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  • More than a year later, Obama student loan rule takes effect October 17 2018
    A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a challenge from a for-profit college group to an Obama administration rule governing loan forgiveness for defrauded borrowers, clearing the way for the rule to take effect.  The ruling on the regulation, known as borrower defense, is seen as a major win for students by consumer groups. The rule would ban colleges from enforcing arbitration provisions of enrollment agreements. And it could make it easier for many student borrowers to receive loan forgiveness. But those benefits will also depend on how the Education Department, which has sought for the past two years to roll back the regulations, carries out provisions of the rule. Tens of thousands of borrowers -- most of them former for-profit college students -- are waiting for rulings from the department on loan-forgiveness claims under the rule, which also encompasses actions of institutions far beyond student loan forgiveness. “Countless borrowers around the country have been counting on this rule to go into effect,” said Julie Murray, a lawyer at Public Citizen who helped argue a lawsuit brought against the department by several consumer groups and state attorneys general. “Today is a huge victory for them.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced she would block the rule last year and undertake a rewrite accounting for the concerns of institutions. However, a federal district court judge, Randolph Moss, found last month that the 2017 rule delay was unlawful. And the Education Department said later that it wouldn’t seek to further justify the delay. The ruling on the for-profit association’s challenge clears the way for provisions of the rule to take effect although the judge did not issue further directions for the department.  A spokeswoman for the Education Department said DeVos respected the court’s ruling but didn’t offer details on plans to carry out the 2016 regulation. “The secretary continues to believe the rule promulgated by the previous administration is bad policy, and the department will continue the work of finalizing a rule that protects both borrowers and taxpayers,” said Liz Hill, the spokeswoman for the Education Department. “The department will soon be providing further information regarding the next steps for implementation of the 2016 borrower-defense regulation.” In addition to the arbitration bans and the financial responsibility provisions, the rule provides for automatic discharge of student loans for borrowers whose colleges closed three years ago and who never re-enrolled elsewhere. And it provides for group discharge when widespread fraud is found at an institution. But getting that loan relief will require action from the department. Data released by Senate Democrats last month showed that more than 100,000 borrower-defense claims were pending at the department as of June 30, prompting those lawmakers to claim the department is ignoring struggling borrowers. Rolling back the borrower-defense rule, along with gainful-employment regulations, had been a top priority for the Trump administration as well as the for-profit college sector. The Education Department released draft borrower-defense regulations in July that would be more restrictive than the Obama rule. But administration officials said earlier this month that they will miss a Nov. 1 deadline to issue a final rule for 2019. That missed deadline means the earliest a DeVos borrower-defense rule could take effect is July 2020 -- more than a year and a half after the Obama rule takes effect. But what happens with those provisions of the rule now depends on the actions of a department that’s admittedly hostile to the regulations. “I worry a lot that they will intentionally slow walk or just refuse to do certain things,” said Ben Miller, senior director of postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress. Miller noted that before proposing to rescind gainful-employment regulations in August, the Trump administration had spent more than a year repeatedly delaying provisions of that rule. He said it’s incumbent upon the Education Department to get out the necessary guidance to colleges on borrower-defense provisions like the arbitration ban as quickly as possible. “The department is obligated to follow the rules on the books,” he said. While Moss ruled against the California Association of Postsecondary Schools, the for-profit group that sought to block the regulations, he did not assess the substance of the group's objections and said, "This is not the first (and presumably not the last) chapter in a dispute about the fate of regulations." Steve Gunderson, president of Career Education Colleges and Universities, said in a statement that the ruling was disappointing and would create further confusion for students and institutions. He argued that there was precedent of the Obama and Bush administrations choosing not to enforce rules they did not agree with and said DeVos should use the same discretion. "But for now, my hope is the Trump Education Department will provide as much guidance as possible to schools on how to operate amidst the current regulatory confusion caused by the decision to implement the Obama era regulation while they are in the final steps of creating a new, and much more balanced regulation providing due process to both students and schools," he said. Editorial Tags: Education DepartmentImage Caption: Education Secretary Betsy DeVosAd Keyword: Student loansIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
    Student affairs administrators even more liberal than professors, survey shows October 17 2018
    While the liberal leanings of professors have been well documented, the political affiliations of administrators have not been explored so thoroughly -- at least until now. And perhaps unsurprisingly, this new research suggests that student affairs officials wing even further to the left than do faculty members. The analysis comes from a moderate-conservative professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College, Samuel J. Abrams, who wrote in an essay in The New York Times on Tuesday that he was taken aback at “politically lopsided” programming at his institution that he said seemed to only capture a liberal viewpoint. He decided to survey student affairs professionals -- 900 “student-facing” administrators across the country, at public and private colleges and universities both large and small, and two- and-four year institutions, to identify political affiliation. Abrams found that liberal student affairs leaders outnumbered conservatives 12 to one, with only 6 percent of administrators indicating they were conservative versus 71 percent identifying as liberal or very liberal. In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Abrams said he worked with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago this year to carefully develop the survey sample. Previously, he has relied on data from Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, to determine that liberal professors are far more common than conservatives by a six-to-one ratio. Abrams said in his interview that early on, students are exposed to an entirely liberal tenor, starting with orientation week classes. “This warped ideological distribution among college administrators should give our students and their families pause,” Abrams wrote in the Times. “To students who are in their first semester at school, I urge you not to accept unthinkingly what your campus administrators are telling you. Their ideological imbalance, coupled with their agenda-setting power, threatens the free and open exchange of ideas, which is precisely what we need to protect in higher education in these politically polarized times.” In defense, Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, said that traditionally the field has attracted progressives who are interested in promoting equity and inclusiveness for students of all races, sexual orientations and gender identities. But still, among those professionals is a strong desire to create “an equal and open dialogue across ideologies,” Kruger said. Simply because administrators hold a certain set of beliefs doesn’t mean they are bleeding into their professional lives, he said. Kruger said he also didn’t see a need to try to balance more conservative-centric events with liberal programming. “Are students treated fairly? Are different perspectives given equal footing? I would say there is no evidence to suggest that students affairs professionals block more conservative speech,” Kruger said, adding that at times, administrators come under fire from the more progressive student activists who question why they would allow conservative speakers on campus. Chris Moody, acting executive director of ACPA: College Student Educators International, declined to comment for this story. But Matthew C. Woessner, an associate professor of political science at Pennsylvania State University Harrisburg, disagrees. Woessner, a Republican who has written about ideological diversity in higher education, said that student affairs administrators are not shy about overtly sharing their political beliefs, compared to professors, who are less inclined to do so. Even though faculty sometimes inject their politics into the classroom, administrators without an academic background don’t always see the same need to balance viewpoints or inspire debate, he said. Sometimes administrators aren’t even aware of how insular their beliefs are, Woessner said. These narrow beliefs are disenchanting for half of the country -- the GOP -- and reflect poorly on higher education, Woessner said. Recent research shows conservatives especially don’t appreciate higher education. “I don’t think it is in the interest to develop a reputation for being one-sided,” Woessner said. “Putting aside whether it’s desirable whether you have liberal or conservative speakers on campuses, it’s harmful to the college’s mission in being overtly political. You alienate half of the taxpayers, and make higher education be an arm of the Democratic National Committee.” Abrams suggested involving faculty members from other ideologies who could bring more rounded perspectives to certain issues. He said many professors simply teach and focus on research when they could be more involved with university dealings. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil liberties watchdog group in academe that has criticized many student affairs leaders for denying opportunities to conservatives, said groups that don’t diversify their viewpoints are at risk for developing “groupthink.” “Student life administrators aren't immune to this effect, and as they have taken on a greater role in regulating all aspects of students' lives, this myopia has become an increasing reason for concern,” Robert Shibley, FIRE’s executive director, said in a statement. Editorial Tags: Politics (national)Student lifeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Student Affairs PoliticsTrending order: 2College: Sarah Lawrence College
    College tuition and fees moderating, could rise again October 17 2018
    Average published tuition and fees at public two- and four-year colleges dropped by the smallest of margins between 2017-18 and 2018-19, the College Board reported Tuesday, with costs at private nonprofit four-year colleges rising slightly. Meanwhile, the typical undergraduate last year received just marginally higher levels of aid. Adjusting for inflation, the average price for a year at a public two-year college dropped $10, or 0.3 percent, from $3,670 to $3,660, according to new findings from the College Board, which reports annually on both college pricing and student aid. The figure represents the first drop in two-year college pricing since 2008-09, near the beginning of the Great Recession. Four-year public institutions saw a similar small price drop, from $10,270 to $10,230, or 0.4 percent, the first downturn since the College Board began publishing tuition and fee data in 1990. Private four-year colleges’ average tuition and fees rose 0.3 percent, from $35,720 to $35,830. Over all, tuition and fees have moderated since the recession, said Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and a co-author of the report. “But over the long run, prices are still going up a lot,” she said. “And you can’t look at those prices without looking at what’s happened to student aid.” For the most part, she said, it has not kept pace with larger trends in the price of college. In a companion report, the College Board said total aid for the typical undergraduate rose just slightly between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years, from $14,620 to $14,790, or 1.2 percent; meanwhile, the average federal loan dropped 3.6 percent, from $4,680 to $4,510. The new student aid figures lag one year behind the new tuition and fees figures. Baum said that even with steadily rising prices, the new statistics belie the popular idea that college costs are out of control. “People still think that prices are rising really rapidly -- and they’re not.” Student debt is shrinking as well, she said. Last year, the total amount of student loans dropped for the seventh consecutive year. Over all, the figure has shrunk from a high of $127.7 billion in 2010-11 to $105.5 billion in 2017-18, a drop of 17.4 percent -- to lower than pre-recession levels. Total student aid, including nonfederal loans, while higher than the previous year, has dropped 7.8 percent since its high in 2010-11, accounting for inflation. The decline in the for-profit sector "probably contributes to the decline in borrowing, since for-profit students borrow more on average than others," Baum said.  But like most indicators, she said, both prices and student debt are cyclical and could well shift again. While state funding is rising in many cases, she said, lawmakers need to more closely consider the relationship between funding and student need. States like Georgia and South Carolina, she said, are investing heavily in student aid, but it’s not necessarily going to students with the greatest need. Over all, she said, more than half of the aid dollars that public four-year institutions distribute are not based on need. At private institutions, a different narrative is emerging, Baum said. Just as aid at elite private nonprofit institutions has evolved to become “very progressive,” with generous grants to low-income students, other private institutions “just don’t have the money to make it that cheap for low-income students. They are pretty much discounting the same amount at all income levels,” using aid to entice a broad swath of students to attend. “It’s not very progressive,” she said. ResearchEnrollmentFinancesEditorial Tags: College costs/pricesFinancial aidImage Source: iStockIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
    2018 Jefferson Lecture focuses on the contribution of the humanities to medicine October 16 2018
    Many humanities professors these days feel besieged. Departments are being eliminated on some campuses. The job market is terrible. Politicians and pundits regularly question the importance of the humanities, especially in comparison with science fields. On Monday night, the 2018 Jefferson Lecture featured an argument that the humanities are needed more than ever, and in particular in medicine. Being selected to give the Jefferson Lecture is considered the highest honor the federal government bestows in the humanities, and this year that honor went to Rita Charon, a pioneer in the field of narrative medicine. Charon, a Harvard University-trained physician with a Ph.D. in English literature, is the founding chair and professor of medical humanities and ethics and professor of medicine at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center. "I am here to suggest that there is much beyond the fixable that doctors must learn to see," Charon said, according to her prepared text. "Beyond the bleeding and the seizing, we need to see the complex lived experience of the person facing a health problem. If we don’t, we miss the very reasons that persons visit us -- their symptoms, their fears, their awareness of fragility. I am convinced -- with evidence to support my conviction -- that study and practice in the humanities is the most direct means to enable doctors to see the suffering that surrounds them." Charon argued that the skills of a doctor are in some ways similar to those of a humanities scholar. "We critique and analyze the work at the same time that we are summoned into its world and moved by its meanings. How similar this is to my medical work: I pay attention as an internist to signs and symptoms of disease, ruling in or out their possible causes and deciding what to do," she said. "At the same time, I open myself to behold the patient’s singular situation, to hear the story, to imagine the world being described. This is what allows patients to feel heard, to feel recognized, to enter whole into care." To illustrate the point about how the humanities allow doctors to "see the suffering" of patents and to understand them, Charon interspersed lessons from art. One of the paintings she discusses is "Sea and Rain: Variations in Violet and Green," a small 1865 painting at right by James Abbott McNeill Whistler. "The palette and the scale seem at odds with one another -- one soft, the other grand. Notice what reaches you, what you find yourself wondering about," Charon said. "Does it have plot and characters? What is the mood of the painting, and what mood do you find surfacing in you as you look at it?" Her answer: "I imagine that some of the words that come to mind are vastness, solitude, loneliness, maybe independence, autonomy, or mastery. I hope some of you noticed that the human figure is translucent -- it is a quite striking detail in the original. You can see through the figure, especially the legs. As I stood in front of this painting, I had two conflicting senses: all this sea and sky and strand is here for this one guy -- the profusion, the bounty, the surfeit, the delicacy of the planet. On the other hand, the human figure is just an afterthought, barely there, expendable, maybe in the process of being erased." Charon was so taken with the painting that she hired a painter to copy it, and the reproduction now hangs in her home. Her interpretations of the painting change from day to day, she said. The body in the painting is important, Charon said, and illustrates her view of why narrative medicine is so vital, and why medicine needs the humanities. "Whistler gives us a body to contemplate. Medicine treats bodies, and bodies are not things," she said. "Well, they are things and they are also more than things. In committing a Jefferson Lecture to medicine and the humanities, the endowment is making a powerful statement about the centrality to the culture, not just to medicine or science, of the problem and the gift of the body. We in the humanities are, in a subversive way, reappropriating the body from the sciences. Not only is the human body a piece of biological equipment, fixable when it breaks down, and to be discarded when it reaches the end of its functional lifespan. It is the singular expression of the time/space coordinates of one being, whose very identity exhales with each breath." Editorial Tags: HumanitiesImage Caption: Rita CharonIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: