New Study: “The Returns of Online Postsecondary Education”

Dear Commons Community,

Inside Education has a review of a study, The Returns to Online Postsecondary Education,  by Caroline Hoxby (Stanford University) that questions the economic benefits of online education. The  study analyzes longitudinal data on nearly every person who engaged in postsecondary education that was wholly or substantially online between 1999 and 2014. It shows how much they and taxpayers paid for the education and how their earnings changed as a result. She computed both private returns-on-investment (ROIs) and social ROIs, which are relevant for governments—especially the federal government. The findings provide little support for optimistic prognostications about online education. It is not substantially less expensive than comparable in-person education.  However, a number of respected researchers are questioning the author’s data and methodology:

As reported by Inside Higher Education: “…researchers were quick to voice their concerns about the study, particularly for its deviation from online enrollment numbers reported by the federal government’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Hoxby writes that, in 2013, the proportion of students taking all or a substantial number of their courses online totaled only 7 percent of postsecondary enrollment in the U.S. Researchers at the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), however, found in their own analysis of IPEDS data that 27 percent of all students took at least one online course in fall 2013, and 13 percent studied exclusively online.

Since about 20 million students were enrolled at colleges and universities in the U.S. in fall 2013, Hoxby’s study counts about 1.2 million fewer students than WCET found studied exclusively online, and potentially hundreds of thousands fewer who studied partially online, said Russell Poulin, director of policy and analysis for WCET.

“Even a quick check with one of the databases they did use … would show they are off on their counts and should have made them rethink their assumptions,” Poulin said in an email.

Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group, called the methodology “seriously flawed.” The Babson Group previously produced annual reports on the size of the online education market but began to focus more on in-depth surveys after the federal government began collecting and reporting online enrollment data.

In an email, Seaman pointed to the paper’s breakdown of students who attended for-profit and nonprofit institutions as one example. Hoxby’s combination of enrollment and tax data added up to a finding that 76.8 percent of the students who studied exclusively online during the 2013-14 academic year were enrolled at for-profit colleges. IPEDS data on its own, however, found that share was only 31.9 percent.

Sean Gallagher, executive professor of educational policy at Northeastern University, summarized the discrepancy in a tweet.

View image on Twitter

“To apply different data to the problem is laudable, but not if the application of her approximations yield results that do not match the simplest of reliability checks (i.e., the estimated numbers do not match those reported in IPEDS),” Seaman wrote. “The choice of time period to examine also targets the peak of the for-profit enrollment bubble — which has now busted. So even if the methodology were not so flawed, this would still not reflect the current reality.”

Enrollment at for-profit colleges has continued to decline since 2014.

IPEDS, it should be mentioned, has its own issues. A 2014 study found that confusing guidelines and inflexible design led to several colleges greatly under- or overreporting the number of students studying online, concluding that IPEDS provided an inaccurate picture of the higher education landscape.

Phil Hill, a higher education consultant who worked on that study, called Hoxby’s paper a “hot mess.”

In a blog post, Hill said the paper’s “fundamental flaw” is that it attempts to translate institution-level data into student-level data, which causes it to not count online students enrolled at institutions that also offer face-to-face programs — Pennsylvania State University and its World Campus, for example. That’s a significant reason why the Hoxby paper so significantly understates the number of online students, among numerous things that he says renders the paper “deeply flawed.”

Hoxby did not respond to a request for comment.

Throughout the paper, Hoxby examines the personal return on investment for students who study exclusively and substantially (generally defined as taking half or more of their courses) online, and how their actions affect the return on investment for taxpayers.

To test whether online education boosts earnings, the paper focused on students who were enrolled for three calendar years — enough time for someone to earn an associate or master’s degree, or finish a bachelor’s degree (if the student transferred with previously earned college credit). Students who studied exclusively online saw their earnings grow by $853 on average in the years following that three-year enrollment period, while students who studied partly online and partly in person saw a slightly larger increase: $1,670 a year.

A majority of the students in the study were enrolled for shorter periods of time. For those students, earnings growth was much lower — a few hundred dollars a year.

Over all, the growth was not enough to cover what society paid as part of funding the educational programs, and in some cases not even the loans the students took out to enroll. The paper found that online students made disproportionate use of deductions and tax credits to fund their education, leaving taxpayers with having funded 36 to 44 percent of their education even if students repaid their student loans in full.

“This failure to cover social costs is important for taxpayers, especially for federal taxpayers, who are the main funders of online education apart from the students themselves,” the paper reads. “The failure implies that federal income tax revenues associated with future increased earnings could not come close to repaying current taxpayers.”

While students who studied online were slightly more likely to move into rapidly growing industries as a result, the paper did not find any evidence to suggest online education helps students land jobs that require abstract thinking or cutting-edge technology skills.

The paper also suggested whatever savings colleges generate by only offering online education are erased when other costs such as faculty and student support are added. Fully online colleges spent less on instruction per full-time-equivalent student — $2,334 — than colleges that also offered some face-to-face education ($3,821). But the gap nearly closed when including other core expenses ($5,991 versus $6,559). Nonselective colleges that offered hardly any online education were in the same ballpark: $5,721 per full-time-equivalent student.

Students, however, on average paid more in tuition to study online, the study found: $6,131 for students in fully online programs and $6,758 for those who took most but not all of their courses online. In comparison, students at nonexclusive colleges studying mostly in person paid an average of $4,919.

“Over all, the main contribution of this study may be to ground the discussion of online postsecondary education in evidence,” the paper reads. “Much of the discussion to this point may suffer from undue optimism or pessimism because such evidence has been lacking.”

But the initial reaction the paper has received about the evidence on which Hoxby bases her argument may temper that likelihood.”

Jeff Seaman knows more about the extent of online education than probably any other researcher in the country.  He has tracked this issue nationally for more than a dozen years.  I tend to support what he says about the weaknesses in the methodology of the study.




NYS Attorney General and Education Commissioner Issue Guidelines Protecting Immigrant Children!

Dear Commons Community,

New York State Attorney General  Eric Schneiderman and State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia sent guidelines yesterday for protecting immigrant students.

See text below.



Subject: News Release: A.G. Schneiderman and State Education Commissioner Elia Advise Schools on Protecting Immigrant Students

New York State Board of Regents

MaryEllen Elia

Commissioner of Education

The State Education Department

The University of the State of New York / Albany, NY 12234
Office of Communications  


February 27, 2017

Attorney General Schneiderman
New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060
Albany Press Office / 518-776-2427
Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

New York State Education Department
For More Information, Contact:
Jonathan Burman or Jeanne Beattie
(518) 474-1201[] 


In Light of Recent Federal Immigration-Related Actions, Guidance Reminds Districts of Their Duty to Uphold the Rights of Immigrant Students and Safeguard Student Data

In light of recent federal immigration-related actions that have created fear and confusion in New York and across the country, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia today reminded school districts of their duty to comply with existing state and federal laws that ensure the rights of immigrant children to attend New York’s public schools without fear of reprisal. 

“Our schools must be places where all students can learn, free of fear or intimidation – no matter their immigration status. No family should have to worry that sending their child to school may result in deportation,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “That’s why we’ll ensure that all students remain protected under state and federal laws, no matter the draconian immigration policies that come out of Washington. I’m grateful to Commissioner Elia and SED for our continued partnership, ensuring that New York remains a leader in guaranteeing the rights of all students.”

“Throughout our long history, New York State has been a refuge for people from other lands seeking a new and better life for themselves and their families,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “Home to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, New York has always welcomed immigrants. Indeed, our greatness as a state derives, in large part, from the contributions of immigrants. Our immigrant students have a right to a free education and they must not fear retribution for themselves or family members simply because they attend school. As education and law enforcement leaders, it is imperative that we protect all students as well as the information we have about them to the fullest extent possible under the law.”

The guidance provides districts with relevant information pertaining to their duties under the law with respect to their students and the confidentiality of student records. Law enforcement officers may not remove a student from school property or interrogate a student without the consent of the student’s parent or person in parental relation except in very rare instances, such as when a crime has been committed on school property.

In addition, the guidance reminds districts that under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, parents must consent to disclosing personally identifiable student information, except in very limited situations that do not appear to cover requests from federal immigration officials to access personally identifiable student information.  

Read the full guidance document here:[].

The Wall Street Journal:  Article on Community Colleges Across the Country Duplicating CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP)!

Dear Commons Community,

Last Thursday, “The Wall Street Journal” had an article featuring City University of New York’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, better known as ASAP.  The article briefly describes the program but more importantly highlights the fact that it is being replicated throughout the country in one form or another. Here is an excerpt:

“City University of New York figured out how to double its community-college graduation rate for some students. Now it is sharing the secret sauce with schools in Ohio, California and elsewhere.

Skyline College in San Bruno, Calif., and Westchester Community College in New York will pilot versions of Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, or ASAP, this fall, while Ohio’s governor is angling for funding to expand that state’s replication project to nine institutions from its current three sites.

Nearly six in 10 students who started at CUNY two-year schools between 2007 and 2013 and participated in ASAP graduated within three years—often while working and caring for families. Those who didn’t participate, but had similar backgrounds, had just a 28% likelihood of completing their degrees in that time frame.

CUNY administrators peg the success at campuses including LaGuardia Community College and Borough of Manhattan Community College in large part to “intrusive advising,” or hyper-involved staffers who help students enroll in the right courses and stay on track. Relieving students of extra costs for transit and books is also crucial, they say.
The adoption of CUNY’s model comes as community colleges try to boost often abysmal graduation rates, while out-of-pocket costs for students increase and enrollments sink. School officials say getting better is a necessity, otherwise states could pull funding and students will look elsewhere for a decent return on their investment. Nationally, 39% of first-time students at community colleges got a credential from a two- or four-year school within six years; poor students fared even worse.
“They’re hemorrhaging students every single step of the way,” said Davis Jenkins, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center, at Columbia University’s Teachers College. While community colleges have delivered on their mission to offer low-cost access to education, he said, they often fail to get students to the finish line.

Since launching nearly a decade ago at its six community colleges in the sprawling City University of New York system, ASAP now enrolls 15,000 students across nine campuses. Participants must take at least 12 credits each in fall and spring, and often winter and summer classes as well, sign up for remedial courses and tutoring when necessary and participate in career development programs and monthly academic advising sessions. In exchange, they get tuition waivers, free subway passes, textbooks and help with course enrollment to keep them on track. Full-time tuition at CUNY’s community colleges is $4,800 a year for in-state students, and books and transit are estimated to cost another $2,400.”

Kudos for CUNY and those who developed ASAP, although I was surprised that Guttman Community College which is based entirely on the ASAP model, was not mentioned.



At the Oscars:  Best Supporting Actor, Mahershala Ali, Thanks His Teachers and Professors!

Dear Commons Community,

I watched the Oscar Awards last night. Colorful, lots of gowns, glitter, and some interesting moments. Jimmy Kimmel, the host, took shots at Donald Trump. Black actors and actresses were well-represented among the nominees and winners.  The wrong movie, La La Land, was named best picture by accident.  The actual winner was Moonlight. Meryl Streep got the first standing ovation of the evening after Kimmel poked fun at Donald Trump’s comment earlier this year calling her “overrated”. However, the best moment for me was the acceptance of the first award for Best Supporting Actor which was won by Mahershala Ali in Moonlight. Before anybody else, he thanked his teachers and professors for helping him  developed his career as an actor and being true to himself.

Below is the complete list of major winners.



Best Picture:Moonlight

Best Actress: Emma Stone for La La Land

Best Actor: Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea

Directing: Damien Chazelle for La La Land

Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight – Screenplay by Barry Jenkins; Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney

Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea written by Kenneth Lonergan

Best Original Song: “City of Stars” from La La Land – Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Music (Original Score): Justin Hurwitz for La La Land

Cinematography: Linus Sandgren for La La Land

Short Film (Live Action): Sing – Kristof Deak and Anna Udvardy

Documentary (Short Subject):The White Helmets – Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

Film Editing: John Gilbert for Hacksaw Ridge

Visual Effects:The Jungle Book – Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon

Production Design: La La Land – David Wasco (Production Design) and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco (Set Decoration)

Best Animated Feature Film: Zootopia by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Clark Spencer

Best Short Film (Animated):Piper by Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer

Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman directed by Asghar Farhadi

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis in Fences

Sound Mixing: Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace for Hacksaw Ridge

Sound Editing: Sylvain Bellemare for Arrival

Best Documentary (Feature): O.J.: Made in America – Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow

Costume Design: Colleen Atwood for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Makeup and Hairstyling: Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson for Suicide Squad

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali in Moonlight

Actually Secretary DeVos:  There is Such a Thing as Free Lunch!

Dear Commons Community,

Last Thursday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference and opened her comments as follows:

“I’m Betsy DeVos. You may have heard some of the ‘wonderful’ things the mainstream media has called me lately,” she said. “I, however, pride myself on being called a mother, a grandmother, a life partner, and perhaps the first person to tell Bernie Sanders to his face that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

DeVos was using the aphorism to speak more broadly about her approach to government. And it’s worth debating how that broader view colors her approach to education policy. After all, more than half of America’s students now qualify for free and reduced-price meals, a common marker of poverty, and schools will be stretched to meet their needs both inside and outside the classroom

The fact of the matter is that for millions of children in the United States ― all of whom she’s pledged to serve as education secretary ― there is such a thing as a free lunch. And the important role it plays in their education and well-being is no laughing matter.

In 2012, 31 million children received meals through the National School Lunch Program which was established in 1946.  For many of these children, that free lunch at school is the only meal they will eat that day. According to the nonprofit No Kid Hungry, about 13 million kids in the U.S. struggle with hunger. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that the amount of public school students living in poverty rose from 17 percent to 22 percent between 2000 and 2013.

However, legislative efforts over the past year show that lunch programs may end up on the chopping block. In April, the House of Representatives introduced a bill that would scale back the number of free meals offered at schools in the U.S.

In light of DeVos’ remarks, educators, parents and former students are speaking out in defense of the National School Lunch Program and stressing the adverse effects of having hungry children in classrooms.

It should also be mentioned that the National School Lunch Program and the National School Breakfast Program are under the authority of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not the Education Department. Regardless Devos’ comments were problematic and insensitive to the needs of so many children who live in poverty.




Trump Supporters Unwittingly Wave Russian Flags During His CPAC Keynote!

Dear Commons Community,

Political pranksters passed out small Russian flags emblazoned with President Trump’s name at yesterday’s Conservative Political Action Conference — where Trump supporters unwittingly waved the banners (see video below) during his Friday keynote speech.   As reported by the New York Post and other media:

“The pranksters passed out 1,000 red-white-and-blue Russian flags before Donald Trump’s speech at the conservative confab in Maryland on Friday. Audience members scooped them up and waved them enthusiastically as Trump railed against the media. He also tweeted a series of attacks earlier against the FBI, accusing it of leaking information that the White House had pressured the bureau to publicly dispute reports of contact between Trump’s aides and Russia.

The flag tricksters identified themselves as Jason Charter and Ryan Clayton with the self-described “resistance” group Americans Take Action. They purchased tickets to the conference shortly before Trump was to take the podium and handed out the flags, Charter told The Huffington Post.

Charter, 22, said that the gag was intended to mock Trump’s admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin and highlight concerns about Trump administration ties to Russia. “Donald Trump is selling out the U.S.,” he said. 

The prank went surprisingly smoothly, he added. “I asked people if they wanted a Trump flag and they took it,” Charter said. “There were only about five people who said, ‘Wait a minute, this is the Russian flag.’”

Politico’s Tim Alberta tweeted that the crowd “gave no thought” to the Russian flag. They just saw “red, white & blue” with Trump printed on it.

Clayton, 36, using a mock Russian accent in an interview with Atlantic, called the prank a “true-flag” operation. “It show how Trump and Russia are so connected, they like peas in pod,” he said.

CPAC organizers finally got a clue and quickly collected the flags, and warned that anyone who continued to wave or hold one would be ejected,

Trump has come under fire since the campaign for his strangely laudatory statements about Putin and for appearing to call on the Russian government to hack into campaign rival Hillary Clinton’s emails. Michael Flynn stepped down as Trump’s national security adviser earlier this month after it was revealed that he discussed easing sanctions against the country with Russia’s ambassador before Trump was sworn in as president. Trump has also expressed skepticism about intelligence officials’ findings that Russia was responsible for hacking Democrats’ emails and spreading fake news harmful to Clinton in a bid to sway the election toward Trump.”

I cannot wait to hear the Russian national anthem played at the next Trump rally.


NASA Discovery – Solar System with Seven Earth-like Planets!

Dear Commons Community,

On Wednesday NASA made worldwide headlines when it  announced it has confirmed a discovery of a solar system, TRAPPIST-1, with seven Earth-sized planets orbiting around a single star. Three of these planets are located in what NASA calls the “habitable zone,” meaning the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have water.  The system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system. Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, Spitzer confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.

While NASA has identified Earth-like planets before, this discovery sets a new record for the largest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. The space agency said all seven planets in TRAPPIST-1 could have liquid water under the right atmospheric conditions, but the three in the habitable zone are most promising.

“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement. “Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”

The system of planets is 40 light-years away from Earth, or about 325 trillion miles, which is “relatively close” in the grand scheme of things, NASA said. Since they’re located outside our solar system, they’re technically exoplanets.

NASA said all the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely rocky, but further observations are needed to determine whether they have any liquid water on their surfaces. The system’s star is much smaller than Earth’s sun, meaning liquid water could possibly survive on planets orbiting very close to it. All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are closer to their star than Mercury is to our sun.

“The planets also are very close to each other,” NASA said. “If a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth’s sky.”

The planets may also be “tidally locked” to their star, the agency added, meaning the same side of the planet is always facing the star. That side would be perpetually day, while the side facing away from the star would be night all the time. “This could mean they have weather patterns totally unlike those on Earth, such as strong winds blowing from the day side to the night side, and extreme temperature changes,” NASA said.


President Trump Rescinds Rules on Bathrooms for Transgender Students!

Dear Commons Community,

President Trump on Wednesday rescinded protections for transgender students that had allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, overruling his own education secretary and placing his administration firmly in the middle of a culture war.  As reported by Reuters and the New York Times:

“In a joint letter, the top civil rights officials from the Justice Department and the Education Department rejected the Obama administration’s position that nondiscrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice.

That directive, they said, was improperly and arbitrarily devised, “without due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy.”

The question of how to address the “bathroom debate,” as it has become known, opened a rift inside the Trump administration, pitting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos against Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr. Sessions, who had been expected to move quickly to roll back the civil rights expansions put in place under his Democratic predecessors, wanted to act decisively because of two pending court cases that could have upheld the protections and pushed the government into further litigation.

But Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off and told Mr. Trump that she was uncomfortable because of the potential harm that rescinding the protections could cause transgender students, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions.

Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, initially resisted signing off on the order and told President Trump that she was uncomfortable with it.

Mr. Sessions, who has opposed expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, pushed Ms. DeVos to relent. After getting nowhere, he took his objections to the White House because he could not go forward without her consent. Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, the Republicans said, and told Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her opposition. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along.

Ms. DeVos’s unease was evident in a strongly worded statement she released on Wednesday night, in which she said she considered it a “moral obligation” for every school in America to protect all students from discrimination, bullying and harassment.

She said she had directed the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate all claims of such treatment “against those who are most vulnerable in our schools,” but also argued that bathroom access was not a federal matter.

A couple of hundred people gathered in front of the White House to protest the Trump action, waving rainbow flags and chanting: “No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here.” The rainbow flag is the symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Individual schools will remain free to let transgender students use the bathrooms with which they are most comfortable. And the effect of the administration’s decision will not be immediate because a federal court had already issued a nationwide injunction barring enforcement of the Obama order.

Reversing the Obama guidelines stands to inflame passions in the latest conflict in America between believers in traditional values and social progressives, and is likely to prompt more of the street protests that followed Trump’s Nov. 8 election.


Federal Prosecutors Expand Investigation of City College’s Former President Lisa Coico!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times is reporting that federal prosecutors have expanded their investigation of the financial dealings of the former president of the City College of New York into whether she received tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized payments over several years from the school’s oldest alumni fund.

Lisa S. Coico, the college’s former president, was already being scrutinized over the improper use of federal research money, and the accounting of her personal expenses from the 21st Century Foundation, the college’s main fund-raising vehicle. She resigned unexpectedly in October after The New York Times reported that a memo concerning those expenses had most likely been fabricated to deceive prosecutors, and that she did not return a $20,000 security deposit for a rental home.

The new avenue of inquiry looks at a second source of money — the City College Fund, which is supposed to provide scholarships to indigent students, underwrite campus programs and organize alumni reunions — and it represents a notable expansion of an inquiry that began last summer. It has spread to other groups affiliated with the college’s parent entity, the City University of New York.

This month, the office of Robert L. Capers, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, subpoenaed records related to payments to Ms. Coico from the City College Fund. Among other issues, prosecutors are trying to ascertain why the fund, which has been run for years by one of Dr. Coico’s most trusted confidantes, apparently paid Dr. Coico or entities connected to her yet failed to get approval from university officials or report the arrangement on its tax returns.

The existence of the subpoena was confirmed last week by Vincent G. Boudreau, who took over as the City College interim president after Ms. Coico resigned.

Sad story!



Activists Unfurl Banner on Statue of Liberty “Refugees Welcome”!

Dear Commons Community,

Activist scaled the Statue of Liberty and unfurled a red and white “Refugees Welcome” banner on Tuesday, just hours after the Department of Homeland Security unveiled its sweeping plan to deport undocumented immigrants across the U.S.

The banner, which measured 3 feet by 20 feet in length, was unrolled and dangled from the statue’s observation deck, the National Park Service said.

The sign was removed more than an hour later after it surfaced, the Associated Press reported, but not before images spread like wildfire on social media.

According to CNN, an activist group called Alt Lady Liberty claimed responsibility for the banner. “​Almost all Americans have descendants from somewhere else,” the group told CNN. “Immigrants and refugees make this country great. And turning away refugees, like we did to Anne Frank, does not make us great.”

Alt Lady Liberty posted several images of the banner on its Twitter account, with one caption reading: “The message of the Statue of Liberty is unmistakable.”

As a reminder, the plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”