In a shock expose for Politico this week, two dozen current and former officials from Liberty University came forward to report on the behavior of the university's president, Jerry Falwell Jr. Fallwell has come under fire for creating a "culture of fear" at Liberty, allegedly firing employees for speaking out against the Trump administration. Most of Liberty's 110,000 students are enrolled in online classes.

MIT has also been embroiled in scandal this week after new documents revealed the university's media lab accepted contributions from Jeffrey Epstein despite knowing about his status as a convicted sex offender. Epstein was listed as "disqualified" in MIT's official donor database, but the media lab continued to accept contributions from him marked "anonymous" and sought his help in soliciting other donors to the tune of $7.5 million.

University scandals bring a host of problems, but there's a silver lining: opportunities for investigative journalism by college students. For example, the University of Southern California (USC) has faced scandals related to sexual abuse, drug overdose, and admissions cheating, and its journalism department has encouraged their students to behave as watchdogs for the university.


Admissions

College Board Drops Its "Adversity Score" For Each Student After Backlash

In a rare reversal, the College Board has announced that it will drop its recently introduced adversity score after criticism from universities and parents. The board is still planning to offer a new tool called Landscape, which provides economic information about student backgrounds, including neighborhood average incomes and crime rates.

How Colleges Use SAT, ACT Results

Knowing how your SAT or ACT scores are evaluated by universities can alleviate a lot of stress. U.S. News & World Report offers this explanation of score choice, superscoring, and how to understand the differences. To learn more about what colleges look for in an admissions application, read Veronica Freeman's interview with an admissions counselor.

In Crunch for College Admission, USC Tracks Applicants' Ties to Big Donations

New documents revealed the relationship between college admissions and big university donors at USC. They show that USC has been tracking applicants in relation to their families' donation potential for decades and also allowing athletics departments to lobby for admission for their preferred candidates.

More Math for Admission

The California State University System is considering adding a quantitative reasoning requirement for admission to its schools. Critics worry that the extra requirement would cut admission for minority and low-income students. A report from RTI International found that eligibility for black students under the new requirement could drop from 30% to 22%, and female applicant admission could drop from 47% to 38%.

What College Admissions Offices Really Want

Amid the national conversation about college admissions, a recent article from The New York Times Magazine explored admissions practices among elite private colleges, finding that, in many cases, the need for students who can pay tuition weighs against the desire to attract more diverse student bodies.

End Legacy College Admissions

Legacy preferences in admissions may be unpopular among the American general population, but roughly three-quarters of the top 100 schools in the U.S. still have legacy admission policies. In a federal affirmative action trial last year, it came to light that between 2010 and 2015, Harvard admitted 33% of legacy applicants and only 6% of non-legacy applicants. Race is also a factor here; in 2019, 60% of legacy admissions to Harvard were white, compared to 80% in 2014.

The Data Is In

Study: 'The Dangers of Fluent Lectures'

A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that while students tend to rate lecture-oriented classes more highly, they actually learn more in classrooms built around active learning. In the study, students who were asked to solve problems themselves performed better on tests than students who were told how to solve the problems. To learn more, check out Veronica Freeman's tips for succeeding in small and large college classrooms

Study: Record High Marijuana Use and Vaping

According to the University of Michigan's annual Monitoring the Future Panel study, marijuana use among students is at its highest level in 30 years, and the use of vaping products doubled between 2017 and 2018. Forty-three percent of surveyed students had used pot sometime in the past year, and 6% reported using marijuana daily.

Study Minimizes Impact of Free Community College

A new study published in the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity reports that free community college doesn't lead to increased four-year graduation rates, but reduced tuition at four-year universities and increased spending per student at community colleges do. Learn more about the benefits of community college from Samantha Solomon.

How to Cut College Dropout Rates

College dropout rates are a major concern, with only 58% of public university bachelor's degree students graduating within six years, and only 22% of public two-year students graduating within three years. David L. Kirp at The New York Times suggests raising these rates with more investment in personal mentoring and advising, flexible scheduling, and public transit vouchers.

Are Parents Tapping College Savings in 529 Plans for Private K-12 Tuition?

In 2017, the Trump administration expanded the range of 529 savings plans, allowing parents to use them to pay for private K-12 schools in addition to colleges. In 2018, only 5.5% of withdrawals from 529 accounts were made for beneficiaries under the age of 16 — up 4% from 2016, but still lower than expected. This trend indicates that many parents aren't taking advantage of the expansion. Not all states offer the expansion, with some still requiring the accounts to be used only for college tuition.

Student Loans

Education Department Rejected 99 Percent of Applicants for Student Loan Forgiveness Program

The Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (TEPSLF), which was granted $700 million in 2018 to redress eligibility confusion for borrowers, denied 99% of student loan forgiveness applicants last week. The program has paid out only $27 million so far.

For more about student loan forgiveness for public service, check out Reece Johnson's guide to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Student-Loan Behemoth Tightens Its Ties to Trump and DeVos

FedLoan Servicing, which manages nearly a third of the $1.6 trillion of student loan debt in the United States, is competing for a new contract with the Department of Education, even as it comes under fire for denying 99% of federal student loan forgiveness applicants. The company is an arm of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, which has close ties to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, having hired a former DeVos aide as its director of federal relations earlier this summer.

Growing Price Tag for College Shutdowns

With the recent shuttering of a slew of for-profit universities, the federal government has discharged more than $43 million in student loans for borrowers whose schools closed, including programs from the Dream Center and Charlotte School of Law. Students are eligible for debt cancellation if they were enrolled at the time of the closure or withdrew within 120 days and did not transfer to another institution.

In Other News

Harvard Student Says He Was Barred From U.S. Over His Friends' Social Media Posts

Last week, an incoming freshman at Harvard University was denied entry to the United States due to anti-U.S. social media posts made by people he knew. Ismail Ajjawi, a 17-year-old Palestinian who had been granted a student visa, did not write any of the social media posts himself, but was sent back to his home country of Lebanon with his visa cancelled. He was later granted a second interview, had his visa reinstated, and has since begun classes at Harvard.

California Lawmakers Pass Bill Allowing College Athletes to Profit From Endorsements

A new bill passed the California State Assembly on Monday making it illegal for universities to revoke eligibility or scholarships from student athletes who sign endorsement deals. The bill still needs to undergo reconciliation and gain approval from the governor. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) opposes the bill, suggesting that California schools may be banned from competition due to unfair advantages when recruiting athletes.

Ending Tuition Unfairness for Online (and Part-Time) Students

Southern Utah University is just one of the schools considering a change to tuition structure to attract online students. Current tuition structures incentivize students to take more credits, with the per-credit cost dropping for full-time enrollment. This system means that part-time or online students often pay more per credit than traditional students. Finances are a major reason many students choose online education over traditional schooling, but there are other factors to consider as well.

Virginia HBCU Offers Free Tuition to University of Bahamas Students

In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas last week, Hampton University in Virginia is offering one semester of free tuition, room, and board to students from the University of the Bahamas-North. Displaced students will have the option of staying at Hampton as regular, tuition-paying students after the free fall semester.