Notes & Coffee: February 19 - 25

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.   

Restructuring the Education Department – “A Department of Education reorganization plan whose broad themes were shared with employees last week would collapse multiple units with higher ed functions into one office whose leader would answer directly to the secretary. The plan also calls for eliminating the office of the under secretary, which has played a key role in shaping higher education policy during the previous two presidential administrations.” 

Bankruptcy standards get new scrutiny – “The Department of Education signaled Monday that it is interested in tweaking the standards used for determining whether student loan debt can be discharged in bankruptcy. That could point to an opening for potential bipartisan cooperation between the department and Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren, who have long sought to loosen bankruptcy law so student borrowers can discharge their debt. However, what steps the department might take in that regard, including issuing new guidance or working with Congress to change the law, are unclear.”

Admissions leaders take a stand – “High schoolers regularly joke about infractions that might end up on their "permanent record," the one that will be reported to colleges to which they apply. But now some school districts, faced with growing activism by high school students pushing for tougher gun laws, have promised to suspend students who stage walkouts or protests during school hours.”  

Tuition-free, with strings – “For years, many states -- believing that a postsecondary credential is a necessity to succeed in the economy -- have moved toward making the first two years of college tuition free. But a growing number are attaching requirements and conditions to tuition-free plans that worry advocates for low-income students. Minimum grade point average requirements are common. And several free-college programs now mandate that students major in certain subjects, take drug tests or enroll full-time to be eligible.”

Collaborating on completion – “A group of 100 public universities will work with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities to produce hundreds of thousands of additional degrees while also reducing achievement gaps for underrepresented student groups. The college completion project… is the latest sign of greater urgency among public universities about graduation rates and student success, aided in part by performance-based funding formulas that are on the books in 35 states.”

More Notes

Small black college will close

Mediating sexual assault

Focus on student success increases well-being

New presidents or provosts

A revolt over journal archives

Overconfident students, dubious employers