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Late researcher's work on potential herpes vaccine was promising, but he used risky human trial with no oversight
A professor who knows he might be dying flouts research protocols and teams up with a Hollywood producer to test a highly experimental herpes vaccine on human subjects. The patients -- some of whom traveled to a house in the Caribbean for injections -- start reporting adverse side effects. The professor largely dismisses the patients’ concerns and later dies, leaving his apparently unwitting institution to answer for him.
It sounds like the stuff of fiction, but it’s Southern Illinois University’s reality.
Between 2013 and 2016, William Halford, a late professor of medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology there, injected patients with a herpes vaccine, both preventative and therapeutic, in hotel rooms near campus and in St. Kitts -- all without approval from an institutional review board overseeing research on human subjects.
Many details about the research and the vaccine itself remain unclear. Southern Illinois is nevertheless facing questions from patients, the public and even Congress about how a professor using its facilities was able to go rogue.
“This came upon us really unexpectedly,” said Jerry Kruse, dean and provost of Southern Illinois’s School of Medicine. “There’s been a lot of publicity about it, and I can’t quantify the effect that that has had on public confidence in us. But I regret that this has happened.”
Kruse, who became dean in early 2016, met Halford in October of that year at a university innovation conference in Chicago. Halford, a presenter, introduced himself as a professor but quickly clarified that he was speaking for his independent company, Rational Vaccines. Then he shared what Kruse recalls as promising findings about a potential cure for genital herpes, from the St. Kitts trial.
“That obviously stirred a lot of enthusiasm,” Kruse said. “There was nothing for me to do but shake his hand.”
Less than year later, in July 2017, Halford died, after a long battle with nasal cancer. Weeks after that, Kruse said, both he and the university’s IRB first learned of serious research “irregularities and improprieties” during a meeting with Rational Vaccine’s CEO, a movie producer named Augustin Fernandez.
Prior to the St. Kitts trial, and before the formation of Rational Vaccines, Halford had given a series of shots to at least eight patients at hotels near campus, including the Holiday Inn Express. Halford apparently believed in the vaccine so much that he’d been injecting himself, too, even though he did not have herpes.
But such activity -- by university policies and the basic dictates of medical science -- would have required the oversight of the institutional IRB, which Halford did not seek.
Around the same time, there were rumblings that the St. Kitts trial also lacked oversight, which would have been required even though Halford ran it in his capacity as a private researcher. The Food and Drug Administration says that human trials of drugs intended for the U.S. market must be approved by an institutional review board. St. Kitts has said should have been asked to vet a plan for a trial involving a live virus, but was not. Southern Illinois also shares the patent to the vaccine and its related agreement with Halford says that proper research oversight will be obtained.
Kruse said the institution soon launched an internal investigation to see what had gone wrong, and how. Southern Illinois also shared information on the matter with the federal Office for Human Research Protections, at the office’s request, in October 2017. An initial report by the campus IRB found serious noncompliance, prompting a more in-depth internal investigation. Both that inquiry and the federal investigation are ongoing.
Southern Illinois, for its part, is reviewing the particulars of the Halford case -- including the extent to which university resources were involved and if Halford accurately represented the efficacy of his vaccine -- along with existing policies and procedures for research involving human subjects.
Kruse said such policies have worked well in the past, and that by all accounts Halford was a great teacher who worked “by the book” in his research with animal subjects. Yet one clear outcome of the investigation will be that the university works harder to raise awareness of compliance requirements for research involving human subjects, he said.
“How do we identify people who go off the beaten path and intentionally and willfully hide activities like this from the university? How can we better get to that earlier?”
Held to Account
Kruse said that if Halford were alive, he would certainly be suspended from research activities during the university’s investigation. He didn’t rule out termination. But all of that is, of course, moot. The problem is largely Southern Illinois’s now.
Much of the story has played out in the public eye, through a series of investigative reports from Kaiser Health News. Several patients, who have thus far remained anonymous, told the news service that they complained about painful new herpes outbreaks or severe discomfort after the injections, and Halford brushed them off as minor or unrelated to the trial.
Kaiser also has raised questions about exactly when the university was made aware of Halford’s misconduct. Kruse insisted this week that neither he nor the IRB knew that anything had happened outside St. Kitts -- let alone just off campus -- until the summer meeting with Fernandez. A spokesperson for Rational Vaccines said in a statement Monday that Fernandez did not meet Halford until 2014 and that neither he nor the company had anything to do with research prior to that.
Earlier this month, the university responded in writing to a series of questions from Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary. Among other questions about the case, Grassley wanted to know what corrective action has been taken to ensure IRB compliance going forward.
Given that Halford is dead, Southern Illinois president Randy J. Dunn wrote to Grassley, disciplinary options are few. But he said the university will act on recommendations from its Misconduct in Science Committee, which continues an in-depth review of the case.
In general, Dunn said, reports of potential misconduct trigger investigations by the IRB, and the board notifies relevant federal agencies of any serious findings of misconduct.
Southern Illinois’s IRB has received three reports of potential unapproved research within the last five years, Dunn said. All those reports resulted in review, he said, with findings of misconduct in two cases, including Halford’s.
In the other instance of misconduct, the researcher’s privileges and protocols were suspended, and the OHRP approved of the university’s unspecified corrective action. Of all three cases, only Halford’s involved an unapproved protocol -- meaning that wholly unvetted research projects remain rare, at least at Southern Illinois.
Kruse oversees about 350 faculty members as dean, and professors are trained annually about appropriate research conduct. Administrators at Southern Illinois and elsewhere generally trust that professors will do the right thing when it comes to human subjects research. Still, some critics have suggested that Halford's institution ought to have known more about what he was doing for years.
Interestingly, Halford's attempt to publish his trial St. Kitts findings in 2017 failed, with an anonymous reviewer for Future Virology calling the paper "partly a vision, partly science, and partly wishful thinking." Halford "believes, based on little data, that this vaccine will provide both a therapeutic and a prophylactic benefit," the reviewer wrote.
Robert Klitzman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University who studies medical ethics, said Monday that all institutions “have responsibilities to ensure that their faculty, students, administrators and staff know about needs for protections of human subjects in research.”
Given that Southern Illinois shared the vaccine patent with Halford, doing “due diligence” would have meant making sure that proper oversight had been obtained, he said. Klitzman noted that the research was sufficiently high-profile for the university to announce when tech billionaire Peter Thiel funded it.
Klitzman also said that vaccine research is “high risk and invasive, and many human study participants have, historically, died in such studies.”
Kruse said the university has engaged with Halford's patients who contacted it directly. Outreach to the others is planned, he said.ResearchFacultyMedical EducationEditorial Tags: FacultyMedical educationResearchMisconductImage Source: Southern Illinois UImage Caption: William Halford in 2010Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
Note: This article contains explicit and potentially offensive terms that are essential to reporting on this situation.
The cases were similar and the punishment was the same.
Not even three years ago, many Americans applauded as the University of Oklahoma kicked out two fraternity members for their role in helping lead a racist chant that was recorded and went viral. But despite popular support for that decision and the shuttering of the campus chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, legal experts said the institution had actually flouted the students’ First Amendment rights, which protects even the vilest of speech.
Now, a student at the University of Alabama has been expelled after she posted videos to Instagram rife with racial slurs, also earning her national condemnation. The same arguments arise again -- did the university, a public institution operating as a government representative, break the law?
“I think the student would have a strong case for suing the University of Alabama for violating her First Amendment rights,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar and dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. “Her speech is protected by the First Amendment, though it is offensive and uses epithets.”
The student, Harley Barber, published videos to Instagram on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As she stands near a sink in an initial video, she says that “we don’t waste water because of people in Syria.”
“I love how I act like I love black people, because I fucking hate niggers,” Barber rants in the video, repeating the epithet multiple times.
In a second post, seemingly responding to critics of the first video, Barber says that she’s wanted to join her sorority, Alpha Phi, since high school (as a result of the backlash, she has since been removed from the sorority). She looks directly at the camera and declares that she “doesn’t care if it’s Martin Luther King Day” and screams “nigger” over and over.
“I’m in the South now, bitch,” she says.
The university told reporters that the videos had been referred to its Office of Student Conduct. Then, on Wednesday, President Stuart R. Bell released a statement saying Barber was no longer enrolled and that he found the videos “highly offensive and deeply hurtful.”
“We hold our students to much higher standards, and we apologize to everyone who has seen the videos and been hurt by this hateful, ignorant and offensive behavior,” Bell said in his statement. “This is not who we are. It is unacceptable and unwelcome here at UA.”
Barber has not given any interviews except to The New York Post, in which she apologized profusely.
“I feel horrible,” she told the Post. “I feel so, so bad and I am so sorry.”
Courts have determined that though colleges and universities can discipline students for speech they consider threatening or harassing, they cannot punish them simply because the speech is offensive.
In Papish v. Board of Curators of the University of Missouri, for instance, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1973 that Barbara Papish, a graduate student, shouldn’t have been dismissed for distributing a newspaper with a crude cartoon showing policemen raping the Statue of Liberty and the goddess of Justice, with the headline “Motherfucker Acquitted.”
“State colleges and universities are not enclaves immune from the sweep of the First Amendment,” the justices wrote in another free speech case, cited in their decision in Papish.
Colleges have argued that displays such as Barber’s constitute prejudice that -- per Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act -- institutions must quash.
University of Oklahoma president David Boren alluded to the law when he booted the former Sigma Alpha Epsilon brothers for their racist song. It was sung to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” replacing the title and what follows with “there will never be a nigger in SAE.”
“You will be expelled because of your leadership role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant which has created a hostile educational environment for others,” Boren wrote in the students’ expulsion letters.
It is unclear what piece of Alabama’s student conduct code Barber may have violated. University spokeswoman Monica Watts said federal privacy laws prohibited Alabama from commenting further. The conduct code describes harassment as any communication -- face-to-face, written or electronic -- that discriminates, is directed at an individual and is “so severe, pervasive or objectively offensive that a reasonable person with the same characteristics of the alleged victim would be adversely affected.” This is in line with the definition determined by the Supreme Court.
The policy also prohibits cyberbullying -- behavior designed to “intimidate or intentionally harm or control another person or group.”
Despite Barber’s offensive statements, organizations and individuals that support civil liberties have called for Bell to reverse his decision.
Former officials with the American Civil Liberties Union wrote to Bell, urging him to reconsider.
The letter is signed by Ira Glasser, former ACLU national executive director; Norman Siegel, past executive director of the New York branch of ACLU; and Michael Meyers, president and executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition and a former ACLU vice president.
The men wrote that the impulse to punish Barber is understandable from an emotional standpoint. But they pointed out that at different times in history what has been deemed “offensive” has shifted. In the 1960s, during the peak of the civil rights movement, the sight of King and his followers marching on certain Southern streets deeply troubled the locals -- and the protesters were arrested. The First Amendment was invoked to stop state agencies from interfering.
“But if the First Amendment allows the state to punish someone for ugly remarks that are profoundly offensive, as in this case, then it acquires the power to do the same for other speech that is offensive to those in power,” they wrote.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a watchdog group in academe, also railed against the university.
Ari Cohn, a lawyer and director of FIRE’s individual rights defense program, wrote that Barber’s behavior does not qualify as harassing. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people may find opposition to same-sex marriage offensive, Cohn wrote, but that does not mean that that opinion isn’t protected by the First Amendment.
“To be sure, many are certainly outraged and offended by Barber’s speech. But any argument that Barber’s expressions deprives [sic] UA students of access to the university’s educational opportunities or benefits collapses under its own weight,” Cohn wrote.
Robert O’Neil, a First Amendment expert, former president of the University of Virginia and senior fellow with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, offered a dissenting opinion.
He said that given the intensity of Barber’s offense, he could see justification for her expulsion.
“Particularly, Martin Luther King Day makes it worse,” O’Neil said.
Students who have been accused of racism and then penalized by their universities have won court battles.
The George Mason University chapter of Sigma Chi fraternity filed a lawsuit against the institution in the early 1990s after the brothers held an “ugly women contest” in which one of them dressed up as the caricature of a black woman, with his face painted and a stringy wig adorned with curlers on his head.
The skit was decried as sexist and racist, and public pressure mounted for George Mason administrators to act. They eventually suspended the fraternity from social activities for the rest of the spring 1991 semester and put it on probation for two years.
Sigma Chi sued to get the sanctions removed, and a district court sided with the fraternity. The university appealed, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit also agreed with Sigma Chi, citing free expression considerations.
“A public university has many constitutionally permissible means to protect female and minority students. We must emphasize, as have other courts, that ‘the manner of [its action] cannot consist of selective limitations upon speech,’” the appeals court wrote. “The university should have accomplished its goals in some fashion other than silencing speech on the basis of its viewpoint.”
A Georgia State University freshman, Natalia Martinez, also recently left her institution after she posted a racial epithet on social media. She was initially just suspended from the soccer team there, but later withdrew from the university.DiversityEditorial Tags: DiversityStudent lifeImage Caption: Harley Barber in her online rantIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 1Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, January 23, 2018Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Kicked Out for RacismMagazine treatment: Trending:
Dual-enrollment programs, in which high school students receive credit for college-level courses, have been growing rapidly.
But a recent accreditor clarification about the required credentials for instructors who teach early-college-credit programs has highlighted problems relating to equity, insufficient data and the pipeline of instructors for some colleges and states.
In 2015, the country’s largest regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, issued a policy clarification stating that high school teachers of dual-credit courses, along with instructional college faculty members, are required to have a master’s degree in the specialty they’re teaching, or at least 18 graduate-level credit hours within that specialty.
Some states and institutions, particularly those with significant numbers of dual-credit students, like Indiana and Minnesota, pushed HLC for an extension so they could meet the requirements. The accreditor then pushed the deadline to September 2022 for any institution or state that applied for one. For those that didn’t apply, the clarification went into effect this past fall.
“Each state is starting from widely varying places as they address the teacher credentialing problem,” said Jennifer Parks, director of innovation for the Midwestern Higher Education Compact. “Data is a key issue. It is difficult for a state to address an issue if there is no reliable information on the number of teachers affected, the numbers of credit hours or master’s degrees they need, and the subject areas in which those teachers need those credits or degrees.”
Parks is studying the response to the HLC guidelines within MHEC, which includes 12 of the 19 states HLC oversees.
She found that while it may appear that some states are not responding to the instructor credentialing issue, it could be that they are only beginning to address the full scope of the problem. In states where there isn’t a central higher education agency, it falls to colleges to craft their own plans, Parks said.
Some states were never far off from meeting the new standard. Illinois, Iowa and Ohio, for instance, already had established standards that require instructors to have the master’s-level specialty credentials that HLC requires or standards that closely resembled HLC’s clarification, said Adam Lowe, executive director of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships.
For example, a few years ago Iowa moved to require a master’s degree plus 15 graduate-level credits in the subject area instructors teach. And Lowe said most instructors in the state meet the HLC minimum of 18 graduate credits.
“Some states were caught unaware of the HLC changes to faculty credentialing standards,” he said. “HLC had been steadily making noise over the years about faculty credentials. Their guidelines going back 10 years were quite vague, and they were slowly increasing the specificity of them. “
But once HLC clarified the credentialing rules, things changed, he said.
Take Illinois, where dual-credit instruction has been growing for the last 10 years despite a statewide budget crisis. Last year, 9.2 percent of all credit enrollments in Illinois were dual-credit students -- an increase of more than 7 percent since 2015.
“This is why HLC is paying so much more attention to and scrutiny of faculty qualifications, particularly on the dual-credit side,” said Brian Durham, deputy director for academic affairs for the Illinois Community College Board. “We have to ensure we have qualified faculty by HLC standards in dual-credit courses as we continue to blend that high school-college experience.”
Challenges for Rural Institutions
Parks said leaders of state agencies and institutions have told her about new concerns that have arisen because of the HLC clarification. One issue, for instance, is the difficulty in recruiting high school teachers with the qualifications to teach college courses.
Although Illinois already had standards in place that were similar to HLC’s, a handful of colleges pursued the extension, Durham said.
“Certainly, there is an effect and ongoing issue for every community college in Illinois and in the country about meeting faculty qualifications in rural areas where they have trouble recruiting faculty,” Durham said.
Concurrent-enrollment teachers or faculty members tend to be experienced veterans and work in places where class sizes are increasing, Lowe said. And because education is underfunded and salaries are low, those instructors aren’t sticking around long.
The state’s community college board does a five-year recognition process for colleges where they examine the dual-credit qualifications of instructors. Those that aren’t in compliance have to create a plan to address the issue, Durham said.
“It is impacting campuses -- particularly small, rural community colleges -- already since it went into effect [last] fall,” Lowe said. “But it is disproportionately affecting concurrent dual-enrollment programs, because they represent a larger share of the adjunct pool and that’s your largest pool of minimum-qualification people.”
Purdue University Northwest, for instance, saw enrollment in its dual-credit programs decline dramatically in 2016 because the institution had a shortage of high school instructors who could meet the HLC guidelines, Lowe said. Indiana, however, was one of the states that was granted an extension to comply.
Durham said the Illinois community college board has had recent discussions with universities and the school districts about offering online courses for teachers to help them meet the qualifications, but nothing has moved beyond the discussion stage.
Ohio, which had similar standards in place for faculty members, still found a pipeline issue for high school teachers with credentials for dual-credit courses. So in 2015 the state spent $10 million to help teachers get the appropriate graduate course work.
Half of the $10 million went directly to the teachers, while the other half went to colleges and universities to create “teacher-friendly” programs such as online or weekend classes, said Stephanie Davidson, vice chancellor of academic affairs for the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
However, the scholarship money ran out and new money wasn’t allocated, Davidson said.
Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin Colleges and Extension’s early-college instructor requirements are similar to HLC’s. And the two-year system goes a step further by pairing dual-credit high school teachers with college faculty members, who work with them as mentors.
But the system is facing a similar problem to others that cover largely rural areas -- finding qualified instructors. So it’s launching a pilot program where high schools identify qualified students who are taught a dual-credit English course online by the colleges’ faculty instructors, with a high school teacher available in the classroom as an academic coach, said Cathy Sandeen, the system’s chancellor.
Sandeen said there aren’t enough incentives for high school teachers to meet HLC’s guidelines.
“In this case, it won’t come with a salary increase,” she said. “There is a shortage … and we get concerned about rural areas and small schools, because we want them to have equal access.”
The state’s two-year colleges also have seen significant growth in its early-college-credit programs. Last year more than 2,500 high school students were enrolled in dual-credit programs at the UW Colleges compared to about 1,560 students in 2015.
“We need to be much more innovative in how we provide access, because it’s not fair to have this sort of disparity,” Sandeen said. “There are very talented, motivated students everywhere and they deserve the opportunity.”Community CollegesEditorial Tags: AccreditationHiringCommunity collegesState policyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
The online program management company 2U on Monday announced a partnership with the co-working space behemoth WeWork that takes aim at the burgeoning marketplace of workers looking to burnish their career prospects through a widening array of credentials.
Through the partnership, which also incorporates technology from the WeWork-owned boot camp Flatiron School, the companies hope to gain a significant foothold in the lifelong learning market, in direct competition with companies such as General Assembly and Galvanize, which also offer non-degree-level credentials and short courses in hip shared office spaces that the companies call campuses.
As part of the partnership deal between 2U and WeWork:
- WeWork spaces are available to 2U students enrolled in graduate degree programs.
- WeWork members and employees can access $5 million in scholarships to enroll in 2U programs.
- WeWork will license Flatiron School's Learn.co technology in perpetuity.
- WeWork and 2U will work together to create a physical learning space at a WeWork location next year.
According to federal filings, 2U will be paying over $13 million to lease the Flatiron School’s Learn.co online learning platform. The Flatiron School is a coding boot camp that WeWork acquired in October 2017, marking the company's first deliberate step into the business of education. (Plans to create a private elementary school to foster “conscious entrepreneurship” followed a month later.)
The Learn.co technology will become the front end of 2U’s online graduate degrees, for which it is best known, and the short certificate courses that it has begun offering as it expands its footprint in postbaccalaureate education. For several years, 2U has been working with universities to help them provide online master's degrees, and the company began offering nondegree credentials following its purchase of GetSmarter last May.
Chip Paucek, CEO and co-founder of 2U, described the partnership with WeWork as a “transformational collaboration.” He said 2U would gain a new learning management system, which he described as “like going from Outlook to Slack.” In addition, 2U will be offering WeWork members and employees access to its courses through a $5 million scholarship fund over three years.
Another facet of the deal is a plan to create a “Future of Learning and Work” center at an as-yet undecided WeWork location in 2019. A press release from 2U and WeWork said that the center would provide a physical space for students and faculty and staff members from 2U programs to take part in master classes, lecture series and “other events designed to showcase the future of work and learning.”
Adam Enbar, CEO and co-founder of the Flatiron School, said WeWork’s partnership with 2U was a “giant leap forward” in “creating a global campus” that would help people get the most out of online education. One of the problems of online education is that there is a gap between the technology and human interaction, said Enbar. As a company, 2U has been “far ahead of the curve” in thinking about solutions to bridge that gap, he said.
By partnering with WeWork, 2U is tapping into a ready-made community of over 175,000 WeWork members in 65 cities around the world, said Enbar. He added that the Learn.co platform, which 2U is leasing under an exclusive license in the education space, was developed to help students interact with their classmates online and “learn by doing.” When students log in, they can see who else is online and interact in study groups, said Enbar. “I think the 2U team were kind of blown away by it,” said Enbar.
Ryan Craig, co-founder and managing director of investment firm University Ventures, which has invested in Galvanize, said that he thought the partnership between 2U and WeWork was a smart move for 2U, allowing it to promise students networking through WeWork that could lead to employment opportunities.
“Online degree programs are now so expensive, providers have to promise positive employment outcomes to justify the price tag,” said Craig. “2U is smartly trying to get closer to employers through this partnership -- WeWork hosts thousands of employers in their office space.”TechnologyEditorial Tags: Online learningIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
New presidents or provosts: Bath Spa Camden Elon Jamestown Luxembourg Montana Muskingum Pratt Smith Union
- Clarence D. Armbrister, president of Girard College, a boarding school in Pennsylvania, has been chosen as president of Johnson C. Smith University, in North Carolina.
- Seth Bodnar, senior executive for strategy and transformation at GE Transportation, in Illinois, has been selected as president of the University of Montana.
- Constance Ledoux Book, provost of the Citadel, in South Carolina, has been appointed president of Elon University, in North Carolina.
- Frances Bronet, senior vice president and provost at Illinois Institute of Technology, has been named president of the Pratt Institute, in New York.
- David Edwards, vice president of academic affairs at Mercer County Community College, in New Jersey, has been selected as vice president of academic affairs at Camden County College, also in New Jersey.
- Nancy J. Evangelista, associate provost and dean of the College of Professional Studies at Alfred University, in New York, has been named provost at Muskingum University, in Ohio.
- John Netland, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Union University, in Ohio, has been promoted to provost there.
- Stéphane Pallage, dean of the School of Management at the University of Quebec, has been chosen as president of the University of Luxembourg.
- Polly Peterson, executive vice president at the University of Jamestown, in South Dakota, has been promoted to president there.
- Susan Rigby, deputy vice chancellor at the University of Lincoln, in Britain, has been selected as vice chancellor at Bath Spa University, also in Britain.
States’ financial support for higher education grew only slightly between the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years, with more than a third of states decreasing their funding and another dozen increasing it only slightly, according to an annual survey released today.
Across the country, state fiscal support for higher education grew by just 1.6 percent, according to the Grapevine survey, which provides an early look each year at states’ funding for higher education. That was down sharply from a 4.2 percent increase last year and represents the lowest annual growth in the last five years.
National Annual Percent Changes in State Fiscal Support For Higher EducationFiscal Year Change From Previous Year 2014 5.9% 2015 5% 2016 2.4% 2017 4.2% 2018 1.6%
“We’ve seen only anemic growth nationwide, with the exception of a few states,” said James Palmer, Grapevine editor and a professor of higher education at Illinois State University. The Grapevine survey is a project of the university’s Center for the Study of Education Policy and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.
“This probably suggests the struggle of many states to sustain the revenue needed to increase funding for colleges and universities,” Palmer said of this year’s slow growth in higher ed funding. “In other words, the fiscal capacity to increase funding for colleges and universities doesn’t seem to be there.”
Still, funding conditions vary significantly from state to state. A total of 19 states reported decreases between the 2017 fiscal year, which spans 2016-17, and the 2018 fiscal year, which spans 2017-18. Ohio was home to the smallest of the decreases, 0.1 percent. North Dakota’s was the largest, a drop of 14.6 percent.
Another 12 states increased funding by less than 2 percent, and 18 reported increases of more than 2 percent. Florida showed the largest increase in funding -- the Sunshine State boosted higher ed funding by 11.3 percent.
Meanwhile, funding in one more state, Maine, was essentially flat. Washington, D.C., which is being included in the survey for only the second year, increased funding by 2 percent. Data for Puerto Rico, which was included for the first time last year, was not yet available following the upheaval there caused by Hurricane Maria.
This year’s survey did include data for Illinois, which broke out of a multiyear budget impasse that prevented it from being included in Grapevine tables last year.
Regardless of whether 2018 funding is sufficient for the year, the national picture could cause some concern for those worried about adequate money for public higher education over the long run. The national economy performed well last year, which theoretically should have provided more tax revenue for states and allowed them to spend more. Some of the connection might be lost in individual state budgeting and timing details, but the fact remains that higher ed funding generally rose only incrementally.
And reporting last year from the National Conference of State Legislatures found that for the first time since the Great Recession, a significant number of states were facing budget shortfalls. Most states' budgets were stable, but growth in state revenues was often not keeping pace with demand for government services. Nor have revenues been keeping pace with the rest of the economy.
“It’s really hard, sometimes, to be optimistic about increased funding for higher education when we juxtapose the anemic growth this year against the background of what seems to be an otherwise OK economy,” Palmer said.
Many states seem to be stuck between competing priorities. On one hand, the free tuition movement has grown from two-year colleges to include a free four-year program in New York State. On the other hand, states generally do not seem to be inclined to raise taxes to pay for free tuition.
“Much will depend on the political will,” Palmer said. “How do you balance those competing priorities?”
Amid that discussion, it should be pointed out that New York’s support for higher education only grew by 1.9 percent between 2017 and 2018, to $5.9 billion. The fall semester was the first for the state’s Excelsior Scholarship, a free-tuition program for full-time students from families earning less than certain income thresholds. The scholarship is being implemented over several years with income limits increasing, but nonetheless it has gone to tens of thousands of students.
When pushing to enact the scholarship program last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office budgeted a cost of $87 million in its first year because New York already has other generous grant programs for students. The estimate seemed low to some, meaning the state’s spending on higher ed will be closely watched.
The Down States
Of course, New York did increase funding in 2018 -- something not every state can say. Officials in North Dakota attributed the fact that the state had the largest year-over-year higher ed funding drop in the country to a state budget hurt by the energy and agricultural sectors.
“The largest economic drivers in our state are agriculture and energy, which includes oil and coal,” said Tammy Dolan, vice chancellor of administrative affairs at the North Dakota University System. “As the last few years have not been kind to those industries, they have had an impact on the amount of state funds that are available.”
North Dakota has a biennial budget, so officials know state funding will not increase next year. They’ve put in place several strategies to deal with the decreased funding, including task forces to find efficiencies at the system and institutional levels. Since 2016, about 500 full-time staff positions have been cut across 11 institutions, Dolan said. The university system has a total of about 7,000 full-time employees.
Examining several years of data for North Dakota shows the state's higher ed funding dropping back down after a brief increase. The state's higher ed funding totaled $358.5 million in 2018 after coming in at $419.7 million in 2017 and $405.7 million in 2016. Funding is now closer to its 2013 level, which was $343.8 million.
Nationally, comparing the latest state funding picture to one from two years prior shows some long-term gains in state funding. State appropriations to higher education across the country grew by 5.9 percent between the 2016 and 2018 fiscal years. The growth is skewed upward because of an extreme 30.2 percent two-year increase reported by Illinois, which rebounded from its institutions receiving a diminished amount of stopgap funding during the state budget standoff.
A total of 34 states besides Illinois show two-year gains in funding, with Arkansas recording the lowest increase, 0.1 percent, and Hawaii reporting the highest, 18.7 percent. The other 15 states decreased support for higher ed between 2016 and 2018 by amounts ranging from a slip of 0.1 percent in New Jersey to a drop of 13.3 percent in Mississippi.
Comparing the 2018 data to figures from five years in the past reveals that, nationally, state support for higher education has risen by 20.7 percent. A total of 40 states had five-year increases since 2013. The smallest increase, 1.1 percent, was in Arizona. The largest, 52.5 percent, was in California.
The other 10 states dropped funding for higher ed over the five-year span. Of that group, New Mexico had the smallest decline, 0.5 percent. West Virginia had the biggest plunge -- 20.6 percent.
Grapevine data cover tax and nontax state support for college and university operations. They also include support for other higher ed activities. States are asked for information on their funding for four-year institutions, community colleges and vocational-technical colleges, as well as appropriations to coordinating and governing boards, appropriations to state student financial aid, funding bound for higher ed but appropriated to other state agencies, and appropriations for private higher ed institutions. They are asked not to include appropriations for capital costs, debt service, money drawn from most federal sources, funds drawn from student fees and auxiliary enterprises.
Grapevine warns that the data are an early, tentative look at higher ed funding and that some estimates are subject to change. The data are broad -- figures don’t indicate any single institution’s funding.
Nor does the survey account for changes in the number of students enrolling, which can vary significantly from state to state and institution to institution. That means per-student analyses aren't possible -- an important point since declining funding can mean a very different thing in a state where overall enrollment is falling than it does in a state where enrollment is rising. Nationally, college enrollment has been declining for six straight years, although four-year public institutions have fared much better than other types of institution. Community colleges and especially for-profit institutions have seen the most significant loss of students.
The report typically comes a few months before a more comprehensive State Higher Education Finance report issued by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.
Percent Change in State Appropriations by StateState Total Support, 2017-18 (dollars) 1-Year Change 5-Year Change Alabama 1,618,261,945 3.9% 15.0% Alaska 327,222,500 -2.5% -12.2% Arizona 852,217,100 1.3% 1.1% Arkansas 990,308,071 1.2% -2.4% California 14,300,823,000 3.8% 52.5% Colorado 887,037,491 2.3% 39.0% Connecticut 1,143,736,037 -1.0% 28.9% Delaware 237,069,500 1.0% 9.5% Florida 5,051,738,013 11.3% 51.3% Georgia 3,423,355,485 6.6% 30.4% Hawaii 716,718,368 7.4% 36.2% Idaho 478,997,900 4.1% 33.0% Illinois 4,349,491,603 -5.5% 1.3% Indiana 1,773,727,687 1.6% 13.9% Iowa 816,055,053 -1.6% 3.6% Kansas 764,547,532 -0.6% -3.9% Kentucky 1,173,159,100 0.2% -1.2% Louisiana 1,156,078,487 6.7% -1.5% Maine 301,805,964 0.0% 13.5% Maryland 1,992,867,551 0.6% 23.2% Massachusetts 1,564,337,918 1.3% 24.6% Michigan 1,917,024,500 2.1% 19.2% Minnesota 1,653,249,000 7.1% 28.6% Mississippi 900,155,014 -11.2% -2.7% Missouri 988,536,584 -2.3% 6.2% Montana 243,920,115 -3.3% 20.6% Nebraska 760,198,501 0.9% 15.3% Nevada 622,021,005 8.9% 31.7% New Hampshire 127,935,617 2.2% 49.4% New Jersey 2,065,933,000 -0.8% 9.4% New Mexico 828,197,600 -3.1% -0.5% New York 5,860,223,303 1.9% 14.6% North Carolina 4,020,836,353 1.2% 7.2% North Dakota 358,491,256 -14.6% 4.3% Ohio 2,300,904,761 -0.1% 12.2% Oklahoma 829,597,660 -3.9% -20.6% Oregon 859,469,660 5.5% 48.0% Pennsylvania 1,651,732,000 -2.4% 1.2% Rhode Island 198,291,070 5.7% 21.1% South Carolina 1,097,979,545 0.3% 20.6% South Dakota 233,805,655 -2.0% 19.1% Tennessee 1,844,857,699 6.5% 26.8% Texas 7,493,114,733 -1.6% 18.0% Utah 1,025,936,100 4.8% 37.0% Vermont 94,462,556 2.3% 5.7% Virginia 2,013,572,522 -1.9% 17.6% Washington 1,906,810,000 1.5% 35.5% West Virginia 470,910,031 -2.7% -14.5% Wisconsin 1,509,157,200 2.4% 29.7% Wyoming 373,759,707 -2.2% -2.5% Washington, D.C. 78,180,000 2.0% 3.7% Editorial Tags: Business issuesState policyImage Caption: Data: GrapevineIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
The number of international students in the U.S. fell by 2.2 percent at the undergraduate level and 5.5 percent at the graduate level from fall 2016 to 2017, according to a new report from the National Science Foundation, “Science and Engineering Indicators,” released last week.
The analysis is based on government-held student visa data and excludes students who are participating in optional practical training, a program that allows international students to stay and work in the U.S. for up to three years after graduating while remaining on their university's sponsorship.2016 2017 Percent Change All Fields Undergraduate 450,850 440,720 -2.2% Graduate 389,310 367,920 -5.5% Science and Engineering Fields Undergraduate 176,570 176,930 0.2% Graduate 244,040 229,310 -6% Non-Science and Engineering Fields Undergraduate 274,280 263,790 -3.8% Graduate 145,270 138,610 -4.6%
The declines come on the heels of years of steady growth (see line graph below) in overall international enrollments at U.S. universities and amid widespread concern that prospective new students could be deterred by the current political climate and uncertainty about immigration policies in the United States.
The declines, if they were to continue, could have negative implications for U.S. competitiveness and the health of American graduate science and engineering programs, which are heavily populated by international students. In 2015, international students made up 36 percent of all science and engineering graduate students in the U.S. and received more than half of all doctoral degrees awarded in computer science, economics, engineering, and mathematics and statistics.
The student visa-sourced data provide the first comprehensive national picture of international enrollments for the current academic year. It differs from an annual report on international enrollment conducted by the Institute of International Education, called Open Doors, which surveys universities about their international enrollments and reports the data on a one-year lag.
In November, Open Doors reported a 3.3 percent decline in new (as opposed to total) international students in the 2016-17 academic year and an overall flattening of growth.
A companion "snapshot" survey IIE conducted in association with other academic groups asked about 500 institutions about their international enrollments for the current academic year. Over all, the universities in the survey reported an average decline in new international enrollments of 7 percent. But the declines weren't being felt across the board: while 45 percent of institutions responding to the snapshot survey reported declines in new international students, 31 percent reported increases and 24 percent reported no change.
Among the reasons university officials have given for the declines in international student enrollments are the political and social environment in the U.S., the high cost of U.S. higher education, visa denial and delays, increasing competition from other countries, and changes to other governments' scholarship programs, such as Saudi Arabia's.
Here are a few of the international enrollment-related highlights of the NSF report:
- At the undergraduate level, the number of international students increased in computer sciences (11 percent) and mathematics (5 percent) and declined in engineering (-5 percent), social sciences (-3 percent) and nonscience and engineering fields (-4 percent), from 2016 to 2017.
- The top five countries sending international science and engineering undergraduates to the U.S. in fall 2017 were China, Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea and Kuwait. From fall 2016 to 2017, the number of undergraduates studying science and engineering increased from China (3 percent), India (11 percent) and Kuwait (4 percent), while the number decreased from Saudi Arabia (-18 percent) and South Korea (-7 percent).
- At the graduate level, the number of international students decreased in the computer sciences (-12.9 percent) and engineering (-7.6 percent) between fall 2016 and fall 2017. The number of international students increased in mathematics (by 14.6 percent),and remained fairly stable in other science and engineering fields.
- The top countries sending international science and engineering graduate students to the U.S. were China and India -- which together account for 69 percent of all international graduate students in science and engineering fields -- followed by Iran, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan. From 2016 to 2017 the number of graduate science and engineering students increased from China (4 percent) and Taiwan (5 percent), and decreased from India (-19 percent), Saudi Arabia (-11 percent), Iran (-1 percent) and South Korea (-1 percent).
Tarrant County College suspends astronomy instructor who talked about the Koran in class in the dark
Tarrant County College in Texas suspended an astronomy instructor last week after he reportedly entered a classroom late with his head, face and hands covered, turned off the lights, and spoke about Islam.
Some students said they thought the incident was a joke. But others were frightened and called the police. Campus officers searched and questioned in the instructor, Daniel Mashburn, but did not arrest him.
“I thought I’d start this year a little differently,” Mashburn told police, according to a student video shared with local news station KDFW.
Mashburn isn’t the first faculty member to open a new semester in an unorthodox manner. Columbia University reviewed the conduct of a physics professor in 2013, for example, after he stripped to Lil Wayne’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” showed images of Sept. 11 and “executed” a stuffed animal during a lesson on quantum mechanics.
Emlyn Hughes, the Columbia professor, kept his job, and some supporters urged critics to be open-minded. Open-mindedness was, in fact, the point of the lesson, Hughes said at the beginning of class, warning students that “to learn quantum mechanics, you have to strip to your raw, erase all the garbage from your brain and start over again.”
It remains unclear what, if any, academic connection exists between Mashburn’s conduct and a course on the solar system. He did not respond to a request for comment over the weekend.
“Well, the class is about astronomy, it’s about the stars, and the Koran is about the stars,” he told KDFW last week during a quasi interview from his apartment balcony, still covered with a hat, scarf and gloves. “It is the book of stars, the book of love, the book of life.”
Asked why he’d covered his face, head and hands, Mashburn said it was the custom to do so in many countries. He said he'd kept his teaching philosophy "secret" while interviewing for his position.
"I do my best, but I am tired of hiding in the shadows. I am tired of fearing their law. I fear Allah," Mashburn said. Of students, he added, "I do not know why they fear me. Why are they afraid? I'm a man who covers his face in his hand. I offer you nothing but the Koran, a book, and the universe. The universe is in my hand right here. You can look at it."
Mashburn was fidgeting in class with something in his pocket, according to student reports. Police found no weapons. Most students left the classroom. A few stayed until the end of the session, which Mashburn moved outdoors.
The college has since assigned the course to a new instructor. College spokespeople said that Mashburn was suspended from teaching, pending the outcome of an investigation into his conduct. This was to be his second semester as an adjunct at Tarrant County. According to his LinkedIn profile, Mashburn worked at Tarrant County for an additional semester as an instructional associate and served as a teaching and research assistant at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee while earning his master's of science in physics, through 2015.
A widely followed American Association of University Professors policy says that professors should only be removed from the classroom during an investigation of their conduct if they pose a safety risk.Editorial Tags: PhysicsMisconductTeachingImage Source: FacebookImage Caption: Daniel Mashburn's Facebook profile pictureIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
INDIANAPOLIS -- Cetys University could be the first Mexican college to join the National Collegiate Athletic Association, a move now possible under a new rule allowing Mexican institutions to apply for membership in Division II.
Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior University, a private institution based primarily in Mexicali and Tijuana, has long angled to join the NCAA, crossing the border for matches with American institutions at least once a year.
Cetys is unusual in that it is one of few Mexican colleges and universities to be accredited by an American agency, a requirement of NCAA membership. Its campuses are within an hour or so driving distance of the border, and students often travel back and forth for athletic and academic purposes.
At the NCAA's annual convention Saturday, delegates from Division II institutions voted 253 to 45, with seven abstentions, to allow Mexican colleges to petition to join the division. The proposal takes effect immediately, meaning Cetys, and any other institution, could apply for a three-year provisional membership by a Feb. 1 deadline.
But Fernando León-García, president of Cetys, said in an interview that the university intends to wait a year to make sure it meets the requirements to join the NCAA. The institution must ensure that its sports program has an equitable gender balance. This is particularly true because the university fields a football team, a sport that has more male athletes than most, and could require Cetys to field six women's teams and four men's teams as a result.
The university currently offers men’s and women’s basketball, women’s and men’s volleyball, baseball, softball, men’s soccer, cheerleading and football, and it's in the process of developing track and field for men.
Cetys also needs to ensure that it has certain staffers in place, including designating one woman in a senior leadership position.
It appears though, that Cetys is well positioned to glide through the application process. It has garnered particular support from members of the California Collegiate Athletic Association, its prospective conference, and gained a champion in the president of San Francisco State University, Leslie E. Wong, who helped lobby for it to become an NCAA member.
“We’ve done our homework with expert help as well as with the support of the universities with whom we have academic collaboration,” León-García said. “This did not arise out of athletics talking to athletics; it arose out of university presidents talking to each other.”
León-García was unconcerned with the unique complications that come with competing with American colleges. While border security has been politicized, particularly during the election cycle, León-García said Cetys athletes are accustomed to allowing enough time to cross into the United States and that the university will need to confirm all of them have the necessary documents.
He pointed out that some American athletes might have more difficulties going back into the United States in some cases. American athletes who are covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, for instance, can’t enter Mexico because they wouldn’t allowed back. In that case, Cetys’ competitors would need to figure out if they should remain behind or if Cetys could use another college’s facilities across the border, León-García said.
“The most important thing, of course, is we have here an additional initiative where universities are coming together to collaborate on both sides of the border,” he said.
The NCAA last year turned permanent a decade-long pilot program that allowed any division to invite Mexican or Canadian institutions to join. The association’s first international member was Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia -- also in Division II. It joined in 2012.
“Higher education now more than ever before must lead the way in helping build inclusive communities and foster diverse learning communities and learning opportunities,” said Gayle E. Hutchinson, president of California State University at Chico, during a meeting of Division II delegates. “Many of our schools already have academic programs that cross cultural and country boundaries. Adopting this legislation adds similar opportunity for our intercollegiate athletics programs.”
Cetys enrolls a little more than 3,000 students, and its athletics budget was about $1 million last year, which is relatively low compared to other Division II institutions.
Back in 2013, Division II delegates had denied membership to Mexican institutions in a 141 to 138 vote.
Canadian institutions were given the opportunity to apply for membership in 2008.GlobalEditorial Tags: AthleticsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
Congress failed to reach a last-minute agreement Friday night to avoid a government shutdown. That won't mean immediate consequences for federal student aid recipients or institutional funding. But institutions and students depending on Education Department programs could see an impact if the shutdown drags on.
For academics and institutions that receive grants from research agencies, funds already awarded are not affected, but peer review and other activities to select new grants may halt, and new funds will not be going out. The impact on academic science may be minimal if the shutdown lasts just a few days, but would get significant in a longer shutdown.
Other functions of the Department of Education will be immediately curtailed or frozen, however, from work awarding special grants to the enforcement of civil rights at campuses across the country.
While the shutdown means no new federal dollars can be spent until lawmakers reach a funding deal, federal funding has already been disbursed for student aid in 2017-18.
Much of the funding for Pell Grants is mandatory -- meaning it is unaffected by a shutdown -- as is funding for federal student loans.
But David Bergeron, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who previously served as acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education, said the longer a shutdown goes on, the more unanticipated problems can arise.
"Certainly there’s the potential for something to fall through the cracks," he said. "When you have 90 percent of your work force not here, making sure things are getting done, it can result in things not happening that are critical."
A prolonged shutdown could have a long-term impact for the department's grant-making work involving Title III funds, TRIO and GEAR UP programs, as well as graduate fellowships. A shutdown can slow the work of selecting grant recipients, Bergeron said. It can also create questions about the availability of future grant funds.
As part of the Department of Education's contingency plans released this week, more than 90 percent of total staff would be furloughed during the first week of a shutdown. Even with exempt employees called back to work on a partial or rotating basis, no more than 6 percent of total staff would be working at any one time during a longer shutdown.
If the shutdown drags out, institutions themselves would begin to feel an impact, Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a memo this week.
"Colleges rely on higher education funds to pay ongoing expenses of staff running programs for disadvantaged students seeking to enter and stay in college," she said.
Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, urged lawmakers to reach an agreement avoiding a shutdown in a statement Friday.
"We have been pressing for months for a bipartisan budget agreement which will lift the discretionary caps – defense and non-defense caps similarly – and thereby clear the way for House and Senate appropriators to write bills that Congress will approve and that will provide needed support for higher education and research," he said. "That budget agreement is necessary to move FY2018 funding forward and must materialize quickly. After all, we are already in the fourth month of the fiscal year! In the interim, we call on Congress and the president to act quickly and responsibly and not shutter government’s many vital functions, among them important research and education projects and programs."
A shutdown will also mean an immediate suspension of most civil rights activities conducted by the department. Catherine Lhamon, the former assistant secretary for civil rights under the Obama administration, said when the government shutdown for 16 days in 2013, her office could no longer conduct planned investigations.
"We could not conduct investigations that had long been planned," she said. "We could not conduct site reviews. The staff of the office for civil rights could not do any work."
As a Senate confirmed employee, Lhamon could continue to work along with one staffer from her 600-person division. But the office's work investigating violations and enforcing civil rights was effectively suspended.
"The costs that follow from that shutdown can never be recouped," she said. "You don’t get those days back. You don’t get that time back. You don’t get those rights back."]
The National Science Foundation announced that researchers who have received funds may continue to use them, but new payments will not be made during the shutdown. Many NSF grant recipients receive their funds in portions, so some may miss funds due soon. While the shutdown continues, no new grants will be awarded and peer review panels won't meet, delaying new grants after the end of the shutdown.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced that National Institutes of Health would continue patient care for those in clinical trials at the NIH. The HHS guidance did not discuss grants awarded to universities.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science issued a statement saying that the shutdown "impedes the U.S. scientific enterprise," which has already been hurt by limits on funding for research programs.
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