Archives for category: Higher Education

The Trump administration appears poised to take advantage of the national crisis torelease controversial changes, like announcing yesterday that it was dropping the federal fuel economy standards that were intended to reduce air pollution.

Now, Politico tells us that the Department of Education is likely to revise Title IX regulations. Betsy DeVos long ago made clear that she sympathized with the young men who had been accused of rape or sexual harassment, not the young women who accused them. So expect revisions to make it harder for young women to step forward to complain and have their complaints investigated.

Politico writes:

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FORGES AHEAD ON TITLE IX OVERHAUL: The completion of OMB’s review on Friday officially clears the way for DeVos to issue the new rule, which is expected to shake up how sexual assault and harassment charges are handled at every college campus and K-12 school.

— However, an Education Department spokesperson said the agency does not have an anticipated publication date yet.

— OMB meetings with groups on the rule are also still scheduled through April 16, according to the website.

— Even without a publication date, hundreds of education and victims advocacy groups, state attorneys general and some Senate Democrats are calling on the Education Department to put off the final rule until the coronavirus national emergency ends. Most groups asked to suspend nonessential rulemaking, saying that school resources are already spread thin trying to figure out how to move instruction online and support students.

— But some lawyers who represent students accused of misconduct say the Trump administration should go ahead and issue the rule, arguing that college Title IX coordinators may have time on their hands with campuses empty.

A valuable website called “Unkoch My Campus” is offering a webinar where you can learn how to identify the tentacles of the Kochtopus.

Charles Koch and his late brother David
have subsidized anti-government, anti-public school policies and think tanks for decades. They underwrote the voucher campaign in Arizona and other states. They work closely with the DeVos family foundations to promote their views. The Koch’s have established centers to advocate libertarian ideas on more than 300 campuses. In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, we see how necessary it is to have a functioning federal government. At times of crisis, we understand that we need an effective public sector. The Koch movement has worked hard to reduce the ability of governments to protect their citizens.

This is a message from “Unkoch My Campus.”

We’re building a movement against the most intricate infrastructure of political influence in the country.

The bad news? This means having to track and expose hundreds of Koch-funded university programs, think-tanks, advocacy organizations, legislators, and judges working at the local, state, and federal levels. Yikes!

The good news? We can learn skills to make this work a little easier, and there are incredible researchers doing a lot of this work for us already!

To learn these skills, join our upcoming “Researching the Koch Network 101” webinar next Tuesday at 2pm ET!

Next week we’re bringing in David Armiak, Research Director at the Center for Media and Democracy, to teach us how to better incorporate opposition research into our campus and community-based campaigns. On this webinar, participants will:

Become more familiar with the universities, state-based think-tanks, advocacy organizations, and legislators involved in moving Koch’s agenda forward;

Learn about the research and resources that already exists to inform and deepen your local campaigns;

Receive an overview of basic opposition research skills experts use to conduct investigations and connect the dots;

Identify ways to leverage research produced by UnKoch’s partners to inform your grassroots base and escalate your local campaigns!

This webinar is designed with campus AND community advocates in mind. Whether you’re trying to kick Koch off of your campus or wanting to deepen your local or state-based advocacy by targeting Koch, this webinar is for you. Register to join us next Tuesday at 2pm ET!

In solidarity,

Samantha Parsons

Politico Morning Education reported yesterday that the coronavirus legislation in Congress has been delayed because Republicans and Democrats disagree about including college student debt relief.

Of course, other issues between the parties have stymied an agreement, especially the $500 billion economic recovery fund that would be administered by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. Republicans want him to have broad discretion over where the money goes; Democrats insist on oversight, to ensure that he is not favoring Republican donors and underwriting Trump family properties, like Mar-a-Lago and Trump hotels. The latest speculation in the media is that the parties may reach agreement later today. Keep your eye on the Mnuchin fund.

REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS SPAR OVER STUDENT DEBT RELIEF IN STIMULUS BILL: Republicans and Democrats are fighting over how to structure relief for the nation’s tens of millions of student loan borrowers as part of the massive stimulus plan to address the economic havoc caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

— At the core of the student debt dispute: Republicans have largely embraced the idea that borrowers should immediately be able to put their payments on hold without accruing interest; Democrats say that’s an insufficient half-measure and want to see some amount of debt cancellation.

— The latest Senate GOP stimulus bill circulated on Sunday would require the Education Department to suspend payments on federally held student loans for six months without interest accruing — a modest expansion from an earlier bill that called for a three-month mandatory suspension with an additional three-month pause at the discretion of the department.

— Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was unable to advance the bill through a procedural vote on Sunday evening as Democrats objected. Among the many “major problems” with the bill, according to a senior Democratic aide, was that it doesn’t “provide adequate relief for the 44 million federal student loan borrowers.”

— The GOP plan follows the Trump administration’s executive actions to halt interest on federally held student loans and give borrowers a new forbearance option to pause their payments for the next two months. (Sen. Mitt Romney on Friday also proposed a longer forbearance of up to three years for recent graduates entering the job market.)

— But Senate Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, are pushing a counter proposal: They want to cancel the monthly payments owed during the national emergency and guarantee each borrower receive at least $10,000 in loan forgiveness. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who campaigned on sweeping student debt cancellation, has pressed the issue with Schumer personally, including during phone calls last week, according to a Huffington Post report on Sunday.

— Biden, who has resisted calling for widespread student debt cancellation in his education plans, on Sunday backed the plan to forgive at least $10,000 in debt per borrower as part of the stimulus bill. “Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis,” Biden tweeted. “It shouldn’t happen again.”

— In the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated she may start drafting her own stimulus bill, there’s growing pressure from progressives to include student loan forgiveness. A group of progressive lawmakers, led by Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar, urged House leadership to include loan forgiveness in the bill. The letter was signed by Rep. Jim Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat in the House, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Rep. Maxine Waters, the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, has also separately called for including $10,000 in student debt forgiveness in a coronavirus stimulus plan.

— Rep. Bobby Scott, the chair of the House education committee, hasn’t publicly backed any student loan forgiveness plan and it wasn’t included as part of his $3 billion coronavirus bill to address education rolled out last week. But a Democratic committee aide told POLITICO: “The Senate Democrats proposal is a step in the right direction.”

— Republicans, meanwhile, say Democrats are exploiting a crisis to enact their policy agenda. “Democrats are trying to reduce student loans by $10,000. What the hell has that got to do with the virus,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Fox News on Sunday. “I’m sure everybody could use more money, but I don’t want to give money to people who have a paycheck. I want to give money to people who have lost their jobs.”

Online charter schools are an “epic” fail, as proved by the disaster of the EPIC online charter school in Oklahoma.

Here is the latest EPIC story:

Like many teenagers, Maggie Waldon caught a sort of senioritis halfway through a traditional high school. She was ready to be done.

With two years left, she enrolled in Epic Charter Schools, the Oklahoma City-based online public school that is now one of the largest virtual schools in the country.

At Epic, Waldon said she easily raised her grades from Cs and Fs to As and Bs. She said she did so with little interaction with her teacher, spending long days clicking through the curriculum. “There were days I asked my teacher for help. But mostly, I just figured it out,” Waldon said.

She was able to fast-track her remaining credits, finishing in one year what would have taken two in a traditional school. She was one of 2,500 students in Epic’s class of 2019.

That’s when she discovered she wasn’t prepared for college, she said. On the ACT exam, she “failed, majorly.” She has put her dream of becoming a kindergarten teacher on hold.

“I wish Epic actually helped prepare you for a future, because we all grow up and become adults. That’s something they didn’t do,” Waldon said.

In a five-month investigation into Epic’s college-going rates, Oklahoma Watch found that fewer than one in five 2019 graduates enrolled in a public Oklahoma college or university last fall. Its rate was lower than rates for all of the state’s 10 largest school districts, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of education data. The data was collected from every college and university in the state.

EPIC has more high school graduates than any of the state’s 10 largest school district, but only 14.7% of their graduates enroll in college or university.

Clearly, state legislators in Oklahoma like to send public money to EPIC, despite its horrible statistics.

Do they care about the education of the next generation of Oklahomans or do they just prefer an uneducated population?

The University of California’s faculty leaders have recommended  retaining the controversial SAT and ACT as admissions requirements, despite concerns that the standardized tests are rigged against students of low income. Wealthy parents pay huge sums for tutoring their children. Standardized tests by their nature are rigged against disadvantaged students, which has encouraged more than 1,000 colleges and universities to drop them.

But paradoxically, UC leaders believe that these tests help disadvantaged students.

The new yearlong faculty review found that most UC admissions officers offset that bias by considering an applicant’s high school and neighborhood demographics in evaluating the standardized test scores. The review found that less-advantaged applicants were admitted at higher rates for any given test score, a finding that faculty review committee members said surprised them. That process results in increased admission of disadvantaged students, the review found.

The faculty review committee “did not find evidence that UC’s use of test scores played a major role in worsening the effects of disparities already present among applicants and did find evidence that UC’s admissions process helped to make up for the potential adverse effect of score differences between groups.”

This is good news for the SAT/ACT test prep industry, as well as the monolithic testing industry that benefits far more than students.

Forbes’ education writer Wesley Whistle writes about the lawsuit filed by AFT against Betsy DeVos for her failure to protect the students who were defrauded by colleges and universities, mostly for-profit.

DeVos rolled back an Obama-era regulation intended to prevent colleges from loading students with high debts and worthless degrees.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has one more lawsuit to deal with this week. Yesterday, one of the largest teachers unions in the country filed suit against DeVos and the Department of Education (Department). The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is suing DeVos for repealing the “gainful employment” regulation that is meant to protect student borrowers from programs that load them up with debt that doesn’t yield a job with an income sufficient to repay their student loans.

The complaint from AFT—filed by the National Student Legal Defense Network (NSLDN)—says the repeal of the rule was illegal and didn’t provide the proper justification required in federal rulemaking. The lawsuit asks the court to reinstate the rule to protect students from low-quality degrees and unmanageable debt.

“With this lawsuit we are going to strike down DeVos’ illegal repeal of the gainful employment rule and protect students from schools that leave borrowers with worthless degrees and debt they can never repay,” said Aaron Ament, president of NSLDN, in a press release.

In her continued effort to repeal or rewrite higher education regulations, Secretary DeVos first delayed, then delayed some more, and finally repealed the 2014 gainful employment regulation in July 2019. The Secretary claimed the rule unfairly targeted for-profit colleges—an industry rife with predatory practices, fraud, and abysmal outcomes for students—even though it was not a regulation solely for for-profit schools.

Under the Higher Education Act, career-oriented programs (think welding or nursing) and all programs at for-profit colleges must show that they lead to “gainful employment” for their graduates. This provision has appeared in some form since the Higher Education Act was first passed in 1965. After years without specificity of what this actually meant, the Obama Administration issued a regulation to finally put some teeth on one of the few accountability tools in higher education.

The rule basically created a debt-to-income measurement so that if these programs left their graduates with sky-high debt and too little income to repay it they would lose access to federal student aid—grants and loans. Issuing this regulation was meant to protect students from programs that would saddle them with debt they’d either never repay or struggle to do so. And it would protect taxpayers from having to foot the bill for loans that won’t be repaid because low-quality programs didn’t get their graduates in jobs with salaries sufficient to repay their debt.

All kinds of programs failed the gainful employment rule. For example, a dental laboratory technology certificate program left graduates with median earnings under $7,000, well under the federal poverty level. And it impacted all degree levels and types of schools. A graduate certificate at Harvard even failed the test. It was far from perfect as it didn’t address the schools that failed to graduate their students but left them with debt they cannot afford, but it was a one of the few protections students had.

When DeVos repealed the regulation she said that transparency was enough and released new data on the College Scorecard that showed debt and earnings for each program. While that is a great step in the right direction, it is far from enough. Research has shown that transparency cannot replace accountability and isn’t sufficient to protect students and taxpayers. Reinstating this rule would go a long way to ensure students aren’t left with worthless degrees and unaffordable debt.

 

 

 

 

The Los Angeles Times published this story of a for-profit film school that made bold promises to students, folded, then sued its former students for not paying their debts.

Only two months into pursuing his dream to be a sound engineer, David Gross knew he’d made a mistake.

The single father in 2013 signed up at a for-profit college in Burbank that convinced him it was his path to a Hollywood job. But after two classes, he realized it was “definitely not what I was promised,” he said.

Gross took a leave of absence. But before he decided whether to return, the U.S. Department of Education forced the school, Video Symphony EnterTraining, to close after an investigation found altered records and thousands of dollars in missing financial aid money.

Five years later, Video Symphony, now transformed into a debt holding company, took aim at Gross. It sued him for $14,000 — the amount covering almost eight months of the program that it says Gross attended, and including federal loan amounts the government refused to give the school after the allegations of misconduct.

More than 500 lawsuits have been filed against the school’s ex-students by Michael Flanagan, the educator-turned-debt collector who owned Video Symphony. He says students signed binding contracts and are obligated to pay.

“This is not money you were getting for free,” Flanagan said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Demonstrate that you don’t owe the money and we will certainly revise and drop or reduce the demand, but essentially every single person here owes the money.”

Students and legal experts say the cases are more complicated. They claim Video Symphony broke its end of the deal by not providing the education it advertised, letting them believe they were receiving federal aid when they weren’t and failing to keep accurate records.

The story of Video Symphony highlights a larger problem with regulation of for-profit colleges and the aftermath when they fail, say legal experts: No level of government, from local prosecutors to federal and state education officials, has enough interest or responsibility to examine these cases.

In California, oversight of for-profit colleges and student loan debt remains convoluted and unreliable, despite years of reforms. Its patchwork nature has left each student to fight their own battle in a limited debt collection court that lacks the jurisdiction to look at the complaints collectively.

The result, said multiple legal experts familiar with the cases, is that Flanagan has won many lawsuits — collecting more than $300,000 — when students attempt to represent themselves or fail to show up at court, a common occurrence for those without legal savvy who don’t understand that not being present means losing.

Robert Muth, managing attorney of the Veterans Legal Clinic at the San Diego School of Law, has successfully represented two veterans sued by Video Symphony. He said the lack of scrutiny by authorities is “surprising.”

Attorneys at Public Counsel, a Los Angeles nonprofit legal firm that has successfully defended several Video Symphony students, have argued in court that there may be issues of fraud if the cases are viewed as a whole. Like multiple attorneys who have defended Video Symphony clients and spoke with The Times, they believe the lawsuits should be examined by state or local prosecutors, who have the ability to file civil actions on behalf of residents.

The Times found that the offices of Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey and state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra were contacted about Video Symphony, but so far have taken no action on behalf of the students.

Lacey’s office referred students to Public Counsel. Becerra’s office declined to comment on Video Symphony, issuing a statement that it was “deeply disturbed by the lack of accountability of for-profit colleges” in general and “focused on system-wide fixes.”

Large-scale for-profit failures such as Corinthian Colleges, ITT Tech and L.A.-based Dream Center schools have received such scrutiny from public prosecutors for similar complaints — though the financial stakes were higher.

In 2013, then-Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris filed a civil action against now-defunct Corinthian Colleges on behalf of its 27,000 California students. Investigations found the school used deceptive marketing and unfair debt collection practices. Harris won a default judgment that required Corinthian to pay more than $800 million in restitution to students. Becerra has also weighed in on high-profile failures and the resulting debt, including an ongoing civil suit against Ashford College, an online for-profit owned by a San Diego company.

Prosecutors are meant to be the last line of defense for for-profit students in California, though. Another source of frustration for those familiar with Video Symphony is the track record of a key state regulator, the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, a troubled agency whose future will be debated by legislators in coming months. The agency is charged with investigation and oversight of the state’s 700 for-profit colleges, which cater largely to low-income people, veterans and students of color.

Valerie Strauss, veteran education writer at the Washington Post, interviewed me about my new book SLAYING GOLIATH. 

Her questions get to the heart of the book. I hope you will read the exchange.

James Hatch, Navy Seal, applied to Yale University and was accepted as a freshman at the age of 52.

He was wary about how he would fit in.

Were the students the “liberal snowflakes” he had heard about?

Would he be able to do the work expected of a Yale freshman?

Read his reflections on his experience. He was amazed, and you may be too. 

He began:

In May of 2019, I was accepted to the Eli Whitney student program at Yale University. At 52, I am the oldest freshman in the class of 2023. Before I was accepted, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had seen the infamous YouTube video of students screaming at a faculty member. I had seen the news stories regarding the admissions scandal and that Yale was included in that unfortunate business. I had also heard the students at Yale referred to as “snowflakes” in various social media dumpsters and occasionally I’d seen references to Ivy League students as snowflakes in a few news sources.

I should give a bit of background information. I was an unimpressive and difficult student in public schools. I joined the military at 17 and spent close to 26 years in the US Navy. I was assigned for 22 of those years to Naval Special Warfare Commands. I went through SEAL training twice, quit the first time and barely made it the second time. I did multiple deployments and was wounded in combat in 2009 on a mission to rescue an American hostage.

Every single day I went to work with much better humans than myself. I was brought to a higher level of existence because the standards were high and one needed to earn their slot, their membership in the unit. This wasn’t a one-time deal. Every time you showed up for work, you needed to prove your worth.

The vetting process is difficult and the percentage of those who try out for special operations units and make it through the screening is very low.

In an odd parallel, I feel, in spite of my short time here, the same about Yale.

After receiving my acceptance email and returning to consciousness, I decided to move to Connecticut and do my best in this new environment. Many people have asked me why I want to attend college at 52, and why at an Ivy League institution like Yale? I could have easily stayed in Virginia and attended a community college close to my home. Well, based on my upbringing in the military, I associated a difficult vetting process with quality and opportunity. I was correct in that guess. More importantly, I simply want to be a better human being. I feel like getting a world-class education at an amazing institution like Yale will help me reach that goal. Are there other places to get a great education? Of course, but I chose Yale.

The Texas-based IDEA charter chain, along with the Noble Network in Chicago and the Match charter school in Boston, is trying to boost its college graduation rates by encouraging its former students who dropped out of college to enlist in an online college program where requirements are minimal. 

By partnering with Southern New Hampshire University, which enrolls tens of thousands of students from across the country in its low-cost online college programs, the charter operators are coaching students through college. The university provides the coursework and confers degrees, while an arm or affiliate of the charter networks recruits and mentors students.

The Noble charter network in Chicago launched its partnership last year, following the IDEA network in Texas and Match Charter School in Boston. Together, the three programs now enroll nearly 1,000 students, and other charter operators say they’re watching closely.

It’s a notable extension of those networks’ mission, which for years has been to send their mostly low-income students of color to college. More recently, though, it’s become harder to ignore the reality that many of their alumni are leaving higher education without degrees

If successful, these programs will provide students another chance to earn a degree that could bolster their financial futures, while also boosting the charter networks’ college completion rates…

So far, though, students in the programs have earned only a few dozen bachelor’s degrees. And the expansion of these programs worries some observers, who question whether students are getting a high-quality college experience — and whether the degrees students do earn will pay off in the job market.

IDEA launched IDEA-U in 2017 with around 40 students, including Chapa. Now, the program has around 400 students from across Texas enrolled, about half of whom are IDEA graduates.

Around 95 students are enrolled in Noble’s program, known as Noble Forward, which launched last year. Nearly all are graduates of a Noble school in Chicago.

Match’s program, initially called Match Beyond, began in 2013 by enrolling mostly Match alumni, but was spun off as a nonprofit called Duet in 2018. It now serves around 500 students who graduated from high schools across the Boston area.

The programs differ slightly, but the academics work the same way. Students enroll in one of a handful of “competency-based” degree programs offered by Southern New Hampshire University and progress by completing projects designed to show they’ve mastered key skills.

There are no lectures, professors, or class discussions, but students are assigned readings and videos. Students work at their own pace — instead of on a set academic calendar — re-submitting projects as many times as they need, though the university says students average around two tries. Their projects are evaluated by a university “reviewer” with at least a master’s degree.

Underlying question: Is the goal of this program to provide a valuable education to students or to improve the data of the sponsors?