Commentary, Higher Ed

The hard truth about for-profit colleges that Virginia Foxx doesn’t want to hear

Rep. Virginia Foxx

In case you missed it, be sure to check out an excellent op-ed that ran in the Winston- Salem Journal on Sunday by Kelly Tornow of the Center for Responsible Lending. In it Tornow tells some hard truths about for-profit colleges and puts one of the industry’s top defenders, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, in her place.

As Tornow explains, for-profit colleges frequently produce poor results at an exorbitant, debt-inducing cost:

At a recent hearing on Capitol Hill about higher education, Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina complained about the attention given to problems with for-profit colleges. She said, “To sit here and grind a tired old ax against certain types of institutions you don’t like is just disgraceful.”

But for-profit colleges have a bad reputation for good reason. And in North Carolina, this is no exception.

In fact, a key indicator shows that for-profit colleges in North Carolina have the lowest completion rates in the nation. While public four-year colleges in the state have a completion rate of 56.4%, for-profit four-year programs have an abysmal 16.1% completion rate.

Poor for-profit college outcomes mean lifelong consequences for North Carolina families, particularly people of color, low-income students, women and veterans – ignoring that fact is the true disgrace.

Consider the costs of an expensive, but substandard educational experience. North Carolina for-profit graduates carry over $30,000 in debt at graduation, compared to $23,000 for public students. Since for-profit colleges do such a poor job of preparing students for careers, for-profit college students also have much higher default rates on their student loans.

To make matters worse, Tornow points out, for-profit colleges frequently mask their lousy performance with slick marketing schemes that differ little from predatory lenders while they prey on vulnerable communities and suck up federal education dollars. Now, predictably, the Trump administration is trying to hinder oversight and regulation of the industry.

Here’s Tornow’s on-the-money conclusion:

The U.S. Department of Education is attempting to delay, suspend and rewrite rules that hold for-profits accountable. So Congress should maintain their focus on for-profit colleges as they grapple with responses to the crisis. And states like North Carolina should step up as the feds are stepping back and pass basic measures that give them the tools to oversee for-profit colleges and protect students within our borders.

We can increase oversight and scrutiny of for-profit schools based on poor performance on key indicators like graduation rates, cohort default rates, and job placement rates, requiring that schools meet these basic standards in order to remain licensed. And since for-profits spend much more on advertising and recruiting than on actually teaching their students, states can require, for example, that for-profit schools reverse that and offer value closer to that of public schools, spending more on education than advertising.

The widespread “dislike” of for-profit colleges held up by Rep. Foxx is not arbitrary. What folks don’t like about these institutions is plain and simple. They tend to rake in federal education funds and leave students with heavy debt and no degree or one of little value. With that kind of performance, what is there to like?

Click here to read the entire essay.

 

Education, Higher Ed

ECU’s Chancellor announces plans to step down

East Carolina University will soon be searching for a new chancellor to lead the Pirates.

Dr. Cecil Staton announced Monday morning that he will step down as chancellor May 3rd and remain on as an advisor to the president and the interim chancellor through the end of June. Here’s more from the ECU News Service:

Dr. Cecil Staton

“Catherine and I are very grateful for our time at ECU,” said Staton. “We have enjoyed every moment working with our inspiring students and world-class faculty and staff. As we prepare for this transition in leadership, we remain committed to the idea we arrived with – ECU’s future is full of promise. There are no limits to what ECU can attain in service to the East, North Carolina, our nation, and our world and we look forward to following the progress of this great university in the years to come.”

Staton came to ECU in 2016 following a 27-year career in Georgia where he served as a faculty member and administrator at three different colleges and universities, as a state senator responsible for Georgia’s appropriations to higher education, as a university system senior administrator, and as an interim university president. He was former UNC President Margaret Spelling’s first chancellor hire. After a national search, he was elected chancellor on April 26, 2016.

During his tenure, retooling the athletics program was a key priority. “Pirates have great passion,” Staton said. “I am grateful that we have been able to press the reset button for Pirate athletics and prepare a foundation for future success. I am enormously grateful that Dave Hart accepted my invitation to serve as Special Advisor to the Chancellor for Athletics. Together we have completed successful searches for a new Athletic Director, Head Men’s Basketball Coach, and Head Football Coach, and we’ve committed significant university resources to support our proud athletic traditions. I am confident that ECU athletics are in a good place and that our best days are ahead.”

Commenting on Staton’s tenure and leadership, ECU Board of Trustees Chairman Kieran Shanahan said, “Cecil Staton has served ECU with distinction, dedication and an uncompromising commitment to excellence. His and Catherine’s departure is a tremendous loss for our great university.”

UNC System Interim President Bill Roper said, “ECU’s importance to this state and to Eastern North Carolina is immense and I’m grateful that Chancellor Staton answered the call to serve the Pirate community over the past three years. I’m confident he is leaving the university in good hands and with a bright future ahead as it continues to build on its success.”

Staton’s departure comes just weeks after the high-profile exit of Chancellor Carol Folt at UNC-Chapel Hill as well as System President Margaret Spellings.

(Kevin Guskiewicz is serving as the interim chancellor at Chapel Hill and Dr. Bill Roper holds the UNC System Interim President title for the 17-campus system.)

The ECU opening will certainly be a hot topic when the UNC Board of Governors holds its meeting at Appalachian State University in Boone this Thursday and Friday.

Higher Ed, News

Asian American and Pacific Islander groups file amicus brief in support of UNC’s race-conscious admissions policies

North Carolina Asian Americans Together and a coalition of other groups are taking a stand in support of UNC’s position to continue their race-conscious admission policies. Here’s more from the good folks at NCAAT:

North Carolina Asian Americans Together (NCAAT) has joined with Asian Americans Advancing Justice (an affiliation of five civil rights organizations) alongside over 60 Asian American groups, 25 professors, and Fox Rothschild LLP in filing an amicus brief today in support of race-conscious holistic admissions at the UNC Chapel Hill. Participants in this brief whole-heartedly attest that race-conscious admissions policies result in more equitable and integrated universities and enhance the educational experiences of all students.

This amicus brief opposes the lawsuit filed by conservative activist Ed Blum and his group Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) to end race-conscious admissions at universities. In their briefing, SFFA suggest that in addition to whites, Asian Americans are also supposedly disadvantaged by UNC’s race-conscious admissions policy.

“A ‘color-blind’ admissions policy is not race-neutral; it merely reinforces racial segregation and widens existing disparities in educational opportunities for people of color, including many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs),” said Nicole Gon Ochi, supervising attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “We refuse to be used as a weapon to dismantle programs that increase opportunities for students of color.”

The consideration of race in university admissions, one of many factors in the admissions process, has been critical for many schools to fully understand an applicant’s background and experiences beyond test scores.

“The data shows that these policies help all students of color, including Asian Americans,” said Dr. OiYan Poon, assistant professor of Higher Education and director of the Race & Intersectional Studies for Educational Equity (RISE Center) at Colorado State University. “Removing the consideration of race in admissions would hurt the most marginalized of AAPI students and be detrimental to the educational climate and environment, from which all students benefit.”

Race-conscious admission policies have been credited with offsetting the inherent racial biases of other admission factors, such as SAT/ACT scores. They are also a factor in creating more diverse student bodies on university campuses that more closely reflect regional or national demographics. Studies show that colleges and universities that reach the highest levels of diversity have fewer incidents of racial hostility. Students report having a more positive learning experience in schools with race-conscious admission processes.

“Removing the consideration of race at UNC would be a disservice to all communities of color, including the diverse AAPI subgroups in North Carolina,” said Chavi Khanna Koneru, executive director of North Carolina Asian Americans Together. “Our state is home to significant ethnic minority communities from Southeast Asia who experience varying economic and educational barriers. Saying that Asian Americans are not underrepresented minorities at UNC only obscures the needs of underrepresented Asian Americans.”

“The growing Southeast Asian community in our state is not a monolith; each student deserves the holistic review long prized by our state’s flagship university,” said Matthew Nis Leerberg, North Carolina-based partner at national law firm Fox Rothschild LLP. “We are proud to have had the opportunity to work alongside Asian Americans Advancing Justice to speak for that community on an issue critical to the future of our State and the nation.”

NCAAT and Asian Americans Advancing Justice stand firmly in support of UNC, race-conscious admission policies, and all students of color. We will continue to fight alongside other communities of color for greater equity and justice in this country.

Higher Ed, News, Policing

UNC releases “after-action report” on toppling of “Silent Sam”

UNC officially released an after-action report on the toppling of the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument Friday, a week after the UNC Board of Governors voted on its release.

The report (which can be read in full here) found “serious deficiencies” in the way the evening of August 20, 2018 was handled, there was “no evidence of a conspiracy between UNC-CH and protesters or any other individuals to remove Silent Sam.”

The report does include a controversial and unattributed assertion that protesters threw frozen bottles of water and eggs at the police officers who feared for their safety and that of others.

That is a detail disputed by protesters and reporters on the ground during the statue’s toppling.

The report has five key findings:

1) Insufficient reporting structures led to miscommunication between campus administration and the UNC-CH police. The report recommends direct communication between the chancellor and police chief and training on police procedures for senior leaders at the school.

2) Information gathering duties were left mostly to one officers and should instead be shared by multiple, dedicated officers.

3) Information gathering was insufficient before the August 20 rally, with police missing “red flags” that should have indicated to them that an attempt would be made to topple the statue.

4) Officers were insufficiently trained in crowd control procedures, given what they were facing. More comprehensive training is recommended in the report.

The report also suggests the creation of a system-wide police academy that could employ students to be trained as police cadets/officers during their junior and senior years.

5) The University police force was inadequately staffed for the rally that led to the statue’s toppling. The report makes reference to a controversial plan – first floated last year – to create a “Special Operations Team” and a system wide mobile police force to deal with protests at UNC schools.

The recommendation echoes the controversial idea, floated last year, of a “mobile force platoon” costing $2 million a year and $500,000 a year in equipment.

Chancellor Carol Folt abruptly stepped down from her position last month after tensions with the board of governors over her response to the statue’s toppling and plans for its future.

In a response to the report, Folt wrote that the campus agrees with and will implement the recommendations but has concerns with the initial draft of the report, including “factual issues.”

It is not clear to which sections of the report Folt was referring or if changes to those sections were made before the public release of the report.

 

Commentary, Courts & the Law, Education, Environment, Higher Ed, News, public health

The week’s Top Stories on Policy Watch

1. In some North Carolina counties, traditional schools are being squeezed by charters

School buses prepare for another school year

There has been much written about the impact charter school growth has had on some of North Carolina’s larger, urban school districts.

But the impact might be greater on some of the state’s smaller, rural school districts where the loss of students, and the funding that follows them, are felt more profoundly.

Take Granville County Public Schools (GCS), a district of about 7,600 on the Virginia border.

This month the school board approved a plan to close an elementary school and to consolidate two middle schools, the result of lagging enrollment. [Read more…]

2. When will Republicans’ patience with President Trump run out?

 

Republicans, we need to talk.

Not about the shutdown. I get the ceasefire, I get that the air traffic slowdowns may have finally spooked the president and D.C. Republicans, even if only for a temporary respite.

This is about the bigger picture, not about short-term, beltway battles and shutdowns that may or may not be on the minds of Americans when they go to the polls in 2020 – although I don’t imagine the passage of time will sweeten the memory for Americans who worked weeks without paychecks.

This is about the future of the GOP platform, that grand-old-promise to shrink government, reduce inefficiencies, cut taxes, and preserve the American dream. [Read more…]

3. “The spill was an instant disaster”: Reflections on the five-year anniversary of the Dan River coal ash breach

Until that winter’s day, the 4-foot section of corrugated metal pipe, 48 inches in diameter, had done its job. It swallowed storm water, said to be uncontaminated, that drained from Duke Energy property, chugged the water through its gullet that ran beneath an unlined coal ash basin, and then spewed it into the Dan River near Eden.

But on Feb. 2, 2014, the pipe could take no more.

For more than 50 years, Duke Energy had dumped millions of tons of coal ash into an open, unlined pit at its power plant on the Dan River. On that calm, cloudy Sunday afternoon, as pre-gamers chilled beers and fried chicken wings for their Super Bowl parties, the pipe collapsed. Hazardous material from the basin rushed through the breach, which released at least 39,000 tons of ash and up to 27 million gallons of contaminated water into the Dan River.

At 2 o’clock, a security guard making the rounds had noticed the water level in the 27-acre ash pond had dropped.

At 6:30 p.m., thousands of North Carolinians watched the Seattle Seahawks, led by former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson, win the coin toss to start Super Bowl 48 against the Denver Broncos. Two minutes later, as the Seahawks kicked off, Duke Energy officials were investigating the pipe breach and preparing an EM43 report, used to document emergencies in North Carolina. [Read more…] Read more