May 8, 4:07 p.m. Wells College, which is located in New York, in a statement said the college will shut down if the state in the fall continues to require that the campus remain closed.
“If New York State continues its mandate that our campus remain closed through all or part of the fall semester, Wells simply will not receive enough revenue to continue operations. A substantial amount of the college’s operating budget comes from room and board revenue, so without enough students participating in our residential life, the college cannot afford to reopen,” wrote Jonathan Gibralter, president of the college.
Wells has had financial challenges in recent years. And in 2019 presented a plan to its regional accreditor for becomeing financially sustainable. But the pandemic and unprecedented financial fallout complicated those efforts, Gibralter said, noting that the college requested and received an extension on that plan from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has severely complicated every aspect of our planning and now poses a threat to the college’s future path forward,” said Gibralter. “It is of no consolation that we, along with every other college and university in our country, are facing many of the same financial crises.”
— Paul Fain
May 8, 1:20 p.m. Lincoln University in Missouri is declaring financial exigency as it suffers from economic impacts tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jefferson City News Tribune reported today.
The university’s administration told its faculty union about the declaration last week, according to the newspaper. Exigency declarations, which can be made when colleges and universities are under severe financial duress, are closely watched in part because they allow for extreme measures like laying off tenured faculty members.
It’s unclear what cost-saving measures Lincoln might pursue. Administrators and the union were scheduled to meet today.
“We certainly recognize the gravity of our current situation, but we also draw upon the resiliency that has kept the university going for more than 150 years,” a Lincoln spokeswoman told the News Tribune. “We have faced and persevered through tough times before, and we are confident we will do so again.”
Officials at Lincoln, a public historically black university, recently said summer enrollment is down more than 40 percent and fall enrollment is down 25 percent compared to this time last year.
Lincoln isn’t the first institution to declare exigency this spring. Central Washington University’s Board of Trustees voted to declare exigency in March.
— Rick Seltzer
May 8, 12:55 p.m. An April survey of high school juniors and seniors, as well as their parents, found that 79 percent are still planning to attend college, an increase of four percentage points compared to a January version of the survey.
Sallie Mae, the publicly traded student loan company, conducted the survey with Ipsos, a market research firm. Its results are forthcoming, but Sallie Mae released some initial findings.
Nearly 90 percent of respondents said they still believe college is an investment in the student’s future. And 70 percent reported being willing to stretch financially to pay for college, the same proportion as in January. But 30 percent said they were concerned about dipping into college savings during the pandemic, with 30 percent also saying they are concerned about a parent losing a job.
The survey found that a growing number of students and families have a plan to pay for higher education — 67 percent said so in April, compared to 61 percent in January. And 56 percent of families have savings set aside for postsecondary education, an increase of five percentage points compared to the January results.
More families said they believe the student will take some online courses in college — 57 percent compared to 49 percent in January. But roughly 80 percent said online courses should have a smaller tuition price than in-person courses.
— Paul Fain
May 8, 9:15 a.m. The Dallas Community College District has decided to extend remote learning for most courses through fall to protect the health of its faculty and staff members and the district’s 160,000 students.
“To provide a safe instructional environment in the midst of COVID-19, we would have to individually screen approximately 40,000 students and employees who normally enter our campuses each day,” Joe May, the district’s chancellor, said in a written statement. “It is simply not feasible to accommodate the volume of daily temperature taking and health monitoring required for the safety of our community.”
While other higher education institutions in the region have announced their intent to resume in-person courses in the fall, the district noted in its statement, the two-year campuses in Dallas do not have the physical space to meet social distancing requirements for its large student population.
The district said it was prioritizing the return to on-campus instruction for career and technical education courses, such as welding, nursing and automotive tech. Alternatives could include a mix of virtual and in-person classes for these programs.
“Our students, employees and communities have put their trust in us to look after their safety and well-being, and we will take a conservative approach to ensure that their trust is honored,” May said. “Given the uncertainties around the virus and how easily it can continue to spread, especially if we a see a resurgence in the fall as some are predicting, the board agreed that we should extend this period of online learning.”
— Paul Fain
May 8, 8:30 a.m. Simmons University announced this morning that it would redesign hundreds of its courses this fall so they could be delivered online as well as in person for new and returning students, so they can “continue their studies in the event the campus is not fully open in the fall” because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the arrangement, Simmons, with assistance from 2U, the online program management company with which it has worked since 2013, will convert about 350 of its normal fall selection of 550 courses into “intentionally redesigned” online courses with a mix of synchronous and asynchronous delivery, in a way that will be “absolutely seamless for our students,” Helen G. Drinan, its president, said in an interview. Drinan said the courses would be delivered through the 2U platform with full faculty support. 2U is making the up-front investment to revamp the courses and will be paid back as courses are delivered over time.
Simmons has been especially active among traditional nonprofit institutions in putting academic programs online, but even so, this is an unusual step.
“By investing in a world-class online undergraduate option, Simmons can expand access to a broader array of students and emerge from these uncertain times as a stronger and more competitive institution,” Regina M. Pisa, the chair of Simmons’ board, said in a news release.
Drinan said Simmons wants to reopen its campus “as soon as possible, while prioritizing the health and safety of our students, faculty, and larger Simmons community.” But given the uncertainty, the university needs to be able to deliver a high-quality undergraduate education in the meantime.
— Doug Lederman
May 7, 4:58 p.m. The American College Health Association has issued guidelines for reopening campuses. The guidelines say colleges “can anticipate restrictions and limitations in activities will be in place for the next 12-18 months, if not longer” and that “resumption of activities will be gradual and phased based on local public health conditions as well as institutional capacity.”
“Return to an active on-campus environment will depend upon widespread testing, contact tracing and isolation/quarantine of ill and exposed individuals both on campus and in the community,” the document said. “Planners should prepare for the likelihood of a local rebound of infections that may result in a return to more restrictive mitigation measures and physical distancing for periods of time.”
Other key concepts underlying the ACHA guidelines include the ethical imperative to protect the most vulnerable populations: the guidelines note some individuals may need to observe social distancing for a longer period of time. The guidelines also say “meticulous adherence to public health practices, including hand hygiene, physical distancing, proper cough/sneeze etiquette, frequent disinfection of common and high traffic areas, symptom assessment, temperature checks and face covering” is “the new normal” for campuses.
“Until a vaccine for COVID-19 is available and widely used or until an effective prophylactic treatment is discovered, physical distancing, viral testing, isolation, quarantine and contact tracing are our best strategies to control the spread of this virus,” according to the guidelines. “Decisions to ease COVID-19 distancing restrictions must be based on the best available scientific data and the rapid availability of testing. Campus experts, in collaboration with public health officials, are best positioned to inform and advise campus leadership on when to resume operations.”
— Elizabeth Redden
May 7, 3:55 p.m. The Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia has granted the system authority for a plan to possibly cut jobs or furlough employees. The system said it is working with its 26 colleges and universities to develop a new spending plan for the 2021 fiscal year that would feature a 14 percent reduction from the current fiscal year. Georgia’s tax revenues dropped by roughly $1 billion in April.
Most faculty and staff members would be required to take either four or eight furlough days under the plan, depending on their salary. Those with the largest base salaries will be required to take 16 furlough days, the equivalent of a 6.2 percent pay cut. The system chancellor and all presidents across the system will take a 10 percent pay cut, which includes 26 furlough days.
The system said its institutions and the system office also may need to eliminate jobs to address the immediate impact of revenue and funding losses.
“Employees of the University System of Georgia and our 26 colleges and universities continue to show resilience and dedication despite facing uncertainty and unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Steve Wrigley, the system’s chancellor, said in a written statement. “Their work has been instrumental in supporting not only USG’s 333,000 students, but thousands of Georgians across the state. I deeply appreciate the contributions of our employees impacted by these measures, and ask all of us to show our respect, compassion and gratitude for their service to our students.”
— Paul Fain
May 7, 3:07 p.m. Purdue University is forging ahead with plans to reopen for face-to-face instruction come fall, despite faculty concerns about that timeline. The institution’s Board of Trustees on Thursday approved a set of measures recommended by the Safe Campus Task Force on reopening, including starting the fall semester in August and ending classroom instruction by Thanksgiving. Fall breaks are eliminated, and students will finish the balance of the term remotely after Thanksgiving.
To cut the chances of spreading COVID-19 in work spaces, Purdue is aiming to reduce the number of administrative employees working on campus by at least one-third. The off-campus employees will telework. Purdue says it also will adopt a “systematic testing regime, both for those with COVID-19 symptoms and those without, together with a mechanism for actively and accurately tracing contacts of those who test positive for the virus.”
Seasonal influenza vaccines are now a requirement for all students, faculty and staff members on campus. The university will maintain at least a 90-day supply of critical equipment and supplies related to reducing the risk of transmission. A yet-to-be-determined number of rooms will be set aside for student quarantine.
— Colleen Flaherty
May 7, 1:33 p.m. Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are planning to propose adding more money for education aid for states in the next coronavirus relief package, a House Democratic aide told Inside Higher Ed.
Democrats have said they want to add more money for state and local governments, which face large budget shortfalls from the economic fallout from the pandemic. And Representative Bobby Scott, the Virginia Democrat who leads the education committee, said during a morning call with reporters that helping states is essential for preventing cuts to education, including higher education.
“If we don’t help states with their revenue estimates, they have to balance their budgets and — to a large extent — we believe it’s going to come at the expense of education, so we have to come up with state and local funding,” he said, but he didn’t mention giving higher education additional money beyond the $14 billion the CARES Act provided for higher education, which included emergency grants for students.
Democrats, who control the House, are working on their proposal for a new stimulus package, and it’s unclear if their proposal will include an amount anywhere close to the additional $46.6 billion in funding colleges and universities have said they need. Associations representing the industry also are pushing for the state aid to come with requirements to not cut state funding for higher education.
However, the aide said in a statement, “In addition to flexible state aid, House Democrats strongly believe that services like K-12 and higher education need dedicated funding. Just as in the CARES Act, we will provide dedicated education funding in addition to state and local fiscal relief.”
— Kery Murakami
May 7, 1:05 p.m. The Internal Revenue Service has said that emergency aid students receive from the CARES Act relief package will not be taxable.
A FAQ page on its website clarifies some questions. It states that emergency financial aid grants cannot be included in gross income.
Students also cannot claim grant money they used to pay for tuition and fees as deductions or credits for expenses paid for the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit.
— Madeline St. Amour
May 7, 11:58 a.m. A national group that sets standards for interstate distance education offerings will continue to use the federal government’s controversial financial responsibility score to decide whether colleges are eligible to participate in the group’s reciprocity agreement.
In a news release Thursday, the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) said its board had voted this week to “continue its use of federal financial composite scores as a measure to evaluate institutional eligibility for SARA membership.”
Several higher education groups had urged the Education Department and other regulators that make decisions based on the federal measurement to suspend its use citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on institutions’ budgets and cash reserves.
But the statement from the NC-SARA board said the impact of the coronavirus will not show up in institutions’ financial scores for two years, and said the group’s leaders would continue to urge the Education Department to review the methods it uses to assess colleges’ financial state.
Abandoning the use of the score now would be a mistake, said NC-SARA President and CEO Lori Williams. “Now more than ever, NC-SARA has a responsibility to maintain strong standards to assure the quality of interstate distance learning, and keeping watch over the financial health of institutions is an important accountability pillar that will remain a key part of our evaluative process.”
— Doug Lederman
May 7, 10:15 a.m. A group of 159 faculty, staff and graduate students at the University of Colorado, Boulder, have called on the university system’s governing board to rescind $200,000 in bonuses Mark Kennedy, the University of Colorado system’s president, is slated to receive for tasks completed during his first year on the job, the Boulder Daily Camera reported.
The Boulder campus and others across the system are bracing for big budget and enrollment declines, which could lead to layoffs and pay cuts, the newspaper said.
“Why, then, at this time of layoffs, furloughs and extreme budget cuts to every department and program on campus, would the Regents follow through with a bonus to the president of the university for simply doing his job?” the group from the Boulder campus wrote. “Why would a leader of the University of Colorado accept such a bonus when so many others may soon be asked to accept salary cuts that could threaten their basic livelihoods?”
Glen Gallegos, the system’s board chair, said in a statement to the Daily Camera that Kennedy’s contract allows him to reach his full compensation.
“The president agreed with the approach. The performance milestones were negotiated as a component of his base salary. He achieved those milestones. The media characterizes this as a bonus. We disagree with that characterization,” Gallegos said.
— Paul Fain
May 7, 9:55 a.m. Public institutions in Missouri are sounding different notes about how fall classes are taking shape.
The University of Missouri system counts freshman and transfer enrollment tracking higher than they were last year at this point in time for three of its four universities, the system’s president, Mun Choi, said at a Wednesday town hall meeting, KMIZ reported. The comments came a day after a spokesman for the system cautioned that the pandemic “has completely changed how we have been able to review our numbers.”
At Lincoln University, a public historically black institution, officials are reporting summer enrollment tracking down 46 percent and fall semester enrollment down 25 percent, compared to this time last year.
Enrollment trends have been in flux as uncertainty and economic disruptions related to the coronavirus pandemic are expected to influence student behavior. Surveys of high school seniors suggest four-year colleges could lose a substantial number of students come fall, and a large number colleges continue to advertise open seats.
— Rick Seltzer
May 7, 9:33 a.m. Leaders of the California community college system and the state’s student aid commission wrote to Gavin Newsom, California’s Democratic governor, to request the use of state and federal funds to provide emergency financial aid to more than 82,000 low-income California college students, including nearly 12,000 undocumented students supported by the California Dream Act.
The request from Marlene Garcia, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission, and Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California community college system, called for a one-time increase to a Cal Grant award program to provide emergency aid for the lowest-income college students in the state who have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
Oakley wrote in a statement,
It is unimaginable to me that we would not provide relief to tens of thousands of our lowest income, hardest-working students. Eighty percent of Cal Grant B recipients are community college students, the very people who are among the essential workers on the front lines fighting COVID-19. Fortunately, California can come to their aid by providing some funds to help fill the gaps so they can meet their basic needs, continue their education, and be productive members of the California workforce. We urge the Governor and State Legislature to support this urgent proposal.
— Paul Fain
May 7, 8:52 a.m. Arizona State University will continue to produce publicly available COVID-19 modeling despite being told by the Arizona Department of Health Services to “pause” that work, The Arizona Republic reported.
On Monday, the state’s bureau chief of public health statistics, S. Robert Bailey, wrote to a modeling team of professors from ASU and the University of Arizona and asked them to pause all work on pandemic projections and modeling. The state also ended the researchers’ access to special data sets. Arizona will instead be relying on a model from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is not available to the public, the newspaper reported.
Bailey’s request came shortly after Doug Ducey, Arizona’s Republican governor, announced plans to begin lifting social distancing restrictions in coming days. Reopening at the end of May was the only scenario that would not result in a large increase of COVID-19 cases, the model from the two universities had found.
In a statement to the Republic, ASU confirmed it had received the request from the state to pause the modeling, and that the team would continue its work.
“Moving forward, ASU will continue to perform its COVID-19 research, and will make these updates publicly available during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” ASU said.
U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, on Twitter said she was grateful that ASU and the University of Arizona will continue to produce the models. “I plan to rely on their findings and conclusions in my work to keep Arizonans healthy, safe and economically secure.”
— Paul Fain
May 6, 5:02 p.m. Tulsa Community College announced plans to resume in-person classes in the fall across all of its four campuses and other locations. But the two-year college also said it was altering 80 percent of its courses to provide online, online live, blended and face-to-face class options to students.
“As TCC makes plans for the fall semester, we are faced with a new reality,” Leigh Goodson, president and CEO of the college, said in a statement. “In developing our schedule, we acknowledge that the new ‘norm’ looks different than past years.”
The college described the four types of delivery methods it will offer:
- Online: Content is delivered through the internet with no scheduled class times.
- Online live: Online web-conference-style courses meet at designated times, and students are required to be present online, live, at that time.
- Blended: Part online, part scheduled face-to-face following physical space guidelines on campus.
- Face-to-face: Held at specific times following physical space guidelines on campus.
Courses with lab components or programs requiring specific equipment for teaching and learning will be prioritized for face-to-face scheduling, the college said. It also is evaluating all rooms on campuses to determine how many students will be allowed to enter based on square footage and sanitizing protocols. And spaces used for face-to-face classes will not be available for back-to-back scheduling, to allow for sanitizing.
“While we cannot predict what will happen, we are ready and have multiple plans to help our students succeed,” said Goodson. “Our mission of building success through education has not wavered and, in fact, our resolve has been strengthened by these challenges.”
— Paul Fain
May 6, 10:20 a.m. New federal data show a substantial drop in renewals of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by returning college students, according to an analysis from the National College Attainment Network.
Almost 250,000 fewer returning students from the lowest-income backgrounds have renewed their FAFSA for the 2020-21 cycle, NCAN said, and FAFSA renewals were down nearly 5 percent over all (4.7 percent) compared to last year — a decline of more than 350,000 students.
The drop in renewals during this aid cycle has more than doubled since the end of February, when total completions were 2.3 percent lower than on the same date last year, according to the group, which has created a dashboard to view the FAFSA renewal data.
The decrease is even steeper among students from low-income backgrounds, the analysis found. Through April 15, the total number of renewals from students with annual family incomes of less than $25,000 was down by more than 8 percent, compared to a 4 percent decline for those with family incomes of $25,000 to $50,000, and just 1 percent for those with incomes of more than $50,000.
The pandemic and conversion by colleges and universities to online instruction appears to have accelerated declines in FAFSA renewals. NCAN said the downward trend “is deeply troubling” and suggests students are uncertain about continuing their postsecondary educations.
“FAFSA completion is a strong indicator of postsecondary enrollment, so we should carefully monitor FAFSA renewal as a predictor of emerging fall enrollment trends,” Kim Cook, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.
— Paul Fain
May 5, 3:55 p.m. Mike DeWine, Ohio’s Republican governor, announced that the state will cut its spending by $775 million over the next two months, with a $110 million reduction for the state’s public colleges and universities.
The state’s revenues have taken a “dramatic turn” with a $1 billion swing downward during the last two months, DeWine said on Twitter. And projected revenues will continue to fall below the planned budget in coming months.
Ohio will not draw from its rainy-day fund to cover the deficit, DeWine said. “Simply stated, we are going to need the rainy day fund for next year, and possibly the next,” he said.
Decisions like this are extremely difficult, but are part of my responsibility, as your governor, to make. While we do not know what the coming months will hold, we do know that COVID-19 is here with us and will be here for quite some time. Nevertheless, it does not exempt us from balancing our budget, which we are legally obligated to do. Making difficult budget cut decisions now will help us down the road and will help us while we continue our discussions for the next fiscal year.
— Paul Fain
May 5, 3:43 p.m. More than 70 groups, including the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the progressive Center for American Progress, are calling on Congress to approve $500 billion in aid to state governments as part of the next stimulus package. Increasing aid to states is considered important to higher education groups to lessen state cuts to colleges and universities.
But with 35 percent of states’ spending now going to K-12 and 15 percent to higher education, the groups in a letter to congressional leaders called for requiring states to spend that same proportion of the proposed federal stimulus funds on education. The requirement is aimed at preventing a repeat of the state cuts to education that occurred during the last recession.
The letter from the groups, which also included the Education Trust and Education Reform Now, comes as Congress works on crafting another pandemic relief package. House and Senate Democrats have said they want any package to include aid to states, which are facing budget shortfalls from added costs and declining revenue. Democrats, though, haven’t said whether any of the aid should go to education.
“We also know that our economy cannot recover if we can’t reopen our schools, and we cannot properly reopen schools if funding is slashed and students don’t have what they need to be safe, learn and succeed. Schools across the country are headed for a funding cliff that we know will exist as local and state revenues dry up,” Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, which represents three million educators from preschool to graduate programs, said in a news release.
Separately from the letter, the State Higher Education Executive Officers association also released a new study, which found that even after seven years of moderate increases in higher education spending, only seven states have fully recovered from funding declines during the last recession. Nationally, education appropriations remained 8.7 percent below what they were in 2008, before the last recession, the report found.
— Kery Murakami
May 5, 2:43 p.m. A bill introduced by Representative Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, would forgive the student debt of a wide range of medical workers who are treating COVID-19 patients, from doctors and nurses to lab technicians and medical students.
Maloney, in a call with reporters, said she supports broader proposals to cancel the student debt of more borrowers. “But we’re not looking at the bigger issue right now,” she said. Instead, at a time when House Democrats are working on their proposal for the next coronavirus relief package, Maloney said she was focusing on canceling the debt for at least the medical workers. “I think there’s a shot,” she said. “We may be able to pass this piece of it now.”
Medical workers who are putting their lives in danger deserve the relief, she said. “It’s the least we could do.”
Maloney, though, said she hasn’t yet gotten a commitment from House leaders to include the idea in the Democratic proposal. She said the bill would have no limit on the amount of debt canceled.
Eileen Sullivan-Marx, dean of the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and president of the American Academy of Nursing, said past students have told her student loan forgiveness would be a relief because they would not pass on their debt to their families should they die after contracting the virus.
— Kery Murakami
May 5, 2:05 p.m. The presidents of 10 public four-year colleges in New Jersey have launched an initiative asking New Jersey students to attend colleges in their home state.
The New Jersey Scholar Corps Program guarantees that students who attended colleges out of state can transfer credits to in-state institutions if they meet grade requirements. It also guarantees a speedy review of applications and campus housing, depending on the availability at the time the student submits an application.
The program also includes volunteer opportunities to help students build their professional networks.
About 120,000 New Jersey residents attend colleges in other states.
“New Jersey needs your energy, your intelligence and your commitment,” the presidents wrote in a joint statement. “This is an unprecedented period in our history, a time that calls for everyday heroes to show up and give back. Think of the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. Think of those natural disasters and crises when young people turned out to fight for what’s right, to push us toward a hopeful future.”
— Madeline St. Amour
May 5, 1:15 p.m. The University of Georgia system has reaffirmed it will not be moving to pass/fail grading, despite petitions from students and resolutions from student governments urging the move, according to USA Today. The stance makes the system an outlier among colleges, of which many have at the very least expanded their pass/fail options.
— Lilah Burke
May 5, 1:00 p.m. University of Akron president Gary Miller announced that the university will be cutting six of its 11 academic colleges, Cleveland.com reported. He did not specify which will remain but said an announcement will be made in the coming days.
The University of Akron has colleges devoted to arts and sciences, applied science and technology, business administration, engineering, health professions, polymer science and engineering, graduate studies, law, and education, along with an honors college and the Wayne College campus.
Miller has also signaled cuts to athletics, along with pay cuts and a hiring freeze. University leadership has said revenue has decreased by about $65 million.
— Lilah Burke
May 5, 10:10 a.m. Summer internships are being hit harder than full-time job offers for new graduates amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
More than one in five employers, 22 percent, said they were revoking offers to interns for the summer, according to NACE’s April Coronavirus Quick Poll. In comparison, only 4.4 percent of employers that participated in the survey said they’d pulled offers from new college graduates who were recruited prior to the pandemic for post-graduation full-time positions.
“With the uncertainty that continues to surround the economy and the job market during this pandemic, employers are cutting budgets, which may result in internship programs being scaled back or temporarily suspended,” Shawn VanDerziel, NACE’s executive director, said in a news release. “Fortunately, the more common response we are seeing is that many employers are moving their summer internship program to the virtual space or reducing the length of internships by delaying their start date.”
Almost half of surveyed employers, 46 percent, said they were shifting internships to virtual programs. That’s up from 36 percent at the beginning of April.
Employers also indicated they’re shortening internship lengths at a greater clip — 41 percent said so in the new survey, versus 35 percent at the start of April.
Survey participants numbered 331 of NACE’s employer members, plus 108 nonmember companies. Respondents were able to return to the survey every week throughout April and change answers to reflect changes in their own office’s policies, a design NACE said was intended to provide an accurate real-time snapshot.
A third poll launched yesterday will run through the end of May and cover fall 2020.
— Rick Seltzer
May 5, 10:08 a.m. Michigan has found a way to more easily provide food assistance benefits to college students.
It’s historically difficult for college students to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits. Part-time students are required to work at least 20 hours per week in addition to attending college.
Michigan on Tuesday announced a new rule that removes that requirement for students enrolled in career and technical education programs, according to the Detroit Free Press. Students who meet SNAP income requirements and are enrolled at least half-time in an occupational program that fall under Perkins V can now receive benefits, effective immediately.
Funding for the program will go to 28 community colleges, three public universities and one tribal college, according to the Free Press.
Several states asked the federal government to waive student eligibility requirements for SNAP in light of the coronavirus pandemic, but the request was denied.
— Madeline St. Amour
May 4, 4:10 p.m. Top Democratic lawmakers said they will propose forgiving the loans of Corinthian and ITT Tech student loan borrowers, who have claimed they were misled by their institutions, as part of the next coronavirus relief package.
Democratic Senators Sherrod Brown, Dick Durbin and Elizabeth Warren said they will introduce a bill requiring the loans be discharged within 30 days of Congress enacting the next package. Democratic Representatives Mark Takano and Pramila Jayapal said they will propose the same measure in the House. Also included in the bill are borrowers who were covered by various actions by state attorney generals to discharge loans of defrauded borrowers.
Many of the borrowers are among the thousands who have been waiting years for the Education Department to process borrower-defense claims, a process in which the department cancels the loans of those who have been defrauded by their institutions.
Many, but not all, of those who would get relief under the bill were covered by U.S. Secretary Betsy DeVos’s agreement in April to make a decision on all pending cases within 18 months. DeVos made the agreement to settle a federal lawsuit brought by Harvard University’s Project on Predatory Student Lending.
Republican lawmakers have opposed previous attempts to include student loan forgiveness in previous stimulus packages.
“Americans all across the country are facing financial hardships as they work to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Brown, the top Democrat on the Senate banking committee, said in a statement. “But for students defrauded by shady for-profit colleges, these challenges are compacted by the Department of Education’s refusal to provide the loan relief to which they’re entitled. We have to act to ensure these defrauded student loan borrowers, many of whom are veterans and have been saddled with mountains of debt and worthless degrees or credits, can quickly get the relief they need.”
May 4, 2020, 3:30 p.m. A small private college in Wisconsin is closing at the end of the summer because of several factors, including the coronavirus pandemic.
Holy Family College, located in Manitowoc, about 80 miles north of Milwaukee, will end operations at the end of its summer term. It will close by Aug. 29, it announced today.
The college enrolled 346 undergraduates and 98 graduate students as of fall 2018, according to federal data. That’s little changed from 357 undergraduates and 72 graduate students the college reported enrolling as of fall 2016.
The decision to close the college, which is sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, comes after an in-depth analysis of its financial position, leaders said. They pointed to enrollment and fundraising issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everyone at the College has been working hard to achieve enrollment growth and increased fundraising, especially College President Dr. Robert Callahan,” said Sister Natalie Binversie, community director of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Manitowoc, in a statement. “Under his leadership, good progress was made in addressing several years of earlier negative fiscal performance, and overall, he did a great job. However, the tough challenges were made even tougher with the COVID-19 outbreak, and we collectively made this difficult decision.”
The current 2020 class will be the college’s last. Leaders plan to work with other students to help them transfer elsewhere.
Holy Family College will hold a limited number of summer-term classes that were already scheduled.
Layoffs are set to begin June 13, with another round June 30 before all positions are eliminated Aug. 29. Full-time faculty positions are slated to terminate Aug. 13, with the exception of those teaching summer-term classes.
— Rick Seltzer
Community Colleges Get Smaller Shares of Emergency Grants
May 4, 1:54 p.m. Community colleges are getting disproportionately less than other types of institutions in CARES Act emergency grants to help students deal with financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic, finds a new report by the Century Foundation.
On average, colleges and universities nationally are getting $270 per student in federal funding for the grants. But community colleges, which enroll the most undergraduates of any sector and often enroll students with the greatest financial and educational needs, are receiving an average of $179 per student, the study found.
In comparison, nonprofit, four-year institutions are receiving an average of $286 per student; public four-year institutions are getting $335 per student and for-profits are getting $420 per student.
Even among community colleges, some are receiving smaller shares. For example, Indiana’s community college system is receiving an average of $112 per student, even though 38 percent of its students live in poverty.
Congress was right to prioritize the funding based on the number of low-income Pell Grant recipients at institutions, the report found. But not all high-need students obtain the Pell Grant, often due to noncompletion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. While full-time students have greater tuition than part-time students, the study said, all types of students need housing, food, technology and health care.
— Kery Murakami
May 4, 1:54 p.m. Chris Eisgruber, Princeton University’s president, said in a letter Monday that the university will wait until early July before deciding whether undergraduate teaching will be online or residential in the fall.
The university is “optimistic” about being able to safely reopen its laboratories, libraries and other facilities, Eisgruber said in his message to the Princeton community. He also said the university anticipates resuming on-campus graduate advising and instruction this summer and fall. But undergraduate education presents more “vexing questions,” according to Eisgruber.
On the one hand, everyone at this university values in-person academic engagement and the co-curricular and extracurricular experiences that accompany it. We want to restore residential education as soon as we safely can. On the other hand, the interpersonal engagement that animates undergraduate life makes social distancing difficult. That is partly because undergraduates live in close proximity to one another, but even more fundamentally because they mix constantly and by design in their academic, extracurricular and social lives.
The letter cited the many uncertainties about the pandemic, including whether quick and accurate testing will be available for the fall, or how many people on campus and the surrounding community have been exposed to the virus and might be immune. Eisgruber wrote,
We want our decision to be as fully informed as possible. We will undoubtedly learn more about the course of the pandemic, and about the techniques available to combat it, over the next two months. For that reason, Princeton will wait until early July before deciding whether our undergraduate teaching program will be online or residential in the fall term. I appreciate that this uncertainty can itself add to the distress of this pandemic, but I am convinced that it is the most responsible way for Princeton to proceed.
— Paul Fain
May 4, 11:25 a.m. President Trump, in a Fox News virtual town hall Sunday night, said he wants K-12 schools and universities to reopen in September.
“I want them to go back. We have to have our country back. We can’t do this forever,” Trump said in response to questions from a Virginia algebra teacher and a Minneapolis middle school student.
Trump also cited recent comments by Purdue University president Mitch Daniels, who described plans for reopening the campus in the fall. Though Daniels, in a letter to the university, said the plans were preliminary, Trump said, “He wants to go back. Purdue. Big school. Fantastic. They’re going back. We have to go back. We have to go back.”
However, Trump expressed concern for older instructors. “Students are going to be fine,” he said, though they might have to wear masks and practice social distancing. But, he said, “If you have a teacher who’s 65 or 70 years old and they have diabetes, they’re going to have to sit it out for a while.”
— Kery Murakami
Looking to the Past to Predict Community College Enrollments
May 4, 11:15 a.m. Higher education researchers looked to the past to try to predict what the future could look like for two-year institutions.
Davis Jenkins and John Fink, both from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College, wrote a blog post about how the colleges fared in the Great Recession of 2008.
Using federal data, they found that people 25 and over flocked to community colleges during the last recession and returned to the workforce when the economy improved. Unemployment rates have already surpassed those of the last downturn, but community colleges have yet to receive funding to train adults like they did in 2009 with the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program.
Adult enrollment at community colleges has also reached its lowest level in two decades, according to Fink and Jenkins. While the labor market was strong, adults without college training often worked in low-wage jobs.
“It has been increasingly difficult for such individuals to find the time and resources needed to attend college — and that was before COVID,” they wrote. “These challenges are likely to persist if not intensify in the wake of COVID, raising questions as to whether adult students will come rushing back to community colleges.”
Traditional college students were more likely to enroll at community colleges at the start of the last recession, but that number has since declined, the researchers found. This group’s enrollment at four-year public institutions has consistently increased for decades.
However, coronavirus is affecting much more than the economy — it’s affecting how education is delivered. The researchers note that some speculate students will take courses closer to home this fall, likely at community colleges.
The researchers also predict that interest in dual enrollment programs for high schoolers will increase due to COVID-19.
— Madeline St. Amour
May 3, 1:00 p.m. Stanford University is discussing the possibility of holding classes in outdoor tents come the fall, Mercury News reported. The option is not a formal proposal or plan, a spokesperson said, but one of many possibilities being discussed.
— Lilah Burke
May 3, 12:50 p.m. Western Michigan University will lay off 240 employees and cut pay for others to recoup losses from the pandemic, MLive.com has reported. The 240 employees laid off are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents workers in dining, facilities and other campus services. All other benefits-eligible, nonbargaining staff will have pay reduced by 2.25 percent. The university has lost more than $45 million in the coronavirus pandemic so far, officials say.
— Lilah Burke
May 3, 12:45 p.m. Ohio University’s president and provost will both be taking 15 percent pay cuts and no bonus this year, an equivalent to a 39-day furlough, the Athens Messenger has reported. President M. Duane Nellis told the community that the cuts, combined with other cost-saving measures, would not be enough to close a budget gap. Nellis makes $489,000 annually, while the provost, Elizabeth Sayrs, is paid $378,750.
There are two employees who make more than Nellis, coaches for the men’s basketball and football teams, who both make over $520,000. There have been minimal cuts to the university’s athletic budget, though the academic colleges were asked to cut $30 million through faculty layoffs.
— Lilah Burke
May 3, 12:30 p.m. University of California president Janet Napolitano has said that the system’s campuses will offer classes in the fall, but whether those offerings will be online, in person or somewhere in between is yet to be seen.
“If they’re going to reopen at all, they’re going to need to have a testing plan, a contact tracing plan, a quarantine plan, things of that sort,” Napolitano told CNBC.
— Lilah Burke