I was horrified reading the latest diktat on immigration from an administration blown into power by the winds of intolerance and resentment. President Trump’s executive order barring immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States is an exercise in cynical obfuscation, bigotry and hard-heartedness.
The obfuscation begins early on with the linking of this crackdown to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 when, as has been pointed out by many commentators, those responsible for those attacks had no connections to the countries targeted by this order. The bigotry of the decree closing our borders to refugees from these seven countries is most evident in the exception it makes for religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries.
The hard-heartedness of the executive order is unmistakable. Desperate families who have been thoroughly vetted for months have had their dreams of a safe haven in America shattered. Students, scientists, artists and businesspeople who have played by the immigration rules to ensure that they have secure passage to and from the United States now find themselves in limbo. Colleges and universities that attract and depend on international talent will be weakened. So much for the so-called respect for law of an administration that has made a point of promising to crack down on undocumented children brought over the Mexican border by their parents.
Eighteen months ago I solicited ideas from Wesleyan alumni, faculty members, students and staff members as to what a small liberal arts institution like ours could do in the face of the momentous human tragedy unfolding around the world. We discussed the many ideas we received on our campus and with leaders of other institutions. The steps we took were small ones, appropriate to the scale of our institution. Working with the Scholars at Risk program, we welcomed a refugee scholar from Syria to participate in one of our interdisciplinary centers. We created internships for students who wanted to work at refugee sites in the Middle East or assist local effort at resettlement. We began working with the Institute of International Education to bring a Syrian student to Wesleyan. And, perhaps most important, we redoubled our efforts to educate the campus about the genesis and development of the crisis.
In the last few months, I have traveled to China and India to talk about the benefits of pragmatic liberal education, and in both countries I saw extraordinary enthusiasm for coming to America to pursue a broad, contextual education that will develop the student’s capacity to learn from diverse sets of sources. Since returning, I’ve already received questions from anxious international students and their parents about whether we will continue to welcome people from abroad who seek a first-rate education. Students outside the United States are often fleeing educational systems with constraints on inquiry and communication; they are rejecting censorship and premature specialization, and they are looking to us. Will they continue to do so?
Here at home we must resist orchestrated parochialism of all kinds. A liberal education includes deepening one’s ability to learn from people with whom one doesn’t agree, but the politics of resentment sweeping across our country is substituting demonization for curiosity. Without tolerance and open-mindedness, inquiry is just a path to self-congratulation at best, violent scapegoating at worst.
With this latest executive order, the White House has provided colleges and universities the occasion to teach our students more thoroughly about the vagaries of refugee aid from wealthy, developed countries that are themselves in political turmoil. The new administration has also unwittingly provided lessons in the tactics of scapegoating and distraction traditionally used by strongmen eager to cement their own power. There are plenty of historical examples of how in times of crisis leaders make sweeping edicts without regard to human rights or even their own legal traditions.
Our current security crisis has been manufactured by a leadership team eager to increase a state of fear and discrimination in order to bolster its own legitimacy. The fantasy of the need for “extreme vetting” is a noxious mystification created by a weak administration seeking to distract citizens from attending to important economic, political and social issues. Such issues require close examination with a patient independence of mind and a respect for inquiry that demands rejection of falsification and obfuscation.
As the press is attacked with increasing vehemence for confronting the administration with facts, universities have a vital role to play in helping students understand the importance of actual knowledge about the world -- including the operations of politics. To play that role well, universities must be open to concerns and points of view from across the ideological spectrum -- not just from those who share conventional professorial political perspectives. At Wesleyan, we have raised funds to bring more conservative faculty to campus so that our students benefit from a greater diversity of perspectives on matters such as international relations, economic development, the public sphere and personal freedom. Refusing bigotry should be the opposite of creating a bubble of ideological homogeneity.
As I write this op-ed, demonstrators across the country are standing up for the rights of immigrants and refugees. They recognize that being horrified is not enough, and they are standing up for the rule of law and for traditions of decency and hospitality that can be perfectly compatible with national security.
America’s new administration is clearly eager to set a new direction. As teachers and students, we must reject intimidation and cynicism and learn from these early proclamations and the frightening direction in which they point. Let us take what we learn and use it to resist becoming another historical example of a republic undermined by the corrosive forces of obfuscation, bigotry and hard-heartedness.
Submitted by Anonymous on January 31, 2017 - 3:00am
Several days ago, President Trump issued an executive order barring immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States -- significantly impacting many students and scholars. This follows on the heels of two other executive orders focused on immigration enforcement and border security that he signed last week, which froze refugee admissions and called for the immediate construction of a wall along the southwestern border of the country.
In addition, the president has ordered federal immigration enforcement agencies to increase efforts to deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records, called for the construction of additional detention facilities and restored the controversial “secure communities” program that compelled state and local law enforcement officials to collaborate with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to enforce federal immigration law.
None of the recent executive orders concerned the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, initiated by President Obama in 2012, which provides a two-year protection from deportation and employment authorization to select undocumented youth and young adults, many of whom are enrolled in our colleges and universities. However, Trump’s aggressive approach to immigration enforcement and his characterization of unauthorized immigrants as “a significant threat to national security and public safety” has already begun to cause upheaval and hardship within immigrant communities -- and this will inevitably have a negative impact on undocumented students, as well as on U.S. citizen and permanent resident students from mixed-status families. Moreover, despite White House statements promising a more nuanced approach to DACA recipients, fears that the new administration may still rescind DACA are not without basis.
In anticipation of the Trump administration’s promises to target the U.S.’s approximately 11 million undocumented residents, over the past few months, campuses nationwide have developed sanctuary statements or issued declarations in support of educational access for all students, regardless of their immigration status. In the past few days, campuses are also now scrambling to provide emergency legal advice and services to faculty members and students from “barred” Muslim nations who, although visa holders, are confronting difficulties returning to America following authorized travel abroad. In many cases, campuses are advising those faculty and student members -- even those who are U.S. permanent residents, and all of whom have already been through extensive vetting during the visa application process -- to avoid leaving the country until the precise parameters of the new immigration enforcement directives are determined.
No one knows with certainty what policies the Trump administration will implement, or what impact they will have in the long term on faculty members and students who have immigrated legally to the United States from barred Muslim nations. What is certain is that undocumented students and students from mixed-status families will also face increased challenges under this new presidential administration. It has long been difficult for such student to earn money, drive legally, travel and afford college tuition. Without clear pathways to legalization, many also experience anxiety about their futures. These are not new problems, but in light of the White House’s recent orders, our undocumented students will face even greater obstacles to their academic success and well-being.
While most university faculty, staff and administrators may not be in a position to directly influence federal immigration law or enforcement priorities, we do have the ability -- indeed, we would argue, the responsibility -- to mediate the impact of immigration policies on undocumented students. As immigration scholars and engaged teachers who work closely with undocumented students, we offer the following suggestions for faculty and administrators to consider.
Be aware of the wide range of people affected by proposed changes to immigration policy. About a fifth of the undocumented residents in the United States are youth and young adults who arrived in America as children, and an additional 16.6 million people live in mixed-status families where at least one member is undocumented. It is important to recognize that anticipated changes to immigration policies will impact not only undocumented students but also permanent resident students concerned about their undocumented parents, relatives, friends and community members. These issues affect individuals from a wide range of ethnic, racial and national origins.
Educate yourself about the laws and policies that impact undocumented students’ educational access. Learn the details of your own state laws here. For example, in California, certain undocumented students can pay in-state tuition at public universities, and the California Dream Act makes state financial aid available to those students. We often find that students do not distinguish those laws from their DACA status, which leads to unnecessary anxiety. Review the recommendations provided by national organizations such as United We Dream and the National Immigration Law Center. Even after educating yourself, recognize your limitations and the high stakes involved for the student who is seeking your advice. It is better to say, “I don’t know,” than to give out misinformation.
Signal to students that you are supportive. Undocumented students often rely on stereotypes to identify faculty and staff members with whom they feel they can safely share their immigration status or ask for help. They may, for example, perceive that “coming out” to faculty members who identify as Latina/o, or as immigrants, presents less of a risk than disclosing their status to white or native-born citizen faculty members. In reality, of course, allies are found among people from all ethnic and racial backgrounds, but some of us may need to do a little more to provide students with verbal and/or visible cues that demonstrate that we are supportive of the undocumented student community. Many colleges and universities offer ally training and provide those that complete it with a sticker to exhibit in their office; do this if the opportunity is available to you. If not, you can signal that you are supportive by displaying flyers about immigration-related events or hanging immigration-related artwork. In your course syllabi, explain how you will accommodate immigration-related emergencies in terms of attendance, late work, extensions and incompletes. Although you may feel that is already described in your institution’s existing policies for medical or familial emergencies, making it explicit sends a powerful signal of both symbolic and concrete support for students confronting immigration crises.
(Re)consider how you discuss immigration-related issues and the current political climate in your classroom. Advise students in advance before initiating classroom discussions of immigration issues, especially if that is not on the agenda from the syllabus. Remind your students that you will be bring up topics that personally impact many people living in the United States and ask those students to frame their participation in ways that are respectful of different experiences and opinions. Avoid spotlighting individual students according to their citizenship status or immigrant background during class discussion. (For example: “Kim, as an immigrant, can you share how you feel about Trump’s proposal to deport three million criminal aliens?”)
Maintain student confidentiality and privacy. Do not refer to students’ citizenship or immigration status in public conversations or written communication. Only do so when necessary and with the students’ permission, such as when helping them identify resources or explaining their personal background in letters of recommendation.
Use appropriate terminology when discussing immigration issues. Many people find the terms “illegal immigration” and “illegal immigrant” offensive; they often prefer “undocumented” and “unauthorized.” Some students may also use the term “DREAMer,” originally a reference to the proposed federal DREAM Act, which would have provided undocumented students with a path to legalization but that now alludes to various state laws that provide educational access. But other students may reject that nomenclature because it suggests that undocumented students are more deserving of support than other undocumented people.
Provide resources that will help mediate the financial instability that many students will also be facing. A recent systemwide survey at the University of California conducted by one of us, Laura E. Enriquez, found that 63 percent of the undocumented students at the UC have experienced food insecurity during the past academic year. Thus, even a small measure can be helpful, such as offering healthy snacks like granola bars during office hours or meetings with students. You can also try to put course readings on library reserve so that students can devote their financial resources toward living expenses. It’s also good to find out and counsel students on whether they can access waivers for course materials fees or tutoring services. It is possible that undocumented students, many of whom are first-generation college students, do not know about these resources or that they may be inadvertently denied access to them.
You can also lobby for additional resources as needed. Encourage your institution to establish alternative legal forms of employment, internships or research opportunities to undocumented students lacking work authorization by providing payment via stipends or as independent contractors. Consider donating to scholarship and/or emergency funds for impacted students. If your campus doesn’t have one, help start one.
Offer career and graduate preparation opportunities. Undocumented students struggle to develop career-relevant work experience or access research opportunities to prepare for graduate school -- in some cases, because they are DACA ineligible and therefore lack the work authorization that allows them to accept paid internships or research assistantships; in other cases, it is because they are ineligible, as noncitizens, to apply for certain programs; and finally, it may be because, like other first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students, they lack the understanding or social capital that facilitates securing these kinds of positions. To that end, Enriquez’s survey of undocumented students in the UC system found that only 31 percent feel prepared to achieve their career goals, and only 49 percent have had a career-relevant experience like an internship or research opportunity. As faculty members and administrators, consider offering independent study courses, sponsoring research opportunities and identifying internships that are open regardless of immigration status. Work with your institution to figure out a method for paying immigrant students for their labor in these areas.
Identify, improve and refer students to campus and community resources. Immigrant students will probably need special guidance and encouragement to access academic resources, financial aid, legal services and mental-health counseling. Familiarize yourself with the resources available at your college or university and in your surrounding community. Identify knowledgeable staff members in relevant campus offices to whom you can refer students directly. Lobby your institution to identify, train and raise awareness of point people in various offices so that students can easily find them and access correct information. Enriquez’s survey also found that 56 percent of the undocumented students at the University of California report being given inaccurate or incorrect information from a staff member about how to complete a university procedure. If your institution does not have a staff member dedicated to supporting undocumented students, advocate for one.
Identify and raise awareness about your campus’s policies regarding undocumented students. Currently, U.S. immigration officials consider educational institutions, including colleges and universities, to be “sensitive locations” where enforcement actions “generally should be avoided.” You should try to identify under what circumstances you and others are your institution are legally required to share student information and provide access to immigration enforcement officers. Your institution should work with legal counsel to clearly lay out under what circumstances cooperation is required and designate a senior administrator to promptly respond to any staff or faculty members who receive information requests or visits from immigration enforcement officials. It should ensure that faculty members know whom to contact if they receive such requests or visits and publicize procedures for reporting and documenting hate speech and threatening incidents on the campus. It is important for campuses to assess their own situations in order to respond appropriately.
The actions that we’ve outlined are just a few ways that faculty members and administrators can provide support for students facing immigration-related crises. Although they are small steps, our research and work with students suggest that they can and do make a difference. We firmly believe that collaboration among students, faculty members and administrators is essential to supporting undocumented students and students from mixed-status families as we move forward.
Finally, despite the multiple -- often invisible -- ways undocumented people contribute to the U.S. economy and society, we think it is important to recognize that only a tiny percentage of undocumented people in the United States ever benefit from the opportunity to pursue a higher education. With this in mind, we encourage educators to also consider how they can support the broader undocumented immigrant population in their communities and nationwide.
Anita Casavantes Bradford is associate professor of Chicano/Latino studies and history at the University of California, Irvine. Laura E. Enriquez is assistant professor of Chicano/Latino studies at the University of California, Irvine. Susan Bibler Coutin is professor of criminology, law, and society and anthropology at the University of California, Irvine.
Submitted by Anonymous on January 26, 2017 - 3:00am
What do Columbia University and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley have in common?
The Ivy League university in New York City and the Hispanic-serving institution in rural Texas are separated by vast geographic and social distance. And yet these two institutions have embraced the idea of a structured core curriculum as the best way to prepare undergraduates for both successful careers and lives of meaningful engagement with our increasingly complex world.
At its heart, a core curriculum in the liberal arts is meant to provide an intellectually unifying experience through deep and sustained engagement with significant texts and enduring human questions. Students grapple with common readings, issues and assignments and discern connections across disciplines. As a result, a core curriculum provides curricular coherence and cultivates a sense of belonging to an intellectual community.
In the Columbia Core, all undergraduates study a common set of foundational works in literature, philosophy, art, music and science. It began almost a century ago as Columbia College reoriented itself toward public schools by dropping its Greek and Latin entrance requirements. The “New College” would offer signature courses on the foundations of Western civilization to all students regardless of their professional aspirations, thus ensuring a shared and nonspecialized intellectual foundation.
A comparative assessment project, funded by the Teagle Foundation, led by faculty members in the core programs at Columbia, Yale University and the University of Chicago, has demonstrated the enduring power of this approach to liberal education. Based on hundreds of interviews with faculty members, students and alumni at various stages of their lives, the project has gathered a wealth of evidence showing that the habits of critical analysis, complex thinking and self-reflection cultivated in these courses provide a key resource for subsequent professional and personal development. The Core experience, the data suggest, continues to deliver benefits far beyond graduation and the specific professional pursuits of its alumni. Whether they are scientists, career diplomats or bankers, alumni point to their Core education as having given them the intellectual flexibility, nuance and ease with complexity on which they have relied in their professional and personal endeavors.
UT Rio Grande Valley, through a Teagle grant, extends the benefits of an elite liberal arts education to a very different undergraduate student population: first-generation, predominantly Latino students from the poorest counties in the United States. The biomedical sciences faculty has reinterpreted a liberal arts core experience as a highly structured foundation to careers in medicine. Although the degree program is professionally oriented, the perspective offered is humanistic in the broadest sense, encouraging students to consider the history of disease and public health, the experience of pain and illness, health informatics, health policy, and medical ethics. This ethos is illustrated by a series of virtual “grand rounds” embedded in course work that enable students to explore diseases and medical conditions through multiple dimensions: the patient’s experience, the lens of the medical care team, the underlying biomedical science, the public health history and the socioeconomic impact.
Early outcomes are promising. The first cohort of 129 biomedical sciences students arrived on the campus in fall 2015, and pass rates -- with a grade of C or better -- in introductory biology, chemistry and composition were 86 percent, 70 percent and 87 percent respectively.
The results underline the powerful impact faculty members can have by organizing curriculum -- not just individual courses -- to support students’ learning and success. Students move through the degree pathway as a cohort, taking sequentially linked courses that reinforce content knowledge and cognitive skills while building a sense of community.
The benefits that flow from a liberal arts core experience are especially significant for those students whom higher education has historically failed. Course requirements are unambiguous to students: no digging through an overwhelming catalog of options that may or may not fulfill vague graduation requirements. Students have a more academically cohesive and “career-aware” experience that makes the value proposition of staying in college clearer. (Other supports help, too; technology is a big one, as a student in the program reflected in this essay.) Ultimately, students respond to structured liberal learning that provides a firm grounding in the ethical, historical, cross-cultural and policy issues relevant not only to their professional aspirations but also to their lives.
Well-defined and integrated curricula put institutions on a virtuous cycle that amplify those benefits. Such curricula curb course proliferation and increase efficiency, freeing up faculty members to spend less time on course development and preparation and more time on high-impact practices like mentoring undergraduate research. As a result, institutions are able to better retain students (and their tuition dollars), deepen their learning, and operate in a more financially sustainable fashion.
Calls for greater curricular coherence are hardly new but have never been more urgent as colleges and universities contend with maintaining access and excellence in the face of resource constraints. As two very different institutions have seen, such coherence can be found in a well-structured core curriculum.
Loni Bordoloi Pazich is program director at the Teagle Foundation. Roosevelt Montas is director of the Center for the Core Curriculum at Columbia University and manages a Teagle grant examining the long-term educational benefits of core curricula. Steve Mintz is executive director of the Institute of Transformational Learning at the University of Texas System and manages a Teagle grant focused on embedding the liberal arts in professional degree pathways at seven UT campuses.
A monograph of long gestation, Peter J. Spiro’s At Home in Two Countries: The Past and Future of Dual Citizenship (NYU Press) is clearly not aimed at the readership of Americans who are considering an exit strategy right about now. A number of handbooks are already available, should that be your interest.
The author, a professor of law at Temple University, is more concerned with the logic of dual citizenship -- its evolution as a juridical concept and a practical option over the past 300 years or so -- than with the logistics involved in obtaining it. That said, Spiro notes that he and his children, while all born and residing in the United States, now also hold European passports. It’s a reminder of his larger point: that the tide of globalization in recent decades has turned dual citizenship from an anomalous and potentially dangerous condition into something almost commonplace -- or at least no big deal. Whether it will remain that way is another question.
The historical narrative in At Home in Two Countries has a fairly well-demarcated beginning, middle and end -- with each phase defined by how much strain dual citizenship places on the relationship between the individual and the nation-state. (Also by the potential for conflict it creates between the nation-states involved, but let’s leave that to the side for a moment.)
In the beginning, everything is reasonably straightforward. You were not the citizen of a nation-state but the subject of a sovereign. God had placed you in your respective positions -- tying you together on this earth for what were, presumably, good reasons that, in any case, were not up for discussion. It was “not in the power of any private subject to shake off his allegiance, and to transfer it to a foreign prince,” as the U.K.’s House of Lords declared in 1747, nor could “any prince, by naturalizing and employing a subject of Great Britain … dissolve the bonds of allegiance between subject and crown.”
Implicit in such an official statement of the doctrine of perpetual allegiance is the reality that it was being violated in practice. And within 30 years came the virtually unthinkable developments in the American colonies, where British subjects began “shak[ing] off … allegiance” to their sovereign without “transfer[ing] it to a foreign prince” but to their own republic instead.
Emigration was a constant drain on the sovereign’s human capital -- especially on military resources, since it provided a way to avoid conscription. So a variant of the doctrine of perpetual allegiance remained in effect even after the secular nation-state took over from divinely installed royalty. Becoming the naturalized citizen of another country did not necessarily bring an end to expectation that you should meet the motherland’s obligations and obey its laws. Nor would your children be exempt. That could make visiting family in the old country a risky enterprise. Dual citizenship of this sort was involuntary and unintentional, and it had potentially grave diplomatic consequences if the government of an individual’s adopted country tried to intervene.
The legal and political fights so occasioned throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries make for the most interesting pages in At Home in Two Countries. Laws and treaties took shape that made expatriation, naturalization and election (i.e., the choice of nationality by someone born to parents of different citizenships) more routine and less volatile -- as much as that was possible, anyway, amid wars and international tensions.
But the other side of this stabilizing trend was -- at least, until fairly recently -- a strong sense that dual citizenship itself was something to be avoided and prevented as much as possible. At best it would be a temporary condition, to be cured with the proper paperwork and no delay.
“On the one hand,” Spiro writes, “dual nationals represented a potential spark in the tinderbox, as issues relating to their protection or responsibility for their actions could readily escalate into interstate conflict. On the other hand, in a world premised on the fact of some level of interstate conflict, dual nationals could only be presumed to do an adversary’s bidding from within.”
In the United States, the peak of what Spiro calls “the consensus opprobrium” regarding dual citizenship came in the early 1950s, with Cold War nerves at their most taut. The timing is interesting, because it coincides with a rapid decline of the issue driving much of the 19th-century debate: the concern with foreign sovereigns trying to conscript naturalized citizens traveling abroad. It was no longer a problem routinely facing the American diplomatic corps, and by the 1960s, European and Latin American countries adopted conventions to end it as a source of friction among themselves.
“As states stopped fighting over dual nationals,” Spiro says, “there was much less incentive to combat the status.” What followed was the slow and uneven normalization of dual citizenship, as some countries ceased to require emigrants to renounce citizenship upon naturalizing elsewhere and others reaped benefits from absorbing immigrants who maintained their birthright citizenship. (“To the extent that a renunciation requirement deters naturalization,” writes Spiro, “society’s loss from the reduced rate of naturalization plainly overshadows the benefits of enforced renunciation.”)
So from the era of perpetual allegiance (in which dual citizenship was more or less a contradiction in terms) to the long decades of reducing the strains of expatriation and naturalization (when dual citizenship became an anomaly to avoid), we’ve reached the epoch of high globalization, with dual citizenship an established if not quite ubiquitous mode of transnational life. With dual citizenship “normalized as an incident of globalization,” Spiro devotes a chapter to the case for “the emergence of an articulated, protected right to the status” recognized by international law.
Here the author hits a note of expectancy that implies something almost historically inevitable: the result of forces moving in certain identifiable directions. For the course Spiro identifies moves in a recognizable direction. From epoch to epoch, the individual gains power in determining his or her status vis-à-vis instituted authorities. At the same time, conflict among those authorities tends to subside. Nationalism will grow kinder and gentler, to be replaced in time by a higher stage of cosmopolitan citizenship, as envisioned by Immanuel Kant or Thomas Friedman, albeit in somewhat different ways.
It will take much work and goodwill, but there’s no reason why things can’t keep moving forward in a virtuous circle. The potential for retrogression is not really a part of the scenario. It figures the normal global citizen of the future as someone choosing among citizenships -- rather than as a refugee without the option of claiming a single one, caught between nationalisms out for blood. In Spiro’s long-term perspective, the evolution of dual citizenship seems destined to keep on advancing, while at the moment it feels like we are at the edge of something, possibly a cliff.
Submitted by Sarah Bray on January 25, 2017 - 3:00am
One of the strengths -- and there are many -- of the American higher education system is its traditional commitment to access.
Higher education leaders at all levels have been united in their desire to create and maintain affordable pathways to attendance at postsecondary institutions. We all are aware of the well-documented potential for progress that higher education offers generations of students and families.
But without question, during the last 30 years, the affordability of a college degree has eroded noticeably and significantly. A number of factors have contributed to that trend, but it’s clear that, as low-tuition, low-aid models have evolved into high-tuition, high-aid models, more and more middle-class students have been denied the opportunity to pursue higher education. That is why we at the University for Kentucky have evaluated how we structure our scholarships and have decided to chart a dramatically different path -- one much more aggressive in facilitating the success of students and families of limited financial means. It is right for our students, and it is right for the Commonwealth.
We’ve seen that, over time, colleges and universities have begun to use institutional aid to “sculpt” their entering classes. We have deployed aid to meet institutional priorities -- to support worthy goals of academic achievement and diversity, and to achieve important strategic objectives such as higher graduation rates.
But at what cost?
The connection between socioeconomic status and academic ability is well established. On average, students from families with higher incomes score better on national tests (ACT and SAT), are academically prepared, and engage in college-preparatory tutorials, among other advantages. It is no wonder, then, that those students also are rewarded more generously with institutional aid that is targeted toward merit.
At the University of Kentucky, we understand the results of these socioeconomic advantages and merit-based aid strategies. Students at the top end of both academic preparation and income receive the bulk of our merit-based aid -- which means the students who have the most options for postsecondary attainment are also receiving the most resources.
The fact is, however, that promising students who come from lesser means have not had such additional advantages and, in too many cases, have suffered as a result. As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, we have a moral responsibility to change that situation.
To be sure, we have institutional aid dedicated to those with the most need, and we take advantage of the longstanding state and federal funds available. But, as has also been the case in the overall American economy since the Great Recession of 2008, we are observing the worrisome trend of a hollowing out of the middle. It is those students in the middle -- both in terms of socioeconomic background and academic preparation -- who are facing increasing obstacles to postsecondary attainment.
There is no question that these students can succeed. The question is can they afford the opportunity? At UK, our goal through our strategic plan is to place the student at the center of all of our decisions. Against that backdrop, we recently announced a new initiative that will radically change how we allocate our institutional aid.
Through UK LEADS (Leveraging Economic Affordability for Developing Success), we are intentionally moving away from the institutional merit-based-aid arms race and instead committing ourselves to serving our students and our state. We want unmet financial need to be off the table as a concern for students and families.
A review of internal data has indicated that students with $5,000 or more unmet need -- defined as the amount remaining after the expected family contribution and all other aid (institutional, state and federal aid) -- had a significantly higher risk of attrition than students with less than $5,000 unmet need. And attrition increased significantly with each additional $5,000 in unmet need.
UK LEADS will dramatically shift the ratio of merit to need-based financial aid over the next five years. Currently, 90 percent of our aid is targeted to merit. By 2021, we hope 65 percent will be directed to financial need.
We plan to continue offering merit-aid based on a set of selection criteria. But if we do not make a radical change, it will become more difficult for our middle-class students to attend and graduate from our institution.
As public institutions have entered the institutional-aid arms race, institutional goals have taken precedence over the needs of their states and students. At UK, we believe that if we focus instead on student success and what is best for our state, institutional success will follow. But the reverse may not be true.
In the wake of the recent presidential election, there is also a strong push nationally to reinvest in the middle class, to address economic dislocations wrought by globalization and technology. Access to higher education must be a vital component of that effort.
In changing the way we think about aid -- by focusing less on sculpting a class of students and being more concerned about who can be positively impacted by a renewed commitment to affordable access -- we in higher education can once again honor our legacy as the nation’s brightest hope for economic and social progress.
Eli Capilouto is the president and Tim Tracy is the provost of the University of Kentucky.
Every year without fail, a well-respected educator comes out against early-admission programs, calling them “barriers to keep most low-income students out.” This year’s quote is from a recent piece in Inside Higher Ed by Harold O. Levy, a former chancellor of the New York City Public Schools and the executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
I have great respect for Levy and for the significant work done by the Cooke Foundation to advance students of great potential from economically disadvantaged families. But early-admission programs are not discriminatory by definition at the bulk of the nation’s nonprofit, four-year colleges and universities. And in fact, they do not have to act against the inclusion of disadvantaged students at the nation’s most prestigious institutions. Here’s why.
It is true that many low-income students are not aware of early-decision programs because they are the first generation in their family to go to college and attend high schools where counselors are responsible for 1,000 or more students each. But colleges and universities can and do promote early decision and early action in all of their search communications, on their websites and in their brochures. And those of us who are committed to enrolling low-income students go out of our way to connect with them and to make them aware of early programs while saving places for them in the regular pool. Pell-eligible students represent 35 percent of the enrollment at my institution, Drew University, and we have an early-decision program -- so it can be done. Further, those students graduate at the essentially same rate as the other two-thirds of the student body, so they are being served well.
Many highly selective colleges are now test optional in admission, so the fact that low-income students may not have test scores in time for early deadlines is a nonissue at those institutions. And the notion that low-income students can’t commit to enrolling through an early-decision program because they need financial aid is an equally empty hypothesis.
First of all, the early Free Application for Federal Student Aid allows colleges to award actual aid upon early-decision admission. Second, as every early-decision institution will tell you, if the aid is not sufficient in the family’s mind, the student will be released from the early-decision commitment.
I always tell students and their parents that they should apply in a binding early-decision program only if parents know how much they are willing and able to contribute toward college expenses, and if they are not interested in comparing offers from other institutions. If they receive enough to make attendance possible, and the college is the student’s first choice, then the process has successfully concluded. If, however, they want to shop for the best deal, then early decision is not for them. But we can’t just say that early decision is bad for all low-income students.
In many ways, early decision is the best time to apply for financial aid, because colleges do not exhaust their grant resources during the early round. And as I said, if the aid is not sufficient, colleges will release students from the early commitment. This is a no-lose proposition for the student.
Levy presents compelling evidence of the disparity of incomes represented in early-decision programs:
The Cooke Foundation study found that only 16 percent of high-achieving students from families with annual incomes below $50,000 applied for college admission on an early-decision basis in the 2013-14 academic year. But 29 percent of high-achieving students from families with incomes above $250,000 applied on an early-decision basis. Is it any wonder that so many more upper-income students gain admission?
To be fair, that needs to be put into context. According to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center, 51 percent of all low-income students were enrolled in college compared to 81 percent of all high-income students (defining low income as the bottom 20 percent of all family incomes and high income as the top 20 percent). In other words, many more high-income students enroll in college in the first place, so it is not surprising that many more high-income students also enroll through early decision.
This underscores the real issue for American higher education. We need to spend less time advocating for the elimination of a program, like early admission, that attracts higher-income students (who, by the way, help to bring in the revenue to support lower-income students) and more time -- as the Cooke Foundation and many colleges do so well -- developing better ways to recruit and support low-income students through to graduation. The future competitiveness of our country depends on it.
Robert Massa is senior vice president for enrollment and institutional planning at Drew University. He previously served as vice president for enrollment and college relations at Dickinson College and as dean of enrollment at Johns Hopkins University.
As a higher ed faculty member, my cognitive dissonance toward the term “big data” was palpable. My body would stiffen and my arms would fold when discussing the use of student data to increase enrollment or support academic performance.
Although my background in research instilled in me great respect for inquiry and data -- as did my childhood affinity for master observer Sherlock Holmes -- I was never at home with the idea of data with the term “big” thrown in front of it. Research, to me, was a very human endeavor, while “big data” represented something cold, calculated and ethically gray. Big data was the Moriarty to my Sherlock.
Within higher ed, I wasn’t in the minority with my cynicism. In a 2013 Educause report titled “Building Organizational Capacity for Analytics,” the authors identified a “substantial need for raising professional development, capacity building and the analytics IQ of institutional leadership and practitioners, at all levels.” Additionally, a recent Inside Higher Ed article by John Warner expressed skepticism of using aggregated data to predict individual behavior in education.
While I identify with the sentiment behind Warner’s data skepticism, I have come to understand in much greater detail the capabilities of data science and big data. And now that I’ve seen how data can empower institutions to match students to the right programs and provide individualized support through graduation, I am a huge proponent of increasing the use of big data in higher education.
My mind-set shift came care of a career change. After spending a few years working in higher ed, I moved to the private sector to help higher ed institutions increase enrollments, thereby helping students at scale. That move caused an immediate collision between my research-loving self and my dataphobic self, as now my work revolves around the insights of big data.
To reconcile these two seemingly disparate mentalities, I had to do some soul-searching. I quickly realized that my resistance to big data hinged on three things: my attachment to big data’s disreputable forward face, my ignorance of the breadth of big data’s capabilities and my misconception that big data could only create fixed, unchanging portraits of students.
Big Data Has a Bad Reputation
Big data’s public profile leaves much to be desired. As business executive Jonathan H. King and law professor Neil M. Richards pointed out in a 2014 Forbes article, “While there’s nothing particularly new about the analytics conducted in big data, the scale and ease with which it can all be done today changes the ethical framework of data analysis.” And we’ve seen this ethical dilemma play out for the worse in predatory marketing practices in a number of sectors, including higher ed. Once again: Moriarty.
Familiar questions about privacy, ownership and transparency of data are particularly salient in post-Edward Snowden America. Many privacy clauses lie buried in pages and pages of legal text, most of which consumers never read. With online activity becoming so ingrained in our daily lives, it is unreasonable to think that we can either: a) discontinue our online activities due to privacy concerns or b) fully attend to the myriad legal agreements our online activities make on a daily basis. If one wants to remain (or become) a contributing member of society, neither of these options is plausible.
Yet a simple truth underpins this ethical debate: big data itself is ethically neutral. As Debra Humphreys, vice president of strategic engagement at the Lumina Foundation, points out inGame Changers: Education and Information Technologies, “People define how technology is deployed, not the technologies that people invent.” Because people are at the crux of all ethical gray areas in big data, higher education institutions are confronted with the responsibility -- and opportunity -- to set the ethical standard for the utilization of data science.
Big Data Is Just That: Big
I remained unaware of the breadth of big data’s capabilities for quite some time. To visit examples put forth in Warner’s article, I too had caught word of studies that correlated things like first-semester credit loads and pre-emptive access to courses with student success. Yet we all know that correlation is not causation, and Warner rightly pointed out that “by focusing on questions of what (take 15 hours/access course early), we allow ourselves to keep from confronting the much more important questions of why.” This assertion lies at the crux of the misunderstanding of data science in education. We do have the capability to more narrowly get at the why behind student success on a much more individual level through data.
The truth is that data analytics capabilities have grown exponentially. Now millions of data points can be assessed in relation to all others. As Vernon Smith posited in Game Changers,
“A growing body of best practices and interventions that remove barriers to student progress and success exists, but those interventions would be better informed if they were based on what the research and actual behaviors indicate, rather than on anecdotal notions or experiences alone.”
In terms of research, these anecdotal notions come when they are founded on too little data. While sweeping interventions hinge on single data points like early access to online course materials, big data has grown the ability to concurrently assess millions of data points -- demographics, test scores, previous academic performance, employment, family size and learning styles, to name a few -- and potentially identify “at-risk” students. Holmes was right: “the world is full of obvious things which nobody by chance ever observes.” Leveraging big data to reveal those obvious things can help institutions paint a predictive picture of a student’s likelihood of success.
Data Analysis Is a Living Process
All that said, I wholeheartedly agree that predictive modeling alone is not the panacea to end all student failure. Neither is collecting real-time student data the only answer. The problem with many real-time indicators of student struggle is that once they surface, it’s often too late. Many students simply won’t raise their hands and say “help!” and it’s often too late to effectively assist them with red-flag indicators like not showing up to class or not logging onto a learning management system. Yet when we combine that predictive model with real-time indicators of student performance, you’ve got a living, individualized and iterative foundation for student support.
To maximize impact, we must view data in terms of iteration and interaction. By merging predictive models of student success with real-time indicators of student performance, we home in on a more individualized foundation for student success. Predictive models inform a baseline understanding for each student, then data on each student’s continuing exchanges with and performance at an institution can help inform interactions throughout the entirety of the student lifecycle. Only then can interventions hinge on a more holistic story than log-ins or credit hours alone can tell.
I am passionate about the mission of higher education, which is why I’m now doing what I do. Higher ed institutions fill a vital role in society and place value on information and high ethical standards. On the surface, higher education’s commitment to research, teaching and serving the public seems in opposition to the unethical applications of big data to simply maximize profits. Yet if we focus on transparency, customization and innovation, we can employ big data to more fully pursue our mission and goals. In this way, we’ll say to our students, prospects and stakeholders, “You know my methods, Watson.”
Danielle Caldwell is a former faculty member and current adjunct professor in Westminster College’s master of strategic communication program. After working with Westminster College and Southern Methodist University, she moved to Helix Education to help colleges and students at scale. Helix Education provides colleges and universities a comprehensive suite of technology and services to power data-driven enrollment growth.
Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, will be long remembered by those who cast a ballot for the 45th president of the United States. Donald Trump’s election has raised uncertainty and doubts about a reversal of globalization, as well as concerns about a continued commitment to diversity. With a conservative administration about to take office, it would appear that values counter to the international education field have prevailed.
And yet a look at historic Open Doors and other data from the Institute of International Education indicates that the prospects for international education should, in fact, look hopeful for some, while others will need to double down on their efforts. It’s worth analyzing the data to see what they say about the prospects for international education, specifically study abroad and international student enrollment.
Presidential Parties and Study Abroad
Consider first, the recent history of presidential administrations, along with the Institute for International Education’s Open Doors data. Looked at side by side, we can compare the number of students studying abroad from American colleges and universities with the party affiliations of the past two administrations.
While the data limit us to two recent presidents, a significant increase in study abroad students under the Bush administration from 2000-08 may be quite surprising. Yet during this time, study abroad numbers added more than twice as many students when compared to the Obama administration. Between 2008 and 2015, the number of students studying abroad rose from 260,327 to 313,415.
In comparison, IIE’s data on the number of Fulbright applications received also point to significant growth for faculty interested in overseas research during the George W. Bush administration. Between 2000 and 2008, the annual number of Fulbright applications received grew by 2,119, a 713 percent increase when viewed alongside the annual figures for 1993-2000, the Clinton administration. However, during the Obama administration, annual Fulbright applications received also continued to increase, nearly doubling from 6,703 in 2008-09 to 11,091 in 2014-15. This data set may be too small to draw conclusions, but it does provide food for thought and raises key questions applicable to the field. For example, with such an increase of faculty seeking to conduct overseas research, what factors contributed to a declining growth rate for students studying abroad during the Obama administration? Similarly, what more involved role can faculty play in motivating students to share a similar curiosity for global learning?
Presidential Parties and International Student Enrollment
On the other side of international education, what do the data tell us about international student populations? For international student recruitment, the Open Doors data go back as far as 1980-81. Combined with the study abroad data, this analysis leads us to a number of interesting potential trends and predictions.
Looking first at the net increase or decrease of international student enrollment over the past 36 years, the data alone do not shed much light. The number of international students coming to the United States to study has increased during each administration, with the notable exception for the years 2000-08. But when we look closely at the Obama administration, it is difficult not to recognize that international student enrollment increased by a significant 372,223 students -- a 390 percent increase from the prior Republican-led administration. By comparing the growth rates under different presidential administrations, it is clear that under Democratic presidents, the increase in international student enrollment is higher than under Republican administrations.
In addition, a comparison of Open Doors data on international student enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment in higher education in the United States is also significant. Under the two Democratic administrations included in the data -- the Clinton and Obama administrations -- international student enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment increased by 0.5 percent or greater from one administration to the next, rising to 5.1 percent of all American students enrolled in higher education in 2015-16. During the Clinton administration, between 1992 and 2000, international students made up 25 percent of the increase in total enrollment in colleges and universities in the United States. During the Obama administration, the estimated 372,223 international students studying at U.S. higher education institutions represent roughly 31 percent of the total enrollment increase.
Under Republican administrations, however, we see a very different trend. Between 1980 and 1992, and again between 2000 and 2008, international student enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment in American colleges and universities increased by no more than 2 percent. In fact, during the 2000-08 Bush administration, the percentage of international students enrolled compared to total higher education enrollment actually declined, even as total enrollment continued to rise significantly.
Furthermore, during Republican administrations, the data indicate that total enrollment in U.S. higher education increases at a far higher rate than under Democrat-led administrations. During the George H. W. Bush administration, between 1988 and 1992, for example, enrollment grew by 117 percent. During George W. Bush’s administration, from 2000 to 2008, that figure rose a staggering 867 percent. Notably, those increases were not due to an equal increase in the percentage of incoming international students. That percentage remained at or below 4.1 percent.
In contrast, Democratic administrations show a declining rate of growth for total enrollment in higher education in the United States. During the Clinton administration, between 1992 and 2000, total higher education enrollment increased by roughly 300,000, a 77 percent decline from the prior Bush administration. Similarly, during the Obama administration, the growth rate of total enrollment declined by 59 percent.
These findings, combined, lead to a significant correlation for the international education field: during Republican-led administrations, the rate of enrollment for U.S. domestic students increases much more, which is possibly one cause for the observed higher growth rate and corresponding number of students studying abroad.
Impact and Influence on International Education
As we look ahead, what can these data tell us about the next four or eight years under President-elect Trump’s Republican-led administration? More important, what might be the implications for the international education field?
First, if past trends hold, the future points to an increasing growth rate for total enrollment at American colleges and universities -- and possibly a significant increase. Between 2008 and 2016, 1.2 million additional students were enrolled at higher education institutions, bringing total enrollment to roughly 20.3 million. Under the incoming administration, that figure could reach 1.8 million more students or higher, assuming a growth rate of 50 percent under Trump’s administration. At the same time, international student enrollment as a percentage of that total will undoubtedly decline. Estimating how much it will decline is difficult, but based on past data, a forecast increase of 80,000 or fewer international students enrolling in American higher education institutions would be consistent with enrollment figures from 1992 to 2008. This would suggest that international students will account for an unchanged 5.1 percent of total enrollment in American higher education institutions.
In comparison, with an estimated 1.8 million more students enrolling in colleges and universities in the United States, the forecast for study abroad points to a tremendous potential for growth. Based on this estimate, the number of students studying abroad could potentially reach 2 percent of all enrolled students in the United States, which would equal an increase of over 130,000 students per year.
If such forecasts come to fruition, global initiative and international offices at American colleges and universities will need to strategically reflect on their allocation of resources. For example, how are admissions offices preparing to counter any negative effects of stable or even lower enrollment of international students? For education abroad offices, the number of students going to study overseas may be set to rise. Are adequate budgets being considered to cover the greater numbers of staff required, as well as the added responsibilities for study abroad advisers?
The Open Doors data clearly point to evidence that a Republican-led administration will play a significant role in influencing the international education community during the next four or eight years. Colleges and universities that are strategically prepared will be better positioned to accommodate the changing requirements of the field.
Bradley A. Feuling is the chairman and CEO of the Asia Institute, based in Shanghai. Over the past nine years, the Asia Institute has worked with more than 2,000 students and faculty members and has quickly become a leading host partner for many educational institutions in areas such as short-term programs, student recruitment, experiential learning, faculty exchange and career development.
A little over a year ago, our enrollment team at Augustana College met in retreat to discuss the anticipated impact of prior-prior year submission of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or early FAFSA, as it is called now. We completed a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis of what we perceived as entwined in this big change to the financial aid and recruitment timetable. After considerable discussion, we created new timetables, developed a new communication sequence for our prospective and current students, established new and updated old systems, and took a deep breath as we faced an uncertain future with new time frames and a new process.
As we spoke with visiting families during the spring and summer months, we were pleasantly surprised by how many seemed to be informed and fully aware that the FAFSA would now be available for submission on Oct. 1, rather than Jan. 1 -- and that applicants will be able to use income information from two-year-old completed tax returns rather than sometimes incomplete information from the previous year. The high level of awareness continued into the fall. All visit days and high school visits confirmed that families, school counselors and other influencers were aware, had adjusted timetables and were itching to submit the FAFSA earlier than ever before.
Oct. 1 came quickly, and so did the FAFSA submissions. It seemed as if many families were sitting at the computer ready to submit the infamous form in the same way many of us waited to order tickets for Broadway’s Hamilton, refreshing their browsers until they could get in and get it done.
In fact, the early volume of FAFSAs submitted from prospective and current students stunned Augustana’s office of financial aid. All the table tents in the dining hall, the umpteen emails we sent out, our first-ever FAFSA print mailer and the inclusion of the FAFSA timeline in our application instructions had worked. We are rolling in FAFSAs and have exceeded last year’s total volume from first-year students by 40 percent.
Given the high conversion/yield rate for FAFSA submitters in the past cycle, it’s time to break out the champagne. I mean, we’ve done it. We reconditioned the marketplace, prospective students and their families are following our directions, and now we just need to execute. Right?
I confess that I’ve enthusiastically shared the volume numbers with faculty and staff members, the president, and the chair of the Augustana Board of Trustees, and I even tweeted about it early on. But I also admit that I don’t know whether our numbers are strong or soft indicators. Perhaps, I suspect, they are a little of both.
And as I dig into the data, I am increasingly convinced that these lead indicators require very cautious interpretation and should temper my exuberance. Let me offer a couple of examples.
First, because of the U.S. Department of Education’s caution about establishing early timetables for submission, and the potential impact on underserved populations, I have been watching FAFSA submissions for applicants of color carefully and am cautious about what I see. Currently, we continue to see trailing rates of submission for students of color in the applicant pool, with more than 40 percent of those students who applied for admissions not yet filing the FAFSA. The department’s caution is relevant to all of us, and we must now ask what we can do to increase the filer rate among this important population.
Second, nearly 20 percent of those students who have submitted the FAFSA have not yet applied to my college for admission. Some of these FAFSA submitters are even coded as having asked us to cease communication with them. Now, a universal truth in college admissions is that 100 percent of the students who don’t apply don’t enroll. While there certainly is plenty of time for these hundreds of FAFSA submitters to still apply (and I sure hope they do), it’s also reasonable to conclude that we are not a serious consideration for them, making this usually strong indicator meaningless.
There is more to investigate as we look at these very early indicators, but only time will tell us what all of this means.
Looking at the data, I wonder if the Department of Education and all of those who pushed for early FAFSA may have just created the newest fast-application program. Fast-application programs for college admissions are frequently criticized for inflating applicant pools and making it too simple and too convenient for students to apply. These same programs make it difficult for new users in college admissions to interpret what an increase in volume may really mean to yield and enrollments.
Think about it. We’ve made it easier to submit the FAFSA. We’ve aggressively communicated about submitting the FAFSA. We’ve created a marketed FAFSA with the IRS data-retrieval tool. We have systemwide partners, like the Common Application, more effectively encouraging the submission of the FAFSA. We’ve done our best to better align the cost and admissions decision.
It seems we are doing all of the right things. But are we reaching all the right students and families --those most likely to choose Augustana and thrive here?
I am a believer in making the entire process more transparent and less complicated, and in aligning the cost and search process. But I wonder if early FAFSA will just add a new complication for colleges and families -- and more noise that must be interpreted and filtered. Only time will tell.
W. Kent Barnds is executive vice president at Augustana College.