Archives for category: Higher Education

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.

Perhaps you know New York Governor Andrew Cuomo only through his daily coronavirus briefings, where he has been thoughtful, strong, and compassionate.

But there is another side to Cuomo. He doesn’t like public education or teachers. And as Ross Barkan writes in the Nation, he definitely doesn’t like public higher education.

Cuomo has governed New York state since 2011. State aid to CUNY, adjusted for inflation, has declined by nearly 5 percent during his tenure, though the state’s gross domestic product has increased.
At the same time, CUNY tuition has steadily risen. A New York State resident who is a full-time student at a four-year CUNY school now pays $6,930 a year, up from $5,130 in 2011. New York’s Tuition Assistance Program, which provides aid to students below a certain income threshold, no longer covers the full cost of tuition, and Cuomo forces individual colleges to make up the difference. Another tuition increase of $200 per year, along with a $120 “health and wellness” fee, is set to be voted on by the CUNY Board of Trustees in June.

While the cost to attend a CUNY college is still lower than that of many other large public institutions around the country, CUNY’s 271,000-large student body is overwhelmingly low-income: Forty-two percent of all first-time freshmen come from households with incomes of $20,000 or less, and more than 70 percent of students enrolled at senior and community colleges identify as nonwhite.

“It’s a hugely important system because of the nature of the students it serves,” said Thomas Brock, director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. “And it has a really important role in higher education more generally. Historically, it’s done a very good job helping low-income students move into the middle class.”

At the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the vast majority of adjuncts say that they found out earlier this month that they were not rehired for the fall semester, meaning classes could be dramatically larger come September. Brooklyn College and the College of Staten Island are grappling with proposed overall department cuts as high as 30 percent, which would also most likely lead to layoffs.

Meanwhile, the PSC anticipates that actual student enrollment for this fall could increase, as it did during the last economic downturn in the 2000s. Simultaneously, course offerings could shrink, meaning students could struggle to complete their majors on time. Full-time faculty and adjuncts would strain to give any kind of individualized attention to students, especially if CUNY continues remote instruction but with far larger classes.

For adjuncts, many of whom are hired only semester to semester, the layoffs are traumatic. Though each adjunct earns only several thousand dollars per course, they are able to access comprehensive health insurance through PSC. “The biggest problem is stress,” said Elizabeth Hovey, an adjunct professor and union leader at John Jay. “People in this era shouldn’t be threatened with the loss of their health insurance….”

Until the mid-1970s, CUNY was largely tuition-free. Then, in 1975, New York City nearly went bankrupt. White flight, the decline of manufacturing, and poor fiscal management had driven the city into a fiscal crisis that would haunt it for decades to come, even after the economy recovered.

For CUNY, it was a tragic turning point. For the first time, tuition was imposed for all students and the budget was drastically cut, resulting in mass layoffs, reduced course offerings, and a noted decline in building maintenance. Advocates at the time correctly predicted that once CUNY introduced tuition, administrators would never make the schools free again.

Now, the specter of another fiscal crisis looms, this time because of Covid-19. New York City no longer faces the structural challenges it did during the 1970s—the city’s economy was humming along until March—but the evaporation of tax revenue is a disturbing echo of that era. What’s uncertain, still, is how hard the latest budget axe will fall.

Thanks to new powers granted by the state legislature when New York state’s budget was passed in April, Cuomo has the power to impose rolling cuts on local services throughout the year. The governor has said that without a fresh infusion of federal funding, aid to localities could be slashed by more than $10 billion, a number that has no precedent in modern times.

K-12 public schools across the state, the State University of New York system, and CUNY could be hit the hardest. In the coming days, Cuomo is expected to detail the severity of this first round of cuts. In addition, a CUNY representative told The Nation that New York City’s government, which partially funds the system, is seeking a $31.6 million reduction target for the next fiscal year, starting in July.

The architect of New York State’s draconian cuts is Cuomo’s budget director, Robert Mujica, now one of the most powerful people in the state. Mujica is a former Republican staffer who shares Cuomo’s willingness to shrink budgets.

Only the State Legislature can stop Cuomo’s cuts to K-12 education and public higher education.

Corey Robin, a professor of political science at Brooklyn Colege and the CUNY Graduate Center, argues that this is the time to resurrect public colleges and 7ni ersities.

Writing in The New Yorker, Robin points out that most commentary in the media pertains to elite institutions, and public universities are stepchildren or forgotten.

For decades, a handful of boutique colleges and powerhouse universities have served as emblems of our system of higher education. If they are not the focus of discussion, they are the subtext, shaping our assumptions about the typical campus experience. This has remained true during the pandemic. The question of reopening has produced dozens of proposals, but most of them are tenable only for schools like Brown; they don’t obtain in the context of Brooklyn College. The coronavirus has seeded a much-needed conversation about building a more equal society. It’s time for a similar conversation about the academy.

In academia, as in the rest of society, a combination of public and private actors directs wealth to those who need it least. While cuny struggles to survive decades of budget cuts—and faces, in the pandemic, the possibility of even more—donors lavish elite colleges and universities with gifts of millions, even billions, of dollars. Sometimes these donations fund opportunities for low-income students, but mostly they serve as tax-deductible transfers to rich, private institutions, depriving the public of much-needed revenue. What taxes federal and state governments do collect may be returned to those institutions in the form of hefty grants and contracts, which help fund operating budgets that Brooklyn College can only dream of. This is the song of culture in our society. The bass line is wealth and profit; the melody is diversity and opportunity.

Yet, for all the talk of the poor and students of color at the Ivy League, the real institutions of mobility in the United States are underfunded public universities. Paxson [the president of Brown University] may believe that “a university campus is a microcosm of any major city in the U.S.,” as she told NPR, but CUNY is no microcosm. With nearly two hundred and seventy-five thousand students and forty-five thousand staff—a population larger than that of many American cities—it is what the Latin root of the word “university” tells us higher education should be: the entire, the whole. More than seventy-five per cent of our undergraduate students are nonwhite. Sixty-one per cent receive Pell Grants, and the same percentage have parents who did not graduate from college. At City College and Baruch College, seventy-six and seventy-nine per cent of students, respectively, start out in the bottom quintile of the income distribution and wind up in one of the top three quintiles. For hundreds of thousands of working-class students, in other words, a cash-starved public university is their gateway to the middle or upper-middle class.

Beyond opportunity, institutions like CUNY offer a vision of education that is less about credentials than about the deep contact—and conflict—between reading and experience that is the essence of culture. On most élite campuses, undergraduates are eighteen to twenty-two years old. At cuny, more than twenty-five per cent of undergraduates are twenty-five or older. Our campuses are not cloisters; they’re classrooms out of the pages of Plato and Huey Newton, where philosophy is set in motion in and by the street. Like other public colleges and universities, cuny is a mustard seed of intellectual life, a source of reinvention and renewal. If we are to endure this crisis—and, later, to learn from it—some of our most original thinkers and leaders will come from schools like City College…

During the Depression, the New York municipal-college system opened two flagship campuses: Brooklyn College and Queens College. These schools built the middle class, took in refugees from Nazi Germany, remade higher education, and transformed American arts and letters. In 1942, Brooklyn College gave Hannah Arendt her first teaching job in the United States; an adjunct, she lectured on the Dreyfus affair, which would figure prominently in “The Origins of Totalitarianism.” In the decades that followed, cuny built more campuses. Until 1976, it was free to all students; the government footed the bill.

What prompted this public investment in higher education was neither sentimentality about the poor nor a noblesse oblige of good works. It was a vision of culture and social wealth, derived from the activism of the working classes and defended by a member of Britain’s House of Lords. “Why should we not set aside,” John Maynard Keynes wondered in 1942, “fifty million pounds a year for the next twenty years to add in every substantial city of the realm the dignity of an ancient university.” Against those who disavowed such ambitions on the grounds of expense, Keynes said, “Anything we can actually do we can afford.” And “once done, it is there.”

Public spending, for public universities, is a bequest of permanence from one generation to the next. It is a promise to the future that it will enjoy the learning of the present and the literature of the past. It is what we need, more than ever, today. Sending students, professors, and workers back to campus, amid a pandemic, simply because colleges and universities need the cash, is a statement of bankruptcy more profound than any balance sheet could ever tally.

Jeffrey Epstein received very special treatment at Harvard, according to a new report. He even had his own office, in recognition of his donations to the university.

Disgraced sex offender Jeffrey Epstein had his own office in a Harvard University department and visited there more than 40 times after he was released from jail in 2010 up until 2018, according to review of the university’s ties to the deceased financier released on Friday.

Epstein’s donations helped fund Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics more than a decade ago, and he was a frequent presence in the department’s offices in Harvard Square. Martin Nowak, a math professor who led the PED research group, gave Epstein key cards to enter the building and offered the space for Epstein to host dinners and meet with Harvard faculty, area academics, and political figures when he was in town, according to the report.

While space was scarce in the PED group, Office 601 was known as “Jeffrey’s Office” and Epstein decorated it with his own rug and photographs, according to the report. For a time, Epstein even had his own Harvard phone line.

Epstein committed suicide last summer in the Manhattan jail cell, where he was being held on charges of sex trafficking of minors.

Nowak was placed on paid administrative leave Friday, although he will be allowed to administer the final exam for his course this month, Harvard officials said.

According to a monthslong investigation by Harvard’s general counsel and an outside law firm, the university received $9.2 million from Epstein between 1998 and 2007. After Epstein’s 2008 sex conviction, Harvard’s then-president Drew Gilpin Faust barred any more donations from the financier. But Faust’s decision wasn’t clear to some faculty and fund-raisers within Harvard who lobbied administrators over the years to take money from Epstein.

Also, despite Harvard’s objection to taking money from Epstein, he continued to find pockets of support at the university, including from Nowak, the math department, and scientist George Church.