Archives for category: Higher Education

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.

The $2 trillion appropriated by Congress as coronavirus relief funds will benefit for-profit colleges with poor records, according to Marketwatch. They are likely to collect $1 billion. DeVos has been an investor in for-profit colleges, so don’t expect her to care. Democratic Senators have complained to DeVos but got no response this far.,

Dozens of for-profit colleges that are among those most likely to benefit from stimulus funding face thousands of claims from students demanding their money back because they say they were defrauded, according to analysis prepared for MarketWatch.

Some of the schools eligible for bailout funds also face federal scrutiny for mismanaged funds, while others have been dubbed “failed” under a federal standard requiring them to provide an education adequate for repaying loans, the analysis shows. Some schools eligible for bailout funds have settled lawsuits with the U.S. Justice Department following allegations of fraud and misuse of federal student aid…

The analysis found that of the top estimated 100 for-profit schools eligible for coronavirus crisis subsidies, 79 had students who demanded their loans be forgiven under a federal program meant to provide relief to students who alleged they had been defrauded. From these top 100 for-profit schools, 12,000 students had filed federal complaints alleging they were victims of fraud. Twenty-three of the top 100 for-profit schools most likely to receive funding were previously characterized by federal regulators as “failed” under a requirement that students go on to find jobs good enough to repay loans. DeVos last year rescinded the requirement that schools meet this standard as a condition for benefiting from federal subsidies.

Twelve of the top 100 for-profit schools eligible for stimulus funds also faced some form of legal action as of 2017 for alleged fraud involving recruitment and misuse of federal student aid programs, according to the analysis. Thirteen, meanwhile, were under “heightened cash monitoring,” an extra level of scrutiny under U.S. Department of Education rules meant to serve as a caution to students that can indicate problems with finances or accreditation.

“Colleges like these with a predatory history and thousands of prior students who are still awaiting compensation for deceptive practices should not be getting a federal bailout,” said Bob Shireman, deputy undersecretary of education under President Obama who now oversees higher education programs at The Century Foundation, a liberal think tank.

As the rushed effort to dispense $2 trillion in stimulus funds unfolds, experts are questioning how the government more broadly will guard against fraud, waste and abuse, and whether the public can trust whether tax dollars will be used to achieve the program’s goals.

Expect waste, fraud, and abuse, and a big payday for some of the worst actors in higher education, as well as a payday for the charter industry, which lobbied to be included in the fund for struggling small businesses, although they have not lost a dime.

This is a message from UnkochMyCampus, an organization dedicated to stopping the nefarious influence of the super-rich on campuses, starting with the Koch family. In this case, the contribution to a Missouri university came from billionaire Rex Sinquefield, a rightwing libertarian extremist. Mr. Sinquefield is a strong supporters of charter schools and vouchers.

Please consider signing the letter of thanks to this brave professor, David Repach.

In an act of protest, a professor at Saint Louis University (SLU) has renounced his Endowed Chair in Economics. In a memo explaining his decision, Dr. David Rapach cites the university’s acceptance of a financial donation “rife with violations of well-established academic norm” as his reason for renoucing the John Simon Endowed Chair. The $50 million donation came from St. Lous billionaire Rex Sinquefield, a local political donor well known for funding campaigns to cut taxes and privatize public goods in Missouri.

Saint Louis University’s decision to accept donor-influenced financial support from Rex Sinquefield is reflective of the ultra-wealthy’s strategy to use colleges and universities to build public support for their private legislative agenda– an agenda that harms working families and public education.

Show your support for Professor Rapach by signing our petition endorsing his courageous action!
“I hope to send the message to students that principles are more important than the money and/or prestige that accompany particular titles. Based on my understanding of SLU’s mission, I feel compelled to renounce the Simon Chair to be true to my principles and to protest what is happening at SLU.” -Dr. Rapach’s March 9, 2020

Sinquefield’s agenda includes pushing the repeal the progressive income tax system, thwarting efforts to secure fair wages for hard-working Missourians, and investing in legislation that weakens Missouri’s public schools. The violations of academic norms in the donation allow Sinquefield to leverage SLU to promote his private interests and legislative agenda. Help us demand that colleges and universisties serve the common good, not private interest!

Sign the Petition
In solidarity,

Samantha Parsons

The University of California released this statement:

The San Francisco Chronicle reported:

UC system to ease admissions requirements; no more SAT, letter-grades: The University of California will temporarily suspend the SAT standardized test requirement for students applying to its campuses for the fall 2021 semester due to the coronavirus outbreak, officials announced Wednesday. UC also will dispense with letter grade requirements for admission. Officials said there will be no rescission of admissions offers due to students or schools missing official final transcript deadlines. “We want to help alleviate the tremendous disruption and anxiety that is already overwhelming prospective students due to COVID-19,” said John A. Pérez, chair of the Board of Regents, which is the governing board for the school system.

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.