administrators

College of New Rochelle Details Its Financial Crisis

When the College of New Rochelle announced last month the abrupt resignation of President Judith Huntington, the college said that the turnover at the top came after trustees learned of “significant unmet financial obligations” that had the institution preparing for major budget cuts and possible financial exigency. On Tuesday, the college released details of just how bad things are.

A statement from the board said the college did not make payroll taxes for two years and owes about $20 million in such payments. Further, the college has additional debts of more than $11 million. The college is investigating how the taxes were not paid and is instituting new financial controls.

Looking to the future, the statement said, "The review is still in progress, but preliminary findings indicate that there is a path forward for the college to remain a stand-alone institution. It will require significant cost cutting and a significant amount of outside funding; however, it is the primary goal of the board."

STEM Jobs and 'Ideal Worker' Women

Some research attributes gender imbalances in the sciences, technology, math and engineering in part to women’s deliberate life choices; in other words, getting married and having children keeps some women out of the workforce. But a new study suggests that even women with undergraduate STEM degrees who planned to delay marriage and child rearing were no more likely than other STEM women to land a job in the sciences two years after graduation. The men most likely to enter STEM occupations adhered to significantly more conventional gender ideologies than their female counterparts, expecting to marry at younger ages but also to remain childless, according to the study.

Still, the study attributes the majority of the gender disparity in transitions into STEM jobs to women's underrepresentation in engineering and computer science studies.

The Missing Women in STEM? Assessing Gender Differentials in the Factors Associated With Transition to First Jobs,” published in Social Science Research, analyzes data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. It tracks young people’s career aspirations that year and their career paths periodically thereafter and focuses on 163 women and 353 men with undergraduate STEM degrees. Over all, 41 percent of women graduating with a STEM degree were employed in a STEM job within two years of completing college, compared to 53 percent of men -- a statistically significant difference, the study says.

The researchers attribute their major finding, in part, to employer bias against women and women’s underrepresentation in STEM majors. Another major reason for the employment gap was women’s underrepresentation in STEM majors (especially outside of the life sciences), the study says. And men in the study were more likely than women to have traditional views about women being responsible for housework and child care, leading the researchers to suggest that some women found the STEM climate too conservative to work in; many women in the study found non-STEM work.

“These women have the characteristics of the ideal worker. They expect to have few family distractions and work in STEM both within five years and at midlife. They really have strong aspirations,” Sharon Sassler, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University who co-wrote the study, said in a statement. “But they were no more likely to enter STEM jobs than women who anticipated marrying young and having two or more children.”

Sassler said this dynamic exacerbates the gender imbalance seen at other points in the career pipeline. “If women aren’t getting into these STEM jobs, then they’re not there to mentor other women. They’re not there to climb the ladder and help with hiring.”

CFPB Filing in Accreditation Lawsuit

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has asked an appeals court to throw out a lower court's ruling that the federal agency lacks the authority to investigate accreditors' oversight of for-profit colleges, Politico reported. The bureau said in an opening brief that it has "ample authority" to pursue accreditors that could be violating federal consumer protection laws. CFPB's lawsuit is against the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, a controversial national accreditor that is facing an existential threat over its approval of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes.

Liberty Students Back Trump in Poll

Liberty University students overwhelmingly support Donald Trump, according to the results of a campus poll conducted this week. The poll of 1,500 residential students at the Virginia university, which encourages students to be politically engaged, found that 78 percent back Trump, the Republican nominee. Just 4 percent support Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, with 18 percent saying they back an unnamed "other" candidate.

Some Liberty students have criticized Jerry Falwell Jr., the university's president, for his high-profile support of Trump. A group called Liberty United Against Trump issued a statement a few weeks ago saying Falwell was damaging the university's reputation. They said most Liberty students have rejected Trump, citing the fact that just 8 percent of voters at the university's polling place voted for him during Virginia's Republican primary.

Falwell, however, said the group represents a small number of students. On Tuesday he criticized the news media in a Tweet announcing the new poll's results.

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2016 ballot measures that have an impact on higher education

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A list of the referendum votes that matter to colleges and universities: bonds, taxes, governance and more.

U of Wisconsin criticized over response to costume depicting lynched Obama

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University of Wisconsin says fans’ offensive costumes depicting a lynched President Obama are protected by First Amendment. Black alumni say incident is the latest in “a long pattern of ineffective responses to a growing racially hostile environment.”

Hunter College Found in Violation of Title IX

The City University of New York's Hunter College violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 when it failed to appropriately respond to a student's complaint that she was sexually harassed by a professor, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights announced Monday. "OCR assessed whether Hunter failed to respond promptly and equitably to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence, including from the complainant," the department stated. "And, whether as a result of those alleged actions, the complainant and other students were subjected to a sexually hostile environment."

OCR said that the college failed to:

  • Address complaints in a prompt and equitable manner, although the college did take some important and appropriate steps to investigate and address the allegations.
  • Assess and address the effects of a possible sexually hostile environment and may have contributed to a continuation of a sexually hostile environment for students.
  • Assess the need and provide for interim measures.

As part of an agreement with the department, CUNY and Hunter College agreed to revise CUNY's grievance procedures for addressing reports of sexual assault, to provide training to all college staff responsible for "recognizing and reporting incidents of sexual harassment," and to address "any remaining effects that the complainant may have suffered due to sexual harassment" by the professor.

"OCR found that Hunter 'did take some important and appropriate steps to investigate and address the allegations,'" the college said in a statement Monday. "Hunter College and CUNY have always been committed to maintaining a campus environment free from discrimination, intimidation or violence of any sort. It is a core value of the college and a goal we vigorously pursue by broadly disseminating our policies and rigorously enforcing them. Hunter College and CUNY will continue to work diligently to comply with Title IX rules."

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Essay on restoring promise of a free public higher education

Time for a reset in our thinking about higher education.

The Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce recently released a study that estimates the potential impact of Hillary Clinton’s proposal to eliminate public college tuition for all in-state students whose families make less than $125,000 per year. The center concluded that impact would be an increase in enrollment at public institutions of between 9 and 22 percent, with a “best guess” estimate of 16 percent. Three-quarters of the enrollment growth would come from attracting new students into higher education. And that’s the point of her proposal: to attract marginalized students into higher education.

Unfortunately, much of the commentary around the center’s estimates has focused on the potential impact on private colleges and universities. These institutions could face declines in enrollment that would account for the remaining quarter of the increase in public college enrollments. Such concerns would be fully warranted if all private colleges and universities had on-time graduation rates as high as the 91 percent at Davidson College or Georgetown University. But they don’t.

The on-time graduation rate for half the nation’s four-year private nonprofit colleges and universities is below 39 percent. For a quarter of all private nonprofit institutions, the on-time graduation is below 22 percent. At four-year for-profit colleges, the median on-time graduation rate is 14 percent. Even more alarming, nearly a third of four-year for-profits graduated no students on time.

But it isn’t just on-time graduation rates that need to be considered when judging the promise of a free public college option. It is our nation’s addiction to debt to finance higher education.

For the last seven years, President Obama, former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and current U.S. Secretary of Education John King have worked to help students manage their college debt by providing opportunities to repay it by working in local, state or national nonprofit organizations. They also have introduced more generous income-based repayment plans. And these opportunities are paying off -- both for the students and for our economy. Recently, we learned that nearly 432,000 student loan borrowers registered their work with employers that qualify them for Public Service Loan Forgiveness and a quarter of borrowers were repaying their loans through the William D. Ford Direct Loan Program, using one of several income-based repayment plans.

While loan repayment programs, whether income-based or through public service, have relieved the strain and burden on thousands of individual borrowers, together they are not enough to reduce the impact of $1.26 trillion in outstanding federal student loans on the U.S. economy. The latest research studies confirm that student loans negatively impact home and auto purchases as well as small businesses and family formation.

In retrospect, we have all contributed to the growth in student loans. From the 1860s to the present day, if we look at the history of federal support to higher education, our nation’s leaders recognized that increasing the educational attainment of citizens was good and necessary for the country’s future. When direct federal support to students was introduced with the GI Bill in the 1940s, it fueled a sustained era of national prosperity that only a prolonged and unproductive war brought to an end.

Through the 1970s, students from a low- or moderate-income family could afford to go to a public college and take on no debt. These institutions were affordable because taxpayers supported low tuition -- including tuition-free community colleges in many states -- and need-based grants like Pell Grants and State Student Incentive Grants. The combination of an increasingly educated workforce, with little debt to hold us back, fueled economic prosperity.

An obscure law rooted in President Reagan’s government reform efforts -- the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990 -- addicted us to paying for higher education primarily through debt. Students and families increasingly took out loans to pay for a college education. Under FCRA, the lifetime costs of federal loans -- not just student loans -- are recognized and paid for in the year in which the loan is made. The lifetime cost of federal student loans are measured by discounting the expected future cash flows associated with the loan to a present value at the date the loan is disbursed. From a federal budgeting perspective, the FCRA made it cheaper to make loans to students than give them grants.

Today, students who graduate without any college debt still reap great economic benefit from a higher education, but they are a shrinking share of graduates. Today, nearly three-quarters of students graduating from four-year private nonprofit colleges have borrowed for their undergraduate education. Nearly 90 percent at four-year private for-profit institutions have borrowed.

The students who graduate without debt get all the rewards of pursuing a higher education with none of the risks associated with the debt or making bad choices, like being lured into college by predatory for-profit providers or enrolling in academic fields that lack substantial economic returns.

For everyone else, it is an enormous gamble. For those with debt and no degree, the prospects are the worst. Those who drop out receive none of the rewards of pursuing a college education while they took on all of the risks from being out of the labor market and taking on student loans. For those with large amounts of debt who successfully completed a degree program, it largely is a question of the quality of the credential and the field of study. If they attended a first-rate institution and received a degree in a high-demand field, they’ll do well. For everyone else, it depends.

And that’s the problem. It depends on decisions about where to go to college and what to study that an 18-year-old -- or 32-year-old -- makes with no ability to predict the future and, despite the best efforts of the Obama administration to develop and publish data on labor market outcomes, less than perfect information.

But the nation and every state benefit from the cumulative impact of higher levels of educational attainment. Even those who don’t go on to higher education benefit from increases in productivity and gains in earnings because of those who do.

So, if we must talk about making America stronger together -- or greater again, depending on your political persuasion -- we must make higher education free again. When running for the Democratic nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed “College for All” -- the name Carmel Martin and I used when we released our plan for debt-free higher education in February 2015. Senator Sanders’s bold proposal encouraged former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to propose eliminating tuition for students from working families who attend public colleges in their home state, assuring continued support to students from low- and moderate-income families through Pell Grants and other programs, and creating a much-needed new college compact -- something I and my colleagues at the Center for American Progress proposed -- to increase accountability and improve our nation’s return on investment resulting from higher education. Private colleges will need to make adjustments if they want to stay competitive, but that’s just the cost of making our higher education system work for everyone.

As a society, we pay for what we value. So, do we want to be known as a society that values war more than peace, prison more than education? It’s time to step up and restore America’s promise of a free public higher education opportunity for the current and future generations of the greatest country on earth.

David Bergeron is a senior fellow for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress. He previously served as the acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the U.S. Department of Education.

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Push to Cut Expenses of U of New Mexico Press

Administrators are pushing to cut expenses of the University of New Mexico Press, which like many university presses is not self-supporting, The Albuquerque Journal reported. The university has moved the press from academic affairs to the administrative side of the university, and it will be part of institutional support services. The university has also cut an annual $250,000 subsidy to the press. Supporters of the press say that it was never intended to be a self-supporting operation and that it fills an important scholarly mission. The press has published 70 books a year and is known for its work in Chicano studies, Latin American studies and the American West, among other topics.

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Frustrations of Early Career Scientists

Current research funding trends discourage innovative thinking, according to a new essay in a special issue of Nature. The essay, written by four early-career scientists who have been named by the World Economic Forum as part of a group of scientists under the age of 40 who “play a transformational role in integrating scientific knowledge into society for the public good,” says that the “scientific enterprise is stuck in a catch-22,” with researchers charged with advancing promising new questions, but receiving “support and credit only for revisiting their past work.”

The authors say that their most striking common challenge is “barriers to achieving impact,” in that their research “often led us to questions that had greater potential than our original focus, typically because these new directions encompassed the complexities of society. We realized that changing tack could lead to more important work, but the policies of research funders and institutions consistently discourage such pivots.”

One of the paper’s co-authors, Gerardo Adesso, a professor of mathematical physics at the University of Nottingham, said in a statement that the key is allowing scientist to “pivot,” or to shift their focus during their career. Funders and institutions often hamper this, however, questioning researchers with no track record in the new area they want to explore, he said.

“We are not saying that scientists should dabble,” the essay argues. “Executing a pivot should still require conviction and risk, but the current strictures are too tight. Enabling early-career researchers to change trajectories is necessary to encourage the highest-impact research. Theories of brain plasticity and team productivity support this. Alongside specialization, diverse and varied experiences foster discoveries and promote the decision-making skills that are needed to lead research.”

In addition to promoting the pivot, the essay advises institutions to emphasize peer-review training, which it says could eventually change institutional cultures. “Equipping scientists with skills for more nuanced appraisal will help them to consider varied attributes, particularly how to address complex societal challenges and to evaluate broader interdisciplinary questions.”

“The greatest risk is that innovation will be stifled by failing to invest in the best emerging scientists, who are approaching the peak of their creativity,” the authors conclude.

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