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  • Colleges announce commencement speakers May 22 2018
    California State University, Stanislaus: Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and others. Ithaca College: Daniel Weiss, president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kettering University: Latondra Newton, senior vice president and chief diversity officer of the Walt Disney Company. LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York: Shaun King, the journalist and activist. Maryland University of Integrative Health: Rovenia Brock, nutritionist and author. Editorial Tags: Commencement speakersIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
    Scrutiny of ties between Mount Ida donor and president May 22 2018
    Fallout from the closure of Mount Ida College continued this week with new revelations of personal and business ties between the college president and a benefactor who loaned the college money to try to keep it operating. The disclosures, outlined in an article by The Boston Globe on Sunday, suggested  to some experts a conflict of interest between Barry Brown, president of the Newton, Mass., institution, and Rosalie K. Stahl, a 98-year-old New York City real estate investor and longtime personal client of Brown. Brown, is a trustee of Stahl’s personal trust, according to the article. Among other findings, the article highlighted the existence of a shell company through which loans to Mount Ida totaling more than $16 million were made by Stahl. The article noted that Stahl stood to benefit financially from interest collected on the loans, as well as tax deductions for an $8 million donation she made to the college in 2015. Despite attempts to use the loans and gifts to keep the struggling college open, it closed Thursday. Mount Ida’s trustees announced last month that the college would close amid mounting debt and other financial pressures and that its campus would become e part of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The announcement angered and disappointed students and faculty who were not given prior notice of the closure. “The entity that loaned Mount Ida $16.5 million is listed publicly as Carlson Property LLC,” The Globe reported. “Brown’s name does not appear on any public filings by the college nor does the name of his client, but after questions from the Globe, trustees acknowledged that Stahl’s trust funded Carlson.” Additionally Carlson Property holds a mortgage for about 15 acres of the campus in return for the loan, the Globe reported public documents show. According to the Globe, the loans from Stahl raised questions about Brown’s professional allegiances and whether he used his position as president and personal trustee to provide a business opportunity for Stahl, and whether he put her financial interests ahead of the interests of students. The article noted that Mount Ida trustees said Brown, who is a lawyer, disclosed his connection to Stahl and they were comfortable with the relationship. But not everyone agreed, James Finkelstein, professor emeritus of public policy at George Mason University and an expert on the role of university presidents, said the relationship was troubling nonetheless. “There is certainly a conflict of interest, no doubt about that,” he said. “The question is how it was dealt with, what was the level of details disclosed to Mount Ida trustees, and what actions they specifically took to either wave the conflict or mitigate the conflict? Mount Ida has been unwilling to share any documentation other than to say ‘take our word.’ ” Finklestein said he has unaware of a similar situation elsewhere. “I’ve never heard of university president who is a trustee for an individual’s affairs also using their role as trustee to benefit the institution where they serve as president,” he said. “It’s a pretty significant issue and to my knowledge unique in higher education.” Finklestein was not alone in his assessment. Eight experts in nonprofit ethics and college governance who reviewed the financial arrangement for the Globe also found it problematic, the news outlet reported. Administrators of the college, which had about 1,500 students enrolled, had been looking for new options. In February it announced discussions with Lasell College about a possible merger. But those discussions ended in March. While a statement issued by the college at the time suggested it would continue operating on its own, only weeks later administrators announced it would close. With the college now closed, university administrators have refused to make public documents that would shed light on the loan arrangement. “The board declined to release its conflict-of-interest policy, Brown’s contract, or disclosure forms, board meeting minutes, or any other documents to back up its assertions that Brown disclosed his conflicts, recused himself, and did not profit from the deal,” according to Boston Globe article. “As Mount Ida negotiated the sale of its campus to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Reiss said Carlson Property agreed to forgive nearly half the loan balance.” Finklestein said the college’s refusal to make public the documents, especially its conflict of interest policy, only made things seem murky.   “Do they have a policy? Was there a violation of the policy?” he asked.  “We can’t answer any questions without seeing it. There’s no reasons for any nonprofit to withhold that information from the public. “It could be that when this president was hired he fully disclosed his relationship and there was language in his contract that waived the conflict. Unfortunately in the absence of transparency people tend to assume the worse.” Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, a professor of public service and president emeritus of George Washington University, also found the details of the relationship between Brown and Stahl troubling but said it was difficult to fully judge or understand the loan arrangement without seeing the documentation. “There are just too many questions outstanding for anybody at this point to make judgments except to say that it seems highly unusual,” he said. “That said, if you have a school that’s about to go under and you’re desperate, you grab hold of anything you can. It may well be the president was doing the best he could under the circumstances. He seems to have acted with the consent of the board of trustees.” Still, Trachtenberg would like to know the fair market value of the land used as collateral and “whether some bargain was struck or whether it was a straight forward business deal,” and whether anyone was personally profiting from it. He also wonders if the interests of the University of Massachusetts are being protected. “I’d be curious to ask the benefactor what her motive was,” he said. “Was she fully informed of what was happening? It may have simply been an effort to do good and keep the school alive. On the basis of the information we read, we can’t easily come to any conclusions, I’m afraid.”   Editorial Tags: College administrationIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
    Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education to be led by former Gates official May 22 2018
    The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education has hired as its new chancellor a former University of California official who managed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s work on postsecondary education from 2012 until early this year. Daniel Greenstein, 57, will be the next chancellor of the Pennsylvania state system, known as PASSHE. Before stepping down from Gates in February, Greenstein was credited with shifting the foundation’s higher education approach from arrogant to collaborative. Greenstein, who has written occasionally for Inside Higher Ed, worked with higher education leaders nationwide to raise attainment levels and promote economic mobility, especially among low-income and minority students. He is credited with creating and implementing a national strategy to reduce attainment gaps. The move is an unusual one: Greenstein jumps from a comfortable, well-funded and nationally prominent foundation to a rough-and-tumble state university system that has struggled to keep all of its 14 universities afloat.  Speaking to reporters on Monday, he said the system’s biggest challenge -- reduced public funding -- represents its biggest opportunity. “That’s not uniquely a feature of Pennsylvania public higher education,” he said. Drops in public support for college -- as well as shrinking high school classes -- are “major social public policy challenges with significant consequence for the health and the economic well-being of our society," he said. "So let’s be clear: that’s what we’re up against. At the same time, it is not a set of challenges that we can simply leave unaddressed. The stakes are too high.” In a statement released by PASSHE on Monday, Greenstein said the universities that make up the system “are the lifeblood of countless who live in communities across Pennsylvania.” He noted that nearly 90 percent of the system's 100,000 students live and work in the state after they graduate, making the universities “the engines that drive economic development and strengthen the very fabric of our society.” But a few have seen their fabric fray. Last year, PASSHE loaned $8 million to Cheyney University, its smallest, to help keep its doors open. The loan came on top of five other lines of credit over four years to the historically black university near Philadelphia, which put Cheyney more than $30 million in debt to the system. Its annual budget virtually matches its obligations to PASSHE.  Cheyney has the lowest four-year graduation rate in the system. Greenstein on Monday balked at questions about closure or merger plans for Cheyney, saying only that other similarly “challenged” universities, such as Paul Quinn College in Texas and National Louis University in Chicago, “have leveraged their existing strengths and their histories and their ties to various communities and turned themselves into exemplars of what higher education can and really ought to look like in the 21st century. So I’m excited by the opportunity.” Speaking more broadly about closures, Greenstein said they’re a lousy idea. “You can’t just eliminate educational opportunity from whole regions.” In many areas of Pennsylvania, he said, “Campus closure is really not an option, because the communities that are in that great degree of distress are the ones that need educational opportunities most.” Sally Johnstone, president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), which completed a strategic system review last July for PASSHE, said the system is “at a point where they have no option but to make some major changes -- and the changes they need to make, that we recommended they strongly consider, are in line with the philosophy that Dan has been guiding institutions to take seriously.” In its review, NCHEMS recommended that the system share resources among institutions -- not just business functions but academic ones as well. “You can have a very high-quality system maintaining local representation,” Johnstone said. “So you’re not going to necessarily close campuses, but the campuses will operate differently.” Sharing services is “not consolidation in the typical way of thinking about it -- it’s behind-the-scenes consolidation, of both academic and administrative resources.”  Closing campuses, by contrast, would amount to “basically writing off the populations they serve.”  While Greenstein could easily have taken a less stressful, more remunerative job in business or as a college president, Johnstone said, he made “a choice for service, as opposed to a choice for personal gain.” ‚ÄčKenneth M. Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculties, said his members welcomed Greenstein's arrival. He noted that the state was recently ranked 47th out of 50 in public support of higher education. “We need an articulate spokesperson for what higher education does for kids and for the commonwealth,” Mash said. “He clearly gets that." Noting that Greenstein comes to the job from a foundation that has had its share of run-ins with unions, Mash said his members would cautiously listen to his ideas.  “We’ll hear him out, but my colleagues and I share solidarity -- and what I do know is that we share the primary interests of the new chancellor and the board in trying to provide high-quality, affordable education to students," he said. Greenstein on Monday said he had no immediate plans for big changes to the system. Instead, he insisted, “I really want to spend as much time as I possibly can on the campuses,” meeting with students, faculty and staff. “Listening and learning are my two number-one priorities.” Editorial Tags: FoundationsState policyPennsylvaniaIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
    For-profit chain falls short in attempt to get new accreditor's approval May 22 2018
    The biggest chain of for-profit colleges that is still overseen by an accreditation group axed by the Obama administration -- and given a second chance by Betsy DeVos -- failed this month in its initial bid to get recognition elsewhere. Virginia College, which operates campuses across 11 states, has already said it will appeal the decision from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training. The ruling appears to raise the stakes for the Trump administration’s latest review of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, the chain’s current accreditor and a focal point in the fight over accountability in the for-profit sector. ACICS oversaw Corinthian Colleges, which collapsed in 2015, and ITT Tech, which closed its campuses in 2016. The Department of Education responded by withdrawing federal recognition from the organization in the final months of the Obama administration, setting off an exodus of colleges -- most of them for-profits -- that sought approval from other accreditors so they could maintain access to federal financial aid funds.  Among those institutions was Virginia College, which enrolled just under 30,000 students as of the 2015-16 academic year.  The failings cited by ACCET in a letter detailing its decision focused on outcome measures such as poor graduation and job placement rates. But it also mentioned more basic problems with programs themselves, such as students not having access to proper supplies and high faculty turnover rates. Diane Worthington, a spokeswoman for Education Corporation of America, the Virginia chain’s parent company, said that the ACCET review covered less than half of its campuses and the institution had just two weeks to respond to multiple reports, some of which it believes contain errors or inconsistencies.  She added that most of the outcome issues noted by the report involve old programs, while new academic programs haven’t had time to produce measurable outcomes.  “In the meantime, Virginia College remains an accredited institution by ACICS,” she said via email. “Our students are continuing to work toward completing their programs and receiving their diplomas and degrees without disruption, and this will not impact those students who are eligible to receive federal student financial aid.” Bill Larkin, executive director of the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training, said he could not comment on Virginia College while the decision is being appealed.   ACCET is in the process of reviewing other ACICS-accredited schools and has so far approved one for recognition. The organization is one of several national accreditors that have ramped up activity to review a flood of new applications from ACICS-accredited institutions.  A Center for American Progress analysis in February found that just a handful of ACICS-accredited programs had not taken any steps to seek approval elsewhere. The rest had either gained a new accreditor, begun the process to do so, closed, or merged with other institutions.  That process in most cases has continued despite two major recent developments in the fight ACICS has waged to restore its federal recognition. First, in March a U.S. district court judge ruled that the Obama administration had failed to review key documentary evidence submitted by the accreditor before withdrawing recognition in 2016. The ruling sent the case back to the Department of Education for a final decision on recognition. Then last month, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that she would restore federal recognition to ACICS pending a final review by the department.  Antoinette Flores, a senior analyst of postsecondary education policy at the Center for American Progress, says the review raises questions about how the campuses were accredited to begin with. “After months of back and forth, and giving the institution the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to contest information in the report, it still comes up failing the majority of the standards,” she said. “For me, it’s a question of how can they be accredited at all.”  Flores said the failure of Virginia College to get recognition elsewhere -- and the serious nature of the findings -- make the department’s ruling on ACICS even more critical for those campuses. “At this point they don’t have an accreditor at the ready that is willing to approve them,” she said.  The negative review from ACCET also has implications for the chain’s ongoing accreditation. A week after the denial letter was issued, ACICS placed Virginia College-Birmingham, the chain’s main campus, on show-cause status, citing adverse information. The status requires than an institution demonstrate within one year why it should retain accreditation.  Worthington said ACICS has made “a laudable effort to introduce a new process for verifying placements.” But she said the company’s internal data better reflect the job placement rates for graduates, and ACICS has provided an opportunity to submit those rates for verification.  Since April 24, the accreditor has placed at least 50 campuses on show-cause status. The Brightwood College and Brightwood Career institute chains, which are also operated by Education Corporation of America, had four campuses placed on show cause just this month.  Those actions, along with the findings of other accreditors, signal just how many colleges recognized by ACICS don’t meet basic standards, Flores said.  “That kind of massive failure is not something that happens overnight,” she said.  Editorial Tags: AccreditationFinancial aidIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: