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  • Banks paying colleges to promote student debit cards charge higher fees, but new rule has changed market December 12 2018
    A newly public Consumer Financial Protection Bureau analysis of campus-sponsored debit cards found that students at colleges paid to promote the cards were charged on average three times more in account fees than student account holders elsewhere. The Education Department received the analysis nearly a year ago, but it was only released last week in response to Freedom of Information Act requests for the documents. The findings raise questions about conflicts of interest arising from financial relationships between banking entities and the colleges that promote their student accounts, the agency said in its report. But the analysis also suggests that cash management regulations issued by the Education Department in 2015 have already had a significant positive impact for students. “The CFPB report shows that the cash management regulations are working,” said Nathan Arnold, a senior adviser at Education Counsel and former Education Department official who helped write the rule. “It shows that overall fees are down in the market, especially compared to prior to the cash management regulations. The worst actors are also no longer operating or are charging a lot less than they used to.” Under the Obama administration, the market for college-sponsored deposit and prepaid accounts became a serious focus for the department, thanks in part to an investigation by a watchdog group that found student aid recipients were losing hundreds to fees on bad deals their colleges had with credit card companies. The cash management rules barred companies contracted by colleges to process student aid payments and other functions from charging fees to students. And beginning in 2017, colleges with those marketing agreements were required to start reporting information like student enrollment in the accounts, fees charged and financial compensation to the school. Most students at the majority of the 573 colleges where CFPB analyzed card agreements paid no fees in the 2016-17 academic year. But the fees paid by students varied quite a bit among those companies that did charge students -- from less than a dollar to nearly $47 annually. And while students paid more than $27 million in fees, the worst practices identified by consumer and watchdog groups have largely been banned, and fees are mostly in line with the general debit card market. The consumer group U.S. PIRG in a 2012 report identified hundreds of agreements between banking entities and colleges that in many cases steered revenue to campuses but also included some steep fees for students. Higher One, the company that the group identified as the biggest player in the market, generated about 80 percent of its revenue from student fees, the group found. But the company, now known as BankMobile, charged relatively modest annual fees on average -- just over $12 a year -- according to the CFPB analysis. Wells Fargo, which holds more than 300,000 student accounts, charged the highest average fees annually, the agency found, at $46.99. The company with the second-highest average annual fees, University of Kentucky Federal Credit Union, charged students an average of $37 in a 12-month period. It also held only 2,570 student accounts, a small proportion of the overall market. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, earlier this year raised concerns about fees charged to students at colleges partnering with the company. A company spokesman said in response to scrutiny from Durbin that fees could be higher depending on the concentration of nontraditional or part-time students on a campus. Stacy Kika, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, said students have the ability to opt in to campus cards at participating colleges. And she said fees can be incurred depending on how customers use their accounts, including whether they withdraw money from ATMs outside the bank's networks, send wire transfers or purchase money orders. (Note: This story was updated to include comments from Wells Fargo.)  "Banking with Wells Fargo provides these customers with access to a wide array of resources to help them with their daily money management and planning," she said.  The cash management rule was never intended to stop banks from charging fees on student accounts entirely.  Arnold said that new public data on account fees will give colleges ammunition to demand better deals for students. “Schools have more leverage in these agreements than they realize,” he said. “This report shows that they can get a better deal for students if they negotiate. And it shows all the competitors they could be negotiating with if they think they're getting a bad deal.” But Seth Frotman, the former student loans ombudsman at CFPB, said the data the agency collected shows the need for tough enforcement from the department as well. “No bank is giving a school money for free,” he said. “When money flows from banks to schools, it’s students who are the ones paying the price.” Frotman noted that Wells Fargo, which held less than a quarter of student accounts, charged almost half of all fees to students. CFPB provided the analysis to A. Wayne Johnson, the chief strategy and transformation officer at the Education Department, in February as the department developed plans to pilot its own prepaid card for student aid recipients. One of the biggest selling points Johnson has offered for a department-issued debit card is that it would have zero fees for students. And the CFPB analysis “confirmed for us the importance of a fee-free payment card option for students,” said Liz Hill, a department spokeswoman. Colleen Campbell, associate director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said if the department’s focus is on lowering fees for students, “you have the cash management regulations to enforce.” Arnold said if the department can set up a prepaid card that’s a good deal for consumers, it would be welcomed to the market of campus-sponsored accounts. “But it looks to me like the market already has a lot of really solid competition that is serving students well,” he said. Editorial Tags: Financial aidAd Keyword: Student feesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
    In switch to digital-first products, publishers are signing fewer textbook authors December 12 2018
    Few academics make their fortunes writing textbooks, and if current trends in academic publishing continue, it's possible that even fewer will become star authors in the future. Large academic publishers such as Pearson and Cengage are working with fewer and fewer textbook authors as the companies shift their focus and investments from traditional textbooks to digital courseware. Paul Corey, managing director of global higher education at Pearson, said large investments of time and expertise into digital courseware mean the publisher’s capacity to sign new textbook authors is “not as great as it once was.” Best-selling digital courseware still has “all the elements of a traditional textbook,” said Corey. But the publishers are also developing costly additional features such as adaptive assessment, data analytics and user-friendly interfaces with videos and animations. “We must pick our shots more carefully,” he said. Rather than signing new authors, Pearson is primarily “reincarnating in digital format” successful textbook franchises from established authors, Corey said. He declined to say how many new authors the publisher has signed in recent years. Like Pearson, Cengage is investing in digital products designed to improve student learning outcomes. Erin Joyner, senior vice president for higher education product at Cengage, said the publisher is still signing new authors but is more selective now than in the past. She said by investing more in its products, the company is improving the efficacy of its products and putting quality over quantity. “As a content provider, we’re much more strategic and focused,” she said. Joyner said Cengage published 120 first-edition textbooks in the past four years but is scheduled to publish just 11 in 2020. Both Wiley and McGraw-Hill Education declined to provide the numbers of new authors they have signed in recent years. Scott Virkler, chief product officer for higher education at McGraw-Hill, said there has been "a general decline in traditional new product agreements compared to, say, a decade ago." "Those agreements are being replaced by new, innovative content partnerships with leading authors and content experts to build new solutions for instructors and students," he said. Charles Linsmeier, senior vice president of content strategy for publisher Macmillan Learning, said even as other academic publishers are signing fewer authors and launching fewer first editions, Macmillan has been “careful about resisting that trend.” “We feel pretty strongly that we need more points of view, more new content and new pedagogies,” he said. He added that while Macmillan has no set target for signing new authors, the number of first editions published each year hovers “pretty consistently” between 13 and 20 percent of the total number of titles published. Oxford University Press is also bucking the trend and continues to sign new authors, said John Challice, vice president and publisher for higher education content. "We're signing at the same level we always have," said Challice. Approximately 40 percent of the books the company publishes each year are first editions. "For the big guys, author acquisition is basically zero now in the traditional sense of having one quarterback on a project," said Challice. Because the big publishers control such a large share of the market, it makes sense there will be fewer opportunities for academics to write textbooks than in the past, he said. "Only those who are truly stellar will rise to the top." Challice said there will still be opportunities for academics to contribute to courseware, but they may be one of many contributing authors. "If you're writing a textbook for the attribution, that is diluted in courseware," he said. "It's not like the old days when textbooks were known by their authors and survived for 40 years." Michael Spinella, executive director of the Textbook and Academic Authors Association (TAA) said members of his organization are reporting more difficulty securing textbook contracts with big academic publishers. “It’s always been hard to get your first contract and to get subsequent ones,” said Spinella. “But it is becoming increasingly competitive. It may be harder to get that first contract. We’re in the midst of a changing industry.” Spinella said academics that do get contracts are being asked to do more by the publishers than in the past. “It might have been straight writing before, but now it’s also getting permission for use of photos, developing graphics, sometimes getting involved in assessment work,” he said. Academics that can’t secure contracts are increasingly turning to open educational resources -- producing openly copyrighted textbooks and learning materials, which are free for students to access, said Spinella. “We do have members that are engaging in OER projects, and some are eager to do it,” he said. “It’s a way for younger academics, particularly newly minted Ph.D.s, to get their work noticed -- and there are some resources compensating authors for their efforts.” While the textbook industry is continuing to change, Spinella believes “very strongly that there will be an ongoing need for quality educational materials” and that publishers will continue to look to academics for their expertise. “I think the fundamentals of the practice of developing educational resources will have ongoing strength,” he said. John Bond, a scholarly publishing consultant and founder of Riverwinds Consulting, said the business model for traditional print textbooks has “always been challenging” for publishers. With subscription-based digital courseware, publishers focus on sales at the academic department level rather than to individual instructors -- and they don’t lose any revenue to the used book market. Given that it can take several years for a textbook to make it to market, Bond said it may be some time before the full impact of big publishers signing fewer authors is apparent. “There won’t be much of a diminishment of academics needed to write material,” he said. “But there will be a change from the rosy days of getting a Fed Ex package with your textbook with your name on it.” Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
    Temple board announces it respects professor's controversial speech as protected by Constitution December 12 2018
    Temple University's board issued a statement Tuesday saying that the controversial anti-Israel remarks a professor recently made at the United Nations -- comments some have called anti-Semitic -- were protected as free speech by the Constitution. Tuesday's statement backed away from comments Temple's board chair made earlier suggesting that the professor, Marc Lamont Hill, could be punished. "Free speech is one thing. Hate speech is entirely different," the chair, Patrick O'Connor, said in early December. Further, he said he had instructed Temple's legal office to consider steps the university could take in response to the speech. "We're going to look at what remedies we have." Those comments appeared to undercut earlier statements from Temple president Richard M. Englert that the comments, while he disagreed with them, were protected free speech. Temple's faculty union, and experts on academic freedom and professors with a range of views on Israel, condemned O'Connor, saying that his comments reflected a lack of respect for academic freedom. Tuesday's board statement said that Hill had the right to express his views. "In giving this speech outside of his role as a teacher and researcher at Temple, Professor Hill was not speaking on behalf of or representing the university," the statement said. "We recognize that Professor Hill’s comments are his own, that his speech as a private individual is entitled to the same Constitutional protection of any other citizen, and that he has through subsequent statements expressly rejected anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence." The statement also said that board members "hereby state their disappointment, displeasure, and disagreement with Professor Hill’s comments," but that there were no threats of any punishment for Hill. What Hill Said The controversy concerned a talk Hill, a professor of media studies at Temple, gave at the United Nations about Palestinian rights. Hill ended the speech by saying that he hoped for a free Palestine "from the river to the sea." That phrase is commonly used by Palestinian supporters and is viewed by many as a call to eliminate Israel. The river in the phrase is the Jordan River, which marks the eastern border of Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank with Jordan. The sea is the Mediterranean, which marks Israel's western border. A Palestinian state from the river to the sea, many say, means one in which Israel does not exist. Many consider calls to eliminate Israel as a nation to be not just anti-Israel, but anti-Semitic. Other critics noted that Hill's speech (viewable here on YouTube), while endorsing nonviolent protest, said that Palestinians should not be limited to nonviolent tactics. But Hill said after the controversy broke out that he did not use the phrase in the way his critics suggested, and he disavowed anti-Semitism. On Twitter, he wrote, "My reference to 'river to the sea' was not a call to destroy anything or anyone. It was a call for justice, both in Israel and in the West Bank/Gaza. The speech very clearly and specifically said those things. No amount of debate will change what I actually said or what I meant." He also said on Twitter, "I support Palestinian freedom. I support Palestinian self-determination. I am deeply critical of Israeli policy and practice. I do not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to my speech. I have spent my life fighting these things." In his speech, Hill referenced the 1967 borders of Israel, in which that country did exist. CNN fired Hill as a commentator after his speech. Many academics said that Temple's board chair had no right to order the university's legal staff to look for ways to punish Hill. An open letter from more than 500 scholars said, "We are dismayed that the board has looked into procedures for Dr. Hill’s firing simply for expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people. Instead of continuing the pursuit of any retributive actions against Dr. Hill, particularly those efforts that infringe upon his academic freedom and First Amendment guarantee to free speech, we urge the university to join his advocacy for universal human rights worldwide." Adam Steinbaugh of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, one of the groups that criticized the statement by Temple's board chair, said Tuesday that the new statement from the board was welcome. "Temple University was right when it first concluded that Hill's speech was protected by the First Amendment," Steinbaugh said. "Its board chairman did it no favors by announcing that he had directed its legal team to explore 'remedies' and suggesting that 'hate speech' was unprotected. Temple's renewed recognition that Hill spoke as a private citizen, and that the First Amendment protects his right to do so, is welcome." Editorial Tags: Academic freedomImage Caption: Marc Lamont Hill in his talk at the United NationsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Academic FreedomTrending order: 2College: Temple University
    Emails reveal vitriol toward Ohio State president, adamant defense of Urban Meyer December 12 2018
    In early August, a 1961 Ohio State University alumnus emailed the institution’s president, Michael V. Drake, with a glowing endorsement of head football coach Urban Meyer. A revered figure among donors and fans, Meyer led the program to a national championship and was undefeated against archrival University of Michigan during his seven seasons in Columbus. But Meyer had gotten caught up in a scandal (not for the first time). He failed to report that one of his deputies, assistant coach Zach Smith, had allegedly abused his wife on multiple occasions. Meyer was accused of covering up Smith’s misdeeds, and when John Rapach, the alumnus, reached out to Drake, it was shortly after the coach had been placed on leave while the university investigated. Many of the alumni reaching out didn't much care about the allegations per se, though there was evidence Meyer did in fact try to conceal his role with Smith. Investigators for the university found that Meyer had asked an athletics staffer how to change his phone settings so that only text messages from a certain time would be available. This was following the publication of a story detailing the allegations against Smith. Officials and news outlets that tried to obtain those texts were unable to read them. “I feel strongly that damaging Urban Meyer will greatly erode our base and myself from loyalty to the Ohio State University,” Rapach wrote to Drake. Perhaps unwittingly, Rapach summed up the sentiments of dozens of Ohio State devotees who contacted Drake that August, when the turmoil on campus was peaking. Supporters and critics, and even casual observers and those outside the sphere of the university’s athletics, were watching how Drake and the Board of Trustees would react, as some viewed the leaders’ verdict on Meyer as a litmus test: whether enormously successful coaches such as Meyer could avoid a harsh punishment despite wrongdoing. Ultimately, Meyer, who is retiring, was slapped with a three-game ban, which many viewed as light punishment. Before and after that announcement, though, Drake was inundated with a flood of vitriolic and impassioned emails, illustrating the pressure the public applies to university executives during these types of controversies -- when they are weighing a decision that could cost the institution its reputation or millions of dollars (Ohio State’s football program generates $90 million for the athletics department annually). Presidents have long endured similarly rabid campaigns for coaches, notably this year, too, when the University of Maryland, College Park, president and the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents was grappling with whether to fire head football coach DJ Durkin after a player died, followed by reports of abusive behavior by athletics staffers. Inside Higher Ed filed a public records request and reviewed nearly 600 pages of emails that were sent to Drake for about three weeks in August, from the time that Meyer was first put on leave to when Drake and the trustees suspended him. While pundits took a range of positions on Meyer, the majority of those who emailed Drake urged him to retain the coach and were quite insistent that he do so. Common themes emerged in the emails: many of those who wrote to Drake believed that news media was pursuing a “witch hunt” against Meyer, that they were prosecuting him in the court of public opinion without knowing all the facts about Smith and his wife. Meyer’s followers implored Drake to disregard these stories, which in part were a result of rampant “political correctness.” Some nastily implied that Drake should not try to replicate the liberalism of California and the tendencies of University of California, Berkeley, a well-known bastion of progressivism. (Drake previously led another UC campus, not Berkeley.) At least 20 people threatened to withhold donations, and others likened the scandal to the fallout from Pennsylvania State University and Jerry Sandusky. And one man simply called Drake “an ass clown,” in a call for Drake’s resignation, by far not the only profanity that was sent to his in-box. One man named Jason Newhouse wrote in a curse-laden diatribe to Drake that Meyer's suspension was not enough. “Wow, The University of Ohio State really sets the bar high, what a Fucking joke a three game suspension!!!! The Big 10 ever since the whole Penn st ordeal has really really down played everything. Must be real nice to get ALL that money for all your big ten schools and get away with beating your wife and raping women and the University’s involved keep their coaches so basically telling us that this is acceptable behavior,” Newhouse wrote. (All emails quoted here are reproduced verbatim.) Many others attacked Drake and the institution. Ron Knobbe from Minnesota took advantage of his caps lock when he wrote to Drake to “FIRE THIS SON OF A BITCH URBAN MEYER NOW!!!!” or “I will NEVER, EVER watch another Ohio State University Football Game EVER!” “I HOPE YOUR INSTITUTION GET'S SUED FOR FRAUD and for COVERING UP THIS MESS. I HOPE YOU GET SUED FOR EVERY DAMNED DIME YOU HAVE OR WILL EVER HAVE!!!!!” Knobbe wrote. A man named Frank Picozzi was a bit more succinct. He called Ohio State a “sewer” institution. A Meyer proponent, Derek Mundt, initially emailed Drake with a relatively polite statement: that he supported Meyer and he hoped that Drake would “do the right thing.” After Meyer’s suspension though, Mundt wrote to him, “Seriously go fuck yourself you SJW weasel.” (SJW stands for social justice warrior, a derogatory way to describe someone who promotes progressive values). Not every commentator was as ill tempered. Nicholas A. Jordan, a longtime Ohio State enthusiast, wrote to Drake with a lengthy and deferential justification as to why Meyer should continue coaching, ending with that if Drake had read the letter, “it would be a great honor.” “I believe that Mr. Meyer is currently the greatest recruiter this university employs. Even his predecessor did not have this success in changing young mens lives. His program has produced more successful students than any other professor on campus -- but this one teaches football. If he were to be let go he would have a dozen offers from programs that will say, ‘we’ve reviewed the investigation and found absolutely no wrongdoing by Urban Meyer’ along with a measure of support for the man,” Jordan wrote. Alumnus Robert Bulas asked that Drake not “fold” to the “sensationalized media” coverage of the dispute with the assistant coach and his wife. “I ask that no ‘sacrifice’ is given to the media. Penalties, including suspensions, should only be given to the truly guilty, not as a token to the mob,” Bulas wrote. Many of those who wrote to Drake seemed to borrow the rhetoric of President Trump that he popularized before and after his election. Multiple commenters decried the Meyer coverage as “fake news” and many more complained about “PC culture.” “I want a president that is a leader at Ohio State and not a PR liberal California coward,” wrote alumnus Paul Condon to Drake and the trustees. “Myself and others are going to push people we know across many OSU alumni forums to get rid of Drake.” “I cannot even be professional in this letter and feel better to speak exactly how I feel, tonight was a total embarrassment to be a graduate of Ohio State and watch a president with no backbone cave into a false narrative and national perception,” Condon wrote after the press conference announcing the suspension. Regardless of how the public felt about how Drake handled this situation, Meyer won’t stay at Ohio State. He announced he would retire after the Rose Bowl game in January, citing the stress the suspension caused him and mounting health issues. But Meyer has retired from college football once before, in 2010, when he was head coach at the University of Florida. Plenty of sports commentators are convinced he will return. Editorial Tags: AthleticsImage Source: Getty ImagesImage Caption: Ohio State University president Michael V. DrakeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Rude Emails to a PresidentTrending order: 1College: Ohio State University-Main Campus