DAKAR, Senegal — The United States has denied visas to five teenage students from Gambia competing in a prestigious international robotics contest in Washington, the team’s leader said Tuesday.

The teens found the rejection “very disheartening,” said Mucktarr M.Y. Darboe, who is also a director in the largely Muslim West African nation’s ministry of higher education.

Darboe said the students were not given a reason for the visa denials in April, and he called the decision “disappointing and unfair.”

The Gambia team is not alone. An all-female team from Afghanistan also was denied visas.

The U.S. Embassy in Banjul could not immediately be reached for comment.

Tiny Gambia has been through dramatic change in recent months, ousting via elections a longtime dictator, Yahya Jammeh, whose administration was accused of human rights abuses. The new administration, inaugurated in January, has promised widespread democratic reforms.

 

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It has been a month since Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has spoken publicly about higher education. During a U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on June 6, Ms. DeVos spoke in support of the Trump administration’s budget. Senators from both sides of the aisle criticized the proposal, which calls for steep cuts to a range of education programs, as “difficult” to defend. Still, Ms. DeVos fielded questions from the lawmakers for more than two hours.

Since the hearing, the Education Department has announced major changes. On June 14, Ms. DeVos announced the delay and renegotiation of two key Obama-era consumer regulations aimed at reining in abuses by for-profit colleges. And later in the month, speaking at a closed meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, the secretary suggested that higher education’s foundational law should be scrapped.

 

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Though white supremacist activity has plagued colleges nationwide, the University of Virginia has been caught up in a firestorm beyond what has typically been seen in recent months, such as controversial fliers being tacked up around campus or outspoken speakers invited.

Protesters affiliated with what many consider to be racist and hateful groups — the Ku Klux Klan and supporters of the so-called alt-right — in the past two or so months have descended on Emancipation Park, formerly known as Lee Park, in Charlottesville, normally a progressive college town best known as the home of the University of Virginia.

They’re protesting the city’s decision to remove a Confederate marker, a statue of Robert E. Lee. The groups’ proximity to the campus, combined with the area’s history in the Confederacy, has caused fear for some students, particularly students of color.

 

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An anthropologist who had the unenviable task of sitting through academics’ meetings and reading their email chains to find out why they fail to change their teaching styles has come to a surprising conclusion: they are simply too afraid of looking stupid in front of their students to try something new.

Lauren Herckis was brought in to Carnegie Mellon University to understand why, despite producing leading research into how students learn best, the institution had largely failed to adopt its own findings.

 

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When states began opting in to Medicaid expansion after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, among the beneficiaries were the teaching hospitals that train doctors and nurses and serve a disproportionate share of low-income patients.

But if the U.S. Senate’s proposal to replace the ACA goes through, higher education groups say, those teaching institutions could take a large hit to their bottom lines because of serious Medicaid cuts. In addition, the pressures those reductions would put on state budgets likely will lead to less support of public higher education, the groups warned.

The Senate health-care bill, dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act, eventually would pare back the federal funding that made Medicaid expansion possible in many states. For teaching hospitals in those states, the expansion meant fewer uninsured patients and a lower budgetary burden for providing uncompensated care. Even in states that didn’t expand Medicaid in recent years, the Senate proposal would mean serious reductions to the program by awarding states funding through block grants instead of a set per-patient amount.

 

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last month told lawmakers at a congressional hearing that states and local communities were better equipped than the federal government to deal with issues of regulation, drawing condemnations and negative headlines. In front of a Senate subcommittee last week, she had noticeably changed her tune, telling senators repeatedly that any school receiving federal funding is required to follow federal law.

That assurance came with a pretty big caveat, however. Pressed by Democrats on how she would protect the rights of LGBT students, DeVos said in areas where the law is “unsettled,” which she said included issues of bias against gay people, her department would not be “issuing decrees.”

 

 

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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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