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Democratic platform spurs excitement for advocates of free community college

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After taking a backseat to debate over free tuition at four-year public colleges, free community college advocates see chance to build momentum.

Report: Fisk University Quietly Sold 2 Paintings

Fisk University sparked controversy several years ago when it tried to sell off parts of its collection of Georgia O'Keeffe paintings to help solve its financial problems; the sale was ultimately blocked by a judge and the university wound up sharing its collection with an Arkansas museum in exchange for an infusion of cash.

But as the university was negotiating that legal arrangement, its president at the time quietly sold two other paintings, The New York Times reported. The sale was not reported at the time, and the Times quotes the director of another university's museum as saying that the Fisk sale was "very much against the ethics of our profession."

The Fisk situation was one of several in recent years that have raised questions of whether colleges or universities can try to transform art donated to them into assets they can use to support themselves.

Temple University president reaches deal to resign

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Transition follows weeks of tensions over his decision to oust provost.

Michigan Donor Pulls $3M Gift Over Naming Concerns

The University of Michigan's Board of Regents chairman and his wife are rescinding a $3 million gift toward a new multicultural center because their names would go on the structure, raising worries the only building on campus named for an African-American was being replaced.

Chairman Mark Bernstein and his wife, Rachel Bendit, will withdraw the gift, originally announced in April. University of Michigan protocols called for the building to be renamed Bernstein-Bendit Hall. But the university's current multicultural center, named for newspaper founder and equal rights activist William Monroe Trotter, is the only building on Michigan's Ann Arbor campus named for an African-American. The center would still have been called the Trotter Center, but many objected to having the name taken off of the building, according to the Detroit Free Press.

"We spent time with faculty, students, staff and alumni who shared with us their sense of loss and who expressed their fear that the only African-American name on a building at U-M would be diminished or erased," the newspaper quoted Bernstein, who is chair and managing partner of a Michigan law firm, as saying. "There are hundreds of buildings on this campus, and only one, Trotter, honors the name of an African-American. This is wrong. … We did not want to silence Trotter -- this one, lonely African-American voice on our campus. This was, of course, not our intention, but it could have been the result."

The new building is planned to total about 20,000 square feet and open in 2018 at a cost of $10 million. Its construction was included in demands from the university's Black Student Union during 2014 protests -- the university's current center has been criticized as being run-down and located away from Michigan's core campus, while the new facility is planned for a more central location. A Michigan spokesman said the project will move forward, although sources of replacement funding are unclear. The Trotter Center's name is now set to remain as it is today.

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Arizona State Revamps Foundation Under New Model

Arizona State University has overhauled its foundation and the specialty groups that had been housed within it, creating a new governance structure likened to a corporate holding company.

The university on Monday announced the creation this month of Enterprise Partners, an umbrella group made up of five nonprofit organizations: the ASU Foundation, defense researcher and consultant ASU Research Enterprise, intellectual property manager Arizona Technology Enterprises, real estate group University Realty, and nonprofit incubator Research Collaboratory. The ASU Foundation had previously been the parent of the other four groups.

Arizona State likened the change to Google's reorganization under the holding company Alphabet. At the university, however, the change gives each organization its own leader and board of directors. It could generate new sources of revenue, Arizona State said. But the groups share support systems and services under the umbrella organization.

"This model allows us to add new entities for diverse revenue as those opportunities come along," ASU Foundation CEO R. F. Shangraw said in the university's announcement of the new group.

Arizona State is billing the group as the first of its kind to follow its organizational model.

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PR Campaign Backs Temple President

Temple University President Neil D. Theobald does not seem to be going away quietly.

Theobald on Friday was the subject of a strongly supportive press release listing his accomplishments and saying that his focus “is on students and faculty.” The release, issued by a consulting and crisis communications firm, came days after Temple's Board of Trustees recorded a vote of no confidence in Theobald and announced its plans to fire him.

The board scheduled a vote on Theobald's removal for Thursday. The vote was scheduled only weeks after the president abruptly removed Hai-Lung Dai as provost, surprising many at Temple. Dai's removal came as a $22 million financial aid overrun was revealed.

Friday's news release on Theobald does not reference his possible removal. Instead, it references “the significant highlights of his first four years in office.” Highlights listed include improving Temple's research classification, increasing its funded research, boosting fund-raising, raising the university's ranking and bringing in large, academically strong and diverse student classes.

The release also includes supportive quotes from faculty and alumni.

New Papers on Performance-Based Funding

The Lumina Foundation last week released a new series of white papers on how public colleges are responding to performance-based funding policies in their states. The five papers by outside experts follow two previous batches the foundation funded and produced. The latest round focuses on how colleges can structure their academic programs and finances to support student success.

Lumina said the papers "focus on how institutions can align internal finances, student supports and incentives, and educational delivery to respond to funding formulas that create incentives for on-time degree completion and year-over-year increases in the numbers of students of color and at-risk students who earn degrees or other credentials."

Proposed Education Department rule could negatively impact HBCUs (essay)

The U.S. Department of Education introduced a new rule on June 13 that could have an outsize negative impact on historically black colleges and universities.

And no one noticed.

As the former president of Bennett College -- the nation’s oldest historically black college for women -- I have been honored to play a role in increasing the immense opportunities HBCUs have provided to black students and other students of color over the past 150 years.

I have also witnessed the sharp increase of higher education costs, even as the importance of a good college degree continues to grow. Millennials will be burdened with more student loan debt than any other generation before them. According to The Wall Street Journal, cumulative outstanding student debt has surpassed an astounding $1 trillion. Yet with a decline in state and federal support -- states are now spending, on average, 20 percent less per student than they did in 2008, according to one think tank -- colleges and universities are more and more dependent on tuition for their financial stability.

Although HBCUs provide excellent academic opportunities for their students, they do not have the monetary security other colleges and universities enjoy. For example, top-rated HBCU Howard University maintains an endowment of about $660 million, while top-rated non-HBCU Harvard University has an endowment of $36 billion.

This fiscal contrast could become an immediate problem for HBCUs and their students in light of the Education Department’s new proposed rule.

The department recently announced the revised borrower defense to repayment regulation, which would allow students to sue their college or university and default on their loans if they think that the institution misled or defrauded them during the time they were enrolled. The original rule has been around for 20 years and provides essential protections for students who have been defrauded by their educators. The revised rule would greatly expand the criteria for students to sue their educators, with a far lower burden of proof on the student.

While I agree that students must be able to petition their educational providers for student loan forgiveness if they feel they have been defrauded, I worry about the unintended ramifications of such an enormously wide-open regulation. The Education Department has estimated it will have an economic impact of $4.2 billion in tuition repayments and other costs, but that could be just the tip of the iceberg. Institutions could also accumulate mounds of fees, as legal counsels attempt to wade through the vague and confusing regulations -- a cost HBCUs can ill afford.

The new rule has other costs and implications for HBCUs, as well, by requiring institutions to obtain new and costly letters of credit from lenders. HBCUs could be negatively impacted by “financial responsibility regulatory requirements,” which could threaten “their ability to continue their historic education mission,” according to a May 2016 letter from the United Negro College Fund.

My concerns mirror theirs.

According to a Gallup-Purdue University report, black students who graduated from historically black colleges felt more supported, both academically and emotionally, than their black peers at predominantly white institutions. Additionally, HBCUs graduate 18 percent of all African-American undergraduate students and 25 percent of all African-Americans in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

I had the privilege of working alongside many bright young women of color at Bennett who have graduated to become doctors, lawyers, teachers and engineers and have all made significant contributions to the American workforce. And I hope HBCUs can continue to produce such exemplary students of color.

Unfortunately, if this rule is implemented in its current form, opportunities for black students to receive the education they need to compete in the 21st century could decline. HBCUs would be forced to funnel their already limited monetary resources into unnecessary legal counsel instead of into the classrooms where they belong.

The proposed language in the rule is vague, difficult to understand and could cost taxpayers up to $43 billion over the next 10 years. The rule change was doubtless written in reaction to the May 2015 bankruptcy of Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit college system. The federal government may have to forgive millions of dollars in loans Corinthian students now owe. HBCUs are different from for-profit colleges, but the hastily written language of the rule makes no distinction among types of institutions.

We can all agree that students must have strong protections if they can prove they have been defrauded by their academic institution. Those protections already exist, and students should be better informed of their current rights and better empowered to pursue loan forgiveness in the case of legitimate grievances. But that shouldn’t come at the cost of financial instability, especially for HBCUs whose fiscal position is often not as strong as traditionally white institutions. Policy makers should revisit the rule and include HBCUs in the public comment process, which should be extended to take into account an examination of these issues.

I am hopeful that the Department of Education will consider these concerns and invite us to the discussion table before the comment period closes Aug. 1, and will do what’s in the best interest of students, educators and taxpayers. But in the meantime, it’s essential that our community makes our voices heard.

Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist and the founder of Economic Education. She is the former president of Bennett College, America’s oldest historically black college for women.

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Bennett College

German University to Rewrite $166M Gift Agreement

The president of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, in Germany, announced plans to rewrite a 150 million euro (about $166 million) gift agreement that critics say gives a donor too much control over faculty appointments and publishing decisions at the university's Institute of Molecular Biology, Science reported. President Georg Krausch acknowledged that the agreement with the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation includes problematic language granting the foundation veto power over faculty hires -- which, he said, it never used -- and requiring the university to get the foundation's consent prior to the release of publications. Krausch said the university will work with the foundation to revise the language. A spokesperson for the foundation said it will continue to support basic research and give “maximum freedom” to researchers, and that it is waiting to hear what changes the university will propose.

Many College Business Officers Poised to Retire

A new report from the National Association of College and University Business Officers indicates a wave of retirements could be coming among chief business officers in the next several years.

Almost 44 percent of chief business officers expect their next career move to be retirement, according to the NACUBO National Profile of Higher Education Chief Business Officers, a report issued every three years that was released Thursday. The portion expecting retirement to be their next career move was 43.6 percent, up from 39.6 percent in 2013 and 39.8 percent in 2010. Of those planning to retire, 10 percent said they would like to do so in less than a year, and another 34 percent said they planned to retire in one to three years. Meanwhile, 37 percent of chief business officers said their institutions do not have any succession plans in place.

The survey of 713 business leaders found chief business officers are predominantly white males and average 56 years old. Typical salaries were reported between $150,000 and $300,000, depending on institution type, and the report found business officers' responsibilities stretch far beyond budgeting and accounting, with nearly a third saying strategic thinking and decision making is the second most important part of their job after managing financial resources.

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