Last Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order threatening to withhold federal funding from colleges where anti-Semitism or anti-Israel protests have been seen on campus.
Critics say that the order violates free-speech protections, especially for pro-Palestine activists, and its definition of anti-Semitism is too open-ended. Others have pointed out that singling out Jews over other minority religious identities could backfire and encourage anti-Semitism.
Response to the order on campuses has been mixed, with students on both sides of the political spectrum voicing concern. There has been an increase in anti-Semitic sentiment on college campuses across the country; the latest incident was at Indiana University at Bloomington, which suspended a fraternity over allegations of anti-Semitism, racism, and physical assault at a party.
Trump Officials Defend Use of Fake University to Lure Foreign Students
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Department of Justice officials have come under fire for a sting operation that ensnared nearly 250 foreigners living in the U.S. on F-1 student visas. The agencies set up a fake university — the University of Farmington in Michigan — that had accreditation status but no classes or faculty. Critics say granting the fake university accreditation was a step too far, as accreditation is the measure students look for when determining the validity of a university.
Betsy DeVos Overruled Education Dept. Findings on Defrauded Students
Recently released documents show that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos overruled the findings of her own staffers, who recommended that students defrauded by for-profit colleges be forgiven their student loans under the "borrower defense" rule. The colleges lied about job prospects and the transferability of credits, but DeVos argues that students still got value from these schools and should thus qualify for only partial relief.
Senate Passes HBCU Funding, FAFSA Changes
Early this month, the U.S. Senate passed legislation permanently funding historically black universities and colleges (HBCUs) to the tune of $255 million. The legislation, which is called the "FUTURE Act," also simplifies the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and eliminates paperwork for federal student loan borrowers in income-driven repayment plans. The legislation also passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, but must still be signed by the president.
Justice Department Sues, Settles With NACAC
The Justice Department sued and then immediately settled with the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) for violating antitrust laws. The suit was over NACAC's Code of Ethics and Professional Practice, which formerly prohibited colleges and universities from offering exclusive incentives for early-decision enrollees. Those rules were amended in September.
Trump Treasury Staffer Leaves After Getting Embroiled in College Admissions Scandal
A Trump administration staffer, James Littlefair, left his position working for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin after his mother pled guilty to one charge of wire fraud conspiracy in the Varsity Blues college admissions case. Karen Littlefair paid $9,000 to have one of Rick Singer's employees take four online classes for her son at Georgetown University and at Arizona State University. He then used those credits to graduate from Georgetown in May 2018.
University of Phoenix Cancels $141 Million in Debt for "Deceptive" Ads
One of the largest for-profit universities in the U.S., the University of Phoenix, agreed to a $191 million settlement — including canceling $141 million in student debt and paying a $50 million penalty — with the Federal Trade Commission over fraudulent advertising. Starting in 2012, the university used advertisements to claim ties with A-list companies like Microsoft, Twitter, Adobe, Staples, the American Red Cross, Yahoo, and AT&T, though it had no such partnerships. For more, check out Melissa Venable's article about mega-universities.
What You Need to Know About Prepaid College-Tuition Plans
With student loan debt at the forefront of higher education news, innovations in tuition funding abound. One such innovation is the prepaid college-tuition plan, which is offered in 12 states for use at public, in-state schools, or through the Private College 529 Plan, which applies to 300 private universities. The Wall Street Journal offers a breakdown of the pros and cons of this kind of tuition savings plan. Proposals to reduce student loan debt have sprouted across the political spectrum; check out Reece Johnson's breakdown.
New Kind of Student Loan Gains Major Support. Is There a Downside?
Another newcomer on the student loan market is the income-share agreement, which is favored by Silicon Valley start-ups, especially coding bootcamps like Flatiron School. The plans work by giving students fixed amounts while they're in school and then garnishing a percentage of their wages after graduation. Low-income students pay less, and high-income students pay more. The New York Times offers a deeper look at this kind of payment plan.
University of Colorado to Stop Funding Student-Run CU Independent
Earlier this month, the University of Colorado Boulder announced that it would no longer fund its student-run news outlet, the CU Independent, and would instead start a faculty-lead media organization next fall. The university said it would provide guidance to staff at the CU Independent as they seek outside funding over the summer.
Why Is the University of North Carolina Funding Bad History?
To settle a lawsuit with the North Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), the University of North Carolina has agreed to pay the organization $2.5 million in non-state funds through a charitable trust to care for a confederate monument that was toppled by protestors in August 2018. SCV has long promoted misinformation about the Civil War, claiming that the war was unrelated to slavery and that slaves were not mistreated.
Data Is In
For College Admissions, Is "Adversity" Living Near Poor People?
The College Board's "Adversity Score" was revoked after criticism over the summer, but not before The Wall Street Journal collected and analyzed data from its Environmental Context Dashboard. As Forbes writer Andrew Biggs points out, the adversity score doesn't capture challenges faced by individual students, but rather highlights issues in their wider environment that likely don't affect the more privileged (and thus higher-scoring) among them.
Fewer Students Are Going to College. Here's Why That Matters.
The latest data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reveals that this fall saw 250,000 fewer students enrolled in college compared to last year. In fact, college enrollment has fallen 11% over the past eight years, across all sectors. This decreased enrollment spells financial trouble, especially for small private colleges, many of which have had to close due to budgetary shortfalls.
Myths and Realities: An Examination of Course Evaluations in Higher Education
Campus Labs, a course evaluation company, recently released a report analyzing more than 2.3 million evaluation responses in an effort to bust myths around the usefulness of student evaluations of teachers. However, the company does not collect demographic information like race or gender, so it cannot address the most common criticism of teacher evaluations; namely, that women and people of color are disproportionately downgraded due to their identities rather than their effectiveness as teachers.
In Other News
University of California Is Sued Over Use of SAT and ACT in Admissions
A coalition of advocacy groups, students, and largely black and Hispanic California school systems have filed suit against the University of California to remove standardized tests from the system's admission requirements. Studies have shown that the SAT is racially and economically biased, and the coalition argues that its use in admissions is discriminatory. UC was already independently investigating whether it should remove the SAT from its admissions requirements. For more about admissions, check out our article, ask an admissions counselor.
Graduate Students Do Real Work. Let Us Unionize.
Graduate Student unions have been in the news this year, continuing to organize despite the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that graduate students at private colleges aren't employees and as such cannot unionize. Marissa Knoll, writing for Salon, has an argument to the contrary. One such student union is at Harvard University, where graduate students have been on strike since December 3.
Varsity Blues Admission Scandal Update
Karen Littlefair wasn't the only update in the Varsity Blues scandal this week. Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne revealed in a letter that the scam's ringleader, Rick Singer, tried to recruit seven Stanford coaches into the scheme, though he only succeeded in recruiting John Vandemoer, the sailing coach. Also, Lori Loughlin and her husband filed a claim alleging that case prosecutors are withholding evidence that proves they believed their payments would be used for legitimate purposes.