Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 16, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, William Nesbitt, an English professor at Beacon College, explores the literary movement and what we’re still learning from them today. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

December 15, 2016

The University of Virginia's Miller Center and the affiliated National Commission on Financing 21st Century Higher Education on Wednesday released a report making the case for how to best fund increased college credential production in the United States.

The Miller Center in 2014 created the commission with funding from the Lumina Foundation to develop recommendations for long-term, sustainable financial models for higher education. The commission, which was led by a bipartisan group of former lawmakers and college leaders, generated 10 white papers by higher education experts. For example, two of the papers called for more state support of public higher education to go to open-access colleges and need-based aid.

The commission's final report drew from the papers. It included nine recommendations:

  • Increase federal and state institutional support;
  • Enhance state revenue to support higher education;
  • Stimulate the development and implementation of low-cost education delivery models;
  • Encourage productivity in the postsecondary system;
  • Create incentives for students to graduate on time;
  • Help students and their families make better decisions;
  • Increase and reform financial aid to target low-income students;
  • Develop additional private funding;
  • Take advantage of private-sector programs.

"While the U.S. higher education system is still the envy of the world, the nation is clearly at a major crossroads given the increased income inequality and the fact that many workers feel left behind economically," Mike Castle, commission co-chair, former Republican governor of Delaware and former U.S. congressman, said in a written statement. "It is our hope that national and state policy leaders gain valuable insights and policy direction from our work to build stronger federal, state, business and higher education partnerships focused on higher degree and certificate attainment rates."

December 15, 2016

Colleges frequently make deals with large banks to create college-sponsored checking and prepaid accounts, but those deals are often risky and leave students with high fees. This is according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s annual report to Congress on student banking, which was released yesterday.

The bureau analyzed about 500 of these deals and found that dozens have no limit on account fees. In other words, there’s no cap on overdraft fees, out-of-network ATM fees or other fees placed on students. Ten percent of students with these accounts ended up paying at least 10 overdraft fees in 2014 -- these students, on average, paid $196 in overdraft fees in one year. A small financial shock -- "unexpected expenses of a few hundred dollars," the report stated -- could throw some students for a serious financial loop, even causing them to drop out of college.

The report also found that while the agreements include details about how banks and colleges can profit from the deals, there is little to no information in those agreements about how the deals benefit students. Colleges also tend to fail at properly evaluating the products and services offered to students, and some schools did not publicly disclose marketing agreements, which is illegal.

The bureau came to these conclusions even after the Department of Education instated new regulations last year meant to protect students who purchased the college-sponsored financial accounts.

In September, the bureau established a public, online database of approximately 500 deals between colleges and banks. A year ago, the bureau also published the Safe Student Account Toolkit, which can be found here.

December 15, 2016

The Department of Education Thursday announced an experiment to find the best loan counseling services for student borrowers.

The department asked 35 public two-year and 14 public four-year institutions to test the effectiveness of required loan counseling for student borrowers. The announcement follows remarks from Under Secretary Ted Mitchell over the summer that the department was considering giving a handful of institutions the ability to require loan counseling using its experimental sites authority. Mitchell told attendees at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators conference that the department wants to understand not just whether required loan counseling is effective but what kind of counseling is most effective -- whether that means in-person counseling or regular electronic communication.

The department has advised colleges and university financial aid offices that after completing entrance counseling they cannot require students to receive further guidance as a condition of taking out additional federal direct student loans.

Half of the 100,000 students participating in the experiment at the invited institutions will be placed in control groups, while another half will be assigned to receive additional forms of counseling chosen by the institution, according to a release from the department.

December 15, 2016

About a third of colleges and universities will delay payroll changes after an injunction last month blocked the implementation of a new federal overtime rule, according to a survey by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

A U.S. District Court judge in Texas issued the injunction just days before the rule was scheduled to go into effect. The Department of Labor regulation would have raised the threshold under which employees must receive overtime pay to $47,476 from $23,660.

Although the final rule included a teaching exemption, it was criticized by higher ed groups including the American Council on Education. The injunction came after many institutions had already taken steps to come into compliance with the new rule.

The CUPA-HR survey found that of 495 responding institutions, 32 percent would now delay making any changes to implement the rule, while another 32 percent would implement some changes and delay others. Meanwhile, 28 percent of colleges and universities surveyed said they would go ahead with planned changes, and 8 percent said they planned to reverse some changes already made.

December 15, 2016

A report from the United Negro College Fund finds that students who attend historically black colleges and universities borrow more in student loans and graduate with higher debt loads than students attending non-HBCU institutions. That's despite the lower sticker price, on average, at HBCUs.

In 2012, the report says, a quarter of HBCU graduates left college with $40,000 or more in student loan debt, or about four times as much as students elsewhere.

The report recommends increasing grant aid and work-study opportunities for low-income students, making federal student loans less costly, and improving the federal student loan servicing system.

December 15, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Adam Blackler, assistant professor of history at Black Hills State University, says Germany’s actions in Africa need to be recognized as genocide, too. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

December 14, 2016

The professor of psychology who was secretly videotaped talking about Donald Trump has left the state of California following a series of physical threats, The Orange County Register reported. Hundreds of people demonstrated at Orange Coast College for and against Olga Perez Stable Cox, the professor, this week, as her faculty union said her classes will be covered by someone else through the end of the semester. “Someone emailed her a picture of her house, with her address,” Rob Schneiderman, president of the campus's faculty union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, told the Register. Another email read, “You want communism, go to Cuba … try to bring it to America and we’ll put a [expletive] bullet in your face,” the newspaper reported.

A videotape of Cox saying in her human sexuality class after the election that Trump’s victory was an “act of terrorism” was shared on the campus’s College Republicans’ Facebook page last week and promptly went viral. Cox did not respond to a request for comment, but Schneiderman has said she was answering a question from a student. The context of Cox’s comments is not clear from the video itself. Two students in Cox’s class told the Register this week that Cox also asked students who voted for Trump to identify themselves. “She tried to get everyone who voted for Donald Trump to stand up and show the rest of the class who to watch out for and protect yourself from,” said student Tanner Webb. Schneiderman disputed the account, saying that Cox told the class some people would be happy with the election results, and asked students to stand up if they wished, after one student did so without prompting.

Shawn Steel, a Republican National Committee member from California and an attorney who is representing the Orange Coast College Republicans, has previously said he wanted Cox to apologize but now says singling out Trump supporters is grounds for possible dismissal. “That’s a deal breaker for me,” he told the Register. The college is investigating the matter.

December 14, 2016

In a worldwide comparison of years of education, by religion, Jews emerged as the most educated group by far, in new research from the Pew Research Center. Jews have 13.4 years of formal schooling, on average, followed by Christians, at 9.3 years.

Another notable finding was that the most highly educated religious groups have the smallest gap (or, in the case of Jews, no gap) between the average years of formal schooling of men and women.

Details of the study may be found here.

December 14, 2016

Hundreds of historians have issued a joint statement on the need to be vigilant about civil liberties.

"As scholars of United States history and related fields, we have experienced concern and alarm as we went from a divisive campaign season to the election of Donald Trump as our president-elect. On the eve of a new administration whose key players have traded in hateful rhetoric and emboldened the harassment of various targets, we urge Americans to be vigilant against a mass violation of civil rights and liberties that could result if such troubling developments continue unchecked," says the statement. "Looking back on World War II and the Cold War, we recognize how easily the rights of people have been suspended during times of great uncertainty. A key lesson of such ordeals has been to never again repeat these mistakes, and so we issue a call to recognize and act upon the critical links between historical knowledge, informed citizenship and the protection of civil and human rights."

The full statement may be found here.


Back to Top