At the end of September, a federal judge ruled that Harvard's admissions process is not discriminatory against Asian American applicants, as alleged by Students for Fair Admissions (SFA). The lawsuit is the latest in a series of high-profile cases brought by SFA, which is an offshoot of the Project on Fair Representation, a conservative advocacy group that aims to challenge affirmative action policies. SFA intends to appeal the ruling.
The New York Times offers an in-depth analysis of the ruling, which could have long-term effects on the role of race in college admissions and the future of affirmative action policies. Most notably, the judge's ruling emphasizes that race-neutral admissions policies are not sufficient alternatives because they do not address diversity needs. You can also read the judge's full ruling.
The lawsuit has produced unprecedented access to Harvard's admissions data, and three researchers took the opportunity to analyze racial demographics in Harvard's acceptance rate. The study found that only 57% of Harvard's white students were admitted based solely on merit; 43% were ALDC admissions, meaning they were legacies, student athletes, or the children of Harvard donors or faculty. Only 16% of black, Asian American, and Hispanic admits were ALDCs.
Mastermind in College Admissions Scam to Forfeit $3.4m in Cash
William "Rick" Singer, the mastermind behind the Varsity Blues admissions scandal who pled guilty in March, has been ordered to forfeit $3.4 million. He is still awaiting sentencing. Meanwhile, Igor Dvorskiy, a former ACT/SAT test administrator, has pled guilty to racketeering charges in connection with the scandal, and Agustin Huneeus Jr. has become the fifth parent sentenced, receiving five months in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Will UC Schools Drop Their SAT Scores Requirement?
The University of California system is considering joining the trend of dropping SAT or ACT score requirements for admissions. Empirical data has shown that standardized test scores are heavily influenced by family income, parent education, and race and they don't accurately predict student outcomes. UC is the largest public university system in the United States, including all six of the most-applied-to universities in the country.
End of an Admissions Era?
After the 2019 National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) National Conference, changes to the association's code of ethics and professional practices are expected to have wide repercussions across higher education. Most notably, the changes removed limitations on early-decision incentives and student recruitment tactics. These limitations were called into question by a 2018 antitrust investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
U.S. Universities See Decline in Students from China
Amid escalating political tensions and trade conflicts between the United States and China, U.S. universities have seen substantial drops in enrollment among Chinese nationals this fall — some by as much as 20%. Surveys of Chinese students and parents found that the decline is due largely to concerns about visa access and the U.S. political climate. Many cited the Trump administration's assertions that Chinese students are stealing U.S. intellectual property as a reason for their unease.
Ohio University Suspends All Fraternities Over Hazing Allegations
Last week, Ohio University announced that it was indefinitely suspending all 15 of its fraternities after allegations of hazing at seven of them. Last May, the university also expelled a fraternity for the hazing death of a freshman in 2018. Hazing is a felony under U.S. federal law.
Hunger on Campus: How College Students Can Get Help
With the rising expense of a college education, many students have found themselves dealing with food insecurity. Some universities are addressing this problem by providing on-campus resources like food pantries and donated meal credits. U.S. News & World Report offers a closer look at these types of programs.
"The Way Universities Are Run Is Making Us Ill": Inside the Student Mental Health Crisis
The U.S. isn't the only place seeing a rise in mental health issues among college students. An article in The Guardian highlights the increasing rates of anxiety, depression, and mental breakdowns among students at universities in the U.K. For more on what colleges can do during the mental health crisis, check out Samantha Solomon's article on faculty training and Dr. Gregg Henrique's article on coping strategies.
A Second Chance at Detroit Colleges
State colleges in Detroit, Michigan, have taken a new approach to improving graduation rates: forgiving outstanding debts for former students who didn't graduate. Wayne State University was the first to implement the concept with its Warrior Way Back program, which grants incremental debt forgiveness to students who re-enroll and continue their studies. Program completion rates are correlated with student loan default rates, with students who finish their degrees 20% more likely to pay down their debts than students who don't graduate.
Libraries as Student Success Hubs
A new survey released by ITHAKA S+R found that libraries, student writing centers, and academic advising offices are the most useful services for community college students. Students also want more support around childcare and greater access to technology, like Wi-Fi hotspots, printers, and multimedia editing tools.
New Law Creates Pot of Emergency Funds in California
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 943 last week, allowing community colleges to use the California Community Colleges Student Equity and Achievement Program — which is funded at $475.2 million — to assist students with emergency financial needs that might otherwise force them to drop out. The program was previously dedicated to student support services like tutoring, peer mentoring, and professional development.
New York Sues Student Loan Servicer for "Abusive" Acts
Last week, New York's attorney general filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), which is the sole servicer for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The suit alleges that PHEAA's mishandling of the program, which resulted in 99% of borrowers being denied loan forgiveness, is "deceptive, unfair, and abusive." New York is the second state to file against PHEAA; Massachusetts sued the company in 2017. That case is ongoing. For more, check out Reece Johnson's guide to Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Coloradans Can Apply to College for Free This October
High school seniors in Colorado should save their college applications until October 15 — Colorado Free Application Day — when all 32 of the state's public colleges and several private schools will waive their application fees. The day is part of Colorado Rise, a program aimed at bringing Colorado's college education rate up to 66% by 2025; currently, only 55% of Coloradans have a college degree or certificate.
How Home Equity Impacts College Aid
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is currently open, bringing with it the usual questions around how to calculate eligibility. To further confuse matters, there's also the College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS Profile), which is used for nonfederal financial aid, especially among private schools. To help, The Wall Street Journal took a look at how your family's home equity can impact your CSS profile at different universities. For more on FAFSA deadlines, check out Jonathan W.'s rundown.
Higher Ed's Broken Bridge to Middle Class
A new data analysis survey from Third Way reports that for 52% of U.S. universities, six years after enrollment more than 50% of their graduates earn less than the average high school graduate. That number drops to 28.9% of college graduates 10 years after enrollment. For-profit colleges are the biggest culprits; for 21.1% of them, more than 80% of their graduates are out-earned by high school graduates six years after enrollment. If you're a recent college graduate struggling to find work, Christopher Mesaros' guide to finding a job can help.
Millenial Student Debt Across Demographics
In an op-ed for Forbes earlier this week, Wesley Whistle explored the demographic breakdowns of millenial student debt holders. His review highlights racial disparities; black graduates not only borrow at a higher rate than their white counterparts, but they also borrow more. Similarly, despite lower college-going rates for black students, 31% of black families have education loans, compared with only 20% of white families. For a deeper look, check out Mikael Mulugeta's exploration of the impact of limited student debt cancellation.
In Other News
Oregon Universities and Workers' Union Reach Contract Deal
The Service Employee International Union and Oregon's public universities have reached a labor contract agreement, preventing a threatened service employee strike. The agreement includes a 5.1% cost of living adjustment over two years and 48 hours of paid leave in the event of campus closure due to hazardous conditions.
Chicago Universities Plan Acquisition1
Roosevelt University and Robert Morris University in Chicago, Illinois, have announced tentative plans to merge, with Roosevelt acquiring the smaller Robert Morris. Both universities have struggled with low enrollment rates and budget deficits, and university officials hope that the merger and subsequent expansion of academic offerings will attract more students.
SAT Scores Fall as More Students Take the Test
Average SAT scores are dropping as a result of more high schools offering the test during school hours, often for free, making it more accessible to low-income students who might not otherwise have taken it. There were 2.2 million test-takers this year — a new record. Students struggled the most with math, with only 48% meeting college-readiness benchmarks.
Outrage in Mississippi
The search for a new chancellor at the University of Mississippi ended in protests this week after the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees appointed Glenn Boyce to the position. Boyce was a consultant to the search committee for the new chancellor and was not one of the eight candidates previously announced to the public. The board's vote was unanimous.
Federal Government Investigates Foreign Gifts to the University of Maryland
According to documents released last week, the U.S. Department of Education has been investigating the University of Maryland for failure to disclose foreign gifts, though it has not alleged a violation of the law. University officials announced that they recently discovered and resolved issues in the university's financial reporting process. The federal government has sent similar inquiries to Texas A&M, Cornell, Rutgers, and Georgetown University.
California Governor Signs Plan to Let N.C.A.A. Athletes Be Paid
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill making it legal for college athletes in the state to profit from endorsements and hire agents while still maintaining their amateur status. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which regulates college sports in the U.S., has called the bill "unconstitutional" and says that it will "consider next steps" to challenge it. The NCAA has previously threatened to remove California schools from its leagues if the bill was passed.