Sexual Assault on Campus, Anonymity, and Title IX


January 4, 2017; New York Times and National Public Radio

According to a 2007 study by the National Institute of Justice, one in five female college students (and one in 16 male college students) are sexually assaulted and more than 90 percent do not report the crime. One of the reasons students do not report is fear of retaliation, particularly when the accuser is one of their professors. If the student reports the crime to the college’s Title IX office instead of the criminal justice system, they can remain anonymous—but that can often lead to other problems.

Two University of Kentucky entomology graduate students were separately assaulted by one of their professors. They feared retribution and explored opportunities to report the crime while maintaining their anonymity. One of the students explained their decision:

I just spent a good portion of my life in grad school trying to further my career and if I’m labeled as someone who filed a sexual assault claim against a professor, that could very easily backfire against me. There’s a lot of people in academia who think that there are women who make up stuff like this.

They filed a report in the university’s Title IX office. Title IX is a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination on college and university campuses. Schools failing to follow Title IX risk losing federal funding. Once a report is filed, the office is required to investigate. During the investigation, the accused and accuser remain anonymous. Unfortunately, the investigation and subsequent hearings are fraught with challenges.

One obstacle is that each school’s office has jurisdiction only over its students and personnel. If the accused decides to leave the institution before the hearing is completed, the proceedings end immediately without any reference to the investigation on their record, allowing the accused (assuming he or she were guilty of the offense) to potentially assault additional students at the new school.

Another challenge is how the hearing is decided. Who presides over the hearing varies from school to school and usually doesn’t include officials from the criminal justice system. Title IX mandates the hearing utilize the “preponderance of the evidence” burden of proof. This standard is significantly less than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is required in a criminal trial. Nonprofit Quarterly has reported on the controversy surrounding 2011 U.S. Department of Education “guidance” on college sexual assault that has been opposed by some in academia, including one specific letter issued by 28 Harvard Law School professors criticizing the lack of due process in college sexual assault invstigations. Participating in a hearing is often extremely difficult for a survivor of assault because of the stresses that come with proving the activity occurred. By using the lower standard of proof, the hearing puts a limit on any additional pain, trauma, and expense.

In the case of the two University of Kentucky students, the Title IX office scheduled an official hearing after interviewing dozens of people and collecting evidence. But the hearing never occurred because the professor resigned before it could begin. Frustrated, the women reported the assaults to the university’s student newspaper. The media attention led to many additional stories and FOIA requests for the full Title IX report. The students feared their anonymity would be compromised and joined an action by the university to stop the report release. Judge Thomas Clark of the Fayette County Circuit Court plans to issue a ruling in the next two weeks.

Schools that fail to conduct proper hearings can be subject to government complaints and lawsuits. Currently, over 200 institutions are under federal investigation due to complaints connected to sexual violence investigations and proceedings. A better solution might be a society that better supports survivors of sexual assault.—Gayle Nelson

Update: On Tuesday, 1/24/2017 The Judge ruled in favor of the University to prohibit the release of the report to protect the anonymity of the students. The Newspaper states it will appeal the decision.

Original post:


Is the Future of Higher Education a “Multi-Directional Swirl?”


September 22, 2016; Inside Higher Ed

It’s no surprise that as the economy goes through a profound shift, driven partly by new uses of technology, higher education has come to an inflection point. But an article in Inside Higher Ed adds information that reemphasizes that the picture that’s emerging needs to be understood as a whole system and understood in a values framework. This, in other words, is a wicked problem.

The article points out that 35 percent of first-time college students were part of what a new report refers to as the “multidirectional transfer swirl,” transferring from one institution to another throughout their college careers. As the number of students who fail to graduate and become unable to pay back their college loans continues to grow, perhaps it is time to explore whether college is the best investment for all.

Last week, the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education, a program of the American Academy of Arts and Science, released a report titled, “A Primer on the College Student Journey.” The study, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York at a cost of $2.2 million, began with the author’s list of “Top Ten Takeaways” on the undergraduate experience. These included the continued troubling effect of a person’s race and class on their chances of graduating from college and the escalation in the number of students who enroll in remedial courses during their college experience.

In the report, the Commission explored the increased number of students attending college. Overall, 68 percent of millennial students enrolled in college months after graduation from high school and almost ninety percent began their college experience within eight years from graduation. While more are attending, a much smaller number are graduating. Only 40 percent of students entering a four-year institution actually graduated within four years. The figure only improved to 60 percent if the amount of time in school increased to six years. Of the students graduating, less than half (48 percent) attain their bachelor’s degree. Of the remaining graduating students, 26 percent earned their associates degree and 25 percent earned certificates.

The growth in both time attending and tuition has no doubt increased the amount of debt students carry upon graduation. While two-thirds of full-time students pay less than the full cost of tuition, the percentage of students with federal loans increased from around 50 percent to 60 percent between 2000 and 2012. The median loan balance of college graduates increased by almost 25 percent in that same period.

While students are graduating with higher amounts of debt, they are not the students with the greatest chance of defaulting on their loan obligations. Instead, students who fail to graduate and take on smaller amounts of debt are more likely to default. One-fifth of adults over 25 have attended college but did not attain a degree. Twenty-four percent of these students will eventually default on their loans.

Although 18- to 21-year-old dependent students working toward their bachelor’s degree are the stereotype, in 2013, almost a third of enrolled college students, or 5.5 million, were over the age of 25. (By 2014, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, that number had risen to 41 percent, or 8.2 million.) Fifty-five percent of these students were enrolled part-time. Overall, 37 percent of all students study part-time.

As the amount of state funding of public colleges and universities continues to decrease, it is not surprising schools continue to look toward foreign students, who typically pay the full tuition price tag, to balance their budgets. The number of foreign students in U.S. colleges and universities has increased 67 percent since 2000. University of Michigan researchers found a ten percent decrease in state funding corresponded with a 12 percent increase in foreign student enrollment in public universities. China, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea sent the most foreign students to American universities.

The Commission expects the number of students graduating high school and attending college to remain flat at 3.3 million per year over the next decade to remain flat at 3.3 million over the next decade. Next summer, it plans on releasing a supplementary report exploring the future state of higher education.—Gayle Nelson

A Degree, A Job…or a Refund?


August 24, 2016; Time, “Money”

As the school year begins and more than two million new students launch their college educations, a few question whether the time, effort, and expense will pay off. How should graduates and their families measure the value of their undergraduate education? What if, instead, there was a guarantee that they would complete their education in four years, or attain employment in their chosen field after graduation?

Many students and their families spend more money on annual college tuition than others make in a year. The average college tuition and fees for the 2015-6 school year was $32,405 at private colleges, $9,410 for state residents at public colleges, and $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. As tuition continues to rise, so doesaverage student debt, reaching $26,600 for students earning only their bachelor’s degree. Overall, students across the country hold $1.2 trillion in college loans, and 17 percent of them are behind in their payments. The NPQ nonprofit newswire reported recently on the student loan debt issue, noting that debt for recent graduates is often highest at institutions with relatively modest tuition costs.

At many schools, students struggle to enroll in the classes required for graduation, leading to only 19 percent graduating from public, four-year universities on time. Students who complete their degree in four years naturally borrow less than those graduating in five years or more. Additionally, students who obtain meaningful employment are less likely to fall behind than those who do not.

Whether and where to receive a college education is a complex, costly, and risky decision, similar to the decision to purchase an expensive product or service. Consumers are often protected by “lemon laws” if a product does not live up to expectations, but students who seek college degrees must pay back their loans whether they graduate or not. What if students had guaranteed access to these courses? What if employment in a student’s chosen field was guaranteed upon graduation?

A growing number of public, nonprofit, and for-profit colleges are offering students on-time graduation guarantees. For example, four years ago, the State University of New York at Buffalo developed “Finish in 4.” Incoming freshmen sign a pledge to complete a full load of classes each semester, meet with an advisor annually, and declare a major by their junior year. If they live up to their commitments but still fail to complete their studies within four years, tuition after the fourth year is free until they graduate.

Other colleges are offering employment guarantees for graduating students. Adrian College, a Methodist-related private college in Michigan, created AdrianPlus, a guarantee that students will earn an annual income of a minimum of $37,000 after graduation. If students do not attain such employment, the college will reimburse all or part of students’ loan payments.

Udacity, a for-profit online “nanodegree” program in computer coding, offers a slightly different approach. The school guarantees students employment within six months of graduation or a complete refund of their tuition. Davenport University, another private nonprofit institution in Michigan, offers a similar guarantee of full-time employment in a student’s chosen field. Students unable to attain employment receive three semesters of additional coursework to supplement their degrees at no additional tuition charge.

In the past, colleges and universities have fought the connection between degrees and employment, saying they were not trade schools. It is exciting to see that fallacy begin to dissipate.—Gayle Nelson


Original cite:

Public Research Universities’ Shifting Funding Models


April 7, 2016; Siebel Scholars and American Academy of Arts & Sciences

During the Great Recession, state funding of nonprofit organizations, including colleges and universities, dropped precipitously. As the recession fades into memory, some states are slowly increasing their funding for higher education, but many cannot. Economic need is spurring the majority of public university leaders to advocate for additional government funding, be more efficient, and create new funding opportunities to close the gap.

Today, public research universities across the country educate 3.8 million students annually. As public institutions, they depend on government funding, particularly from states, to maintain the essential services students and communities depend on. But, state appropriations have dropped thirty-four percent in the last decade. Colleges and universities also continue to receive other public funding, including $3.5 trillion from the federal government in fiscal year 2013. Unlike the $65 billion from state appropriations, the majority of federal funding is project-based instead of general operating. A strong source of general operating funds is essential for a nimble, healthy nonprofit organization.

A college or university may be categorized as a nonprofit organization, similar to a homeless shelter or workforce training program, but tuition provides a strong revenue stream most other nonprofits can only dream of. Additionally, unlike state government agencies, public colleges and universities also have some flexibility administering the programs and services offered as well as in setting their employee salaries.

Beginning in January 2013, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences authored five reports documenting the dramatic shift in funding and advocating for state reinvestment. It released its final report last week, Public Research Universities Recommitting to Lincoln’s Vision: An Educational Compact for the 21st Century. (The title refers to President Lincoln’s creation of the public university system under the Morrill Act of 1862.) The report builds on the previous publications and presents recommendations to colleges, government leaders, and the communities that depend on these higher education institutions.

The ACAD frankly outlines two crucial recommendations to their institution members to maintain—and, in some cases, restore—public trust. The first, strengthening the institution’s governing board, has been identified by many, including the Nonprofit Quarterly, as necessary for many large nonprofits. The ACAD’s report quotes the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges:

While boards are not the source of the governance challenges facing higher education, changes to boards and their structure can lead to improved leadership across higher education—in setting goals, in using data to evaluate performance, and in making strategic investments in ways that create value.

Secondly, the report highlights the demand on public research universities to be more efficient with their resources rather than continuing to increase tuition and other fees. In the past, colleges and universities raised tuition and fees to make up for the decrease in government funding and increase in other program expenses. Now, as student debt rises to record levels, the public backlash from these increases has reached a critical juncture. Eighty-three percent of all first-year students receive some form of financial aid, and 71 percent receive federal, state, local, or institutional grant aid. Even with all of these scholarships and aid programs, in 2012-2013, 54 percent of undergraduate students graduated with student loan debt and 19 percent had student loan debt over $25,000. Continuing to raise tuition will lead to a lack of diversity and a further decrease in public trust.

Connected to the growing use of public aid, the ACAD recognized the need to make applying for financial aid easier for students and their families. Every year, sixteen million students apply for financial aid through the U.S. Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program, including Pell Grants, Work Study, and other essential federal aid opportunities. Currently, the application consists of 108 questions and 88 pages of instructions. Clearly, simplifying this process will open college up to more low income and first-generation college students. (44,45)

ACAD makes a strong plea to state governments to reinstate funding for their college and university systems that was reduced before and during the recent recession. Although higher education remains the third-largest state priority, funding has declined an average of 34 percent nationwide over the last fifteen years. In that same period, state funding of Medicaid has increased from 9.5 percent to 19.1 percent of state budgets, overtaking and sucking away higher education’s allocation.


Since the higher levels of state public funding revenue are a distant memory, colleges and universities are developing new funding opportunities and efficiencies through collaborations with other nearby schools and public-private partnerships. These efforts begin with making it easier for students to transfer between state institutions. Other developments include programs that stretch resources of multiple universities to create exciting new programs and opportunities for students to learn together, connect with professors and mentors at multiple schools, and expand research efforts. For example, three colleges (the College of Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the Wake Forest School of Medicine, and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine) established a joint graduate program in the Virginia Tech–Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, offering students access to all three campuses.

Public research universities are also creating new partnerships with corporations and other private organizations. These collaborations lead to expanded research activities, new courses and department chairs, internships, and scholarships. Additionally, colleges are also stepping up their own development activities. Of the seventy-seven institutions responding to the Lincoln Project’s survey, ninety percent recently completed or are in the midst of a capital campaign for one or more institutional purposes.

Finally, colleges are increasing the revenue they produce from related student expenses, including food, dormitories, and healthcare. Dorms are becoming more luxurious; food is more expensive; fees are growing, and health services fees in particular are on the rise. Overall, student fees and tuition make up more than half of a public university’s core educational support. And like tuition, schools are quickly realizing these extra fees decrease diversity, increase student debt, and lead to public backlash.

Public research colleges and universities are better equipped than many nonprofits to handle the shift in states’ funding priorities due to their access to alumni and other stakeholders with resources to support fund development efforts. This capacity, however, does not excuse states from providing enthusiastic support and increasing funding to assure the sustainability and growth of public universities for at least the next 150 years.—Gayle Nelson

Fees and Inequality in the Kenyan School System



October 2, 2015; Quartz

Throughout the world, education is considered at least part of the lifeline to new opportunities, particularly for children living in poverty. In 2003, Kenya declared primary school education to be free and compulsory. In the decade that followed, foreign aid poured in, the number of schools increased, and today most children are enrolled. At the same time, school fees have multiplied, even for families living in the slums of Nairobi. Since most of the schools serving children in the capital’s poorest areas are unregistered, the quality of education they provide is difficult to measure. As a result, many wonder whether Western donations are well spent.

Kenya is located on the eastern coast of Africa. It is a country of 44 million people and boasts the biggest economy in east Africa. Twelve years ago, the government focused a significant portion of its resources on educating its children, and as a result nearly nine out of ten Kenyans under the age of 11 are now enrolled in school.

While the number of children in school is increasing, so have the school fees that families pay. Not surprisingly, wealthy children are sent to private schools with correspondingly high fees. At the same time, even less well off Kenyans question the quality of the public schools and opt instead for low-fee private primary schools. Between 2010 and 2014, the number of children in public schools dropped by over six percent. Even those families that do send their children to public schools are subject to some fees, including uniform and testing fees.

Kenyan families have reason to believe public schools are failing. According to a 2013 World Bank report, public school teachers were absent almost half of the time, leading to children receiving on average slightly more than two hours of instruction. A second study discovered that only one-third of teachers at these schools scored a minimum of 80 percent on exams of curriculum it was their job to teach.

Additionally, research completed by Concern Worldwide found that the schools located in the slums of Nairobi were suffering a cumulative shortage of 250 teachers. (Schools located outside of the slums are only short around seven teachers.) The shortage has led to more than eighty percent of classrooms in the slums exceeding the government-stipulated ratio of 1 teacher per 45 children; three of these schools have a ratio of over one hundred children per teacher.

The growth in private primary schools began in the 1980s as the population ballooned by almost four percent, one of the largest rises in such rates in the world. At that time, the Kenyan government encouraged education entrepreneurs to build schools to help keep up with demand. Outside funds increased as the schools and their leaders attracted the attention and support of foreign donors. From 2001 to 2009, the number of private schools doubled.

The Africa Population and Health Research Center, a leading research institute located in Nairobi, found more than 60 percent of Kenyan children, or 300,000, attend the low-fee schools. Families earning less than $1 US a day, barely able to put food on the table, still pay between $1500 and $3000 US to send their children to these low-fee schools. Those lucky enough to continue schooling at the secondary level attend schools with more modest fees, starting at $1200 in the poorer communities.

Sadly, while fees are rising, the quality may not be. Most of the low-fee private primary schools are not registered with the Department of Education, leaving the educational entrepreneurs running them with the opportunity to pocket the fees and foreign donations. Unregistered schools don’t get the same scrutiny as registered schools, and therefore the quality of education is unclear. Adding to the injustice, unregistered schools are not eligible for the public grants provided to registered schools, including those attended by the wealthy.

The winners are the children living outside of the city, attending registered schools and paying less in tuition. Enrollment at these schools has tripled from four percent in 2005 to twelve percent currently. Competition for children is fierce, and only stellar teachers are employed. According to research from the Brookings Institution, fees for these schools are two-thirds of what schools in the “free” public system charge.

Sadly, the injustice continues at the secondary level. The quota admissions process at these schools sets aside one of every four places for public feeder schools. Therefore, the children attending the low-fee schools in the nation’s capital compete with wealthy children attending high-performing private schools for the limited number of spots.

Fixing this dysfunction begins with the Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology. First, all schools need to be scrutinized and regulated. Second, governmenteducation grants must follow children, and if the schools they attend do not deserve the funds, the grants should be given directly to the families to subsidize fees and other educational expenses.

Free Community College for All


Last Friday, President Obama announced a new plan to provide two years of free community college for most Americans. Under the plan, federal and state governments will pay student tuition costs during the first two years at a community college. If implemented, the plan would affect nine million students and enhance the focus on community colleges as well as expand workers’ skills without increasing the education debt many students carry. Further details of the plan will be announced during the president’s State of the Union Address on January 20th.

According to the president, in the next few years, the numbers of jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to increase twice as fast as those that do not require college courses. His plan to provide free tuition to students for two years is estimated to cost six billion dollars. The federal government would be responsible for three quarters of tuition cost; states would be responsible for the remaining quarter and students would be responsible for books, housing, and any other fees. Additionally, the neediest of students could continue to apply for Pell Grants to help fund other expenses.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, tuition and fees at the average community college total $3,347. This figure represents slightly more than twenty percent of students’ community college expenses. Total expenses are about $16,325. Students eligible to participate in the president’s plan must maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average, be enrolled at least part-time, and be progressing toward a degree or transfer to a four-year school.

The plan would increase the number of students at community colleges. Currently, more than six million students are enrolled in community college, and that number is already expanding significantly. At the same time, due to the recession, many states have decreased the amount of funds directed toward their community college system. The American Association of Community College estimates that in 2012, students paid $16.7 billion in tuition and fees, representing nearly thirty percent, and the largest portion, of community college revenue. Last month, the Government Accountability Office released a report finding that student tuition and fees surpassed state funds as the largest source of public college revenue.

If the president’s plan were enacted, the number of students transferring to four-year institutions from community colleges would also increase. This increase could promote additional communication between community and four-year colleges, leading to more credits transferring, more timely graduations, and less debt. Last year, House Democrats reported about fifteen percent of students transferring from community colleges lost at least ninety percent of their course credits.

By creating a benefit available to all students, the plan has a stronger likelihood of broad-based support. But the expanded benefit also subsidizes students with higher incomes, who could likely afford paying community college tuition. Additionally, many states, like California, have already developed low-tuition community college systems; therefore, the president’s plan is not directed to the students with the greatest need. The president announced his plan in Tennessee, where there is a similar program. The Tennessee program is funded by lottery revenue. Recently, a similar plan was announced in Chicago. That program will cover books and fees as well as tuition, and is also offered to undocumented students.

Not surprisingly, the president’s plan is already facing opposition by Republicans, including Tennessee senator Lamar Alexander, the new head of the Senate’s education committee.

More plan details will follow as the president prepares for his State of the Union speech and releases his budget for coming year.

NPQ would love to hear from readers about this initiative. Express yourself here.

Original cite:

Losses for Democrats Nationally and in Obama’s Home State


Even in Obama’s home state, Democrats lost two key elections. For governor, Bruce Rauner, a social moderate and wealthy businessman, beat incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn. Additionally, in Illinois’ 10th congressional district, one-term Democrat Bruce Schneider lost in a rematch against Republican Robert Dold, who previously held the seat and served as aide to Senator Mark Kirk when he represented that district. These losses came after many visits from leading Democrats, including Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, and even President Obama himself.

Although Governor Quinn continued to hold out hope until late Wednesday night, Bruce Rauner declared victory on Tuesday at 10:30 local time. The victory ends twelve years of one-party rule in Illinois and caps a campaign that set a record in political fundraising. Throughout the campaign, Rauner showcased his business expertise and used over $26.1 million of his own wealth to power his campaign’s many negative advertisements. Together, the candidates spent over $100 million.

Rauner also leaned on his wife, Diane Rauner, to persuade married women to leave the Democrat party and vote for him. Ms. Rauner is the president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, though she does not draw a salary. The statewide organization with a budget of almost $50 million advocates for preschool for Illinois’ low income children.

Dold held the congressional seat representing the northern suburbs of Illinois from 2010-2012. The district was redrawn before the 2012 election. Dold does not currently live in the district, though he vows he will before he takes office.

Both Rauner and Dold identify themselves as moderates on social issues, including abortion, minimum wage, and gun control. But nonprofit organizations will not find much comfort or funding, as the Illinois economy remains weak. To make matters worse, Illinois’ unfunded pension liability is at an estimated $100 billion, and many economists place the figure at two to three times higher.

In the spring, Rauner funded a failed campaign to place a non-binding referendum on the fall ballot limiting state lawmakers to eight years in office. The initiative was focused on shifting the power in the Illinois legislature, since Democrats hold a large majority in both houses. State voters did have the opportunity to weigh in on four other referendums, including a successful nonbinding measure to raise the state’s minimum wage.

Rauner also has a history of supporting school choice and charter schools. This movement has led to low-income children becoming the new majority of those attending Illinois public schools. According to a new report from the Illinois State Board of Education, there were more children receiving free or reduced price lunch in the 2013-2014 school year than those not receiving this support. This is due to the growing number of suburban and downstate children living in poverty. Similar trends are seen in many Southern and Western states as well.

In a signal of the continued difficulties in the state, an immediate question for state leaders is whether they will let the Illinois income tax rate drop to 3.75 percent from five percent. The tax increase is scheduled to expire on Jan 1st, two weeks before Gov. Rauner takes office.

Original cite: