Archives for category: Higher Education

Fairtest reports that George Washington University has grown the long list of universities that no longer require students to take the SAT or ACT for admission. These universities recognize that students’ grade-point-average over four years is more predictive of college success than any standardized test.

Today’s announcement by George Washington University that it will no longer require most applicants to submit ACT or SAT test scores is the latest example of a surge of schools dropping admissions testing requirements. According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), 40 colleges and universities have adopted test-optional policies since spring 2013.
Like George Washington, many of the institutions going test-optional in the past two years are among the most competitive in the U.S. The list includes Beloit, Brandeis, Bryn Mawr, Drake, Hood, Kalamazoo, Sienna and Wesleyan. A growing number of public universities, such as Eastern Connecticut, Monmouth State, Old Dominion, Plymouth State, Rowan, Temple, and Virginia Commonwealth, have also eliminated ACT or SAT score requirements for all or many applicants
FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer explained, “The test-optional surge recognizes that no test—not the SAT, old or new, nor the ACT – is needed for high-quality admissions. Many independent studies and practical experiences have shown that test-optional admission enhances both academic excellence and diversity.”
FairTest’s list of ACT/SAT-optional schools (at now includes more than 180 schools ranked in the top tiers of their respective categories. More than one-third of top-ranked national liberal arts colleges have test-optional policies.
– regular updates for FairTest’s chronology of test-optional adoptions and list of top-tier schools with test-optional or test-flexible policies are online at

Higher education institutions and their lobbyists better keep a sharp eye on what is happening on the Hill in D.C. There is trouble brewing. published the following this morning:
SENATE HELP INQUIRES ON INNOVATION IN HIGHER ED: With No Child Left Behind behind them, Senate HELP Committee leaders return to Higher Education Act reauthorization today. The hearing focus: “Exploring barriers and opportunities within innovation.” Witnesses include Lumina Foundation President and CEO Jamie Merisotis, Higher Learning Commission President Barbara Gellman-Danley and Michael Horn, co-founder and executive director for education programs at the Clayton Christensen Institute. Also testifying is Southern New Hampshire University President Paul LeBlanc, who just wrapped a stint at the Education Department advising on innovation, competency-based education and accreditation. Watch live starting at 10 a.m. ET:

— Committee Chair Sen. Lamar Alexander will pose two big questions: How can Congress help colleges meet students’ changing needs and stop discouraging colleges and universities from innovating, and should the federal government consider a new definition for the college or university? “There are many new learning models that are entering the landscape, thanks to the Internet,” Alexander will say, according to prepared remarks. “We need to consider what role they play in our higher education system, and whether federal financial aid ought to be available to students who are learning outside our traditional institutions.”

— Ranking member Sen. Patty Murray wants to break down barriers that keep low-income and non-traditional students out of traditional colleges, she’ll say today. But she believes that to ensure institutions can’t mislead students, Congress should be wary of welcoming alternative providers and models without enacting strong accountability measures. “I know several of my Republican colleagues are interested in shaking up the current higher education system, the sooner the better. But I believe we should tread carefully,” Murray will say, according to prepared remarks. “Simply opening access to federal student aid, without accountability, for any company or institution that offers an alternative to traditional education would fail to protect consumers.”

As for the witnesses, the Lumina Foundation often teams up with Gates to redesign other people’s lives. Michael Horn is a big supporter of disruption theory (blow things up and see what happens next, as is Clayton Christensen, the Harvard business professor who made a virtue of chaos). And then there is that guy from Arne Duncan’s shop, whose university has one of the lowest graduation rates in New Hampshire.

What you can be sure of is that when government talks about “innovation” these days, what they really mean is opening up the sector for profit making, entrepreneurial ventures. You would think by now that the Congress would reflect on the meltdown at failed Corinthian Colleges, the for-profit (“innovative”) set of colleges that closed a few months ago, stranding tens of thousands of students. Our most “innovative” colleges and universities seem to be best at delivering instruction online, which opens up opportunities for selling product more than opportunities for higher education. No one stops higher education now from putting courses online, if they choose to. Why does Congress think that higher education is waiting to be told what to do by politicians? It may be asking too much to suggest that they stick to doing what they know, but….they should stick to doing what they know.

The biggest problem in higher education is that low-income and non-traditional students can’t afford to pay for it, and most traditional students leave burdened with debt. Why doesn’t the committee focus on that big obstacle and barrier to access? Affordability is what is needed, not new models designed by a Congressional committee.

The biggest scam in higher education was perpetrated by Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit corporation that once enrolled more than 120,000 students at 120 campuses. Corinthian collapsed recently, leaving tens of thousands of students saddled with debt and worthless degrees.


The recruiters focused on minorities, the poor, and veterans, making false promises about future employment and costs. The bottom line was always the same: profits. Not education.


The linked article is the inside story of the decline and fall of Corinthian, its predatory practices, its lies to students, and the inaction of the DOE.


“In lawsuits, official complaints to state and federal regulators, sworn declarations submitted in Corinthian’s bankruptcy proceeding, and conversations with The Huffington Post, dozens of former Corinthian students and several former Corinthian employees said that Corinthian drowned students in debt and sent them off with meaningless diplomas that did not help — and sometimes even harmed — their job prospects. It illegally padded job placement statistics and gave students college credit for “externships” at fast-food restaurants. It charged students up to 10 times what a comparable community college degree would cost. More than 1 in 4 Corinthian graduates defaulted on their student loans, according to Education Department data. And for years, the Education Department not only failed to recognize the depths of the abuse, but effectively funded Corinthian’s business model, sending the company billions of dollars in financial aid to help cover students’ bills.”


Why did the U.S. Department of Education allow this fraud to continue for so long? One might well ask why the U.S. Department of Education has been silent about the growth of predatory for-profit K-12 schools, both virtual and brick-and-mortar. For the first time in history, the U.S. ED just doesn’t see privatization and profit-making as a problem.


“In 2008, Tasha Courtright visited the Everest College campus in Ontario, California, with a friend. She was not looking to pursue higher education. “The recruiter said, ‘How about you? Do you want to go to school?’” Courtright recalled.


“I said I can’t afford it, I can’t do loans,” she remembered, noting that she was working a minimum-wage job at a gas station when Corinthian first recruited her. “They said, ‘Let us do the numbers.’ They said I qualified for Cal Grants and Pell Grants, and I wouldn’t have to pay anything.”


“The recruiter called Courtright repeatedly for two days, pressuring her to make a decision. “They said classes were starting and ‘If you don’t do it now, you never will.’ So I went down again and signed up.” Courtright spent four years at Everest, earning a bachelor’s degree in applied business management. She said recruiters promised she wouldn’t pay a dime; she ended up with $41,000 in student debt.


“High-pressure sales tactics like that were deliberately targeted at vulnerable demographic groups, including single mothers and the unemployed, according to Lueck, the former Corinthian manager. Recruits were often the first in their families to attend college. Almost anyone could qualify.


“Laurie McDonnell, a librarian at the Everest-Ontario Metro campus, resigned after learning that her school had enrolled a man who read at a third-grade level.


“The goal was simple: profits. Smaller chains like Lincoln Tech or DeVry used to dominate the for-profit college industry. But toward the end of the last decade, larger, publicly traded companies took over. By 2009, three-quarters of all U.S. students enrolled in for-profit colleges were at schools owned by a corporate conglomerate or private equity firm. Goldman Sachs owns around 40 percent of Education Management Corporation, another operator of for-profit colleges.


“Many for-profit college companies own multiple university brands. Corinthian, which traded on Nasdaq, ran Everest, Wyotech and Heald Colleges. The consolidation of the industry changed how for-profit schools operated, argues Elizabeth Baylor, senior investigator on a landmark 2012 Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee study of for-profits. “Student success was not the primary focus of the entity. It was returning investor value,” Baylor, who now works at the Center for American Progress, told HuffPost.


“One-quarter of the average for-profit college budget goes to marketing and recruitment, Baylor said. The goal is to capture and retain students, and squeeze as much money out of them as possible. The 2012 Senate report found that Corinthian’s students defaulted on their loans at a rate that was “by far the highest of any publicly traded company” that investigators scrutinized.”

Thanks to successful lobbying by representatives of higher education, the Obama administration has backed away from one of its loopiest ideas: rating every college and university in the nation.

No one loves Big Data more than the U.S. Department of Education. No federal agency understands less about the limitations of Big Data than the U.S. Department of Education.

Politico reports on the federal government’s very costly student loan program. Is it predatory lending? How does it increase access to make the cost so high? How can the Obama talk about expanding access and increasing college graduation rates while charging usurious rates? What you say matters less than what you do.

DO PARENT PLUS LOANS COME WITH A BIG MINUS? The fast-growing federal program known as Parent PLUS [ ] now has 3.2 million borrowers who have racked up $65 billion in debt helping their kids go to school. The loans have much in common with the regular student loans that have created a national debt crisis and a 2016 campaign issue, but PLUS has much higher interest rates and fees, and far fewer opportunities for loan forgiveness or reductions, writes Michael Grunwald for POLITICO’s The Agenda. The PLUS program, which includes similar loans to graduate students, is the most profitable of the 120 or so federal lending programs.

– According to the White House budget office, the expected recovery rate for defaulted Parent PLUS loans is a remarkable 106 percent, a testament to Uncle Sam’s unique power as a collection agency. Overall, the program is expected to return $1.23 on every dollar it lends this year, thanks to its relatively high interest rates and minimal opportunities for debt relief. When I spoke to White House education adviser Roberto Rodriguez about this conundrum, he emphasized that President Barack Obama has crusaded to make America the world’s leader in access to higher education. But he also said he’s concerned that too many struggling parents are getting in too deep. When I asked him if the Education Department was running a predatory lending program, he didn’t say no. “That’s the heart of the matter,” Rodriguez said. “You want to expand access and choice, but you also want to make sure families can afford these loans.”

– Parent PLUS was created in 1980 to provide small loans to help reasonably well-off families finance an undergraduate education. But it has evolved to providing almost any borrower with almost unlimited cash to attend any school with almost no regard to their ability to repay. “You feel so guilty that you haven’t done enough for your kid, and they make it so easy to get the loans,” said Elizabeth Hill, a 57-year-old property appraiser from the Boston suburbs with more than $30,000 in PLUS debt. “Then they’ve got you by the cojones. It’s like the Sopranos, except it’s the government.”

Legislation called “The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act” has been introduced in both houses of Congress. Nice name, no? Don’t you think you should have “the right to know before you go” to a college or university?


What it really means is that the federal government will:


authorize the creation of a federal database of all college students, complete with their personally identifiable information, tracking them through college and into the workforce, including their earnings, Social Security numbers, and more. The ostensible purpose of the bill? To provide better consumer information to parents and students so they can make “smart higher education investments.”


Big Data, the answer to all problems. All you need do is surrender your privacy and become someone’s data point, perhaps the point of sales.


Barmak Nassirian, writing on the blog of Studentprivacymatters, warns about the dangers this legislation poses. He wrote originally in response to an article endorsing the legislation by researchers at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who viewed the invasion of personal privacy as less significant than the need for consumer information about one’s choice of a college or university:


First, let’s be clear that the data in question would be personally identifiable information of every student (regardless of whether they seek or obtain any benefits from the government), that these data would be collected without the individual’s consent or knowledge, that each individual’s educational data would be linked to income data collected for unrelated purposes, and that the highly personal information residing for the first time in the same data-system would be tracked and updated over time.


Second, the open-ended justification for the collection and maintenance of the data (“better consumer information”) strongly suggests that the data systems in question would have very long, if not permanent, record-retention policies. They, in other words, would effectively become life-long dossiers on individuals.


Third, the amorphous rationale for matching collegiate and employment data would predictably spread and justify the concatenation of other “related” data into individuals’ longitudinal records. The giant sucking sound we would hear could be the sound of personally identifiable data from individuals’ K12, juvenile justice, military service, incarceration, and health records being pulled into their national dossiers.


Fourth, the lack of explicit intentionality as to the compelling governmental interest that would justify such a surveillance system is an open invitation for mission creep. The availability of a dataset as rich as even the most basic version of the system in question would quickly turn it into the go-to data mart for other federal and state agencies, and result in currently unthinkable uses that would never have been authorized if proposed as allowable disclosures in the first place.


This is a bill that conservatives and liberals should be fighting against. Imagine if such a data-set existed; how long would it be before the data were hacked, for fun and profit, exposing personally identifiable information about students who had never given their consent? Didn’t the government recently become aware of a massive hack of its personnel records?



According to the New York Times:


For more than five years, American intelligence agencies followed several groups of Chinese hackers who were systematically draining information from defense contractors, energy firms and electronics makers, their targets shifting to fit Beijing’s latest economic priorities.


But last summer, officials lost the trail as some of the hackers changed focus again, burrowing deep into United States government computer systems that contain vast troves of personnel data, according to American officials briefed on a federal investigation into the attack and private security experts.


Undetected for nearly a year, the Chinese intruders executed a sophisticated attack that gave them “administrator privileges” into the computer networks at the Office of Personnel Management, mimicking the credentials of people who run the agency’s systems, two senior administration officials said. The hackers began siphoning out a rush of data after constructing what amounted to an electronic pipeline that led back to China, investigators told Congress last week in classified briefings.


How long will a treasure trove of personally identifiable student data remain confidential?


If this bill passes, farewell to privacy.



The University of Puget Sound has joined some 800 other colleges and universities by dropping the SAT

“Put away your study guides, college applicants — the University of Puget Sound doesn’t care how you do on the SAT or ACT.

“The Tacoma university has joined a small number of Washington colleges, and a growing list of colleges nationally, that don’t require undergraduate applicants to submit standardized test scores when submitting an application for admission.

“The reason? UPS has found that grade-point averages are much more predictive of how a student will do in college than a score on a test.”

Justin Wedes, one of the organizers of Occupy Wall Street, reminds us that direct action works:


When it rains, it pours!

This week began with the surprising news that U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan is initiating a process to help defrauded college students seek forgiveness on their federal student loans. There is no doubt that this major announcement, which could lead to billions of dollars in savings for cheated student loan debtors, was instigated by the powerful actions of Corinthian College students who refused to pay back loans. Their school administration was caught bribing employers to temporarily hire (and then fire) graduates in order to beef up their success numbers.

The group behind this strike: an Occupy Wall Street offshoot called Debt Collective, who released a statement claiming the USDOE hadn’t gone far enough. And they’re right: millions more students are living with inflated degrees, souring job prospects and boatloads of student loan debt that threaten to derail the economy again. Still, this is a huge step in the right direction and should open the floodgates to student loan forgiveness.

Then Wednesday brought more good news for students: NY’s Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha resigned in shame after instituting the college’s first-ever tuition in 2013. His tenure was mired in controversy, including a famous student occupation of his office by Free Cooper Union, another OWS offshoot. His resignation was one of their three demands. The other two define a pathway back to free education, which should be the goal not just for Cooper Union but for every (public) higher education institution in this country. (Here’s a study showing that the U.S. could provide free education to all for only $15 billion more in spending per year, or 1/26th the cost of the fighter jet program)

What do these victories have in common? They affirm that direct action against the injustice of unaffordable, debt-driven higher education works. They show that millennials aren’t just sitting back and accepting the realities of an educational system that is becoming less and less accessible to them. They are standing up and fighting back, skillfully and with sustained action. And that’s seriously good news.

Keep fighting,


Dispatches from Detroit
by Justin Wedes
Avalon Village Detroit, MI 48226 USA

A few minutes ago, I posted a blog that appeared on the website of The Chronicle of Higher Education, stating that the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin was trying to save tenure from the onslaught of Governor Scott Walker and his allies in the Legislature.

I quickly heard from Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor at UW, who warned me not to believe it:

“Thanks so much for posting the blog tonight. However, it is incorrect. The UW Regents aren’t trying to save tenure- that’s not what they voted to do. This is a Board full of Scott Walker’s appointees and what they did was vote to adopt a fake version of tenure that is called the same thing but still allows for massive layoffs. It is a carefully worded trick and the media fell for it.

“More here:

“Please help your readers remember that the Regents, the President of UW System, and yes even the Chancellor of Madison are approved by Walker. None are to be trusted, unfortunately. And all are frantically spinning the story to suggest faculty, staff and students are overreacting.



Note: I have been warned that this account is wrong; that the Board of Regents was appointed by Scott Walker; and that their action is meant to provide fake tenure that allows massive layoffs. See the post that follows this one. Where Scott Walker is involved, nothing good happens to education at any level.

With the legislature in Wisconsin about to pass a budget bill eliminating tenure, the Board of Regents of the University are trying to protect it.

Tenure is the best safeguard for academic freedom. The freedom to teach and to learn requires safety from political reprisals. Without tenure, professors could be fired for teaching controversial subjects or expressing an unpopular opinion or because they offended a powerful politician.

“The University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents voted unanimously on Friday to add tenure protections to system policy as the state’s Republican-led government appeared ready to remove them from state law, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

“Proposed legislation, crafted by the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance as part of the state budget, would strip shared-governance guarantees and tenure protections from state law. It is expected to pass and be signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker.”

We are rapidly moving backwards, and politicians like Scott Walker are doing their best to cripple free thought.


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