Inside Higher Ed

New program at Pitt asks recent grads to pay it forward for future students

Fri, 2018-10-19 07:00

This spring, the University of Pittsburgh will pilot a “pay-it-forward” financial aid program that offers students up to $5,000 upon graduation to pay down their student debt. In return, the university asks, but does not require, graduates of the program to contribute to a fund that will finance the same debt-relief scholarships for future students in the program.

Rohit Anand, a recent Pittsburgh graduate, hopes the Panthers Forward program will serve as one answer to the growing student debt crisis. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, two in three college seniors in the United States graduate with debt, and those students walk away with an average of $28,650 in loans. In Pennsylvania it's worse -- graduates with debt leave with an average of $36,854 in loans.

Anand and his team at Altian Education, a company he co-founded to develop and promote community pledge networks like this one, designed the program alongside Patrick Gallagher, University of Pittsburgh chancellor. Their goal was to create something that “gave students more flexibility to pay for future students without the burden of loans,” he said.

The University of Pittsburgh is currently Altian Education's first and only client. The university contracted the company to develop the program, and Anand said that it "does not make any money from the Panthers Forward program itself." All contributions from Panthers Forward alumni will directly fund future debt-relief scholarships.

The first group will include 150 students, and any graduating senior with subsidized or unsubsidized federal loans can apply online. The money will be sent directly to the loan servicer at the time of graduation. For now, the university won’t apply the $5,000 to private loan debt.

“The loaner, for a federal loan, is the federal government,” said Anna Adams-Sarthou, program manager for Panthers Forward. “[This way] we’re not sending checks to different banks, we’re sending one check to … the federal entity that provides those loans.”

The university is looking for students who are “in good standing," not only academically but through clubs, student government, athletics or internships. The brief application asks students to list their activities and volunteer hours, provide a faculty reference and write 250 words about how the University of Pittsburgh made a difference in their life.

Money for the first round of students will come from the chancellor’s discretionary funds, but Anand and Adams-Sarthou hope the fund will become “evergreen.”

“In a perfect world, of course that would be great, but we’re being realistic and we don’t think it’ll be self-sustaining in one year,” Adams-Sarthou said.

Anand did not want to estimate how long it would take.

"We're not focused right now on making such estimations. We want to first see how the program is received by students and how it develops over the next couple years," he wrote in an email. "This initial phase of the program will be indicative of how the future of the program, including when it will be self-sustaining, is planned."

Anand and Adams-Sarthou emphasized that scholarship recipients are not required to pay back the money in any way, and the group does not have recommended repayment plans set up yet.

"We are intentionally not mandating any kind of specified payment or payment plan, although it is our hope that students who graduate from the program choose to set up a plan to make recurring payments at amounts of their choosing," Anand wrote.

Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, is optimistic about the program’s success given Pittsburgh’s long-standing commitment to financial aid.

“On a larger scale, this is kind of what’s supposed to happen when you pay state and national taxes,” he said. “This is how federal student aid came about … and now we have a program that is doing that at a hyperlocal level.”

The pay-it-forward psychology is critical to the program’s success. Ayelet Gneezy, an associate professor of behavior science and marketing at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego, and an expert on "pay-it-forward" and "pay-what-you-want" models, said that the program's success will require a few key features: a well-crafted ask, fostering a sense of charitable giving and a reasonable time frame for paying back into the fund. Anand said that the university will keep in touch with graduates of the program, but details about how, when and how frequently are still being decided.

Choosing students who already have goodwill toward the university is smart, Gneezy said.

“If you try to think, ‘OK, when are people going to be positioned in a situation in which they want to do the right thing?’ Take for example, Starbucks versus the local coffee shop,” she said. “I would probably want to reciprocate or be kind to my local coffee shop rather than Starbucks.”

Language is also important. Graduates will be more likely to pay back into the fund if they know the money is going directly to other students.

"What we found was when you frame it as pay-it-forward, people pay more than if you frame it as pay-what-you-want," she said.

Draeger mentioned that the impact of Panthers Forward could be twofold: an evergreen fund for debt-relief scholarships and a strong network of young alumni who are inclined to give back to the college.

"Clearly it's also about creating a sustainable fund-raising base and engaged alumni," he said. "It’s that secondary piece that, if Pitt is successful, may serve as a model for other schools going forward."

In addition to the debt-relief scholarships, admitted students will be welcomed into a network of Panthers Forward alumni whom they can turn to for career advice and guidance. Adams-Sarthou emphasized that the networking aspect also had no set obligations.

“Sometimes it’ll be setting up a more formalized network; sometimes it’s going for a coffee and talking about ‘this is what I’ve been doing in college, but now I’m thinking about doing something else,’” she said. “We’re intentionally not trying to structure it because we don’t want it to feel like a series of mandates -- ‘if you’re part of the program, you must do x, y and z.’”

 

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Medium-size institutions look to medical schools for future stability

Fri, 2018-10-19 07:00

As its fellow midsize, modestly endowed private colleges look nervously to the future, Marist College in New York’s Hudson Valley is making a bold, nearly $180 million bet: last month, it announced that it will partner with a regional health-care provider to build a new medical school.

Marist Health Quest School of Medicine is expected to open its doors in 2022, reaching capacity in 2032 with about 500 students.

Adding a medical school to a private college is “honestly a big leap up in scope and complexity,” said President David Yellen. But it makes sense, he said. “If you have the resources, there’s room for another good medical school. And we think it will boost our status and reputation.”

The move is unusual -- if not unprecedented -- for a regional institution. In 2013, Marian University in Indianapolis did much the same, opening its College of Osteopathic Medicine, only the second medical school in Indiana.

In both cases, relatively nonwealthy -- if economically secure -- private institutions surveyed the educational landscape and decided that training doctors made sense. Opening a medical school represents not just a worthy pursuit, they concluded, but a possible key to long-term financial security, despite a byzantine and ever-shifting health-care industry.

Marian president Daniel Elsener said the endeavor turned out to be so enormous that it’s best understood not as a typical campus expansion but as an “intergenerational” undertaking.

But he said it is a smart investment, since most medical students eventually become physicians -- who become donors.

“The likelihood that they can support their institution as an alum increases,” he said.

Geoffrey Young, senior director for student affairs and programs at the Association of American Medical Colleges, said the demand for new doctors will continue to grow. “We have a generation of physicians -- the baby boomers -- who are at or are rapidly approaching retirement age,” he said.

And as the median age of Americans inches up, “We know that we’re going to continue to need physicians to care for our population,” said Young, a former admissions dean at the Medical College of Georgia. He said the field has seen steady growth in the total number of applicants. “Over all, medical school remains a very attractive option for those who are qualified,” he said.

According to recent AAMC data, the U.S. faces a severe physician shortage over the next 12 years. Its 2017 analysis found that the number of new primary care physicians and other medical specialists is not keeping pace with the demands of a “growing and aging population.” By 2030, it predicted, the U.S. will need between 40,800 and 104,900 more physicians than it is expected to produce.

The analysis found that primary care shortages won’t be as bad -- at most, AAMC found, we will come up short by as many as 43,100 primary care physicians. But surgical specialties and others are expected to see a shortfall of as many as 61,800 practitioners by 2030. Other specialties, such as emergency medicine, anesthesiology, radiology, neurology and psychiatry could see shortages that are about half as large.

AAMC statistics suggest that the nation’s 152 accredited medical schools were slightly more competitive last year than they were nine years earlier: in 2017, the schools accepted 41.2 percent of applicants. In 2008, they accepted 42.7 percent.

Over all, the acceptance rate dropped even as the total number of med school slots grew, from 18,036 in 2008 to 21,338 in 2017, or by 18.3 percent.

Mostly that’s because in the same period, the number of applicants grew at an even faster rate: 22.3 percent. In 2017, nearly 9,500 more students applied to medical school than in 2008, but institutions could accommodate only 3,302 more applicants, according to AAMC statistics.

Though the costs to underwrite a brand-new medical school are considerable, analysts have actually said Marist’s move is not as risky as it seems. For one thing, Health Quest has committed to funding construction of the facility that will house it.

Moody's Investor Services last month said Marist’s plan would have no immediate impact on its $104 million in outstanding rated debt, or on $40 million in proposed bonds to be issued through the Dutchess County, N.Y., Development Corporation. The costs associated with launching and supporting the medical school are “manageable,” Moody’s said, noting that they’ll be split evenly between Marist and Health Quest, which already runs four hospitals in the Hudson Valley and northwestern Connecticut.

Marist will spend about $25 million over the next five years, a small portion of its “sizeable” $290 million in spendable cash and investments, Moody’s said.

Yellen, the Marist president, said building the new school “is only possible because we’re doing very well financially, in an environment that’s pretty challenging for private colleges.”

He estimated that the college and Health Quest will spend nearly $180 million to get the new school to capacity in 2032. It will likely never turn a profit, Yellen said, but if all goes as planned, it will help raise Marist's reputation and drive enrollment to other programs such as the sciences. “This isn’t something we’re doing to generate revenue for the college at all, in any direction -- just the opposite,” he said. “We think it’s going to cost us money for a long, long time.”

Yellen also said the school isn't designed “to spin off money to be used for other purposes.” While he anticipates that alumni could someday give back generously, it'll likely be to the medical school and not to Marist's general fund. “We’re not expecting that medical school alumni will give money to help Marist College build a new undergraduate dorm,” he said. “But it’s kind of a rising tide raising all boats.”

He said the move makes sense for the region: the nearest medical schools in the region sit either in Westchester and Rockland Counties, 50 miles south, or in Albany to the north, 80 miles away.

“In between, there’s a million people,” he said.

Though the success of the new school won’t necessarily be judged by the percentage of graduates who stay to practice medicine in Dutchess County, he believes the area’s natural beauty, low cost of living and proximity to New York City will make it an attractive place for future physicians to put down roots. The new school, he said, will be located just a half mile from Poughkeepsie's Metro North commuter train station -- the trip to Grand Central Station takes about an hour and a half. “This is a beautiful, dynamic part of the country that has a mix of natural beauty and a proximity to New York,” he said.

The recent AAMC data on medical school matriculation show that there’s “a dramatic oversupply of really qualified” medical school applicants, Yellen said. “We’re not worried about enrolling a full class of really good people.”

Part of the new school’s appeal will be its focus on medicine assisted by artificial intelligence and cognitive computing, which will be built into the curriculum. “We want our medical students to begin to be educated in that, and to begin to be acclimated to that.” As data-driven decision making becomes a bigger part of medical practice, “they’ll be ready,” he said.

Despite its isolated location, he predicted that Marist “will do just fine in that competition for the best students, over time.”

Robert Friedberg, Health Quest's president and CEO, said bringing a medical school to Dutchess County would familiarize students with the region. "We’re hoping that many of them will find it a desirable area" and apply for residencies, he said.

He said he and Yellen “just shared the vision about how this would look and how it will work.”

Marist's modest size, he said, wasn't a consideration. “They have strong premedical programs and they have some postgraduate programs as well in the medical arts -- they were just positioned really well.”

Alumni Shift Could Pay Off

Marian’s Elsener said Indianapolis is “a great environment to attract talent.” The university boasts that it offers a “faith-based, liberal arts environment,” and has committed an estimated $80 million to $90 million to the new school over the past decade. “If you don’t bring a lot of resources to the game, you should stay off the field,” he said, noting that start-up costs are “very, very significant. If you aren’t prepared to take care of that, it can pull down the whole institution rather than raising it up.”

He said the move could pay off as institutions like Marian shift away from graduating mostly teachers, nurses and social workers -- through the 1980s and 1990s, about 80 percent of Marian alumni ended up in these professions -- and add more disciplines like medicine and engineering. The shift, he said, could help the university's bottom line, since these new alumni are more likely to be able to give back generously in future decades. Teachers, nurses and social workers, he said, are “wonderful people,” but they don’t always earn sizable wages.

Patrick McCabe, a Moody’s analyst, said a new medical school “carries both long-term potential benefits as well as more immediate potential risks. Once successfully up and running, a medical school can enhance a college’s reputation and profile, driving additional revenue growth and often resulting in enhanced fund-raising.”

But during the start-up phase, he said, “there can be both operational and financial risks including accreditation, capital needs and unexpected uses of liquidity.”

The Marian project experienced a huge and unpleasant surprise in 2016, when donor Michael Evans, the medical school’s namesake and a key early supporter, backed out after donating just $10 million of a planned $48 million gift. Evans, CEO of AIT Laboratories, a local toxicology testing firm, had fallen on hard times amid a decline in Medicare reimbursement rates and a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor, which said he'd sold the company to employees in 2009 for more than it was worth. Evans settled the lawsuit for $3 million, but Marian had to look elsewhere for funding.

In the two years since, Marian has raised more than the $38 million Evans promised, a spokesman said. The larger facility remains the Michael A. Evans Center for Health Sciences.

Many health-care experts praise osteopathic medicine for meeting patients' needs and for emphasizing primary care more closely than many traditional M.D.s. But it has also come under criticism in a few cases. Elsener said critics are “uninformed” about its methods, its standards and its efficacy. “There’s no doubt that an osteopathic doctor is high-quality,” he said. The field also “sits well in a Catholic university,” which emphasizes focusing on the “whole person.”

Elsener said having potential physicians, surgeons and anesthesiologists as students can’t be overstated: medical students are more willing than other graduate students to take on debt to finance their education. “A medical student can calculate their lifetime earnings,” Elsener said. Carrying debt, for these students, is almost always a smart investment.

Charging more of the student population for full tuition also helps Marian with its discount rate, he said. “Most institutions today are in discount misery.”

Over all, he said, attracting as many of these students as possible is smart for an institution. “Unless you’re heavily endowed, you’d better pay attention to all aspects of the financial model.”

Health ProfessionsEditorial Tags: NursingSciences/Tech/Engineering/MathFinancial aidMedical educationImage Source: Marist CollegeImage Caption: Artist's rendering of Marist Health Quest School of MedicineIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Starting Med SchoolsTrending order: 1College: Marian University of IndianaMarist College

Conservative group cancels tickets for students from some campus groups

Fri, 2018-10-19 07:00

Earlier this month, a conservative campus group at the University of Southern California hosted Ben Shapiro, an author notorious for his comments that offend, such as remarks that transgender people suffer from mental illness.

This event alone may have not been so unusual. While some conservative speakers have been shouted down, many of them -- including Shapiro -- speak regularly on campuses. But in the case of his USC appearance, some students have questioned whether the group that brought him did so in a way that squelched free expression.

The USC chapter of Young Americans for Freedom canceled at least 150 of the free tickets students had reserved, reportedly out of fear that some of them would disrupt the event. Some of these students were leaders of organizations that represent minority students -- the Black Student Assembly, for instance -- or activist groups such as Student Assembly for Gender Empowerment. A representative from the Latinx Student Assembly​ provided Inside Higher Ed with a screenshot showing that Young Americans for Freedom had canceled her ticket. Some tickets had been reserved under obviously fake names or with curse words.

Because the university chapter of Young Americans for Freedom did not respond to request for comment, it is unclear whether certain students were ultimately excluded from the event. Representatives from groups who had their tickets canceled also did not respond to request for comment.

The Shapiro event on Oct. 4 went off with no hitches. A couple hundred people protested outside the hall where Shapiro was giving his talk, but the protest was peaceful; inside the venue, no one tried to drown out Shapiro.

USC spokesman Eddie North-Hager confirmed that the Office of Campus Activities inquired into the ticketing incident and found no violation of the university’s policies.

However, North-Hager also said that the student government, which has some separate guidelines from the university, gave Young Americans for Freedom $4,100 out of its discretionary fund for student events -- the maximum amount allowed per academic year. Per the rules of that funding, the event must be free for all undergraduate students. The Undergraduate Student Government treasurer did not respond to a question about why the group was able to use that money for Shapiro’s talk or whether Young Americans for Freedom would be punished.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a civil liberties watchdog group in academe, said that a student organization hosting an event can decline to give reservations to those who publicly indicate they are not actually attending or who have announced they want to disrupt an event.

“But that doesn’t extend to turning away students simply because organizers think they’re opposed to the event happening or to the speaker’s views,” Adam Steinbaugh, director of FIRE’s individual rights defense program, said in a statement to Inside Higher Ed. “The entire point is to allow individuals to engage with views they find objectionable. Excluding dissenters who haven’t expressed an intent to disrupt the event would not be a narrow way of preventing disruption.”

It does not appear that these student groups publicly announced they would interrupt Shapiro. Several student groups posted on social media a statement with the #SoundtheAlarm hashtag that suggested Shapiro’s presence would be a “catalyst” for “dangerously radical conservatives” and white supremacists on campus. But it also contained some misinformation, purporting that the university spent thousands of dollars for the event to pay for security and police K-9 units.

#SOUNDTHEALARM, spread the word. pic.twitter.com/wiKNUxDxPN

— Black Trojan (@USCBSA) September 21, 2018

According to a statement last month from John Thomas, chief of the USC Department of Public Safety, Young Americans for Freedom paid for security costs associated with the event. It said police dogs were never part of the security plan.

North-Hager did not respond to a question about how much security cost, but said the student government money that the group secured went toward that.

“Our role is to make sure that all parties on campus may safely exercise their First Amendment rights in accordance with university policy,” Thomas said in his statement.

Young Americans for Freedom is a recognized organization with the university, meaning it enjoys such perks as applying for institutional funding, discounts on renting facilities and using the name, logo and other trademarks associated with USC.

The university has been largely quiet about the Shapiro event, other than to correct false statements. But Ainsley Carry, vice president for student affairs, wrote in a letter to the student newspaper, The Daily Trojan, that he found Shapiro’s views “abhorrent, painful, offensive and hateful.” Carry wrote that his gut instincts questioned why a university could not simply outright deny a speaker like Shapiro a platform.

“It is true that our constitutional inability to deny or restrict hateful speech runs counter to our sincere efforts to advance equity and inclusion,” wrote Carry, who is black. “However, I want to remind our community that no single speaker in one evening can set back all that has been achieved over the past decade. Our cultural centers, cultural assemblies and student leaders have made tremendous strides in making this campus a safer space for so many marginalized student populations. Is it really possible this speaker can unravel all that has been accomplished to make our university better? Should we grant any speaker that much power? I hope the answer to these questions is ‘hell, no!’”

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For-profit college chain sues feds to keep federal aid amid restructuring

Fri, 2018-10-19 07:00

The problems at for-profit college operator Education Corporation of America have piled up in recent years.

Its enrollment has plummeted. It has stopped making on-time payments on its debt. And it’s fighting eviction from multiple locations as creditors pursue judgments against the company.

This week, ECA told a federal judge that it could not complete a teach-out -- a process by which students finish their degrees or transfer credits elsewhere -- at two dozen campuses slated for closure unless an unusual restructuring plan is approved. In a lawsuit naming Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her department as defendants, the company hinted that the government could face numerous loan-forgiveness claims from students attending those campuses without the plan in place.

Higher ed institutions that enter the bankruptcy are barred from receiving Title IV federal student aid, including grants and loans. The company brought the lawsuit to assure that it can keep access to the federal aid while a receivership process goes through. Its financial situation is so dire, it argued, that it can’t cover salary or other costs without those funds.

“It seems like ECA is at death’s door,” said Matthew Bruckner, a professor who studies higher ed and bankruptcy at Howard University Law School. "They're basically saying 'without this receivership we have no money; we can't do a teach-out.'" 

The company operates multiple for-profit chains with campuses across the country, including Virginia College and Brightwood College. In the lawsuit, filed in a federal district court in Alabama, ECA says it enrolls about 20,000 students -- although it’s unclear from the complaint if that number refers to just Virginia College or all ECA institutions.

It announced plans last month to phase out 26 campuses, about a third of its total footprint, by December 2019. The company said it took that step because of declining enrollment in the affected markets.

When a college makes plans to close a campus, it’s required to formulate what’s known as a teach-out process that will allow students still enrolled to either complete their degrees or transfer their credits to another institution. The lawsuit argues that without the restructuring plan in place -- and continued access to Title IV -- ECA won’t be able to fulfill those obligations.

“Without obtaining the relief requested herein, the unrestrained actions by ECA’s creditors will almost certainly result in a disorderly and chaotic process that will irreparably harm students’ interests and minimize recovery for all creditors,” according to the complaint.

If the restructuring plan is approved, ECA said in the lawsuit, a creditor, Monroe Lenders, has offered to purchase its remaining 46 campuses and its management platform.

ECA didn’t respond to a request to comment further on the lawsuit.

An Education Department spokeswoman said the agency could not comment on active litigation.

A sudden closure of those campuses would be unwelcome news for students. It would also create serious costs for the federal government from closed-school discharge claims -- a process where borrowers can seek loan forgiveness when their college suddenly closes while their degree is in progress.

But many ECA programs also have a questionable track record of academic outcomes that won’t be helped by the teach-out process, said Antoinette Flores, associate director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress.

“On the one hand, it’s terrible that the campuses would close,” she said. “On the other hand, it would mean continuing to allow Title IV money to flow to institutions with questionable academic quality. I don’t think there’s a win here for students.”

The Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training in May rejected an application from Virginia College to get approval from the accreditor, citing in part low graduation and job-placement rates. The chain had sought accreditation through ACCET in part because the status of its own accreditor, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, was in doubt.

The Obama administration sought to shut down ACICS as an accreditor because of oversight failures. But after the organization got a second chance thanks to a court ruling, a senior Education Department official recommended last month that its federal recognition be extended for 12 months.

ACICS did not respond to a request for comment on the ECA lawsuit. The for-profit chains operated by ECA make up about half of the remaining colleges accredited through the organization.

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New presidents or provosts: Cambrian Cuyahoga Duke Kunshan Griffith Loyola Md. MUW Piedmont Shaw South Seattle USMMA

Fri, 2018-10-19 07:00
  • John R. Ballard, vice president for veterans and military partnerships and director of the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, in Washington, D.C., has been selected as academic dean and provost at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, in New York.
  • Paulette Dillard, interim president and vice president for academic affairs at Shaw University, in North Carolina, has been appointed president there.
  • Carolyn Evans, deputy vice chancellor (graduate and international) and deputy provost at the University of Melbourne, in Australia, has been chosen as vice chancellor and president at Griffith University, also in Australia.
  • Paula Gouveia, dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Humber College, in Ontario, has been appointed vice president academic at Cambrian College, also in Ontario.
  • Tavarez Holston, vice president for academic affairs and vice president for adult education at Lanier Technical College, in Georgia, has been named president of Georgia Piedmont Technical College.
  • Nora Miller, acting president and senior vice president for administration and chief financial officer at Mississippi University for Women, has been promoted to president there.
  • Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap, vice president of student services at South Seattle College, has been appointed president there.
  • Amanda Thomas, interim vice president for academic affairs at Loyola University Maryland, has been selected as provost and vice president for academic affairs there.
  • Lisa Williams, vice president of learning and engagement at Cuyahoga Community College, in Ohio, has been selected as president of the college's Eastern Campus.
  • Feng Youmei, executive vice president of Wuhan University, in China, has been appointed chancellor of Duke Kunshan University, also in China.
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Large-scale humanities Ph.D. tracking effort finds that they'd do it all over again, if given the choice

Thu, 2018-10-18 07:00

A large majority of humanities Ph.D.s believe that their graduate programs prepared them well for their eventual jobs, academic or not, especially over time. And all those jobs appear to require many of the same kinds of skills, according to a new report from the Council of Graduate Schools.

A majority of Ph.D.s surveyed as part of the council's research also said they would pursue a doctorate in the same general field if they had to do it all over again -- good news for both institutions and current students looking for light at the end of the graduate school tunnel. The findings seemingly defy the tight academic job market in many humanities fields and widespread reports that recent Ph.D.s see few tenure-track positions available.

 

Satisfaction with Ph.D. training was greatest among those who earned their doctorates at least 15 years ago, but majorities of those who earned Ph.D.s more recently also agreed they'd enroll in graduate school again.

“Together, these results suggest that humanities Ph.D. education offers relevant training that prepares graduates for jobs both inside and outside of the academy,” reads the council’s report, the first in a series of briefs based on its Ph.D. Careers Pathways project on graduate program outcomes. The council encourages programs and institutions to “continue to offer curricular and co-curricular experiences that integrate training and professional development opportunities toward a variety of fulfilling career paths.”

Emily Swafford, director of academic and professional affairs at the American Historical Association, said the council’s data on attitudes and skills complement the information her association already has collected via its own career-tracking efforts. The council’s work is also “exciting” in that its data show not only where humanities Ph.D. work, but what that work “looks like and how they feel about it," she said.

“It's the only project I know of that is collecting that kind of data on a large scale.”

Why We Need More Data

Paula Krebs, executive director of the Modern Language Association, which has its own Ph.D.-tracking initiative, said the council report affirms the MLA’s belief that humanities Ph.D.s give students “skills they can use in a variety of careers.”

Doctoral programs need not develop “separate paths aimed at academic and nonacademic employment,” she said. And the most successful programs “help students to understand and be articulate about the skills, values and perspectives they've gained in their doctoral work,” Krebs added. That way, students who do become professors can help their own students understand the value of the humanities relative to diverse careers, and those who work outside academe will be more successful interviewees.

Considering the investment of time and resources that graduate school is, we know surprisingly little about its returns. As Swafford pointed out, there is no comprehensive national data set on where Ph.D.s across disciplines end up working and how prepared and rewarded they feel. Individual institutions, professional associations and other organizations have attempted to fill the data gap, but the picture is still hazy -- especially for humanities Ph.D.s.

That’s starting to change, however. The Association of American Universities is pushing for institutional transparency about who gets Ph.D.s in what length of time and what they end up doing, for example.

Via its own pathways project, the council is gathering data on career tracks and professional preparation from dozens of institutions. The new report is based on a survey of Ph.D.s who were three, eight or 15 years out of their programs at 35 participating institutions. The aggregated data set includes responses from 882 Ph.D.s in the following fields: anthropology and archaeology, English, foreign languages, history, philosophy, religion and theology, and humanities/other. The analysis focused on alumni working in jobs closely or somewhat related to their academic fields, but only 60 respondents fell outside that group.

Feeling Prepared, Especially Over Time

The council found that humanities Ph.D.s employed by colleges and universities felt that their studies had better prepared them for their work than their counterparts working outside academe. More precisely, three years post-Ph.D., some 52 percent of humanists working in nonacademic jobs said their programs prepared them well for work, compared to 77 percent of those working in academe. But that difference narrowed to statistical insignificance by eight and 15 years post-Ph.D. The same went for whether Ph.D.s would pursue the same training in hindsight.

"For those employed in business, nonprofit, government and other sectors, it may take longer to recognize the value and relevance of Ph.D. training to careers,” reads the brief. “Recent graduates may also be reconciling their initial expectations for a first job and career (e.g., becoming a faculty member at a research university) with their actual employment (e.g., employed in another academic or nonacademic context). Support for transitions into first jobs may be particularly helpful for recent graduates.”

Asked whether various skills and attributes were extremely or very important to their jobs, academic and nonacademic workers responded similarly, with some significant differences. Important traits for both groups included persistence, attention to detail, analytical thinking, dependability and integrity.

Regarding employers, the report says that the “value of a humanities Ph.D.s might not be immediately tangible to employers outside of the academy,” so it’s “important for universities to engage employers as partners, helping them to understand the skills and knowledge humanities Ph.D.s offer to their sectors.”

‘The Transition Was Hard’

Swafford said the finding that most humanists eventually feel comfortable about how their Ph.D.s prepared them for work “corroborates what we've heard from historians working beyond the professoriate -- that the transition was hard, but there is something valuable enough about earning their Ph.D. that they would do it again if they had the choice.”

Robert Townsend, who has studied humanities career outcomes as director of the Washington office of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, noted that his organization’s analyses show that Ph.D.s employed outside academe were somewhat less satisfied than their academic peers. So the council’s finding that that gap narrows over time stands out to him, as well, he said -- though it remains “an open question whether Ph.D.s in nonacademic careers gain confidence in the relationship between their degree and their jobs, or they work their way into jobs that more directly relate to the degree.” Such a distinction has important implications for departments and organizations working to promote career diversity, he said.

Suzanne Ortega, council president, said in a statement that it’s not clear from the data just why the gap narrows. Whatever the reason, she said, “this is good evidence that recent Ph.D.s can use extra support in finding a job that’s right for them.”

Collecting Data to Use It

The council’s report also recommends various “conversation starters” for Ph.D. program improvement, saying that “culture change happens incrementally and requires active participation of students, faculty and employers. A good first step is understanding how your campus community communicates about career options for Ph.D.s.” Example questions for campus colleagues include, “What kind of resources and guidance does your institution offer to humanities faculty members, so that they talk to their students about the diversity of humanities Ph.D. careers?” along with “What is your institution and its humanities Ph.D. programs doing to foster partnerships with current and prospective Ph.D. employers? How effective are those strategies?”

Emily R. Miller, associate vice president for policy at AAU, said a number of institutions have responded to her own organization’s 2017 call for transparency. Echoing some of the council’s conversation starters -- and the strong implication that data collection means little if it’s not being put to use to help students -- she noted that the AAU’s Ph.D. Education Initiative is also about promoting “more student-centered doctoral education” by “making diverse Ph.D. career pathways visible, valued and viable.”

That kind of “culture shift would foster changes in institutions and departments that would make the educational environment for doctoral students more hospitable for all students, and more fruitful for their success in career pathways both within and beyond the academy,” Miller said.

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College campuses are fighting outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease

Thu, 2018-10-18 07:00

Hundreds of students are falling ill with hand, foot and mouth disease at colleges in the East.

The contagious viral infection spreads quickly and causes fever, sore throat and a rash on the mouth, hands and feet -- hence the name. Campuswide illness outbreaks are not uncommon -- in years past norovirus and mumps have plagued colleges -- but hand, foot and mouth is especially surprising given that it’s typically found in children who are under the age of 5.

"When you have populations that are in really close contact -- like college campuses or military bases -- it can spread easily," said Mark Reed, director of the Dartmouth College Health Service. Dartmouth, in New Hampshire, confirmed 50 cases this quarter, and Reed expects at least a few more.

"It has slowed down, so we probably won’t know for awhile [if it's contained], and my guess is that we’ll probably have some more cases through the quarter," he said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the disease spreads easily through person-to-person contact of saliva, droplets in the air from a cough or sneeze, fluid from blisters, and feces. Once a person is infected, it can take three to six days to develop symptoms, which most often include a fever, sore throat, feeling unwell and blisters or a rash on the hands, feet and mouth. Symptoms usually subside after a few days and there is no specific treatment for the disease, although over-the-counter medications can help relieve fever and associated pain.

Johns Hopkins University was hit especially hard. Dennis O’Shea, a university spokesman, confirmed 120 cases of hand, foot and mouth disease as of Wednesday, up from 95 just five days earlier. The outbreak has not yet been contained.

“I’ve been here 28 years and I don’t recall this particular disease,” he said.

To combat the spread, Roanna Kessler, director of the student health and wellness center at the Homewood campus, has sent multiple emails to students and employees advising them to steer clear of infected peers, clean and disinfect surfaces, and wash their hands. She instructed infected students to stay home from class until symptoms disappear and asked faculty members to be “understanding if a student needs to miss classes or assignments due to illness.”

The university is also posting fliers and lawn signs around campus to warn students, and O’Shea mentioned that students are “pitching in” by sharing hand, foot and mouth disease-related memes on the college meme page. The closed Facebook group, which was aptly renamed to “Hand Foot and Mouth Disease Memes for Infected Teens,” has over 15,000 members.

Mike Thornhill, director of communications at Mars Hill University, in North Carolina, confirmed 15 cases of hand, foot and mouth disease. The most recent case was reported early last week, so Thornhill hopes the disease has since been contained.

During the two-week outbreak, Mars Hill attacked the virus. Staff cleaned and disinfected door handles, elevator buttons and other surfaces frequently. The dining hall temporarily replaced its usual dishware with paper plates and plastic cutlery. Infected students were told to stay in their rooms, had food delivered to them and were instructed not to attend class or extracurricular activities until their symptoms subsided.

“As with any college or university, we occasionally have colds, flu and other viral illnesses make the rounds,” Thornhill wrote in an email. “I'm not aware of any previous instances of hand, foot, and mouth virus, at least in the 14 years I've worked here.”

One hundred and sixteen infected students sought out student health services at Lehigh University between Sept. 3 and Oct. 12, according to Amy White, associate director of media relations.

Since then, "The number of cases has dropped dramatically with no new known cases since Oct. 11," she wrote in an email. This isn't the first time Lehigh University has dealt with hand, foot and mouth disease; in the fall of 2015, roughly half as many students were infected.

Students at multiple colleges are posting on Twitter to complain about the outbreaks and rip on their disease-ridden peers.

“Close to ordering a hazmat suit cause people on campus have hand foot and mouth disease,” one user tweeted.

“Advantages of going to Dartmouth include: being paranoid about every cough and sneeze because there is currently an outbreak of hand foot and mouth disease on campus,” another user wrote.

And another: “Happy #GlobalHandwashingDay to all the dirty ass people at Hopkins spreading Hand, Foot, Mouth Disease!"

Six students sought treatment for the disease at Princeton University, and cases have also been reported at Wesleyan University, though the exact numbers have not been confirmed.

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Planned rule would establish maximum period of stay for student visa holders

Thu, 2018-10-18 07:00

The Trump administration published notice on Wednesday that it intends to propose a new rule in fall 2019 establishing a maximum period of authorized stay for international students and other holders of certain nonimmigrant visas.

The government says the planned rule is "intended to decrease the incidence of nonimmigrant student overstays and improve the integrity of the nonimmigrant student visa." Advocates for international exchange are worried, however, that the introduction of such a rule could limit flexibility for international students and scholars and undercut efforts by U.S. universities to recruit them. The number of international students in the U.S. declined in the 2017-18 academic year after years of steady growth.

Currently, student visas are generally valid for what's known as “duration of status,” which means that international students in the U.S. can stay indefinitely as long as they maintain their status as students. Students can fall out of status by failing to maintain a full-time course of study or working without authorization, but as long as they follow the regulations associated with their student visa, they can stay in the U.S., transfer to other institutions and progress from one academic level to another. Effectively, the duration of their time in the U.S. is dictated by the duration of their academic programs.

The new proposed rule planned for next September would replace the authorized period of stay from “duration of status” to a fixed maximum term for certain nonimmigrant visa holders, including holders of F-1 student visas. The notice published Wednesday does not specify what the maximum period of stay for student visa holders would be, but it does say that there would be options for extensions in each applicable visa category.

“The failure to provide certain categories of nonimmigrants with specific dates for their authorized periods of stay can cause confusion over how long they may lawfully remain in the United States and has complicated the efforts to reduce overstay rates for nonimmigrant students,” a statement justifying the planned rule says. “The clarity created by date-certain admissions will help reduce the overstay rate.”

Jill Welch, the deputy executive director for public policy at NAFSA: Association of International Educators, issued a statement describing the proposed change as a break with decades of precedent.

"For decades, international students and scholars have been granted immigration status known as 'duration of status,' or 'D/S' that lasts for the period of time they are engaging in their studies and practical training. They are carefully screened, vetted, and monitored through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Maintaining this policy is necessary because the time for study or research can fluctuate given the changing goals and actions of the student or scholar. We are in a global competition for talent, and we need to ensure our policies are welcoming," Welch said.

She added, “As universities and colleges across the country work to welcome highly valued, hardworking international students and scholars to our campuses and communities, their efforts are being undermined by policies and regulations that further close our doors and pull up America’s welcome mat.”

The Trump administration has pursued a number of regulatory and subregulatory changes that are in various ways shaping the landscape for international education in the U.S. Among the most significant was a recent change in determining how international students admitted into the U.S. for duration of status will be found to accrue "unlawful presence," a determination that could subject them to future five- or 10-year bars on re-entering the country. Final policy guidance issued in August holds that unlawful presence will begin accruing the day after a student stops pursuing a course of study or otherwise violates his or her immigration status, rather than -- as was the case under the previous policy -- the day after the Homeland Security department issues a formal finding of a violation in the course of adjudicating a request for another immigration benefit or the day after a judge issues an order of deportation.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell University, cautioned that the planned rule on duration of visas may never come to fruition. "Historically, there are lots of items on the semiannual regulatory agenda that never even make it into a proposed rule," he said. "If it happens, it’ll happen slowly. They’ll have to come out with a proposed rule and then ask for comments and then they have to look at those comments before they issue a final rule, and the final rule could be subject to challenge by the courts. No one needs to worry about this immediately."

"Having said that, if a rule like this does take effect there are pros and cons," Yale-Loehr continued. "It would remove some flexibility for people who may take longer than anticipated to finish their degrees. On the other hand, the unlawful presence guidance that came out in August creates a lot of uncertainty for foreign students because of the fact that right now they don’t have a fixed time limit, so they may be deemed after the fact to have been here unlawfully. Having a fixed duration would at least give a bright line for measuring when unlawful presence would start."

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University presses take control of ebook distribution

Thu, 2018-10-18 07:00

MIT Press and the University of Michigan Press have both announced plans to start selling their ebook collections directly to libraries by creating their own distribution platforms.

The publishers previously did not have a mechanism for selling to institutions directly. Instead, access to ebooks was largely brokered through third-party acquisition services such as EBSCO, ProQuest, OverDrive, Project Muse and JSTOR.

Amy Brand, director of MIT Press, said she had been thinking about how to move away from these third-party platforms, known as aggregators, for some time.

“We determined that the MIT Press brand was prestigious enough, and that the collection was large enough, that we could go it on our own," she said. 

Not only do these platforms take a “significant percentage” of the revenue from ebook sales, they also create a barrier between university presses and their customers, said Brand. She’d like to build a closer relationship with the libraries that purchase from MIT Press and also gain more insight into how they use the content they buy. Detailed customer usage data is not always made available to publishers from aggregators, she said.

MIT Press's new distribution platform, called MIT Press Direct, is being developed by a company called Silverchair and will launch in beta this December.

Terry Ehling, director for strategic initiatives at MIT Press, said the new platform would give the press greater flexibility in what it can publish.

“Having our own platform allows us to create new products and new services around those products," said Ehling. "We can control the delivery and the look and feel of our products. That was very appealing to us." 

Developing its own platform means MIT Press can set its own terms for how content is used, said Brand. For example, there will be no limit on the number of people who can access one ebook at a time -- a common restriction on content sold through aggregators.

The University of Michigan Press is planning to offer its ebook collection directly to libraries in the next few months. Charles Watkinson, director of the press, said the ebook collection will launch in January 2019 on Fulcrum -- an open-source publishing platform being developed with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“For us, it’s very much about taking back some control of our digital content,” said Watkinson. It was “impossible” to sell some of the publisher's more experimental content, such as this ebook with 3-D modeling, through the aggregators’ platforms, said Watkinson.

Like Brand, Watkinson worried that his organization “simply lost touch with the library market.”

“Despite being based in a library at the University of Michigan, we no longer have a good sense of what our most important companies are thinking and needing, and by extension what their faculty and student users are interested in,” he said.

The University of Michigan Press will continue to offer access to individual titles through JSTOR, Project Muse, ProQuest, EBSCO and OverDrive, said Watkinson. “But we’ll only offer our comprehensive collection of scholarly ebooks directly,” he said.

Both MIT Press and the University of Michigan Press will offer tiered pricing structures for their collections -- with prices corresponding to the size of the institutions buying the books. Ehling said that MIT Press has not yet finalized pricing for its collections, but plans to do so by mid-December.

Watkinson said that the list price for the University of Michigan ebook collection would be $6,800, but university libraries will pay between $694 and $5,780 per year based on their size. For this price, the libraries will get perpetual access to all titles published in 2019, and a year's access to approximately 1,000 titles in the publisher's back catalog. Watkinson said the press expects to publish at least 80 titles in 2019. 

By taking control of the distribution of their ebook collections, MIT Press and the University of Michigan Press will soon join a very select group of university presses that sell their collections directly to libraries -- including the presses of Oxford and Cambridge Universities in Britain and Duke University in North Carolina.

Allison Belan, assistant director for digital strategy at Duke University Press, said Duke has been selling its ebook collection directly to libraries since 2008. The press already had a sales team that sold journal access to libraries, so it “wasn’t a huge leap” to do the same for ebooks, she said.

One of the biggest barriers to other universities selling their collections directly to libraries is cost. Many university presses don’t have the money to invest in platforms or sales teams.

“There’s a big investment for a university press to sell bundles directly,” Belan said.

Peter Berkery, executive director of the Association of University Presses, said it was too soon to describe the movement as a trend. “There’s a lot of experimentation,” he said, noting the unlikeliness of all university presses deciding to start selling directly to customers any time soon. Many university presses will be watching the progress of MIT and Michigan’s efforts with interest, however.

“Whenever MIT or Michigan do something, people pay attention,” said Berkery.

Frank Smith, director of books at JSTOR, said he is pleased to see university presses experimenting. He thinks there is enough diversity of opinion and business models in the sector that there will always be some university presses that want to work with aggregators.

Joseph Esposito, senior partner at publishing consultancy Clarke & Esposito, also believes more university presses trying to sell their ebooks directly to libraries is a good thing. But notes it is a “tough market” with lots of competition.

“Will libraries buy books directly from an individual university press, or do the libraries experience such administrative efficiency by going through [third-party acquisition services] that the university presses will only be able to get a small number of customers?” he asked.

Rick Anderson, associate dean for collections and scholarly communication at the Marriott Library at the University of Utah, said whether libraries choose to work directly with university presses or not will likely come down to a question of scale.

It will be “relatively easy” to work with larger presses like MIT Press or the University of Michigan Press, but “if we had to deal with all university presses individually, that would be a problem,” he said.

Smaller university presses could, however, offer “deep discounts in return for direct dealing,” said Anderson. “My door is always open to a publisher that wants to talk about discounts. We might be willing to invest more staff time if the price is right.”

The market for ebooks is changing, said Watkinson, of Michigan. Constrained budgets mean some libraries prefer to buy ebooks on a title by title basis, rather than purchasing whole collections. He thinks only about 100 libraries will purchase the University of Michigan Press ebook collection.

“We are targeting a high-end group,” he said.

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University of Glasgow requires doctoral defense panels for female Ph.D. candidates to have at least one woman

Thu, 2018-10-18 07:00

The University of Glasgow's decision to insist that female Ph.D. candidates have at least one woman on their viva examination panel has been criticized for pushing unrewarded “academic housework” on to senior female academics.

While Glasgow has won praise for its efforts to improve the gender balance of its doctoral examiners, some scholars have claimed that its new rule will heap further “unrecognized and unrewarded” academic duties on senior female academics. At present, just under one-quarter of British professors are women, the latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show.

In a series of posts on Twitter, Fiona Leverick, professor of criminal law and criminal justice at Glasgow, explained that because women are “massively underrepresented at senior level” and it is “unusual to invite a junior academic to examine a Ph.D. thesis,” the “practical effect of this is that the burden will fall on women to give up their time.”

“This work is unrecognized in work models and unrewarded in promotion criteria,” said Leverick, adding that this is “one of many, many instances of women -- because they are underrepresented at senior levels -- being asked to do the type of service work that is unrecognized and unrewarded.”

Other similarly time-consuming duties include sitting on appointment panels and committees “so that they are gender balanced,” as well as acting as mentors and taking on managerial roles, she wrote.

“While we are doing all of this service work in the name of gender balance, my male academic colleagues can use their time to do the things that *are* rewarded and valued,” added Leverick, who declined to speak directly to Times Higher Education about her comments.

Leverick acknowledged in the thread that there are “good reasons to have a gender-balanced committee [of examinations]” but when the “burden of this policy falls on women, who already undertake a disproportionate amount of unrewarded and unrecognized academic service, I am not convinced that this is the way to go.”

Her comments gained support from several Twitter users, including Carol Taylor, professor of gender and higher education at Sheffield Hallam University, who said that the practice of “women doing the academic housework … has to stop.”

Others, however, noted that the issue was “super tricky” because some female doctoral candidates may feel more comfortable with a female examiner but are unlikely to submit this request.

A spokeswoman from the University of Glasgow told Times Higher Education that it was “striving to ensure a better gender balance on all groups, committees and panels across the university -- this includes viva panels for examining Ph.D. students.”

However, the university said it was important that the workload implications of the new rule were recognized, as “in the short term, this can put pressure on female academics where they are underrepresented.”

“It is right that [this extra work] should be recognized in the distribution of academic workload so that all members of staff are treated equally and fairly,” she said.

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