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A president proposes steep job cuts to save his institution

Inside Higher Education - Hace 14 hours 19 mins
Image: Rick Bailey, a white man with sandy hair wearing a business suit, in a library.

Facing a budget deficit of $5 million, Southern Oregon University is considering a realignment plan that will include deep cuts, which its president says are necessary to right the ship financially.

Altogether, 82 jobs—about 13 percent of the workforce—are proposed for elimination, though many are current vacancies that simply will not be filled. Administrators have said only 23 current faculty and staff members will lose their jobs.

Faculty are questioning the cuts, which some fear will harm the university’s celebrated theater program.

But officials say that without the ambitious realignment plan, the university’s financial deficit could grow to $14.6 million by the 2026–27 academic year, according to current forecasts. They emphasize that job cuts are only one part of the plan; they also seek to realign SOU by leveraging external revenue opportunities that will make it a model for other regional institutions that face similar financial hardships in a perilous higher education landscape.

SOU’s Board of Trustees will consider the reductions next month.

Moving the University Forward

When Rick Bailey assumed the presidency of Southern Oregon University in January 2022, his most urgent order of business was fixing the institution’s bleak financial situation. Like many colleges and universities across the U.S., SOU has been squeezed by declining enrollment, stagnant state funding and increasing pension and health-care costs.

Bailey has called the university’s current path financially unsustainable. Now he plans to push the university toward financial viability with a plan known as SOU Forward that looks to cut costs, attract additional funds from external organizations and philanthropic support, and diversify SOU’s revenue stream “by pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities.”

A description of SOU Forward

Bailey argues his plan is about more than cost management; he sees it as a realignment that will set the university on a sustainable path. The vision includes developing solar power on campus, establishing a living complex for senior citizens, creating a university business district and opening a training center for Workday, an expansive software platform for human resources and other business needs. (SOU is currently transitioning to Workday, and other public universities in the state are expected to follow in the coming years.)

The new president first learned about the depth of SOU’s budget woes during his third day on the job. The crisis had been partly obscured, he said, by COVID-19 relief funds that had flowed from the federal government during the coronavirus pandemic—money that the university couldn’t count on for long.

“Federal money was really masking the fact that we were already underwater,” Bailey said. “Knowing that federal faucet was going to turn off soon, it was very clear to me that we had to think and act in a completely different way to help the institution thrive well into the future.”

Despite the proposed workforce reductions, Bailey noted that “you can’t cut your way to prosperity,” which meant pulling in other ideas to diversify revenues. And that’s an area Bailey has experience in from his last stop, at Northern New Mexico College, where he is credited with pulling the institution out of financial hardship in part by increasing enrollment and improving student outcomes. Bailey also struck a deal at NNMC to bring solar power to campus, which he hopes to replicate at SOU as a way to cut costs and generate new revenue.

But before SOU can start installing solar arrays or cutting ribbons on new developments, the Board of Trustees must decide on the future of the university’s workforce. Though no trustees responded to a request for comment, recent news coverage has suggested the board has concerns about potential workload increases for employees, as well as the future of the theater department.

Three jobs are targeted for elimination in the theater program. And while other areas will see deeper cuts, arguably none is as uniquely tied to Ashland, the small town where SOU is located, which serves as the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Founded by an SOU professor in 1935, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival—though not owned by SOU—annually draws hundreds of thousands of attendees and is indelibly intertwined with the university’s theater program.

Tensions Linger Over Cuts

Program advocates worry job cuts will harm the department and the university. And some believe a lack of communication from the top has left employees and students grasping for answers. At a recent SOU community forum, Helen Eckard, an administrative assistant in the theater department, described her sadness and disappointment with the proposed cuts.

“With all the chaos in our program, there’s not one day where I have wanted to come to work since this all came down,” Eckard, who appeared to be holding back tears, told Bailey at the March 9 town hall. “The communication within our collaborative—supposedly collaborative—department has been appallingly bad. And I think every day about just giving my notice and leaving now.”

Bailey insisted that the theater department will be fine and that SOU is not abandoning the program, which he said must “reimagine itself in exciting and fiscally healthy ways for the future.”

Two employees reportedly facing cuts in the theater department did not respond to Inside Higher Ed’s requests for comment; neither did the department chair.

Only one program has been targeted for elimination at SOU: a master’s degree in environmental education. SOU officials have said students currently in the program will be able to finish their degrees. But some are pushing officials to keep the program, noting the importance of environmental studies at a time when climate change is increasingly considered an existential threat to humankind.

“There’s nothing more important than helping students reimagine and understand their human relationship to the natural environment and their responsibility in it,” Margaret Perrow, chair of the English Department, said at the March 9 town hall in a plea to keep the program intact.

Some faculty members have applauded Bailey for quickly crafting a plan to plug SOU’s budget but believe that a workforce reduction is the wrong approach.

“Anytime there is discussion of losing faculty positions as a means of cost management, the union takes it seriously. While we don’t agree with our administration on everything, we do understand that with the trends in Oregon state funding over the last two decades[;] skyrocketing tuition cannot be the solution,” Sara Adams, president of the Associated Professors of Southern Oregon University, told Inside Higher Ed by email. “The union is encouraged by the desire of our new president to build a bridge with the faculty and work together to solve our financial crisis, but also, we firmly believe that faculty cuts are not the solution. Faculty reductions lead to fewer course offerings which leads to declining enrollment and the cycle continuing.”

Adams added that trustees should “look at our heavy overhead costs before faculty cuts.”

Measuring Success

Like many institutions across the U.S., Southern Oregon University has become more reliant on student tuition dollars even as enrollment has declined. At SOU, Bailey puts that decline at about 20 percent over the course of the last decade, though he notes it’s slowly rebounding. But boosting enrollment can’t fix SOU’s finances without a sharp tuition increase.

Unwilling to spike tuition, Bailey said the money has to come from elsewhere, namely cutting expenses and attracting new revenue sources. The workforce reductions are expected to reduce costs; then university leaders believe they can fill the remaining gaps by focusing on renewable energy, attracting more state and federal grants, increasing philanthropy, and developing specialized new facilities such as the senior living complex and training center. And if they do, Bailey hopes SOU can serve as a model for other institutions.

“The challenge for us is to make sure that we are taking calculated risks moving forward and understanding that if one of those ventures gets to the finish line, it will have a significant effect on our fiscal model,” Bailey said. “If we get more than one, or all four, it will be transformational.”

Now Bailey, and 23 employees who may soon lose their jobs, await the board’s next move when it meets in April.

Administration and FinanceEditorial Tags: Business issuesCollege administrationPresidentsOregonTrustees/regentsImage Source: Southern Oregon UniversityImage Caption: Rick Bailey faces the task of fixing a deep budget deficit as president of Southern Oregon University.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: Live Updates: liveupdates0Most Popular: 6In-Article Advertisement High: 9In-Article related stories: 12In-Article Advertisement Low: 15Include DNU?: YesIn-Article Careers: 3

Professor says he was fired after Jewish groups denounced tweets

Inside Higher Education - Hace 14 hours 19 mins
Image: A tweet from Kareem Tannous from April 2022 saying, "zio controlled USGOV politicians promise to cancel 2T$ in student debt so that #donkeydemocrats would elect them yet they sent that 2T$ to Ukraine, NATO, and Israel to arm NAZIs."

This article contains explicit and potentially offensive terms that are essential to reporting on this situation. 

StopAntisemitism, a watchdog group founded in 2018, dubbed an assistant business professor its “Antisemite of the Week” and a “Professor of Hate” in July, citing his tweeting that “Israel and Ukraine are societal cancers and must be eradicated” and “#FreePalestine by any means necessary!!”—among other posts.

The organization, which was founded by an Instagram influencer with an M.B.A. and last year named Kanye West the “Antisemite of the Year,” wrote its own tweets about Kareem Tannous, the professor at Cabrini University, outside Philadelphia.

“They had tagged the president of the university,” Tannous said.

He said Cabrini fired him the next month as if he were an “at-will” employee, violating his contract and due process rights as a tenure-track professor. Next, Gwynedd Mercy University, also in Pennsylvania, fired him after he taught just one class, he said.

“I don’t bring this stuff up in my class,” Tannous said. “This is something I speak on my own time.”

Tannous’s lawyer says he now plans to sue Cabrini, StopAntisemitism, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and possibly others, making legal claims including defamation, breach of contract and tortious contract interference.

Jason Holtzman, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, which is part of the federation, said he and the federation president objected to Tannous’s tweets earlier, in a February 2022 letter to Cabrini. Holtzman noted Tannous’s tweets on Jan. 27, 2022, International Holocaust Remembrance Day—including a tweet saying, “Tired of hearing about the #holocaust when the descendants of these same people are killing my people indiscriminately.”

“It’s so egregious, it’s so far out of bounds,” said Holtzman, who also noted the Texas synagogue hostage situation that January. “We would not have sent this letter if it were simply him criticizing Israel.”

A Cabrini spokesperson said the university is “unable to comment” because “this is a personnel matter.” A Gwynedd Mercy spokesperson confirmed Tannous worked as an adjunct instructor for “a very short period of time” but said, “We are not going to comment on the specifics of a personnel matter.”

StopAntisemitism, however, said in an email Tuesday that “Tannous is an unapologetic antisemite, and StopAntisemitism applauds his firing. Tannous has employed the most vile slurs against Israel, referring to it as a ‘Zionazi’ apartheid state and a ‘societal cancer’ that must be dismantled ‘by any means necessary.’”

The group said his tweets “created a manifestly unsafe environment for Jewish students. Calling for the elimination of the world’s only Jewish state isn’t part of legitimate political discourse; it’s genocidal. In response, StopAntisemitism created a pathway for people to report Tannous’ bigotry directly to university leaders. Cabrini University listened to their voices, and we appreciate their making the right decision.”

There have been debates on college campuses, including George Washington University, about when criticism of Israel and its violence against Palestinians crosses the line into antisemitism against Jews in general. Tannous, who said he’s from a family of Christian Palestinians, said he’s not “anti-Jew.”

His Twitter usage before and after he said Cabrini fired him has included violent references and conspiratorial language.

On Saturday, he tweeted, “When peace comes we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the zionists for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons. Peace will come when the zionists will love their children more than they hate us.”

Those are altered quotes attributed to former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, who died in 1978—they are in A Land of Our Own: An Oral Autobiography, though a Jewish Press writer has cast doubts on their authenticity.

“All I did was switch from Arab to Zionist,” Tannous said.

In April, Tannous tweeted, “And then these animals have the gall to broadcast holocaust remembrance. #zionism is the disease and #FreePalestine is the cure!”

Someone replied with this:

“This Remembrance is a damn joke, Zionists don’t even believe in Judaism. A pretext to distract the world from their actions. But their dirty house of cards will crumble. They‘ll be in mass graves insha’Allah [God willing], although not a single grave of them should remain in #Palestine.”

Tannous liked and retweeted that tweet to his followers.

“That’s very wrong, I’m sorry, that is very wrong,” Tannous said when Inside Higher Ed read to him what he had liked and retweeted. He also said Monday’s interview was the first time he had ever heard what that tweet said.

He has also repeatedly used the term “zionazi” to describe Israel and Ukraine and said Hitler was a Jew.

“CBSNews fuck you and israel the racist colonial apartheid regime,” he tweeted in May. “Hitler is a jew and made an agreement with the zionists.”

This month, he shared a Times of Israel story headlined “U.S. authorities arrest Israeli accused of defrauding $47 million from Orthodox Jews” with a tweet that just said “In their blood …”

“It was an Israeli” who allegedly defrauded, Tannous told Inside Higher Ed when asked about that tweet. He said he wasn’t referring to Orthodox Jews.

On Saturday, he shared a video of an Israel defender and wrote “Definition of the r-word”—meaning, as he acknowledged, “retard.”

“That’s what she’s acting like,” Tannous told Inside Higher Ed.

Also this month, he tweeted a video showing an animated creature looking up at the World Trade Centers, accompanied by this: “The US Government when they found a way to distract people from the trillions of dollars they mysteriously lost on September 10, 2001.”

Asked whether he believes the U.S. carried out the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, “They had a hand in it.”

“I’m a free thinker, I have a brain, I don’t just believe what NBC, CBS puts out there,” he said.

In July, in its own tweet about Tannous, StopAntisemitism tagged the university’s Twitter account and the account of Helen Drinan, who had become interim president of the financially struggling university less than two months before.

Tannous said Drinan and others brought up the tweets in a Zoom meeting they pressured him into and then fired him by sending a letter to his parents’ house.

“I’m taking about politics, the state, not the people,” Tannous said.

“She refused to read my tweets in context,” he said.

A spokesman for the American Association of University Professors said Tuesday that its Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance was unfamiliar with the situation, which The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday.

“We have not been contacted by this professor and would not be able to comment until further investigation is done,” the AAUP spokesman said.

Cabrini’s Faculty Assembly chair also didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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GPT-4 is here. But most faculty lack AI policies.

Inside Higher Education - Hace 14 hours 19 mins
Image: The GPT-4 logo is seen in this photo illustration

“No.” “Nope.” “Not at this time.” “Not yet!” “Just discussing it now.” “I have not.” “I will do this in the future.” “Yes.” “No way.” “Not yet, but I have a lot of ideas …”

This is a representative sample of faculty responses to the question “If you have successfully integrated use of ChatGPT into your classes, how have you done so?” in a 2023 Primary Research Group survey of instructors on views and use of the AI writing tools. A few other responses of note were “It’s a little scary,” “Desperately interested!” and “I’m thinking of quitting!”

A few short months after OpenAI released ChatGPT—a large language model with an unusual ability to mimic human language and thought—the company released an upgrade known as GPT-4. Unlike the earlier product, which relied on an older generation of the tech, the latest product relies on cutting-edge research and “exhibits human-level performance,” according to the company.

GPT-4 is a large multimodal model, which means that it produces natural language in response not only to words but to visuals such as charts and images. This latest version largely outperforms the earlier model. For example, GPT-4 scored in the top decile on a simulated bar exam, while ChatGPT scored in the bottom decile. There are noteworthy exceptions. Both earned grades of 2 (out of 5) on a simulated Advanced Placement English Language and Composition exam, for example.

As the pace of artificial intelligence accelerates, administrators and faculty members continue to grapple with the disruption to teaching and learning. Though many are at work updating their understanding of AI tools like ChatGPT, few have developed guidelines for its use. But by OpenAI’s own admission, humans are susceptible to overrelying on the tools, which could have unintended outcomes.

“It’s spring break,” Mity Myhr, professor of history and associate dean of the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences at St. Edward’s University, said last week when asked whether faculty members at the private nonprofit Texas institution were discussing the even more sophisticated AI tool. “I imagine that conversation will happen next week … But some are waiting for this summer to really dig in.”

Surveys: Faculty Want More AI Guidance

When ChatGPT appeared to be the most sophisticated AI writing tool in the college-writing landscape—only a couple of weeks ago—faculty were abuzz with conversation about how to design assignments that could evade the software, how to distinguish machine writing from human writing and how to protect students from AI’s sometimes disturbing replies.

Then came GPT-4.

“The old version from a few months ago could be a solid B student,” said Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, an American nonprofit focused on creating online educational content for students. “This one can be an A student in a pretty rigorous program.” Khan’s nonprofit is working on an AI assistant that seeks to ensure students do most of the work. (The tool’s name, Khanmigo, is a pun on con amigo, or “with friend” in Spanish, which echoes the company’s name.)

Primary Research Group’s survey considered the views of 954 instructors from colleges that grant associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and specialized degrees. The poll took place between Jan. 28 and March 8, with most (87 percent) responding in February.

Few college administrations (14 percent) have developed institutional guidelines for the use of ChatGPT or similar programs in classrooms, according to the faculty respondents. Smaller colleges and public colleges were less likely to have developed guidelines than larger or private colleges.

Further, few instructors (18 percent) have developed guidelines for their own use or that of their students, according to the report. Community college instructors were the most likely to have developed guidelines. The likeliness to have developed policies was inversely related to age. That is, younger instructors were more likely to have developed policies than were older instructors.

Faculty respondents were split about whether they should integrate ChatGPT into educational strategy or encourage students to use it. Approximately one-quarter (24 percent) felt that they should. A slightly larger group (30 percent) felt that they should not do either. Close to half (44 percent) had no opinion.

Many professors are in a wait-and-see mode concerning AI writing tools in the classroom, though some are waiting for guidance, according to the survey. Most (63 percent) have no opinion on their colleges’ efforts to deal effectively with the educational consequences of AI writing tools’ availability. But some (22 percent) are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Those who are satisfied or very satisfied (6 percent) are the smallest population.

To be sure, 2023 is still young, and some students, professors and colleges are hard at work drafting artificial intelligence policies. An undergraduate Data, Society and Ethics class at Boston University, for example, has drafted a blueprint for academic use of ChatGPT and similar AI models that they hope will be a starting point for university discussions.

Individual faculty members have also shared online resources. Ryan Watkins, professor of educational technology leadership at George Washington University, for example, offers advice on updating course syllabi. Anna Mills, an English instructor at California’s College of Marin, offers educators starting points for inquiry. Faculty have also formed Google Groups to share sources for stimulating discussion among teachers.

Critical AI, an interdisciplinary journal based at Rutgers University, suggests some next steps for educators in the large-language-model era. The University of California, Berkeley, has launched an AI policy hub with a mission “to cultivate an interdisciplinary research community to anticipate and address policy opportunities for safe and beneficial AI.” Despite the survey report indicating that few colleges and instructors have policies for generative AI writing in place, many appear to be making strides in this direction.

Overreliance Risks

Like its predecessor, GPT-4 has flaws. It can produce convincing prose that is wrong, biased, hateful or dangerous. But GPT-4 exhibits these flaws in ways that are “more convincing and believable than earlier GPT models,” according to an OpenAI paper published this month. As a result, students—indeed, all humans—could overrely on the tool. They may be less vigilant or not notice mistakes while using the software, or they may use it in subjects for which they do not have expertise. Overuse may “hinder the development of new skills or even lead to the loss of important skills,” the paper noted.

Tracy Deacker, a graduate student studying artificial intelligence and language technology at Háskólinn í Reykjavík University, in Iceland, encourages college administrators and professors not to put off engaging with the technology. Students need help understanding its limitations and preparing for an AI-infused workplace, Deacker wrote in an email. But such efforts can also center humans.

“We need human-to-human interaction to learn something to the core,” Deacker wrote. “It’s in our DNA.”

For professors who feel overwhelmed by the technology, some suggest an old-school on-ramp.

“Talk to students!” Maha Bali, professor of practice at the Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo, wrote in an email. “Understand how they are thinking about this … Consider building trust and asking them to be transparent about their use with you.”

Overheard Academics

“The arrival of GPT-4 feels like a gift no one asked for,” Marc Watkins, lecturer in composition and rhetoric at the University of Mississippi, wrote on his blog. “[Faculty] need training, but what is the point of such training when systems keep changing?” Amid the disruption and uncertainty, faculty might focus on how the tech is changing and what it means to work and learn, Watkins concludes.

Some remind academics not to get nostalgic about an imagined past.

“It’s not like we’re starting from ‘things are great, and technology is going to take us away from that,’” said Kumar Garg, vice president of partnerships at Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative focused on solving problems in science and society. Garg spoke at SXSW EDU in Austin, Tex., this month. “We’re starting from a messy middle where some things are working out for some and not for others.”

J. Harold Pardue, interim dean of the School of Computing at the University of South Alabama, was caught by surprise at a recent advisory board meeting his school hosts with industry leaders. (Pardue is also dean of the graduate school and associate vice president for academic affairs.) Board members, who hail from local and national companies, advise the school on curriculum matters and help place students in internships and jobs. They wanted answers.

“We were assaulted by questions about large language models,” Pardue said, adding that one board member mentioned that their company was recently purchased by Microsoft, which is planning wide integration of natural language models in its products. “I was asked point-blank … ‘What are you doing in your curriculum? When are you going to put this in your curriculum?” (Meanwhile, Microsoft laid off its entire team responsible for ethical AI development last week.)

Pardue responded, “Nothing so far, but it’s on our radar.” As a former philosophy student, Pardue is wondering whether large language models may be able to help scale teaching with the Socratic method.

As academics engage in conversations about the impact of natural language models in teaching and learning, many are seizing the moment to offer reminders of humanness.

“As much as we are academics and want to be rational, we’re humans first,” said Steve Johnson, senior vice president for innovation at National University.The sooner you can start to get engaged with what’s happening, the sooner you can work through your emotions and get to rational thinking.”

Teaching and LearningTechnologyEditorial Tags: TeachingTechnologyImage Source: NurPhoto/Getty ImagesImage Caption: Few college administrations (14 percent) have developed institutional guidelines for the use of ChatGPT or similar programs in classrooms, according to a new report. Meanwhile, the pace of AI releases accelerates.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: Live Updates: liveupdates0Most Popular: 6In-Article Advertisement High: 9In-Article related stories: 12In-Article Advertisement Low: 15Include DNU?: YesIn-Article Careers: 3

Pearson, once a leader, sells its online services business

Inside Higher Education - Hace 14 hours 19 mins
Image: Pearson logo, a stylized P in a turquoise circle

Once upon a time, Pearson Education helped Arizona State University become one of the biggest online powers in higher education. It was one of the first, and most significant, arrangements in what would come to be known as the online program management industry.

That contract more than a decade ago made Pearson a major player in the burgeoning industry that has done nothing but expand as more colleges and universities move into online education (despite growing regulatory scrutiny).

But the formal expiration of Pearson’s contract with Arizona State, announced last summer, solidified what had been clear for years, which is that Pearson had been supplanted as a market leader by 2U, Coursera and a slew of other players. A few months later, it announced a “strategic review” of its online services division, which led to speculation that it would sell the unit and, in the eyes of numerous market observers, put Pearson in competitive limbo.

Tuesday the company announced that Regent, a California-based private equity firm, would take over Pearson Online Learning Services, in exchange for 27.5 percent of the profit the unit generates over each of the next six years and that same proportion of any proceeds Regent earns in a “monetization event” after Pearson sells it. It does not appear as if Regent is paying anything for the Pearson unit up front, which led the analyst Phil Hill, in a blog post about the news, to declare, “In short, this is somewhat of a distressed sale. Get this mess off our hands, you make the big cuts to get it profitable, and we’ll make money only if you can turn it around.”

Pearson’s news release about the deal said that the online services business generated 155 million pounds (or about $190 million) in revenue and lost £26 million (about $32 million) in 2022.

Analyses of the online services market continue to show Pearson as one of the biggest players, but the company has clearly lost momentum in a highly diffused, increasingly specialized market, especially with the formal end of the Arizona State partnership in June. But some analysts speculated that the sale of the online services unit could be good for its current clients, since the company has been operating in limbo while the strategic review was underway.

The sale of the company comes as regulatory headwinds continue to swirl around online program management companies and other entities to which colleges and universities outsource key functions such as enrollment, program development and marketing.

The Biden administration is reassessing 2011 guidance from the Obama administration that has exempted OPMs and other companies from a 1992 ban that largely restricts colleges from paying recruiters based on how many students they enroll. The administration’s actions are targeting companies’ revenue-sharing agreements that many consumer advocates believe incentivizes them and the colleges they work with to drive up the price of higher education and draw students to low-value academic programs.

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Survey: Faculty teaching style impedes academic success, students say

Inside Higher Education - Hace 14 hours 19 mins
Image: A young male instructor stands in front of a darkened classroom of students, a projector light highlighting him in profile.

James Walsh, an education major at the University of South Carolina at Aiken who’s been recognized for his ability to creatively teach middle schoolers math, has some strong opinions about college teaching: “The notion that everyone learns the same way is ridiculous, but professors tend to stick to what they know and what they have always done.”

Outside of the education program at USC Aiken, nearly all of Walsh’s professors lecture nearly all the time, he says. With one exception—a professor of biology who facilitated lively lab discussions prompted by images—Walsh, a senior, can’t name a single professor who’s used “different teaching styles to engage us as learners.”

Lectures are a “great tool for college courses, but they are just used way too often,” he says. And while the idea that “learning can be fun is thrown out the window once in college,” it can be “just as exciting for us.”

Walsh’s credentials aside, it apparently doesn’t take a teacher in training to critique faculty teaching styles, or to want more from the college classroom experience: more than half of respondents to the recent Inside Higher Ed/College Pulse survey of 3,004 students at 128 four- and two-year institutions say teaching style has made it hard to succeed in a class since starting college.

This makes a “teaching style that didn’t work for me” the No. 1 barrier to academic success cited by students in the survey over all. The share of students who say this is even larger for key subgroups, including those with learning disabilities or related conditions.

Relatedly, half of students want professors to experiment with different teaching styles. This was the No. 2 response to a separate survey question about which faculty actions students believe would promote their academic success. Only more flexible deadlines was more popular.

Beyond deadlines, some 44 percent of students say they want greater flexibility when it comes to class attendance and participation. This was the No. 3 faculty action students say would promote their academic success.

Impediments to Success

Students see both internal classroom dynamics and external factors as getting in the way of their success.

  1. Teaching style: As noted, more than half of students say they’re negatively impacted by teaching styles that don’t match how they learn. The share is significantly higher—67 percent—for students with learning disabilities or related conditions (n=649). Some 60 percent of LGBTQIA+ students (n=899) say teaching style has been a barrier to their academic success, compared to 53 percent of straight students (n=2,095).
  2. Overly difficult materials or exams: One in two students says it’s been hard to succeed in a class since starting college due to overly difficult materials or exams. A larger share of women than men report this to be an issue: 52 percent versus 47 percent, respectively. By discipline, this concern is least prevalent among arts and humanities students (42 percent) and most common in the natural sciences (55 percent). There is a large difference between four-year (n=2,403) and two-year college students (n=597) here, as well: 53 percent versus 35 percent, respectively.
  3. School-life balance: The third-biggest challenge for students over all is balancing schoolwork and other responsibilities, at 47 percent. Interestingly, this rate is not elevated among students with jobs, who make up more than half the sample. Schoolwork-life balance is apparently a bigger concern for students with financial aid than for those without, however, at 49 percent and 41 percent, respectively. Balancing schoolwork and other responsibilities may be a gendered concern, too, with half of women saying this has affected their academic success, compared to two in five men.
  4. Unclear expectations: This is a concern for four in 10 students over all, and most prevalently among arts and humanities majors, at 48 percent. By race, some 47 percent of white students say their success in a class has been negatively affected by unclear expectations, compared to 38 percent of Asian students, 32 percent of Black students and 34 percent of Hispanic students. Just three in 10 two-year-college students say unclear expectations are an issue.
  5. Mental health: Four in 10 students cite mental health struggles as a barrier to success. The rate is significantly elevated—55 percent—both for students with learning disabilities and related conditions and for LGBTQIA+ students. About three in 10 men cite mental health as a barrier to success, compared to four in 10 women. And by field, mental health concerns are most prevalent among arts and humanities students (48 percent). Breaking mental health challenges down by race, 44 percent of white students cite it as a concern, as do 28 percent of Asian students, 38 percent of Black students and 39 percent of Hispanic students. Nearly half of strongly Democratic students say mental health is an obstacle, compared to one in five strong Republicans.
Other Concerns and Considerations

One in four students cite strict attendance or participation requirements as a barrier to success. The same goes for unrealistic deadlines. One in five students cite a professor whose office hours conflict with their schedule, an online course they would have preferred to take in person or inaccessible course materials.

Although sense of belonging is increasingly part of student success discussions, this issue fell lower on the list of barriers noted by survey respondents. Sixteen percent of students say they’ve been negatively affected by the feeling that they don’t belong in their academic program. Among students with learning disabilities or similar conditions, it’s 22 percent.

Relatedly, 14 percent of students over all say their success has been impeded by feeling like they don’t belong at their institution (not just their academic program). That increases for LGBTQIA+ students (19 percent) and Black students (18 percent).

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Amy Salazar, associate vice provost for student success at Sam Houston State University, says that even though belonging ranks lower than some other barriers, it remains “troubling to me given that this lack of belonging is reported as more significant for our most marginalized student populations.”

There’s still work to be done to create classroom environments “where every student feels as though they belong and is affirmed in their ability to be successful,” she adds.

Regarding students’ other concerns, Salazar recalls the work of psychologist Ella R. Kahu of Massey University in New Zealand on framing student engagement, which asserts that “lifeload” is a critical factor. (What is lifeload? Kahu described it in one 2013 paper as “the sum of all the pressures a student has in their life,” including college but also employment, finances, family needs and health, among other dynamics.)

That instruction- and classwork-related barriers barely outrank school-life balance and mental health “reminds us that our students are carrying a lot into the classroom, and that is impacting their ability to be successful,” Salazar says. “All of these point back to a generation of students who are coming to college less academically prepared given pandemic learning loss, with more financial concerns and higher rates of mental health needs.”

The next step? “For us as higher education institutions to adapt to the students we have today and not the students we were in prior decades. Our understanding of the college experience has to adapt to the students entering our campuses now that are coming with radically different lived experiences than we had.”

What Students Want From Professors

When asked to reflect on what educators could do to help them be more successful, Student Voice respondents zeroed in on flexibility, variety, clarity and affinity.

  1. More flexible deadlines: Asked which faculty actions would help them be more successful academically, 57 percent of students say being more flexible about deadlines. This appears again to be a slightly bigger concern to students with financial aid than those without.
  2. Experimentation with teaching styles: Half of students over all say professors being open to experimenting with different modes of teaching would promote their academic success. Among students who cite faculty teaching style as a barrier to their academic success, two-thirds want to see more variation in teaching styles.
  3. Flexibility with attendance and participation: Some two in five students say they want professors to be more flexible about attendance and/or participation, with more women than men wanting this (45 percent versus 40 percent). Relatively more four-year college students desire this flexibility than two-year colleges students, as well. By major, this wish is most prevalent among arts and humanities students, at 55 percent.
  4. Clearer expectations: Two in five students also say they want professors to set clearer expectations, with those at private institutions particularly interested in this. By race, white students are most likely to say they want professors to set clearer expectations, while Black students are least likely to think this is needed.
  5. Getting to know them: About a third of students say professors taking more of an interest in getting to know them would promote their success. This desire was most common among white students and least common among Hispanic students, and more common among four-year college students than two-year students.
Other Concerns and Considerations

One-quarter of respondents say they want their professors to offer some class sessions online, even for in-person courses. And about one in five students say professors could boost their academic success by being more accessible outside of class hours, by including wellness resources in syllabi or discussing them in class, and by including academic support resources in syllabi.

Few students—less than one in 10—want professors to set higher expectations for them and their peers, with 12 percent of male students and 5 percent of women saying this.

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Louis Deslauriers, director of science teaching and learning at Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and senior preceptor in physics, has found that even when students say they prefer learning from lectures over active learning methods, they’ve learned significantly more in the active learning classroom. (This is consistent with many other studies finding that students learn more in class when they’re required to engage with the material via individual or group activities.) Of the Student Voice findings, Deslauriers says he can make some educated guesses about what’s driving certain responses.

On teaching-style concerns, for example, Deslauriers says students might have become “more discerning about effective pedagogies during the pandemic.” Why? It’s hard to forget “the experience of enduring a 90-minute online traditional lecture.”

That students are concerned about flexibility with deadlines and attendance also makes sense, as “many students today juggle multiple responsibilities,” he adds.

Students’ Thoughts on Grading

The Student Voice survey also asked students about their experiences with grading and with asking professors for accommodations that aren’t required (think: a deadline extension for a personal emergency). Some key takeaways:

  • Fair and square: Two-thirds of students say they “feel like my professors grade fairly over all.” This sentiment was highest in the arts and humanities, at 72 percent. Just 5 percent say, “I feel like my professors grade too easily over all.”
  • That’s harsh: Two in five students say they’ve had “at least one professor who graded too harshly.” About one in 10 students say they “feel like my professors grade too harshly over all,” with this sense elevated—16 percent—among students in the sciences.
  • Not cool with the curve: Just 40 percent of students say “I feel like grading on a curve is fair.” By race, the rate is higher for white students, at 46 percent. Just 29 percent of two-year college students agree with grading on a curve. Just 6 percent feel strongly that “grading on a curve is unfair,” however.
  • It’s a mystery: Three in 10 students say they’ve had “at least one professor whose grading I didn’t understand.” One in 10 students also says they “often don’t understand how my professors grade.”
  • Understood: One in four students say they “usually understand how my professors grade.” By race, 33 percent of white students say so, compared to 22 percent of Asian students, 18 percent of Black students and 22 percent of Hispanic students.
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Among students who’ve asked for discretionary accommodations (n=2,196), just over half say the response or responses were positive. A slightly smaller share says reactions were mixed. Just 5 percent report negative reactions only.

Some 12 percent of students taking online courses only report negative reactions, however.

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Asked in the survey to share an example of a faculty action that made them feel like they had a better chance of succeeding in a class, students tend to recall actions that illuminate other data points. These include deadline extensions for personal issues, large workloads or mistakes, and professors reaching out or making themselves unusually available to struggling students.

One respondent at Lansing Community College remembers how a professor even gave out his personal cellphone number for after-hours help, and that this made the difference between the student staying enrolled and dropping out.

Here are some additional examples of helpful faculty actions students have experienced:

“One time, I got confused with a deadline and thought an assignment was due at 10 p.m. instead of 10 a.m.,” wrote a student from Louisiana State University. “I raced after my professor, told them about the situation and how I had so much on my plate at the time (school, club, research, grad apps, etc.). They let me turn in the assignment late without penalty and were very understanding. That gesture alone made me more motivated to attend class and do well in the course. I got 10 times more engaged in the material and did extremely well in the class.”

“Not giving multiple assignments during exam week,” says a University of Houston student. “Another good thing that I had a professor do was that they stated that the first midterm could only help your grade. If you scored well, it would be helpful, if you didn’t score well, it wouldn’t hurt your grade. This way I was more enthusiastic and actually learned things instead of being only focused on my grade.”

At Drexel University, a student recalls a professor reaching out when an assignment didn’t get handed in.

“I explained that I was simply behind and not deserving of an extension. My professor said that next time, I should reach out beforehand (not just to her, but to other professors as well) because the professors in my university are generally nice people. This has made me reassured in her class and feel more comfortable with asking questions and requesting extensions.”

Sara Brownell, a professor of life sciences at Arizona State University whose research focuses on inclusive learning environments in the natural sciences, says that some of the anecdotes stand out because they’re “just examples of instructors being compassionate and caring. Students deserve that and instructors can bolster student learning by showing that compassion and caring.”

At the same time, such examples raise potential questions about how students’ needs and expectations may conflict with faculty members’ own needs and expectations in this new era of teaching and learning. (And it’s worth highlighting that not all such actions are desirable to all students. Kathryn Lakin, a sophomore majoring in English at Boston University, who was not part of the survey, tells Inside Higher Ed she’s glad that having a professor’s cellphone number proved helpful to someone else, but that “I am very much against the idea of constant availability. I think being constantly available by phone eliminates important boundaries and creates a work-all-the-time culture we should try to avoid,” in the interest of both student and faculty mental health.)

Scott Freeman, a teaching professor emeritus of biology at the University of Washington who has found that active learning increases student performance across demographics and especially among historically minoritized students, says that individual outreach to students proves especially “tricky” in the kinds of high-enrollment courses he taught. Moreover, he says, “we’re trying to prepare students to be competent professionals and contribute to the to the world. If you work for a company, there may not be a lot of flexible deadlines.”

In any case, he says, “I would love to see more work on all that—when is it positive and supports better student outcomes?”

What would you like to hear more about from this survey? Share your reactions and questions here.

Student SuccessStudent VoiceEditorial Tags: Student SuccessStudent voiceAcademic LifeImage Source: DGLimages/iStock/Getty Images PlusImage Caption: Student Voice survey data from 3,004 undergraduates shed light on what students see as barriers to their success, what they want from their professors, what they think of grading and more.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: Live Updates: liveupdates0Most Popular: 6In-Article Advertisement High: 9In-Article related stories: 12In-Article Advertisement Low: 15Include DNU?: NoIn-Article Careers: 3

Digital community lends academic support

Inside Higher Education - Hace 14 hours 19 mins
Image: Three college students sit in a line working at computers while an instructor points to one student's screen.

Accommodating online or self-paced learning requires thinking outside the box.

College of Information Technology leaders at Western Governors University created digital support communities for students to receive real-time assistance from peers and faculty while engaging in self-paced learning.

What’s the problem: WGU’s College of IT offers competency-based education programs, allowing learners to work at their own pace.

The flexibility expands opportunities for students but can also leave them isolated from their peers or without adequate support for their more challenging questions, as computer science and IT concepts are “notoriously complex,” says Mike Peterson, associate dean and director of the computer science and software program for the college.

“When our students have a question, it’s not usually followed by a simple answer,” Peterson explains. “Our students and our support teams needed a more dynamic virtual space to collaborate and provide the academic support needed along the way.”

What’s the solution: To accommodate students at all levels of learning, the College of IT implemented digital support communities in its bachelor of science in computer science program.

In the communities, hosted on InScribe within WGU’s Learning Resources, students connect directly to peers and faculty, asking questions, looking for solutions and solving problems together, Peterson explains.

WGU used InScribe because its tool set allowed for images, videos, code editing and complex math formulas to be shared directly, Peterson adds.

Further, when a student joins a digital community, they’re given access to existing answers and resources addressing common questions.

Students in need of additional support can post a new question, which alerts other community members to jump in and help. “This offered a more scalable support model that would accommodate learners regardless of how far they’ve progressed in course materials,” Peterson says.

It also allows for peer-to-peer assistance, when students who were farther ahead in the curriculum could support those just starting out—reinforcing mastery, building connections among learners and reducing the work faculty members have to do.

Following the pilot with BSCS, the College of IT expanded digital communities across the college.

What’s the impact: The launch of digital communities has produced three key results:

  • Faster response times. Students can receive answers to their questions at all times—not just when professors are online during the workday—and continue to work uninterrupted, thanks to peer support.
  • Positive peer engagement. Students are eager to contribute to the communities and respond to each other in thoughtful, diverse and well-rounded posts. The new learners benefit from the help of those farther along and those who have mastered topics reinforce their understanding of earlier topics.
  • Deeper thinking. When students ask questions, those questions go beyond generic information and range in complexity. The digital community allows for high-level engagement with content to solve CS problems.

Other things to consider: While WGU’s digital communities produced promising results and helped solve the college’s problems, Peterson says communities should come with defined goals to create the right kind of space and benefit students most effectively.

Moderators serve a key role in digital communities, as well, to monitor conversations, validate responses and step in when expert help is needed.

The resource also works best when students are using it and engaged, so educators should communicate early and often about the purpose of the community and where to find it.

Do you have an academic success tip that might help others support student success? Tell us about it.

Student SuccessImage Source: michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images PlusImage Caption: Digital support communities create forums for students to ask questions and receive help from peers and professors. Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: Live Updates: liveupdates0Most Popular: 6In-Article Advertisement High: 9In-Article related stories: 12In-Article Advertisement Low: 15Include DNU?: NoIn-Article Careers: 3

Colleges award tenure

Inside Higher Education - Hace 14 hours 19 mins
Albion College
  • Marcella Cervantes, biology
  • Zach Fischer, theater
  • Joseph Ho, history
  • Betty Okwako-Riekkola, education
Arkansas Tech University
  • Michael Bradley, agriculture and tourism
  • Theresa Cullen, teaching and educational leadership
  • Lisa Dubose, nursing
  • Sarah Gordon, teaching and educational leadership
  • Christopher Harris, music
  • Gregory Michna, history and political science
  • Jay Post, agriculture and tourism
  • Bryan Rank, agriculture and tourism
  • Rodney Roosevelt, behavioral sciences
  • Robert Stevens, kinesiology and rehabilitation science
  • Wan Wei, School of Business
  • Matthew Wilson, agriculture and tourism
Pacific University, in Oregon
  • Nicola Carter, pharmacy
  • Kim Malin, physical therapy and athletic training
  • Jennifer Pitonyak, occupational therapy
  • Marcin Wróblewski, audiology
  • Lalit Khandare, social work
  • Rebecca Schoon, public health
  • Paul Snell, politics and government
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Virginia Teacher Shot By Student Says She'll 'Never Forget The Look On His Face'

Huffington Post - Mar, 21 Mar 2023 - 12:24
"It’s changed me. It’s changed my life," first grade teacher Abigail Zwerner told the "Today" show.

Los Angeles Schools Shut Down In Massive Strike Over Stalled Contract Talks

Huffington Post - Mar, 21 Mar 2023 - 08:01
Tens of thousands of workers walked off the job in a school district that is the nation's second-largest.

New database on minority-serving institutions launched

Inside Higher Education - Mar, 21 Mar 2023 - 01:00
Image: Three darker-skinned students in a seminar room.

A new research initiative seeks to expand access to clear, precise data about minority-serving institutions. The founders of the Minority-Serving Institutions Data Project say policy makers, researchers and advocacy groups all define MSIs in different ways, which leads to inconsistent and inaccurate studies of these institutions.

The group of scholars recently published an article in the journal Educational Researcher outlining the complexities of MSI classifications and proposing clearer definitions, and they created a new database using those standards in hopes of providing a more accurate picture of the MSI landscape. Some studies end up with different counts of MSIs in part because the status of these institutions can change from year to year.

“Our goal was to be able to reconcile all of those differences and put out a uniform typology definition that the MSI community can then use in the way we describe MSIs and their status over time, whether they’re funded or not funded, and then from there we can build an actual data set,” said Mike Hoa Nguyen, assistant professor of education at the New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development and principal investigator of the MSI Data Project. “If they’re studying graduation rates, or if they’re studying students’ sense of belonging on campus, we can get a better sense now if their status as an MSI, if their funding from the Department of Education, plays a role in any of these outcomes. There’s near-infinite possibilities of studies that can be done about ways we close different kinds of equity gaps now that we have a more precise data set.”

The database features dashboards with data on MSIs from 2017 to 2021, including information about how many institutions are eligible for MSI status and how many receive federal funding under each MSI category, and enrollment and graduation rates for different types of MSIs. The data focus on 11 different MSI classifications used by the U.S. Department of Education, including historically Black colleges and universities, predominantly Black institutions, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander–serving institutions.

The project is a collaboration between researchers at New York University, California Institute of Technology and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO), with funding from the Kresge Foundation, SHEEO, NYU and the University of Denver.

The article notes that each type of MSI has different eligibility requirements for federal funding. Some kinds of institutions, such as tribal colleges and HBCUs, are “mission-based,” intended to serve certain populations, while other institutions are “enrollment-based,” receiving MSI status based on whether they enroll a certain percentage of a specific student demographic.

Andrés Castro Samayoa, an assistant professor of education at Boston College, said differences in federal requirements for eligibility as a MSI and “legislative history” make it difficult to arrive at a common definition of MSIs, and sometimes individual institutions shift their statuses from year to year.

“Because some of them are contingent on the actual enrollment numbers of certain student demographics, then that means it can be understood as a variable definition, and the eligibility then becomes something that can be achieved some years” and not others, he said. “It’s a bit of a shifting target.”

Meanwhile, some scholars believe MSIs should only be considered as such after they receive federal funding under that status, while others “have wanted to shift the conversation from the actual designation itself to ensuring they’re actually serving the communities of students that they are designated to be serving,” he added.

MSI Data Project researchers recommend colleges and universities be categorized as MSIs for research purposes only if they meet all federal requirements and that they be identified as their specific classification. For example, sometimes HSIs that receive funding under an Education Department program called Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans are simply categorized as HSIs even though these institutions have unique eligibility requirements, according to the article.

The researchers also suggest enrollment-based MSIs be identified in two different categories—those that meet eligibility requirements and those that received Education Department funding as an MSI—because it differentiates between institutions that hit certain demographic thresholds but aren’t currently funded under an MSI designation versus those that actively applied for and received Department of Education funds to serve a certain student population.

“These are taxpayer dollars,” Nguyen said. “There’s an expectation that they’re going to spend those monies wisely to support and serve the students that they’re supposed to serve, so this allows us to measure the impact of those dollars.”

Samayoa said the article addresses a “long-standing concern” among those who lead MSIs and those who study them about “potential discrepancies, some of the issues with dual designations, some of the absence of clarity that has sometimes obfuscated, either access to opportunities coming up, eligibility criteria for certain grants, from ED or from other agencies.”

The article and database are responding to a “need to bring everyone together so we can all be on the same page,” he said.

He also believes the database will be useful in his own research on MSIs and can jump-start a broader discussion among those using the new tool about how MSIs should be categorized to ensure clear research.

“This is such an important first step,” he added.

Antonio Flores, president and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, disagreed with some of the ways the database categorized MSIs. For example, he believes it makes sense to categorize Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans institutions as HSIs given they’re required to qualify as HSIs as part of their eligibility requirements. He also noted that the database doesn’t account for all federal funding sources for MSIs, such as the National Science Foundation or the Farm Bill, painting an incomplete picture of the MSI landscape, which the article acknowledges as a limitation.

But he does see room for more data and more research on HSIs.

“It would obviously be very helpful to know more than who gets money for what, but how is that applied at an institutional level, and more substantive research on best practices that they might have developed with the funding,” he said. “That to me would be very helpful in terms of different types of data for the different types of MSIs and all of them together.”

Sophia Laderman, associate vice president at SHEEO and co-principal investigator of the MSI Data Project, said in a press release that the database will expand in the future. The group plans to add data from earlier years “so that users can explore how MSI funding and eligibility status have changed and expanded over time,” as well as dashboards that allow “users to look up their institution and learn about an individual institution’s MSI eligibility, status and history across each of the designations.” She added that the database will also include how much funding each institution receives from the Department of Education.

Nguyen also said that the hope is to grow the database and include funding from other federal agencies, such as the NSF.

“Our goal is for this to be an infinite project where we keep building, go further back in time and get into history and adding more data as each year changes, and add in additional data from other sources that provide even more robust detail about these schools, about MSIs, and how they secure these resources and what they do with it,” he said.

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Congress considers family farm and small business FAFSA exemption

Inside Higher Education - Mar, 21 Mar 2023 - 01:00
Image: Overhead shot of a farm, with a road bisecting cultivated fields.

Higher education administrators say a change in the federal student aid formula could mean lower levels of financial aid for children whose parents run family farms or small businesses, and they want Congress to take action.

Currently, a family with an adjusted gross income of $60,000 and a farm worth $1 million would be expected to contribute $7,626 annually for college. But under the new federal financial aid formula that will launch later this year, that same family would be expected to contribute $41,056, the Iowa Student Aid Commission found in a recent report.

“It makes people look richer than they actually are,” said Mark Wiederspan, executive director of the commission.

Currently, the net worth of farms or businesses with fewer than 100 employees is exempt from the formula. However, the recent law that overhauled the federal student aid system known as the FAFSA Simplification Act removed that exemption, treating those assets as liquid. (Families that make less than $60,000 won’t have to answer questions about assets.) The changes from the act, which includes a simplified version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, will go into effect for the 2024–25 academic year. The new application is supposed to launch in the fourth quarter of this year, though some are skeptical the Education Department will meet that deadline.

Some experts are doubtful that Congress will make any changes before the new application rolls out, and the farm and small business exemption will likely be considered in future years.

Wiederspan and others are concerned that the change will add another barrier to completing the FAFSA by making the process more complicated for some families and requiring more guidance from the Education Department. He noted that farms and businesses are different from other assets that could be sold for cash to pay for college.

“The net worth includes everything,” he said. “It includes the combine, the grain silos and the land. That’s a physical investment, and it’s completely different from a liquid investment that you can quickly cash in.”

Wiederspan wants Congress to restore the exemption.

“If the intent of the FAFSA simplification was to get more people to be aid eligible, we can still achieve that without having to hurt farmers,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture considers a family farm to be any farm where most of the business is owned by the operator or family members. About 98 percent of the country’s farms fall under this category. Family operations that make less than $350,000 in gross income account for about 89 percent of all U.S. farms. A small business, for the purposes of the FAFSA, is one with fewer than 100 employees.

The Iowa Student Aid Commission found similar aid eligibility for families when the farm or business’s net worth is less than $250,000, but families are eligible for less aid than under the current system when the net worth exceeds $500,000.

“We anticipate that many family farms in Iowa with a net worth exceeding $500,000 are likely to be impacted, as research from Iowa State University found that the average net worth of farms in Iowa was approximately $1.9 million in 2021,” the commission’s report states.

Wiederspan added that the issue of whether to include the value of family farms in the financial aid calculation is not new.

“This has always been an issue in the past, and Congress rectified it, and it’s never been a problem,” he said. “But all of a sudden, now it is.”

Thomas L. Harnisch, vice president for government relations at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, said removing the exemption is a “step backward for students and families,” especially at a time of declining enrollment in rural areas.

“The vast majority of family farms and businesses are small, and this provision will introduce some new complexity into a process that was supposed to be simplified,” he said. “We were concerned that this could act as a barrier to students from a family-farm or small-business background to access higher education.”

Harnisch said the change could create financial and administrative challenges for family farms and small businesses.

“I’m from a small farming town in Wisconsin, and I can tell you that the vast majority of these farms are not mega-enterprises,” he said. “These are working-class students, and the assets that they have on those farms are not something that they can easily translate into money to finance their higher education.”

SHEEO is one of several organizations that have sent letters to Congress in the last month asking lawmakers to address the issue.

Congress is showing signs that it is listening to those calls. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers, led by Kansas representative Tracey Mann, a Republican, and California representative Jimmy Panetta, a Democrat, introduced a bill to bring back the exemption. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. In the Senate, a bipartisan group sent a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona seeking more information about the issue, particularly about the department’s plans to provide families with more guidance.

“These farm families, whose businesses are vital to our states’ communities and economies, need prompt and tailored guidance that considers their unique business model and will help families better understand how implementation of the FAFSA Simplification Act will affect their participation in federal financial aid programs,” Iowa senator Chuck Grassley wrote in the letter.

Senator Joni Ernst, the other Iowa Republican, and two Democrats—Colorado senator Michael Bennet and Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin—also signed on to the letter.

The Education Department has not responded to the senators’ letter and did not comment by press time.

Frank Ballmann, the director of federal relations for the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs, said a key challenge with including the value is determining what the net worth of the farm or small business is. So far, the Education Department has not provided guidance on how a family could calculate the net worth of a family farm or business.

Appraising the value of a farm or business, he said, is “an art, not a science.”

“No one’s going to know what number to put in there,” he said.

Ballmann said the only way to address the issue is for Congress to act and change the law, though he doesn’t think a full repeal is likely. Instead, he suggested that Congress find different metrics, such as the gross income of a farm, as a cutoff for the exemption.

“What I find particularly heartening is that both the House bill and the Senate letter are bipartisan,” he said. “I think there’s a fair amount of interest on both sides of the aisle. It’s good to see the momentum building.”

Ballmann said the issue needs to be fixed before the new FAFSA launches, but he’s not sure if the bill could pass on its own or as part of some must-pass legislation such as the appropriations bills, which are typically on the docket in September.

“But we really can’t wait till September to fix this, because there’s supposed to be a new FAFSA coming out, whether you think it’s Oct. 1 or Jan. 1,” he said. “It’s going to kind of blow up that process if this gets fixed in September … Anything that makes it harder to fill out the FAFSA is just an incredibly bad unintended consequence.”

Karen McCarthy, vice president of public policy and federal relations for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said it’s difficult to estimate the effect of removing the exemption.

“Because we weren’t asking the question before, we don’t really have any good way of estimating how many FAFSA filers do have a small business or a family farm that would now be required to report on the FAFSA,” she said.

McCarthy said NASFAA has heard from members in farming communities who are concerned about the change. In a recent survey of financial aid administrators, 39 percent said the provision would place a greater burden on financial aid offices, and 25 percent said more guidance was needed.

She said that she doesn’t know what the Education Department has planned for the question on the net value of a family farm or small business. More information is expected when the department unveils the draft FAFSA, which she said should be later this month.

McCarthy said that it’s getting late in the development of the new FAFSA to make significant changes.

“Our primary goal is to have a clean, smooth implementation,” she said.

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Is for-profit higher education dying or just a shell of itself?

Inside Higher Education - Mar, 21 Mar 2023 - 01:00

As recently as 2015, the University of Phoenix enrolled more than 400,000 learners, making it not only the center of the for-profit higher education universe but the biggest university in the United States by far.

Word in January that the University of Arkansas system is contemplating buying Phoenix raises fascinating questions about the state of for-profit higher ed and how to regulate the increasingly blurry landscape of postsecondary education and training.

A recent episode of The Key, Inside Higher Ed’s news and analysis podcast, used the possible Arkansas-Phoenix marriage as a moment to take stock of the state of for-profit higher education. The conversation included Kevin Kinser, who heads the Department of Education Policy Studies at Pennsylvania State University and studies for-profit higher education; Julie Peller, executive director of the nonprofit Higher Learning Advocates and a longtime expert on federal higher ed policy; and Paul Fain, editor of the newsletter The Job and a former editor at Inside Higher Ed.

An edited transcript of the discussion follows.

Inside Higher Ed: What most jumped out to each of you about the potential sale of the University of Phoenix to Arkansas, and what does that potential sale tell us about the broader landscape for for-profit colleges and universities?

Kinser: This used to be by far the biggest university in the United States—depending on how you counted it, half a million students. John Sperling, the founder of the University of Phoenix, was specifically looking to move against this notion of how public education was constructed and the restrictions associated with that, which now comes full circle as it potentially gets taken over by a state school.

It’s still unclear what the transaction is that’s actually happening. It seems like this nonprofit entity with affiliated status is somehow going to acquire Phoenix? The devil’s in the detail. We saw that with what Purdue was doing, the back-and-forth with Arizona Global. Arkansas has previously taken over a for-profit, so they might actually feel like they’ve got some experience with this, [that] they can leverage this and make it a net positive.

Inside Higher Ed: It’s important for us to stipulate just how much we don’t know. When I first heard about it, I assumed they were going to merge it into the University of Arkansas Grantham, the public institution Arkansas created when it purchased Grantham University last year, which itself emerged out of eVersity, the online-only university Arkansas created in 2014. Julie, your early thoughts on what the larger implications are for the for-profit sector?

Peller: I think about it from the perspective of who institutions are trying to serve. When University of Phoenix was first conceived, John Sperling intentionally put the campuses right off highways so people coming home from work could stop in and go to school. That ethos of serving a different kind of student is carried throughout the life of University of Phoenix.

What’s interesting to me is from the flip side of what makes it attractive to a public institution like the University of Arkansas. The public sector is trying to figure out how to serve and how to attract adult learners, working students who we call “today’s students,” less traditional students that used to be only the for-profits’ market share. Public institutions are going after those students much more aggressively, and folding in outside entities like Phoenix is an interesting way to go about it.

Inside Higher Ed: Most of the growth we’ve seen in targeting that audience has been among the private nonprofits—the Southern New Hampshires of the world, the Western Governors … Paul, you’ve been covering this stuff as well and as long as anybody. How should we be thinking about it?

Fain: I totally agree with what Julie and Kevin say. Phoenix wasn’t just synonymous with for-profit higher education. It was synonymous with career education, and certainly online. It’s down to one-fifth, maybe less, of its peak in terms of enrollment. It’s been hemorrhaging money for a long time. But 85,000 students isn’t nothing in online education, and if this Arkansas system entity gets it, they’ll immediately be a player. Despite it being a shell of what it was, it’s still probably worth a lot if you’re trying to catch up in online career education.

This is a sign that the days of the freestanding, degree-issuing, big for-profit chains, particularly publicly traded, are over. That’s years of toxicity, scandals and lots of remaining regulatory headwinds.

Inside Higher Ed: Paul, you just said you think those days are kind of over for big for-profit institutions. Enrollment in for-profit institutions dropped by roughly half over the course of the 2010s, but it’s still in the 800,000 range. And Phoenix takes 10 percent of that out of the picture if it stops being in that bucket. Kevin and Julie, what is the future of the for-profit institution? We’ve seen all these places try to transition to becoming nonprofit in various ways, some more successfully and more controversially than others. Is there still a place for the for-profit institution?

Kinser: With apologies to Mark Twain, the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. There is a cyclical component to this. We’ve seen this going back pre–World War II, with for-profit institutions emerging, there being some controversy or scandal, there’s a regulatory effort that goes on. In fact, the accreditation system that we have today was born out of this need to have some control over for-profits after World War II. We see this kind of regulatory effort, the for-profit sector adapts, figures out new ways of operating under the regulatory set and continues on. About every 20 years or so, we see another realm of this. As you point out, the numbers aren’t small.

But at least for the time being, we are certainly out of that era where running a for-profit institution was the same thing as printing money. It’s much more—we need to figure out, “What is the particular focus of this institution? Is it going to be in health care? Is it going to be in local community development?”

The final point is the universities themselves are, in essence, becoming for-profit entities, not just in terms of the partnerships they’re doing with for profits through [online program management companies] and other kinds of contractual entities, but also in the way they think about their finances. The ability to instantly gain 80,000 students is not being done because [Arkansas says], “We really want to serve these 80,000 students better.” It’s because that represents a lot of tuition money that they can do a lot of stuff with.

Inside Higher Ed: Julie, you think about this very much from a policy standpoint. What is your sense of the state of the for-profit institution sector? What do you think it should be? How do you read these developments?

Peller: I read them in two different ways from a policy or oversight perspective. For-profit institutions that have continued to be profitable and grow are, to Kevin’s point, those that are really specific in either the community they serve or the programs they offer. One of the reasons for this shrinkage is a course correction from the growth into liberal arts degrees and other areas, particularly by large for-profits, and that’s where we’re seeing the retreat. We’re not seeing as much retreat from very career-focused programs, professional programs, local, smaller for-profit entities that often we leave out of these conversations because they’re not publicly traded and big. So that’s one—what is the purpose of these institutions and who is providing the skills, education and opportunities for the jobs of tomorrow?

Secondly, we need to be talking about what does “good” look like for a program or student from an oversight perspective. The black-and-white lines of saying we look at for-profits this way and nonprofits that way needs to be rethought because the market does not work that way anymore. If we look at where we started off, if there is a deal between Arkansas and University of Phoenix, is that a for-profit entity, is that not-for-profit entity? Our regulatory system is just not equipped right now to answer that gray area, and it needs to.

Inside Higher Ed: Paul, before we got on, I was referring to a book chapter you and I wrote about the for-profit sector back in 2015 for a Stanford University Press book called The New Ecology of Higher Education. The chapter was called “Boom, Regulate, Cleanse, Repeat.” And it described the cycle Kevin was referring to before, where enrollment blows up for for-profit institutions, often through sketchy marketing–fueled practices. Some institutions cross lines, regulators toughen up the rules governing them, the sector shrinks and most of the survivors operate somewhat better. We did not predict the end of the sector.

When you said before that the days of the big for-profit are over, do you think we’re on the verge of seeing this sector disappear or just certain elements of it?

Fain: From interviews with folks in the space and investors, Title IV–eligible, degree-issuing, national-footprint for-profits, I don’t see it. You definitely still have Strayer and Capella clicking along. They’re doing well, though I don’t think they’re growing much. American Public is still going along. Adtalem, last I saw, is mostly overseas, very different type of company from when it had DeVry. Those big chains have collapsed.

I’ve always wondered, why aren’t the consumer groups celebrating? You won; [the for-profits] are largely gone. For-profit education is bigger than those chains, though. Depending on how you cut it, it’s 5 percent of total enrollment. It’s not as big as the public policy debate would have you think. But the ones that are doing well, from what I hear, are small, local vocational trade schools, in allied health care, automotive repair, the sort of programs that students probably don’t know or care about if they’re attending a for-profit or a public or private nonprofit.

But we were totally wrong, Doug, to predict that things would come back. I was just thinking about this. It was 11 years ago when Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, a Democrat, put out that big report on the for-profit sector. I had to look to make sure he said it, but he said this is an industry that’s here to stay, will continue to play a significant role in serving growing numbers of nontraditional and disadvantaged groups of students.

That didn’t really happen. In the following years, the Obama administration, Senator Elizabeth Warren, they moved away from the “bad actors, good actors” argument to just “bad.” It’s hard to compete with that, particularly with Western Governors, Southern New Hampshire, dominating the market, getting close to 200,000 students. It’s not just them. I mean, ASU Online, that’s a brand it’s hard to compete with.

Inside Higher Ed: Paul just asserted that the consumer advocates who tried to largely eradicate for-profit higher ed from the face of the earth have largely succeeded, whether we agree that the sector is fully dead or just permanently shrunken and altered. Is our public policy still overly focused on those institutions? Julie, as the resident policy expert in the discussion, you were hinting before at a broader questioning of quality and performance across the postsecondary education and training ecosystem. Do you think the continued focus on for-profits as the evil empire is misdirected or overemphasized?

Peller: I do wish that we had the same level of conversation about value and outcomes for students in all institutions that we’ve had over the last 10 to 15 years for for-profit institutions. At the same time, I think it’s right to ask separate governance questions of for-profit institutions because the federal oversight for public institutions assumes that the state is looking after certain things or nonprofit governance rules look over certain things for nonprofit private institutions.

We can argue whether they do enough with that. But structurally, those things don’t exist in the for-profit sector. But that doesn’t mean that we should stop asking questions about outcomes and value and returns for students in all programs. I’m heartened by the Biden administration’s current request for information about a low-value index that looks across all institutions. I think we’re starting to have some of those conversations. At the same time, there’s a continued hyperfocus by some policy makers and advocates on the profit question.

Inside Higher Ed: Kevin, your thought on this policy question?

Kinser: We’re getting to the point where the idea of designating an institution as a whole as for-profit or nonprofit is problematic because there is so much blurriness. The for-profit industry used to say, “We’re trying to do good; just because our tax status is different doesn’t mean that we’re any different.” I think there really should be an exploration from a policy perspective about should there be more definitions or more categorizations of institutions rather than the three sectors that we have right now, nonprofit public and private nonprofit, because these kinds of combinations are happening so frequently.

There is a risk factor involved in the for-profit form that needs to be discussed. But the Arizona Global issue pointed out how that risk factor doesn’t get eliminated just because you move it into this nonprofit organizational status, that the motivations and pressures can still exist and be quite contradictory.

Inside Higher Ed: Paul, your newsletter focuses on the important job we as a country haven’t done terrifically well with: direct preparation of people for the workforce. Is there a place for institutions that are not public, not private nonprofit, in trying to create and train the workforce for the future?

Fain: I definitely agree with Julie and Kevin that the boundaries are getting blurrier all the time. Look at the debate over online program management companies and their partners as being a continuation of this discussion. One of the most compelling arguments by an advocate who is anti–for-profit that I ever heard was, if a company is well run and they don’t chase growth at the expense of quality and they don’t compensate their executives grotesquely, these things can work as for-profit degree-issuing entities. But ITT and Corinthian are good examples that when it goes off the rails, it goes off the rails.

Looking forward, what’s the really tough conversation? If you’re in the space of trying to train low-income minority students for jobs like home health-care aides, allied health writ large, early childcare, your outcomes are going to be bad. Your completion rates are going to be bad. You’re going to have default, you’re going to have low salaries. I love community colleges. I write about them all the time. As we all know, completion rates can be very low in that sector. What’s acceptable? Where is higher education’s responsibility there? Where does it end? These are the sorts of nuance I’d like to see in policy debates going forward that hasn’t been there.

Kinser: The point is, you don’t want students to be worse off for having attempted higher education than they would be had they not done anything at all. How you actually figure that out is part of the question. For-profit institutions were demand-creating institutions. They went out and brought into higher education students who would not have naturally done that. Where they got off the rails was when instead of doing that demand creating, they said, “Let’s go out and take away students who would have been better served in other kinds of institutions.” For-profit institutions that are focused on bringing people in [to higher education] and helping them be better off through education is an important role to play.

Inside Higher Ed: They also went off the rails, as Julie said before, when they went from focusing on preparing people for jobs to offering credentials and degrees in fields where they couldn’t necessarily do that, in more liberal arts fields. That was in the interest of growth. Julie, Paul’s asking for a better public policy. Can we deliver?

Peller: I’m not sure we can, not to all of our satisfaction, especially at the federal policy level, which is a really blunt tool. We can answer better the question Kevin just asked: Is this institution or, in more ideally, is this program at an institution leaving students better or worse off than when they came in? If they’re leaving them worse off, then we need to ask, are we using public dollars to send students there?

Where public policy at the federal level is hindered is in defining “is this a good institution? Is this a good bet for a student?” Because as a nation, we’ve not really agreed, writ large for higher education, about what a good outcome is. What is the higher education equivalent of “are you college and career-ready” coming out of high school? We just have not gotten there as a policy community. In the meantime, we need to answer better “Is this harmful?” Too often we conflate those things and say we have failed because we can’t answer the “good” question, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to answer the “harmful” question.

I’m particularly interested in what Doug said about the larger postsecondary landscape. Not only for-profit and nonprofit blending, but degrees, certificates, certifications, all being part of this landscape. For-profit entities may not be institutions of higher education yet, but for-profit entities are serving and training learners in all sorts of places in that credential space. And we’re seeing growing demand for those credentials.

I’m interested in how a for-profit entity plays there and what lessons from a policy perspective we can learn from the regulatory swings of for-profit institutions to apply to make that a better, better chance, and a better ecosystem for people.

Inside Higher Ed: Paul, you’re regularly documenting all the different players that are now providing credentials, sometimes through institutions, but often on their own. Do you see us having learned things from how we handled for-profit institutions that would influence the policy landscape for potential other for-profit entities that might get into this space?

Fain: I do see a growing number of for-profit companies in the subdegree, nondegree credential space. Boot camps for sure. Apprenticeship providers is another interesting one. We’ve written about OpenClassrooms pursuing regional accreditation and partnering with institutions.

Gainful employment—while dormant, it worked. I talked to a bunch of investors who admitted they didn’t really pay attention to outcomes before gainful employment, and now they do. And when you look at these nondegree credentials, Julie’s right about federal policy being a hammer, but you’re probably going to see more strings attached at the state level when it comes to short-term credentials, with outcomes being baked into that and hopefully some high bars. Getting data on that stuff is very tough.

The new short-term workforce Pell proposal from the House Republicans has some potentially high bars for outcomes, to throw a big wrench into all this. Another encouraging thing is the debate around credentialism, which has been completely absent from the higher ed industry for obvious reasons. Where do you need a degree? Is insurance sales the best degree, you know, for your degree job? No. And you’re actually seeing movement there. I don’t know how deep that will go. Maybe not encouraging students to take out debt for credentials that aren’t really necessary for jobs is a good place to start.

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Field of study not key to new academic program success

Inside Higher Education - Mar, 21 Mar 2023 - 01:00
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The success rate for new academic programs at colleges and universities depends more on the type of institution launching them than whether a program is in the sciences or humanities, according to a new report identifying what sorts of programs fare better when it comes to growth.

Researchers with Lightcast, a labor market analytics firm, found four-year public universities and larger institutions, whether public or private, are more likely to see new degree programs prosper, according to an analysis of federal data on degree conferrals. The researchers defined a program as failed if it stopped producing graduates within five years of its creation, and according to their report, master’s programs failed at a lower rate than bachelor’s or associate degree programs.

At stake is an institution’s financial investment in a new program and potentially the career outcomes of students, researchers said. Over all, they described “similar numbers of growing and failing programs” and suggested that lowering the failure rate “would be a huge step forward for higher education.”

As part of the analysis, researchers looked at whether humanities programs were less likely to grow relative to programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. They concluded that “humanities programs in general do not fail significantly more than STEM programs, meaning that the door to success is open to everyone.”

The study listed a failure rate of 39.4 percent for 236 new programs for engineering, engineering-related technologies and technicians, similar to a 39.1 percent failure rate for 156 new programs in the liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities. The report’s authors concluded that “successful and unsuccessful programs are widely distributed across fields of study.”

“What we’re trying to say is, you can’t just assume that because it’s a STEM program, it will necessarily succeed, right? Or, if it’s a social science program, it will necessarily fail, right?” said Rucha Vankudre, a senior economist with Lightcast and report co-author. “It really comes down to the program itself, and even things like the geography you’re in … what are the main businesses around you.”

The report noted the importance of considering career outcomes for students in new programs, using federal census and education data on underemployment rates in certain fields to point out how some graduates end up in careers where their bachelor’s degree isn’t required. It also emphasized the importance of how programs are developed.

“The challenge is to learn from which past programs have paid off and which have not, then use that information to develop future programs with a higher likelihood of producing reliable results and prosperity for schools, students, and communities,” the report stated. Authors also described how a successful new program “can represent new fields of human knowledge, address emerging social concerns, and propel graduates into fast-developing career fields.”

The report stated that there’s “a growth opportunity for institutions who can better align student interest with success in the job market after graduation.”

It’s important, however, to consider the full nature of the labor market rather than rely on generalizations, Vankudre said.

Technology companies have “really been dominant in the news,” which might lead colleges to focus on creating career paths for STEM majors. But, “when you really stop and think about it, our economy is quite diverse,” Vankudre said.

The finding that humanities and STEM programs had similar failure rates is “contrary to conventional wisdom,” the report said.

An Inside Higher Ed survey of college and university provosts published earlier this month found about 75 percent agreeing that politicians and the institution’s board members are prioritizing STEM and professional programs over those that support general education.

Scott Muir, director of undergraduate initiatives for the National Humanities Alliance, which promotes the value of studying the humanities, described challenges faced by deans and faculty members trying to launch new programs.

“While we do hear repeatedly that many upper administrators are hesitant to invest in these efforts, we see exceptions where humanities faculty have received a green light and financial support from upper administrators and have subsequently launched very successful programs,” Muir said in an email.

Digging Into the Data

Using federal education data, Lightcast researchers found growth at 2,274 out of 8,007 new programs studied from 2016–17 through 2021, for a success rate of 28.4 percent.

The report defined a new academic program as growing if it had both a minimum of 10 graduates in at least one year and had grown its number of graduates by at least 50 percent.

A higher education researcher not involved in writing the report said the growth standard used for the report might not be appropriate for every academic program.

Lisa Lattuca, director of the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, said some undergraduate programs may be approved with an expectation of a slow ramp-up to better recruit new students rather than transfers. Or, a professional program may have capacity limits related to the availability of placements for internships, for example, she said.

“There’s a whole bunch of scenarios I can think of where the enrollment target matters, and where growth of 50 percent isn’t actually what you want or what happens,” Lattuca said.

Vankudre said the methodology of reviewing federal data on degree conferrals should capture the large majority of new academic degree programs, but a few programs may be missing, in part because data collection depends on institutions voluntarily reporting information.

Whatever the limitations, Vankudre said the analysis of new degree programs “captures enough that the trends should be representative.” But it is not always easy to suss out some information, she said.

The report stated that public universities and large institutions have new programs that are faring better “likely because those schools have greater resources or because their student populations are larger, or some combination of the two.”

The researchers found that public four-year universities had a success rate of about 37 percent for their new academic programs. It also noted a success rate of 36.4 percent for institutions with 5,001 or more graduates in 2016.

Vankudre said it was difficult to determine whether an institution’s size or status as public had a greater effect.

“We don’t really have enough sample size to be able to pull it apart,” she said.

Researchers counted 712 out of 2,068 master’s programs as showing growth, for a success rate of 34.4 percent, ahead of the 29.2 percent success rate for 3,200 new bachelor’s programs and a 25.4 percent success rate for 2,194 associate degree programs. Master’s degree programs failed at a rate of 26 percent, compared to 31.4 percent of bachelor’s degree programs and 31.7 percent of associate degree programs.

Vankudre said those numbers may reflect how the programs serve different types of students.

“The odds of them sticking through the master’s degree and being able to complete it are going to be higher than what you see at some of the lower levels,” she said.

The report also noted that online programs had a lower failure rate than in-person offerings. Out of 1,918 new online programs, 479, or 25 percent, failed. In a total of 6,089 new in-person programs, 1,894 failed, or 31.1 percent, failed.

The researchers did not directly refer to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on new programs. But Lattuca said that moving forward, “it appears online programs may be added more and more, especially after the pandemic.”

Of the new programs that failed, researchers found that 2,373 folded after producing 33,688 graduates before reaching zero conferrals, for an average of “around three degrees per program per year.”

The report stated that graduates of those programs “may now face an uphill battle looking for a job armed with a degree representing a program that no longer exists—or one that employers may not be familiar with.”

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As far as why programs at public universities in particular might fare better, Vankudre said that because public colleges and universities rely on government funding, “sometimes they have to be a bit more careful in what they propose.” Vankudre acknowledged differing standards for academic program growth, including viability standards set by state higher education authorities whose purview includes the approval of new academic programs.

In the fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board completed a review of 131 proposed new academic degree programs, approving 124. Institutions opted to withdraw seven program proposals.

“Denials of programs are rare,” with the Texas coordinating board’s staff working with an institution to improve proposals “or determine if they should be withdrawn,” coordinating board spokesman Mike Eddleman said in an email.

In Arkansas, the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board last year heard information about whether recently launched academic programs were considered “on track” toward viability.

The standard in Arkansas is 18 graduates over five years for most bachelor’s degree programs, but the number goes down to 12 for some bachelor’s degree programs and also for master’s programs. For most associate degree programs, the standard in Arkansas is 18 graduates required over a three-year period.

Members of the Arkansas coordinating board were concerned after hearing that 100 out of 179 new degree and certificate programs approved in recent years were on track to meet the viability standard.

“If you fail this many times, that’s substantial,” said Andy McNeill, the chief executive officer of an environmental services company who was appointed to the board by the state’s governor.

But students, faculty and alumni can find value in keeping a degree program even if it has few graduates, as has been the case with the University of Central Arkansas’ African and African American studies bachelor’s degree program.

Television news outlet THV11 reported that faculty members and others wrote a letter to administrators in support of keeping the program, the only such stand-alone bachelor’s degree program in the state. The letter pointed out how “the elimination of the major harms the goals outlined in UCA’s Diversity Strategic Plan to pursue and retain a diversified student body, faculty, and staff,” the television station reported.

The university awarded one bachelor’s degree in African and African American studies in fall 2022, a university spokeswoman said. Discussions are still ongoing about the future of the program, which was approved as a bachelor’s degree program in 2004 on a campus where about 16 percent of all undergraduates are Black, according to federal data.

“A working group was convened in Spring of 2022. The group met throughout the summer and fall of 2022. Currently, the conversation is continuing in the Department of History, the home department for the degree,” University of Central Arkansas spokeswoman Fredricka Sharkey said in an email.

Such programs have seen relatively low enrollments in other states, as well, leading to talk of eliminating them. But at least one large public university, Louisiana State University, has recently launched a bachelor’s degree program after the state Board of Regents granted approval in 2021.

Lattuca, of the University of Michigan, said university leaders must think about adding new programs to best serve their students.

“The world changes, and higher education often gets criticized for not changing with it,” she said.

University administrators must also consider whether creating new programs will improve their institutions’ finances.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of institutions that can afford not to think about that, so I think that’s always a consideration, when they expect to be revenue positive” with a new program, Lattuca said.

She noted that a review leading up to a launch may take two years.

The report did not say whether recruitment efforts for new programs can make a difference in the success of the program, but a former enrollment administrator said marketing does matter.

“My experience, for the most part, is that marketing does play a crucial role in new academic program success,” Perry Rettig, a professor of education and a former vice president for enrollment management and student affairs at Piedmont University in Georgia, said in an email.

New programs often “attempt to fill niche markets,” Rettig said.

“The overhead costs to operate new programs make it difficult to sustain more than a couple of years, so focused recruitment efforts to immediately fill seats [are] important in today’s reality,” Rettig said.

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Student podcast evaluates student success measures

Inside Higher Education - Mar, 21 Mar 2023 - 01:00
Image: A group of Community College of Baltimore County students smile for a photo in front of a backdrop highlighting their podcast, "Good School."

What makes a good school, and who gets to decide that?

A group of students from the Community College of Baltimore County set out to answer such questions and pull back the curtain on higher education for students through their podcast.

Appropriately titled Good School, the podcast dives into the framework of higher ed from the application process to rankings and faculty experience and how each portion impacts the student’s perception of and experience attending their institution.

For professor Beth Baunoch, the podcast is a form of narrative exploration from community college students as well as an experiential learning project, highlighting that student success can come from any institution, not just a “good” one.

Behind the podcast: Baunoch and a team of 12 students launched the podcast in fall 2020 after she received a $40,000 grant in 2019 from the Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship program to launch a podcast production studio.

“My proposal was to create a podcast production house in Baltimore to remove perceived barriers from creating media, in the goals of bringing more inclusivity into the podcast industry,” Baunoch says. “And since I am a professor, the goal was to start with students and teach students how to create podcasts.”

The subject of “good schools” came up in a brainstorming session, and it quickly became clear the topic was important to both the students and their peers.

The podcast follows what Baunoch calls an “audio documentary, journalistic-style,” which requires more skills and training than an interview, talk show–style production.

Each student has a title—associate producer, producer and editor are a few examples—which was important to Baunoch, because it gives them résumé experience to talk about with future employers.

The nature of a two-year school means few of the original students are still working with Baunoch on the project, and it has instead moved to “season two” of its cast and crew, so to speak.

Definitions of success: The podcast serves two key purposes. One, it’s an opportunity for dialogue led by community college students who are disadvantaged by rankings and the prestige of “good schools.”

Community college students are at a disadvantage in their postgraduate success when they compete for internships and jobs against graduates of “good schools,” Baunoch explains.

“The system is set up to keep people out,” Baunoch says. “Through our research, that is what we have learned, that is what we’re dealing with here. It’s not just about getting a good education, because you can get a good education anywhere. But when you’re going to find a graduate from CCBC versus a graduate from Harvard, who are they going to hire?”

But, maybe more importantly, it’s a demonstration of the talents and efforts of community college students.

Attia Robinson and Andrea Alvarado are two students currently working on Good School with Baunoch. Robinson is a biology student and Alvarado studies digital media production, and they were both drawn to the project as an experiential learning opportunity.

What started as a fun project for the two students has grown into a deeper understanding of the business of higher education and the forces at play in a student’s journey to gain a college degree.

“I think the main takeaway from the whole podcast is there’s not necessarily a good school—it’s just that there are schools that are good for you,” Robinson says.

A secondary consequence of the project is the two students’ desire for change in higher education.

At their own institution, Robinson and Alvarado want more funding for media studies, tenure for faculty, commuter student facilities, expanded dining services, additional personnel for student services and a board of committees that recognizes their campus’s unique community and needs.

The students also recognize the backward allocation of resources for students related to success: only after an athletics team wins the championship will their program receive more funding, or after a club earns an award will it gain new equipment. Robinson and Alvarado want that to change.

“They look for student success after we succeed. Like, we already made the podcast,” Robinson says.

The impact: The podcast has sparked important conversations around the value of education, student success and, of course, the definition of a good institution among both Baunoch’s students and the higher education community.

“I think it’s really opening [the students’] eyes to what they’re going through on a daily basis and why it is the way it is,” Baunoch says.

Robinson and Alvarado have both learned and implemented new skills as part of the Good School team. While both serve officially as producers, Robinson has also done voice and postproduction work, and Alvarado edits.

“It’s been really insightful. It’s the first time I’ve ever had to work on a project with people and have to be, like, official,” Robinson says. “I’ve never had to do so many meetings, and just having to work with the people around me to make a product is difficult, but it’s pretty fun.”

Robinson and Alvarado believe the work improved their research and interview skills as well as taught them better time management as they coordinated meetings. Both have presented at conferences and as panelists, building confidence in their public speaking and communication skills, too.

“I’m learning so much, I’m like, ‘OK I can handle it, I kinda like it,’” Alvarado says.

Student SuccessEditorial Tags: Student SuccessImage Source: Molly E MillerImage Caption: Students at the Community College of Baltimore County at an event this semester that showcased their podcast, “Good School.”Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: Live Updates: liveupdates0Most Popular: 6In-Article Advertisement High: 9In-Article related stories: 12In-Article Advertisement Low: 15Include DNU?: NoIn-Article Careers: 3

Queens College debuts virtual neurodiversity hub

Inside Higher Education - Mar, 21 Mar 2023 - 01:00
Image: The home page of the Neurodiversity Hub features an animated image of many human silhouettes with their brains highlighted.

College leaders and educators are seeking ways, big and small, to support the growing number of neurodivergent students on their campuses. (Quick primer: neurodiversity is commonly associated with autism, but it concerns diagnoses such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and attention deficit disorders, as well.) At Queens College, part of the City University of New York, a faculty member has teamed up with two students—one of them neurodivergent herself—to create a virtual resource hub for supporting neurodivergent students.

Accessible content: “An online hub makes the content accessible at all times, from anywhere,” says Kartika Kumari, a master’s degree student in Queens College’s behavioral neuroscience program and one of the hub’s creators. Kumari learned she was neurodivergent just two years ago and says that she hopes the hub leads to greater “acknowledgment” of neurodiversity by faculty and staff members—what she calls “the first and the most crucial step” to supporting neurodivergent students.

How they got here: Kumari worked with Sally Izquierdo, program director for applied behavior analysis graduate programs at Queens College, along with another graduate fellow, Gloria Livai, to deliver presentations to faculty on neurodiversity, inclusivity and Universal Design for Learning last year. As part of that work, Izquierdo, Kumari and Livai also created a Microsoft Teams site for faculty members and staff. The Neurodiversity Hub was born.

What the hub includes: Resources include training links, research articles, book lists, podcast suggestions and recommended websites. An instructor checklist Izquierdo created offers tips and prompts on designing courses for inclusivity and accessibility, from general communications to syllabi to assessment. A section on executive function, asks, for example:

  1. Have I provided an agenda ahead of each class?
  2. Are my lectures broken up into smaller chunks?
  3. Have I included breaks between topics?
  4. How will students engage?
  5. Have I included instructions and other prompts in multiple formats?
  6. Have I offered note-taking alternatives?
  7. Have I offered some content in different modes?

Hub members can communicate with each other on the platform through posts and chats. Currently there are several dozen users. The hub is available to those with a CUNYFirst account. Izquierdo and her team are working to promote the site, with the goal of providing more support for professors and staff members.

The best part: For Izquierdo, the coolest aspect of the hub is that she built it with a neurodivergent student. It’s “important that students participate in all aspects of the development of supports,” she says. “Their feedback is critical to understanding needs.”

Kumari agrees. “I love that it was made with collaboration for collaboration. This is a platform for learning for everyone, including us. It is a place for everything related to neurodiversity, from instructor resources and research articles to neurodiversity events.”

The need: Now more than ever, Izquierdo says, “We need to support our faculty and staff in understanding how to include students with learning differences.” This is part of higher education’s broader diversity, equity and inclusion mission and must be “part of our campus dialogue,” she adds.

In this light, the hub “is a safe space for a collegial discussion and a place to request, find and share resources. When faculty and staff are supported, they can do a better job of supporting students.”

Call to action: Beyond the hub, Izquierdo says she wishes that more higher educational professionals “were intentional in their approach to being inclusive and meeting the needs of a diverse student body, including neurodiversity.” This means seeking out up-to-date resources, studying best practices and engaging with others—including students—“to get feedback on our effectiveness.”

Reflecting on neurodiversity: Kumari says her diagnosis “has taught me to be more patient with myself. When it comes to studying, it has helped me understand the value in utilizing mixed modes of learning for different subjects.” She recalls staying in the library past the point of exhaustion as an undergraduate but says now she knows to take breaks “and shift my focus.”

We’d love to know what you or your colleagues are doing to support neurodivergent students. Share your efforts and success stories here.

Student SuccessEditorial Tags: Student SuccessImage Source: Sally Izquierdo/Queens CollegeImage Caption: The Queens College Neurodiversity Hub offers support to faculty and staff members on helping students with different learning styles and challenges succeed.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: Live Updates: liveupdates0Most Popular: 6In-Article Advertisement High: 9In-Article related stories: 12In-Article Advertisement Low: 15Include DNU?: NoIn-Article Careers: 3

Colleges start new programs

Inside Higher Education - Mar, 21 Mar 2023 - 01:00
  • Niagara University is starting an M.S. in accounting.
  • Quincy University, in Illinois, is starting new majors in electrical and mechanical engineering.
  • Syracuse University will soon begin a bachelor’s program in esports with three tracks: esports business and management, esports communications, and esports media and design.
  • York College of the City University of New York is starting an M.S. in nursing education.
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Quinta Brunson Shuts Down Critic Of 'Abbott Elementary' Charter School Plotline

Huffington Post - Lun, 20 Mar 2023 - 16:50
The actor and screenwriter wasted no time in clarifying her academic background after a critic slammed her show's portrayal of the charter school movement.

Can Connecticut College's embattled president hang on?

Inside Higher Education - Lun, 20 Mar 2023 - 01:00
Image: Katherine Bergeron, a light-skinned woman with short auburn hair and glasses, holds an enormous pair of blue-handled scissors for a ribbon cutting.

The administrative building at Connecticut College is finally quiet, emptied of the students who gathered to protest President Katherine Bergeron. But that’s only because they’ve gone on spring break.

When they return from the two-week break on March 27, students say the protests are likely to resume.

Students first occupied Fanning Hall, where Bergeron’s office is located, last month after Rodmon King, the dean of institutional equity and inclusion, resigned in protest of the college’s decision to hold a fundraiser at the Everglades Club in Florida, which has a famously discriminatory past.

King had warned Bergeron against holding the fundraiser there, but she reportedly ignored the advice, prompting his resignation and the last-minute cancellation of the event.

In a scathing resignation letter, King accused Bergeron of bullying and creating a “toxic administrative culture of fear and intimidation” that left people afraid of crossing her. Now students, faculty and staff have united in opposition to the president, demanding her resignation. Employees say the issues King raised have been simmering for a while.

Bergeron, meanwhile, has hunkered down, hoping to weather the protests and keep her job.

Neither Bergeron nor any college trustee was willing to provide comment to Inside Higher Ed.

Unpacking the Controversy

The planned Palm Beach fundraiser was part of a Connecticut College capital campaign tour that included events in New York City, Chicago and elsewhere; another fundraising event is scheduled for Wednesday in San Francisco, and Bergeron will reportedly attend.

The Everglades Club has long been known for secrecy, exclusivity and discrimination. When singer Sammy Davis Jr. was famously denied entry, Joseph Kennedy, the father of former president John F. Kennedy, resigned his membership, accusing the club of discriminating against Black and Jewish people. Past media coverage suggests the club never had a Black member because none ever applied.

Even Donald Trump once complained about the racial exclusivity of the country clubs in Palm Beach.

King resigned on Feb. 7, the day before the scheduled Everglades Club fundraiser. Bergeron announced his resignation in a campus email that said she was “saddened and shocked to receive this news.” On the same day, students posted fliers around campus pointing out that King had resigned in protest of the event. Bergeron sent a follow-up email the next day noting that the college had canceled the event and expressing regret for engaging the venue in the first place.

Frustrated by King’s resignation and steady turnover in the Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion, students began to protest. And as Bergeron remained silent, the protests grew.

A new group quickly formed in the aftermath of the incident: Student Voices for Equity.

Shamar Rule, a Connecticut College junior involved with the protests and SVE, said the incident raised other troubling issues.

“Many of these issues include addressing the failed leadership of the Bergeron administration and calling for an immediate change in leadership to sustain an environment that welcomes and takes action towards living up to full participation, diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Rule said by email. “The issues SVE is addressing are the structural inhibitions to the college: retention, lack of accountability, monetary funds, workplace culture, student experience, and transparency.”

Faculty and staff members have supported the protests by donating food to students occupying the administrative building and providing flexibility regarding class attendance. Faculty members have also expressed their own concerns, which in many ways mirror the students’; they overwhelmingly passed a no-confidence vote in Bergeron’s leadership, 149 to 11.

“We’ve never had a protest that’s brought all three of these groups together—staff, faculty and students. The fact that all three are behind this particular cause is important to underscore,” said Afshan Jafar, a professor and the chair of the sociology department.

Jafar added that faculty have been raising concerns about Bergeron to the Board of Trustees since at least 2017, complaining about her administrative overreach, micromanagement and lack of transparency.

“We bring concerns to the board. We are able to air our grievances pretty candidly, but nothing actually comes out of it. As far as how effective it actually is, my experience has been that it’s not effective,” Jafar said. “And I’ve always found communication with trustees to be one-way. We say a whole lot at these meetings [with trustees]—it’s almost like delivering reports of what’s happening on this campus—but the trustees never have that kind of engagement back with us.”

The Board of Trustees has held public forums with students in recent weeks to hear their concerns, but Bergeron has not attended. Sources told Inside Higher Ed that the president was willing to meet with protesters, but only if they agreed not to film the meeting—a request the students occupying Fanning Hall rejected.

Bergeron’s silence seems only to be adding to the tensions.

“I think every week that goes by, the possibility to rebuild trust gets less and less likely. And I think the public perception of what is going on is getting more and more negative,” said Chris Steiner, a professor of art history and anthropology and director of the museum studies program.

Steiner added that the ongoing controversy is “a case study in how a lack of communication is so destructive.”

He also pointed out that the outrage has not been contained to campus; the local newspaper, The Day, recently penned an editorial calling for Bergeron to resign.

The Board of Trustees, for its part, has told faculty members the president is under review; it has also promised to investigate the issues being raised in campus protests.

“We know that several critical concerns have been addressed to President Bergeron and to members of the senior administration and Alumni Board this week,” Board Chair Debo P. Adegbile said in a Feb. 12 statement to campus addressing the spiraling controversy. “We want to assure you of the totality of our collective commitment to support our students, faculty, staff, and alumni in addressing these concerns in accordance with Conn’s values. The Board will bring focus to the full range of concerns that have been raised and, together with President Bergeron, will recommit to effective administrative leadership and our DEI values.”

Trustees have pledged “an immediate, independent, expert review of our [diversity, equity, and inclusion] commitments across the College and community, including of staffing, investment, programming, and practices that can allow us to fully achieve our community ideals.”

Missteps on Diversity

Missteps on matters of race, diversity and other sensitive topics have pushed out numerous administrators at other institutions in the past. For example, in 2015 both the system president and the flagship campus’s chancellor at the University of Missouri stepped down amid accusations of mishandling protests related to racism. One key incident at Mizzou involved President Tim Wolfe refusing to get out of his car to address student protestors on campus.

But in other instances, top officials have held on to their jobs after major missteps. At Purdue University Northwest, chancellor Thomas L. Keon—the campus-level equivalent of a president—mocked Asian languages in an off-the-cuff remark at a December graduation ceremony. Keon later apologized and remains in his role, despite calls for his ouster.

Experts note that offensive remarks on race don’t always sink presidencies but can create or exacerbate divisions on campus that subsequently make it harder for a president to do the job.

Carlton Brown, a senior fellow and senior consultant at the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, said that such gaffes often expose gaps in “proclamation vs. practice,” prompting constituents to question a leader’s commitment to DEI and forcing a glaring spotlight on the alignment of a president’s actions and words.

“If there is a strong proclamation of adherence to the pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusion and then there are moves made that belie that, that is a gaffe that begins to border on the unforgivable, because some things constitute an absolute violation,” Brown said.

When students, faculty and staff unite in opposition to a president, questioning their leader’s commitment to DEI, that often creates an irreparable rift, he noted, adding that it is important for presidents to live as well as communicate their values.

Though campus constituents seem united in seeking Bergeron’s resignation or firing, only one group has the final decision on the president’s future: the Connecticut College Board of Trustees. And for now, members aren’t willing to say what will happen to the embattled president, leaving the campus waiting—and students ready to protest when the semester resumes.

DiversityAdministrationEditorial Tags: PresidentsRaceTrustees/regentsImage Source: Connecticut College/FacebookImage Caption: Connecticut College president Katherine Bergeron, center, wields scissors at a ribbon-cutting event.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: Live Updates: liveupdates0Most Popular: 6In-Article Advertisement High: 9In-Article related stories: 12In-Article Advertisement Low: 15Include DNU?: YesIn-Article Careers: 3

Journal places warning on flawed abuse-homosexuality study

Inside Higher Education - Lun, 20 Mar 2023 - 01:00
Image: Screenshot of the timeline of the article in question being updated and the Expression of Editorial Concern being posted.

Last month, more than 20 years after the Archives of Sexual Behavior published research surveying gay people about whether they were molested as children—and whether they identified as gay before or after—a note appeared online.

“A reader alerted the editor-in-chief that there were concerns regarding some of the data,” the four-paragraph note on the article says.

In particular, the article’s authors had written that 68 percent of gay men they surveyed identified as such after being molested, and the lead author’s dissertation also said this. Yet a table in the same article said 68 percent identified as gay before being molested.

There were also more minor numerical errors elsewhere.

“Readers are urged to take caution when interpreting the content and conclusions of this article,” the Editorial Expression of Concern says. “The editor has been unable to find current email addresses for any of the authors in order to clarify and correct the article.”

“I couldn’t detect that any of them were current members of the American Psychological Association, we couldn’t locate an email address or a phone number for any of them,” Kenneth J. Zucker, the editor of Archives of Sexual Behavior, told Inside Higher Ed.

Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College psychology professor, told Zucker about the discrepancy back in 2009, according to emails Throckmorton provided Inside Higher Ed. Throckmorton also provided his emails pointing out the issue in 2006 to Donald I. Templer, a now-deceased author of the paper.

Templer responded a few times, at one point writing, “The most likely assumption is that percentages in the table are correct and that percentage in [the] narrative part of article is wrong.” But the emails don’t show a concrete resolution of the discrepancy.

A professor named Donald I. Templer at the California School of Professional Psychology, which is part of the for-profit Alliant International University, expressed white supremacist ideas and published a now-retracted article associating darker skin pigmentation with higher aggression and sexuality and lower IQ.

Throckmorton also blogged about the discrepancies back in 2009.

“I do think that the article should be retracted,” said Throckmorton, who called it “trash” in a blog post last week about the new Editorial Expression of Concern. “And I do think that’s on Springer—the publisher—and on Ken Zucker.”

“And I would have liked to have had a citation on the work that I did,” Throckmorton said.

Grove City, in Pennsylvania, is a Christian liberal arts college. Throckmorton said he found the discrepancy when he and a colleague there were doing a literature review on the correlates of homosexuality—mostly “to convince Christian organizations not to lie to the public about gays.”

Both he and Hemant Mehta’s “Friendly Atheist” blog have noted that the flawed article, “Comparative Data of Childhood and Adolescence Molestation in Heterosexual and Homosexual Persons,” plays into the idea that gay men “groom” children to become gay.

Zucker admitted to conversing with Throckmorton at some point.

“I did not recommend a retraction, and neither did the [Springer Nature] research integrity office,” Zucker said.

“We felt that by identifying the discrepancies, that that would make it clear why” people must be cautious about drawing conclusions from the paper, Zucker said.

A Springer Nature spokesperson said it “takes its role as a global publisher very seriously and we are committed to not only ensuring the integrity of the research we publish, but also the best practice conducted by all the authors and editors that publish with us.” The spokesperson said Springer Nature adheres to “best practice,” including Committee on Publication Ethics standards.

“In line with these guidelines, and in consultation with the editor-in-chief earlier this year, it was agreed that an expression of concern be issued for this paper due to irregularities in the data published,” the spokesperson said. “An explicit message to readers was also published as part of this, urging them to take caution when interpreting the content and conclusions of the article.”

Inside Higher Ed was also unable to reach any of the authors. The article says they were all at Alliant International University: Templer, Marie E. Tomeo, Susan Anderson and Debra Kotler.

“Given that the referenced study was published over 20 years ago and the authors are no longer affiliated with the university, we do not have current contact information for the researchers,” an Alliant spokeswoman said.

“The university does not direct, vet or review the independent research and publications pursued by Alliant faculty,” she said. “It is the standard practice and expectation that peer-review journals will ensure the rigor, methodology and results of studies they publish.

“That being said, Alliant does not endorse or support the conclusions reached in the referenced research, nor does this research align with the current or prior mission, vision and values of the institution. In fact, Alliant is home to the Rockway Institute—a national center for LGBT psychology research, education and public policy which advances the use of scientific and professional expertise to counter anti-gay prejudice and inform public policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

In a now-retracted 2012 paper under Donald I. Templer’s name, published in Personality and Individual Differences, Templer and his co-author wrote, “We have found, in both human and non-human animals, that darker pigmentation is associated with higher levels of aggression and sexuality (and in humans with lower IQ). Lighter pigmentation is associated with the slow reproductive strategy (K) including lower birth rates, less infant mortality, less violent crime, less HIV/AIDS, plus higher IQ, higher income, and greater longevity.”

In a video of a speech to a conference for American Renaissance, a white supremacist outlet, Templer says African Americans’ “problems—the problems caused by them—are mainly a function of low intelligence and poor impulse control. It is nature, and not white people, that have given Blacks smaller brains and lower intelligence on the average.”

“If Black persons score low on an intelligence test, I couldn’t find any more powerful evidence for the validity of that test,” he says, to laughter and applause.

“It’s pretty pathetic,” Throckmorton said of the video.

As for the findings of his unpublished literature review that led to his discovering the mistake, Throckmorton said, “I came to see sexual orientation of being more of an innate factor than related to anything environmental.”

DiversityFor-Profit Higher EdEditorial Tags: FacultyGay rights/issuesResearchImage Source: springer.comIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: Live Updates: liveupdates0Most Popular: 6In-Article Advertisement High: 9In-Article related stories: 12In-Article Advertisement Low: 15Include DNU?: YesIn-Article Careers: 3

Universities use TikTok to attract Gen Z students

Inside Higher Education - Lun, 20 Mar 2023 - 01:00
Image: A grid of videos from Washington University in St. Louis's TikTok feed

Higher ed institutions are beginning to get the hang of TikTok.

Many college and university marketing teams are now taking advantage of the short-form video application to show off hidden study spots, dispel campus misconceptions—such as that the dining hall food is lousy—share glimpses of the average day in the life of a student and more. According to a 2022 Pew Research study, two-thirds of teenagers use TikTok, making it a vital recruiting tool for colleges.

In recent months, however, some state governments and university systems have banned TikTok, restricting student and employee access to the app—typically by blocking it on campus Wi-Fi networks and university-owned devices. Now the Biden administration is threatening to ban the app in the U.S. unless ByteDance, its Chinese owner, sells it, NPR reported.

Marketing teams at institutions with minor restrictions have circumvented them by simply creating and posting videos using their personal networks and noncampus Wi-Fi, according to Josie Ahlquist, a digital engagement consultant. For those at institutions where state regulations now prohibit them from promoting themselves on the app, she recommends posting a goodbye video, explaining where else their followers can find them on social media.

It’s unclear how a nationwide ban would impact college marketers—though pivoting to Gen Z’s second-favorite app, Instagram, would be the natural solution. Ahlquist noted that TikTok’s popularity has helped make vertical video—videos that are taller than they are wide, thereby filling up a typical smartphone screen—one of the highest-demand forms of content on other apps.

“I would encourage everybody to download their videos, because what we know is that vertical video is doing fairly well on different platforms,” she said. “YouTube is putting a lot of investment into that. They’re even paying content creators to do more of that … Reddit just added kind of a vertical video–esque element. We know that, at least, that type of content is working.”

Cassaundra Sigaran, executive director of new media strategy at Washington University in St. Louis, said that while TikTok is home to a unique culture, she expects that culture—and the creators behind it—would easily shift onto Instagram’s vertical-video platform, Instagram Reels. She noted that the university’s analytics show that content they reposted from TikTok to Instagram actually does better on the latter site.

“You look at Snapchat. Snapchat was so big and so hot in its heyday, and then Instagram came out with Stories and it changed everything,” she said. “We thought, ‘How could it be the same?’ But then it was the same, and then it was better. I don’t think that there should be any fear in it, because we’re talking about creativity, and creators are going to create in whatever outlet is available to them.”

Reaching Gen Z

Still, universities have put significant time and energy into learning to use TikTok.

Wash U first launched its TikTok account in the early days of the pandemic to showcase projects students were working on at home. Sigaran said she was drawn to the platform because young people seemed to find immense joy in TikTok videos even amid the stress of the pandemic and online classes. But there was a steep learning curve.

“We didn’t have a lot of knowledge about TikTok, and neither did my students, because the students at that time were kind of that bridge between millennials and Gen Z, and TikTok, at that time, was very much a Gen Z type of platform,” she said. “Even my interns at the time were like, ‘We don’t know what this is.’”

Other universities were unsure if they should even launch TikTok accounts back then; it was clearly the direction social media marketing was heading, but it was also obvious that it would cannibalize resources and time that universities were putting into their existing social media accounts.

“As new platforms emerge, we tend to watch and see how they play out before we jump in, [asking,] ‘Is our audience there? Is it something we need to invest our time in?’ Because our resources are limited,” said Kira Thomas, director of university marketing and communications at the University of Montevallo in Alabama. “It was a while before we got into TikTok in October 2021.”

Nowadays, many university marketing departments, including those at both Montevallo and Wash U, hire teams of student interns to help create content. The students bring to the job knowledge of what performs well on TikTok and what trends are currently gaining traction.

Wash U employs four students, who pitch video ideas once weekly and spend the week tracking the latest trends and recording footage around campus.

Sam Hirsch, a senior and a social media intern for Wash U, wrote in an email to Inside Higher Ed that his videos aim to put “twists” on popular TikTok trends while also being “reflective of WashU’s values.” One of his favorite projects so far, posted two weeks ago, showed a group of students going to see the capybara at the Saint Louis Zoo. As Hirsch knew, the large South American rodents are currently trending on TikTok.

Following popular trends appears to have paid off. The account’s most popular video, a skit about a professor swapping places with his students, has been viewed about 589,000 times. Most videos routinely get over 10,000 views.

“On campus, our videos have a great reception,” Hirsh said, adding that his fellow students often ask him if they can be featured in a video. “From outside of the WashU community, we reach a large number of prospective students, and I am always happy to see people commenting about how they have just submitted applications, got into WashU, will be touring campus, etc.”

This was certainly true of the capybara video. One commenter jokingly said the Saint Louis Zoo’s capybara was “the real reason I want to go to WashU.”

The interns also help give the videos a sense of the student perspective—an important quality on an app where authenticity is considered a valuable asset, according to marketing experts.

Maureen Finn, senior digital marketing strategist at Creative Communications Associates, a marketing agency targeted at higher education clients, said universities tend to think their TikTok videos “need to be super polished, or they’re thinking of people doing these choreographed dances and flawless transitions. What we kind of tell them is that that’s definitely not what you need to be doing … don’t overthink it. Just put together a quick video. You can just take some B-roll of walking around the campus and put up a quick campus tour.”

Of course, some universities—especially elite institutions—get free advertising from students who are TikTok creators or vloggers. It’s not uncommon for these students to post aesthetically pleasing videos outlining a day at their university, whether that means hitting up a cozy campus cafe or studying in the quad.

One video with over 191,000 views, posted in January by TikTok user claaaarke, shows the Columbia University student’s “last first day” at the institution, outlining the classes she’s taking in her final semester. Many of the comments focused on how exciting her schedule sounded or how much her videos made viewers want to attend Columbia.

“Wow, the classes at Columbia are amazing,” one user remarked.

“The Columbia campus is so pretty,” another said.

It remains to be seen whether that particular form of unintended advertising would survive in a post-TikTok digital world.

Image Source: wustl_official/TikTokImage Caption: Washington University in St. Louis has been posting on TikTok since March 2020, with students pitching and crafting most of the account’s content.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: Live Updates: liveupdates0Most Popular: 6In-Article Advertisement High: 9In-Article related stories: 12In-Article Advertisement Low: 15Include DNU?: YesIn-Article Careers: 3


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