Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 17, 2017

In a news conference Thursday, President Trump came across as conflicted but noncommittal when asked about his plans for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era program under which more than 700,000 young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, many of them college students, have gained temporary protection from deportation and renewable work permits.

During the campaign Trump said he would end the program, but he has since softened his tone, saying, without offering specifics, that he will "work something out" for DACA recipients. On Thursday a PBS NewsHour reporter asked the president whether he plans to continue or end the program. Trump did not give a clear answer but responded by describing DACA as a "very, very difficult subject" for him.

"We’re going to show great heart," the president said. "DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have. Because you have these incredible kids, in many cases, not in all cases. In some of the cases they’re having DACA and they’re gang members and they’re drug dealers, too. But you have some absolutely incredible kids, I would say mostly, they were brought here in such a way -- it’s a very, very tough subject. We are going to deal with DACA with heart. I have to deal with a lot of politicians, don’t forget, and I have to convince them that what I’m saying is, is right, and I appreciate your understanding on that. But the DACA situation is a very, very, it’s a very difficult thing for me, because, you know, I love these kids. I love kids. I have kids and grandkids, and I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do. And you know the law’s rough. I’m not talking about new laws. I’m talking the existing law is very rough. It’s very, very rough."

February 17, 2017

Bob Jones University lost its nonprofit tax exemption after the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in 1976 found that the conservative religious college was practicing racial discrimination with its ban on interracial dating. That decision sparked a long court battle, which ended when the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982 upheld the IRS's decision.

The university in 2000 dropped its dating ban and later apologized for practicing racial discrimination.

Now Bob Jones is set to become a nonprofit institution once again, the Greenville News reported. The complex financial reorganization includes the for-profit merging with the operation of a nonprofit elementary school that shares roots with the university.

The transition is scheduled to be completed by next month. Bob Jones is also seeking regional accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

February 17, 2017

President Trump said Thursday he will issue a new executive order on immigration after federal courts blocked his administration from enforcing a Jan. 27 order barring entry into the U.S. by refugees and nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries.

In a news conference, Trump said the new order would come out next week. The order, Trump said, would "be very much tailored to the, what I consider to be a very bad [court] decision, but we can tailor the order to that decision and get just about everything, in some ways more."

The Trump administration also said in a court filing it would be rescinding and replacing its original executive order.

In its brief in response to a lawsuit filed by the states of Washington and Minnesota, the federal government expressed disagreement with the earlier ruling against it by a three-judge panel but said it does not seek an en banc ruling by a larger group of judges. “Rather than continuing this litigation, the president intends in the near future to rescind the order and replace it with a new, substantially revised executive order to eliminate what the panel erroneously thought were constitutional concerns,” the brief states. “In so doing, the president will clear the way for immediately protecting the country rather than pursuing further, potentially time-consuming litigation.”

Bob Ferguson, the attorney general for the state of Washington, tweeted in response to the government’s brief, “Today’s court filing by the federal government recognizes the obvious -- the president’s current exec order violates the Constitution.”

“President Trump could have sought review of this flawed order in the Supreme Court but declined to face yet another defeat,” Ferguson said in another tweet.

Many college leaders have spoken out against the entry ban, which prevented travel by students and scholars from the affected countries to their campuses and meant that affected individuals already in the U.S. could not return if they were to travel internationally for professional or personal purposes. Trump has justified the executive order as intended to prevent the entry of terrorists into the U.S.

February 17, 2017

Oregon's free community college scholarship, which began last year, is encouraging more students to consider going to college and to feel more confident about being able to afford it, according the results of a survey conducted by Education Northwest, a nonprofit research group.

The group surveyed 1,442 young Oregon high school graduates last summer and fall. A majority of respondents who were familiar with the new scholarship program, which is called Oregon Promise, said it helped them see that college could be affordable and that hearing about the program made them think more about going to college.

In addition, nearly a third of respondents who are first-generation college students and Promise recipients said they would not have gone to college without the scholarship.

“Survey responses and stories shared from students demonstrate that individuals feel Oregon Promise has made an impact on their lives by reducing the financial burden of college and making college a possibility,” Michelle Hodara, the study’s lead researcher, said in a written statement. “While this is a first look at how students and educators perceive the program, future research can help identify the broader impact of Oregon Promise on program recipients’ college completion rates and labor market outcomes.”

The scholarship program has been threatened by criticism from leaders of Oregon's public four-year institutions, who said they would prefer more targeted use of state grant aid. Their arguments have been bolstered by a recent report, which found that students from higher-income backgrounds are disproportionately benefiting from the scholarship. Oregon Promise also has money challenges, as its annual cost is expected to more than double from an initial $10 million allocation.

February 17, 2017

Thursday was a national "Day Without Immigrants," a day on which many immigrants nationally opted not to work, as a protest of President Trump's immigration policies. The Davis Art Museum at Wellesley College started its own protest Thursday, called "Art-Less." Works by immigrants will be removed or covered through Tuesday. The museum estimates that about 120 works, or 20 percent of what is on display, will not be visible, as the works were produced by immigrants. Although the time of the protest overlaps with a weekend celebration of presidents, one of the paintings removed from view is portrait of George Washington (right). It was pained by the Swedish-born artist Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller, who moved to the United States in the 1790s. In another illustration of the role of immigrants at the museum, the painting was donated to the museum by the Munn family, immigrants from Sweden after World War II.

February 17, 2017

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called community colleges "a uniquely American national asset" in a speech Thursday that praised the work of those institutions while linking them to the priorities of the Trump administration and conservative leaders.

She gave her remarks at the Community College National Legislative Summit in her first speech on higher education since being confirmed as secretary last week.

"You are nimble, inclusive and entrepreneurial. You provide important and valued pathways to success in this competitive economy," she said. "You equip students for high-demand fields and skilled jobs that help grow local economies and maintain communities."

DeVos also credited community colleges with helping to close the skills gap between employers and potential employees and for adjusting to the schedules and needs of students. And she highlighted the role early-college high school programs are playing in helping more students earn their degrees faster by allowing them to take college courses in high school.

She did not touch on issues involving transfer students, although many enroll at community colleges planning to eventually transfer to a four-year institution. But the themes of her comments matched the priorities talked about by the White House and Republican lawmakers like North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx, the chairwoman of the House education and the work force committee -- facilitating vocational education, expanding the number of certificates awarded to students and putting a greater emphasis on alternatives to the traditional model of a four-year college education. DeVos noted that President Trump's 100-day action plan includes a call to expand vocational and technical education.

Her speech did not include any specific commitments in those areas. And although DeVos acknowledged the legislative agenda of community colleges would include a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and more flexibility for Pell Grants, she did not say what specific policies might receive backing from the Department of Education.

February 17, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Dale Fink, associate professor of education at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, explains what happens when recess is taken away for bad behavior. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 16, 2017

The U.S. Department of Education has recommended a renewal of recognition for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a controversial regional accreditor of two-year colleges in California and other Western states. The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, a federal panel, is slated to review ACCJC's recognition and scope at a meeting next week.

The department had given the accreditor a year to fix several problems, including concerns about the consistency of its decision making, acceptance of its policies by academics and others, and its adherence to due process in the accreditation process. During its last review of the agency, the department also denied ACCJC's request to expand its scope to overseeing new four-year degree programs at California community colleges.

Much of the criticism around ACCJC had stemmed from the agency's longstanding feud over sanctions it imposed on City College of San Francisco. But last month the accreditor renewed City College's accreditation for seven years.

California's two-year college system has been working on a recommendation made by a state task force last year to either replace the accreditor or restructure it. And in a move some insiders see as evidence that the accreditor will be changed rather than replaced, Barbara Beno, ACCJC's controversial president, in December was placed on leave prior to her scheduled retirement.

The newly released department report, which NACIQI is to consider in making its call next week, said ACCJC largely had fixed the identified problems. It recommended extending the accreditor's recognition by 18 months and lifting the limitation on its ability to oversee four-year degree programs. For example, on due process, the report said the accreditor had "revised its commission action letters to reflect a clear delineation between areas of noncompliance and areas for improvement."

The department said it received more than 120 written comments on ACCJC's review. The majority of commenters are "associated with or in support of City College of San Francisco, such as students, faculty, San Franciscans and politicians," the department said. However, many of those comments were unrelated to ACCJC's current review or were redundant, according to the department.

(Note: This article has been changed from a previous version to clarify the relationship between the department and NACIQI.)

February 16, 2017

The University of Akron is seeking legislative approval to sell its presidential home -- the same home that the former president spent $1 million renovating, Cleveland.com reported. Spending on the home -- while many university departments were facing budget cuts -- contributed to the unpopularity of Scott Scarborough, who resigned last year and moved out. The new president, Matthew Wilson, has opted to live in his own home.

While presidential home renovations are sometimes controversial, the Akron home's expenses drew widespread ridicule. They included $1,742 for a headboard, $2,693 for two night tables and $1,844 for a mirror. But attracting the most attention was $556.40 for a decorative olive jar (without olives). Olives became a theme of campus protests, such as a faux food bank to collect olives for the president. An Akron spokesman told Cleveland.com that he expected the home's contents, including the olive jar, would be sold as part of any process that receives legislative approval.

February 16, 2017

Sara Ray Stoelinga (right), who was named in November to be the next president of Carroll University, in Wisconsin, announced Wednesday that she had changed her mind and would not take the job, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The university is now restarting the search, months before its current president is due to retire. Stoelinga is director of the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago. In a letter to the university's board, she apologized for "any disruption that my decision may cause." She said her decision "in no way reflects negatively" on Carroll and came after "deep reflection and deliberation."


Back to Top