Showing posts with label Chronicle of Higher Education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chronicle of Higher Education. Show all posts

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Bentley University launches a bachelor's degree in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Is this program for you?

 Bentley University, a private university in the Boston area, offers a new major this fall: Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI). Gary David, a sociology professor, was part of the design team for the new program. 

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, David said that he:

wanted a major that moved DEI away from compliance--where institutions, companies, and nonprofits feel they need to or are required to meet certain diversity standards--and toward opportunity, with graduates working on ideas and programs to improve society with diversity, equity and inclusion at top of mind.

So--is Bentley's DEI program a good major for you? Before you decide, ask yourself these questions:

First, are there entry-level jobs for people who get a DEI degree from Bentley? 

The answer to that question is yes. Diversity is on the mind of every college president, whether that person leads an Ivy League institution or a small liberal arts school.  Nearly all major universities have a DEI officer at the senior executive level (vice president or associate provost). Schools are also hiring DEI-trained people to work in student services, student housing, and Title IX offices.  

UC Berkely, for example, spends $25 million a year on equity and inclusion and has 400 employees running programs to enhance diversity across the university.  

Second, how much will it cost to get a DUI degree from Bentley?  

Tuition, books, fees, room, and board at Bentley total approximately $76,000 per academic year--or about $300,000 for a four-year degree.  That's pretty damn expensive. Of course, you may qualify for a scholarship or tuition reduction of some sort, which will reduce your costs. 

Still, every student who does not come from a wealthy family will probably have to take out student loans to get a DUI degree from Bentley. That means Bentley graduates will enter the job market with a lot of debt.

Third, is DEI the career for you?

Finally, students should consider whether DEI is the right career choice. On the one hand, there are jobs in this field--from entry-level to executive positions.

On the other hand, once a person begins a career in DEI, it may be hard to switch to another field. Someone who wants to become a professor, for example, will need more than a DUI degree from Bentley to get a faculty job. 

Also, everyone surely understands that People of Color (POC) are more attractive candidates for DEI jobs than--for example--a white male who hails from rural West Texas.  I feel sure that a survey of the senior DEI executives at major U.S. universities will find many more POCs than non-POCs.

In my view, a person wishing to make a career in DEI would probably be better off skipping Bentley's DEI program (with its $300,000 price tag), getting an undergraduate degree in a mainstream major, and then going to law school.  



Christopher Manning, USC's first Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer






Thursday, May 20, 2021

Abolishing the Campus Police: Is That a Good Idea?

 Davarian Baldwin, a professor at Trinity College, published an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week, arguing that colleges should abolish their campus police forces. This is a terrible idea.

Baldwin began his article by mentioning two examples of alleged police brutality by campus police officers. One of these incidents took place in 2019, and the other in 2015.  There are approximately 4,000 colleges and universities in this country. Are we going to close down campus police forces because of a few atypical events?

If I understand Professor Baldwin's argument aright, he believes campus police officers often target nonwhite community residents and that their primary function is to protect the university's institutional interests. "The campus police function as the most visible form of urban renewal to clear city blocks and signal to investors, students, researchers, and their families that the area is open for business," Baldwin wrote.

But what about campus crime? This is Baldwin's response to a hypothetical skeptic who asks, "What if someone gets raped?"

[D]espite the widespread existence of campus police departments across the country, sexual violence and substance abuse among students remain prevalent. This policing failure could be, as some have argued, a matter not of capacity but priorities. Even with jurisdiction far beyond the main quads, the primary function of campus-police officers is to serve the university's interest. Bringing greater attention to white-on-white student crime would undervalue the institution's brand. In contrast, images of highly armed security forces storming city blocks reassures branding and business interests.

I find that argument difficult to follow. Is Professor Baldwin saying that campus police forces subordinate campus safety to universities' commercial interests? If so, I think he is wrong.

I don't disagree with everything Professor Baldwin wrote. He criticized universities that participate in a Department of Defense program that distributes military equipment to police departments, and I agree. The campus police do not need armored personnel carriers. 

But that is a minor issue. Only about 100 of the nation's 4,000 colleges and universities obtained military equipment from the Department of Defense.

I also agree with Professor Davis that campus police officers sometimes behave abusively.  The UC Davis police famously pepper-sprayed passive students in 2013, and very little was done to punish the offenders.  (If you want to see that incident, you can go to Youtube).

But university campuses have become virtual cities.  Some of them have 50,000 students or more on their campuses plus thousands of employees--professors, administrators, and staff people.  These people deserve on-site police protection.

Campus crime is an ongoing problem--something Congress recognized when it passed the Cleary Act more than 20 years ago.  That law requires colleges and universities to keep records of campus crime events and make those records available to the public.

Colleges and universities also provide campus housing for their students, and they are legally obligated to protect dorm residents from crime. In Mullins v. Pine Manor College, decided in 1983, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld a verdict against a small, private college after a first-year student was abducted from her dorm room and raped.

More recently, the California Supreme Court ruled that a university has a duty to protect students in the classroom from other students that the university knows to be dangerous. In that case, a mentally ill student stabbed and nearly killed an undergraduate woman in a chemistry lab.

In my view, these incidents and hundreds of other criminal acts that have taken place on college campuses over the years argue in favor of a campus police force.

If Professor Baldwin's argument is that some police are poorly trained and mistreat community residents, let's talk about that. 

If the argument is that campus police sometimes behave abusively, as they did during the UC Davis pepper spray incident, let's talk about that. 

But to argue that the nation's 4,000 colleges and universities should abolish their campus police forces makes no sense to me at all.  And I bet it makes no sense to Mom and Pop, who send their sons and daughters to college in the expectation that the people in charge are committed to keeping their children safe.

We need better police officers, not fewer.










Thursday, March 21, 2019

Take out student loans, get a college degree, and then go to work for a rental car agency: Is this the American Dream?

Enterprise Rent-A-Car is the number one employer of college graduates in the United States. According to Chronicle of Higher Education, Enterprise expects to hire 8,500 college graduates in 2019. In fact, three of the top ten companies for hiring college graduates are car rental companies: Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis.

For Enterprise, CHE reported, "a college degree matters mostly because it suggests that a candidate has acquired the right mix of skills to succeed in an entry-level job--and to move up the ladder from there." However, CHE explains, Enterprise does not care much about where its new hires went to college, what they studied, or their grades. Enterprise just wants people who obtained a degree.

Over the course of my working life, I've interacted with hundreds of car-rental agents. In my opinion, these agents don't need college degrees to rent cars. The idea of someone taking out student loans and spending four or five years in college just to get a trainee's position at Enterprise, Hertz, or Avis is absurd.

In my opinion, Enterprise's hiring policy is an example of credential creep. Companies don't require new hires to have college degrees because colleges teach useful job skills; for the most part they don't.

Rather a college degree is just a credentialing signal; it tells employers that an individual has the stamina to endure boredom, lackluster instructors, and mindless bureaucracy for four or five years--attributes that fit them perfectly for a trainee's job at Enterprise.

In fact, a high percentage of college graduates are now taking jobs that don't require a college degree. According to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issued less than two years ago, 43.5 percent of college graduates are in jobs that typically don't require a college education.

And yet millions of young Americans are willing to take out student loans to go to college--on average, about $37,000.

So if you are a college student, you should ask yourself this question: Are you willing to borrow $37,000 in order to get a college degree and then go to work for a company that doesn't care where you went to school, what you majored in, or what your grades were?

If you answered yes, you are qualified to be a car-rental agent.

Photo credit: Thrillist.com

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

"Broken and at risk of collapsing": Sandy Baum's excellent recommendations for reforming DOE's income-based student-loan repayment system

Sandy Baum published a short essay yesterday in Chronicle of Higher Education titled "Don't Get Rid of the Income-Based Loan Repayment System. Fix It."  As she said in her essay, the federal student-loan repayment system as it now stands is "broken and at risk of collapsing."

I have a few reservations about Ms. Baum's recommendations (which I will address later), but on the whole her suggestions for reform make sense.

"Create one income-driven repayment plan with clear requirements and provisions." 

As Ms. Baum attests, the Department of Education currently administers a "hodgepodge of repayment programs": PAYE, REPAYE, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), etc.  She recommends one plan for everyone with borrowers paying a higher percentage of their income than the 10 percent rate that currently applies to borrowers in PAYE and REPAYE plans.

Baum also recommends that student borrowers be automatically enrolled in an income-based repayment plan just as soon as their repayment obligations begin. In addition, she endorses having student-loan payments added as a payroll deduction to student borrowers' paychecks.

This is a good idea. As Baum pointed out, "[p]ayroll deductions for student-loan payments would make it easier for required payments to adjust quickly when financial circumstances change, and also make it easier for students to meet their payment responsibilities."

More than that, automatic payroll deductions would make it impossible to default on student loans and eliminate the need for student borrowers to obtain economic hardship deferments. If the payroll deduction reform were implemented, it would be put the student-loan servicers out of business. No more 25 percent penalties slapped on loan defaulters; no more interest accruing on loans that are in deferment, no more robocalls from the debt collectors.

"As the total amount borrowed increases, extend the number of payments required to reach loan forgiveness."

Baum argues for longer repayment periods for people who acquired a lot of student debt. And this too makes sense. People who borrowed $20,000 or $30,000 to attend college should have a repayment plan that allows them to be debt free after 10 or 15 years.  But a person who borrows $100,000 or more should expect to make payments for a longer period of time.

"Place reasonable limits on graduate students' federal borrowing."

Student-loan debt is spinning out of control, partly fueled by the GRAD PLUS program that allows people to borrow the entire cost of going to graduate school regardless of the amount. In response to that incentive, universities raised the cost of their graduate programs exponentially--and I mean exponentially. As I have said before, I paid $1,000 a year to attend University of Texas School of Law. The current cost is $35,000 a year--35 times as much as I paid.

Not long ago, I wrote about Mike Meru, who borrowed $600,000 to go to dentistry school. With accrued interest, he now owes $1 million! A cap on the amount a student can borrow to go to graduate school would stop the insane escalation in professional-school tuition.

"Eliminate taxes on all forgiven loan balances.

The IRS considers a forgiven loan to be taxable income. Thus, with the exception of borrowers in PSLF plans, borrowers whose loan balances are forgiven under income-based repayment plans receive a tax bill for the amount of forgiven debt .

This is crazy. I doubt anyone in Congress supports the status quo on this issue. After all, what is the point of people enrolling in income-based repayment plans if they get hit with a big tax bill after faithfully making monthly loan payments for 20 or 25 years?

Baum's other good ideas

In addition to the recommendations she made this week in Chronicle of Higher Education, Baum wrote a book on the student loan program in which she endorsed easier accessibility to the bankruptcy courts for distressed student borrowers. She also supports an end to garnishing Social Security checks of elderly student loan defaulters.

I once opposed all income-based repayment plans on the grounds that they basically turn student debtors into indentured servants--forced to pay a portion of their wages to the federal government for the majority of their working lives simply for the privilege of going to college. I still believe that.

Nevertheless, Baum's proposals address reality--which is that 45 million student debtors now carry $1.5 trillion in student-loan debt.  The proposals Baum put forward this week in Chronicle of Higher Education won't fix this train wreck of the federal student-loan program, but they will make the system more humane.

References

Sandy Baum. Don't Get Rid of the Income-Based Loan Repayment System. Fix It. Chronicle of Higher Education, July 30, 2018.

Sandy Baum. Student Debt: Rhetoric and Realities of Higher Education Financing. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan, 2016.

Jason Delisle. The coming Public Service Loan Forgiveness bonanzaBrookings Institution Report, Vol 2(2), September 22, 2016.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Department of Defense Suspends University of Phoenix from Military Tuition Benefits Program: Senators John McCain, Jeff Flake and Lamar Alexander Ask DOD to Reconsider

The Department of Defense recently sanctioned the University of Phoenix by suspending it from participation in the U.S.  Military's tuition benefits program. Why? Allegedly, Phoenix sponsored improper recruiting events and inappropriately used the DOD's seal.

Senators John McCain, Jeff Flake and Lamar Alexander got involved in this matter on behalf of whom? Soldiers? No--they came to the aid of the University of Phoenix. The senators argued that the university had only committed "vague, technical violations" that UP had already fixed or promised to fix.

According to the senators, "The University of Phoenix has a long history of serving working adults and others for whom traditional university schooling is unavailable" and noted that the university had more than 200,000 students in 17 states. But the senators neglected to note that almost 1.2 million University of Phoenix students have accumulated $35 billion in student-loan debt and that UP's five-year default rate is 45 percent!

Why do you suppose these old croakers came to the aid of the University of Phoenix? It is headquartered in Arizona, which might explain Senators McCain and Flake's intervention. But even so, don't these guys have an obligation to protect the University of Phoenix's students--not the university itself? And doesn't the Department of Education deserve support when it tries to rein in abuses to the federal student aid program?

The reason the for-profit college industry is out of control is because this rapacious sector of higher education makes strategic campaign contributions and hires lobbyists to protect its interests in Washington. I couldn't find any evidence that the University of Phoenix has made campaign contributions to Senator John McCain, but I did find evidence that McCain's biggest contributors include Goldman Sachs, which owns a stake in a for-profit college, and Bank of America, one of the biggest players in the private student-loan market.

If you want to better understand how the for-profit colleges have ripped off American taxpayers, you should read David Halperin's article in The Nation.  "Many of America's for-profit colleges have proven themselves a bad deal for the students lured by their enticing promises--as well as for US taxpayers, who subsidize these institutions with tens of billions annually in federal student aid," Halperin wrote.

As Halperin explained, more than half of the students who enroll in for-profit colleges drop out within about four months.  Many of these colleges have been caught using deceptive advertising and misleading information about job placement rates.  And although the for-profits only enroll about 13 percent of postsecondary students, they account for nearly half of student-loan defaults.

How do they get away with this? By hiring lobbyists and making  campaign contributions to powerful federal legislators. According to Halperin, the industry's lobbyists include past Senate majority leader Trent Lott and Penny Lee, a former aid to Senate majority leader (now minority leader) Harry Reid.  In fact, as Senator Dick Durbin put it, the for-profits "own every lobbyist in town" (as quoted in Halperin's article).

And why, you might ask, haven't supposedly independent voices in the higher-education policy world spoken out more forthrightly about the abuses in the for-profit college industry? Why hasn't Chronicle of Higher Education taken a stand? Why hasn't the National Urban League been more aggressive in its policy recommendations for higher education? Perhaps it is because the for-profits advertise in the Chronicle and  Corinthian Colleges (now bankrupt) gave $1 million to the National Urban League.

As Halperin summarized at the end of his lengthy article, "There's a word for this state of affairs: corruption." And knowingly or unknowingly, Senators McCain, Flake and Alexander came to the aid of one of the for-profit industry's worst actors: University of Phoenix.  Senator McCain deserves this nation's respect for his heroism in the Vietnam War. How sad and how shameful to observe him in his dotage serving as a shill for the for-profit college industry.

References

Adam Looney & Constantine Yanellis.  A Crisis in student loans? Brookings Institution, September 10, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/projects/bpea/fall-2015_embargoed/conferencedraft_looneyyannelis_studentloandefaults.pdf

David Halperin. The Perfect Lobby: How One Industry Captured Washington, DC. The Nation, April 3, 2014. Accessible at:  https://www.thenation.com/article/perfect-lobby-how-one-industry-captured-washington-dc/

Senator John McCain Press Release. Senators McCain, Flake & Alexander Question DOD's Probation Decision Regarding the University of Phoenix's Participation in the Military Tuition Assistance Program. October 22, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=d7d2b065-3df2-42ce-9763-82ed0310a6e6

Senator John McCain's Top Contributors. Center for Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. Acessible at: http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=Career&cid=n00006424