Notes & Coffee: May 15-21

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.

The Trump administration’s uneasy relationship with historically Black schools  - “Seconds after Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, walked up to the lectern at a Daytona Beach convention center on Wednesday to deliver her commencement address to Bethune-Cookman University’s graduating class, she was drowned out by booing from the crowd. Students stood up and turned their backs to the stage. DeVos, dressed in doctoral robes, strained to disguise the humiliation on her face. The jeers were so loud that the school’s president, Edison Jackson, issued a warning. “If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you,” he said. “Choose which way you want to go.” He was summarily ignored. The audience knew that it was Jackson who had invited DeVos to speak in the first place. The two met earlier this year, during a series of events in Washington centered on the future of historically black colleges and universities, or H.B.C.U.s, including Bethune-Cookman. At the time, DeVos described H.B.C.U.s as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” acknowledging only later that they were originally products of segregation. The comment provoked a swift but enduring backlash; Representative Barbara Lee, of California, called it “tone-deaf,” and Senator Claire McCaskill, of Missouri, called it “totally nuts.” The crowd’s reaction in Daytona Beach, then, was expected, even by the guest of honor. Right before Jackson interrupted her, DeVos had been praising “the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree.”

White House would slash Student Aid and NSF - “The White House's 2018 budget for education -- expected to be released next week as part of the administration's full spending proposals -- appears to double down on the eye-popping cuts to programs included in the Trump administration's "skinny budget" released in March. According to details leaked to The Washington Post this week, the forthcoming budget calls for eliminating the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, letting the Perkins Loan program expire and ending the subsidy that pays the interest on some undergraduate loans while borrowers are in college. While the Department of Education's overall budget would take a huge 13.6 percent cut, the details leaked so far suggest that the administration plans to invest hundreds of millions in new school-choice initiatives across the country.”

Why do colleges recruit athletes who have committed sexual assault? - “When Indiana University at Bloomington last month adopted a policy barring athletes with a record of sexual violence, people questioned: Why aren’t all institutions doing so? Amid high-profile cases and an increased awareness of sexual assaults perpetrated by college athletes, advocates have lobbied the National Collegiate Athletic Association to institute some sort of blanket measure. The NCAA, and even individual conferences, has shied away from an association-wide decree, however. A rule from the Southeastern Conference inspired Indiana’s policy, though Indiana’s is more expansive, said Jeremy Gray, Indiana’s senior associate athletic director. Indiana disqualifies both freshman and transfer students who have been convicted of or pleaded no contest to a felony sexual violence charge, including dating or domestic violence and rape.”

A gun, a threat and a dismissal  - “Erlene Grise-Owens’s 18-year career with Spalding University came down a memo, saying her time there was over and her office would be packed up for her. Her offense, she says? Repeatedly questioning her administration’s response to a report of an armed student with a history of troublesome behavior. “You have two choices: either resign and accept the enclosed offer of settlement and release or be terminated,” reads Spalding’s terse note to Grise-Owens, sent in November. The tenured professor of social work had 21 days to make her decision and was to contact human resources with any questions.”

The highs and lows of Betsy DeVos’ first 100 days - “April 20th (bonus points please), the day she toured the school in Ohio with United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, was a clear win for both Weingarten and DeVos. Even though they mostly talked past each other on issues like the deep budget cuts Trump has proposed and the desirability of school choice everywhere, the visit did seem to signal the end of the long war between the education department and the teachers unions over the school and teacher accountability issues that have dominated the relationship for the last 17 years or so.”

The broken promise of higher education - “May is always an important month in the college calendar. Many high-school seniors across the nation make the decision where to attend college; millions of college students graduate and enter the workforce. It is the circle of life for colleges and universities in the United States—young students deciding what courses to take and what to major in, accumulating credits and knowledge, and, upon graduation, taking that experience into the workforce. Having been a professor and dean for many years, I have looked across the sea of cap and gowns and seen the excitement and anticipation of those about to cross the stage. Like them, and like their parents, I have wondered what their futures hold. For many who graduate with a four-year degree, the future is bright. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in January 2017 the unemployment rate for those over 25 with a bachelor’s degree was 2.5 percent compared with 5.3 percent for those with just a high-school diploma. But for millions of other students, the future is bleaker.”

More Notes

Congress seeks to establish new student data system with College Transparency Act

A veteran’s ground war with Stanford  

Solving the mystery of underachievement

Discounting keeps climbing

Serving students with housing challenges

Crossing the finish line: Stories on student success and what colleges are doing to get there