TIME White House

Education Department Dials Back Plan to Rate Colleges

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The Department of Education announced this week that it’s backing off its ambitious and controversial plan to rate all of the nation’s colleges and universities, marking a win for institutions and the vast higher education lobby that vehemently opposed the idea.

Administration officials promised nearly two years ago that they would roll out a new federal ratings plan, the Post-Secondary Institution Rating System (PIRS), to help push students toward high-quality schools that would give them the best return on their money. President Obama also suggested that the system could eventually be used as a tool to hold institutions accountable, by tying federal financial aid to institutions’ ratings.

The Education Department announced yesterday that it would instead release a different, significantly less ambitious “ratings tool” that will simply provide information about all of the more than 7,500 colleges and universities in the country, so students can “reach their own conclusions about a college’s value.” The new tool will not explicitly rate the institutions based on any measures of quality nor tie federal aid to a school’s performance. (The announcement prompted a cheeky discussion on Twitter about how, exactly, that could be called a “ratings tool” at all.)

Administration officials insisted that the Education Department’s decision to back off on the ratings system did not mark a significant policy shift: the original rating plan was designed primarily as a consumer-facing tool, to help students make informed decisions; the new tool will play precisely role.

Still, many advocates were disappointed. Ben Miller, the senior director of post-secondary education at the Center for American Progress, says it was “a decent step back from putting colleges on notice.”

“The problem I have is that anyone can create a consumer tool” that provides information about schools to students, he said. The Education Department’s College Scorecard and the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator already do some of that.

“What the Education Department does have is an accountability role over every college and university in the country,” he said. “So that’s my disappointment. I wish it would use that unique role more and not do something anyone can do.”

Rachel Fishman, a policy analyst with New America’s Education Policy Program, saw the Education Department’s reversal this week as a “major win for institutions,” which, along with the higher education lobby and a coalition of mostly Republican lawmakers, opposed the ratings plan from the start. They argued that it was little more than a government-led effort to publicly shame certain schools on the basis of incomplete federal data and biased formulas that would reward schools for doing things like, say, admitting high percentages of low-income students.

The higher education lobby argued that PIRS, which was never completed, would be inherently unfair, “since it would be based on incomplete federal data on student achievement,” Fishman said. “They’re right that there’s incomplete data, but the reason for that is because the higher education lobby fought for a ban on that data,” she said. (The government’s ability to collect student records is currently very limited.)

Andrew Kelly, the director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute, saw the Education Department’s reversal on its rating plan as an indictment of the plan itself. “It’s easy to chalk this up to the higher education lobby’s power, but that implicitly suggests that the policy itself was sound and was the right way to go, and I think that’s not correct,” he said. “I think the notion of the federal government rating colleges wasn’t particularly appropriate in the first place. Where they would up is probably where they would have started.”

Administration officials argued that it hasn’t dropped the ball on holding institutions accountable; it’s just using other tools. For example, on Tuesday this week, a federal court judge threw out a lawsuit brought by for-profit colleges that attempted to overturn the federal government’s new “gainful employment rules,” which will require for-profit and a very limited number of other colleges to meet certain benchmarks of quality—like whether alumni get jobs that pay them well enough to repay their loans—in order to receive federal financial aid. The new rule are now set to go into effect next week.

TIME Hillary Clinton

Clinton: Stop For-Profit Colleges From Targeting Veterans

Hillary Clinton Addresses Nat'l Ass'n Of Latino Elected And Appointed Officials
Ethan Miller—Getty Images Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials' (NALEO) 32nd Annual Conference at the Aria Resort & Casino at CityCenter on June 18, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Hillary Clinton announced on Thursday a new plan intended to stop for-profit colleges from fleecing veterans who use federal G.I. Bill funds to attend school.

Speaking before a roundtable with veterans in Reno, Nevada, Clinton focused her remarks on the so-called 90-10 rule. The rule requires for-profit colleges to accept at least 10% of their money from private dollars rather than federal financial aid and loans, with the idea of holding the schools more accountable to the open market.

But an unintended loophole in the 90-10 rule means that federal military benefits like the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill can count toward schools’ 10%. That leads for-profit schools to aggressively target veterans in search of federal dollars, often deceptively. Proponents of a new bill say that veterans at many for-profit schools have high dropout rates and leave badly in debt.

Clinton would plan to close the loophole.

It’s hardly a sweeping vision for the country of the tenor that Clinton laid out in her campaign launch speech on Saturday. But in the coming months, advisers say Clinton will continue to roll out policy proposals at the rate of about one per week.

Two bills similar to Clinton’s proposal introduced in the House and Senate have foundered without gaining much momentum.

Clinton also said on Thursday she would plan as President to address predatory lending to veterans, healthcare and expanding job options after service.

She sang the praises of bipartisan compromise, too. “In a democracy, nobody has all the answers,” Clinton said. “You have to get up everyday and say, ‘I’m willing to work for anyone whose willing to work for the good of America and in particular the good of our veterans.'”

TIME jeb bush

Jeb Bush Once Cut Funding to His Campaign Launch Site

Jeb Bush is expected to trumpet his conservative credentials as the former governor of Florida Monday when he announces his presidential bid. But one casualty of his cost-conscious ways was the very school he selected to use as his announcement site.

A 2002 state constitutional amendment to limit class sizes in K-12 education, which Bush opposed, created a budget shortfall. The governor, who opposed new tax hikes, begrudgingly turned to colleges to fill the gap. Bush proposed cutting $111 million from the budgets of universities and community colleges, of which $10.3 million would have affected Miami Dade College, where Bush will launch his presidential bid.

College President Eduardo Padron emailed Bush when his budget was proposed, saying he was “disturbed and disappointed” by the proposed cuts. “We all understand the need for reductions in times of fiscal crisis; what’s beyond logical comprehension, however, are the huge inequities that are inherent in this budget proposal,” he wrote, arguing the college was bearing a disproportionate burden of cuts. “Our students are among the most needy in the state and cannot continue to bear the burden of the costs of education.”

Bush replied that he was working on a solution. “I know you are upset,” he said by email. “We are doing our best under difficult circumstances and will work with the legislature to identify ways that we can improve the situation.”

Bush ultimately signed a budget that cut $11 million from community colleges’ budgets, forcing them to turn away about 35,000 students looking to enroll, including 9,500 would-be Miami Dade College students.

By 2004, Bush was able to fully fund community colleges, earning plaudits from state educators.

TIME Higher Education

A Controversial Proposal to Fix Fraternities: Keep the Women Out

The latest proposal in the fight to end sexual assault on campus

The University of Missouri in Columbia is considering an alumni group’s idea to ban women from fraternity houses on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

The idea was included in a series of proposed changes entitled “Safety of Women Students in Fraternity Houses,” which was submitted by the MU Fraternity Alumni Consortium and leaked last week. The consortium is not an official alumni group of the university, a university spokesman said, but the group has been working with the administration on ways to improve Greek life over the past several years.

MORE: Crisis on Fraternity Row

In addition to prohibiting women from entering fraternities between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the proposal also suggests disallowing fraternities from hosting social events outside of Columbia, Mo., restricting the alcohol that can be served at fraternities to beer, and requiring fraternities and sororities to conduct mandatory drug tests. Most national sororities already do not permit alcohol in sorority houses.

After the proposal leaked, students took to social media to complain. The university is hosting a summit on June 20 to discuss the proposal and solicit input from student leaders in the Greek community. “Nothing has been finalized yet,” said Christian Basi, a university spokesman. “The perception among Greek students that the proposals were final is not the case.”

The proposals at Missouri come after a period of heightened scrutiny on the problem of sexual assault on campus and the misbehavior of members of the Greek community, particularly fraternities.

MORE: 3 Ways to Fix Fraternities

In a statement released by the Panhellenic Association, which represents sororities, and Interfraternity Council at Missouri, the Greek councils expressed concern about the proposals, writing that they “strongly [disagree] with several of the policies proposed.”

TIME Higher Education

Study of Canadian University Women Shows Training Program Reduced Risk of Rape

Women trained in self defense and risk assessment were less likely to be victims a year after

A training program designed to teach first-year college women how to resist sexual assault showed substantial reduction in risk of completed rape during their first year of school, a new study conducted at three Canadian universities showed.

For college women, the risk of sexual assault is highest during the first two years. The results of the study suggest that for every 22 women who are educated in the training program, one rape would be prevented in the year after the students participate.

The study, published by the New England Journal of Medicine, was a randomized controlled trial conducted at three Canadian universities. The researchers recruited first-year female students, aged 17-24, by emailing and calling women who were registered for psychology courses and posting flyers around campus.

Read More: This Is the New Frontier in the Fight Against Campus Rape

A randomly selected control group of 442 women were assigned to a session where they were given access to brochures on sexual assault, a standard university practice. The other 451 women were assigned to receive a training program that included four three-hour sessions, in small groups of 23 or less, teaching the women to “assess risk from acquaintances, overcome emotional barriers in acknowledging danger, and engage in effective verbal and physical self defense.”

The researchers followed up with the women after six months, then a year. At the one-year mark, the women who received the resistance training were less likely to have fallen victim to completed rape than the control group, with 5.2% self-reporting victimization vs. 9.8% in the control group. The risk reduction was even greater for attempted rape, with a ratio of 3.4% in the group who got the training, compared with 9.3% in the group who did not.

The study acknowledged some limitations. A disproportionate number of women with prior victimization participated in study, a group that is at higher risk for recurrence of sexual assault; and the study required self-reporting, which can introduce bias. The study’s authors also pointed out that more work needs to be done to identify effective interventions to change male behavior, and that universities might not have the resources to ensure full participation in such a comprehensive training program.

TIME Higher Education

1 in 4 Harvard Grads Didn’t Have Sex in College

And so much more info about Harvard's graduating class

A quarter of Harvard College’s graduating seniors didn’t have sex while in college, according to a survey by The Harvard Crimson. Among the grads who didn’t remain celibate during their years in college, 12% of the class had more than 10 sexual partners and 21% first had sex during their freshman year.

The survey also revealed that three years after a cheating scandal rocked the Ivy League institution, nearly 20% of graduating seniors admitted to cheating while in college. Nine of out 10 admitted cheaters said they did so on a problem set or homework assignment, while about 30% cheated on exams or papers.

Sexual assault on college campuses has been a hot topic this year and Harvard was not immune to the issue. More than 14% of women said they had been sexually assaulted while at Harvard.

More than 750 people, nearly half of Harvard’s senior class, responded to the poll.

[The Crimson]

TIME innovations

This Robot Learned to Make a Salad by Watching YouTube

Julia Child taught a generation of Americans how to cook gourmet French cuisine by breaking it down into simple steps that anyone could follow. A robot named for her at the University of Maryland took a similar approach when it taught itself to make a salad.

Using pattern recognition software designed by the interdisciplinary robotics team at the College Park campus, Julia the robot watched YouTube videos of people making salads to learn the steps, from cutting vegetables to tossing the ingredients and even pouring the salad dressing at the end.

Surprisingly, it was that last step that proved the most difficult, since dressing doesn’t always come out evenly and the robot does not yet have good feedback mechanisms to know when too little or too much is coming out. Even taking the cap off the bottle proved challenging.

Computer science professor Yiannis Aloimonos said the team chose cooking because it is something that everyone understands how to do but which is actually challenging for a robot to learn. But the lessons they’ve learned in programming Julia could be applied to just about any human activity, from stocking shelves to working on a factory floor.

“If you can work in the kitchen with your hands and do things, basically you can do almost anything else,” he said.

So far, Julia has made tomato salads, fruit salads and even a tuna salad that required some tricky work spooning out the mayonnaise. Aloimonos, who moved to the U.S. from Greece in 1982, said they’re now working on a Greek salad, but not just because he likes them.

“The objects that are involved—tomatoes and cucumbers—are not easy to cut and manipulate, and then you have soft things like feta cheese and oily things like olives,” he said. “It’s a challenge to put them all together at the same time.”

The robot was purchased with an educational discount from Rethink Robotics for about the price of a small car. Cornelia Fermüller, a research scientist at the university, developed the pattern recognition software to allow it to learn from watching YouTube—a process she compared to learning how to speak a language.

For now, it’s a language that Julie speaks at only a basic level. But there’s always more YouTube videos to watch.

“I don’t think that we’ll get to that gourmet level soon,” Fermüller said.

TIME Education

Campus Sexual Violence Complaints to Government Have Surged Since 2009

Senator Barbara Boxer speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on U.S. and Cuban relations in Washington on Feb\.3, 2015.
Samuel Corum—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Senator Barbara Boxer speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on U.S. and Cuban relations in Washington on Feb.3, 2015.

Senators urge Congress to supply funds to help Department of Education's Civil Right Office deal with caseload

Complaints of sexual violence on college campuses to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights have grown significantly in the past six years, according to newly released data.

The number of sexual violence complaints filed with the department grew from just 9 in 2009 to 102 in 2014, reflecting both a growth in awareness of sexual violence on college campuses and the lack of resources available to investigate colleges who mishandle the problem. The number looks set to grow even more this year, with 68 complaints filed so far in 2015.

The department reported the data in a letter to Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Tim Kaine (D-VA), who had requested more transparency on the issue. The letter also requested additional funds from Congress to deal with the growing caseload. The average length of investigations into sexual violence complaints have increased from 379 days in 2009 to 1,469 days in 2014, largely due to the increased caseload. The average duration of investigations completed so far this year has been 940 days.

In statements responding to the letter, the Senators urged Congress to dedicate more funding to the department’s efforts. “This new data makes clear why the Education Department must step up its efforts to address the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses, and why Congress must ensure it has the resources it needs to protect students,” Senator Boxer said.

TIME Education

How Colleges are Squeezing Students on Financial Aid

Dalia Garcia breathed a sigh of relief when she found out that she had been given enough financial aid to nearly cover the cost of tuition for her first year at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona. Because her father earned less than $20,000 a year as a janitor, college would have been out of reach without the help. The aid meant “having a sense of security,” she recalled. And as a high school valedictorian with a high grade-point average, Garcia was able to add several scholarships to her bounty.

Then, heading into her junior year, the money stopped.

“I would go to the financial aid office, they would direct me to websites, and everything was for first- and second-year students,” Garcia said, explaining that college officials told her she would have to find work-study programs or loans to cover whatever her family couldn’t afford.

“I was shocked,” she said. “Especially being closer to graduating, I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t they want to help me?’ ”

Many parents exulting at the financial-aid offers their children have received from colleges this spring are in for a similar surprise, several experts warn. As colleges compete to attract new students, they often often dangle more aid in front of prospective students who are still deciding where to go, and reduce the flow later.

The practice is well-known to education policy analysts. Ben Miller, a senior policy analyst at the liberal think tank the New America Foundation, refers to it as “bait-and-switch pricing.” Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president at Edvisors, an organization that researches and advises on financial aid, calls it “front-loading.” He says it’s the result of schools offering more aid to first-year students and their parents as a kind of “leveraging; they’re using financial aid as a recruiting tool.” Once the student has been recruited, the financial aid declines.

Such drop-offs can leave students particularly vulnerable, especially in this moment of rising tuition rates. Front-loading leaves many upperclassmen facing the difficult choice of going deep into debt to stay in school, transferring or dropping out. To make matters worse, many private scholarships are also restricted to freshmen, and end after the first year. Discovering the loss of funding as suddenly and unexpectedly as many students do is like “getting to the edge of a cliff,” said Amy Weinstein, executive director of the National Scholarship Providers Association, or NSPA.

Kantrowitz estimates that about half of all colleges and universities front-load in some form. Indeed, Federal data bear out that the practice is widespread. They show that a lower percentage of undergraduates in general receive financial aid from colleges and universities than freshmen alone do. The amount awarded to the typical freshman is higher, too, before it then declines. More than 46% of freshmen get tuition discounts, according to an annual survey by the National Association of College and University Business Officers —but fewer than 41% of all undergraduates do.

Not everyone in the field believes the practice is misleading or even deliberate.

“The numbers are what they are, but there are so many reasons why it might be happening,” said Megan McClean, managing director of policy and federal relations at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. She points to circumstantial changes that could lead to diminished aid, such as a family’s financial situation improving, and upperclassmen who transfer to another school and need less grant money.

“I don’t think it’s intentional,” McClean said.

A 2013 report by the NSPA urged that financial aid administrators disclose to families of students whether they practice front-loading or not, either in person or in financial aid award letters.

McClean said her organization “encourages parents and students to talk up front” with colleges about their financial aid packages. But Kantrowitz said they may not get an honest answer.

“Schools aren’t necessarily open about this,” he said. He has attended meetings, he said, at which parents ask school officials if they front-load their financial aid packages, and the “school acts dumb. They prevaricate.”

Earlier clarity would have helped Garcia. After scrambling to fill the gap left by her diminished aid, Garcia got financial help from Bright Prospect, a nonprofit that assists high-achieving, low-income students, and graduated in 2013. She now works for the organization, managing scholarships, and said she sees a lot of students in a similar position. “The first year looks amazing,” she said, “and then, from the second year on, the financial aid goes down, and the loans increase.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education

TIME

These States Have the Most Jobs For College Grads

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You'll never guess which little states hold the biggest opportunities

New college grads looking for work online have the best shot at getting jobs in Massachusetts and Delaware, a new study finds.

Since as many as 90% of jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher are advertised online, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce took a comprehensive look at online job listings around the country to figure out where the jobs are, along with what types of jobs they are.

As might be expected, large states with big populations — notably, California, Texas, and New York — have the most online job ads, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. Georgetown did a deeper dive into the data to see which states have the most online job ads relative to the number of working, college-educated residents, providing a more accurate measure of the labor market for bachelor’s degree-holders in each state. “Strong job growth doesn’t necessarily translate into good job prospects [because] job growth also tends to bring increased competition,” the report points out.

When the numbers are crunched in a way that takes into account the number of workers, a clearer picture of job opportunities emerges: Massachusetts, Delaware, Washington state, Colorado and Alaska have the highest number of ads seeking candidates with bachelor’s degrees or higher per worker, respectively. Higher still is the nation’s capital: Washington, D.C. has three times the national average of online job ads relative to workers with college degrees. “The college-educated job seeker who is willing to move to a state with a high concentration of job ads per worker has a greater likelihood of landing a job than remaining in or moving to states with fewer job ads per worker,” the report says.

West Virginia residents with college degrees, in particular, might want to think about relocating: This state has the weakest online job market, followed by (respectively) Rhode Island, South Carolina, Mississippi and Hawaii. The good news is that the states with markets higher than the national average are geographically disparate, with most regions represented.

When it comes to the kinds of jobs employers looking for college grads are trying hardest to fill, the story is the same as it’s been since the recovery in the labor market began. “We found that two large occupational clusters – managerial and professional office and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – dominate the online college labor market, accounting for three out of every five online job ads,” the report says. Employers in the industries of consulting, business, financial and healthcare services are responsible for more than half of all the online job postings seeking college-educated candidates, while STEM jobs have more than three available job postings for every worker, more than twice as many as any other field. The states that saw the biggest growth in STEM jobs between 2010 and 2013 are Wyoming, Missouri and Wisconsin, and relative to the number of college-educated workers, Georgetown says Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York offer the best job prospects for college grads with STEM degrees.

 

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