Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 18, 2017

A federal judge in Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday blocking the implementation of a new iteration of the Trump administration’s travel ban. The ban, which was scheduled to fully go into effect today, would block all would-be travelers from North Korea and Syria, in addition to prohibiting all immigrant travel and imposing various restrictions on certain types of nonimmigrant travel for nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Venezuela and Yemen.

The injunction blocks the new travel restrictions for six of the eight countries -- all except for those affecting nationals of North Korea and Venezuela, which were not at issue in the suit filed by the state of Hawaii and other plaintiffs.

President Trump's previous two versions of travel bans were blocked by various federal courts before the Supreme Court permitted a modified version of the second to go into effect. In issuing a nationwide order blocking implementation of the third ban, Judge Derrick K. Watson of the District Court of Hawaii found that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in their argument that Trump overstepped his authority in issuing the new proclamation restricting travel, which, he wrote, “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor.” Watson wrote that the executive order “lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States.’” Further, Judge Watson found that the order “plainly discriminates based on nationality in the manner that the Ninth Circuit [Court of Appeals] has found antithetical to both Section 1152(a) [of the Immigration and Nationality Act] and the founding principles of this nation.”

The White House said in a statement that the restraining order "undercuts the president’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States."

"The entry restrictions in the proclamation apply to countries based on their inability or unwillingness to share critical information necessary to safely vet applications, as well as a threat assessment related to terrorism, instability and other grave national security concerns," the White House said. "These restrictions are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our nation. We are therefore confident that the judiciary will ultimately uphold the president’s lawful and necessary action and swiftly restore its vital protections for the safety of the American people."

Opponents of Trump's actions say he is using national security as a pretext for banning Muslims from entering the U.S., a step the president called for during the campaign (the original travel bans exclusively affected Muslim-majority countries, though two countries whose citizens are not largely Muslim, North Korea and Venezuela, were added to the latest one). Universities and higher education groups have been among those who have criticized Trump’s various travel bans, which they argue will deter talented students and scholars from coming to U.S. campuses.

In finding that the state of Hawaii had standing to sue, Judge Watson specifically cited harm to the University of Hawaii. “The university has 20 students from the eight countries designated in EO-3 [the third executive order], and has already received five new graduate applications from students in those countries for the spring 2018 term,” Judge Watson wrote in his Tuesday order.

“It also has multiple faculty members and scholars from the designated countries and uncertainty regarding the entry ban ‘threatens the university’s recruitment, educational programming and educational mission,’” Judge Watson wrote, quoting from a declaration from a university administrator. “Indeed, in September 2017, a Syrian journalist scheduled to speak at the university was denied a visa and did not attend a planned lecture, another lecture series planned for November 2017 involving a Syrian national can no longer go forward, and another Syrian journalist offered a scholarship will not likely be able to attend the university if EO-3 is implemented.”

October 18, 2017

Columbia University's law school on Tuesday became the latest to announce that it will accept the Graduate Record Examination for admissions, not just the traditionally required Law School Admission Test. Four months ago, only Harvard University and the University of Arizona did so. But Columbia joins them, along with Washington University in St. Louis, which also announced this month, and the law schools of Georgetown and Northwestern Universities, which made their announcements in August.

October 18, 2017

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today our latest print-on-demand compilation, "Flipping the Classroom and Other Techniques to Improve Teaching." You may download the free booklet here, and you may sign up here for a free webcast on the themes of the booklet on Thursday, Dec. 7, at 2 p.m. Eastern.

October 18, 2017

Attorneys general in 18 states have sued the U.S. Department of Education over the Trump administration's move to pause enforcement of the so-called gainful-employment rule, which applies to vocational programs at nonprofit colleges and to all programs at for-profit institutions.

Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, in June announced that the department would start over again on gainful employment with a rule-making process aimed at creating a new version of the rule. Since then the department has delayed action on key provisions of the Obama administration regulation, including disclosures to students.

The lawsuit filed this week by the group of AGs argues that the Trump administration's delay in implementing the rule is illegal.

"In delaying and refusing to enforce the rule, the department failed to engage in notice-and-comment rule making, failed to provide a justification for its actions, acted arbitrarily and capriciously and in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority or limitations, or short of statutory right, and withheld or unreasonably delayed agency action, all in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act," the filing said.

A spokeswoman for the department pushed back against the legal challenge.

"This is just the latest in a string of frivolous lawsuits filed by Democratic attorneys general who are only seeking to score quick political points," the spokeswoman said in a written statement. "While this administration, and Secretary DeVos in particular, continue work to replace this broken rule with one that actually protects students, these legal stunts do nothing more than divert time and resources away from that effort."

Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, released a written statement backing the AGs.

“In August 2017, despite her legal responsibility, Secretary DeVos admitted in a response to my written question that she had no intention of enforcing the gainful-employment rule," Durbin said. "Instead, she continues to side with a for-profit college industry that enrolls 9 percent of all postsecondary students but takes in 17 percent of all federal student aid and accounts for 33 percent of all federal student loan defaults."

Career Education Colleges and Universities, the for-profit sector's trade group, criticized the lawsuit.

“The department’s decision is based on sound legal precedent and strong public policy merits,” Steve Gunderson, the group's president and CEO, said in a written statement. “It would be far better if the attorneys general would stop the ideological attacks on postsecondary career education and begin adult conversations about how to construct policies that are fair and equitable to all career programs in all colleges and universities.”

October 18, 2017

In today's "Inside Digital Learning" newsletter:

October 18, 2017

Leaders of Central European University held a press conference Tuesday where they called on the Hungarian government to sign an agreement that would enable the university to continue to operate over the long term in Budapest.

Administrators at CEU, which is accredited in the U.S. and chartered by New York State, said they have complied with all the requirements of a new higher education law passed in April. The law requires foreign universities that operate in Hungary to be governed by a bilateral agreement between the host and home governments and to operate educational activities in their country of origin. In order to satisfy the latter requirement, CEU has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Bard College to offer joint educational activities in New York, including joint degree programs.

CEU administrators say all that’s left to resolve the situation is for the Hungarian government to sign the draft agreement it has negotiated with New York State. But the Hungarian government has not yet done so, and the Parliament recently extended the deadline for complying with the new law by a year -- leaving CEU in what its president, Michael Ignatieff, described as “a state of legal limbo.”

“This is unacceptable but it’s also unnecessary. There’s an agreement with the state of New York that the government could sign if it actually wants to solve this matter. A draft text agreed by both sides has been in place since early September,” Ignatieff said at the press conference, which was broadcast online.

Ignatieff said a university needs legal stability in order to operate. “There’s simply no question that a university that’s deliberately kept by the government in a state of legal uncertainty to suit their political convenience is a university that is in danger,” Ignatieff said.

He added, “No university in Europe -- let me make this very clear -- no university in Europe has been put through what we’ve been put through. It’s just unacceptable. I’m here having this press conference because we want a solution. But a solution is on the table. And every time we get within reach of a solution, the goalposts get moved. The criteria get changed.”

Hungary's new law on foreign universities has been widely seen as a targeted attack by Hungary's government on CEU and its founder, the liberal financier George Soros. The Hungarian government has denied CEU was specifically targeted and said in April that the university "will be able to continue its operation as soon as an international agreement has been reached." In July, the Hungarian government signed an agreement with the state of Maryland allowing for the continuing operation of McDaniel College, another American institution with a campus in Budapest.

Asked why the government has not yet signed the draft agreement, the press department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary said in a statement that the Ministries of Justice and Human Capacities "are examining whether the functioning and operation of the Central European University, based on the documents submitted by the CEU, would be in accordance with Hungarian law."

"There was great international pressure on the government of Hungary with the objective that the university of George Soros should be exempt from Hungarian regulations," the government's statement said. "However, Hungarian laws apply to all schools in the same way and manner, and these rules and regulations guarantee the transparent operation of foreign higher education institutions in Hungary. The amendment of the Hungarian Act on Higher Education extends the deadline, by which the foreign higher education institutions have to meet the requirements in order to be able to operate in Hungary. When the government of Hungary submitted the current bill, it also took into consideration the fact that negotiations with certain foreign higher education institutions, including the CEU from the United State[s] of America, have not been concluded. In doing so, the government of Hungary also took under consideration and accepted the recommendation of the Hungarian Rectors’ Conference to extend the deadline to meet the requirements. This recommendation of the Hungarian Rectors’ Conference was explicitly welcomed and appreciated in the report of the Venice Commission," a body of the Council of Europe that recently issued a report on Hungary's new law on foreign universities.

The Venice Commission report found the imposition of stringent new requirements on Hungary's existing foreign universities to be "highly problematic."

October 18, 2017

The University of Colorado at Boulder will eliminate course-related fees starting in the fall of 2018, Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said Tuesday, announcing the move a year after the university started a tuition guarantee program locking in many charges for in-state students over four years.

Students currently pay tuition, mandatory fees for services and course-related fees for certain classes. They will continue to pay tuition and mandatory fees, but the university is ending the practice of charging extra course-related fees.

CU Boulder currently has more than 60 course and program fees ranging from $1 per credit hour for German and Slavic languages to $1,255 per semester for its graduate clinical speech, language and hearing sciences program. The fees generate $8.4 million per year.

Charging course fees and allocating them to specific colleges and schools had grown complicated from an accounting standpoint, administrators said. They pledged that continuing students will not experience a tuition increase under their guarantees for four-year undergraduates.

The university started its tuition guarantee, which locks tuition and mandatory fees for four years for in-state freshmen, last year. It started a similar program for out-of-state students in 2005.

DiStefano said the university is trying to offer more cost transparency so that students can graduate with less debt. He also announced efforts to increase scholarships and reduce textbook costs.

October 18, 2017

Pennsylvania State University Press announced Tuesday that it has acquired Eisenbrauns, a small press that focuses on Near Eastern history, linguistics, archaeology and biblical studies. Eisenbrauns will become an imprint of the Penn State Press and will continue to publish in the same fields.

October 18, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, David Coogan, professor in the department of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, examines a writing exercise that could change the future for prisoners once they are released from jail. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 17, 2017

The board of the University of Louisville Athletic Association on Monday fired Rick Pitino as coach of the university's basketball team, the Courier-Journal reported, amid an expanding Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into college basketball corruption. The firing by the separately incorporated athletic board that oversees Louisville's sports programs came nearly three weeks after university administrators placed Pitino on leave. Louisville has been implicated in allegations that basketball recruits received as much as $150,000 to enroll at universities affiliated with Adidas, and while the coach denied the accusations, they came just months after the National Collegiate Athletic Association punished Louisville's program, and the coach himself, for a scandal in which the former director of basketball operations sneaked escorts into university residence halls to strip and perform sex acts for basketball prospects, some of whom were underage.

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