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  • Colleges announce commencement speakers March 20 2019
    Bentley University: Ronald O’Hanley, president and chief executive officer of State Street; and Robert Quinn, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Bunker Hill Community College: Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts commissioner of higher education. Elizabethtown College: Lisa Aukamp Payne, retired chairman and president of the Taubman Centers; and Laura Schanz, owner and senior consultant of Laura Schanz Consulting Associates. Emory University: Andrew Young, the civil rights leader and former mayor of Atlanta. Hamline University: Alan Page, a retired justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Hudson County Community College: New Jersey governor Phil Murphy. Keck Graduate Institute: Peter Saltonstall, president and chief executive officer at the National Organization for Rare Disorders. Le Moyne College: the Reverend Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries. Loyola University Maryland: Reverend William Watters, founder of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore. Mills College: U.S. representative Lauren Underwood. Rice University: Annise Parker, former mayor of Houston. University of California, Berkeley: Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America. Editorial Tags: Commencement speakersIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
    White paper: Debt, tuition dependence doom small colleges March 20 2019
    Tolstoy famously wrote that all happy families are alike, while each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. A new white paper suggests that the Tolstoy rule may not apply when it comes to at-risk small colleges: they’re all basically unhappy in the same way. “Long-vulnerable” colleges tend to close or merge when a crisis pushes them “over the cliff,” writes Boston University political scientist Virginia Sapiro, who has studied the life cycles of colleges going back more than two centuries. Usually it’s debt that has become unsustainable to the institution or to its parent organization, such as a church or religious order. Most colleges that fail are small, private and relatively nonselective, with “very particular or unusual missions” and graduation rates that are often as low as those at nonelite public universities, Sapiro said. Practically speaking, high dependence on tuition -- as high as 80 to 90 percent -- is a good sign that an institution will not likely survive for long. “Tuition alone has never, that I know of, kept any college sustainable,” she said. Closures are, of course, in the news more than ever. Several high-profile small private colleges have announced in recent months that they will close -- Vermont’s Green Mountain College said in January that it will close at the end of the spring semester, Newbury College in Brookline, Mass., announced in December that it would close at the end of this academic year and Atlantic Union College near Boston said it would close later this year. Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., said last month that it won’t admit a freshman class this fall -- it’s looking for a strategic partner to continue operating but has also announced layoffs. Moody's Investors Service last July said private college closures had risen to a rate of about 11 per year, with higher expected rates to come. The ratings agency made news in 2015, saying closures, then averaging five per year, could as much as triple by 2017, with mergers doubling. As of last summer, Moody's was still projecting a future increase in closures toward the range of 15 per year. It said a group of about 750 small private colleges is increasingly struggling to cover costs with revenue. But Sapiro, who is writing a book about the history of higher ed in the U.S., said history shows that many private institutions are more robust than we suspect. “Colleges and universities do not suddenly blow up,” she writes. “Even when they literally burn to the ground overnight -- as many have, sometimes more than once -- most find a means to carry on.” Actually, she writes, if you look at U.S. higher ed from the very beginning of American history to 1889, for instance, you'll find that the “main building” of no fewer than 62 institutions (often it is the only building) burned to the ground. Then as now, college leaders, including trustees, faculty and other constituencies, have usually done “everything they can” to keep burned-down or other at-risk colleges alive -- even when enrollment numbers fell and debt became unmanageable. The 2008 recession has heightened the significance of closures, since fewer new nonprofit institutions are arising than at nearly any time in history. That makes each closure matter more, since the total number of seats shrinks. In the past, colleges have evolved slowly, often from tiny operations into regional and sometimes nationally recognized institutions. She noted, for instance, that the Anna Blake School, which opened in 1891 to offer training in economics and industrial arts, became the Santa Barbara State Normal School after the state of California took it over in 1909. Twelve years later it became Santa Barbara State College, then Santa Barbara College of the University of California. It's now known as UC Santa Barbara. Likewise for the Pacific Sanitarium and School of Osteopathic Medicine, which opened in 1896. Long story short: it's now the UC Irvine School of Medicine. Sapiro urges those who would predict hundreds of closures to consider that most colleges have spent “significant parts of their institutional existence teetering on the brink of ruin, deeply vulnerable to having to close.” A high proportion of colleges and universities have survived through troubled financial periods -- even back to Harvard University. Actually, institutions that we think of as elite have often been the beneficiaries of outside aid, either from donors, subscribers or even government largess. She noted that Harvard enjoyed “substantial public support” when it was founded in 1636. The Massachusetts Bay Colony donated the land for its campus and handed over revenues from a nearby toll bridge. “They had a whole bunch of public funds that served as the basis for their success later.” She also noted that most of the U.S. colleges and universities with roots prior to the 20th century began as academies -- sometimes they began as primary schools, seminaries or even orphanages. That suggests the next great wave of colleges could evolve from very different-looking institutions. While many observers these days would say that poorly run colleges deserve to close, Sapiro cautioned that a college is not like your typical business. For one thing, managers can't simply make its core product cheaper. “We’re very confined,” she said. “We’re businesses, but we don’t run our institutions in the way of a for-profit business that buys and sells stuff.” Colleges and universities that are under threat of closure “have a full range of bad choices to make,” she noted: they can lower standards, defer maintenance, create new programs to generate new students or cut unpopular programs that aren't attracting enough students. All of these, she suggested, are terrible ways to save money or bring in new revenue. A former dean, Sapiro said abolishing even an entire department “doesn’t save money the way you think it does.” Colleges like Hampshire or Green Mountain, which have sought to provide a niche by focusing on sustainability and ecology, for instance, often find that this simply isn’t enough to differentiate themselves from others. “What Green Mountain found is that not every student who wants to be green and ecological is going to go there,” she said. “Some [students] are going to go to UCSD.” In a few rare cases, colleges such as Boston University have intentionally planned for smaller entering freshman classes to be more selective -- in the process, she said, BU also increased acceptance of transfers with good records elsewhere (including at community colleges). That helped it become more desirable, while at the same time increasing access across different demographic groups, including first-generation students. “If you become an institution that is more prestigious, that can beat other institutions more at admissions, you win,” she said. Sapiro also suggests critics pay closer attention to what she calls higher ed's “ecology” -- literally its cycle of birth, death and rebirth. When colleges die, they don’t simply disappear. Their physical assets, as well as their faculty, staff and students, often enrich another, sometimes related, college. “In some way or another, they feed the birth of another institution,” she said. She noted that Wheelock College didn’t simply disappear in 2017 -- it merged into Boston University, bringing together two institutions with campuses separated by about a mile. The former college now houses the Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. Struggling denominational colleges serve another interesting function, Sapiro said: when the religious institution that oversees one finally decides that it's unsustainable, it typically transfers funding to another educational undertaking that is sustainable, much as a holding company might do. “It’s very sad when your alma mater or your institution goes down -- and it’s bad for the community because of all those business that depend on it," she said. "But very often it feeds the sustainability of another institution.” Editorial Tags: College administrationImage Source: Wikimedia CommonsImage Caption: Mount Ida CollegeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Hampshire CollegeHarvard University
    House Democrats' election bill makes it easier for college students to vote, experts say March 20 2019
    Before last year’s midterm elections, GOP politicians were derided for their apparent attempts to suppress the vote of college students, whose views tend to swing liberal. But some of the barriers students encounter in voting -- confusion over registration deadlines, state voter identification laws -- would likely crumble with the massive election reform package the House of Representatives passed earlier this month. HR 1 -- named for its prominence in the House Democrats’ agenda -- passed 234 to 193 along party lines and has been controversial for the major electoral shifts it would bring about: automatic voter registration, restoration of the voting rights of those who have served felony sentences and the creation of a public finance system, which would give congressional and presidential candidates a six-to-one match for small donations. Some of the bill’s less recognized provisions specifically focus on college students, and activists and elections experts said in interviews that the legislation would generally benefit students. However, a Republican-controlled Senate, which has made clear its disdain for the bill, all but guarantees it will not advance. “But I think what is exciting about the legislative effort and the focus on this is that it’s an important start to ensure that college campuses and students are engaged in the civic environment and recognize what’s going on,” said Mark D. Gearan, director of Harvard University's Institute of Politics. The lengthy bill includes pieces of a proposal by Cory Booker, the New Jersey Democratic senator and presidential hopeful, and Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Illinois. Parts of their legislation, the Help Students Vote Act, were folded into HR 1 and demand that colleges and universities designate a “campus vote coordinator” who would remind students of upcoming elections and registration deadlines. It also allows both public and private institutions to apply for federal grants to beef up their voter engagement efforts. “This is a monumental step forward for student voting,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement. “When students begin college each year, often having never voted or even registered to vote, they frequently lack the institutional support and resources to navigate the voting process.” Gearan said that students need these consistent reminders, particularly considering their schedules and the likelihood that they have never voted before. As a part of the 1998 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, colleges and universities already have to make a “good faith effort” to distribute voter registration forms and make them available to enrolled students. The 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act allowed colleges and universities to meet this requirement digitally, so they can merely send an email to students with a state’s voter registration information. But the problem with just blasting out an email is that students may not know what to do with a registration form, said Elizabeth A. Bennion, professor of political science and campus director of the American Democracy Project at Indiana University South Bend. In a 2010 study, published by the journal Political Research Quarterly, Bennion tested how an email reminder would boost registration rates among nearly 260,000 students at 26 four-year colleges. Some were randomly sent a PDF form, but Bennion found the emails didn’t increase the number of students who registered. A separate study she conducted in 2016 showed though that classroom presentations, either by a professor or student, did raise registration rates by six percentage points. “Instead of sending one email and washing their hands of a problem by just meeting their legal requirement, I think this legislation could prove useful to hold institutions accountable,” Bennion said, emphasizing the provision about the campus voting coordinator. College students are already one of the more difficult populations to shepherd to the polls, she said. They are transient and move both from out of town and state and around campus -- often annually during the four or more years college. For that reason, unless the state where they’re attending college allows for same-day registration, students are easily disenfranchised during election season, Bennion said. The bill requires states to allow voters to register on the day of a federal election. HR 1 designates colleges and universities as voter registration agencies -- meaning that they have to offer students the opportunity to register to vote through them. This is mostly positive, said Mike Burns, national director for the Campus Vote Project, a nonpartisan offshoot of the Fair Elections Legal Network. But with the bill also requiring automatic voter registration, colleges would need to be updated on students’ addresses, which students might not always follow through with -- and so the institutions could be sending incorrect information to voter rolls. Burns praised the idea of a campus coordinator and more grant money for student voting initiatives. States that require identification to vote can complicate the process for students, too. Generally, the lawmakers who pass these laws maintain that they’re trying to eliminate election fraud, though research shows that these restrictions can inhibit voting among populations who can’t afford an ID. College students could also be lumped into this category because it can be cumbersome for them to obtain IDs in certain states, especially as temporary residents. Some states also don’t allow students to use their college IDs -- Tennessee, for instance. HR 1, dubbed the For the People Act, weakens state voter ID laws by allowing citizens to just sign a form that confirms their identity when voting. College students are also among the groups that have the lowest turnout in elections. Data from Tufts University, which runs the largest analysis of student voting in the country, showed that only 18 percent of college students voted in the 2014 midterm election. Voting records for the 2018 midterms haven’t all been certified yet, so Tufts’ study -- the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement -- hasn’t put together its report, said Nancy L. Thomas, director of the university’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education. But preliminary information from other sources, including the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, suggests that voting was up by 10 percent from the 2014 midterm. One recent college graduate, Julia McCarthy, spent one of her last semesters at Marist College trying to stoke political activism on campus. McCarthy, who graduated from the New York private college in the fall, described the student body as politically apathetic. As a part of her final project in the honors program, she developed a campaign called Marist Votes, in which she concentrated on boosting student voting through absentee ballots. She said that many students had registered to vote, but plenty didn’t follow through with actually getting to the polls. In October, the month before last year’s midterm, McCarthy set up tables around campus with 50 volunteers she had trained. Those students helped their classmates figure out how to vote absentee. The volunteers helped locate an absentee ballot request form online, mostly from the states that border New York, and help the students fill it out if necessary. Then they would collect the form, address it the correct source and mail it. McCarthy said they gathered and mailed more than 400 absentee forms. She said the project helped her realize how difficult voting absentee can be for students. Students don’t often mail much, and she said she was glad that HR 1 required the United States Postal Service to carry absentee ballots free of charge. The bill also forces the Election Assistance Commission to reimburse states that establish tracking programs for absentee ballots. “Young people don’t mail things … it sounds silly, but it would make a huge difference,” McCarthy said of the bill. Zaneeta Daver, executive director of the Democracy Challenge, which publicly acknowledges colleges and universities for civic engagement efforts, said that her group and others are trying to “change the culture” around voting for students -- which the new House bill can assist with. Administrators can hold registration drives or other initiatives around major election years, but even off cycle, they should do more to encourage students to care about the issues, Daver said. “The climate in the country right now is spurring everyone to action; everyone is becoming more activated and institutions are becoming more activated in promoting democracy,” she said. Thomas, of Tufts, said that HR 1 is an important step toward making the electoral system more equitable and accountable and said that it provides a launch pad for efforts to reform elections at the state level. “We view unjust electoral systems as both a challenge and an opportunity for higher education. The challenge is to help students know their civil rights and help them overcome statutory and nonstatutory barriers to voting,” Thomas said. “The opportunity? The proverbial teachable moment for students to learn how to reform laws and systems by discussing and envisioning new policies and pitching them to legislatures or as ballot initiatives.” Editorial Tags: ElectionFederal policyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
    Wake Forest professors demand that university do more about photographs of admissions leaders March 20 2019
    Wake Forest University has in recent weeks faced an unusual twist on the debates at many colleges over old yearbook photos showing students posing with Confederate flags. At Wake Forest, first the dean of admissions and then the associate dean of admissions were in February found in separate photos from the 1980s, when they were students at the university, posing in front of the Confederate flag. Both officials issued apologies. Nathan O. Hatch, the president, said he accepted the apology of Martha Allman, the dean. Some noted that, under Allman, Wake Forest has adopted policies (such as test-optional admissions) that have been credited with diversifying the student body. But this month, both student and faculty groups have issued statements asking why it took a public protest about the photos (students brought them to an open forum) to prompt Wake Forest to take a public stance. And many question whether the president should have accepted an apology for something that caused great pain to black students. To many on the campus, the fact that these photos were of admissions leaders -- people charged with evaluating applications -- made the photographs particularly troublesome. One of four resolutions adopted by an overwhelming vote Tuesday said, "The Wake Forest community has learned that some of the former students pictured in photos containing white supremacist imagery have gone on to become prominent leaders of the Wake Forest University community. We the college faculty condemn the Wake Forest University administration’s response to these revelations thus far as inadequate. We believe that a) the responses offered were delayed to the point of negligence; b) the ongoing silence of college and university leaders is unacceptable; c) the responses are wholly insufficient as apologies, redress for harms done, or commitments to policies and programs that would transform the university; and d) these events are consistent with previous failures by university leaders to address antiblack racism and white supremacy at Wake Forest with the urgency and transparency that they warrant." The resolution does not name Allman or the associate dean but goes on to say that their apologies through statements were insufficient. Another resolution adopted Tuesday said, "We also specifically support the importance of a forum … where current administrators who appeared in racist photos as students can offer formal and public apologies. Leaders of the university must take responsibility for the past and for moving us forward in tangible ways." The resolutions also applauded the work of the Wake Forest University Anti-Racism Coalition, which has issued a series of demands on how to make the university more inclusive. The group has called for "an explanation" of the administrators' actions posing in front of the flag as students, and for these actions to be condemned. The student group is also demanding that various buildings on campus be renamed to avoid honoring those who supported white supremacy. A statement from the group says the administration "is more concerned with protecting its reputation than true inclusivity and justice." (Federal data show that 71 percent of Wake Forest undergraduates are white and 7 percent are black.) Wake is not a highly political or activist campus, so the faculty vote and the student demands were striking. An editorial in the student newspaper, Old Gold & Black, said, "Hatch should not have stated that he accepted Allman’s apology -- an apology that was not directed at him personally, but at the greater community of past and present students of color at Wake Forest. As a white man, Hatch was not personally wronged when Allman and [Kevin] Pittard posed in front of the Confederate flag, and his acceptance of her apology marginalized the feelings of hurt that students of color on campus feel now and have felt in the past." Adding to the criticism is that Wake Forest is among the universities that have been caught up in the scandal in which 50 people were indicted and charged in schemes to get wealthy children admitted to Wake Forest and other universities. No evidence has been cited that Wake Forest or the other universities were involved (although some of their coaches were). But the indictments added to scrutiny of admissions practices. Prior to the faculty vote, Hatch released a statement to students and faculty members on both the national admissions scandal and the debate over the photographs. On the former, he said Wake Forest was working to prevent any abuses of the admissions system. Of the latter, he wrote, "I am also committed to responding to the undercurrent of doubt that exists at the heart of the national news stories and in the emails I have received: doubt about access, equity and belonging. In recent discussions, Wake Forest students have challenged me to acknowledge and address these issues on our campus." He said the university would designate a lounge in a residence hall for use by the Black Student Alliance and redesign diversity education programs that are part of orientation. He also said the university would continue its work to study its history -- including ties to slavery and racism -- and to consider appropriate steps to take as a result of those findings. In addition, he said that "training in unconscious bias and other ways to enhance a sense of belonging among all on campus will also be formally incorporated into student leader training, to include student government, fraternity and sorority life, and other student organizations." Hatch said he hoped the discussions going on now would contribute to a shift in the campus climate. "We will continue to work hard to diversify our community, building on greater diversity among our students faculty and staff -- and to enhance our sense of belonging among all Wake Foresters," he said. AdmissionsDiversityEditorial Tags: AdmissionsImage Caption: Martha Allman is in front of this yearbook photo.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Wake Forest University