administrators

Purdue-Kaplan deal faces regulatory hurdle

The U.S. Department of Education is scrutinizing an aspect of the proposed acquisition of Kaplan University by Purdue University, The Washington Post reported. Purdue, however, said the reported potential regulatory problem is not an issue.

Purdue is seeking to create a new online university through its complex deal with Kaplan, which enrolls roughly 30,000 students. One of the biggest controversies and likely the highest regulatory hurdle for the arrangement is the extent to which the boundary-pushing new university will behave like a public institution.

Salesforce offers new training for students

As reported by Inside Higher Ed, Salesforce, the world’s largest customer relationship management platform, has a new classroom-ready training program called Trailhead for Students.

Student art exhibit at Penn prompts fierce debate over suicide

University of Pennsylvania student’s project has been criticized for capitalizing on the campus’s grief.

How to create a culture of accountability (essay)

Dysfunctional departments don’t serve students, faculty members or the institution well, writes Ellen de Graffenreid, who gives some pointers on how to make sure yours isn’t one of them.

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Advice Newsletter publication date: 
Thursday, November 2, 2017
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Dealing With Dysfunction

Professor Apparently Demoted to Lecturer After Losing Ph.D.

Jodi Whitaker, a scholar of communication whose Ph.D. was revoked in August, has apparently been demoted from assistant professor at the University of Arizona, Retraction Watch first reported. Whitaker’s faculty bio at Arizona, which formerly listed her as a tenure-track professor, now says she is a lecturer. References to her doctorate, which Ohio State University revoked this summer after an investigation into claims of falsified data, also have been removed -- as have references to a contested and eventually retracted paper on the real-world effects of violent video games.

Whitaker co-wrote the retracted paper at Ohio State with her supervisor there, who said he was not aware of any inappropriate data manipulation. Whitaker did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and Arizona has said it does not comment on personnel matters.

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White House Seeks Investigation Into UNLV Professor

An assistant professor of history at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas has apologized for blaming President Trump for the recent shooting massacre in the city after a student secretly recorded her comments and shared them with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In the video, Tessa Winkelmann tells an upper-level class that when Trump was elected, she told students “that some of us won’t be affected by this presidency, but others are going to die.” Winkelmann says that Trump has “threatened to declare violence against North Korea and other places” and that “words, especially if they’re coming from someone who is the president, have consequences.” She adds, “I don’t know that these events would have inevitably happened whether or not he got elected, but he has rhetorical powers; every president has to encourage or to discourage [violence]. So far all he’s done is to encourage violence.”

The anonymous student who shared with video with the newspaper reportedly said classmates began arguing the point with one another. The Review-Journal quotes Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, as saying that Winkelmann “should be ashamed of herself, and the university should look into it. What a terrible example to set for students.”

Winkelmann told the newspaper that last week was “very difficult for members of our community, and we have allowed students space in our classes to discuss how they have been affected and to openly convey their feelings.” She added via email, “I regret that my comments caused more pain during this difficult time. Emotions were running high and I wish I would have been more thoughtful in how I directed the conversation.”

Tony Allen, university spokesperson, in a statement called Winkelmann’s comments insensitive but did not address the possibility of disciplinary action against her.

“While we respect academic freedom in the classroom and the right to free speech, we believe the comments were insensitive, especially given the series of events this week and the healing process that has begun in the community.”

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Group Attempts New Twist on Accreditation

The Quality Assurance Commons for Higher & Postsecondary Education is a new group that is exploring alternative approaches to accreditation in higher education. With funding from the Lumina Foundation and through the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, the QA Commons last week announced a pilot project to assess higher education programs at 14 institutions around the country.

The project, which features a broad range of participating colleges, including public universities and community colleges, will focus on the employability of students.

Ralph Wolff, who formerly led the WASC Senior College and University Commission, a regional accreditor, is founder and president of the QA Commons. He said the project is designed to close the gap between higher education and employers.

“Work as we know it is changing, so it’s increasingly challenging -- and important -- to ensure higher education experiences appropriately prepare graduates for the 21st century,” Wolff said in a written statement. “A growing body of evidence tells us that the so-called soft skills are the ones employers want most but struggle to find. We are calling them ‘essential employability qualities,’ because they are critical to immediate and long-term success in the world of work.”

Essential employment qualities the group will seek to gauge include:

  • People skills such as collaboration, teamwork and cross-cultural competence;
  • Problem-solving abilities such as inquiry, critical thinking and creativity;
  • Professional strengths such as communication, work ethic and technological agility.
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Regulatory Hurdle for Purdue-Kaplan Deal

The U.S. Department of Education is scrutinizing an aspect of the proposed acquisition of Kaplan University by Purdue University, The Washington Post reported Friday. Purdue, however, said the reported potential regulatory problem is not an issue.

Purdue is seeking to create a new online university through its complex deal with Kaplan, a for-profit that enrolls roughly 30,000 students. As Inside Higher Ed has reported, one of the biggest controversies and likely the highest regulatory hurdle for the arrangement is the extent to which the boundary-pushing new university will behave like a public institution.

Mitch Daniels, Purdue's president and a former Republican governor of Indiana, has said the state will not pay for the new university, which will be supported solely through tuition and fund-raising. Although the new university technically will be a state institution, Indiana's Legislature exempted it from some public records requirements. And while state universities are subject to less scrutiny from the federal government because states are on the hook in the event of a financial collapse or other problems that would require the forgiveness of student loans, it's unclear if that would be the case for Purdue-Kaplan, which Daniels has promised poses "virtually no financial risk to Purdue or the state."

However, as observers had predicted, it appears that the Education Department will require Purdue to absorb liabilities that Kaplan accrued prior to the proposed acquisition.

The feds last month granted initial approval to the deal. But a department official, in a letter the Post obtained, said Purdue and Indiana will be responsible for Kaplan's liabilities. Those could include tuition refunds or covering loan balances, the newspaper reported.

The department will not finalize its approval of the deal unless Purdue agrees to "assume responsibility for liabilities resulting from the operation of Kaplan University as an educational institution, whether they are known or unknown, and whether they accrue prior to or after the closing of the transaction," the official wrote, adding that those liabilities "constitute an instrumentality of the state of Indiana for the purpose of the department’s regulations."

Purdue said its contract with Kaplan states that the for-profit will cover its liabilities from prior to the deal's closing. The public institution also said the department acknowledged the liability arrangement and did not challenge it in the letter.

"The Department of Education recognizes that the parties can agree -- and in fact already have -- that Kaplan is responsible for pre-closing liabilities," a Purdue spokesman said via email. "This agreement shields both Purdue and Indiana taxpayers from financial risk."

The university said the contract was structured to conform with a federal requirement for a single institution to be responsible for liabilities as part of the standard change in control process.

"Contrary to the article's assertion, there was nothing for the department to 'take issue' with, since Purdue doesn't, and never did, have any problem with the department's position," Purdue said. "Indeed, Indiana's own enabling legislation is consistent with the department's position. There's simply nothing new here."

Indiana's state government has formally backed the deal. The Higher Learning Commission, which is the regional accreditor for both Purdue and Kaplan, also must sign off on the arrangement for it to move forward. Experts have said that decision poses the biggest challenge for the new university.

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Some colleges opt to outsource Title IX investigations, hearings

Some colleges hire outside parties to look into and judge sexual assault cases, a move meant to ensure fairness in the process.

College leaders can play a big role in helping more transfer students get to graduation (essay)

21st-Century Community Colleges

When students can transfer smoothly from community colleges to four-year institutions, students, families and taxpayers realize the benefits of incredible cost savings as well as the economic and social returns that come from earning a bachelor’s degree.

But often it is not smooth. Despite high levels of baccalaureate aspiration among community college students, transfer and baccalaureate completion rates remain critically low. Research shows that, among a nationally representative sample of students who enrolled in a two-year institution with the goal of attaining a bachelor’s degree, only 23 percent succeeded within eight years. And outcomes are worse for low-income students and underrepresented minority students (black, Latino and American Indian) -- populations that begin their education in community colleges at disproportionately high rates.

The good news is that we know we can do better. During the 2015-16 academic year, researchers from the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program and the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College visited six high-performing transfer partnerships -- including six two-year and eight four-year schools -- to understand how higher education can better serve undergraduate transfer students. Among these highly successful community college-university transfer partnerships, we found several common threads. Among the most important: presidents dedicated to aligning internal leadership, priorities and resources, as well as external partnerships, to improve transfer outcomes.

Internally, highly effective community college presidents set the tone on their campuses that what counts is not only associate degree completion and transfer, but baccalaureate completion. That means repeatedly speaking about the importance of transfer, often while referencing data about transfer and bachelor’s degree attainment in conversations with faculty members, staff, the cabinet and the board. It also means calling attention to the need for equitable baccalaureate attainment outcomes for all students to assure that low-income and underrepresented minority students are being well served. In the end, the presidential commitment is reflected in resource allocation: Do staff receive release time to build clear program maps? How much funding is dedicated to transfer advising?

At the four-year level, effective presidents have engaged in similar efforts but often must start by raising awareness about the importance of transfer students. Nationally, nearly half of all undergraduates who complete a four-year degree enrolled at a two-year college at some point before graduating. But on individual campuses, many faculty and staff are not aware of the prevalence of transfer students. Recognizing this, presidents (and other senior leaders) at four-year colleges and universities that have achieved strong outcomes often start by presenting data on the significant numbers of college transfer students at their institutions, disaggregated whenever possible, which creates awareness and urgency around the great responsibility they share with community colleges for bachelor’s degree attainment among transfer students.

Highly effective presidents understand that it is not enough to concern themselves with only their institution’s half of the transfer journey; they must understand and take ownership of students’ success across the entire four-year experience. They know that community colleges and universities can best serve transfer students if they jointly own the entire transfer experience through to baccalaureate attainment. Furthermore, they understand that increasing transfer student outcomes on average is inadequate; they can only attain their institutional goals by making sure that transfer student outcomes become equitable across the student population.

In the most successful cases, presidents at both two- and four-year colleges build, maintain and highlight strong relationships with the presidents at partner institutions. Through regularly scheduled meetings between presidents and provosts, announcements regarding the progress of their partnerships, and joint public appearances regarding the importance of college completion, these efforts send a signal to both campuses -- and the surrounding community -- that both institutions are dedicated to working together to achieve student success.

Whenever we present to presidents and senior leaders The Transfer Playbook, a guide that distills what we learned about highly effective transfer practices through our college visits, their next question is always how to get started. Here’s an idea: get leaders from both two- and four-year partners together to discuss data and other information about the transfer student experience in its entirety, beyond each institution’s part of the “two-plus-two” arrangement. Guiding questions for this review might include:

  • How many total credit hours do transfer students accumulate on their journey to the baccalaureate?
  • How long does it take students to complete the bachelor’s degree?
  • What is the transfer rate between the partner institutions, disaggregated by race/ethnicity and Pell status? How do the demographics of the transfer student population compare to the entering cohorts at both institutions?
  • What is the baccalaureate completion rate of transfer students, disaggregated by race/ethnicity and Pell status?
  • How much remaining eligibility do Pell students typically have when they enter the four-year college? How often do they exhaust that eligibility before completing the bachelor’s degree?
  • Are students who complete the associate degree prior to transfer earning bachelor’s degrees at higher levels than those who don’t? Does that vary by major?
  • Through transfer-student focus groups, what do students have to say about their pathway to the baccalaureate and how difficult or seamless it was for them to navigate across both institutions?

A jointly appointed cross-institutional working group can review transfer student data, examine institutional practices and policies, and identify areas where there are strengths, weaknesses and gaps within and between institutions. Reporting to the presidents with recommendations for improving the transfer student experience and strengthening the relationships between institutions allows the colleges to create a joint agenda for improving transfer success.

It’s unsurprising that leaders at many two- and four-year colleges have paid less attention to transfer student bachelor’s degree attainment than graduation rates of students who start at their colleges. After all, federal data reporting requirements and state accountability systems typically do not track baccalaureate success rates for transfer students. But making concerted efforts to improve transfer students’ baccalaureate completion rates is essential if our nation is to deliver the bachelor’s degrees that can fuel our economy. Given the rising number of traditionally underrepresented students in the United States, the majority of whom start at a community college, the talent our nation needs cannot be fully developed without better transfer outcomes. Moreover, given the cost savings associated with successful transfer, improving two- to four-year transfer represents one of the most promising scalable strategies for improving baccalaureate attainment rates nationwide, especially in an era of declining public resources.

It is time when more community colleges and four-year institutions take joint responsibility for the bachelor’s degree attainment of community college transfers. For that to happen, community college and university presidents must lead the way.

Robert Templin is president emeritus of Northern Virginia Community College, senior fellow at the Aspen Institute and professor at North Carolina State University. K. C. Deane is a doctoral student at the University of Michigan's Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education and a fellow at Public Agenda.

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A transfer fair at Northern Virginia Community College
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