HBCUs in Need of Assistance!

Dear Commons Community,

Richard D. Legon, president of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and Alvin J. Schexnider, former chancellor at Winston-Salem State University, have an opinion piece in today’s online edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education, focusing on the current plight of many historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).   They specifically identify a number of issues that are pushing many of these institutions “to the brink.”  They identify a number of reasons for this state of affairs including:

  • Declining enrollment
  • Underperforming institutional and board leadership
  • Sharp reductions in state funding
  • Obsolete business models
  • Uncertain federal funding
  • A dearth of future leadership talent
  • Inadequate financial support from alumni
  • Intercollegiate athletics scandals

Legon and Schexnider specifically expand on the following:

“It is clear that state disinvestment in public higher education has had a more significant impact on HBCUs than on other public colleges and universities. It is also clear (and perhaps counterintuitive) that enrollment declines among these institutions are in part driven by their own historic success and societal progress. But outmoded business models, antiquated implementation of technology in administrative processes and academic-program delivery, and difficulties in recruiting and retaining talented faculty are putting some of our most important institutions at the greatest risk.”

They conclude:

“Black colleges and universities, despite their challenges, are indispensable to shaping and contributing to our nation’s potential. HBCUs deserve to thrive and not simply survive. Regrettably, some may be at heightened risk, but where possible we must make every effort to help those that seek meaningful change to chart a new path toward sustainability. We can do no less to honor the women and men who established these institutions. And we must do more to preserve opportunities for future generation.”

  1. The HBCUs deserve better and it would be helpful if the states and President Trump as he promised during his election campaigning, step up and do something for these venerable institutions.

Tony

 

Trouble in Fox News Land:  Shepard Smith v. Sean Hannity!

Dear Commons Community,

Two of the biggest celebrities on Fox News are feuding over remarks made by Shepard Smith about President Donald Trump being a liar.  Smith broke with network orthodoxy last Friday, issuing a sharp denunciation of the Trump administration’s handling of investigations into its links with Russia.  Smith described White House “deception” as “mind-boggling”.

“Why all these lies?” he asked fellow anchor Chris Wallace. “Why is it lie after lie after lie?”

The outburst came after it was reported that more people attended a meeting between Donald Trump Jr and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York in June 2016 than had previously been disclosed.

Yesterday, as reported by The Huffington Post,  Sean Hannity used his radio show to blow back Shepard Smith. 

Shep is a friend. I like him,” Hannity said, according to The Hill. “But he’s so anti-Trump. I mean, he went off on a rant last week.”

According to CNN, Hannity said at another point in his show: 

“I’ll say this about the Fox News Channel, there are voices on Fox that drive me nuts. Like, Shep and I been friends for years. We just respect we don’t agree. And the media was praising Shep, and he’s not the biggest fan of Trump. Fine! We don’t talk politics when we hang out. When I see him we have the best time, and we just have this mutual respect.”

Smith fired back at Hannity later in the day. 

Sometimes facts are displeasing,” he told Mediaite. “Journalists report them without fear or favor.”

Smith may have been channeling former Fox News host Megyn Kelly, who made headlines when she appeared to throw a barb at Hannity last year with the j-word. 

We’ve got Trump speaking to our own Sean Hannity,” she said after a debate in September. “We’ll see whether he speaks to the journalists in this room after that interview.”

Hannity, however, has said he is not a journalist.

Several other Fox News personalities including Chris Wallace, Chris Stirewalt and Charles Krauthammer have lambasted Trump for his handling of the Don Jr. controversy.

Tony

Senator Patty Murray Calls for Betsy DeVos to Remove Candice Jackson as USDOE Top Civil-Rights Official!

Dear Commons Community,

Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Republican on the Senate Education Committee, is calling on Secretary Betsy Devos to remove Candice E. Jackson as the top civil-rights official in the Education Department after her “callous” comments on campus sexual assault made in an interview with the New York TimesAs reported by several media:

“In an interview with The New York Times, published last Wednesday, Ms. Jackson said campus sexual-assault investigations have not been fair to both parties involved. Most cases, she added, lack “even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman.”

“Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right,’” Ms. Jackson said.

Ms. Jackson apologized for her remarks in a statement issued Wednesday evening. “My words in The New York Times poorly characterized the conversations I’ve had with countless groups of advocates. What I said was flippant, and I am sorry,” she said.

But the apology is no salve, Senator Patty Murray said.

“Ms. Jackson’s callous, insensitive, and egregious comments regarding sexual assault on college campuses crossed a serious line,” Ms. Murray continued. This, she added, was the “final straw.”

In a written statement released late Monday, Ms. DeVos said that Ms. Jackson had apologized for her comments, which “reflect neither my position nor the position of the department.”

“They also did not reflect Candice’s position and values,” the statement continued. “Candice is a valuable part of the administration and an unwavering advocate for the civil rights of all students.”

Tony

Elon Musk:  Artificial Intelligence Can Pose “the Greatest Risk We Face as a Civilization”

Dear Commons Community,

Elon Musk, co-founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, Inc., over the weekend at a meeting of the nation’s governors called upon them to be proactive in regulating the artificial intelligence industry. He warned that “the hyper-competitiveness of the tech industry could push developers to work on A.I. before their competitors. And if that happens without any kind of oversight, Musk says it could pose “the greatest risk we face as a civilization.”  Here is a recap of his comments courtesy of newsy:  

“… he encouraged U.S. governors to get out in front of the [A.I.] industry and do some proactive regulating.

Musk met with state governors at the National Governors Association to talk about different kinds of emerging technology. In addition to A.I., Musk talked about solar energy, space travel and self-driving cars.

“AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs or bad food were not,” Musk said.

But his feelings towards A.I. aren’t anything new.

I mean, with artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon,” Musk said at a 2014 event at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Musk warned that the hyper-competitiveness of the tech industry could push developers to work on A.I. before their competitors. And if that happens without any kind of oversight, Musk says it could pose “the greatest risk we face as a civilization.”

Back in 2015, Musk helped fund OpenAI, a nonprofit tasked with researching “digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity.”

And Musk isn’t the only prominent techno-wiz to warn us about A.I. Stephen Hawking has said he believes artificial intelligence could “spell the end of the human race.”

A critical aspect of Musk’s comments is that the nature of the tech industry is such that there will be unbridled investment in getting the upper hand on the competition and there will be no holding back what they will try to accomplish.  He is right to warn all of us of this danger to our civilization. 

Tony

 

Nicholas Kristoph:  For-Profit Schools in Developing Countries!

Dear Commons Community,

New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristoph, while visiting Liberia, comments today about the sad state of government-run public schools.  Teachers don’t come to classes, books are not available, and students can’t read or do arithmetic.  He blames this on government corruption. and then puts in a plug for private, for-profit schools operated by Bridge International Academies,  Here is an excerpt:

“The status quo has failed,” George Werner, Liberia’s education minister, told me. “Teachers don’t show up, even though they’re paid by the government. There are no books. Training is very weak. School infrastructure is not safe.

“We have to do something radical,” he added.

So Liberia is handing over some public schools to Bridge International Academies, a private company to see if it can do better.

So far, it seems it can — much better. An interim study just completed shows Bridge schools easily outperforming government-run schools in Liberia, and a randomized trial is expected to confirm that finding. It would be odd if schools with teachers and books didn’t outperform schools without them.

If the experiment continues to succeed, Liberia’s education minister would like to hand over “as many schools as possible” to private providers. Countries in Asia and others in Africa are also interested in adopting this model.

The idea of turning over public schools to a for-profit company sparks outrage in some quarters. There’s particular hostility to Bridge, because it runs hundreds of schools, both public and private, in poor countries.

“Bridge’s for-profit educational model is robbing students of a good education,” Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, America’s largest teachers union, declared last fall. Education International, which represents the N.E.A. and other teachers unions around the world, similarly excoriates Bridge and the  Liberian government.

I understand critics’ fears (and share some about for-profit schools in the U.S.). They see handing schools over to Bridge as dismantling the public education system — one of the best ideas in human history — for private profit.”

Kristoph concludes:

“We can all agree that the best option would be for governments to offer better schools, with books and teachers in the room. Indeed, Liberia is trying to improve all schools, and it is winnowing out payments to “ghost teachers,” who don’t exist except on paper.

But my travels have left me deeply skeptical that government schools in many countries can be easily cured of corruption, patronage and wretched governance, and in the meantime we fail a generation of children.

In the United States, criticisms of for-profit schools are well grounded, for successive studies have found that vouchers for American for-profit schools hurt children at least initially (although the evidence also shows that in the U.S., well-run charters can help pupils).

The situation in countries like Liberia is different, and when poor countries recognize that their education systems are broken and try to do the right thing for children, it doesn’t help to export America’s toxic education wars.”

From my own limited travels in developing areas, I tend to agree with Kristoph.  The culture of corruption that permeates in many government services in some countries is too widespread to be solved in the near future.  For the sake of children shackled to non-functioning public schools, any alternative even, if it is for-profit, should be considered. 

Tony

 

BYU-Idaho’s PathwayConnect Making its Mark in the World of Online Education!

Dear Commons Community,

Brigham Young University-Idaho is emerging as a leader in the world of online higher education. One of its certificate programs, PathwayConnect, begun in 2009, has graduated nearly 24,000 students, more than 14,000 of whom have continued on for an online certificate or degree from BYU-Idaho. BYU-Idaho’s online degree programs have also seen significant growth — enrollment has increased tenfold, to more than 13,000, over the past five years.   Here is a description of BYU-Idaho PathwayConnect as featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“As with the rest of BYU, a Mormon character is inseparably woven into PathwayConnect. Required religious offerings, like a two-course sequence on the Book of Mormon, mix with secular courses in writing, mathematics, and life skills, in which students learn about goal-setting and “provident living.” Students can use the program as an entry point to college, says Clark G. Gilbert, president of BYU Pathway Worldwide, “and a path back to the faith.”

But at a time when colleges of all stripes are expanding online to meet the needs of a diversifying student population, PathwayConnect is a model worth paying attention to. Several features of the program could make it relevant — and, in some form, adaptable — to other institutions, religious or not.

Most obvious of these is the price. Students in the United states pay $68 per credit — and even less if they’re overseas. If they later enroll in BYU-Idaho online, they can continue to take the rest of their courses at the same price they paid for PathwayConnect. In the United States, that adds up to just over $8,100 for the 120 credits needed for a bachelor’s degree, half the price of traditional BYU-Idaho. That’s a striking bargain in a world where many political figures still openly dream of creating a $10,000 degree.

How can the program promise such a low price? One reason is BYU-Idaho’s heavy reliance on adjunct instructors. But another key is that most of the student recruiting comes through word of mouth and the 16-million-member church, so Pathway’s marketing and recruiting costs are low. Until recently, its marketing involved primarily some Facebook promotions and asking its missionaries around the world to hand out small promotional cards to prospects.

Until recently, Pathway’s marketing involved primarily some Facebook promotions and asking its missionaries around the world to hand out small promotional cards to prospects.

Some big online colleges spend as much as 20 percent of their budgets on marketing and recruiting. By contrast, marketing costs for PathwayConnect amount to 0.14 percent of the BYU Pathway Worldwide budget, officials there say, although that parent operation spends more than that marketing the rest of its online courses.

For most students, Pathway also serves as the first stop in BYU-Idaho’s online academic program, which is deliberately designed as a series of “stackable credentials” — bite-size certifications that have gained popularity nationwide as a way to give people marketable credentials in the short run that could eventually lead them to to full degrees. After Pathway, every certificate a student earns can count toward an associate degree, and every associate degree can count toward a bachelor’s. The 14-credit professional sales certificate, for example, counts toward the 60-credit applied associate degree, which counts toward a full 120-credit bachelor’s in business management.

“We have a phrase: ‘no credit left behind,’” says Mr. Gilbert, who was president of BYU-Idaho before taking on the new Pathway Worldwide post in February. Certificates and degrees are developed in consultation with an arm of the church called Self-Reliance Services, which assists in deciding which degrees to develop and where they should be offered, based on research it does on local-market employment needs.

The pedagogy is also based on proven ideas, including a hybrid model that combines online education with real-world encounters: The mandatory weekly in-person session, which is called Gathering, divided into one section for students 30 and under and another for those who are older, provides students a live support network of peers, separate from the group of students they interact with online through their formal online classes.

PathwayConnect requires every student to take a turn as “lead student” during Gathering, directing the group in a review of the week’s work. Learning by teaching is a time-honored educational technique. Sharing this responsibility also fits with the teachings of Mormonism, explains Becky Michela, 66, the lead student for the older students’ religion course, “The Eternal Family,” this particular evening explains. “As Latter-Day Saints, we say there’s truth everywhere,” she says.”

Congratulations to BYU-Idaho for its program.  Hybrid/blended model, low-cost, active student learning, and student support services make for a successful program.

Tony

 

New Yorker Cover to Show Donald Trump Jr. Grounded!

Dear Commons Community,

In light of  Donald Trump Jr.’s  meeting with a Russian lawyer and subsequent misstatements, the New Yorker magazine gave a sneak preview of its cover for next week.   It’s titled ‘Grounded’ and shows a seemingly agitated President Trump pulling Donald Trump Jr. by the ear as they are getting off Air Force One.

Tony

David Brooks:  Moral Vacuum in the House of Trump!

Dear Commons Community,

David Brooks, in his New York Times column this morning, examines four generations of the Trump family and their affect on Donald Trump Jr.  Brooks comments:

“I don’t think moral obliviousness is built in a day. It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a person’s mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing; to take the normal human yearning to be good and replace it with a single-minded desire for material conquest; to take the normal human instinct for kindness and replace it with a law-of-the-jungle mentality. It took a few generations of the House of Trump, in other words, to produce Donald Jr.

Brooks further comments:

Once the scandal broke you would think Don Jr. would have some awareness that there were ethical stakes involved. You’d think there would be some sense of embarrassment at having been caught lying so blatantly.

But in his interview with Sean Hannity he appeared incapable of even entertaining any moral consideration. “That’s what we do in business,” the younger Trump said. “If there’s information out there, you want it.” As William Saletan pointed out in Slate, Don Jr. doesn’t seem to possess the internal qualities necessary to consider the possibility that he could have done anything wrong.

That to me is the central takeaway of this week’s revelations. It’s not that the Russia scandal may bring down the administration. It’s that over the past few generations the Trump family has built an enveloping culture that is beyond good and evil.

The Trumps have an ethic of loyalty to one another. “They can’t stand that we are extremely close and will ALWAYS support each other,” Eric Trump tweeted this week. But beyond that there is no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code. There is just naked capitalism.”

Right now the “naked capitalist” Donald Trump, Sr. is the face of the United States to much of the rest of the world.

Tony

 

Peter Wood on Republican “Contempt” for Higher Education!

Dear Commons Community,

Peter Wood, President of the right-leaning National Association of Scholars, has a commentary on The Chronicle of Higher Education’s story about the recent Pew Research Center survey on American attitudes toward higher education. The survey of 2,504 adults found a dramatic shift in the percentage of Republicans who see colleges and universities having “a positive effect on the way things are going in the country.” The finding has been widely reported: In just two years, Republicans have flipped from a majority (54 percent) saying higher education has a positive effect on the country, to a majority (58 percent) saying the opposite.  Here is Wood’s position:

“I am heartened by the news. It has taken a lot to break through the complacency of these voters. In my role as head of the National Association of Scholars, I’ve given speeches at countless grassroots events, written or published hundreds of articles, and spent hours on talk radio in an effort to persuade ordinary Americans that something is terribly amiss in higher education. The Pew survey suggests that at least some people have begun to listen…

…The parallel question about Democrats matters at least as much. Why are only 28 percent of Democrats in the Pew poll worried about higher education’s effect on the future of the country? Shortsightedness. It might be energizing to believe that the university is wholly on your political side, but the danger of raising a generation steeped in the politics of resentment, power for its own sake, and loathing of intellectual disagreement ought to alarm liberals. This can come to no good end.

Our colleges and universities may get some things right — even that is disputable — but they are getting civic education wrong. They are graduating students whose “activism” is rooted in an odd conjunction of utopian wish and apocalyptic fantasy. A significant portion of those campus activists are nihilistic, bitter, mean-spirited, and, of course, self-righteous. Their worst impulses, those impulses to put the pursuit of power ahead of the desire to learn, are encouraged by the identity politics of the faculty and the expediency of college administrators.

The Pew poll suggests far more than it can plausibly show. It suggests that Republican voters have at last begun to relinquish their fond hope that our colleges and universities are, despite numerous defects, still a net good for the United States. The exorbitant costs, the student-debt crisis, the immolation of the humanities, the trivialization of much of the curriculum, the turn to making an accusation of “sexual harassment” into proof of guilt — none of that was enough to cancel the patience of conservatives with an institution they are by nature inclined to love. But Middlebury? Taken in company with the other such fiascoes, yes, that was enough.”

I don’t agree with everything that Wood says.  I believe the Pew survey reflects more the fact that the American people have become tribal with regard to their politics.  You are either with them or against them.  Higher education has moved more and more to the progessive Democratic Party alienating those in the Republican camp.

Tony

State Attorneys General File Lawsuit to Protect Students from Unscrupulous For-Profit Colleges!

Dear Commons Community,

A New York Times editorial this morning highlights a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Washington, in which attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia served notice that they will resist any attempt by the Trump administration to weaken regulations that protect students and taxpayers from predatory schools.   The lawsuit focuses on regulations that schools provide students with clear information about whether their graduates were earning enough money to pay down their loans. Most crucially, it made sure that schools — not taxpayers — would foot the bill for discharging the loans of students who had been defrauded.

The regulations were completed last fall, after years of negotiations and a review of more than 10,000 comments from students, colleges, government officials and consumer advocates. But shortly after the Trump administration took office, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos put the most important changes on hold. Ms. DeVos said she was responding to a suit filed by an association representing for-profit colleges, which have fought to block the rules. But the attorneys general believe the move is a natural extension of the department’s new open-door policy toward the for-profit industry.

The full editorial is below. 

Tony

===========================================

States Fight to Protect Students of Schools

By the Editorial Board

July 13, 2017

Long before the federal government roused itself, individual state governments were fighting to bring discipline to an unruly and untrustworthy corner of the educational market — for-profit schools that saddle students with crushing debt in exchange for degrees that are essentially useless.

The states are still fighting the good fight: In a lawsuit filed last week in Federal District Court in Washington, attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia served notice that they will resist any attempt by the Trump administration to weaken or ignore hard-won regulations that protect students and taxpayers from predatory schools.

One such attempt has already been identified. This spring, the Education Department abruptly suspended federal rules that allow students who have been defrauded by colleges to have their federal loans forgiven. The state coalition, led by Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts, says that in so doing the department broke the law. The suit asks the court to declare the action illegal and to order the department to implement the rule without delay.

The idea of compensating borrowers when schools mislead or defraud them dates back to the 1970s, when federal officials saw that some colleges were looting the federal student aid program while giving students nothing in return. In 1993, Congress ordered the secretary of education to develop a process allowing defrauded students to seek loan forgiveness. The Obama administration streamlined the process after the collapse and bankruptcy, in 2014, of the giant for-profit chain Corinthian, which left thousands of students mired in debt and without degrees.

The Obama administration took other important steps. It required schools to provide students with clear information about whether their graduates were earning enough money to pay down their loans. Most crucially, it made sure that schools — not taxpayers — would foot the bill for discharging the loans of students who had been defrauded.

The rules were completed last fall, after years of negotiations and a review of more than 10,000 comments from students, colleges, government officials and consumer advocates. But shortly after the Trump administration took office, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos put the most important changes on hold. Ms. DeVos said she was responding to a suit filed by an association representing for-profit colleges, which have fought to block the rules. But the attorneys general believe the move is a natural extension of the department’s new open-door policy toward the for-profit industry.

The Department of Education is free to change these rules, but only if it writes new ones in a process laid out in federal law that could take a year or more to run its course. Meanwhile, the court should require the department to enforce the rules that are already on the books.