WENR, October 2016: Americas

U.S.: Education Dept. Slammed for Sending Debt Collectors After Former Corinthian Students

Almost 80,000 displaced Corinthian Colleges students are being “hounded” by debt collectors from the U.S. Department of Education, says Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). The for-profit college chain shut down in 2015, in the wake of federal and state findings that it defrauded students. Warren made the characterization in a recent letter to Education Secretary John B. King Jr. The letter requested that, given the dire credit and other financial implications for students, the department halt debt collections and forgive Corinthian students’ federal loans. The department has debt relief processes in place, and has so far forgiven loans worth an estimated USD $170 million. If all eligible Corinthian students were granted relief, the education department estimates USD $3.6 billion in costs. The department of Education stripped recognition from the national college accreditor charged with oversight of Corinthian and other for profit chains earlier in the month. (See additional coverage below.)

AP Big Story
September 29

U.S.: GAO Examines Academic Freedom on Transnational Campuses in China

The Government Accountability Office issued a report saying that, although there is relative academic freedom on American campuses in China, internet access remains a challenge as does self-censorship among faculty and students. The GAO conducted the investigation into academic freedom on transnational campuses at the request of Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican a long-time critic of American university campuses in China. GAO investigators surveyed 12 institutions, examining either full or partial operating agreements of all but one. The focus of that review was on agreements around academic freedom and free speech. They also interviewed administrators, faculty, and staff. The institutions reviewed were: Carnegie Mellon, Duke, Fort Hays State, Johns Hopkins, Kean, Missouri State, New York, Northwood, and Rutgers Universities; the New York Institute of Technology; and the Universities of Michigan and Pittsburgh.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 28

Mexico: Report Shows Engineering Graduate Numbers up by 3x

In terms of increases in “engineering and engineering trades” graduates for the period 2008 to 2012, Mexico rises to the top of a recent Royal Academy of Engineering index of 99 countries, with numbers tripling to 71,300 engineering graduates. Hungary was the only other country that even came close to doubling its number of engineering graduates between 2008 and 2012.

Times Higher Education
September 23

U.S.: Closure of National For-Profit Accreditor May Stem Access to Billions of Financial Aid Dollars

The U.S. Department of Education stripped recognition from a national college accreditor charged with oversight of 245 for-profit colleges and college chains. Some 600,000 students enrolled in the schools may be affected, both in terms of financial aid and in terms of the ongoing viability of their schools. Last year, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) funneled USD $4.76 billion dollars in federal aid to students attending schools it oversees – often poorly. ACICS accredited both ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges, both of which shut down suddenly in the face of investigations into shoddy and abusive business practices. ACICS accredited schools have, on average, the lowest graduation rates in the United States. ACICS plan to appeal the Education Department’s decision. If the appeal is unsuccessful, institutions will have 18 months to find a new accreditor.

Inside Higher Ed
September 23

U.S.: New Bill Steps up the Pressure on Regional Accreditors

A new bill signals that federal-level consumer advocates may be extend their scrutiny of college accreditors even further than they have to date. U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin and Brian Schatz introduced the Accreditation Reform and Enhanced Accountability Act, which targets the regional agencies responsible for oversight of non-profit colleges and universities. The bill requires that regional accreditors more clearly define standards around student outcome data. It also gives the U.S. Department of Education greater latitude in punishing or shuttering those who fail to provide adequate oversight of the institutions in their purview. Earlier in the week, the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions announced that its seven members would conduct a joint review of underperforming institutions, and called for improved federal data on student outcomes, specifically involving graduation rates. The new bill is part of an ongoing federal effort to address deficient oversight of the sprawling U.S. higher education system.

Inside Higher Ed
September 23

U.S.: San Francisco Spotlight – Accreditation Battles at the Local & Regional Level

Accreditation issues are playing out at multiple levels in the San Francisco Bay area. The City College of San Francisco almost lost the blessing of its regional accreditor, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, in 2014. City College has been working to meet requirements, and will face additional scrutiny from the accrediting commission in October. The commission is expected to pass down its verdict in early 2017. Meanwhile, the commission itself is facing a potential shutdown by the U.S. Department of Education for failure to follow federal accreditation guidelines. If the commission loses recognition, its 132 members, City College included, will have 18 months to find a new accreditor. Both issues are highly politicized. City College has lost 10,000 enrollments in the wake of concerns over its accreditation status.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 22

U.S.: The University of Texas Tackles Challenge of Data About Student Outcomes

The University of Texas (UT) is partnering with the United States Census Bureau to gather data on student outcomes. The 10-year agreement will track system graduates’ earnings, career pathways, industry of employment, migration patterns, and more. The UT system, which includes 14 institutions, already tracks graduates’ in-state earnings and debt, but this new initiative will extend beyond Texas borders. The federal government and others have pressed hard in recent years for outcome-based measures of institutional quality. Graduates’ employment and earnings outcomes are viewed as one potentially valid proxy for quality.

Houston Chronicle
September 22

U.S.: Former ITT Technical Students Can Get Counseling at New Website

The sudden closure of ITT Technical Institute campuses last month left some 35,000 students nationwide wondering where to turn for answers about new placements, tuition dollars, credit transfers, and more. NextStepsEdu.org, a new website launched by the U.S. Department of Education and two nonprofits, seeks to provide those students with guidance. Students affected by the closure of other for-profit schools, including Corinthian Colleges, can also use the website. Students enter their information and ask to be contacted by telephone, email or text. A response may take seven to 10 business days.

The New York Times
September 22

U.S.: Enrollments in Two-Year MBA Programs on the Wane

Data from the Graduate Management Admission Council shows a drop in applications for full-time two-year MBA courses at most US business schools last year. Some 53 percent of schools with full-time two-year MBA courses reported a decline in application numbers in 2016. Not all the news was bad however: 40 percent reported growth. Observers say that the shift is likely due to a range of factors such as the increased availability of online options, the increased popularity of one-year programs, and a shift toward programs in other countries.

FT.com
September 22

U.S.: Doctoral Programs See Weakened Demand

The latest data from the Council of Graduate Schools indicate a 4.3-percent decrease in applications to doctoral programs from 2014 to 2015. Experts warn that the finding should be taken in context: review of numbers over five years, for instance, show an average annual increase of 0.2 percent between 2010 to 2015. Numbers are up for master’s, graduate-level certificate, and education-specialist programs. Applications for those programs increased by 3.8 percent from 2014 to 2015. Trends vary across disciplines, with arts and humanities programs generally faring poorly.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 16

U.S.: Economic Turn-Around Hasn’t Trickled Down to State Schools or Their Students

The Center on Budget & Policy priorities reports that, since the start of the recession in December 2007, per-student funding at public institutions of higher education has fallen by 30 percent or more. Twenty-five states have cut the allocations to their public universities and colleges by more than 20 percent. Arizona’s higher-education spending has fallen by 50 percent. Despite the economic recovery, state spending on higher ed has never recovered; on average, states on average are spending  18 percent less per student on public higher education than they did in 2008. The result is increased costs to students.

The Hechinger Report
September 15

Canada: International Graduates Struggle to Obtain Permanent Residence – and Jobs

A January 2015 overhaul to Canada’s immigration system placed stiff barriers between foreign graduates of top Canadian universities and permanent resident status and employment. Put in place by the previous Canadian administration, the changes route them through Canada’s Express Entry system, where they have to compete with skilled immigrants who may have years of work experience and advanced degrees. Meanwhile, students also have a hard time competing with their Canadian peers for career-building internships and jobs, because many employers may be wary of the complexities inherent in hiring non-resident employees.

Calgary Herald
September 14

Canada: International Student Numbers on the Rise in Alberta

International enrollments in Alberta tertiary institutions rose 40 percent between 2011-12 to and 2015-16. The rise mirrors broader trends across Canada. Manitoba almost doubled international enrollments over the five year period, while Saskatchewan saw a rise of more than 24 percent. As domestic enrollments in some parts of Canada have declined, more universities have begun to recruit international students, in part to recoup tuition shrtfalls.

The Edmonton Journal
September 5

Posted in Americas, Regional News Summaries