Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 9, 2020

As coronavirus case numbers climb in California, Scripps College and Pomona College announced Wednesday they would close their campuses and conduct instruction completely online in the fall.

In her announcement, Scripps president Lara Tiedens said the college had been planning to reopen campus to students this fall before the pandemic worsened in the state.

“As we planned for the return to campus, we have continued to monitor the current public health situation in Los Angeles County, which over the last couple of weeks has worsened dramatically,” the announcement read.

Pomona also reversed its plans, citing the rising case counts in Claremont.

“Here in the nation’s most populous county, the virus is taking off among young people, who account for half of the new cases, and the numbers bring growing concerns about more spread to the most vulnerable,” wrote G. Gabrielle Starr, Pomona's president, and Samuel D. Glick, chair of the college's Board of Trustees.

The decisions to go ahead with an online-only semester are complicated by the recent Department of Homeland Security rule that prohibits international students from remaining in the United States if their colleges are online only. In its announcement, Pomona acknowledged this complication and said it will reach out to affected students in the coming days.

July 9, 2020

The Affordable Care Act contributed significantly to increasing the number of college students with health insurance, according to a new report.

The Century Foundation and Young Invincibles analyzed the impact of the ACA on college students using U.S. Census Bureau data. The ACA included protections against discrimination due to pre-existing conditions and gender, required individual and small group insurance plans to cover preventive care and mental health services, and provided financial assistance for some people to buy plans. It also gave states the power to expand Medicaid for the lowest-income individuals.

The dependent coverage expansion, which required health plans to offer coverage to children of enrollees up to the age of 26, had a considerable impact on college students, the report found. But it also points out that many students today are older and thus were helped through other provisions of the plan. The report found that the Medicaid expansion provision was probably the largest driver of increases in insurance coverage for college students.

For most students, health insurance coverage increased by 10 percentage points from 2010 to 2018, according to the report. This cut the national uninsurance rate for students in half. The share of students enrolled in Medicaid also increased, by five percentage points, after the ACA was passed.

Employer coverage for students increased by four percentage points, which the report states is likely due to the dependent coverage provision in the law.

Students of color felt even more of the impacts of the ACA. Since it passed, the racial coverage gap for students has decreased. The gaps for Hispanic and Black students compared to white students was cut in half, the report found.

The report also recommends that states that have yet to expand Medicaid do so now, as Medicaid played a large role in increasing coverage for students.

July 9, 2020

A new report examines how some Hispanic-serving institutions are preparing their Latinx students for the workforce.

Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit focused on improving and supporting Latinx student success, analyzed the practices at four HSIs: Felician University in New Jersey, Florida International University, Lehman College in New York and Texas Woman's University.

While the Latinx community is one of the fastest-growing populations in the country, the growth isn't reflected in degree attainment or in higher-paying jobs, the report said. In 2018, about one-quarter of Latinx Americans had an associate's degree or greater, compared to about half of whites.

Latinx are also overrepresented in lower-paying jobs. For example, Latinx workers represented 55 percent of painters and construction workers in 2018, but just 10 percent of management positions.

The four colleges in the report took similar approaches to support Latinx students so they can succeed in both college and the workforce, according to the report. Workforce preparation was a goal across their campuses, not just relegated to career services offices. The colleges adapted to changing workforce demands and changes in their student populations. They emphasized experiential learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom. They also revamped their workforce efforts using data. And they worked with local employers to meet regional demands and help ease the transition from college to work.

The report was originally scheduled to be released in March, but Excelencia delayed its publication to reach back to the institutions to see what had changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The colleges said they offered financial support to students as unemployment increased. As internships were canceled, many also reached out to Parker Dewey, which helps place students in remote microinternships. They also adapted to create virtual networking and mentoring opportunities for students.

July 9, 2020

Today on the Academic Minute, Barbara Shaw, associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Allegheny College, explores how historical power dynamics might be reimagined. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 8, 2020

The University of California system's Board of Regents has picked Dr. Michael Drake as its next president. Drake was president of Ohio State University for six years and stepped down last week. Next month he is slated to begin leading the 10-campus UC system, which includes five medical centers and three national laboratories, enrolling roughly 280,000 students and employing 230,000 faculty and staff members.

Drake formerly was chancellor of UC Irvine and the systemwide vice president for health affairs. He also was a professor of ophthalmology at the UCSF School of Medicine. Drake will be the system's first Black president.

"I look forward to working with the regents, chancellors, students, faculty, staff, alumni and our broader community as we, together, guide the university through the challenging times ahead," said Drake.

He succeeds Janet Napolitano, who became the system's president in 2013, after four years as secretary of homeland security during the Obama administration. She previously was a two-term Arizona governor.

Napolitano frequently clashed with the Trump administration, including over its attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The system grew more than planned during her tenure, during which she guaranteed admissions to academically eligible community college students and created a new system to attempt to prevent admissions fraud.

July 8, 2020

As many colleges prepare to continue teaching at least partially online this fall, student advocacy groups such as the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) are ramping up calls for greater scrutiny of the modality.

"How to Monitor the Risks of Online Education," recently published by TICAS, describes the unprecedented shift to online education that took place in the spring as a “massive experiment with unknown consequences.”

“It is challenging to assess the quality of online education,” the report said. “Key sources of data on colleges do not identify whether programs are online, making it impossible for students to make informed choices or for regulators to identify potential problems. Changes in data collection are needed to protect students, including data on the graduation rates, loan defaults and other outcomes of online students.”

To better understand and track online learning outcomes, the report makes several recommendations for improved data collection and transparency. These include requiring colleges to report changes in course delivery to the U.S. Department of Education and accreditors, as well as introducing more detailed data collection relating to online and distance education in federal data sets.

The report also suggests that the department create a secret shopper program to “ensure that colleges are providing accurate information to prospective students” and are not engaging in predatory recruitment practices.

July 8, 2020

One of the largest surveys of students during the COVID-19 pandemic found that many are dealing with lost income, housing disruption and uncertainty about whether to return to college.

The California Student Aid Commission surveyed 76,000 students in all higher education sectors across California who submitted state and federal financial aid applications, including high school seniors who intend to enroll in college.

For many current students, the events of the winter and spring were life-changing. More than 70 percent of current students who took the survey report losing some or all of their sources of income due to the economic recession fueled by the novel coronavirus. Nearly half of all students faced disruptions in their living situations in the spring. A quarter of students dropped at least one course during COVID-19. An overwhelming majority -- 90 percent -- reported concern about the shift to online learning.

The majority didn't know about available aid in California for technology and living expenses. Fifty-six percent of current students said they knew of free or loaner laptop programs, although only 12 percent of those applied for that aid. Only 43 percent were aware of funding for living expenses. About 40 percent of those students applied for that aid, but only about half received it.

As a result of these stresses, current students are unsure about the future. More than 80 percent have changed some aspect of their fall plans or are still unsure of their plans. Still, less than 3 percent said they plan to not return to college in the fall.

The survey also asked about how students' college plans had changed after the pandemic. Before COVID-19, only about 3 percent didn't yet know where they would attend college. After the pandemic hit, that jumped to 15 percent.

Students are also more concerned about their financial and personal situations. After COVID-19 started spreading, they reported dramatically increased worries about paying for tuition and housing, as well as taking care of family members and taking full course loads.

Most incoming students also reported increased worry on the same issues. About one-third are concerned about attending a college far from home due to the pandemic.

July 8, 2020

Today on the Academic Minute, Trish O’Kane, a lecturer at the University of Vermont, discusses one way students are learning about the natural world from afar. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 7, 2020

Many recent surveys have painted a dismal picture of what students expect from their futures.

But one from Barnes & Noble Education found that some students are optimistic about finding jobs in their field.

Nearly half of the students surveyed said they were optimistic about finding a job within six months of graduating. Many students -- 62 percent -- also expected to have a full-time job within six months of graduation, and recent graduates are likely to stay on their expected career paths. Only about one-quarter of recent grads said they are uncertain they will be able to get a job in the field they want.

About half of respondents anticipate the COVID-19 pandemic will impact their ability to find a job, but only 13 percent are planning to adjust their career paths. This confidence could come from feeling prepared through their coursework, the report states. Nearly 75 percent of respondents think their courses prepared them well for where they want to work.

“Students are very aware of the connection between their coursework and career prospects. They appreciate classes that are specific and specialized to their field or industry, often viewing these as the most ‘useful’ portion of their studies,” Lisa Malat, president at Barnes & Noble College, said in a news release. “At a time when colleges and universities are focused on demonstrating value, ensuring students understand how their coursework is directly preparing them for their desired career can make a major difference.”

Still, about half of respondents said the transition to remote learning and virtual interactions negatively impacted their academic confidence, and many also struggled to study from home.

About 44 percent of students said the pandemic and ensuing rise in unemployment have also impacted their ability to pay for college. And while students are confident about finding relevant jobs, 66 percent are worried about finding a job that meets their salary needs.

July 7, 2020

At least 18 Division I basketball and football facilities on college campuses honor former administrators, coaches and donors who exhibited racist behavior, some directed specifically at Black college athletes, according to a new study project by sports administration and management faculty members published in the Journal of Sport Management.

The project, conducted by faculty members at Ball State University, Western Carolina University, the University of Louisville, the University of Florida and Texas A&M University, analyzed facilities at institutions that compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the top division for college football. It was released at a time when college leaders are considering removing the names of racist figures from campus buildings and taking other steps to remedy past racial discrimination, even as Americans are engaged in a wide-ranging national conversation about racial injustice. The project divided the racist legacies of the namesakes of the athletic facilities into four categories: racism toward individuals, racism toward athletes, racism in the workplace and those with familial ties to the Confederacy.

The list of athletic facilities includes notable football stadiums and basketball arenas, including Kyle Field at Texas A&M, according to the project report. Edwin Jackson Kyle was the son of a captain in the Confederate army, the project report said. The football stadium at the University of Tennessee, Neyland Stadium, is named for a former coach who refused to compete against college teams with Black players. Robert Neyland, who was Tennessee’s football coach and an administrator until 1962, also “verbally abused” a Black student for attempting to try out for the basketball team, the project report said.

The report also cited the coliseum at the Georgia Institute of Technology which also was originally named for a former coach and athletic director who refused to compete against teams with Black players. The facilty was renamed McCamish Pavilion in 2012 to honor a Georgia Tech benefactor. A reminder of its original name, the Alexander Memorial Coliseum, still remains in a courtyard memorializing William Alexander, near an entrance to the arena. 

“Naming these buildings after racist men legitimizes their legacies, rationalizes systemic racism, and continues to unjustly enrich this particular group,” the project report concluded. “To that end, our position is that university officials should engage their campus communities in a dialogue around whether they are truly celebrating and valuing racial diversity and inclusion when the name associated with a sport venue has a questionable racist past.”

This article was updated to reflect a change in the number of Division I facilities on college campuses that honor people who exhibited past racist behavior, (The number is 18 not 19, as originally reported.) and to note that the basketball arena at Georgia Tech was renamed McCamish Pavillion.

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