Archives for category: Higher Education

The California State Attorney General, Xavier Becerra and 48 other states and the Consumer Financial Bureau won a $330 million settlement on behalf of students from a now-defunct for-profit “college.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with 48 states and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on Tuesday announced a $330 million settlement with ITT Technical Institute (ITT Tech), the now-defunct predatory for-profit college, and PEAKS, its holding company. The settlement, which in California is pending court approval, resolves allegations of an illegal private student loan scheme that harmed student borrowers by misdirecting them towards expensive student loans that they struggled to repay. The settlement will automatically discharge PEAKS’ entire student-loan portfolio with loan forgiveness for anyone with an outstanding PEAKS loan. This will provide relief for more than 43,000 borrowers nationwide, including 4,000 Californians. PEAKS will also be required to shut down after carrying out the settlement.

“As students strive for a college degree, their attention should be on their studies not on being cheated by unscrupulous lenders,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Using a private lending scheme, ITT Tech saddled students with massive debt, exorbitant interest rates, and a worthless diploma. Today’s settlement removes the financial handcuffs gripping thousands of California students defrauded by ITT Tech. These students and former students can now wake up from this borrower’s nightmare. At the California Department of Justice, we will continue to crackdown on predatory for-profit colleges that focus on dollars instead of diplomas.”

Over 600 faculty and staff at Penn have organized Penn for PILOTS and issued a statement calling on the university to make “payments in lieu of taxes” (PILOTs) to the Philadelphia public schools. As is well known, the public schools in Philadelphia are chronically underfunded, thanks to a hostile Republican legislature, and they are currently facing devastating cuts amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Penn is the largest property owner in Philadelphia and the only Ivy League university that doesn’t pay PILOTs. Calls for PILOTs have surfaced for years, but support for the idea has now reached an unprecedented level. A significant number of Penn faculty and staff believe that it is time for the university to pay its fair share for public schools.

As the organizing statement of the group says, Penn is the seventh wealthiest university in the nation, and the Philadelphia schools are among the poorest in the nation.

This is the petition of the organizers. The statement begins:

We are faculty and staff at the University of Pennsylvania who believe that Penn has a responsibility to ensure adequate funding for the Philadelphia public schools. Penn is the largest property owner in the city of Philadelphia, but as a non-profit institution, it pays no property taxes on its non-commercial properties. In other words, it contributes nothing to the tax base that funds Philadelphia’s public school system—this in a city whose schools are underfunded and facing deep budget cuts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our Commitment

Penn should contribute to an Educational Equity Fund governed by the school district and city of Philadelphia. These would be payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs)—a fraction of what Penn would owe if it were subject to property tax assessment. We commit ourselves to seeing our university pay its fair share.

Nearly every other Ivy League university already makes payments in lieu of taxes. Penn would be joining the ranks of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Cornell, and Dartmouth in recognizing its financial obligation to the community of which it is a part.

The supporters of this demand explain their rationale:

This is not a matter of charity but of justice. Penn’s tax exemption is predicated on the notion that it is a non-profit institution that exists to fulfill a public purpose, not a for-profit corporation that exists to accumulate capital. That distinction must be made meaningful. Today, Penn is the seventh richest university in the country. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has the highest poverty rate of the ten largest cities in the United States. If Penn’s public mission is to have any meaning at all, the university must not be an exemplar or engine of urban inequality.

Yet the existing system of public finance ensures that Penn benefits from city services that it does not pay to maintain. Penn’s administrators, faculty, and staff rely on city schools, sanitation services, transportation, and other programs. Penn’s location in the city of Philadelphia is one of its defining characteristics that enables the university to attract faculty and students. When the university does not pay for the services and environment that make its work possible, other Philadelphians are left to make up the difference—or city schools and other institutions simply go without. Penn has a duty to contribute to the city that sustains it.

Here is their list of frequently asked questions.

The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote about this remarkable movement.

I salute the faculty and staff at Penn who support this movement. The financial condition of the Philadelphia public schools is dire. They need all the help they can get. In this age on intense individualism and greed, it is wonderful to see people acting with a sense of social responsibility.

Harvard University has dropped the SAT as a Condition of admission for the new class entering in fall 2021.

The Boston Globe reports:


In a pivotal decision that will likely ripple across higher education, Harvard University announced on Monday that it will not require next year’s undergraduate applicants to submit standardized test scores.

The decision comes amid fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and growing criticism that standardized test requirements unfairly penalize students of color.

A coalition of civil rights groups and education advocates intend to send a letter on Tuesday to elite colleges, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and UMass Amherst, urging them to scrap the SAT and ACT altogether.

“[We] call upon you to stand up against practices that institutionalize racial inequity and take action to ensure your institution promotes the type of inclusive diversity that is critical for generating sustainable solutions and a better future for all,” says the letter, written by The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and signed by 10 other organizations and provided to the Globe.

Harvard’s decision is temporary. The university has defended its admissions policy and its strategy to build a diverse student body in court. Last fall, a federal district court judge in Boston ruled in favor of Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policy, although opponents are looking to overturn that judgment on appeal.

FairTest has been battling the abuse, misuse, and overuse of standardized testing since the early 1970s. It took a global pandemic to demonstrate that students applying to college need not take a standardized test for admission. How will colleges decide whom to admit? They will figure it out. Just watch. Many colleges and universities went test-optional years ago and managed to choose their first-year class.

MORE THAN HALF OF ALL U.S. FOUR-YEARS COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES WILL BE TEST-OPTIONAL FOR FALL 2021 ADMISSION;

SHARP INCREASE IN SCHOOLS DROPPING ACT/SAT DRIVES TOTAL TO 1,240

A new tally of higher education testing policies shows that more than half of all 4-year colleges and universities will not require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores for fall 2021 admission. The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), which maintains a master list, reports that 1,240 institutions are now test-optional. The National Center for Educational Statistics counted 2,330 U.S. bachelor-degree granting schools during the 2018-2019 academic year.

Fully 85% of the U.S. News “Top 100” national liberal arts colleges now have ACT/SAT-optional policies in place, according to a FairTest data table. So do 60 of the “Top 100” national universities, including such recent additions as Brown, CalTech, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, UPenn, Virginia, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale.

Bob Schaeffer, FairTest’s interim Executive Director, explained, “The test-optional admissions was growing rapidly before the COVID-19 pandemic. 2019 was the best year ever with 51 more schools dropping ACT/SAT requirements, driving the total to 1,040. Another 21 colleges and universities followed suit in the first 10 weeks of this year. Since mid-March, however, the strong ACT/SAT-optional wave became a tsunami.” FairTest has led the test-optional movement since the late-1980s when standardized exams were required by all but a handful of schools.

A FairTest chronology shows that nearly 200 additional colleges and universities have gone test-optional so far this spring. All told, U.S. News now lists more than 540 test-optional schools in the first tier of their respective classifications, including public university systems in California, Delaware, Indiana, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Washington State.

“We are especially pleased to see many public universities and access-oriented private colleges deciding that test scores are not needed to make sound admissions decisions,” Schaeffer continued. “By going test-optional, all types of schools can increase diversity without any loss of academic quality. Eliminating ACT/SAT requirements is a ‘win-win’ for students and schools.”

New Tally – Majority of Colleges Are ACT/SAT-Optional for 2021

Schaeffer also noted that interest in FairTest’s web directory has spiked over the past three months, “Daily visitor levels have nearly tripled, demonstrating the appeal of test-optional admissions to teenagers, who know that these schools will treat them as more than a score.”
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– FairTest’s frequently updated directory of test-optional, 4-year schools is available free online at https://www.fairtest.org/university/optional — sort geographically by clicking on “State”

– A current chronology of schools dropping ACT/SAT requirements is at http://www.fairtest.org/sites/default/files/Optional-Growth-Chronology.pdf

– The list of test-optional schools ranked in the top tiers by U.S. News & World Report is posted at http://www.fairtest.org/sites/default/files/Optional-Schools-in-U.S.News-Top-Tiers.pdf

Bad news for the College Board, which owns the SAT. Yale University is going test-optional for the class entering in fall 2021.

Today Yale became the fifth Ivy League school to adopt a test-optional policy for the class of undergraduates who will be applying for admission in the fall of 2021. It joins Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania who have also announced they would not require either the SAT or ACT for their Class of 2025 undergraduate applicants.

According to a statement on Yale’s website, students who can’t take exams or who decide not to report scores “will not be disadvantaged in the selection process.”

After infection risk from the coronavirus forced the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the SAT, to cancel multiple test dates this spring, schools started announcing test-optional admissions policies. One hundred eighty have done so since the pandemic hit, according to Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, a nonprofit that opposes the use of standardized tests in admissions. That brings the total number of test-optional schools to 1,244. (FairTest keeps a database of test-optional schools.)

It’s not clear whether these policies will survive the pandemic. But who knows?

Politico Morning Education reports:

DEVOS’ INTERIM FINAL RULE: The rule carries out DeVos’ policy, first announced in April, that is being challenged by two lawsuits for restricting which students can receive CARES Act (H.R. 748 ) grants. It will take effect immediately after publication in the Federal Register, which the department said would happen on June 15.

— DeVos said in a statement that the rule was aimed at eliminating any “uncertainty” for colleges about how they must distribute the funds, while carrying out the department’s “responsibility to taxpayers to administer the CARES Act faithfully.”

— Democratic lawmakers have pushed back, saying the rule violates the intent of the CARES Act. “As students across the country are struggling to make ends meet in the face of unprecedented financial challenges, Secretary DeVos’ efforts to deny some much-needed aid is cruel,” said Senate HELP ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “These extreme eligibility requirements will not only harm students, but they are also contrary to Congressional intent.” Read more from Michael Stratford.

TRUMP TO CONGRESS: ENACT SCHOOL CHOICE: President Donald Trump on Thursday said he is renewing his call on Congress to “finally enact school choice now.” During his State of the Union Address earlier this year, Trump promoted his administration’s proposal to create a new $5 billion federal tax credit to expand school choice. The Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act, introduced in the House as H.R. 1434 (116) and the Senate as S. 634 (116), has no Democratic cosponsors in either chamber. “School choice is a big deal,” he told his audience during a “Transition to Greatness” roundtable in Texas.

— Trump said unions and “others” are against school choice for the wrong reasons. “Access to education is the civil rights issue of our time,” he said, adding that he has heard that for “the last, I would say year, but it really is.” He said, “And it creates competition and other schools fight harder because all of a sudden they say, ‘Wow, we’re losing it, we have to fight hard.’”

— DeVos tweeted a video clip of Trump’s statement and wrote, “Education is the pathway to a stronger tomorrow and a stronger America for all. Thankful for @realdonaldtrump’s unwavering commitment to ALL our nation’s students and their success.

In another act of gratuitous cruelty, Betsy DeVos insists that undocumented students should get no emergency aid, although Congress did not pass such a restriction.

Politico reports:

DEVOS SEEKS TO ENFORCE RESTRICTIONS ON PANDEMIC RELIEF GRANTS THROUGH REGULATION: The Trump administration will roll out a new regulation this week that restricts which college students may receive emergency grants to cover expenses like food and housing.

— The Education Department says it’s moving to publish, as soon as today, an “interim final rule” that requires colleges to exclude undocumented students and others who don’t qualify for federal student aid from a more than $6 billion emergency cash grant program under the CARES Act, H.R. 748 (116). Such rules typically take effect immediately.

— The new regulation will carry out — now with the force of law — a policy that DeVos first outlined in April. Democrats and college officials have cried foul, arguing that it goes against the intent of the CARES Act, which does not include any explicit restrictions on which students can receive the funding.

— Meanwhile, two states — California and Washington — have brought legal challenges against the guidance. In the face of those lawsuits, the Education Department backed away from the significance of the guidance, promising not to enforce it and downplaying it as “preliminary.”

— It’s not yet clear exactly how DeVos’ new regulation will be worded. But Education Department officials indicated in documents filed with OMB that the administration will move ahead with its contentious position on who can receive relief — limiting funding only to those students who are already eligible for federal financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act.

— Happening today: The expected release of the new regulation this week coincides with a federal judge in San Francisco holding a virtual hearing today on California’s motion for a preliminary injunction blocking DeVos’ guidance. Another judge has set a similar hearing in the Washington state case for Thursday.

Anemona reports in the New York Times that the College Board has abandoned its plans to deliver ((sell) an online SAT. More than 1200 colleges and universities are now test-optional. The University of California’s decision a few weeks ago to forego thevSAT as an admission requirement was a huge blow to the College Board’s business plans.

The College Board said on Tuesday that it would postpone plans to offer an online version of the SAT for high school students to take at home this year, further muddying a ritual of the college application process that had already been thrown into chaos by the coronavirus.

After canceling test dates this spring, the board announced in mid-April that it was developing a digital version of the SAT to be introduced if the pandemic continued to require social distancing in the fall, which would make it hard for the nonprofit organization to provide enough testing dates and centers.

But in its latest statement, the board said the technological challenges of developing an online test that all students could take had led to the decision to drop it. Some 2.2 million students took the SAT last year, the College Board said.

“Taking it would require three hours of uninterrupted, video-quality internet for each student, which can’t be guaranteed for all,” the board said, acknowledging the technology gap facing lower-income students, which could further exacerbate inequities in access to higher education.

The organization added that it would continue to deliver an online version of the SAT at some schools, but would not “introduce the stress that could result from extended at-home testing in an already disrupted admissions season.”

Bob Schaeffer, the head of FairTest, which is opposed to the use of standardized tests in college admissions, said the College Board was “simply conceding the inevitable.”

Its decision came after the organization had a rocky experience last month introducing a digital version of the Advanced Placement exams, which it also oversees. Many students complained that they were not able to submit their answer sheets electronically, and their tests were disqualified.

Mr. Schaeffer’s group and several students and parents have filed a class-action lawsuit seeking to force the College Board to score the rejected answer sheets. The College Board said less than 1 percent of students who had taken the test were affected.

The College Board asked colleges and universities on Tuesday to “show flexibility” to the millions of students who were not able to take the SAT this spring because of cancellations. It asked colleges to extend deadlines for receiving test scores, and to give equal consideration to students who were unable to take the test because of the pandemic.

The SAT’s rival exam, the ACT, said on Tuesday that it still planned to offer a remote option in the fall.

Trump vetoed legislation that would have protected college students burdened by debt from predatory colleges. Many of the defrauded were veterans.

Trump’s support of predatory colleges should not be surprising, since Trump owned a predatory college “Trump University”), which was closed down by regulators and led to Trump being fined $25 million.

From the Washington Post:

President Trump on Friday vetoed a bipartisan resolution to overturn a policy that makes it tougher for students who say they were defrauded by colleges to have their federal education loans canceled.


In rejecting the measure Friday, Trump called it “a misguided resolution that would increase costs for American students and undermine their ability to make choices about their education in order to best meet their needs.”


Although the White House had long signaled the move, veterans groups that strongly oppose the regulation had implored Trump to stand with members of the military who they say are routinely preyed upon by unscrupulous schools for their lucrative GI Bill education benefits.


In the lead-up to Memorial Day, veterans groups ran advertisements on Fox News urging Trump to support the congressional resolution.

But siding with veterans would have forced Trump to abandon the longest-serving member of his Cabinet: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
“President Trump’s veto … was a victory for DeVos and the fraud merchants at the for-profit colleges. My question to the President: in four days did you forget those flag-waving Memorial Day speeches as you vetoed a bill the veterans were begging for?” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who introduced the resolution in the Senate.


The veto arrives two months after Congress agreed to scrap DeVos’s overhaul of a 1995 law known as “borrower defense to repayment.” The law provides federal loan forgiveness to students whose colleges lied to get them to enroll.


An Obama-era update of the statute lowered hurdles for students and shifted more of the cost onto schools, but DeVos tried to scuttle the update and then rewrite the rule.

The Trump administration in September finalized its rewrite, which limits the time borrowers have to apply for relief and requires them to prove they were harmed financially by the deception. The rule is scheduled to take effect July 1.


To sideline the policy, Democrats used the Congressional Review Act, which lets lawmakers overturn recent regulatory actions of federal agencies with a simple majority vote in both chambers.
Durbin and Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) introduced resolutions in their chambers days after the Trump administration finalized the rule. But as the campaign to overturn the Trump policy gained momentum, the White House threatened to veto the resolution.


In a policy statement issued in January, the White House Office of Management and Budget said overturning the rule “would restore the partisan regulatory regime of the previous administration, which sacrificed the interests of taxpayers, students and schools in pursuit of narrow, ideological objectives.”


Yet in March, Trump told Republican senators that he was “neutral” on the rule, giving veterans groups hope that the president, who has sought and enjoyed support from veterans, might sign the resolution.


Hours before Trump vetoed the resolution Friday, American Legion National Commander James Oxford issued a statement urging the president to “come to the aid of student veterans,” much like he did a year ago in granting automatic student loan forgiveness to permanently disabled veterans.


News of Trump’s decision left the American Legion, other veterans groups, consumer advocates and lawmakers disappointed.
Lee pledged to forge ahead with a campaign to override the veto in the House.
“The fight for our students and veterans is far from over,” she said Friday. “I’m urging all of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to put students, veterans and taxpayers first, and vote to overturn the 2019 Borrower Defense rule.”


The Trump administration estimates its new rule will save the federal government $11 billion over 10 years — loan payments that would have gone uncollected under existing rules.
“

The Secretary is thankful to the president for his leadership on this issue,” Angela Morabito, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said in a statement Friday. “This administration is committed to protecting all students from fraud and holding all schools accountable when they fail their students. This administration’s rule does just that, despite false claims from many corners.”


DeVos has defended her overhaul as a sensible and fair way to account for the needs of students, colleges and taxpayers. She has derided the Obama-era update as a giveaway for students and a veiled attempt to go after for-profit colleges.
“Whereas the last administration promoted a regulatory environment that produced precipitous school closures and stranded students, this new rule puts the needs of students first,” Trump said Friday.

The new rule “extends the window during which they can qualify for loan discharge, and encourages schools to provide students with opportunities to complete their educations.”
Trump said the resolution “would return the country to a regulatory regime in which the Federal Government and State attorneys general, rather than students, determine the kinds of education students need and which schools they should be allowed to attend.”

Paul Tough has written several books, including most recently, “The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us.” He also wrote a book about Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone, and the best-selling “How Children Succeed.”

In this article in the New York Times, Tough explains that the decision by the University of California to drop the SAT may be the beginning of the end for that test. And it’s a good thing.

He writes:

If you’re a college student (or an aspiring one) from a financially struggling family, the coronavirus pandemic has brought with it a steady downpour of bad news: closed campuses, slashed financial-aid budgets and, coming soon, big cuts in state funding for public colleges and universities. But through these dark clouds one ray of more hopeful news has shone. Standardized admissions tests, which many aspiring low-income students see as the greatest barrier to their college goals, are being eliminated this spring as entrance requirements by one institution after another.

At first, the list of colleges deciding during the pandemic to go “test-optional” (meaning that applicants can choose whether or not to submit test scores) included mostly small private institutions — Williams, Amherst, Tufts, Vassar — and the decisions were often presented merely as temporary changes or pilot projects.

But last week brought much bigger news: Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California, recommended to the system’s Board of Regents that the entire U.C. system go test-optional for the next two years, followed by two years during which the university would become not just test-optional but “test-blind.” In 2023 and 2024, Ms. Napolitano proposed, Berkeley and U.C.L.A. and every other U.C. school wouldn’t consider SAT or ACT scores at all in their admissions decisions.

The university administration, Ms. Napolitano explained, would spend these years trying to come up with its own better and fairer standardized admission test. If it failed, U.C. wouldn’t go back to accepting the SAT and ACT; instead, it would eliminate the consideration of standardized tests in admissions for California students once and for all.

This was a sweeping proposal, especially for such an influential institution as the University of California. And what was so surprising about Ms. Napolitano’s recommendations — which will be put to a vote by the Board of Regents on Thursday — was that they came less than a month after the university’s faculty senate had unanimously accepted the report of a task force supporting the continued use of the tests and proposing to keep them in place for at least the next nine years.

If the Regents concur with Ms. Napolitano this week, it will be a crucial turning point in a national debate about standardized testing that has been going on for decades. Do standardized tests help smart, underprivileged college applicants? Or do they hurt them?

Proponents of standardized tests often make the case that the tests are the least unfair measure in a deeply unfair system. It’s certainly true that the system is unfair from start to finish. Rich kids enjoy advantages over poor kids that begin in prenatal yoga sessions and continue through summer tennis camps, after-school robotics classes and high-priced college-essay coaching sessions. But the data show that standardized tests don’t level that playing field; they skew it even further.

The best predictor of college success overall is a simple one: high school grades. This makes a certain sense. An impressive high school G.P.A. reflects a combination of innate talent and dedicated hard work, and that’s exactly what you need to excel in college. And while standardized test scores have long been found to be highly correlated with students’ financial status, that’s much less true with high school G.P.A. In a recent study, Saul Geiser, a researcher at Berkeley, found that the correlation between family income and SAT scores among University of California applicants is three times as strong as the correlation between their family income and their high school G.P.A.

You can see the same pattern when you look at applicants by race. When Mr. Geiser used high school G.P.A. to identify the top 10 percent of Californians applying for admission to the U.C. system, 23 percent of the pool was black or Latino. When he used SAT scores to identify the top 10 percent, 5 percent was black or Latino.

Here’s another way to look at the numbers: The students who are most likely to benefit from any university’s decision to eliminate the use of standardized tests are those who have high G.P.A.s in high school but comparatively low standardized test scores. These are, by definition, hard-working and diligent students, but they don’t perform as well on standardized tests. Let’s call them the strivers.

A few years ago, researchers with the College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, analyzed students in that cohort and compared them with their mirror opposites: those with relatively high test scores and relatively low high school G.P.A.s. Let’s call them the slackers: self-assured test takers who for one reason or another didn’t put as much effort into high school.

The College Board’s researchers made two important discoveries about these groups. First, there were big demographic differences between them. The slackers with the elevated SAT scores were much more likely to be white, male and well-off. And the strivers with the elevated high school G.P.A.s were much more likely to be female, black or Latina, and working-class or poor.

The researchers’ second discovery was that students in the striver cohort, despite their significant financial disadvantages, actually did a bit better in college. They had slightly higher freshman grades and slightly better retention rates than the more affluent, higher-scoring slackers.

Despite the persistent and compelling evidence that standardized tests penalize low-income students, a lot of us want to believe the opposite: that standardized tests are the tool that can help selective colleges pluck brilliant low-income students out of low-performing high schools. These Cinderella stories do sometimes happen, and when they do, they’re inspiring. But these anecdotal exceptions are overwhelmed by the experience of a large majority of ambitious low-income students, for whom standardized tests have the opposite effect: They construct a wall that separates them from prestigious universities, a wall with a narrow doorway that only well-off kids seem to know how to squeeze through.

If the Board of Regents approves Ms. Napolitano’s recommendations, it won’t get rid of all the structural barriers standing in the way of California’s striving low-income students. Not by a long shot. But it will have taken an important step toward making that wall a little lower and that doorway a little wider.