Monthly Archives: November 2016

When College Was a Public Good – The Chronicle of Higher Education

When College Was a Public Good

As the population has grown more diverse, support for grand efforts like the GI Bill to open doors to higher education has dwindled. Coincidence?

By Scott Carlson November 27, 2016


Bettmann, Getty Images
The GI Bill opened the doors to college to returning World War II veterans, including many from immigrant families. They joined the professional class and became further integrated into American society.

At a recent town-hall meeting in Tucson, local business leaders took up education in the state of Arizona. They examined state support for public colleges — among the lowest in the country — and fretted about their future work force, says Gary D. Rhoades, a professor of higher education at the University of Arizona. They had even gone to the statehouse to meet with legislators, he heard at the town hall. “If you need to raise taxes,” the businessmen had told their representatives, “we’ll give you political cover.”

To their surprise, the professor recalls, the legislators waved off their requests. One reportedly said: “Those kids don’t need college.”

In a state where 60 percent of schoolchildren are Hispanic, and the legislature is overwhelmingly white, the words “those kids” have meaning.

“It’s not hard to figure out that when people say‘those kids,’ it’s a euphemism for African-American kids, Latino kids, Native American kids,” Mr. Rhoades says. “We have been systematically disinvesting in higher education, and that is precisely at the time when people who want higher education — lower-income kids, students of color, and immigrant kids — have increased.” As the student population has diversified, the language that many people use to define the value of a college degree has shifted, from a public good to an individual one. Is that merely a coincidence?

It’s a jarring question for a sector that sees itself as a great equalizer, in a society that aspires to be a meritocracy. But look at a range of evidence, and it seems that policy makers — with the encouragement or tacit acceptance of the public — have erected barriers to higher education based on race and class.

Caitlin O’Hara for The Chronicle
Lawmakers seem less willing to help today’s students. State support for public colleges in Arizona, as here at Arizona State U., is among the lowest in the country. Legislators reportedly told local business leaders, “Those kids don’t need college.”

That is a difficult theory to pin down, and one not everyone believes. As federal and state governments face many financial obligations, and budgets are tight, it may be facile to argue that a decline in public higher-education funding is grounded in racism. Jason Delisle, who studies higher-education finance at the American Enterprise Institute, points to the burdens of pensions, Medicaid, and K-12 school systems, drawing a connection between increased spending there and declines for colleges. Other scholars in economics, higher-education policy, and cultural studies point to arresting correlations, though they’re subtle, shrouded in dog-whistle politics. Even in the dawn of the Trump era — after xenophobic and racist rhetoric energized the campaign of the populist billionaire — few policy makers would bluntly say they don’t want to pay for some students’ education because of the color of their skin.

Yet such attitudes have been documented, says Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “This is a well-known, constant theme in economics.” Studies have found that diversity is an impediment to the welfare state, of which education is part. A report by the Harvard Institute of Economic Research in 2001 concluded that Americans do not support European-style social-safety nets, including education benefits, because of racial fragmentation — and a belief that minorities benefit more from wealth redistribution. Countries like Finland, Japan, and South Korea beat the United States in educational attainment not because their people are smarter, Mr. Carnevale says, but because they are racially homogenous. And that seems to lead to broad public support for education.

Working on labor and education policy for many years, Mr. Carnevale, 70, has seen that dynamic at play. “White people my age are not going to vote to educate Hispanic kids or black kids,” he says. “All the great advances in education” — like the Morrill Act to create land-grant colleges in 1862 and the GI Bill to educate veterans of World War II — “have come when there was a strong white majority.” As those majorities have diminished, the public instead has pushed through measures to limit education benefits, restricting tax revenue, for example, cutting spending, and putting constraints on immigrant students.

Keystone-France, Gamma-Keystone, Getty Images
The GI Bill is as notable for the people it helped up, including some students here at New York U. in 1945, as for those it left out. Among white veterans who turned 18 from 1941 to 1946, 28 percent enrolled in college, while among their black peers, the rate was only 12 percent.

Despite barriers to higher education, national and local campaigns are encouraging more minority students to go to and finish college. But gaps persist, and as the higher-education system stratifies, black and Hispanic students disproportionately end up on campuses with fewer resources. Simply raising attainment, if even that happens, may not be enough. A nation’s fortunes grow as more of the population actually learns new skills and accumulates knowledge, says Mr. Carnevale. If we are going to rebuild our economy, he says, we have to find a way to give more students the promise of a high-quality education. The original GI Bill, passed in 1944, is hailed for widening access to higher education. And it did expand opportunity, but only for some.

In the decades before World War II, ethnic Europeans poured into the United States, and Italian-Americans in particular suffered legal and social discrimination. Like other predominantly Catholic groups from Southern and Eastern Europe, they lived in segregated urban enclaves (“Little Italies”) and tended to perform manual labor. Many white Protestants saw these immigrant groups as swarthy, dirty, criminal — a threat to the supposed genetic and cultural purity of America.

As World War II wound down, with a great need to reintegrate returning soldiers and kick-start the postwar economy, Congress passed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act. On the GI Bill, ethnic European-Americans from Irish, Italian, Polish, Jewish, Greek, and Slavic backgrounds went off to college, joined the professional class, and moved to the suburbs. The measure essentially made them white, bringing prosperity and acceptance to groups that had not enjoyed it before.

But the GI Bill is as notable for the people it helped up as for those it left out.

A decade before the landmark verdict in Brown v. Board of Education desegregating public schools, with Jim Crow laws and restrictions in veterans’ services, African-Americans could not take advantage of the GI Bill the way whites could. In the 1940s and ’50s, blacks were barred from attending many public universities. The historically black institutions of the day were often underfunded, with few graduate programs and limited capacity to accommodate more students.

All of that choked off educational opportunities for black vets. One study shows that among white veterans who turned 18 from 1941 to 1946, 28 percent enrolled in college, while among their black peers, the rate was only 12 percent. The GI Bill also paid for job training and apprenticeships, but studies suggest that blacks were underrepresented in those programs, too. The education gap was not for lack of desire: After the GI Bill was passed, 29 percent of white soldiers and 43 percent of black soldiers said they intended to enroll in college or training.

“White people my age are not going to vote to educate Hispanic kids or black kids.”
In 1960, California embarked on a public-education project that would rival the GI Bill in its ambitions. The California Master Plan established a tiered system of research universities, comprehensive state colleges, and community colleges to offer free higher education to the baby boomers of the state. The plan was a “class compromise,” says Brian Murphy, president of De Anza College, who worked on higher-education policy in California in the 1980s. It acknowledged and in some form sought to resolve class differences among white Californians. In 1960, blacks were less than 6 percent of the state population, Hispanics just 10 percent. “The subtext of race was not yet dominant in the master-plan conversation,” Mr. Murphy says. “Anybody who looked at high schools in San Diego or Los Angeles saw that it was still largely white.” He points out that Pat Brown, then governor of California, “knew that his base and the base for the next two generations would be largely white, an expanding middle class.”

Mr. Murphy once discussed the master plan with Clark Kerr, who was president of the University of California system during its formation. “You were buying social peace,” he told Kerr, who smiled. Mr. Murphy remembers the man’s response: “You’re on to it.”

Over the course of the 1960s and ’70s, African-Americans and Hispanics started making inroads in higher education, thanks to movements that tore down legal and cultural barriers. From 1970 to 1980, the share of African-Americans with at least a four-year degree went from 4 percent to 8 percent, and among Hispanics, 5 percent to 8 percent.

Some of that progress eroded in the ’80s, when Ronald Reagan became president. He saw students as freeloaders and “tax eaters,” much like unemployed parents on welfare, says Devin Fergus, an associate professor of African-American and African studies at Ohio State University. In a forthcoming book, The Land of the Fee: Hidden Costs and the Decline of the American Middle Class (Oxford University Press), Mr. Fergus lays out how the Reagan administration — with the help of conservative Southern Democrats — cut a billion dollars out of Pell Grants and other grant aid, shifting the emphasis of government support for higher education from taxpayers to bank-based federal loans. At a time when 40 percent of black children were living below the poverty line, the move hit working- and lower-middle-class families hardest. It started a trend toward ballooning student-loan debt, and it lessened minority- and first-generation-student enrollment at elite private institutions.

Diana Walker, Time & Life Pictures, Getty Images
William Bennett, a secretary of education under Reagan, said that students who defaulted on their loans were “deadbeats” who spent their money on cars and stereos.
Some of the rhetoric on the student-aid cuts was racially coded, like Reagan’s talk of “welfare queens,” Mr. Fergus says. William J. Bennett, who became Reagan’s secretary of education in 1985, called students who defaulted on their loans “deadbeats.” They might have to absorb financial-aid cuts, he said, through “stereo divestiture, automobile divestiture, three-weeks-at-the-beach divestiture.” “This is dog-whistle politics,” Mr. Fergus says. “He was borrowing the language of the anti-apartheid students,” who advocated divesting in companies operating in South Africa.

Reagan started a trend that was mimicked by the states.

In the ’80s, California’s world-class higher-education system “faced a contradiction,” says Mr. Murphy. The state had seen its Hispanic population more than double over two decades, to 19 percent, and in the next two, it would more than triple, to 32 percent by 2000. “The state didn’t have the capacity to handle it,” Mr. Murphy says, “unless you had increased revenue.”

Yet what voters and policy makers did was pass a series of measures that would starve the higher-education system and effectively cut out minorities. Proposition 13, which restricted tax revenue, passed in 1978. In the ’80s and ’90s, California, like other states, focused on crime, ramping up its prison system, and those racially charged efforts would absorb money that might otherwise have gone to higher education. By the late 2000s, California’s spending on corrections would catch up with, and even surpass, its spending on colleges.

Other measures further limited access. Voters approved Proposition 187 in 1994, denying education and services to undocumented immigrants, although the law was later blocked and struck down by courts. The University of California regents abolished affirmative action in 1995.

In the years since, the state’s public colleges have raised tuition markedly and cut enrollment for lack of capacity. The powerhouse tech industry, rather than trying to train local students, meets its work-force needs with programmers from India and China, Mr. Murphy says.

A “anti-tax ideology” dominates the state, and it’s not coming only from rich businessmen, he says. “For a lot of us, the triumph of the Reagan anti-government ideology coincides simultaneously with this dramatic demographic change.”

Is all of this a scheme to hurt blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities? Other government programs seem to have had such effects: Studies have shown that welfare reform has restricted public-assistance benefits more in states with greater minority populations. Drug-enforcement laws have been found to disproportionately target African-Americans, while whites use drugs at a similar rate.

“All the returns to the economy are coming from higher education now. Our ability to expand that is key.”
In looking for connections between diversity and the defunding of higher education, many see only hazy correlations. But emerging studies suggest some bias. Last year Nicholas Hillman, an associate professor of educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, analyzed the balance between state appropriations and tuition revenue at more than 450 public colleges. Those that served primarily white students got more of their money from the state, while the colleges that served minority students relied more on tuition. He points to a striking, if lopsided, comparison between the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Tennessee State University, a historically black institution. State funding per undergraduate at Knoxville, where 7 percent of students are black, is $19,500; at Tennessee State, where 71 percent of students are black, that figure is $5,600. In another study released last year, two economists — Eric J. Brunner of the University of Connecticut and Erik B. Johnson of the University of Richmondlooked at voting patterns in community-college bond referenda in California. Older white voters were less supportive of college funding than were younger voters, the study showed, and if they lived in areas with a high Hispanic population, they were significantly less supportive.

In many ways, we live in Reagan’s world, with attitudes he shaped about the role of government. What might formerly have been considered a leg up often gets called an entitlement or a handout. Public higher education has undergone a financial and conceptual shift: Once an investment covered mostly by the state to produce a work force and an informed citizenry, today it is more commonly shouldered by individuals and families, and described as a private benefit, a means to a credential and a job.

It’s not a conspiracy, but a neoliberal ideology, says Michael Fabricant, a professor of social work at the City University of New York Graduate Center and author, with Stephen Brier, of a new book about the disinvestment in public education, Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education (Johns Hopkins University Press).

Does Higher Education Perpetuate Inequality?

Colleges are seen broadly as engines of opportunity, as economic equalizers. Is that reputation deserved?
Read stories from an occasional series exploring that question:

“Austerity is being imposed not just on higher education, but across public services,” he says. To what extent that randomly or deliberately coincides with rising national diversity is a tricky question. What’s clearer is the effect of stagnating social mobility. “In the absence of the necessary resources for these universities to either provide an affordable education on the one hand or a quality education on the other,” he says, “a certain population is now being defined as disposable.” Not only activists have noticed. In 1982, Elizabeth Dole, serving as chair of a task force on equal rights for women, wrote a memo to the White House staff secretary, warning that cuts in student aid would lead to “a significant outcry of racism.” She explained that the African-American community “looks to Pell Grants as one of their primary vehicles for upward mobility.”

“People in the administration were aware of what the potential fallout would be from shifting from grants to loans,” says Mr. Fergus, of Ohio State. What they didn’t count on was the stagnation of wages for most Americans and the escalating cost of college, which have ensnared whites, too. “I just don’t think they imagined that middle-class whites would ever need aid.”

In an analysis of student-loan-borrowing patterns from 1992 to 2012, Mr. Hillman, of Wisconsin, found that black and white students were equally likely to borrow early on, but that over the decades, blacks have become more likely to borrow — and they borrow more. “Debt has been a crisis for low-income students for quite some time,” he says, but only recently, as higher-income families are exposed to it, have policy makers taken an interest in the student debt “crisis.”

Meanwhile, for poor whites, the economic options have narrowed. Decades ago, manufacturing was a path to a decent livelihood, but those jobs disappeared, to be replaced by work that requires postsecondary training. This year white, non-college-educated voters registered their frustration in the presidential election. At a time when the cost of college drives a national conversation about its payoffs, policy decisions that have made college less accessible have hurt everyone, regardless of race.

The country today looks different than it used to. Among schoolchildren, fewer are white, and many more are Hispanic. By 2040 or earlier, America will be a majority-minority nation.

And it has maxed out on the benefits it can get from its 80-percent high-school-graduation rate, says Mr. Carnevale, of Georgetown. “All the returns to the economy are coming from higher education now,” he says. “Our ability to expand that is key.”

If college degrees are more important than ever, could the country develop a new great advance in education that would give more people, a broad cross-section of the population, a real shot at college?

Hillary Clinton might have had a solution, borrowed from Bernie Sanders, to offer free public-college tuition to students from families making $125,000 or less. Or it could have been another advantage for upper-middle-class whites, leading to “bumping,” says Mr. Carnevale, as top-tier colleges selected students with the best grades and test scores. Stratification might have worsened as less-prepared students — often black and Hispanic — found slots on campuses with fewer resources and lower graduation rates.

The free-college plan is far from reality, but it now serves as a rallying point for progressives. A future Democratic candidate could resurrect it in a presidential bid in 2020 or 2024, although some observers have wondered if the party will spurn minority constituents to recapture the white, working-class vote.

President-elect Donald Trump, who has branded Mexicans as “criminals” and described black neighborhoods as apocalyptic “war zones,” has yet to present his higher-education agenda. But some fear he will revive policies that have hurt minorities.

The new administration may push more students toward private student loans, Mr. Fergus says, even as bipartisan commissions going back 20 years have found that the federal government provides loans more cheaply and efficiently than do private lenders. Given his aggressive talk on immigration, Mr. Trump will probably kill the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives undocumented immigrants access to higher education. Mr. Trump might also revive the fortunes of for-profit colleges, some of which have been found to prey on minority students, leaving them in debt with a less-valuable degree, if any.

If the federal government doesn’t expand access to education, more of that burden will fall on states. In many of them, individuals and families now pay for a greater share of college costs than taxpayers do. Some places, like Arizona, have been going the way of California years ago.

Arizona’s legislature is whiter, more male, and more Republican than its population. And lately, that state — which has a clause in its constitution proclaiming that higher education “shall be as nearly free as possible” — has passed deep cuts in funding and big increases in tuition.

One of the leaders of that drive is John Kavanagh, a Republican state representative and community-college professor who has made headlines for his anti-immigration stance and remarks about Hispanics and Muslims. In an interview with The Chronicle, he was more measured, saying that the state has had to raise tuition to close a budget gap.

In 2012, he sponsored a bill that would require all students, regardless of income, to pay at least $2,000 toward tuition, in part to ease the burden on middle- and upper-middle-income students. He believes students should have “some skin in the game,” and bristles at the notion of poor students’ paying less, thanks to tuition revenue that gets redistributed as aid.

“I don’t think it’s a good policy to take money from one student to pay for another student’s tuition,” he said. “There is no reason that even a poor student can’t pay a nominal tuition, given that they are going to earn a lot more money than people who don’t have college degrees.”

But Alfredo Gutierrez, president of Maricopa Community College’s governing board and a former Democratic state senator, doesn’t buy the straight argument against subsidies. The state has been extraordinarily hostile to education, he says, a pattern he believes is tied to race. State funding for the Maricopa system had been going down since 2009, he says, until it got none last year. Half of Maricopa’s students are nonwhite.

“The deterioration to the K-12 system, the community-college system, and the universities will ultimately have to be paid for,” Mr. Gutierrez says. “If this trajectory that we are on continues, this will be an extraordinarily ignorant, uneducated state — certainly not a place that can deal with the economy of the future. And it will create a permanent underclass. There will be little ability to escape poverty.”

But Arizona, he predicts, is on the cusp of change. The Latino population is growing so fast that in six to 10 years, Arizona could flip over politically, possibly taking the state in a different direction, one that is more willing to invest in the education of immigrants and minority groups.

“Perhaps we have lost a generation,” he says, “but there is still a real opportunity to make a change.”

Scott Carlson is a senior writer who covers the cost and value of college. Email him at scott.carlson

What Does Betsy DeVos Have in Mind for Higher Ed?

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education | News:

Drew Angerer, Getty Images

Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for education secretary, posed last week with Mr. Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence outside the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.

By selecting Betsy DeVos to become the next secretary of education, President-elect Donald J. Trump has signaled his commitment to an ambitious plan to reform elementary and secondary education. But after a campaign during which Mr. Trump offered few details on higher education, the pick does little to clarify his vision for that sector.

Ms. DeVos, 58, is a leading player in the national school-choice movement. As chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, she has advocated aggressively for the expansion of charter schools and voucher programs for low-income students. She has served on the boards of several other organizations that have supported school choice, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Great Lakes Education Project, and the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which was established in 2007 by Jeb Bush, one of Mr. Trump’s foes in the Republican primary.

A Michigan native who served two stints as chairwoman of the state’s Republican Party, Ms. DeVos is known also for her philanthropy and support of conservative causes. The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation — which she runs with her husband, Dick DeVos — has been a reliable donor both to community projects and to national think tanks and research groups. (Mr. DeVos, a Republican, failed in a 2006 bid to become governor of Michigan.)

In fact, Ms. DeVos belongs to two families that have played a transformative role in Michigan’s politics and economic development. Dick DeVos’s father, Richard M. DeVos, Sr., amassed his fortune as a co-founder of the direct-selling company Amway. Betsy DeVos’s father, Edgar Prince, was the founder of the Prince Corporation, an automobile-parts manufacturer. Both family names now adorn buildings at Ms. DeVos’s alma mater, Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, Mich., where she studied business administration and political science.

Doug Koopman, a professor of political science at Calvin, said Ms. DeVos’s political views tend to fall in line with those of moderate, business-minded conservatives like Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

As leader of the state’s Republican Party, she built up the organization by improving technology and financing, and by bringing on a professional staff, according to Mr. Koopman. “She was focused on the nuts and bolts of how to win an election,” he said.

Ms. DeVos’s lack of a track record in higher education is by no means unusual. Several Department of Education leaders — including Arne Duncan, President Obama’s choice for the post, and the late Shirley M. Hufstedler, who became the first education secretary under President Jimmy Carter — had no professional experience in the sector.

But it’s hard to find evidence of Ms. DeVos having taken any positions on higher-ed policy. Neal McCluskey, director of the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, put it bluntly in an analysis of her nomination: “I have no idea where DeVos stands on early-childhood or higher-education issues, and the latter, especially, is gigantic.”

“DeVos will essentially be taking over a hugely bureaucratic lending company — with lots of regulatory power — that on a day-to-day basis could prove to be a far greater burden than she expected,” Mr. McCluskey wrote.

Where to look for clues on her higher-ed priorities? Many observers are turning to her philanthropic record and her longtime advocacy for school choice. Here’s what we know about the new nominee:

‘An Education-Reform Warrior’

Margaret Spellings, president of the University of North Carolina system, considers Ms. DeVos a friend. Ms. Spellings, who was secretary of education from 2005 to 2009, said the two had worked together on education issues while Ms. Spellings was president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, from 2013 until this March.

“She’s been an education-reform warrior and has put her money where her mouth is, literally and figuratively, for a very long time,” Ms. Spellings said.

Mr. Spellings said she isn’t sure where Ms. DeVos stands on higher-education policy, but she suggested a couple of goals that the new secretary might prioritize — streamlining pathways from secondary to postsecondary education and supporting community colleges.

John M. Engler, a former Republican governor of Michigan who is now president of the Business Roundtable, an association of corporate leaders, praised the selection of a woman he has known for 40 years as “an inspired choice.”

“She’ll be a very able advocate for the proposition that in the 21st century you can’t have children in schools that aren’t performing,” he said. Asked what that stance might signify for postsecondary policy, Mr. Engler hazarded some guesses: a focus on transparency and performance, an emphasis on work-force development, and a defense of free speech on campuses.

“I think Betsy will be very strong in that area,” he said. “She’s not going to be imposing litmus tests on higher education.”

But Ms. DeVos’s nomination also met with some sharp criticism from both the left, where some see her as an opponent of public schools, and the right, where her stance on Common Core standards has come under scrutiny. Donald E. Heller, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of San Francisco, wrote on Twitter that Mr. Trump’s pick “could have been worse. But not much.”

In an interview, Mr. Heller, who was previously dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University, said that his main concerns stem from watching Ms. DeVos wield her influence, financially and otherwise, on Michigan’s primary- and secondary-education system. Her support for school choice — much of it realized through the Great Lakes Education Project, which she and her husband founded — has been felt across the state, including in Detroit, where critics have decried the share of students in underperforming charter schools.

Others have taken issue with the fact that Ms. DeVos has never before worked in a school system or at a college. But “one advantage she brings, to be fair, is that she’s very involved in the political process and policy,” Mr. Heller said.

Mr. Heller takes Ms. DeVos’s support for charter schools and privatization in education as a suggestion that she will be much friendlier to for-profit colleges than the Obama administration has been. He doubted, for example, that she would enforce the contentious gainful-employment rule, which seeks to evaluate career-oriented programs — many of which are run by for-profit companies — based on their graduates’ debt-to-earnings ratios.

And her past work with faith-based organizations could offer additional clues about her approach to postsecondary education, Mr. Heller said. “She may push for federal funding that would make its way more toward private and religious institutions at the expense of public institutions,” he said.

Autonomy vs. Accountability

Ms. DeVos’s positions on vouchers and expanding access to charter schools do not automatically make her an enemy of federal support for higher education.

Michael J. Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education-reform group, said that advocates of school choice and charters often look to the Pell Grant program as a model. After all, that program is essentially a voucher program for low-income students. (“Should Pell Grants be allowed to be spent on remedial education?” asked Mr. Petrilli in an essay outlining “20 Questions for Betsy DeVos.”)

Frederick M. Hess, resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where Ms. DeVos is a board member, also noted that advocates of voucher and school-choice plans view Pell grants as a model. It’s unclear whether Ms. DeVos would consider changing Pell Grant restrictions, he said.

Mr. Hess called Ms. DeVos a “principled conservative.” He said he does not foresee her advocating for ideas that have gained traction in President Obama’s Education Department, like student-loan forgiveness and free college, especially with a Republican-dominated Congress.

David Hecker, president of the Michigan chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, argued that an Education Department led by Ms. DeVos would “undermine” education. It could restrict access to Pell Grants or make them less generous, he said: “Things don’t look good at all for the people most in need.”

Ultimately, the most important question about Ms. DeVos’s vision may be the hardest to answer, even for her: How will she use the Education Department to hold higher education accountable for student outcomes, as President Obama’s education secretaries have done?

Mr. Petrilli expects Ms. DeVos to think very differently about accountability for institutions that receive federal student aid. “She will want to go after all schools that are harming students, not just for-profits,” he said. “Most mainstream conservatives were aghast at the Obama administration’s treatment of the for-profit colleges,” he said.

Beyond that, however, it’s hard to get a read on Ms. DeVos’s oversight strategy, according to Mr. Petrilli. “I don’t know how much she’s thought about these issues,” he said.

Susan Dynarski, a professor of education, public policy, and economics at the University of Michigan, argued on Twitter that the selection of Ms. DeVos signals an imbalance between two necessary but competing forces — autonomy and accountability. Too little autonomy stifles innovation, Ms. Dynarski wrote. Too little accountability leads to the proliferation of bad actors who take advantage of students.

“I worry, a LOT, that this administration is going to scale back much-needed oversight” of postsecondary education, “especially the for-profit sector,” she tweeted. “If for-profit colleges are left to regulate themselves, we will see ballooning debt, ballooning defaults, and students’ lives ruined.”

Ms. Devos’s online remarks about Common Core standards offer a possible glimpse of her view on federal agenda-setting for education. “Have organizations that I have been a part of supported Common Core? Of course,” she wrote. “However, along the way, it got turned into a federalized boondoggle.”

But on Wednesday, she left no room for misunderstanding about her opinion of the standards:

A Philanthropic Trail

Over decades in local and national politics, the DeVos and Prince families have left a conservative policy imprint on other matters that have touched education. Betsy and Dick DeVos lobbied for Michigan’s “right to work” laws, passed in 2013, which posed a financial threat to unions by making the payment of dues voluntary. Such laws, now adopted in more than 20 states, have been seen as particularly damaging to faculty unions in some cases.

In addition to its local economic-development grants, the DeVos Foundation has been a reliable donor to conservative-leaning think tanks and research groups, including the Mackinac Center and the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. Between 2010 and 2013, the foundation made four donations, totaling $25,000, to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a watchdog group that pursues cases in defense of free speech on college campuses. (The foundation also gave $20,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative in 2012.)

And in 2013, the foundation awarded nearly $500,000 to colleges and universities, including $50,000 in gifts to Princeton University, Rollins College, and the Compass College of Cinematic Arts, a $100,000 gift to Ferris State University, and a $200,000 donation to Northwood University, Mr. Devos’s alma mater.

As news of her nomination spread, observers pointed out donations by the DeVos and Prince families to anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage causes. But Mr. Koopman, of Calvin College, argued that Ms. DeVos is “not a movement conservative,” meaning she has not aligned herself with either the Tea Party or evangelical Christian factions of the Republican Party.

“She has a large enough global perspective; she’s not the parochial Midwesterner one might think.” Mr. Koopman said. “The key to understanding her is the belief that choices bring out the best in people.”

Dan Bauman contributed to this article.

Sticky Notes and Small Groups: Digital Work in the Classroom

Via ProfHackerProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education:

I’m one of those humanities professors who is increasingly introducing technology-intensive assignments and activities into what would otherwise be more conventional, analog courses on writing and literature. And if you teach a large or largish class that involves in-class, hands-on work with digital tools, you would do well to come up with teaching strategies appropriate for that particular situation.

I recently stumbled across a very useful post from Miriam Posner about this very topic: “A better way to teach technical skills to a group.” Posner describes an all-too-common scenario for workshops that involve introducing participants to new and unfamiliar technologies:

The instructor issues directions while students try to keep up at each step. Some students accomplish each step quickly, but some students take a little longer to find the right menu item or remember where they’ve saved a file. No matter how often you tell students to please interrupt or raise a hand if they need help, most students won’t do this. They don’t want to slow everyone else down with what they’re sure is a stupid question. Eventually, these students stop trying to follow along, and the workshop becomes, in their minds, further evidence that they’re not cut out for this.

Posner writes that after trying a variety of possible solutions to this problem, she finally decided to take advantage of the “detailed, illustrated tutorials” she was already creating anyway and have her students go through the tutorials together in small groups. In this way, she writes, students can pace themselves without worrying about how far along the rest of the class is, and they can quietly ask questions of the others in their small group instead of raising their hands in front of the entire class.

But wait! There’s more!

The final missing piece was Post-It notes, a strategy I borrowed from Deb Verhoeven. (Thanks, Deb!) Every student starts with a green Post-It note on her laptop. That means everything’s OK. Run into a problem that they need me for? Swap it out for red. Finished? Swap it out for white.

I haven’t had a chance yet to give this technique a try, but I plan to experiment with it in future courses.

What are your favorite in-cass teaching strategies for introducing students to unfamiliar digital activities? Please share in the comments.

[CC-licensed Flickr photo by Karen Chappell]

Weekend Reading: Post-Election Classroom Resources

Via ProfHackerProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education:

The end of the semester is approaching slowly, and the holiday season is almost upon us. I for one am overwhelmed, and focusing a lot on working consistently in short bursts with dedicated time for wellness. But as we look towards next semester, here are a few readings and resources that might provide inspiration:

  • The Trump Syllabus 2.0 by N. D. B. Connolly and Keisha N. Blain is an impressive collection of readings grouped by weekly themes, syllabus-style. Each week addresses a larger issue of concern in terms of understanding both the recent election and its potential consequences. It’s the framework for a course that “explores Donald Trump’s rise as a product of the American lineage of racism, sexism, nativism, and imperialism. It offers an introduction to the deep currents of American political culture that produced what many simply call “Trumpism”: personal and political gain marred by intolerance, derived from wealth, and rooted in the history of segregation, sexism, and exploitation.”

  • The Trump Film Studies Syllabus by Dan Hassler-Forest has a similar focus, but brings out a range of films for potential study on topics ranging from popular facism to the commercialization of media. Each film includes some contextual information, including unlikely picks like the fantastic Gremlins 2: “Director Joe Dante’s doesn’t just belong on this list because it is set in a thinly-veiled parody of Trump tower, presided over by the deeply-ridiculous and dangerously inept egomaniac “Daniel Clamp.” But beyond its (fairly toothless) needling of New York City’s least popular billionaire, Gremlins 2 works primarily as a deconstruction of Hollywood’s overwhelming commercial imperatives.”

  • The crowd-sourced Syllabus for White People to Educate Themselves is in its early stages as I write this, but promises to collect a number of resources for discussing racism, Islamophobia, and white supremacy. It includes both online articles and works of fiction, film, and longer books in separate sections.

  • The Tone Policing comic by Robot Hugs is a useful way to contextualize debates over the place of emotion in discourse, particularly in divided classrooms. As the editors of Everyday Feminism note: “Robot Hugs makes a great point about how tone policing protects privilege – and silences people who are hurting. This is no way to get justice, and this breakdown will help you understand exactly why.”

  • NPR’s coverage of the challenges posed by fake news, From Hate Speech to Fake News: The Content Crisis Facing Mark Zuckerberg by Aarti Shahani, examines the problems inherent in Facebook’s current systems of moderation: “Zuckerberg finds himself at the helm of a company that started as a tech company — run by algorithms, free of human judgment, the mythology went. And now he’s just so clearly the CEO of a media company — replete with highly complex rules (What is hate speech anyway?); with double standards (If it’s “news” it stays, if it’s a rant it goes); and with an enforcement mechanism that is set up to fail.”

  • In Media Res’s Harry Potterverse Theme Week includes a number of useful shorts posts discussing Harry Potter in current discourse, including Kati Sudnick’s Harry Potter, World War II, and the Banality of Evil and Ashley Hinck’s analysis of Trump-Voldemort Metaphors in the 2016 Presidential Election. Hinck writes: “the metaphor frames Trump as an evil dictator by aligning him with Voldemort’s thirst for power, his unethical methods for achieving that power, his belief in pureblood superiority, and his selfish focus on himself.”

This is only a starting point, as new articles and resources are being created every day.

If you have other favorites, please share them in the comments!

[CC BY Photo by Jingyang Wang]

Trump Chooses Betsy DeVos For Education Secretary

Via NPR Ed : NPR:

President-elect Donald Trump stands with Betsy DeVos after a meeting at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Bedminster Township, N.J., on Saturday.

The Washington Post/Getty Images

President-elect Donald Trump has picked billionaire Betsy DeVos, a Michigan Republican activist and philanthropist who is a strong supporter of school choice but has limited experience with public education, as his secretary of education.

DeVos, 58, is a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and helped push a failed 2000 ballot proposal to amend the Michigan state Constitution to create a voucher system for students to attend nonpublic schools.

DeVos is chairman of The Windquest Group, a Michigan-based investment management company. She is married to billionaire Richard DeVos Jr., the son of Richard DeVos, who co-founded the home care products company Amway.

Trump, in a statement, called DeVos "a brilliant and passionate education advocate." He added that she would have the leadership ability to "break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back."

Largely unknown outside of Michigan political and philanthropic circles, her appointment signals that Trump intends to make school choice and a voucher plan for low-income families a centerpiece of his education agenda.

School choice plans are controversial because in some cases they can allow families to use public funding for private schools. Critics say choice plans undermine public education, are often underregulated and can amount to profiteering.

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Not surprisingly, Trump’s selection of DeVos as his education secretary drew swift reaction from the head of the nation’s largest teachers union.

Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, slammed the choice, saying it would undermine public education. DeVos "has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education," Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement. "By nominating Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities."

Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance, called the pick "deeply disappointing. It suggests that he has little regard for our nation’s public schools or the constitutional principle of separation of church and state."

DeVos currently chairs the board of the American Federation for Children, a group that according to its website works to provide families "with access to great schools through private school choice." Her children attended private Christian schools. She also sits on the board of the Great Lakes Education Project, a pro-charter school lobbying group in Michigan.

DeVos has helped make Michigan’s charter schools among the least regulated in the nation. Some 80 percent of the state’s charters are run by private companies.

Trump has voiced strong support for school choice and charters. But otherwise DeVos would seem an unorthodox choice. She is not a Trump loyalist. And some Trump backers feel betrayed by the pick because DeVos has been part of groups, including the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which promote choice and have supported the Common Core State Standards, which Trump opposes.

DeVos released a statement on her website saying she opposes Common Core, writing "along the way, it got turned into a federalized boondoggle."

But some Trump backers are not convinced. "I am disappointed," said Shane Vander Hart, with the education group Truth in American Education. "I was hoping he would appoint someone who is solidly anti-Common Core. It’s hard for me to believe she is truly opposed. Actions speak louder than words," Vander Hart told NPR.

Jason Miller, communications director of Trump-Pence Transition, said in an email that Trump "has been consistent and very clear in his opposition to Common Core. Anybody joining the Administration is signing on to the President-elect’s platform and vision for moving America forward."

DeVos was twice elected chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and served as a Republican National Committee member in the 1990s. But she has limited experience grappling with national education policy, public education or running a large federal bureaucracy.

She actively campaigned for Trump’s rivals during the Republican primaries. DeVos backed Jeb Bush and later Marco Rubio and John Kasich. She did not actively support Trump after he won the nomination.

In March, she told the Washington Examiner, "I don’t think Donald Trump represents the Republican Party. I continue to be very optimistic that as we get further along into the process, the more voters know about him, and the more informed they are, the more they’re going to continue to break away."

Getting rid of those standards in math and English is one of the few education issues Trump mentioned during the campaign. The president and Department of Education, however, have no formal authority to undo those state-level academic standards. But backers want him to incentivize states to replace the Common Core.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology invites academe to collaborate on future of libraries

Via Inside Higher Ed:

Speaking at the Educause Annual Conference last month, Chris Bourg, director of libraries at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said something that seemed to resonate with her audience.

“I don’t think we need to save libraries, but I do think we might need libraries to save us,” Bourg said.

Bourg was presenting a report on “The Future of Libraries,” the outcome of a year’s worth of conversations between faculty members, staffers and students at MIT. While its findings and recommendations are still preliminary, the report presents a vision of the library as an “open global platform” that gives people (regardless of whether they are affiliated with MIT) access to information that can help them solve global challenges such as increasing access to clean water or discovering new clean energy sources.

In a follow-up interview last week, Bourg described the report as a “moon shot” for libraries. At more than 26,000 words, the wide-ranging report covers digitization, open access, redesign of physical spaces and more, but it ultimately recommends libraries focus on four “pillars”: community and relationships, discovery and use, stewardship and sustainability, and research and development.

“What the report and the work of the task force say is that libraries aren’t just about buildings, and they’re not just about books,” Bourg said. “Providing access to credible information and the tools to assess, use, understand and exploit it is what libraries, librarians and archivists have always done. It’s more important than ever now.”

MIT, with its focus on science, technology, engineering and math, is in a different position to grapple with those issues compared to universities with traditional strengths (and extensive library collections) in the humanities and social sciences, other library directors and researchers said.

But MIT is not the only institute of its kind to take a long look at the role its libraries should play. The Georgia Institute of Technology, for example, has launched a Library Renewal Project that includes moving about 95 percent of its physical books to a cold storage facility it shares with Emory University. The space gained by cutting down on stacks will help the library in its transformation into a service organization, administrators there said.

More broadly, the MIT report reflects attitudes among academics highlighted in a national faculty survey conducted this year by Ithaka S+R, a research and consulting nonprofit. The survey found faculty members look to their libraries to offer more and more services, from acquiring new scholarly materials and preserving content to training students and serving as a starting point for research.

MIT isn’t committing to gutting its libraries of print books or other drastic changes just yet. The institute is still collecting feedback on the preliminary report, and the library staff will next decide which areas to prioritize.

They have plenty of opportunities to choose from among those discussed in the report. They could choose to boost the library’s role as a steward of knowledge first, tackling the task force’s recommendations that it serve as a repository for research and develop new models of preserving digital content. While many researchers rely on commercial services such as Figshare and Mendeley, “Academia in general is best served when the libraries are the trusted long-term repository for the scholarly record,” Bourg explained a blog post.

Alternatively, it could take a closer look at how it disseminates knowledge, for example by examining how MIT shares research with the world or by creating platforms that let users share and discover new information. Those efforts would go beyond digitizing, Bourg wrote, to ensure that new digital content isn’t simply being stored in its own silo.

Following the presidential election and the rise of racist incidents and protests across the country, libraries also need to consider how they can serve as “town squares” to promote diversity and social justice, Bourg said.

“College and university libraries need to step up to the plate here,” Bourg said. “They stand for intellectual freedom and the free exchange of ideas.”

Bourg said the task force effectively punted on two topics: library redesign and open access. The report only recommends that new groups be formed to look more specifically at those issues. While the task force on libraries was deliberating, MIT this summer announced a stand-alone committee to examine the future of its OpenCourseWare initiative. That committee is expected to issue its own recommendations before the new year, according to Sanjay Sarma, MIT’s vice president for open learning.

Elliott Shore, executive director of the Association of Research Libraries, said in an email that the report lays the foundation for future collaboration between researchers, librarians and others involved in scholarly communication.

“This is a vision for MIT libraries that makes very clear the need to collaborate at scale,” Shore wrote. “It demonstrates that MIT knows it can’t go it alone and doesn’t want to — what it wants to do is to fulfill the goal of the university to create new knowledge as a public good.”

Bourg said MIT does not assume it can accomplish everything it sets out to do in the preliminary report alone, and that it needs help from other scholars, universities and publishers to bring its vision to life.

“We tried to write the report as an invitation,” Bourg said. “If this is your vision for the future, too, come join us, help us build it.”

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Can’t afford an NYU dorm? School to offer ‘Grandma’s spare room’ instead

Via Higher Education Network | The Guardian:

Studying at New York University has become so prohibitively expensive that the historic Manhattan school is introducing a scheme to help students save money by lodging in elderly people’s spare bedrooms.

Andrew Hamilton, NYU’s new president, has approved a pilot scheme to pair up students with low-income older people struggling to make ends meet. The scheme – dubbed “Grandma’s spare room” – may sound like the premise of an intergenerational sitcom but it will begin in fall 2017, and university officials said initial demand had been so strong that it could be extended to hundreds of students and perhaps other schools in New York and other expensive cities across the country.

Hamilton, a noted British chemist and former vice-chancellor of Oxford University, has made tackling the high cost of attending NYU a key priority of his tenure.

“The plain fact is that tuition at NYU places an unacceptable financial strain on too many students,” he said in his inaugural address at the start of the semester. “NYU is not unique in that regard by any means, but we have been among the most conspicuous … [and] we cannot be content with the status quo.”

The intergenerational homestay idea was generated by NYU’s affordability steering committee, which Hamilton introduced as a “taskforce” to “make a difference in the trajectory of college costs at NYU”.

The full average cost [not taking into account scholarships and financial aid] of attending NYU including tuition, fees, room and board is about $66,000 per year – one of the most expensive in the country. Hamilton increased tuition fees by 2.7% this year, less than a typical annual increase of 3.5%-3.9%.

Ellen Schall, the chair of the affordability steering committee, said the cost of attending NYU was higher than other Ivy League schools because of the prohibitive cost of accommodation in New York. “This is a creative way of tackling that issue,” she said. “It occurred to us that there are lots of New York City families whose children have grown up and moved away and they’ve got an extra bedroom and maybe they are struggling financially. We hope this will be a way of helping the needs of two very different populations.”

Schall said she expected that students involved in the scheme would pay annual rent of about $5,000 – half of the cost of a shared room in NYU’s cheapest dorm. She made clear that students would not be required to work for their elderly landlords in return for cheap rent.

“You’re not a nurse, you’re not an aide, you’re not cleaning, you might help out with some technology or something,” she said. “You might make a deal that you would make with any roommate – ‘If you take the trash out, I’ll order us a pizza.’”

‘This is an opportunity to help low- or fixed-income seniors, and help address the wider housing affordability crisis in New York City,’ said Eric Weingartner, who is working with NYU on the scheme. Photograph: Erik M/ Pacific/ Barcroft Images

NYU is working with University Settlement, a not-for-profit group that helps low-income families on the Lower East Side, to bring the project to life. Eric Weingartner, the chief executive of University Settlement, said the plan was to identify apartment buildings near NYU that had a high proportion of older people so that several students could be accommodated in different families’ apartments, but near each other to retain some of the feeling of living in a dorm.

“This is an opportunity to help low- or fixed-income seniors, and help address the wider housing affordability crisis in New York City,” he said. “There are people live in apartments with massive amounts of room no one really lives in, while other people struggle to afford anywhere to live.”

Schall and Weingartner said both student and senior communities were excited about the project and had already approached the organisations to try and sign up to the scheme, which hasn’t launched yet.

However, some students suggested that NYU could use its $3.5bn endowment to cut the costs faced by students. Schall said NYU raised $147m for financial aid in the last academic year, and its endowment per student was much lower than other Ivy League schools.

While many students in New York struggle to pay rent for dorms or rooms in shared houses in neighborhoods like Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant, the city also attracts the children of the world’s billionaires, presidents and oligarchs who live in some of the most expensive property on the planet wile they’re studying.

The daughter of the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev spent $88m on a penthouse at 15 Central Park West, arguably the most grandiose address in the city, as her base while studying at an undisclosed US university. Ekaterina Rybolovlev’s 6,744 sq ft apartment, which was listed for sale earlier this year after she finished her studies, features 10 rooms and a terrace overlooking Central Park.

In the line for coffee in Starbucks on the corner of Washington Square Park, Alexandra Bloshenko said she would definitely apply to live with a grandma. “I can barely afford to study here. I get half of my costs tuition paid for by scholarship, otherwise there is no way in hell I could go to this school,” she said. “I also think it’s important to mix with other generations, we can learn a lot from each other.”

Bloshenko, 22, who is from upstate New York and studying to become a 7th-12th grade biology teacher, said: “I feel there are a lot of kids at NYU who could benefit from some real life experiences. There are so many kids here with tons of money but no experience of the real world.”

Teaching Students How to Manage Feedback

Via Faculty Focus | Higher Ed Teaching & Learning:

student struggling with test

The classroom is a non-stop hub of feedback: test grades, assignment scores, paper comments, peer review, individual conferences, nonverbal cues, and more. Feedback is essential for student learning.

Still, students’ ability to process and use feedback varies widely. We have some students who eagerly accept feedback or carefully apply rough draft comments, while many others dread or dismiss their professors’ notes or reject exam grades as “unfair.” Although feedback is integral to our classrooms and work spaces, we often forget to teach students how to manage it.

Two Harvard law professors, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, argue that identifying different kinds of feedback is a good place to start. Their book Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (2014) divides feedback into three types (35):

  • Appreciation: to see, acknowledge, give credit, or thank
  • Coaching: to help the receiver fine-tune skills, tweak understanding, increase knowledge, improve, or to address the giver’s feelings or a sense of relationship
  • Evaluation: to score against expectations to shape decision-making

Although Stone and Heen’s book is intended for a wide audience, their ideas can help us coach students into better feedback response. Here are a few examples:

1. Teach students to reflect on their reactions to the three categories of feedback.

From the athletic field to the orchestra pit, the categories of feedback are the same. Still, we’ve seen many accomplished student athletes and musicians struggle to embrace feedback in the classroom like they do in their extracurricular activities. Asking students to reflect on the moments when they’ve been at their best and worst in response to feedback can help bridge that gap. For example, a successful basketball player in our class explained how well he responded to repeated corrections on the court but hated all coaching feedback on essays and class projects. Reflecting on the three types of feedback gave him a way to rethink various encounters. After all, it might not have seemed like his coach was using appreciation with his coaching feedback, but every made 3-point shot brought applause. Maybe, he reasoned, he needed to hear a little recognition of his effort (appreciation) before he could embrace coaching feedback in the classroom.

Consider having students reflect upon contexts other than the classroom where they process feedback. Ask students to reflect on a specific moment of negative feedback where they responded poorly or the moments when they use feedback most effectively.

2. Help students be proactive about how they ask for feedback.

Stone and Heen point out that the feedback sequencing impacts how people react. They illustrate with a comparison of two softball players, Annie and Elsie, who receive the same advice on how to strengthen their swing. Although the two players get the pointers in the same style from the same coach, they respond differently. While Annie takes the advice as belief in her potential, Elsie sees it as a sign that the coach doesn’t think she is any good.

Analyzing the feedback categories and subsequent responses can lead to self-discovery and improved communication. In Stone and Heen’s example, Elsie, the discouraged player, recognized that she needed to know what was going well before she could reasonably contextualize feedback. Without such a frame, she saw the helpful feedback as harsh and dismissive. Annie, on the other hand, admitted that she might see a compliment as patronizing and doubt the coach’s sincerity. She just wants him to provide direct guidance on to how to improve.

Students might have a bit of trouble analyzing the kind of feedback they prefer, but with practice they will become more perceptive to what motivates them and more open to receiving different types of feedback. When meeting one-on-one with students consider asking them to identify the order of feedback types they prefer. Students like Annie may know they feel more respected when a conference begins with direct pointers. Others, like Elsie, may figure out that they process coaching feedback with more ease once they receive credit for their successes.

3. Remind students which categories of feedback they’ll get or give on projects or assignments.

Although we hope our students can evaluate each type of feedback, reminders can make students better at getting and giving feedback. From peer review on essay drafts to group presentation feedback, we ask students to contribute in each of the three categories of feedback. When students self-assess, our questions align to the three categories. Here we change the evaluation category slightly to emphasize decision-making based upon feedback.

  • Appreciation: Where were you most successful? What improvements stand out? What/Who deserves credit or affirmation?
  • Coaching: How can knowledge expand? What skills need tweaked or fine-tuned? Where does effort need to be increased or reallocated?
  • Feed-forward: What needs to change or stay the same to be successful? How does behavior need to change to align with desired outcomes? How can experience inform decision-making?

Although it takes a little work to teach students how to manage feedback, the results are worth it. Consider asking students to routinely use all three types of feedback to reflect on a recent learning experience.

The stakes are high in today’s college classroom, and it’s easy to let emotions take over. But it’s worth teaching students to move past gut reactions. With a little practice, students can improve how they reflect on specific kinds of feedback. Taking time to analyze what feedback students want and how they react to it is mutually beneficial: students become better, more proactive stewards of their own feedback, while teachers learn what kinds of feedback work best. With a bit of work, we can orient students toward healthy, productive feedback use.

Reference: Stone, Douglas and Sheila Heen. Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. New York: Penguin Books, 2014.

Karen Sheriff LeVan and Marissa King teach at Hesston in the English and education departments and serve as directors of the first-year experience program.

The post Teaching Students How to Manage Feedback appeared first on Faculty Focus | Higher Ed Teaching & Learning.

Have Public Universities Lost Their Focus?

Via The Atlantic:

Since the 1970s, a “doom loop” has pervaded higher education, writes Christopher Newfield in his new book The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them. Newfield, a professor of American studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, calls this loop “privatization”—the hidden and overt ways that “business practices restructure teaching and research.”

It’s a cycle in which colleges spend more and more money chasing research projects, building luxury dorms and academic centers to attract wealthy students, and engaging in activities that compel them to compete against each other, rather than focus on their own students. Newfield says he saw this first-hand while serving on the University of California’s planning-and-budget committee.

One consequence, according to Newfield: After decades of public universities raising tuition, legislatures have learned to rely even more on tuition increases to enable them to cut funding for public higher education.  

Families suffer, of course, but the long-term impact transcends that. “The converting of public funding into higher tuition focuses the student on assuring her future income to cover higher costs and debt,” he writes. At stake, he believes, is a citizenry that sees college not as a place for in-depth learning and inquiry, but as a means to economic security, forcing colleges to conduct themselves more like a business and less like a public good that all students can afford.  

The Hechinger Report, which published this story in partnership with The Atlantic, spoke with Newfield to learn more. This interview was lightly edited for length and clarity.

Mikhail Zinshteyn: Why are public universities a public good, and why do you think states and the federal government should largely do away with tuition?

Christopher Newfield: Society—culturally, economically, and socially—gets the majority of the benefits. Here I’m using the work of some economists, particularly Walter McMahon, who has actually tried to count up all of the non-market benefits that universities generate.

Christopher Newfield
Christopher Newfield

My parents are first-generation-college people, and they probably wouldn’t have gone if it hadn’t been free for them. The benefit of that was that society got two more productive, also politically more thoughtful, more complex people that had better health, people that were able to make contributions to their community, because they had incomes that allowed them to work only one job.

What’s happened since is, [the reduction in state funding and shift toward operating like a business] is just kind of an arrangement of convenience for state governments, for taxpayers, for business taxpayers, who’ve gotten a cheaper deal. But, it’s economically and socially less efficient to save money this way. It’s also philosophically and economically incorrect.  

Zinshteyn: What’s one example of the way colleges have been behaving like businesses at the expense of students?

Newfield: They had to look for multiple revenue streams really starting in the 1980s, and some of those were very high-value and glamorous … like technology-transfer revenues through patenting, increasing contracts and grants revenues, and increasing fundraising.

The national statistic is that universities have to put in 19 cents of institutional funds to make up, to get to, a full dollar of their research expenditures. [And] this number is higher at public universities than it is at private universities. The last numbers that I saw are about 25 cents on the dollar of overall research expenditures at publics, and something like half that at privates. So there’s a public subsidy that’s going on at these institutions, through ongoing general fund contributions, that means that they’re just paying more of their own money … and not paying for what the public thinks it’s paying for, which is instruction, and some other kinds of core things.

There’s actually one article that was published on this in the general press that said on $3.5 billion in gross contract and grant revenues [at the University of California], they lose $720 million [in one year].

Zinshteyn: Why were states increasing tuition—your book notes public colleges raised tuition by about 50 percent in the 1980s and 38 percent in the 1990s—even though, as you point out, state funding was growing slightly?  

Newfield: Because they were adding prestigious activities. And after U.S. News came in with [college] rankings in the late 1980s, it just really took off. Because they were having to compete for revenue, for overall amount of R&D expenditures, for selectivity rates, which were tied to the prestige of the faculty. … Bayh-Dole [legislation], in 1980, which is the door opening [for universities] to keep patenting revenues, was a driver that we haven’t talked about enough.

But I think some of it is just that it was more important to have a kind of a national profile than it was to do really good regional service. Shifting from regional service to national profile created competitive costs; you just tend to duplicate a lot of things that other people have. Then later, in the 1990s and 2000s, when you’re starting to compete for blue chip out-of-state students, the arms race in facilities accelerates, and just re-accelerates after 2008.

Zinshteyn: What’s the most glaring example of privatization at work that you saw on the UC planning-and-budget committee?

Newfield: We just started prioritizing private revenue streams, and energy and brains and additional positions were created in order to go after that other stuff. The Regents were pitched fundraising statistics and contracts and grants, gross statistics—always with the gross numbers, never with net. Undergraduates and academic graduates students became more of an afterthought at the senior management level. They were kind of the revenue source, in terms of tuition and general funds per capita, but then, after that, they were not at the center of policy. We really lost our focus.

Zinshteyn: Let’s say there’s a reformer who’s sympathetic to the arguments in this book. Does she sit down with President-elect Trump? Or with her state’s governor? And what will that elevator pitch sound like?

Newfield: She would say to Trump: You ran on making America great again. And to make America great again, you have to make the economy great again. And to make the economy great again, you have to bring all the non-college workers of the country into it. And to do that, to include the non-college [workers], you have to rebuild open-access, high-quality, public universities. There is no other way. It can’t be job training. It can’t be political rhetoric. It can’t be browbeating a few companies to not off-shore their workers.

This has to be liberal arts and sciences. Rebuild high-end cognitive skills, so that these folks don’t just go down the street to the machinist shop that’s still open if they lost their factory job. They can be eligible for a whole range of jobs, or build jobs and businesses on their own with these skills.

This post appears courtesy of The Hechinger Report.

Columbia University suspends wrestling program amid allegations of racism and homophobia

Via theGrio:

Columbia University’s wrestling program has been halting while racist and lewd texts that members of the team allegedly sent out.

According to a university statement, the wrestling team will not compete while the investigation is underway until they reach “a full understanding of the facts on which to base the official response to this disturbing matter.”

— Nate Parker accused of exposing himself to female trainer —

“Columbia University has zero tolerance in its athletics programs for the group messaging and texts sent by several members of the men’s varsity wrestling team,” the university said in the statement. “They are appalling, at odds with the core values of the University, and violate team guidelines.”

The alleged messages go back as far as 2014 and include both racist and homophobic slurs as well as lewd comments toward women.

An online petition is already urging Columbia President Lee Bollinger to expel team members and had reached almost 1,000 signatures as of Tuesday.