future.
For low-income and first-generation students, that bridge too often looks like a trap. Even modest loans can be frightening for families that have no experience of college investment, so they’re less willing to take that step. Overblown angst about debt threatens to entrench this class divide in ways that will prove deeply destructive to American higher education.
The promise of a no-loans education is as much about communication as about financing. For our lowest-income students at Carolina, it was meant to overcome the impression of debt as a hardship and a barrier. Our own research showed that it wasn’t a hardship -- students taking out modest loans for a quality education are almost invariably better off. But the perception was so strong among historically disadvantaged families that a no-loans promise for those students made sense.
We’re fortunate to have the resources for such a program, but most colleges and universities don’t -- especially not the regional public universities and community colleges that serve a disproportionate share of first-generation and minority students. If we’re going to move the needle on college access in the United States -- and we must, given our shifting demographics and the economic stakes -- then families have to get comfortable with personal investment in education.
That was certainly the story for my family many years ago. Having grown up in a small Midwest farming community with no resources for college, I took out more than $6,000 to cover my undergraduate education -- a sum that exceeds $41,000 in today’s dollars. And then there was the follow-on debt for graduate and professional education. It was scary, but it was also a privilege to use someone else’s money to improve my life. And that, fundamentally, is what students are doing when they use student loans to pursue an education.
If a “no loans” sentiment takes hold among students and policy makers, it will undermine access to college and make stories like mine less likely. It would reverse the democratization of higher education, devastating community colleges and public universities that are already stretched thin in their effort to serve a diversifying student body.
We badly need a more focused conversation about the right balance of taxpayer money, donor support and other university funds that can offset the cost to students. But in any scenario I can envision, short of creating a true K-16 entitlement, student loans are going to remain a necessary part of the mix.
If we cut off opportunity capital in the name of protecting students or taxpayers, we will end up with less opportunity. The relatively few families who can afford it will continue to buy high-quality, immersive education for their children. And others -- no matter how talented, no matter how driven -- will be left with meager options.
That would be a tragedy, not an improvement. The lamentations of the antidebt crowd assume that policy makers will ride to the rescue with new funding, but it won’t happen. Money is not that plentiful any more -- not from the states, and not from the federal government, despite what some of the presidential campaigns have promised. The students who benefit from higher education are going to remain personally invested, and there’s nothing regrettable about that.
We should stop scaring families with misleading tales of ruinous debt, and stop heeding pundits who would prefer to make education a rarefied luxury. When it comes to opening doors for our most vulnerable students, responsible borrowing is a solution, not a problem.
Shirley Ort is associate provost and director of the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Republican Party's platform, which was released on the first day of the GOP convention in Cleveland, included criticism of the Obama administration's handling of sexual discrimination on college campuses as well as calls to decouple accreditation from federal financial aid and to bring the private sector back into the financing of student loans. The document also criticized the dominance of liberalism on college campuses and argued for the encouragement of new systems of learning to compete with traditional, four-year colleges.
The platform decried ideological bias in public higher education, saying state officials should "preserve our public colleges, universities and trade schools as places of learning and the exchange of ideas, not zones of intellectual intolerance or 'safe zones,' as if college students need protection from the free exchange of ideas." It also condemned infringements on free speech and campus-based boycott, divestment and sanction campaigns against Israel.
On Title IX, which is the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded programs, the Republican document said the White House's alleged "distortion" and micromanagement of the way colleges deal with allegations of abuse "contravenes our country's legal traditions and must be halted before it further muddles this complex issue and prevents the proper authorities from investigating and prosecuting sexual assault effectively with due process."
Citing rising college pricing, the GOP said public policy should advance affordability, innovation and transparency in technical institutions, online universities, lifelong learning and work-based learning in the private sector, while recognizing that a "four-year degree from a brick-and-mortar institution is not the only path toward a prosperous and fulfilling career."
Likewise, the platform said accreditation should be decoupled from federal financing to encourage new modes of higher education delivery to enter the market, while states should be "empowered to allow a wide array of accrediting and credentialing bodies to operate."
The federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans, according to the document, reversing a change the Obama administration made. The restoration of private sector participation would help bring down college costs while giving students access to a multitude of financing options, according to the platform.