Wikileaks, Bill Clinton and For-Profits

A former adviser to Bill Clinton co-founded a corporate consulting firm that did communications work for Education Management Corporation, a for-profit college chain, as well as a company that does student-loan default-prevention.

The inner workings of the company, Teneo Holdings, were revealed in an illegally hacked memorandum that was released last week by Wikileaks, the antisecrecy group that federal authorities say has received documents from hackers working for the Russian government in an attempt to influence the U.S. presidential election.

Former Clinton adviser Doug Band co-founded Teneo. In the memo Band said he helped encourage Teneo's clients to donate to the Clinton Foundation. Band also described how he helped facilitate Bill Clinton's previously reported lucrative personal business relationship with Laureate Education, a for-profit college chain.

A Teneo subsidiary, Teneo Strategies, in recent years did public relations work for EDMC, including its Art Institutes chain. Another EDMC subsidiary, the defunct Brown Mackie College, donated up to $10,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to The Washington Post.

Teneo Strategies also performed communications work for Ceannate Corp., a company that colleges pay to help prevent former students from defaulting on their federal student loans. Ceannate does not appear to have donated to the Clinton Foundation.

33% Raise for President, 6% for Professors

Faculty members at the College of the Sequoias, a community college in California, are raising questions about a 33 percent raise that the board granted to President Stan Carrizosa, The Fresno Bee reported. The raise brings his salary to $300,000. Faculty leaders note that they recently received a 6 percent raise, after a decade without any pay increase. Board officials defended the president's raise, saying that he was on the low end of the salary range for his position.

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Wide praise for restoration of Pell Grant eligibility for students at closed colleges

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The Education Department said Friday it would restore Pell Grant eligibility for students whose education was interrupted by the closure of their institutions.

Johns Hopkins threatens to close humanities center, sparking outcry

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Johns Hopkins threatens to close its interdisciplinary Humanities Center, sparking outcry from students and faculty members.

NCAA to Distribute Funds Based on Academics

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Thursday that, beginning in 2019, it will distribute millions of dollars in revenue to member institutions based on the academic performance of their athletes. The money will come from the association's new $1.1 billion multimedia rights deal for the NCAA's men's basketball tournament. Colleges will be awarded the funds by earning "academic units" based on the academic performance of their teams, similar to how programs earn units based on how far they advance in the tournament.

According to the NCAA, each school can earn one academic achievement unit per year if its athletes meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • Achieve an overall single-year, all-sport academic progress rate of 985 or higher.
  • Achieve an overall all-sport graduation success rate of 90 percent or higher.
  • Achieve a federal graduation rate that is at least 13 percentage points higher than the federal graduation rate of the student body at that school.

The NCAA estimated that about 66 percent of the 349 Division I institutions will earn an academic unit in the first year of the new system, meaning each of those colleges will receive about $55,678. The size of the distribution will grow each year, the NCAA stated, with the amount of money each college receives swelling to about $500,000 by 2031.

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has called for the creation of such a system for 15 years. William E. Kirwan, the commission's chair, who is retiring in December after a decade of leading the group, said in a statement Thursday that he was glad to finally see the change happen.

“It’s especially gratifying, in my final months on the commission, to see the NCAA take this game-changing step to place a higher value on education in college athletics,” Kirwan said. “It is critical to align the incentives in college sports with educational values.”

But David Ridpath, president of the Drake Group, an organization pushing for more emphasis on academics in college sports, said the change was little more than a public relations move by the NCAA.

"Just like the [academic progress rate], this becomes a measurement that schools that are already rich can reach easily just by continuing a system of academic sleight of hand and eligibility maintenance, along with expensive 'academic support' programs," Ridpath said. "This monetary bonus and the current academic measurements used by the NCAA do not measure true academic progress, and without a system of transparency and disclosure, they never will. The lower-resource schools that need the money will continue to lose out, because they don’t have the resources or ability to chase these numbers. They end up getting punished for essentially not gaming the system. Let’s not forget some of the highest APRs over the past few years were Auburn, Michigan and North Carolina. Need I say more?"

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The importance of grad rates for minorities when selecting colleges (essay)

Application season will soon be upon us, and graduating high school seniors across the country will be in the thick of deciding where to apply to college. Unfortunately, after they are accepted and enrolled, many won’t go on to earn a degree -- especially if they are black or Latino. According to the Digest of Educational Statistics, only about 41 percent of black and 52 percent of Latino students obtain their bachelor’s degree within six years of enrolling, compared to 61 percent of white and 69 percent of Asian students.

I have spent the past three years tracking more than 500 black and Latino students across their first three years of college to better understand the factors that could increase their likelihood of degree attainment. Over the course of this work, one question kept coming to mind: How did so many of them arrive on a campus having thought so little about why go to college -- and why that college in particular?

The answer came from understanding how their high schools failed them in the college application process. Most received what I now call mechanical advising: maximum logistical assistance but minimal decision-making support.

For example: Claudia is both a first-generation American, born to parents who immigrated as teenagers, and a first-generation college student. She relied on her high school for everything concerning applying to college. Although she was an excellent student, graduating fourth in her class of more than 800 students, it was not until senior year that she received guidance on applying to college. Even then, most of that guidance came in the form of schoolwide announcements and application support for the entire class.

Claudia credits her senior year AP English Literature teacher with getting her into college: “If it wasn’t for [her] I probably wouldn’t even have applied or known how to apply. She was a big role in how I did everything, because one of the assignments was actually to apply to colleges. Every step of the way was an assignment, so I did it all.”

Mechanical advising is designed to make sure increasing numbers of high school graduates enroll somewhere, anywhere. Claudia recalls: “They said, ‘Go to college.’ They always announced on the megaphone for morning announcements. They would tell you deadlines, ‘apply, apply, apply.’”

The Pew Research Center reported that, from 1996 to 2012, college enrollment increased by 240 percent among Latinos and 72 percent among blacks, compared to 12 percent for whites. While efforts to increase college enrollment are apparently succeeding, is this system helping if we are simply increasing the numbers of blacks and Latinos who won’t get a degree?

Because college has large financial and personal costs, the past few decades of broadening access without increasing graduation rates has created a college-going context that could be particularly detrimental for students from economically disadvantaged families. Expansions in college access have coincided with rising college costs and a shifting of student aid funding away from grants that don’t have to be repaid to loans that can’t even be discharged in a bankruptcy. Essentially, students who do not obtain a degree still walk away with the burden of college debt. The most recent numbers from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education found undergraduate borrowers who dropped out over a decade ago had incurred a median debt of $7,000 in loans before leaving college. Given the steep increase in college costs, it is likely that today’s student borrowers who drop out are leaving with significantly more debt.

Expanding access to student debt without also increasing the likelihood that students will graduate means not only is college more of a financial risk, but increasing numbers of low-income students are exposed to that risk. Because of the strong correlation between race and ethnicity and income, the likelihood of dropping out is not spread evenly across all racial and ethnic groups, as the percentages of students earning a bachelor’s degree show.

For black and Latino students in particular, there is one important thing to add to the list of factors to consider in the college decision: How many students of their racial or ethnic group has their potential college graduated in the recent past?

Using overall graduation rates can be misleading. For example, based on the six-year graduation rate of five cohorts of freshmen who enrolled from 2004 to 2008, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities had an overall graduation rate of 73 percent. But that dropped to 65 percent for Latino students and an even lower 52 percent for black students. Concordia University Wisconsin had an overall graduation rate of 59 percent that dropped to 31 percent for Latino students and, again, an even lower 20 percent for black students.

The pendulum has swung too far. The current narrative that pushes all students toward a bachelor’s degree has resulted in mechanical advising that is not in the best interests of many students. The alternative advising model asks counselors to be both encouraging and discouraging -- encourage all students to develop postsecondary education plans and discourage aspects of plans that are implausible and imprudent. That means going beyond merely providing application support and engaging in discussions about the costs and benefits of college, and how various certifications and degrees fit into a spectrum of occupational trajectories.

More immediately, students and their families can be armed with vital pieces of information that will enable them to make better decisions about which college or university they should choose to take on the student debt they are about to accrue. Comparing institutions based on their graduation rates is rarely on the list of things that students do when deciding where to apply and which admission offer to accept. But as students and parents are armed with more information, it increasingly will be.

To facilitate this, I have developed a summary report and online tables that give students easy access to individual institutions’ graduation rates for black and Latino students.

For their part, universities would do well to embrace the understanding that retention is as or even more important than recruitment. A high retention rate is itself a competitive recruitment tool, and an increasingly important success metric that determines government funding. For administrators eyeing the bottom line, it is more cost-effective to retain those already enrolled than invest in the replacement of those who have dropped out. One examination of the fiscal benefits of student retention found that retention initiatives are estimated to be three to five times more cost-effective than recruitment initiatives. One example found that at the University of St. Louis, each 1 percent increase in the first-year retention rate generated approximately $500,000 in revenue by the time those students graduated.

Graduation rates aren’t the only aspect of college that matters, but it is one tangible number that prospective students can use to guide their decisions. Admitted freshmen should enroll at the college with the highest graduation rate for their racial or ethnic groups. And if all of the institutions to which they have been admitted have low graduation rates for their racial or ethnic groups, we should expect them to think twice about the amount of debt they will need to incur.

As the costs and benefits of getting a college degree continue to rise, so do the stakes associated with making the decision to enroll in college and the decision about which college to attend. These two decisions are intimately intertwined -- students can no longer be encouraged to enroll at any college and at any cost just for the sake of being counted among the college-going population. And colleges, for the long term, can little afford not to help them succeed -- and graduate -- once they get there.

Micere Keels is an associate professor in the department of comparative human development at the University of Chicago. She is a faculty affiliate of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, and member of the Committee on Education.

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Blackboard Study on How Instructors Use the LMS

Blackboard today released a study on how instructors and students in 70,000 courses across 927 institutions used Blackboard Learn, the company's learning management system. The research found five course patterns or archetypes (below). The majority of the courses fell into the category of content heavy, with low interaction. Roughly a quarter were in a second category, which feature one-way interaction through content, announcements and a grade book.

New Effort to Track Careers of Humanities Ph.D.s

The Council of Graduate Schools is launching a research project to track the career paths of Ph.D.s in the humanities with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, it announced Thursday. The initiative is significant because it’s the first major, long-term effort in 20 years to track where humanities doctorates end up working, according to the council. It will work with 15 partner universities to collect data comparing the career aspirations of Ph.D. students and their eventual career paths as graduates, both within and especially outside academe. Goals of the project include helping universities better prepare Ph.D. students for a variety of careers. “By offering a more complete picture of Ph.D. holders’ career options, it will also enable current and prospective students to make more informed decisions when selecting degree programs and planning their careers,” Suzanne Ortega, council president, said in a statement. More information is available here.

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Michael Bérubé publishes follow-up to his 1996 book about his son with Down syndrome

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Michael Bérubé publishes follow-up to his 1996 book about his son with Down syndrome. Jamie’s now a working adult who’s offered his dad, who has become a leading figure in disability studies, a whole new education.

Brigham Young to Offer Amnesty to Assault Victims

After months of criticism, protests and an internal study, Brigham Young University announced Wednesday that it will provide amnesty to sexual assault victims who disclose honor code violations. Previously students who reported being sexually assaulted could be -- and, according to many students, were -- investigated for violating the college's chastity requirement. The Mormon institution also announced that it will create a full-time Title IX coordinator position, hire a victims' advocate to work on campus, and ensure that the Title IX office and honor code office are no longer housed in the same physical space.

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