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  • DeVos experiment will open work-study to more private-sector jobs May 21 2019
    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Monday she will launch a pilot program allowing some colleges to use Federal Work-Study benefits for off-campus employment, including apprenticeships and clinical rotations. The experiment delivers, if on a limited scale, on repeated proposals by the Trump administration to reform the work-study program and connect student aid more directly to careers. It also marks DeVos’s first use of the department’s experimental sites authority, which allows the secretary to offer waivers to rules governing student aid programs in order to evaluate new policy ideas. Her announcement Monday also noted that she would look to expand the number of colleges participating in the Second-Chance Pell experiment, which allows a limited number of incarcerated students to receive Pell Grants to attend college courses. A congressional ban on Pell Grants in prisons has been in place since 1994. The work-study experiment, though, is the clearest reflection of the Trump administration’s ongoing priorities. The federal government spends about $1 billion annually on the program, which supports student aid as a form of employment. Recent research has shown that the program has positive impacts on college completion, especially for low-income students. It may also help level the playing field in the professional world for disadvantaged students who can’t afford to take on unpaid internships. But critics of work-study have said that the program is not well targeted to the students most in need of support and does little to ensure that jobs prepare them for careers after college. The government routes work-study funds directly to institutions using a funding formula that favors colleges based on past allocations. So money is skewed toward wealthy private colleges that have a high cost of attendance. The Trump administration’s experiment doesn’t address funding allocations for work-study; that would require action from Congress. Instead, it would focus on helping colleges match job opportunities with students’ career goals, in large part by promoting more employment in the private sector. Those employment opportunities could include apprenticeships as well as clinical rotations and student teaching opportunities. “For decades, the Federal Work-Study program has allowed students to support themselves while earning a college degree, but for too long, the majority of the work options students have had access to have been irrelevant to their chosen field of study,” said DeVos in a statement announcing the experiment. “That will change with this experimental site. We want all students to have access to relevant earn-and-learn experiences that will prepare them for future employment.” The experiment would aim to measure the effectiveness of working more closely with private-sector employers and measure the impact of more flexible employment rules on student retention and completion and employment after graduation. Almost 92 percent of Federal Work-Study funds go to on-campus employment, while another 8 percent goes to employment at local nonprofits. Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of funds go to support jobs for students at private-sector employers -- a share of total funds the Trump administration would like to see go up. Judith Scott-Clayton, an associate professor of economics and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, said providing a direct pathway to careers has always been a mostly aspirational goal for the program. “Everybody has always hoped for and had in their minds this vision of work-study as being a career-related thing,” she said. “In practice, most students don’t know what they want to do, and they don’t know what career relevant would look like yet.” It’s also difficult for the federal government to regulate what career-relevant employment would mean to thousands of institutions across the country, she said. But Scott-Clayton, whose research has examined the impact of work-study, said the program provides positive benefits to students even without a direct connection to a future career. “They’re still getting exposed to professional work environments that could provide some really valuable soft skills,” she said. “Having a work-study job could be career relevant even if it’s not related to a student's major just by giving them that professional experience.” Iris Palmer, a senior policy analyst at New America’s education policy program, said that the original rules for the work-study program included barriers to private-sector employment because the federal government didn’t want a student aid program to subsidize for-profit businesses. Yet keeping most jobs on campus hasn’t necessarily resulted in strong connections between student majors and careers, as recent reporting on Harvard University’s work-study program illustrated. “But it doesn’t necessarily follow that this money being used for off-campus opportunities will be better aligned with a student’s course of study,” Palmer said. Some students have also said that, even if their on-campus work-study jobs aren't career relevant, they provide the convenience of being near their classes and fellow students. Kermit Kaleba, director of federal policy at the National Skills Coalition, said the group will watch closely to see how many colleges that currently receive work-study funds would attempt to expand partnerships with private-sector employers. Expanding Second-Chance Pell The Education Department’s new interest in exercising its experimental sites authority was underlined by the expansion of the Second-Chance Pell program. Sixty-four colleges are currently offering programs to incarcerated students receiving Pell Grants through the program. The experiment has awarded federal aid to 8,800 students in its first two academic years. More than 200 colleges applied to the program in 2015, suggesting much broader interest in participating. The Education Department did not comment on the number of new institutions it’s seeking to add. But a press release from the department noted that adding more students and colleges would help efforts to evaluate the Second Chance program. A Government Accountability Office report released in April found that the department hadn’t taken steps to adequately evaluate the experiment. Editorial Tags: Financial aidImage Caption: Education Secretary Betsy DeVosAd Keyword: Federal work-studyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: 
    Colleges see rise in popularity for emotional support animals May 21 2019
    Most students know the list of items they can’t bring into a university dormitory. They can’t haul in their own beds. They can’t set up a microwave. Candles usually aren’t allowed. The family golden retriever would usually fall in this banned category. But no longer does that stop students from asking for emotional support animals -- requests for them have skyrocketed at colleges and universities nationwide. Washington State University’s Access Center, which handles the needs of students with both psychological and physical disabilities, only fielded two or three requests for emotional support animals in 2011. Now the center gets 60 to 75 requests a year, said Meredyth Goodwin, its director. The bouncing bunny, the fluffy kitten and more exotic companions -- ferrets, snakes, bearded dragons -- all of which would have been promptly exiled from a campus residence no more than a decade ago, have become widely accepted features, at least among officials who work to accommodate students with disabilities. These creatures are meant to comfort students with anxiety, depression or some other mental health issue. They are distinct from service animals, which are legally defined as only dogs or miniature horses that can perform tasks for their handler -- think a guide dog for the blind. Misinformation and skepticism abound when it comes to both emotional support animals and service animals. How can college administrators differentiate from the student down the hall who needs to pet his cat to ease a panic attack versus the student who just wants to room with Fido? Students don't need to provide documentation to have a service dog. But they do need a letter from a mental health professional justifying the need for an emotional support animal. This type of verification can be easily fudged, however, as online services can -- for a certain price -- connect students with a psychologist who would provide them with such a letter, which has led to officials being much more diligent about potential abuse of the system. “It is one of the issues that all access centers across the country are grappling with,” Goodwin said. “If you go to professional trainings, this is one of the most common items we’re seeing.” College administrators started taking real notice of emotional support animals seven or so years ago. Students began suing when administrators denied their requests for a furry or scaly roommate, arguing that the decisions violated the federal Fair Housing Act, which protects from discrimination when buying or renting a home. The animals have made headlines elsewhere, too, such as when passengers on airplanes try to take their emotional support turkey or peacock on a flight. Students who sued universities have won. In 2013, Grand Valley State University settled for $40,000 with a student who sued the previous year. The institution had told her she couldn’t live with her emotional support guinea pig. A similar, $140,000 settlement came two years later for two students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The settlement stemmed from a lawsuit in 2011 by a former student who asked to keep a four-pound miniature pinscher named Butch in her apartment for her chronic anxiety but was denied. As recently as three years ago, Kent State University paid out $100,000 to a couple living in university housing who were told they couldn’t have a dog to accommodate the woman’s anxiety. With case law clearly defining that emotional support animals were covered by the Fair Housing Act, administrators began processing how to deal with such requests. At Washington State, students who want an emotional support animal must submit a letter from a mental health practitioner outlining a student’s diagnosis and how the creature in question would help alleviate their symptoms, Goodwin said. The university’s housing division makes the final call whether to allow the animal once her office approves it. Officials aren’t obligated to approve every request. Goodwin recalls a dog, she believes a mastiff, that was 200 or so pounds that simply couldn’t live in a dorm room. Eight years ago, when this issue was first coming to light, the university approved a pig that damaged a residence hall, Goodwin said. The level of scrutiny applied to these requests will vary by institution, said Courtney Cioffredi, the director of student access and accommodations at New England College. But generally the requirements are similar to Washington State’s, she said. Many administrators in the disabilities field are aware, however, of how easy it is to secure such a doctor's note, Cioffredi said. In 2014 a New Yorker writer went online and, for $140, had a phone consult with a therapist who gave her a letter confirming she needed an emotional support animal. This was after a single call. At Ohio State University, where about 175 support animals live in the residence halls, administrators tend to flag the “template” letters, said L. Scott Lissner, the university’s Americans With Disabilities Act coordinator and 504 compliance officer. These notes tend to lack the same detail compared to those that came from a therapist with an existing relationship with a student, Lissner said. Ohio State asks for information about a student’s history with the therapist, too, he said. “Companies that purport to have these interactions online with a licensed psychologist who can opine on your needs [are] more than a bit problematic,” Lissner said. Service dogs can be trickier than emotional support animals. Miniature service horses are obviously not common on college campuses, though Lissner said he’s heard of a Muslim student owning one at an institution in Michigan (in Islam, dogs are traditionally considered impure). The ADA only allows officials to ask two questions regarding service animals: Is this animal required for a disability, and what task does the animal perform for you? Administrators can’t pry beyond those questions -- they can’t force the student to show whatever duty the animal is trained for, and they can’t force the student to show proof of a disability. Theoretically, anyone could order a service dog vest from Amazon, slap it on a dog and take the dog wherever they like around campus, including inside buildings. Goodwin said that students could bypass all of the institution’s policies around emotional support animals by declaring their dog was a service animal. Lissner said that administrators can ask students to remove their service dogs if they aren’t behaving appropriately, such as causing a disruption or invading personal space. Cioffredi said she’s not worried about students exploiting the vague service animal rules, though. Students who have a service dog sometimes already have their disability confirmed by an institution, usually because they need another accommodation other than the animal. A student with a hearing deficiency might already require a strobe light in a dorm room, for instance, she said. Often, Cioffredi has found that students who need a service dog will contact a disabilities services office immediately, too. “It’s usually the first place they stop,” Cioffredi said. “Even before they get on campus, they are calling disability resource centers, asking, ‘What are your processes for this?’ making this transition a little easier for them.” Because emotional support animals are only permitted under the Fair Housing Act, students who need them can’t take them anywhere they like outside a residence hall or apartment. An emotional support boa constrictor won’t be slithering around a campus dining hall. Complaints on these animals are handled case by case, officials said. They’ve moved students who are allergic or simply don’t like living with a canine or a rodent. Some institutions have opened pet-friendly dormitories to avoid this. Stetson University started allowing animals inside dormitories as early as 2010, but two residence halls went completely to the dogs in 2015. Students don't need to prove they have mental health issues in this case -- they can bring their pet just because they want to live with their pet. “Pets can help students socialize and provide much-needed emotional support throughout the academic year,” Lua Hancock, vice president for campus life and student success, said at the time. “They are a great stress reliever, especially during finals and other exams.” Research is mixed as to whether the animals can help treat mental health problems. One study from 2015 did reveal short-term benefits from exposure to animals. But what is definitive is that college students are reporting anxiety and depression at higher rates. In 2018, the American College Health Association found that 63 percent of students they surveyed had experienced overwhelming anxiety in the past year. And 42 percent of students indicated they found it difficult to function because they were depressed. Students have asked to live with any number of support animals: birds and snakes, rats. Cioffredi said she once heard of a request for an emotional support cockroach. Dogs are simple, but some of the other animals are not -- when Ohio State considers an emotional support animals, officials check on vaccinations and other potential health hazards, Lissner said. If the support animal eats live food, then administrators would vet that, too, he said. Institutions have come up with other ways to involve animals in mental health treatment. Bringing trained therapy dogs to campus has become common, particularly around exam time. The University of South Carolina has a resident therapy pup, a year-old English cream golden retriever named Indy, short for Indigo. Indy has “office hours,” about an hour every day Monday through Friday, said Justina Siuba, a stress-management coordinator there. Indy lives with Siuba when she’s not at work. She will also take laps around campus and appear at events, Siuba said. When a student schedules a session to talk about stress levels, Indy can be by their side, which helps open them up, Siuba said. “It’s really important to have a conversation around mental health in the first place,” Siuba said. “Bringing in animals as a means of support for mental health -- these conversations are just so important.” Editorial Tags: DisabilitiesStudent lifeImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Grand Valley State UniversityKent State University at KentOhio State University-Main CampusStetson UniversityUniversity of Nebraska at KearneyUniversity of South CarolinaWashington State UniversityDisplay Promo Box: 
    Oregon Promise analysis shows four-year colleges lost enrollment to community colleges May 21 2019
    A recent analysis of Oregon’s tuition-free community college scholarship found that the program helped increase enrollment at the state’s two-year colleges but shifted students away from public four-year institutions in the first year of its existence. The analysis by Oded Gurantz, an assistant professor of education policy at the University of Missouri, also found that low-income students in Oregon didn’t receive much financial aid from the Oregon Promise program because it is a last-dollar scholarship, meaning it covers tuition and fees only after students have used all federal and state financial aid for which they are eligible. Oregon Promise was started in 2016 and became the country’s second statewide tuition-free program. In the first year, 6,971 students received the scholarship. More than 5,600 students and 5,900 students participated in the program in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Gurantz examined the graduation and college enrollment records of high school students in the state who took the Preliminary SAT, which measures college readiness, in 10th grade. He found a 4.2 percentage point increase in community college enrollment in the first year of the Promise program. Most of that increase was the result of a corresponding 2.9-percentage-point enrollment decline at the state’s four-year colleges, he said. Gurantz used PSAT data because the exam is subsidized by the state and students are more likely to take it. The PSAT and SAT student data are also linked to National Student Clearinghouse data on postsecondary enrollment. “In that first group of eligible students for the Oregon Promise, the enrollment shifts away from four-year colleges,” Gurantz said. But that effect didn’t appear in the second year of the program, even as the community colleges continued to see enrollment gains, he said. Gurantz said the shift of students choosing not to attend four-year colleges and instead using the Promise scholarship to attend community colleges could have occurred because it took longer for information and marketing about the program to reach students from families with no college experience, or those who hadn’t considered college as an option. “The spread of information is quickest to the highest-income families and slowest to families less likely to go to college,” he said. Oregon universities have been opposed to the Promise program since it began and have argued that the state should instead fund the need-based Opportunity Grant program that directly helps low-income and underrepresented students regardless of whether they attend two- or four-year colleges. The grant program provides up to $2,700 to eligible students attending community colleges and $3,300 to students attending public or private four-year institutions in the state. The program has a maximum $3,500 expected family contribution cap. “Oregon State from the beginning has advocated funds for students with financial need should go toward improving the Oregon Opportunity Grant, which targets low-income students,” said Steve Clark, vice president of university relations for Oregon State University. Clark said that the university doesn’t have the data to show a direct correlation between enrollment rates at community colleges in 2016 and 2017 by Oregon Promise students and enrollment rates at the university. Oregon State’s overall enrollment in 2016 increased 2.6 percent, to about 30,354 students, and in 2017 increased by 1.8 percent to nearly 30,900 students. However, Clark noted, the university had been enrolling fewer Oregon high school graduates before the Oregon Promise started. Enrollment by graduates of the state’s high schools decreased by 0.6 percent in 2016 and by 4.1 percent in 2017. A report from the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission found similar effects in the first year of the Promise program between four- and two-year institutional enrollments, said Ben Cannon, executive director of the HECC. The rate of students with state and federal grants increased by 3.6 percentage points, to 29.3 percent, in 2016 among the community colleges, while the rate of students receiving grant aid at public universities in the state decreased 4.2 percentage points, to 37.2 percent, according to HECC data. Gurantz’s analysis also shows that because of the last-dollar component of the program, fewer low-income students received actual scholarship dollars. Oregon does provide a separate $1,000 stipend to full-time Promise students if they are entirely covered by Pell Grants -- or $500 if they attend part-time -- to help offset additional costs such as textbooks, transportation or living expenses. The first year of the Promise program did not include a limit on the maximum expected family contribution, or EFC, allowed for eligibility, which means middle- and higher-income families were able to receive the scholarship dollars. As a result, about one-fifth of Promise scholarship dollars went to students from families with an EFC of more than $20,000, according to Gurantz's analysis. Oregon's community colleges on average cost about $5,000 a year in tuition and fees, according to the state. Gurantz's analysis found the average Promise scholarship award was $653. “A lot of the money goes to middle- and high-income families,” he said. Oregon placed a $20,000 EFC cap on the program in 2017 to prevent Promise dollars from going to high-income families. But that cap was removed last year, Cannon said. The Legislature is considering imposing another EFC cap, but in the interim, the state is encouraging students of all income levels to apply for the program, he said. “I am concerned that first-generation or low-income or other underrepresented students will be inadvertently affected by the mixed messaging that we have given over the years,” Cannon said. “When we are forced to impose EFC restrictions, or otherwise have to adjust eligibility, it confuses the message that I think we’re trying to drive around this program, which is tuition will not be a barrier for any Oregon student who wants to go to community college.” Compared to all community college students, Oregon Promise students are less likely to be first generation. Only 31 percent of Oregon Promise students in 2016 were first generation, according to HECC data. “We know signaling of college being free is an important and powerful magnet for students,” Gurantz said. “Even if more money is going to middle-income families, some money is still going to low-income families.” Community CollegesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: 
    Pennsylvania court rules in favor of Bloomsburg U professor fired for sleeping with two students May 21 2019
    Bloomsburg University must reinstate a professor it fired in 2017 over sexual relationships he had with two students, according to the appellate Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. The decision upholds an arbitrator’s earlier order that Bloomsburg reinstate the professor with back pay, based on the finding that he did not violate the university’s consensual relationship policy. Bloomsburg’s policy says that employees may not date or have sex with students or others currently under their supervision, but does not expressly prohibit relationships with past students. The university argued, ultimately unpersuasively, that the professor had violated public policy nevertheless. The professor, John Barrett, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Court documents say that he taught one of the students in question in 2015 and began dating her the next semester, when she was no longer in his class but still a student at Bloomsburg. The unnamed student testified that she engaged in consensual sex with Barrett but would sometimes wake up to him touching her genitals without her consent. She said it bothered her but that she did not discuss that with Barrett at the time. The pair ended their romantic relationship in mid-2016 but remained friendly until later that year. Soon after, the woman confronted Barrett about rumors that he was now sexually involved with another student on campus. The second student has since acknowledged the relationship. In mid-2017, the first student complained to the university that Barrett had a pattern of targeting his female students and that Barrett had touched her when she was asleep and unable to consent. Barrett was placed on administrative leave almost immediately, pending an investigation. Bloomsburg formally terminated him the next month, citing his lack of professional judgment in engaging in sexual relationships with two students and “engaging in sexual conduct” without the student’s consent. Barrett’s faculty union, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, field a grievance on his behalf, on that grounds that Bloomsburg fired him without just cause. The case went to arbitration, and Barrett was awarded reinstatement and back pay. Barrett’s conduct didn’t violate any university policy against sexual harassment and discrimination because neither student was under his supervision at the time of the relationship, the arbitrator found. In fighting that award and Barrett’s reinstatement, the university cited cases in which the state court had previously vacated arbitrators’ decisions based on a public policy exception -- namely Pennsylvania’s well-defined policy against sexual harassment. Bloomsburg relied heavily on the first student’s allegation of nonconsensual touching. In his opinion for the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, Judge P. Kevin Brobson said that the Bloomsburg case differed from other cases cited by the university in that Bloomsburg sought to “vacate an award based on sexual conduct that occurred within the overall context of a consensual sexual relationship and asks this court to find that the conduct was criminal.” While the first student alleged that Barrett manipulated her genitals without her consent, Brobson wrote, she continued to visit his home and have sex with him. She never brought up the touching, Brobson noted, and Barrett said it didn’t happen. And the arbitrator determined that if these acts had occurred, they happened in the context of a consensual sexual relationship and not as an act of sexual harassment. While Bloomsburg is acting as if it must reinstate “a criminal,” Brobson wrote, the “obvious problem with the university’s contention here is that there is no record that [Barrett] was ever charged with, prosecuted for or convicted of indecent sexual assault stemming from the alleged acts.” An arbitration award “is not the proper venue to litigate whether a grievant is guilty of a crime,” Brobson added. Still, he said, noting the arbitrator’s comment that Barrett must going forward hold himself to a higher standard, “we are in no way ignoring [Barrett’s] appalling lack of judgment, especially as one who once held a position of trust” for the student. The university said it is aware of the decision and in the process of reviewing it. In March, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court refused to hear Lock Haven University’s appeal of a lower court’s order that it rehire Charles Morgan, a professor of math it fired in 2016 upon discovering his decades-old conviction for child sex abuse. That lower court decision upheld an earlier arbitration ruling in Morgan’s favor. These decisions all have cited the fact that Morgan has not engaged in criminal behavior in the many years since his conviction. The statewide public faculty union also supported Morgan in his grievance. Morgan is suing Lock Haven in civil court. FacultyEditorial Tags: MisconductImage Source: Facebook Image Caption: John BarrettIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Unprofessional May Be LegalTrending order: 1College: Bloomsburg University of PennsylvaniaLock Haven UniversityDisplay Promo Box: