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Department of Homeland Security rule bans international students from online-only instruction models this fall

Inside Higher Education - Hace 6 hours 43 mins

New guidance for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has stoked anger and confusion from students, faculty and immigration advocates.

The new temporary final rule, issued Monday afternoon, prohibits international students from returning to or remaining in the United States this fall if the colleges they attend adopt online-only instruction models amid the pandemic.

A growing number of colleges -- including Harvard University -- have announced that they will reopen their campuses in the fall but conduct classes online. Even with campuses open, international students will be prohibited from studying in the United States under the rule.

“It’s just mean-spirited,” said Allen Orr, president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He noted the myriad logistical issues it poses for international students.

“You are discontinuing whatever you may have already been in. You might have already had a lease,” he said. “Even if these colleges have school online, some places may be in different hours and different time zones.”

Should colleges’ instruction models change midsemester, returning to the United States could be difficult, Orr said.

“If colleges are able to reopen -- let’s say there’s a vaccine or whatever happens -- those foreign students would be disadvantaged in their ability to come back,” he said. “There are not that many flights back to the United States; there are not that many flights within the United States.”

On the other hand, if colleges conducting in-person instruction this fall move back online midsemester, international students will be required to leave the country or “take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as transfer to a school with in-person instruction,” the rule states.

This is a shift away from the exceptions put in place during the spring and summer terms, which allowed international students residing in the U.S. to take a fully online course load as colleges transitioned to online instruction in response to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 90 percent of international students chose to remain stateside in the spring, according to a survey by the Institute for International Education. Should the pandemic worsen, the new rule would not allow such flexibility for those students.

Sarah Spreitzer, director of government relations at the American Council on Education, said she expects many institutions to try to work around the guidance, and for more colleges to consider hybrid online and in-person instruction models as a result.

The rule makes an exception for students enrolled at colleges using a hybrid model this fall. Those students will be able to remain in or return to the U.S. as long as “the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.”

“The guidance talks about your specific program,” Spreitzer said. “Schools may have already been going down the path where some programs would be completely online, but this other program over here would have an in-person component. So then they’re going to have to ensure that every program has an in-person component.”

Several higher education organizations, including ACE and the Presidents’ Immigration Alliance, released statements Monday strongly condemning the rule and urging the Trump administration to rework its position.

“Today’s decision by ICE is just the latest reflection of this administration’s xenophobic and misguided response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This decision forces international students to make a cruel decision between either leaving the country abruptly or scrambling to find a new program or institution,” wrote Kyle Southern, policy and advocacy director of higher education and workforce at Young Invincibles. “In the midst of a global pandemic, the administration is pressuring colleges and universities -- particularly those enrolling large numbers of international students -- to bring students back onto campuses while infection rates reach new records.”

Immigration lawyer Greg Siskind on Twitter said the rule was essentially a new travel ban for F-1 students, and noted the move could jeopardize public health.

“If you are worried about COVID and not reopening too soon, you should be VERY worried about this,” Siskind tweeted. “Schools WILL be opening this fall that otherwise would have kept classes online because of ICE's decision. That puts the health of everyone in danger.”

Orr expects colleges to push back hard on the rule.

“There’s absolutely no reason for this underlying rule. What is the issue? They are paying tuition, they are enrolled in the school program, they’re doing the exact same thing their counterpart students are doing.”

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Connecticut college system to use reserve funds for tuition-free community college program

Inside Higher Education - Hace 6 hours 43 mins

Connecticut's public college system is dipping into its reserves to offer free tuition at its community colleges for first-time students this fall.

The plan was already in the works for some time before the pandemic and subsequent recession hit. While those events could make future funding for the program more difficult, officials say it was more important than ever to keep this promise to students.

"I felt very strongly that we had been marketing free community college and community college education," said Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities. "I felt it was critically important, since we had made a commitment to the citizens of Connecticut to roll out in the fall."

The plan, called the PACT, was supposed to be funded through revenue from a form of gaming called the iLottery. Legislation for the initiative had already passed, but there were delays in starting the iLottery system. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

"So we were left with a piece of legislation that passed and no short-term funding," Ojakian said.

To get the ball rolling, the system is dipping into its reserve funds. It has set aside $3 million to cover the costs of the program for the fall semester, with no clear plans yet as to how it will be funded in the spring and beyond. If a large influx of eligible students applies for the program beyond its anticipated capacity, the system will provide partial grants. That provision is included in the legislation to also address the possibility of revenue shortages from the iLottery, once it's up and running.

The relatively low start-up cost highlights that tuition-free community college is a cheap initiative in most places, said Robert Kelchen, an associate professor of higher education at Seton Hall University.

It could also help the state, not just students, save money, he said. It's generally less costly to educate students at two-year colleges than at four-year colleges, so encouraging students to start at a two-year could be appealing for dismal budgets.

While the system had to tap into its reserves for the upcoming semester, Ojakian said he is optimistic that the program will receive appropriate funding in the spring from the Legislature.

"From all indications of this past legislative session, there were competing proposals in terms of the level of funding, but there was never a question about funding the program," he said. "This is something there’s an incredible amount of interest in. There's a great deal of interest and support for this on both sides of the political aisle."

The program is last dollar, meaning the system will cover the tuition costs that are left after Pell Grants and other aid are applied. About 60 percent of students already pay no tuition to attend Connecticut community colleges because of state and federal aid.

Ojakian hopes that marketing tuition-free college will encourage more students, who may qualify for such aid, to pursue higher education.

"This is not the panacea for improving our equity gap here," he said, adding that the system has other initiatives to address nontuition expenses like transportation and discounted books.

The PACT program will also provide grants of at least $250 to students who are completely supported through Pell Grants.

"But that's clearly not enough," Ojakian said. "While I think the free program is a very good step in the right direction, I think we need to continue to do more to provide those students on full Pell Grants more support as they try to navigate living, working and going to school."

While the intention is good, experts point out that four-year colleges have the largest disparities in equity in Connecticut.

"I would say this plan is a small step in the right direction," said Victoria Jackson, senior policy analyst for higher education at the Education Trust, an advocacy organization focused on equity and student success.

The uncertainty about the program's funding after the first semester could also make low-income students less confident about their ability to enroll for the long term, she said.

The last-dollar approach also won't do much to move the needle on equity, she added.

"It misses the mark on achieving equity," Jackson said. "It misses the mark on making sure that state dollars are going to the students who struggle the most to pay for college."

She hopes that, if the program continues, the state will work to make it stronger and more targeted toward low-income students, as well as to expand it to four-year institutions so that low-income students aren't undermatched. To do that, though, the federal government will have to provide funding help, especially given the recession.

"What they’re doing is appropriate given lack of federal help," she said.

PACT could have a larger impact on four-year public institutions in the state now because of COVID-19, according to Kelchen of Seton Hall. Students who normally would've attended a four-year college right away may choose to attend the free community college to save money, especially as many aspects of residential life will be changed due to COVID-19.

"This could affect the bottom line of some of the regional publics in the state because they’re relying on these students to manage budgets," Kelchen said. "If they lose them for even a semester, that’s a major hit to their bottom line."

There is usually a slight enrollment decrease for four-year colleges the first year that free community college is enacted in states, Ojakian said, but that has tended to correct itself over time. Because Connecticut has a seamless transfer system between the two sectors, Ojakian believes PACT could improve enrollment over all as it would induce more people to apply to college and potentially transfer to a four-year college later on.

Right now, the state is planning for at least a 10 percent decline in enrollment at four-year institutions due to COVID-19, he said, but it's impossible to know exactly what will happen or how PACT will factor into it.

"This is like trying to read tarot cards or something, because you don’t know from one day to the next what’s going to happen," Ojakian said. ​

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Colorado funding formula includes incentives for enrolling and graduating students from minority groups

Inside Higher Education - Hace 6 hours 43 mins

Janine Davidson, the president of Metropolitan State University of Denver, is hoping a change to make Colorado one of a few states to reward public colleges for admitting and graduating more students of color will slowly end the long-term underfunding of institutions like hers, where nearly half of students are people of color.

“There is a racist, classist element here. Thirty, 40, 50 years ago, it was considered perfectly OK to underfund students of color or low-income students,” she said. “We’ve been digging out of that hole for decades.”

But even before the killing of George Floyd brought calls for greater racial equity to the nation’s streets, Colorado lawmakers, after watching the state’s colleges make little progress in serving more minority and lower-income students, had decided to change how the state divvies up money it spends on higher education.

Starting in the budget cycle that begins this time next year, the state will move away from increasing annual funding for each of its public colleges and universities by roughly the same percentage. Instead, it will give colleges bonus points if they improve more than others in certain measures, including admitting more minority and low-income students.

Under its new funding formula, Colorado also will be only one of a handful of states in the nation to reward colleges for attracting and graduating more students whose parents did not go to a four-year institution.

However, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it doesn’t help much to get a greater share of a shrinking pie, it’s unclear whether the change will mean much more money in the near future for institutions like Metropolitan State, which disproportionately educate more minority, low-income and first-generation students.

“Candidly, not a lot,” Joe Garcia, chancellor of the Colorado Community College system, and formerly Colorado’s lieutenant governor and director of the state’s department of higher education, said last week when asked how much of an impact the change will make.

And even if more money were to come, Davidson noted, it will not quickly end a disparity in funding decades in the making.

“We’re going to have to inch away at it over time,” she said of the state’s efforts. “It will take years to make up.”

And according to a recent study, there’s some risk it might backfire. The study of other states that have created bonuses for enrolling and retaining underrepresented minorities found some gains among Hispanics and low-income students. But, unexpectedly and inexplicably to researchers, enrollment by Black students declined in those states.

Experts Back Approach

Still, policy experts like Robert Kelchen, a professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, see explicitly rewarding colleges for increasing diversity, as Colorado is doing, as a better approach than what other states have taken.

About 30 states include performance measures to determine funding for public colleges, but half do not include race among the incentives, according to a study in January by Kelchen’s nonprofit clearinghouse for policy analysis and research, InformED States.

That report cited research by Denisa Gándara, an assistant professor in Southern Methodist University’s department of education policy and leadership. Gándara found states that based funding on measures like how often students graduate, but that did not have incentives to increase diversity, dampened the enrollment of Black, Latino and first-generation students.

If institutions only are rewarded for measures like graduation rates, she wrote, they might be less likely to accept students they think are less likely to graduate.

On the other hand, Gándara found states that did include bonuses for accepting more underrepresented minority-group students, as well as low-income students, saw an increase in the enrollment of Latino and poorer students.

That was a focus for Colorado’s Democratic governor, Jared Polis, in revamping Colorado’s system. “The governor was really insistent it included factors for equity,” said Angie Paccione, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

However, Gándara also found the improvements took a few years to show up, possibly because college administrators didn’t adapt right away.

What continues to perplex Gándara, she said, is that Black enrollment went down in the states that encouraged the admission of more students of color and low-income students.

That could be because institutions responded to the diversity incentives and admitted more students from minority groups -- except Black students -- she wrote in an email.

Gándara doesn't know what that would be. She speculated it could be because Black people have the lowest median household income in the U.S.

“Higher-income students have advantages that increase their likelihood of completing their degree (e.g., less need to work more hours while enrolled in college and lower likelihood of food and housing insecurity, which can hinder college completion),” she said. “So if a university gets bonus funding for admitting any minoritized students, they may be more likely to select those with higher incomes, which they may view as more likely to complete their degrees.”

It could also be because of “perceptions of Black students' ability to succeed, which can be shaped by unconscious racial bias,” she said.

Garcia also did not know why, but doubted that colleges shy away from African Americans out of a bias that they would be less likely to graduate.

“What we’re driven by right now is tuition. We’re really after the bodies. We need bodies in the seats,” he said. “Whether it’s someone who would do well or not well, we’ll take the chance.”

A Colorado higher education department spokeswoman said policy makers are aware of the research and tried to account for it in the formula. But she didn’t expand on how.

Whether other states will follow in giving colleges financial incentives to increase its diversity is unclear. More likely is that states will give bonuses for enrolling and retaining more low-income students and first-generation students, Kelchen said.

“Some state legislatures (especially in conservative states) are hesitant to tie funding to race,” he said in an email. Indeed, Gándara noted that Colorado lawmakers, in examining the state’s higher education funding formula in 2014, added incentives to enroll low-income students but opted then not to create an incentive based on race. “They wanted to avoid what one legislator called an ‘affirmative action debate,’” she said.

But Gándara said other states might be beginning to see the need.

“There does seem to be a greater recognition that in order to reduce racial inequities in educational attainment, we need to address race explicitly,” Gándara said. “For a long time, many policy makers, campus officials and researchers have assumed that by addressing income, racial disparities will disappear. But at this moment, more people are beginning to reckon with the fact that race matters and racism matters.”

Garcia, who was involved in the 2014 change, said additional data on the failure to make much progress for minorities helped convince lawmakers to include race this time.

Impact on Colleges Unclear

In making the change, Colorado is moving away from a system in which all colleges would largely get the same percentage increase in their budgets, locking in one in which historically underfunded colleges serving minorities and the needy would continue to be underfunded.

“The same percentage of a smaller number is still a small number,” Davidson said.

But how much the new formula will change what individual universities will get is difficult to predict, said college presidents and the state's higher education department.

Universities will get bonus points if they improve more than other institutions in a number of areas, including enrollment by Colorado residents, as well as first-generation students and underrepresented minorities. Also counted are improvements in the percentage of Colorado students who are eligible for Pell Grants. The formula also factors in the percentage of first-time, full-time students who earn their bachelor's degree within four years, and within six years, as well as their associate's degree within two and four years.

What’s tempering expectations, though, is that even if colleges get a bigger share of the state’s higher education spending, Colorado likely won’t have much more to spend for least a couple of years. The state is facing a $6.8 billion budget deficit this year due to the pandemic.

“We got clobbered this year,” Garcia said. And the following year “doesn’t look that much better.”

And even before the pandemic, Colorado hasn’t invested as much as others in its public colleges, ranking 48th nationally.

At the same time, while the formula might encourage colleges to accept more minority and low-income students, those groups are also seen as the most likely to have to put off going to college or to drop out during hard economic times.

Some, including Cheryl Lovell, president of Adams State University, which enrolls the lowest percentage of white students in the state, are optimistic more money might be coming.

“We’re really excited about the formula. It plays to our sweet spot,” she said.

But asked if the new formula would push them harder to recruit and retain the underrepresented groups, the state’s university systems said they already are trying.

“If I were in this spot 10 years, ago, this formula would have been a wake-up call,” said Tony White, chancellor of the Colorado State University system.

But he said the system's campuses have made strides in recruiting and retaining underrepresented students.

The University of Colorado at Boulder also said it has been working to attract and recruit underrepresented students. The campus said that 28 percent of last year’s incoming class were first-generation students, which was a record. And the 2,007 students of color in last year's incoming freshman class more than doubled the 901 a decade earlier.

“We are in alignment with and support the state’s efforts to put greater focus on underrepresented students and their academic success. This is a goal we’ve had as a campus for years, and we are committed to making progress,” the university said in a statement.

“While we have made progress, we know we can and must do better,” it said, noting that Phil DiStefano, Boulder's chancellor, announced a series of steps last month to make the campus more diverse and equitable, including stepping up recruitment at high schools that serve communities of color.

To Garcia, though, the new formula’s main impact could come from the fact that the data will be made public. It will be easy to see which colleges are not doing well.

Some presidents, however, are concerned about how the formula will work in practice. Colleges might gain bonus points by increasing enrollment of low-income or minority students, but that could be offset by others getting bonus points for doing better at graduating students in four years, a standard Davidson thinks is unfair to institutions like hers.

“That represents a lack of understanding,” she said of using four years as a standard. “We can have a Jenny Dooley graduate straight from high school to college and graduate in four years. But you know who does that? Rich kids,” she said.

Students at Metropolitan State are more likely to take longer to graduate because they have to work while attending college part-time, or they stop to raise their children and come back to college.

“Our average college student is not Jenny,” she said.

“The proof is in the pudding,” said Steven Schwartz, chief operating officer and vice president for finance and administration at Fort Lewis College, which was founded primarily to give Native American students a free college education, and where slightly half of the students are from minority groups.

He praised the goal of the formula change but worried what would happen if the economic fallout from the pandemic leads to fewer Black students enrolling at his college than others.

“Playing the speculation game is the stuff that keeps me up at night,” he said. “What allows me to sleep at night are the policy goals.”

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Coronavirus roundup: More universities announce plans for largely online fall terms

Inside Higher Education - Hace 6 hours 43 mins

Rutgers, Harvard, Princeton and Georgetown Universities on Monday announced plans for a largely online fall, following a similar announcement last week from the University of Southern California.

But a highly anticipated decision from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement means students from other countries who are studying in the U.S. will not be able take a fully online course load and remain in the country. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program allowed international students to take more online courses than normal for the spring and summer. But the new decision means students in fully online programs will need to transfer to a college with in-person courses or leave the U.S., ICE said. (Read more about this news here.)

Here is an update of developments on COVID-19's impact on higher education:

  • Harvard University announced Monday that its arts and sciences college, its largest, would bring freshmen and seniors back to campus in the fall but would deliver all instruction online throughout the 2020-21 academic year. (Harvard Business School said Monday that it would offer a mix of in-person and remote instruction; other colleges at Harvard have previously announced their plans for fall.) Among key elements of the Harvard College plan are that regular grading will return in the fall, and that students who receive financial aid and study remotely will get an extra $5,000 in "remote room and board" added to their aid packages.
  • Rutgers University said its fall term would feature mostly remotely delivered courses and a limited number of in-person classes, including courses in the arts, laboratory or fieldwork, and clinical instruction. On-campus housing at the university, New Jersey's flagship public institution, will be extremely limited, the university said in a statement. "We have wanted very fervently to be able to resume some version of a normal semester," Jonathan Holloway, Rutgers' president, said in the statement. "But given the continued increase in COVID-19 cases across the country, the near-term outlook for the public health crisis in our state, and the uncertainty about the course of the pandemic, we had to make a different decision."
  • Princeton University announced that undergraduates will be able to return to campus for one semester for the 2020-21 academic year -- first-year students and juniors in the fall, sophomores and seniors in the spring. Most academic instruction will remain online, Princeton said. And the university announced a 10 percent tuition discount for all undergraduates for this academic year, including those who study online and in-person. "Based on the information now available to us, we believe Princeton will be able to offer all of our undergraduate students at least one semester of on-campus education this academic year, but we will need to do much of our teaching online and remotely," Christopher L. Eisgruber, Princeton's president, said in a statement. “Both state law and public health guidance significantly restrict our options for the fall.”
  • Georgetown University said it planned to allow roughly 2,000 undergraduates to come to campus in the fall, including first-year students and those for whom it would be "impossible or unrealistic to pursue their studies at their permanent address." Those students will live in single rooms and be dispersed around campus residence halls, the university announcement said. If conditions allow, Georgetown said it would begin welcoming back other students, starting with seniors. "For our undergraduate students in residence on campus, some classes may be provided in-person. Some classes will be virtual. Our faculty are working to determine approaches for each individual class," the statement said. "Every in-person class will employ a hybrid and flexible approach that will enable a student, or the entire class, to continue in a virtual environment, if required by public health obligations. Students who prefer to pursue their education in a virtual mode this Fall will have the option to do so, absent any regulatory restrictions which may apply to a limited number of international students."
  • Rutgers did not announce any change in plans for its intercollegiate athletics program, saying decisions about the upcoming season would be guided by state requirements and policies by athletic conferences. Both Harvard and Princeton, however, said the Council of Ivy League Presidents plans to announce tomorrow a final decision on intercollegiate athletics this fall. But Harvard's statement said some limitations would be in effect for sports: "Even in the absence of this guidance, we acknowledge that our medium density plan will necessarily place limits on what athletic activities are possible at Harvard this fall."
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Colleges award tenure

Inside Higher Education - Hace 6 hours 43 mins

Auburn University

  • Loka Ashwood, agricultural economics and rural sociology
  • Hannah Baggett, educational foundations, leadership and technology
  • Elizabeth Benson, theater
  • Jeffrey Coleman, entomology and plant pathology
  • Michael Cook, curriculum and teaching
  • Leslie Cordie, educational foundations, leadership and technology
  • Anton Disclafani, English
  • Melanie Duffey, consumer and design sciences
  • Jonathan Fisk, political science
  • Guy Harrison, music
  • Lei Huang, management
  • Alana Jacobson, entomology and plant pathology
  • Alisha Jones, communication disorders
  • Il Kim, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture
  • Bridgett King, political science
  • Thorsten Knappenberger, crop, oil and environmental sciences
  • Jaclyn Koopmann, management
  • Marcelo Kuroda, physics
  • Tom Leathem, School of Building Science
  • Jeremy Mackey, management
  • Emily McGlohn, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture
  • Ruiqing Miao, agricultural economics and rural sociology
  • Jennifer Panizzi, anatomy, physiology and pharmacology
  • Imran Rahman, nutrition, dietetics and hospitality management
  • Monika Raj, chemistry and biochemistry
  • Natalia Ruiz-Junco, sociology, anthropology and social work
  • Mark Schall, industrial and system engineering
  • Elay Shech, philosophy
  • Tao Shu, computer science and software engineering
  • Haruka Wada, biological sciences
  • Yi Wang, biosystems engineering
  • Matthew Waters, crop, soil and environmental sciences
  • Daniel Wells, horticulture
  • Suzanne Woods-Groves, special education, rehabilitation and counseling
  • Sarah Zohdy, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences

Pacific University, in Oregon

  • Lauren Chan, natural sciences
  • Theresa Lafavor, psychology
  • Alison McLellan, physician assistant studies
  • Brent Norris, physician assistant studies
  • Joanne Odden, natural sciences
  • Caroline Ooley, optometry
  • Andrew Saultz, education and leadership
  • Jon Talebreza-May, social sciences
  • Chris Templeton, natural sciences
  • Marcus Welsh, arts and humanities
  • Ruth Zúñiga, psychology

Wilkes University

  • Lori Cooper, education
  • Thomas Franko, pharmacy
  • Jonathan Kuiken, history
  • Jon Liebetrau, performing arts
  • Blake Mackesy, education
  • Patricia Sweeney, nursing
  • Joyce Victor, nursing
  • Shaokang (Ken) Wang, finance
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Coronavirus roundup: Surge in cases forces universities to change their fall plans

Inside Higher Education - Lun, 06 Jul 2020 - 02:00

Two universities that were planning on in-person fall terms are now backing away from those plans due to the rise in coronavirus cases, and a third university is shifting its second summer session courses online.

Meanwhile, Florida State University clarified that employees can care for children while working from home after facing a backlash over a memo it sent June 26 suggesting employees working remotely would need to secure childcare by Aug. 7.

Here's an update on some of the latest news developments regarding the impact of COVID-19 on higher education:

  • The University of Southern California announced last week that undergraduate students will take all or most of their courses online, reversing course from earlier plans to invite undergraduates back to campus for an in-person fall semester. In announcing the decision, USC administrators cited “an alarming spike in coronavirus cases [in Los Angeles], making it clear we need to dramatically reduce our on-campus density and all indoor activities for the fall semester.”

USC senior administrators said in a message last updated July 2 that their plans for returning to full campus operations had not yet been approved by Los Angeles County officials. They also cited new restrictions on indoor business activities imposed by California governor Gavin Newsom following a rise in COVID-related hospitalizations.

“Given the continuing safety restrictions and limited densities permissible on campus, our undergraduate students primarily or exclusively will be taking their courses online in the fall term, and on-campus housing and activities will be limited,” they wrote.

  • Across the country, in Virginia, Hampton University also cited the rise in coronavirus cases in announcing it was changing its plans to reopen the campus in favor of a remote-only fall. Hampton president William R. Harvey said the “COVID-19 situation has changed drastically,” forcing the university to change its plans.

“Not reopening the campus to students will minimize the risk of the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in the Hampton, Virginia community. It is our hope that this will also allow sufficient time for the threat of the virus to diminish,” Harvey wrote in a July 1 message.

Hampton said it would reduce tuition and fees by 15 percent for the fall semester, resulting in a savings of $2,187 for a full-time undergraduate student.

  • Texas State University said it would shift almost all of the classes for its second summer session online, with the only classes that will remain face-to-face being those “that require a face-to-face component for licensure or degree requirements.” Texas State is still planning a return to face-to-face instruction and full campus services for the fall term, which is scheduled to start Aug. 24.
  • Florida State University has clarified that employees can continue to care for children while working remotely, backing away from a memo it previously sent on June 26 saying otherwise.

The previous memo, which said that employees would no longer be able to care for children while working remotely starting on Aug. 7, was widely criticized on social media and received widespread media attention, including an article in People magazine. 

In a July 2 message, Florida State said it realized the June 26 memo from human resources "caused confusion and anxiety for many employees. That is the opposite of what we want to communicate to our dedicated faculty and staff. With so many factors still in flux -- including increasing numbers of COVID cases and the possible delay of the re-opening of local schools -- we recognize the need for sensitivity, flexibility, and deference to the personal and public health imperatives of this moment."

"We want to be clear -- our policy does allow employees to work from home while caring for children," the university said. "We are requesting that employees coordinate with their supervisors on a schedule that allows them to meet their parental responsibilities in addition to work obligations."

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Campuses remove monuments and building names with legacies of racism

Inside Higher Education - Lun, 06 Jul 2020 - 02:00

Black college students, faculty members and visitors have long been expected to simply “shrug their shoulders” when they pass by statues on campus honoring Confederate figures and proponents of white supremacy, or buildings or monuments named for them, said Erika Wilson, a professor of law and chair of public policy at the University of North Carolina School of Law.

She was relieved, as a Black faculty member, when Silent Sam, the statute of a Confederate soldier on the Chapel Hill campus, was removed nearly two years ago. But there are still physical and written reminders at Chapel Hill and many colleges across the country that send an opposite message of the “welcoming” and “inclusive” environment college leaders say they want to provide for people of color, said Wilson, who is also an expert in critical race theory.

“It’s tragic that people didn’t think critically about what it would be like to attend a university with a monument named after someone who was genocidal and created great harm against people that look like you,” she said.

But the highly publicized and unjust killings of Black people this year, and the widespread protests across the country over the May killing of George Floyd, has prompted new introspection among many college leaders, who are quickly taking steps to remove the names of such controversial figures from buildings and to move the monuments off campuses -- never mind that repeated calls by students and faculty members for these very actions were ignored for many years. There is a new urgency from college presidents and boards of trustees to examine how campus policies and structures can perpetuate racism and white supremacy, said Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

“You have students coming in and demanding that the messages being espoused are reflected in the reality of campus life,” Pasquerella said. “Students are saying rightly … ‘This is my home, it’s not just a place of learning.’”

Over the last month, a flurry of colleges has worked to align their recent statements against racial injustice with action by removing reminders of white supremacy on campus. Western Carolina University renamed its auditorium, which was named for Clyde Hoey, a former North Carolina governor who opposed racial integration in the early 1900s. The change was “long overdue,” Chancellor Kelli Brown said in a statement. Queens University in Charlotte, N.C., renamed its administration building, which was previously named for the Reverend Robert Armistead Burwell, who had “direct ties to slavery.” University staff members had raised alarms about the Burwell name in late 2019, a press release from the university said. Indiana University recently formed a committee to review the name of Jordan Hall, which houses the biology department on its Bloomington campus. The building is named for David Starr Jordan, a former zoology professor and university president during the late 1800s, a statement from the university said. A student-led petition is circulating to remove Jordan’s name due to his support for eugenics.

Clemson University in South Carolina renamed its honors college, which was previously named for John C. Calhoun. President Jim Clements said the university’s Board of Trustees moved up a previously scheduled vote on the renaming because they felt it was the “right time” to make the change. Princeton University took Woodrow Wilson’s name off its School of Public and International Affairs and one of its residential colleges, citing the former American president’s “segregationist policies.” Princeton's Board of Trustees had previously decided in 2016 to keep Wilson's name on the buildings.

“The board reconsidered these conclusions this month as the tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks drew renewed attention to the long and damaging history of racism in America,” President Christopher Eisgruber said in a message to students and staff members. “Princeton is part of an America that has too often disregarded, ignored, or excused racism, allowing the persistence of systems that discriminate against Black people.”

Last month, the Board of Trustees at Chapel Hill lifted a 16-year ban on renaming campus buildings and changing monuments. Fierce debate about the removal of Silent Sam had previously divided the campus and state residents until the monument was turned over to a Confederate memorial group in December.

Wilson said faculty members had been pushing for the moratorium to be lifted since it was implemented in 2015 and renewed that effort with a petition in February. The decision by the trustees is an example of how “this moment inspired” them to act in a way they did not when addressing the controversy over Silent Sam, she said.

Chapel Hill chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Richard Stevens, chair of the Board of Trustees, acknowledged in a statement that the campus has “struggled for decades” with its association with white supremacists, slave owners and racists. As the country is confronting this history, so too is the university, Guskiewicz and Stevens said.

“We are living in a world where change should be fueled by a desire to create and embrace a more inclusive world, not resisted by fear,” the statement said. “Today, we are sending a clear message to the Carolina Community that we will reconcile our past and create a future that reflects the inclusivity and equality that our nation and the world deserve and demand.”

The national unrest over racial injustice in government and social systems and the widespread demands from students and faculty members for colleges to act has caused administrators to bypass old debates that occurred when disputes arose over building names or monuments, Pasquerella said. Leaders had the “luxury” of considering the perspective of people who favored retaining symbols of American and institutional history on campus and debating the value of commemorating the country’s painful past, she said.

Henry Stoever, president and chief executive officer of the Association of Governing Boards, said boards of trustees and governors make decisions by prioritizing certain issues over others depending on the current “environmental situation.” He said he doesn’t believe boards necessarily blocked such changes from occurring in the past, but they may not have prioritized them as much as they do today.

“When a board develops an agenda for an upcoming meeting, you can’t talk about everything,” Stoever said. “You have to prioritize these topics. The environment is likely causing some boards to reprioritize topics.”

Wilson believes the critical race theory concept of “interest convergence” is at play in college leaders’ decision making. They are realizing that their reputations, and those of their institutions, can benefit by making changes that Black people have long requested -- or suffer if they do not. Refusing to remove the names of white supremacists in this moment of great social pressure to do so can influence the recruitment, enrollment and retention of Black students and athletes and affect institutions' bottom line, she said.

“It’s bad business to not recognize or have overt signs of white supremacy out in the open,” Wilson said. “There are students of color who have said, ‘We don’t want to go to a university that has this history,’ and are distancing themselves from it.”

Wilson said she hopes the college leaders' newfound recognition of the need for change isn’t fleeting, and that the activists demanding change do not get complacent.

“While we have the attention, it’s important to push on these issues,” she said. “If we’re really going to enter a new phase on college campuses where all students are welcome, it’s time to reconsider the physical space.”

Editorial Tags: FacilitiesRaceRacismImage Source: University of MississippiImage Caption: The State Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees in Mississippi voted on June 18 to relocate a monument dedicated to Confederate soldiers to a cemetery on the University of Mississippi campus.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: Live Updates: liveupdates0

What happens next for DACA -- and for college-aged students who want to apply for the first time?

Inside Higher Education - Lun, 06 Jul 2020 - 02:00

Advocates for immigrant college students cheered the Supreme Court’s recent 5-to-4 decision blocking the Trump administration from immediately ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides protection against deportation and gives work authorization to about 650,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children with their parents and without legal authorization.

DACA remains vulnerable, however. President Trump and officials in his administration have said they plan to end the program, and the Supreme Court ruling left the door open for them to do so should they follow certain steps.

Meanwhile, a group of students who were too young to apply for DACA before the program was closed to new applicants in 2017 are newly eligible. They now have to decide whether the benefits of applying are worth the risk of giving their personal information to the government and revealing their status as undocumented immigrants.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates there are about 66,000 young people who have aged into DACA eligibility -- applicants have to be at least 15 years old -- since 2017, when the Trump administration tried to end DACA but was stopped by federal courts that kept the program in place for existing DACA recipients. This cohort is now entering the traditional age for college.

Legal experts say the Supreme Court ruling vacating the Trump administration’s rescission of the program in 2017 means that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must resume processing new DACA applications. Immigration advocates fear the agency will drag its heels.

A spokesperson at USCIS would not say if the agency is currently accepting or processing new DACA applications. The spokesperson said in an email that the agency is still reviewing the Supreme Court decision and would have no comment beyond that of Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow, who blasted the Supreme Court’s decision in a June 19 statement.

Edlow’s statement asserted that the “court opinion has no basis in law and merely delays the President’s lawful ability to end the illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty program.”

Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, oversaw the establishment of DACA in 2012 as secretary of homeland security secretary under former president Obama. She said colleges “have a lot left to do in order to protect our DACA students.”

“No. 1, we will need to confirm that new DACA applicants can now enroll in the program, because in my view the Supreme Court’s holding takes us back to 2012, when the program was created, and that means new applicants can now enroll,” Napolitano said during a webinar about the ruling hosted by the Presidents Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a group of college presidents that advocates for welcoming policies for immigrants and international students.

Napolitano also said that applications for advance parole -- a form of advance permission for DACA beneficiaries to travel outside the U.S. and re-enter -- should once again be granted by USCIS.

"We’re going to need, I think, to confirm that, and I think we can anticipate that the administration may resist that interpretation of the Supreme Court’s holding," she said.

Bill Hing, a professor of law and migration studies and director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of San Francisco, said some attorneys have already sent in completed DACA applications for new applicants. “Everyone is assuming that USCIS is going to process those as soon as they get them. DACA has been reinstated in full.”

Other immigration law experts agreed. “You take a picture of what it was like the day it was shut down: that has to be reinstated in its entirety,” said Michael A. Olivas, a professor emeritus at the University of Houston and an expert on immigration and higher education law.

Nevertheless, Olivas fears the administration will find ways to slow or sabotage full reinstatement of the program. If the Supreme Court decision went the other way, Olivas asked, “Do you think it would have taken more than a nanosecond to shut it all down?”

Adding to the uncertainty, USCIS plans to furlough more than two-thirds of its staff in August if it does not receive additional funding from Congress.

Ur Jaddou, the director of the watchdog group DHS Watch and former general counsel at USCIS, said during a recent press conference organized by the pro-immigration advocacy group America's Voice that the furloughs could result in the agency halting the processing of all DACA applications, renewals as well as new applications.

What happens with DACA will have implications for higher education.

“I think it’s going to be really important to see what happens with new applications,” said Roberto Gonzales, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and director of Harvard’s Immigration Initiative.

He said colleges have become so used to serving DACA students that they have largely stopped talking about undocumented students who do not qualify for DACA. At the same time, he said, "we’ve seen a growing distance between DACA beneficiaries and undocumented students" in terms of their access to opportunities and benefits. He noted that his state, Massachusetts, has not extended in-state tuition rates to undocumented students, but DACA beneficiaries are eligible for the lower in-state rates.

States have a wide range of policies about access to in-state tuition and state financial aid for undocumented and “DACA-mented” students. A new policy brief from the Presidents Alliance says that ending DACA would end access to in-state tuition rates for current DACA recipients in eight states: Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi and Ohio. Furthermore, current DACA recipients in two states -- Alabama and South Carolina -- would be barred from enrolling in their states’ public colleges.

“In addition to barriers to enrollment and more expensive tuition rates, the end of DACA would undermine the financial ability of many students throughout the U.S.,” the brief states. “It would hurt DACA recipients’ ability to pay for tuition and the costs associated with a higher education, including housing, food, and books. In a 2019 survey, 93 percent of DACA recipients indicated that they ‘pursued educational opportunities that [they] previously could not,’ with a potential end to DACA placing these educational pursuits at risk.”

Leidy Leon, an 18-year-old pro-immigration activist with the United We Dream coalition, was too young to apply for DACA before Trump ended it in 2017. She said the inability to apply for DACA left her feeling unsure of her future and unmotivated to continue in school, but encouragement and support from people close to her helped get her through high school.

"Now that the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration, the possibility of me being able to apply for DACA for the first time feels much more real," Leon said during the America's Voice press conference. "It would mean the absolute world to my family and I because we wouldn’t be filled with such uncertainty and fear."

Leon said she will be attending the University of California, Merced, this fall.

"Getting DACA would minimize my anxiety and make it easier to plan for my future during and after college," she said.

Editorial Tags: ImmigrationImage Source: Wikimedia Commons/RhododendritesImage Caption: Protesters in New York City oppose Trump's attempt to end DACA in September 2017.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: Live Updates: liveupdates0

Economic fallout of pandemic leads to layoffs at CUNY and union lawsuit

Inside Higher Education - Lun, 06 Jul 2020 - 02:00

The union representing faculty and staff at the City University of New York has filed suit in federal court to force the public university system to rehire recently laid-off employees and to refrain from making any further layoffs.

The lawsuit, filed July 2, also seeks back pay and other benefits for any employee “who has been financially harmed by CUNY's improper layoffs,” according to a press release from the Professional Staff Congress, or PSC/CUNY, the union representing 30,000 system employees.

The move comes after CUNY informed some 2,800 employees -- most of them adjunct professors and part-time staff -- across its 25 colleges and universities last week that they would not be reappointed in the fall due to cost-cutting measures in anticipation of state and city funding cuts. CUNY said the cuts were necessitated by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The city has already announced $20 million in midyear funding cuts to CUNY’s budget; the state cut could be as high as $95 million.

Frank Sobrino, a CUNY spokesman, declined to discuss the lawsuit. "We do not comment on pending litigation," he said.

The system did release a statement about the layoffs, which noted that CUNY is facing the same funding pressures and budget challenges as university systems across the country due to the financial costs of the pandemic and the unpredictability of enrollment in the fall.

"Part-time faculty are valued members of the CUNY community who make important contributions inside and outside of our classrooms," the statement said. "As is customary in making reappointment decisions for adjuncts, the university and its colleges relied on the best fiscal information and enrollment projections currently available and endeavored to protect as many jobs as possible. Unfortunately, CUNY is not immune to the challenges and uncertainties engendered by the COVID-19 crisis, and in the absence of federal funding to support New York State and New York City through this crisis, our fiscal outlook is dim and uncertain … As a result, colleges are informing a large number of adjunct professors that their reappointment for the Fall 2020 semester cannot be guaranteed. If the federal government acts as it should, and the fiscal outlook improves, many could be re-hired to teach in the fall."

The union claims in the lawsuit that CUNY violated its obligations under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, legislation that provided funding to help colleges and students pay expenses related to the pandemic. CUNY received $251 million in CARES Act funding; system administrators say much more is needed.

The union contends that CUNY has already begun distributing $118 million in emergency financial aid to students but has not accounted for $132 million promised for “institutional needs.”

“One of the conditions of the funding is that higher education institutions must, to the ‘greatest extent practicable’ retain all employees on payroll,” the press release stated. “Despite this requirement, CUNY colleges have laid off close to 3,000 adjunct faculty and staff.”

CUNY also informed the union that 422 adjuncts will lose health insurance because of non-reappointments or reductions in hours or teaching assignments. According to the union, adjuncts had to teach at least six credit hours to be eligible for insurance. Adjuncts who were on the health insurance plan during both the fall and spring semesters will retain their coverage through August, the union said.

“How can CUNY lay off thousands of workers when it has been awarded $251 million in CARES Act funds, which come with an explicit requirement about keeping employees on payroll? Adjuncts are essential faculty and staff at CUNY; they must not be treated as disposable,” Barbara Bowen, president of the union, said in written statement included in the press release. “The PSC will not stand by as CUNY lays off adjuncts and eliminates classes for students when Congress named job protection at colleges as one of the purposes of the stimulus bill.”

CUNY employs 12,000 adjuncts, 2,000 of whom were provided health insurance. CUNY and the union signed an agreement in May stating that the “chancellor will direct the colleges to make every effort” to keep insured adjuncts eligible for coverage. "Yet roughly 20 percent of insured adjuncts will lose coverage," the union noted.

Thousands of union members have signed a petition calling on the CUNY chancellor and Board of Trustees to pursue alternatives to layoffs and to maintain employees' health insurance.

The job cuts were not unexpected. Some of the CUNY colleges started giving adjunct professors written notice in May that their teaching appointments would not be renewed.

The loss of jobs and health care could not come at a worse time for CUNY employees. Both the state's and city's economy, like that of much of the rest of the country, has been hard hit by the pandemic. The city’s unemployment rate increased from 15 percent in April to 18.3 percent in May, even as the statewide unemployment rate fell from 15.3 percent to 14.5 percent during the same period, according to the New York Department of Labor.

Although the city is no longer the epicenter of the public health crisis, losing health insurance during a deadly pandemic still has serious implications. At least 38 people affiliated with CUNY, the majority of them faculty and staff, have died from complications related to COVID-19. While deaths citywide have decreased significantly, the economic consequences of the pandemic is expected to last longer and to be more far-reaching.

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What have we learned from Covid-19 about the limitations of online learning – and the implications for the fall??

Tony Bates - Sáb, 04 Jul 2020 - 19:04
Being realistic about the strengths and weaknesses of online learning I have spent a good part of my career defending and promoting online learning and it would certainly appear that with Covid-19 and the pivot to emergency remote learning with everyone having to move their teaching online, online learning’s time has come. And indeed I […]

Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 02 Jul 2020 - 08:41

 

Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: New academic programsTeachingIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: Live Updates: liveupdates0

Athletes push for and achieve social justice goals

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 02 Jul 2020 - 02:00

With a single tweet, Kylin Hill, a nationally ranked running back for Mississippi State University's football team, seemingly provided the final push for state lawmakers to change the state flag, which is the last in the nation to retain the Confederate battle emblem.

“Either change the flag or I won’t be representing this state anymore,” Hill, a Mississippi native, tweeted on June 22. “I’m tired.”

Hill's teammates largely backed him, as did college coaches, athletes and administrators from throughout the state. Days earlier, intercollegiate athletics organizations had amplified the call for a flag change by announcing that they would not hold championship events in Mississippi, putting more pressure on lawmakers to act. Then Walmart announced it would stop displaying the flag in its stores, and the influential Mississippi Baptist Convention denounced the flag as "a relic of racism and symbol of hatred."

Just a week after Hill spoke out, Governor Tate Reeves signed legislation hurriedly approved by the lawmakers last weekend to remove the flag that had flown over Mississippi for 126 years and caused decades of division among state residents.

Hill isn't alone in using his position and visibility as a Black athlete to push for change. University of Iowa football players recently called out the racism exhibited by Chris Doyle, a strength and conditioning coach, leading to Doyle’s removal after more than 20 years in the program. Kansas State University athletes announced on Twitter on June 27 that they will boycott practice until a student is removed from the university for an insensitive tweet about George Floyd, the Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer in May.

In this period of national unrest in response to Floyd’s death and other incidents of police brutality against Black people, when structural racism in almost every aspect of American life, including in higher ed, is being challenged and debated, college athletes are increasingly speaking out about racial issues and organizing protest actions. They're also publicizing their causes on social media, which gains them supporters and puts additional pressure on college administrators to address their concerns.

“Nobody has more power than the athlete,” said Dave Ridpath, past president of the Drake Group, an organization that advocates for academic integrity in intercollegiate sports. “The fans and boosters have a lot of power, but the most powerful person they’re ignoring, that’s the athlete.”

Ridpath said the athletes are starting to realize and wield the power they have over coaches, university officials and even boosters and fans and are speaking out as a collective more than ever before due to social media. He said it's difficult for coaches and other athletic department officials and university administrators to push back against the athletes when they are organized.

The Kansas State Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, or SAAC, which represents the interests of athletes to administrators, the Big 12 conference and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, expressed the desire of athletes to join calls on college campuses for an end to racism in all forms. Abigail Archibong, SAAC's coordinator for diversity, equity and inclusion, said college athletes around the country typically avoided commenting on controversial topics and appearing to speak as representatives of their universities. But she and other Black athletes have now reached a breaking point.

"My fellow Black student athletes and me are tired," said Archibong, who plays on the women's volleyball team and will be participating in the boycott. "We’re tired of hearing racial and insensitive comments from fans and students but still having to smile and give our all-out effort for them on the court, field or track."

Savannah Simmons, who plays on the Kansas State women's basketball team and is biracial, said the voices of athletes carry more weight with college administrators and the public. She said she and other athletes view racial injustice as an issue that's "bigger than sports."

"Outside of our jerseys, we are human just like everyone else," Simmons said. "At the end of the day, sports is a part of our life, but we are Black forever."

Several University of Texas at Austin athletes shared a statement on June 12 that said they won’t be participating in recruitment or donor-related events until there is a commitment from university leadership to change several building names and UT’s alma mater, “The Eyes of Texas,” which athletes said had “racial undertones.” Black athletes make up much of the university's sports teams, and they “believe that it is time we become active on our campus,” the statement said.

“The role of a student athlete at the University of Texas brings with it responsibilities beyond that of an average student,” the statement said. “As ambassadors, it is our duty to utilize our voice and role as leaders in the community to push for change to the benefit of the entire UT community.”

Bill Rhoden, an award-winning sports journalist and commentator, said recently during an NAACP virtual town hall that athletes are realizing their power lies in working as a group and that this is more effective than when one or two people speak out about an issue. Rhoden, author of Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Black Athlete (Crown Publishing Group, 2006), sees the latest examples of collective action among both professional and college athletes as “an evolution.”

“The power dynamic has not really changed that much,” Rhoden said. “What’s changing is more Black athletes understanding that they are the game, they are the power, and if they can do things collectively, they can move mountains.”

Robert Green, chief executive officer and founder of Pre-PostGame, which advises athletes and their families on their sports careers, said the activism among athletes is a “turning point” in college athletics. Pre-PostGame is representing the families of former Iowa football players with grievances against the university's program. Green said if the families and players had not spoken out, Doyle would still be on the coaching staff because of his reputation for contributing to a successful football program.

“This is a blueprint going forward for colleges and coaches,” Green said. “This isn’t even just for Iowa; this is for all the student athletes … As long as you win, you can do what you want to these kids and families. What we’re saying is that’s not going to be the result.”

Ridpath, who was an athletic administrator at Marshall University in Huntington, W.V., said college athletes typically fear speaking out about any issues, especially those involving their university, because of coaches’ ability to reduce playing time, take away scholarships or limit professional sports opportunities when they have left the college program. There are also rules, spoken and unspoken, about athletes’ social media use and talking independently with news reporters. These are restrictions that don’t exist for the average student, Ridpath said.

Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association, or NCPA, which represents the interests of athletes nationally, said the fear of consequences from coaches and other officials kept athletes silent in the past. But for the current generation of Black athletes, who have grown up repeatedly seeing viral videos of police brutality for which officers are not held accountable, “their outrage is greater than their fear,” Huma said.

“One common thing is the players using their voice and threatening to withhold their labors,” he said. “Players are moving towards zero tolerance for racial injustice, and that’s to be applauded … They’re over the failures of society and they’re using their platforms to take a stand. There’s a lot they can do in their circles. They have a lot of platform and power.”

Huma said University of Missouri football players’ decision to boycott games and other athletic activities in 2015 in response to racist incidents on campus and inadequate responses from administrators serves as an “important model” for what some football teams are achieving now. The Missouri players' actions were seen as a turning point for the student-led movement against administrators' weeks-long inaction. Two days after the football boycott was announced, Tim Wolfe, the Missouri system’s president, stepped down. But the organizing among athletes seen today reaches far beyond single institution issues and is “reflective of the universal outrage around the world,” Huma said.

Before the tweet from Hill, the Mississippi State football player, Governor Reeves said the chances of lawmakers voting to change the state flag were slim. The Southeastern Conference, the NCAA Division I conference in which Mississippi State competes, had said none of its championship events would be held in the state if the flag was not changed, and the NCAA also expanded its policy on the Confederate flag to bar championships in “states where the symbol has a prominent presence.” Huma said these actions from NCAA and conference leaders were helpful, but the athletes were “key to getting that done.”

When Hill announced he would not play for Mississippi unless the state flag came down, numerous teammates -- both Black and white -- stood by him. Although some Mississippi fans took to social media to call for Hill to be reprimanded, there was an outpouring of support from collegiate and professional athletes outside the state and political, religious and advocacy organizations. Several of the university’s head coaches went to the state capitol last week to lobby lawmakers to remove the flag. Lawmakers approved the legislation to do just that on June 28, and Reeves signed it into law on June 30.

Mark Keenum, the president of Mississippi State, said in a statement that members of the athletics department “played a significant role” in making the change happen. The university itself stopped waving the state flag on campus in 2016.

“Mississippi State was effective in joining a sweeping coalition of Mississippi stakeholders in making this victory possible,” Keenum said. “Now, we must continue the long and complex work of effecting meaningful racial reconciliation, ensuring social justice, and providing opportunities for economic prosperity for all Mississippians.”

Huma said moving forward, when the active protests and outrage about police brutality and racism have died down, athletes will keep the issue of racial injustice “in front of the public.” He said he expects many college athletes to kneel during the national anthem this upcoming season, should the fall season be played as scheduled considering the risks of the coronavirus pandemic.

As stories about Iowa coach Doyle’s mistreatment of Black football players were shared on social media and in news articles, Kaevon Merriweather, a defensive end for the Hawkeyes, told fans in a statement that they should not support the team at all if they could not support Black athletes speaking out and kneeling for the anthem.

“I would rather play in front of 1,000 fans who care about us as people outside of football and what we are standing for, than 70,000 fans who only care about us when we are in uniform and on the field entertaining them,” Merriweather said.

Archibong, the Kansas State volleyball player, said she's considering kneeling before competitions. The university has reminded athletes of their freedom to express themselves this way, she said.

Kevin Warren, the first Black commissioner of the Big 10 athletic conference, told USA Today that he would “personally empower student-athletes to express their right to free speech and peaceful protest,” which includes their right to kneel during the anthem. Huma said such expression will help to change the hearts and minds of white fans who have pushed back against calls for racial justice.

“By in large, they will not turn their backs on their teams even if it bothers them,” Huma said. “It’s a way for them to grow. I think there’s a special place that sports has in our nation. It can help normalize equal rights and fair treatment of Black people, minorities and women, when otherwise it would’ve been much harder to do.”

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University of Bridgeport to be acquired by three nearby colleges

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 02 Jul 2020 - 02:00

Three Connecticut colleges announced Tuesday a plan to acquire parts of the University of Bridgeport and to turn the existing Bridgeport campus into one “University Park.”

The involved institutions avoided describing the arrangement as a merger or acquisition. Instead, the result will be like an “academic food court,” said Mark Scheinberg, president of Goodwin University, one of Bridgeport’s successor institutions.

“In one place, you’ll have people that are in dorms that may be going to different schools and different classes. You’re going to have people using the same food service, same security services, the same rec services, the same library,” he said. Students at all the involved colleges will have options to take courses at the neighboring institutions and transfer credits back.

Private, nonprofit Goodwin University and Sacred Heart University, along with the for-profit Paier College of Art, will acquire Bridgeport’s assets over a still-to-be-determined period of time. Stephen Healey, Bridgeport’s interim president, said the entire process will likely take between 12 and 18 months. John Petillo, Sacred Heart’s president, said the arrangement hinges on special accreditation for programs that will transfer.

Sacred Heart plans to absorb the engineering, chiropractic and education certificate programs, along with graduate tracks in counseling and nutrition. Goodwin hopes to take on another handful of programs, including the master's in public health, criminal justice and business and administration, as well as most of the health science programs.

Scheinberg praised Bridgeport for putting the acquisition deal in motion before its funds dried up.

“I’ve seen the financials, and the University of Bridgeport was not on death’s door,” he said.

For years, Bridgeport has struggled to chart a strong financial path forward. The small private college enrolls just under 5,500 students and faces declining domestic and international enrollments. With expenses that surpass its annual revenue of about $147 million, the university has reached further into its endowment to subsidize operations year after year. Healey said in an email that the COVID-19 pandemic was “background context but not the primary factor” for the decision to pursue other options.

“What happens in too many schools is that they will run it until they just can’t anymore,” Scheinberg said. “Then you have those terrible stories, where you have a Mount Ida, or one of these stories where the funds are cut off somehow. This was not one of those stories.”

The announcement follows the breakdown of a merger deal between Bridgeport and Marlboro College in 2019.

Bridgeport’s debt will be paid by the successor institutions, according to Scheinberg. Asked what will happen to Bridgeport’s endowment, Healey said that “restrictions and donor intent will be honored.”

A teach-out agreement for current Bridgeport students is still being worked out.

“Every student will finish the degree that he or she entered in for, if they want,” Petillo said. “If the program is not being offered by anybody else, we’ll certainly work with them in getting them into another local college.”

Also up in the air is which and how many faculty and staff members will be rehired by the successor institutions. Petillo and Scheinberg both said their universities are in contact with Bridgeport faculty and staff.

“Our deans are going to meet with all the faculty of those programs that we have and explore if they’re interested in moving on to Sacred Heart,” Petillo said. “It’s almost like dating at this point, just to get to know each other.”

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Report spotlights work of 10 campus-based centers focused on racial healing and transformation

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 02 Jul 2020 - 02:00

A report about an initiative begun three years ago to address and resolve racial divisions at 10 American colleges and universities is being released at a moment when higher ed institutions are engaged in a challenging and painful national conversation about race and racism.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities, a group that focuses on advancing liberal education, launched the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Campus Centers in 2017 and charged them with training “the next generation of strategic leaders and thinkers to break down racial hierarchies and dismantle the belief in a hierarchy of human value.”

The work of those first 10 centers is featured in a new report from AAC&U released today. More centers have been announced over the past year, and "truth and reconciliation" efforts are now underway at two dozen institutions across the country.

Tia Brown McNair, AAC&U’s vice president for diversity, equity and student success and the executive director for the TRHT Campus Centers, said the centers complement other diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on campuses.

“It serves a very particular role with an emphasis on racial healing as a core component of what it means to transform an institution into one that is antiracist,” McNair said.

A common element of the centers is the use of Rx Racial Healing Circles. Gail C. Christopher, the founder of the Rx Racial Healing movement, described the healing circles as a methodology for bringing diverse people together for extended, facilitated discussions intended to help participants experience their "interconnectedness as members of the human family" and "become more aware of the absurdity of the belief in a hierarchy of human value."

She said what sets this work apart from other racial justice and civil rights efforts is that this work is focused on challenging that false belief system.

"We haven’t done that part of the work ever," Christopher said. "We’ve dealt with the consequences of that belief, but we’ve never eradicated the belief itself.”

The TRHT Centers

AAC&U’s work coordinating the TRHT centers has been supported with initial funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and current funding from the Newman’s Own Foundation and the Papa John’s Foundation.

The framework guiding the TRHT centers has five components. The first two components focus on narrative change, racial healing and relationship building, while the other three components -- separation, law and economy -- focus on understanding and addressing broader economic, historical, legal, social and political constructs that perpetuate systemic and structural racism.

“Every campus that decides to host a TRHT Campus Center builds an action plan based on the TRHT framework,” McNair said. “The commonalities are that in some way, shape or form every campus is involved with understanding the narrative about race in their campus and their community. They also have a focus on racial healing by helping students, educators, community partners engage in sharing of their narratives so that they can create deeper connections with one another. There is a focus on deep listening, a focus on understanding experiences -- and that is a key part of building relationships and building trust prior to engaging in discussions and actions related to examining racism and racial incidents on our campuses and in our communities. We ask every campus to identify community partners, because we believe strongly that our institutions are not just in the community but of the community.”

The report, which features contributions from faculty and administrators at each of the first 10 host campuses, gives some examples of what this work looks like in practice. The TRHT Center at Rutgers University’s campus in Newark, N.J., partners with the eight locations of the Newark Public Library to reach into the community. The TRHT Center at the Citadel Military College of South Carolina, has a particular focus on interfaith dialogue and cultivating relationships with religious groups and institutions in the community. The Austin Community College District, in Texas, plans to work with K-12 partner schools to design developmentally appropriate programming focused on racial healing and transformation.

Leaders of the TRHT center at Duke University, in North Carolina, wrote in the report that they have been focused on five key areas: forming a steering committee and engaging the university’s senior leadership, partnering with the Duke Alumni Association, convening racial healing circles with students, training new racial healing circle co-facilitators, and creating designated racial healing spaces on the campus.

Leaders of the TRHT Center at Millsaps College, in Mississippi, wrote of the center's impact on the campus.

“Possibly the most significant impact of the TRHT Campus Center appears in the incremental shifts in approach to problems, questions, and even power dynamics on campus," wrote Susan Womack, Millsaps's associate vice president of development operations, and Anita DeRouen, the college's director of writing and teaching. Both are members of the TRHT Campus Center team at Millsaps.

The center is leading an effort to research and rewrite the history of Millsaps "to ensure that truthful narratives about our founding and the fact that our site once was home to Jackson College, an HBCU now known as Jackson State University, are told," Womack and DeRouen wrote. "Our TRHT Campus Center leaders are regularly called upon by the president and administration to weigh in on issues related to race, diversity, and inclusion -- and are asked to facilitate individual and group conversations to create stronger understanding and space for healing.”

Responding to the Moment

Much of the work described in the report involves in-person discussions and collaborations. With the coronavirus pandemic forcing students off campuses this past spring -- and with the prospects for an in-person fall uncertain -- McNair said AAC&U has provided training on how to conduct Rx Racial Healing Circles virtually.

AAC&U also moved its annual summer institute for faculty and administrators interested in learning about the TRHT model online. McNair said more than 440 educators at 41 institutions participated in the virtual institute held in June.

McNair said there was more interest in the institute due to the current racial unrest in the country.

"Every time there is an incident or an occurrence of racism, it reiterates or reinforces the need for our work," she said. "I'm more concerned with what we do with this level of engagement and focus right now to really lead to the transformation and change that’s needed."

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Coronavirus roundup: Dartmouth flip-flops on deferrals; Spelman's online discount

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 02 Jul 2020 - 02:00

Here's an update on some of the latest news developments regarding the impact of COVID-19 on higher education:

  • Dartmouth College on Monday sent an email to its incoming freshmen saying that they have the choice of enrolling either in person or remotely for the fall -- but they would have to reapply for admission if they chose not to enroll this fall. Wednesday evening, after reporting by the student newspaper The Dartmouth and an inquiry from Inside Higher Ed, college officials sent a new email that reversed course. In the initial email Monday (at right) to members of the admitted Class of 2024, Lee Coffin, dean of admissions and financial aid, wrote, "If you do not wish to enroll in classes for the fall, winter and spring terms as required of all incoming first-year students during the 2020-21 academic year, we advise you to cancel your enrollment by July 10 and reapply for admission to next year's class."

    Wednesday, though, after students created a Change.org petition challenging the college's stance, a Dartmouth spokeswoman responded to an Inside Higher Ed email about the situation by saying that Coffin had sent a new email that "clarified" the college's position. The new email said that rather than give incoming students two options -- enroll in the fall or cancel their plans to enroll -- Dartmouth would also allow prospective members of the Class of 2024 to "enroll for the upcoming academic year and, post-matriculation, request a personal leave for a specific term or terms, as needed," or "request a postponement of your enrollment for one academic year."

    Under normal circumstances, Dartmouth allows if not encourages students to take a year off between high school and college: its admissions website includes a page that "explains how to make it happen" and talks up the value of community service. The college notes, however, that decisions on deferral ultimately are up to the admissions committee. Dartmouth may be the first highly selective institution to signal its disinclination to allow applicants to defer admission because of COVID-19.
  • Spelman College's plan for the 2020-21 academic year notes, among other things, that students who are enrolled fully remotely will receive a 10 percent discount on tuition and a 40 percent reduction in mandatory fees. The historically Black women's college, which is among the first institutions to say that it will charge less tuition to students who study online, said it was doing so even though "the college will provide the same high-quality experience regardless of method of delivery." The relief is to "acknowledge the inconvenience of this year," Spelman said.
  • It isn't a sports power like Alabama or Ohio State, so its decision won't rock the homepage at ESPN. But Mount Holyoke College on Tuesday became one of the first colleges in the country to announce it won't play varsity sports this fall, "regrettably." Sonya Stephens, president of the women's college in Massachusetts, said it was "not an easy decision. We know that student-athletes greatly value their experiences … and take great pride in representing the College in their sport(s). With health and safety concerns paramount, we could not see a way to participate in any [New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference] conference play, or other competitions and championships requiring both close contact with other teams and travel to other campuses."
  • Several university football coaches and athletic department officials have discussed whether it would be possible, or even a good idea, to intentionally create teamwide immunity to the virus, Yahoo! Sports reported. A large and growing number of college football programs have reported positive COVID-19 tests among players -- 23 at Clemson University, for example -- who returned to campus last month for voluntary workouts. Some coaches told Yahoo! Sports that teams with large summer outbreaks could be at a competitive advantage during the season. However, several infectious disease experts criticized that line of thinking, citing questions about the sustainability of immunity and long-lasting complications from the disease. "It's a terrible idea, and under no circumstances should anybody think about it," said Paul Pottinger, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Washington.
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Britain launches plan to become a "science superpower"

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 02 Jul 2020 - 02:00

Plans to invest 300 million pounds ($364 million) in scientific infrastructure, extend poststudy work visas for Ph.D. graduates and establish an Office for Talent to attract top international researchers have been unveiled as part of a research “road map” designed to “cement the U.K. as a science superpower.”

Under wide-ranging plans announced by the business secretary, Alok Sharma, on July 1, the government will also set up a new Innovation Expert Group to review how it supports research from the idea stage through to product development, and has pledged to make up “any funding shortfalls” if Britain fails to strike a deal with the European Union on participating in the Horizon Europe framework program.

The unveiling of the Research and Development Road Map comes a day after a major speech by Boris Johnson in which he expressed his ambition to turn Britain into a “science superpower” and to “end the chasm between invention and application that means a brilliant British discovery disappears to California and becomes a billion-dollar American company or a Chinese company.”

Under the new road map, £300 million will be brought forward to upgrade scientific infrastructure in research institutes and universities as part of a World Class Labs funding scheme. That is on top of the extra £280 million ($340 million), announced over the weekend, that will be provided to universities to allow them to continue research during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as a loan scheme to cover 80 percent of losses from a decline in international student fee income.

The government will also create an Office for Talent to make it easier for top global science, research and innovation talent to come to Britain.

Based in 10 Downing Street with delivery teams across government departments, it will aim to help attract scientific talent to the U.K., from promising young researchers to world leaders in their fields.

It will begin by reviewing the effectiveness of the current immigration rules and will aim to ensure excellent customer service across the immigration system, so that it is simple, easy and quick, the government said.

The global talent plan that will fast-track visa applications from foreign researchers, announced in February, will also be opened up to E.U. citizens. This program will allow highly skilled scientists and researchers to come to Britain without needing a job offer, the government added.

In addition, the government announced that it will create a new graduate talent route, in which international students who complete a Ph.D. from summer 2021 can stay in Britain for three years after study to live and work. At present, doctoral graduates may extend their visas for only 12 months.

The move follows the announcement in September 2019 that international students starting an undergraduate or master’s degree in 2020-21 would be eligible for two-year poststudy work visa, reversing the 2012 decision to scrap this route.

The extension of the graduate route was hailed by Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, as a “bold policy move which will increase the U.K.’s competitive edge in the global competition for talented research students.”

Other improvements include extending the window in which prospective students can make visa applications, removing study time limits at the postgraduate level and allowing all students to switch to any other type of visa from within Britain.

Existing students and those who start their courses this autumn will benefit from these changes once they have been introduced, the government said.

Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, welcomed the immigration rule changes, saying they “will help make the U.K. more attractive to the global student population, who bring significant social, cultural and economic benefits to all regions of the country.”

The road map also reiterated the government’s wish to participate in Horizon Europe, which begins in 2021, providing that a “fair and balanced” deal can be struck. If this does not happen, the government said that it “will commit to meeting any funding shortfalls and putting in place alternative schemes to support vital U.K. research.”

Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, said that “participation in E.U. research programs has benefited everyone,” adding that “it is good to see the government’s renewed commitment to continuing that fruitful association.”

Commenting on the new road map, Sharma said it would help the country to “cement Britain’s reputation as a global science superpower.”

“The R&D road map sets out our plan to attract global talent, cut unnecessary red tape and ensure our best minds get the support they need to solve the biggest challenges of our time,” said Sharma.

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 02 Jul 2020 - 02:00
  • Chapman University is starting an M.S. in real estate.
  • Cornell University is starting a master of science in legal studies.
  • Dordt University is starting a public health emphasis for biology majors and a new agriculture/biology education major.
  • Fairfield University is starting an M.S. in cybersecurity.
  • Rowan University is starting an M.S. in urban and regional planning.
  • Spalding University is offering a new graduate certificate and postprofessional doctoral track in upper-extremity rehabilitation.
  • University of Vermont is starting a Ph.D. in sustainable development policy, economics and governance
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Republicans may pay for testing, while Democrats push for billions in aid for colleges

Inside Higher Education - Mié, 01 Jul 2020 - 02:00

Senate Republican leaders have signaled that their proposal for the next coronavirus relief package will include additional funding to test students for the coronavirus.

“The most important thing we need for normalcy is to get people back into school,” Senator Roy Blunt, the Republican chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that handles funding for education and health, told reporters Tuesday. “And we’re not going to do that particularly in a residential setting without millions of tests people can take dozens of times.”

The Republican proposal, which Blunt said would likely be unveiled in about a month, will include more money for testing nationally and to ensure enough funding to develop a vaccine.

But laying out a partisan divide in the Senate over how much additional help the next package will include for higher education, the Senate’s Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, and Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the education committee, jointly proposed a broader $430 billion coronavirus aid relief package for childcare and education.

The proposal would give colleges and universities an additional $132 billion.

Terry Hartle, the American Council on Education’s senior vice president for government and public affairs, said the package is more comprehensive than what Republicans are expected to propose. While Republicans are highlighting help for colleges and schools to reopen, the Democratic proposal would go beyond the $71 billion institutions are seeking to help them resume in-person instruction. It would also cover the $46 billion colleges and universities say they need to cover losses during the pandemic.

“A number of Republicans are interested in the link between additional federal support and safely reopening critical parts of our economy, including colleges and universities,” said Craig Lindwarm, vice president of congressional and governmental affairs at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

In addition, the Senate’s third-highest-ranking Republican, John Barrasso, illustrated another key division between Republicans and Democrats in being able to reach a deal on a new relief package. Barrasso, at a news conference, repeated the Republicans' insistence that any package include liability protection for companies and colleges from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

Meanwhile, during an eventful day in which Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top federal health experts testified before a Senate committee, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also updated its nonbinding guidance on whom colleges and universities should test.

Predictably, the agency said colleges should refer those with symptoms to a health-care provider to evaluate whether they should be tested, and should separate those who show symptoms from others.

The CDC also took a position on a question that has divided colleges -- whether to test all students and faculty members as they return to campus, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms, because the tests are imperfect.

A Johns Hopkins University study found that even on the day before a person starts showing symptoms, tests will say that two-thirds with coronavirus but no symptoms do not have the disease. Some institutions, including the University of California, San Diego, are planning to test all students anyway, arguing that despite the imperfections, testing everybody would still identify a third of asymptomatic but infected people, who can be quarantined so they do not spread the coronavirus to others.

The CDC, though, said testing everyone is not recommended because it’s unknown if comprehensive testing is more effective than implementing other measures, such as social distancing and wearing masks.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, agreed with the CDC.

The tests will identify some who have the virus, he said. "The problem is it's like finding a needle in a haystack." Those who test negative could also get the virus the next day, said Benjamin.

Paying for Tests

Meanwhile, Senator Lamar Alexander, the Republican chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, also signaled some willingness to help colleges pay for testing in the fall, after rulings by several federal agencies last week left it unclear whether tests to screen students and workers will be covered by insurance.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and in a separate guidance, the Health and Human Services and Labor Departments, along with the Internal Revenue Services, last week said health insurers only are required to pay for tests ordered by a doctor when a person is showing symptoms for the virus or has been in contact with someone who is sick.

During a hearing of his committee, Alexander said who pays for tests, if insurers will not, has to be cleared up.

“A school may want to do random testing. Perhaps it should make an arrangement with the state to pay for that,” he said. “Or perhaps Congress needs to provide more money to pay for that.”

Hartle, though, said colleges are planning a wide range of approaches to testing, including relying on local state health clinics. It’s also unclear how many are planning on using students' or workers' insurance to pay for the costs.

Alexander on Tuesday repeated his push for colleges and schools to reopen.

"I have said, to everybody that will listen, that I think it’s very important that schools and colleges have the money they need to reopen safely this fall," he told reporters after the hearing. "I mean, nothing will move us more rapidly toward normalcy in the year 2020, before we have vaccines, than for 75 million students to go back to 135,000 schools and 6,000 colleges in the fall. So I’m looking carefully at what those needs are."

Alexander also prodded President Trump to begin wearing masks occasionally.

“Unfortunately this simple life-saving practice has become part of a political debate that says, If you're for Trump, you don't wear a mask. If you're against Trump, you do,” Alexander said. “That is why I have suggested the president should occasionally wear a mask even though there are not many occasions when it is necessary for him to do so. The president has millions of admirers. They would follow his lead. It would help end this political debate. The stakes are too high for it to continue.”

But among the political issues raised by reopening is whether the federal government should create regulations to protect workers during the pandemic. The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not issued any rules. Senator Tammy Baldwin, Democrat from Wisconsin, said that rewards bad apples and is unfair to businesses that are taking precautions to protect workers.

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Pandemic-related uncertainty leads some students to consider tuition insurance

Inside Higher Education - Mié, 01 Jul 2020 - 02:00

The coronavirus pandemic caused a colossal disruption in higher education. As a result, colleges and families are looking more closely at tuition insurance to protect against future uncertainties, though it would not have been much help for students who wanted tuition refunds for a spring semester that suddenly shifted online.

Just last week, six colleges contacted GradGuard, a tuition insurance company, about offering tuition insurance to students, said John Fees, co-founder and managing director of GradGuard. The company currently provides tuition insurance to students at more than 300 public and private colleges.

The insurance kicks in after college-specific refund policies are applied. For example, students withdrawing early in the semester may be eligible to receive all or most of their tuition payments back under their college's refund policy. A student withdrawing in the middle of or late in the semester may not receive any tuition reimbursement at all. Tuition insurance helps close that gap. It can also cover room and board fees, which are excluded from many college refund policies. College refund policies vary greatly by institution.

“Tuition insurance basically provides a refund for those students who have some unexpected event happen to them,” Fees said. “Those unexpected events include illnesses like mental health illnesses or physical illnesses, injuries like concussions or accidents, substance abuse -- which is a growing source of withdrawals -- and all these underlying health problems that students are arriving at school with.”

GradGuard offers its insurance plans through the insurance brokers Allianz and Liberty Mutual. In addition to GradGuard, A. W. G. Dewar also offers some tuition insurance plans for college students.

At many of the colleges GradGuard works with, students are able to opt in to tuition insurance as they pay their bill for the semester. On average, a student can buy about $10,000 worth of tuition insurance per semester for $106, Fees said.

Rates vary by campus. At Miami University in Ohio, the default plan offers $15,000 of insurance per semester for $318 per year. At the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, students can buy $10,000 of insurance for $100.

Miami University began offering tuition insurance through GradGuard in spring 2019. Last year, 1,450 students purchased insurance plans, which was a “huge increase” over the previous year, according to Kristine Cassano, bursar at Miami. She attributed the uptick to a change in how the insurance is presented to students. Now, instead of just emails, students are given the option to opt in to insurance in the same online portals where they pay their tuition bills.

“I equate it with, if I’m going to buy an airline ticket, do I want to add this additional insurance, just in case?” Cassano said.

At Auburn University, students are also given an opt-in option to purchase insurance as they pay their tuition bills. If they choose not to purchase any, they must read and agree to the university’s refund policy, which offers limited tuition refunds based on the date and reason for withdrawal.

Michael Reynolds, executive director of student financial services at Auburn, said that offering students tuition insurance provides the university with some protection, too.

“It’s a safeguard for me because when parents call and start complaining that they didn’t get all their money back, I have to say, ‘Your child sat in this class for this amount of days. The professor had to be paid, electricity had to be paid. And we’ve made arrangements with a company to let you purchase insurance and you opted not to,’” Reynolds said.

The number of families purchasing insurance is growing, Reynolds said.

“We may see something totally different after the pandemic,” he said. “I think people might be a lot more conscious of what could happen.”

Cassano said that at Miami, some students withdrew because of the pandemic -- for medical or other reasons. Over all, withdrawal rates nationwide remained steady during the spring semester, said Todd Sedmak, manager of corporate communications at the National Student Clearinghouse.

When colleges sent students home and shifted to online-only instruction last spring, most colleges refunded students for room and board fees, but not for tuition. Dozens of class action lawsuits cropped up in response. Students and parents argue that online instruction was subpar and that students weren’t getting the education they paid for after campuses shut down. Colleges countered by saying that students are still receiving instruction and academic credit.

Both sides have a financial stake in the outcome. After unemployment rates skyrocketed, many students and families needed greater financial support. Many colleges cannot afford to refund the largest portion of their operating budget.

Tuition insurance does not solve this refund dispute. Even if they purchased insurance policies, students could not file claims over a shift from in-person to online instruction, Fees said. So if students begin on campus in the fall and are later sent home, as happened in the spring, they would not receive an insurance payout.

"We only provide a refund in the case where the student completes a withdrawal from school," Fees said. "In the case of campuses changing their instruction methods, there’s no insurance that provides coverage for that. Our insurance doesn't provide it, and I'm not aware of anybody that does. That’s just a change in form, not a financial loss."

Typically, GradGuard insurance doesn’t cover pandemics at all, though the company recently amended its policies in some COVID-19-specific cases.

“Fear of attending school because of the pandemic is not covered but Allianz is currently accommodating claims for when an insured student completely withdraws from school for the covered term due to becoming ill with COVID-19,” Fees wrote in an email. “The accommodation above is strictly applicable to COVID-19.”

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Cornell researchers say in-person semester for university safer than online one

Inside Higher Education - Mié, 01 Jul 2020 - 02:00

Many universities have released statements about their intent to reopen. And every university leader ideally would like to invite students back to campus, since that's what students say they want (and will pay for).

Cornell University joined the chorus of reopening statements on Tuesday in announcing that its Ithaca, N.Y., campus will be open for in-person instruction in the fall.

But for Cornell, one additional piece of information was "very important" in making that decision, according to Martha Pollack, the university's president. That was the finding from Cornell researchers that holding the semester online potentially could result in more infections and more hospitalizations among students and staff members than holding the semester in person would.

A study by Cornell researchers concluded that with nominal parameters, an in-person semester would result in 3.6 percent of the campus population (1,254 people) becoming infected, and 0.047 percent (16 people) requiring hospitalization. An online semester, they concluded, would result in about 7,200 infections and more than 60 hospitalizations.

The conclusion rested on a few different assumptions. First, the study assumed about 9,000 Cornell students would return to Ithaca -- even if there is no in-person learning or physical campus life.

Researchers concluded that during an in-person semester, asymptomatic testing is crucial for containing an outbreak and keeping the total number of infections low. When students live and take classes on campus, the university can enforce such a testing program with a variety of methods. For example, students who don't get tested can lose access to residence halls or be locked out of their email accounts, said Peter Frazier, a data scientist and professor in Cornell's School of Operations Research and Information Engineering, who led the study.

But when instruction is online, the university loses much of that ability to encourage and enforce testing.

"If we have a residential, on-campus semester, then we have the authority to put all kinds of expectations and requirements on our students," Pollack said. "If we were only in an online basis, then it would be really difficult to impose regulations on students who happen to be living in Ithaca, as opposed to, say, happen to be living in Atlanta or San Francisco."

Frazier said the university still could choose to ask students where they are living and attempt to enforce asymptomatic testing for those living in Ithaca. But students could misrepresent where they are residing, and the spotty enforcement could result in outbreaks. The model assumes students in Ithaca are entirely outside the university's testing purview.

The assumption that 9,000 students will return to campus is based on student surveys and conversations with area landlords about their fall tenants.

In a recent survey of 10,365 Cornell undergraduates, 31 percent of respondents said they were "very likely" to return to Ithaca if instruction is online. Twenty-two percent said they were "somewhat likely" to return to the area for the semester. (Also noteworthy, only 32 percent of students said they were "very likely" to enroll at Cornell in the fall if instruction is entirely online. Twenty-three percent said they were "somewhat likely" to enroll.)

On social media, some students and instructors voiced concerns about using the survey data to come to the conclusion that 9,000 students will be in the Ithaca area. The survey was completed weeks ago, before the COVID spikes and travel bans that are now evident in a number of states. (New York now has quarantine requirements for anyone arriving from 16 different states, including Texas and California.) Students may not have consulted with their families before signaling their intent to return in the survey.

Additionally, 53 percent of Cornell's undergraduate population (the share likely return to campus) comes out to under 8,000, not 9,000 students. (The 9,000 number does include some graduate students.)

The ‘Break-Even’ Point

Frazier emphasized that interpreting the survey results must be done with care. The survey suggests many students will come to Ithaca, he said, though it's possible that prediction will not bear out.

But the "break-even" point for the data -- when on-campus instruction and online instruction result in the same number of infections -- occurs only when the number of students coming to Ithaca in an online scenario gets down to 2,000.

"The risk associated with the virtual instruction seems to be a lot higher because, even though it might result in fewer infections, it might result in way more infections because we would have so little control," Frazier said.

The uncertainty in how many students will choose to come to the area creates the risk of high infections. And that risk breeds danger.

Frazier said the applicability of the study to other colleges and campuses is not entirely clear. A college's setting and the propensity of students to return to a campus town even when there's no in-person instruction are both things to consider, he said. Cornell's New York City campus -- Cornell Tech -- will be doing online instruction.

"I would urge a university to at least survey their students," Frazier said.

More applicable to other institutions is the importance of asymptomatic testing, he said.

"It's really a fantastic tool that we have," he said. "If you have this ability, avail yourself of it."

‘Dealing With Misbehavior’

As for the actual path Cornell plans to take, the university follows a well-worn path in planning to end on-campus instruction by Thanksgiving, but it has a few other distinctive elements.

Students and potentially their parents will be asked to sign a behavioral expectation form, with potential penalties for noncompliance.

"We are hoping to have a series of escalations for dealing with misbehavior," Pollack said. "Look, people are going to make mistakes. Someone's going to forget their mask and we're going to tell them to put their mask back on, but we will be escalating if the misbehavior gets too serious."

The university is also looking to work with student leaders on bystander intervention training to prevent potentially risky contact.

Students also will be required to submit to testing and to report any symptoms daily.

Faculty will deliver instruction both in person and online, to accommodate students who can't or don't feel comfortable coming to campus or who are in quarantine.

Eligible international students will have the option to take part in residence programs in their home or nearby countries through a program called StudyAway.

"These international students will live and study at a local campus in their country or region while taking a mix of online and in-person classes. They will share co-curricular activities with their Cornell peers and have access to local facilities and services," Pollack wrote in a message to students.

Sites include China, Colombia, France, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Korea and Vietnam.

For their testing regime, the university will be relying on pooled tests of the general population for surveillance and individual retesting of pools with positive results.

"Pooled testing can decrease the number of laboratory tests required by 10-fold or more. Absent this critical and longstanding method of surveillance testing, Cornell couldn’t test our 24,000 students at a high enough frequency," Pollack and Michael Kotlikoff, the university's provost, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Ultimately, Pollack said, they are relying on math and models.

"Even with all the limitations and uncertainties in any sort of modeling, we still think it makes sense to rely on the science."

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