The most educated generation in American history has something to say about the value of the U.S. education system.

Just 13% of millennials said they agree or strongly agree with that statement that “higher education today is fine how it is” in a survey released by Washington, D.C.-based think tank New America this week. What’s more, a whopping 79% said they disagree or strongly disagree with that sentiment.

 

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Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stated during a speech in Salt Lake City on Tuesday that instead of reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, lawmakers should consider a “fresh start.”

Yes, Congress should consider alternatives to the Higher Education Act, which authorizes all federal higher education spending such as student loans and grants.

Enacted in 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson, the Higher Education Act has undergone countless amendments that pass problems on to future generations. As the secretary said, “Why wouldn’t we start afresh and talk about what we need in this century and beyond for educating and helping our young people learn?”

 

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Most Americans experience the higher-education crisis in the financial pinch of their children’s tuition bill or the burden of post-college debt. But to understand how the crisis feeds into the economic crisis facing the next generation, ask an adjunct professor why she’s struggling as hard to teach as her undergraduates struggle to graduate—and why both sides of America’s academic marketplace seem priced out of both decent jobs and an enriching learning experience.

Even at Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University, considered an Oxonian academic gem in a state that ranks among the highest in economic inequality, non-tenure-track professors are fighting to form a union—the first of its kind in the right-to-work state.

Vanderbilt’s contingent faculty filed an election petition with the National Labor Relations Board in February, seeking to unionize adjunct, part-time, and full-time non-tenure track faculty, in a proposed unit covering roughly 350 faculty members in various schools, including the Divinity and Graduate Schools. But the vote, which had been scheduled for April, was set back after the administration abruptly announced that it planned to challenge the vast majority of ballots during the vote count. The move led to the withdrawal of the original election agreement, and now, pending a further NLRB review with a different unit arrangement, the workers are awaiting a rescheduled vote.

 

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If the American people were asked to grade the higher education system, it likely wouldn’t receive an A.

A poll from the think tank New America finds only 25 percent of respondents said higher education “is fine how it is.” In a report on the findings, Inside Higher Ed writes Americans see “the work force and societal value of getting a college degree” but aren’t satisfied with the status quo.

From the article:

Of concern for colleges and universities, just one in four of the survey’s respondents feel higher education is functioning fine the way it is. … A contributor to the widespread belief that higher education too often does not deliver on its promise, the survey found, is that 58 percent of respondents believe colleges put their own long-term interests first instead of those of their students.

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Faculty members, students, and others at Texas A&M University at College Station are pushing back against its president’s criticism of what a philosophy professor said were his remarks taken out of context by a conservative critic.

Several graduate students have started an online petition in which they denounce a statement by the president, Michael K. Young, as “incredibly irresponsible.” By Friday morning, roughly 300 people had signed the petition in support of Tommy Curry, an associate professor of philosophy.

“As members of the Texas A&M community, Aggies, and former students, particularly those of us who identify as Aggies of color, we are deeply alarmed and saddened by President Young’s decision to not support Dr. Curry in the face of these attacks,” the petition reads. “President Young’s response has not only exacerbated the situation but has legitimized dangerous and harmful rhetoric against a black professor at Texas A&M University.”

 

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Student evaluations of teaching, or SET, aren’t short on critics. Many professors and other experts say they’re unreliable — they may hurt female and minority professors, for example. One recent metastudy also suggested that past analyses linking student achievement to strong evaluation scores are flawed, a mere “artifact of small-sample-sized studies and publication bias.”

Now one of the authors of that metastudy is back for more, with a new analysis suggesting that SET ratings vary by course subject, with professors of math-related fields bearing the brunt of the effect.

“Professors teaching quantitative courses are far more likely not to receive tenure, promotion and/or merit pay when their performance is evaluated against common standards,” reads the study, co-written by SET skeptic Bob Uttl, professor of psychology at Mount Royal University in Canada.

 

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If Betsy DeVos’s appearance at Bethune-Cookman University, a private historically black institution, was intended to cement the Trump administration’s outreach to HBCUs, it appeared to be a flop.

Boos and jeers from graduating students accompanied DeVos’s remarks throughout her commencement address. Bethune-Cookman President Edison Jackson even interrupted at one point to warn students, “If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you.”

The booing continued and DeVos raised her voice to continue her remarks while some students stood and turned their backs and others walked out with fists raised, according to reports from the commencement. Video showed administrators behind DeVos, clearly uncomfortable, conferring about what to do about the boos. DeVos generally spoke above the crowd and could be heard on audio of the event.

 

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When Ray Tensing, a University of Cincinnati police officer, pulled his gun during a traffic stop and fatally shot Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man, the moment was captured on camera.

Fewer than 15 days later, in July 2015, Tensing was indicted on murder and manslaughter charges — in part because of footage from the camera slung on his chest, technology that campus police forces nationwide have rapidly embraced. The university agreed to pay DuBose’s family nearly $5 million, and Tensing awaits a retrial this month after a jury deadlocked last year.

College and university police and safety heads gave similar answers for wanting their forces to adopt body-worn cameras. They promote a sense of accountability and transparency that appeals to members of the public, especially to people of color, some of whom distrust law enforcement. And as in the DuBose case, such documentation can prove invaluable in court proceedings.

 

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With threats of deportation, efforts to restrict travel from certain countries and looming cuts to finance at both the state and federal level, the world of higher education currently faces one of the most uncertain periods it has ever faced.

That is the assessment of Dr. Robert L.
“The mood on campus during the six months that I’ve had the pleasure of serving as the 10th chancellor has been one of uncertainty,” Jones said Tuesday at an education summit.Jones, a veteran research university leader and newly installed chancellor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Our students have to deal with a climate that often time makes them feel unwelcome,” Jones said. “It creates a climate of fear.

“They’re really concerned about the deterioration of the climate on campus in ways that most of us have not experienced,” said Jones, an internationally respected authority on plant physiology.

Jones said when student fears are coupled with budgetary problems at the state level — Illinois is currently grappling with a budgetary gridlock — and federal budget proposals that would “dramatically impact the issue of affordability and accessibility for students,” it leads to even more uncertainty.

 

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Professor of the Higher Education Department at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education Dr. Ana M. Martínez Alemán came to the University of Connecticut’s Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center Wednesday afternoon to speak about breaking down the bias problems that plague America’s higher education system from a student-to-professor perspective.

“The big question is: Does race, age and gender effect learning at higher education institutions? The answer is, it does,” Dr. Martínez Alemán began.

Dr. Martínez Alemán has been studying and analyzing racism and sexism for many years and derives her perceptions of higher education classrooms from statistics gathered from institutions. She remarked that for most of the 20th century, getting this information about collegiate educators was extremely difficult without actually being in the classroom, whereas the K-12 systems were very good at getting the data and responding in a constructive fashion.

She extrapolated on a huge variety of topics outside of gender and race, making a clear distinction of race vs. ethnicity and gender vs. sex, all with unique effects on perceptions of educators from students. This data shows that men are less likely to come under scrutiny as educators than women, regardless of their race.

 

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