Today Is National Adjunct Walkout Day

As part of National Adjunct Walkout Day today, many adjuncts -- along with some students and tenure-line faculty members -- will walk out of their classes or participate in other forms of protest on campuses across the U.S. and Canada. The idea was posed in the fall on social media to highlight adjuncts' working conditions, lack of job security and relatively low pay. Many adjuncts on unionized campuses are prohibited by their collective bargaining agreements or state laws from walking out, but many unions have pledged to support the effort through awareness campaigns, such as teach-ins. A list of actions is available here, and updates will be posted throughout the day on Twitter under #NAWD and on Facebook.

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AAUP Urges UNC Board to Reject Plan to Close Poverty Center

The American Association of University Professors on Tuesday joined a chorus of other organizations and academics that have criticized a controversial recommendation that the board of the University of North Carolina System shutter the Chapel Hill campus's Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity. Critics of the decision have said that the board is playing politics and is targeting the center's director, Gene Nichol, a professor of law, for being an outspoken critic of policy makers who he says aren't doing enough to help the state's poor.

The AAUP's statement says in part that to be "true to their mission, public universities must serve all members of our society, the poor as well as the privileged. Externally funded centers must be free to sponsor curricular and extracurricular programs and provide services to the public across the broadest range of perspectives and approaches."

A Chapel Hill spokesman referred a request for comment to a campus message from Chancellor Carol L. Folt and Provost James W. Dean Jr., saying in part that "We recommended against this action, and are very disappointed with [the board's] decision. Since its inception in 2005, the center has focused dialogue, research and public attention on the many dimensions of poverty and economic hardship for people in North Carolina and beyond."

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Adjuncts at Temple U. March for a Union

Adjuncts at Temple University on Monday kicked off National Adjunct Action Week with a pro-union march around campus. A sufficient number of adjuncts signed a petition to hold an election to form a union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. But the university has challenged their bid on a number of points, including who should and should not be included in the bargaining unit, and the case is pending before the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. About 75 adjuncts and their supporters walked across campus, holding pro-union signs and demanding that the university to allow them to set a union election date. Here's a Twitter image of the event:

Sharon Boyle, Temple’s associate vice president for human resources, said the university is concerned about adjuncts’ working conditions, and “didn’t need a march to pay attention to them.” She said the university already has raised adjuncts’ pay from $1,200 to $1,300 per credit hour (most courses are three or four), and that many of their concerns -- such as timelier course assignments and participation in shared governance -- need to be addressed by the full-time faculty. Ryan Eckes, an adjunct instructor of English at Temple, said adjuncts want better pay, benefits and job security, and need to be able to bargain collectively with the university to achieve them.

Although Monday’s march was specifically about the union bid, Eckes said it reflected the goals of adjuncts on other campuses and was timed to coincide with National Adjunct Action Week, an offshoot and extension of National Adjunct Walkout Day, which is planned for Wednesday. “Adjuncts are 70 percent of the faculty nationwide, and most students don’t even know what adjunct means,” he said. “We want to make the public aware of this situation in higher education.”

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Oregon Files Counterclaim Against Student Suing Over Sexual Assault Case

The University of Oregon has filed a counterclaim seeking to dismiss a student's lawsuit that alleges the university mishandled her sexual assault case. The “publication of false allegations about Oregon’s handling of a report of an alleged sexual assault creates a very real risk that survivors will wrongly be discouraged from reporting sexual assaults and sexual harassment to Oregon," the filing stated.

The student is suing the university and its men's basketball coach, alleging that they knowingly recruited a basketball player who had previously been accused of sexual assault and suspended from Providence College. That player, Brandon Austin, was one of three members of the Oregon basketball team who were accused of sexually assaulting the female student last year. The three athletes were not charged, Oregon Live reports, though the university eventually suspended them for up to 10 years, or for as long as it takes for the female student to graduate.

The student's suit also alleges that the University of Oregon scrubbed the players' transcripts of any references to sexual misconduct, making it easier for them to transfer to play elsewhere. Austin was able transfer again, this time to Northwest Florida State College, where he is now a member of the basketball team. Steve DeMeo, Northwest Florida State's head basketball coach, has acknowledged Austin's previous suspensions, saying at the time of the transfer that "the college has decided to give this young man an opportunity to continue his education."

In the counterclaim, the university's lawyers said that the student's lawsuit was frivolous and unreasonable. "Plaintiff's attorneys filed a lawsuit with unfounded allegations in an attempt to damage a good man's reputation [basketball coach Dana Altman], curry favor and gain traction in the media, and coerce a public university to pay a hefty sum to plaintiff even though it has done nothing wrong," the filing stated.

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State-Level Completion Data

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center this week released state-level student completion data. The nonprofit center tracked 2.7 million students who first enrolled in college in the fall of 2008, following them for 6 years. The report builds on the center's previous research, which found more encouraging graduation rates than other studies had identified, in part because the Clearinghouse has huge data sets that can follow students across institutions and state lines.

Nationwide, the report found that one in three community college students earned a credential at an institution other than the one at which they first enrolled. And 13 percent of students who began at a four-year public completed at a different institution. In five states (Iowa, North Dakota, Virginia, Kansas and Texas), more than 20 percent of students who began at a community college completed at a four-year institution. The report includes state-by-state tables and other breakouts of the data.

South Carolina State Board Places President on Leave

The board of South Carolina State University on Monday placed President Thomas Elzey on administrative leave and named the interim provost, W. Franklin Evans, as acting president, The Post and Courier reported. The move came shortly after a legislative committee passed legislation to shut down the historically black college for two years. There are also several legislative proposals to fire all board members, with the expectation that a new board would get rid of the president. Elzey, in office less than two years, has acknowledged many of the financial and other challenges facing the university that have frustrated legislators. But he has said that the university was making progress on what would be a long-term recovery plan.


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Essay calls for a different approach to FAFSA reform

Seemingly from the day it was created in 1992, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, has been a popular target for reform. The Obama administration shortened the time it takes to finish the form by two-thirds and created an automated tool so families can import their tax data. And now there’s a competition to see who can drop more of the FAFSA’s 105 questions. The president’s latest budget targets 30 questions for removal, while a bipartisan group of senators led by Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican now in charge of the committee that covers higher education, wants to go even farther -- shortening the FAFSA to just two questions that could fit on a postcard.

Making the FAFSA less of a burdensome impediment to financial aid receipt and reform is a laudable goal. But the obsessive “who can go lower” approach to simplifying the FAFSA is misdiagnosing the disease. FAFSA’s problem is not its length -- it’s the frequency that it’s required.

Reducing the number of FAFSA questions gets at a very specific problem -- the annual burden associated with completing the form. Doing so would free families from the yearly process of digging up complex tax, asset and other income data.

But as Michael Stratford discussed recently in Inside Higher Ed, removing FAFSA questions comes with its own set of concerns. In particular, colleges and most states do not have unlimited entitlement funds for financial aid, so they want as much data as possible, in order to vary the price charged to students to a degree that would make the airlines jealous. Take away that data by bringing the form down to two questions and you may just drive the creation of additional forms like the dreaded and expensive CSS Profile.

Fortunately, there’s a middle path that accomplishes the goal of reducing burden while still giving colleges and states the data they need to make nuanced decisions: a one-time FAFSA.

Since students would still fill out a detailed form, colleges would have the data they need to parcel out resources. They just would not have new information to do so year after year.

For students, the FAFSA would become more like any other part of the college application process, which is full of one-time submissions like essays and transcripts. This includes the Department of Education’s master promissory note, which only needs to be filled out once to receive federal student loans. And it would reduce the chances that students would lose financial aid solely because they failed to reapply the following year -- a problem that professors Sara Goldrick-Rab and Robert Kelchen identified in a post on a similar proposal in 2013.

What families and students would get in return for this one-time burden is something that could never be earned in any annual application process, regardless of length: predictability. Few students entering college have any idea what their financial aid might be beyond the first year. And they will not know for sure until they actually apply for aid again. A shorter form can help families more accurately predict what they might receive -- but it’s still an estimate, not a given.

A one-time FAFSA would make it possible to promise a student on day one what their aid package would look like for the rest of their undergraduate career. Families could use that information to budget and plan for costs in a way they cannot today. It could also be a huge help for low-income students considering different college options, since they would know exactly what support they could count on from the federal government at the same time they submit applications.

Only requiring the FAFSA a single time is a required step for many proposals for reforming federal student aid. For example, House Republicans proposed last year to create a flex account for Pell Grants. Students would be told upon entering college the total amount of Pell aid they are entitled to throughout their whole education and then would be allowed to spend it down as they took classes. It’s an intriguing idea that could send a strong message to students about just how much money they can get for college. But it’s also an empty promise for students under the current system, since the account balance would have to be recalculated each year.

Many of the most common objections to a one-time FAFSA could be addressed with simple tweaks. For example, it should pull in multiple years of older data so families cannot manipulate their income for a single year to appear poorer and get better aid. Students who see significant downward financial changes, such as a parent losing a job, could either follow the existing process of appealing to the financial aid office or refile for federal aid. And while it would be better to worry less about the unlikely cases that students see massive income increases, a threshold test could be added to only require new FAFSAs if income went up by very large dollar amounts, such as $20,000.

More broadly, moving to a one-time FAFSA system sends a message of simplicity and flexibility that extends far beyond paperwork. It makes the financial aid system less about obsessing over one's ability to pay in a single year to a longer-term assessment of financial circumstances that are probably not changing a great deal on an annual basis anyway. It builds in a tolerance for some income growth without making families go back through the hoop-jumping process. And in a world where tuition increases are an annual uncertainty, it could be a welcome source of predictability for students.

If the goal of financial aid simplification is really to make the process easier and more predictable for students and families, then the emphasis should be predictability, not a postcard.

Ben Miller is the higher education research director at New America.

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Conferences weigh freshman-ineligibility rule for basketball players

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Some conference commissioners are pushing making freshmen ineligible to compete to try to stem the flow of players of leaving college for the NBA after one year.

Student success company Hobsons acquires Starfish Retention Solutions

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Hobsons, seeking to offer college and career planning tools that follow students through their entire educational careers, acquires Starfish Retention Solutions.

11 Wesleyan students hospitalized in apparent reaction to club drug Molly

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One sophomore is in critical condition.


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