Notes & Coffee: December 4 - 10

Notes & Coffee is here to keep you informed of all the trending student affairs and higher ed news stories most critical to our field as they develop. In the age of information overload, we’re here to bring you vetted examinations of the stories that matter to our field. We invite you to brew a favorite morning beverage, kick back, relax, and catch yourself up for the week ahead with Notes & Coffee.  

GOP seeks to shift accountability for colleges – Education groups scrambled Friday to dissect a massive bill from Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to reauthorize the federal law that governs higher education, with proposals that have serious implications for how students pay for their degrees and how colleges are evaluated. The bill also delivers on long-held GOP priorities to roll back regulations on the for-profit and online education sectors and steers new federal money to apprenticeships and career training.

How the House and Senate bills affect higher ed – Colleges and universities across the country are expected to be hit hard by the Republican tax plan. The House and Senate bills differ in important ways, but both would mean big changes for higher ed.

Higher ed reauthorization on campus sexual assaults – The proposed update to the Higher Education Act introduced in the House Friday would allow colleges to refrain from investigating sexual assault allegations while a criminal inquiry is under way if police or prosecutors request such a delay. Advocates for survivors of sexual assault say that proposal would undermine federal requirements that colleges thoroughly investigate sexual misconduct and lead to slower remedies for victims. But some observers say in practice the language would likely mean little change from current policy, which allows colleges to briefly hold off on investigations when police gather criminal evidence.

“Holding space” for victims of harassment – If harassers weren’t already on notice before this year, they are now. But while there’s increased awareness of sexual misconduct within academe, the phenomenon remains understudied. It’s unclear, for example, just how many students -- especially graduate students -- and faculty members are affected. Also unclear is whether incidences of harassment have decreased of late, even if reports have increased (if indeed they have). A new crowdsourced survey of experiences with sexual harassment in academe doesn’t seek to answer those questions in a scientific way. But the survey and its 1,200-and-counting entries are attracting attention across higher education for illuminating an ongoing problem in ways that statistics alone could not.

New York’s free-college program comes with a big catch: students who fall off track risk losing their scholarships – With thousands of college students about to finish their first semester under New York State’s Excelsior Scholarship Program, advocates, critics and researchers will be looking closely at one crucial question: How did they do? The new scholarship — which provides free college tuition at state public schools to students whose families make less than $100,000 a year — is the first program in the nation in which a state offers free tuition at four-year colleges. But the program has also been criticized for its many restrictions, including strict credit requirements and an obligation to live and work in the state after graduation.

More Notes

How Chinese students navigate the U.S. university

Setting an example

Saying no to the majors

References and citations for all

“Fraud and misconduct in research”