Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 1, 2023

Temple University graduate students began striking Tuesday for the first time in that union’s history, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Bethany Kosmicki, a member of the Temple University Graduate Students’ Association’s negotiating team, said in a news release that “Temple’s administration has repeatedly ignored our demands, refusing us fair pay, affordable dependent health care and increased parental leave.”

She said teaching and research assistants are “a core function of the university, teaching essential courses and conducting world class research. We deserve a contract that reflects our value to the university.”

The union says it represents nearly 750 of these employees.

The Inquirer reported that their average annual pay is $19,500, “and the union has sought to raise it to over $32,000, which it said is a necessary cost-of-living adjustment.”

The union’s news release said, “Temple administration’s current proposal increases the base salary for graduate employees to just $22,500 by 2026.”

“Our students’ education is our top priority,” the university said in a statement, “and we have plans to keep their learning experiences moving forward during any work stoppage. If a graduate student instructor chooses to strike, the university will assign alternative instructors.”

“Temple has proposed annual pay increases (3 percent each year for four years) that align with what other Temple full-time bargaining units have accepted and offered one-time payments of up to $500 (depending on an individual’s appointment terms),” the university said. “The university also offered to double the parental leave and provide additional bereavement leave for these part-time employees. In addition, the university would continue to offer health care benefits coverage to graduate student employees across the entire calendar year, with no contribution required from the employee. Every other Temple employee contributes part of their salary toward health care and prescription insurance. [The union] members would continue to receive free tuition for their programs of study, on average, valued at about $20,000.”

February 1, 2023

Colleges and universities can commit their land or endowment funds to kick-start local affordable-housing efforts, according to a report released today by the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area.

Students and employees of colleges in the Washington, D.C., region are part of an increasing percentage of the population facing “unsustainable rent burdens,” the report states.

“The problem of housing affordability has grown to a point where institutions that anchor the well-being of communities have to be part of the solution, even if they have not traditionally played a role in the housing market,” Eric Maribojoc, one of the study’s authors and executive director at the Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship at the George Mason University School of Business, said in a press release about the report.

The report outlines options for how universities can provide capital for projects, including through partnerships with what are known as community development financial institutions, or CDFIs, which are organizations that offer services to economically struggling communities and get special U.S. Treasury Department–backed certification.

“Institutions of higher education can partner with local CDFIs to secure institutional credit ratings, if required, for investments from college and university endowments to fund subsidized loans for affordable housing projects,” states the report.

Among other options, colleges could “enter into a public-private partnership (P3) with a private housing developer to finance and build affordable on-campus housing” for students and employees, the report states.

“As the largest collective non-Federal employers in the region, and serving hundreds of thousands of students, it is imperative that we seek innovative, collaborative new approaches to increasing affordable housing,” Andrew Flagel, president and CEO of the consortium, said in the press release.

Financial support from the Amazon Housing Equity Fund made the study possible, according to the consortium, which includes 18 college or university members.

February 1, 2023

A coalition of progressive education groups is today sending a letter to the Education Department asking it to collect and publicize:

  • Data on applications and admits, disaggregated by race and ethnicity. (It currently disaggregates those data by gender. It only disaggregates enrollments by race/ethnicity.)
  • Data on legacy applicants, admits and enrollments, disaggregated by race/ethnicity and by low-income status on enrollments.
  • Data on early-decision and early-action applicants, admits and enrollments, disaggregated by race/ethnicity.

The letter was organized by Education Reform Now.

February 1, 2023

Today on the Academic Minute: Kathleen Lubey, professor of English at St. John’s University, in New York, takes a historical look at how pornography and its messaging have changed. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 31, 2023

Nearly $3.6 billion in Pell Grants wasn’t claimed by eligible high school seniors last year, a new analysis from the National College Attainment Network found.

That’s a slight drop from the Class of 2021, which left $3.75 billion in Pell Grants on the table. NCAN’s latest report is the second in a series tracking unclaimed Pell Grant dollars.

The report estimated the amount of unclaimed Pell Grant by looking at Free Application for Financial Student Aid completion rates for each state, the percent of Pell-eligible students who did apply and the average Pell Grant for each state.

Using FAFSA completion rates and Pell Grant eligibility estimates, the report found that about 767,000 Pell-eligible high school seniors didn’t complete the application and thus didn’t receive the grant. Nationally, the average Pell Grant award was $4,686 for the 2022–23 academic year; the maximum award was $6,895.

“Oklahoma, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada are the only five states whose FAFSA non-completion percentage and Pell Grant eligibility percentage are over 50%; consequently, these states (and their students) stand to gain substantially in terms of federal financial aid if they can increase FAFSA completion,” the report says.

More than 1.65 million high school graduates—about 41 percent of the Class of 2022—didn’t complete the FAFSA.

“FAFSA completion performance was generally stronger across the country for the high school class of 2022 than for 2021,” the report says. “This increase was a key driver of the slight decrease in Pell Grant dollars left on the table by the class of 2022 compared to 2021. When the number of Pell Grants left on the table decreases, more students are completing the FAFSA and receiving Pell Grants for which they may be eligible.”

January 31, 2023

The Biden administration’s proposed changes to income-driven repayment would cost $333 to $361 billion over the next 10 years, economists at the Penn Wharton Budget Model found.

The estimate is more than double what the Education Department said the plan would cost. The department said the plan would have a net budget impact of $137.9 billion over the next 10 years, assuming that the administration would be able to forgive up to $20,000 in student loans for eligible Americans and that the volume or quantity of loans issued wouldn’t change.

The Penn Wharton Budget Model, which is a nonpartisan research organization at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania that provides economic analysis of the fiscal impact of public policy, reached a similar estimate—$140 billion—using the department’s assumptions.

However, Penn Wharton Budget Model economists estimate that more borrowers will opt in to the new IDR plan. Currently about one-third of borrowers are enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, but the report estimates that 70 to 75 percent of borrowers will opt in, which drove the higher cost estimate. If the take-up rate increases to 90 percent, the plan would cost $470 billion over the next 10 years.

This estimate doesn’t factor in how the IDR changes could affect student borrowing rates, increases in college tuition prices and enrollment and graduation rates. The organization plans to examine those factors in future reports.

January 31, 2023

Katey Stone, for more than 25 years the head coach of the women’s hockey team at Harvard University, has created a “culture of complete fear” and lost 14 recruited players since 2016, including three this season, The Boston Globe reported.

The article describes many incidents with Stone, including her interrupting for “an outburst that witnesses described as degrading and dispiriting, Stone accused the players she had recruited of showing her too little respect and devolving into a collection of skaters ‘with too many chiefs and not enough Indians.’” She had two Native American women on the team.

Stone also is insensitive to mental health issues, the article said. One former team leader said that when her coach learned she was receiving mental health care, she said, “You need to toughen up and not be a burden to your teammates.”

Several players also said she downplayed the significance of concussions.

Stone and Harvard both declined to comment. Stone, in a letter emailed to her current team after being contacted by the Globe about the story, wrote, “This year, I have made it a priority to acknowledge and respond to direct feedback from the women in my program about my coaching style, and make a concerted effort to better support my players’ experiences.”

January 31, 2023

The University of Utah announced Monday that it will launch a new financial technology center on campus in partnership with the private Stena Foundation and its founders, Steve and Jana Smith.

The foundation has “orchestrated,” the university said, funds of up to $65 million over 10 years to support the Stena Center for Financial Technology, which will include laboratories, a start-up incubator, venture funds and new degree and certificate programs. Reinvestments from the venture funds are expected to continue funding the center in perpetuity, according to a press release.

Ryan Christiansen, former senior vice president of data access partnerships at Mastercard, will lead the center as its inaugural executive director.

“The Stena Center for Financial Technology provides the ability to accelerate and incubate important advances in financial technology innovation and businesses that will continue to propel the fintech industry forward and cement Utah as a center of excellence,” University of Utah president Taylor Randall said in the press release. “This world-class center will leverage our unparalleled research and education with resources that provide critical hands-on experiences for students.”

As part of the launch, the university recently began offering a fintech minor. Plans are underway to add fintech undergraduate and master’s degrees within the next four years.

January 31, 2023

Today on the Academic Minute: Joel Christensen, professor of classical studies and senior associate dean for faculty affairs at Brandeis University, examines the stories of women who were deemed “different,” from ancient Greece to the recent past. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 30, 2023

Students at Seattle Pacific University have accused administrators of removing pride flags from campus, Inside Higher Ed has learned. It’s the latest skirmish over LGBTQ+ rights at the private Free Methodist–affiliated university that has pitted the Board of Trustees against students and much of the community.

At the crux of the issue is an SPU policy that bars the hiring of openly gay faculty and staff members. The Board of Trustees has refused to budge on the policy, despite campus protests, a lawsuit from campus constituents, a probe by the Washington state attorney general and a lowered bond rating from S&P Global due to financial fallout from the hiring policy.

Early Friday morning, students placed hundreds of pride flags across campus. Student organizers said the move was to protest an email from administrators to the campus community urging the removal of “messages or signage that are divisive, polarizing, or show dissention,” according to a copy of the email obtained by Inside Higher Ed. Students said that in the past, pride flags have been left up, but in this case facilities staff took them down by 7:30 a.m. Friday.

The move came a day after SPU announced it had hired Deana Porterfield away from Roberts Wesleyan University, another Free Methodist college, to serve as its president. Students have expressed skepticism about Porterfield, given that RWU defines marriage as “between one man and one woman,” which is similar to SPU’s statement on human sexuality.

“Per university standards and precedent, SPU continues to remove signs, flags, and displays of any kind, regardless of content or purpose, that have been placed on campus without permission,” SPU communications director Tracy Norlen told Inside Higher Ed by email.

SPU officials said the removal was done on the orders of the administration, declining to name any specific individuals. A worker recorded removing the flags told students it was done at the direction of “upper management.”

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