Higher education resources
The National Governors Association said various states’ governors should set out a clear public health framework that can be implemented alongside college and university reopening efforts. In a letter to governors, the association said states should have an inclusive approach when planning to reopen. They should acknowledge the diverse higher education sectors, different institutional planning needs, and the nature of student behavior when considering opening college campuses. Governors should also make sure there is alignment with the public health metrics of the communities where colleges and universities are located.
As colleges and universities prepare for the fall semester—deciding how or if students should return to campus—a top priority is finding ways to reconstruct a sense of community and foster student engagement around the many challenges currently facing the United States, administrators said in a webinar Wednesday. And although some institutions are gearing up to begin in-person instruction this fall, whether or not students will be allowed back on campus is still a mystery to many institutional leaders.
Texas A&M University on Thursday published a free ebook to help educate people on pandemic prevention and preparedness. The book, Preparing for Pandemics in the Modern World, was already in development before the outbreak of the current pandemic, according to the university, but holds special relevance now as the globe combats the novel coronavirus. “The information contained in this book is time-sensitive, urgently needed, and will make a positive contribution toward navigating the current pandemic,” Jay Dew, director of Texas A&M University Press, said in a press release. “To that end, we are pleased to make the book available to all by releasing it immediately as a free pre-publication edition.” The book serves as an important resource for the general public, policy makers and those in charge of emergency response and preparedness at the city, county, state and national levels, the book’s authors said.
A form of ransomware known as NetWalker added two more colleges to its list of victims Wednesday by claiming to have stolen files from Columbia College in Chicago and the University of California, San Francisco, according to screenshots posted on a blog maintained by the hackers behind the attacks. The posts contained what appear to be screenshots of student and faculty records — that include personally identifiable information—which the hackers described as a sample of what they plan to publish on dark-web forums if their ransom demand is not paid. Both posts included countdown clocks threatening publication of the stolen files within one week.
Universities have a responsibility to support students who are protesting to end discrimination in the United States, university presidents said Monday during a webinar. But it is equally important that universities also create opportunities for students to affect change at their own institutions, they added. And although students are residing off-campus during the pandemic, higher education has the opportunity to equip students with technology and resources to support their efforts and help bring students together.
Two statewide community college systems have announced plans to review their training programs for law enforcement officers following nationwide protests against police brutality. The community college system offices in Virginia and California made the announcements Wednesday. Students have been calling on colleges to cut their ties with local police agencies, and protesters are calling on cities across the U.S. to defund police entirely after a white police officer killed George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd had been arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill.
We need to design programs to include mandatory courses that discuss the various intersections of oppression in different societies rather than leave them as electives. As long as diversity-related courses largely remain as add-ons or electives that are plugged into existing curricula in order to meet the diversity requirement for accreditation purposes, we are only completing a small percentage of the required work. Mandatory courses, especially those usually taken in the first two years in college, as well as many liberal arts requirements, have to be fully intellectually representative, including diverse experiences into standard courses beyond the handful of notable representatives and events. We also have to address more strategically how academic programs are designed and what courses are required, and vastly limit the remaining electives.
It was close, but all 50 states and the District of Columbia have applied and been approved for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. The U.S. Department of Education extended the deadline by a week, until June 8, but “it turns out the extension wasn’t needed, since everyone had applied by the end of the day on Monday,” according to a department spokesman. The awards—which range from more than $355 million for California to about $4.4 million for Vermont—are unusual in that governors can use the money for “needs related to COVID-19” at either the K-12 or higher education levels. Details about how governors plan to divvy up the funds, however, have been slow to emerge.
The Vermont State Colleges System, which includes three four-year colleges and a community college, had been in financial trouble for years before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now system leaders are bracing for an enrollment drop that could hit 20 percent at residential campuses and a budget deficit as high as $12 million for fiscal 2021. In April, then-Chancellor Jeb Spaulding proposed a radical solution: shutting down Northern Vermont University’s campuses and a Vermont Technical College campus for good.
The Nebraska State College System plans to cut the cost of a credit hour taken online next year for students enrolled in classes at Peru, Chadron or Wayne. According to a proposal that will go before the state college Board of Trustees on June 16, undergraduate students would pay a flat rate of $299 per credit hour for online courses during the 2020-21 school year. That’s a decrease from $304 and does not include any additional fees, and would apply to both residential and out-of-state students. The cost for graduate students will remain unchanged at $380 per credit hour.
Virtual apprenticeships could be a boon to the future, some experts say. They would open up opportunities for those with disabilities that make working in an office difficult, or provide greater access to those in areas with a dearth of apprenticeship options. But virtual options could lack the important pieces of apprenticeships that make them successful, others say. Nationally, registered apprenticeships require two components: classroom learning and on-the-job training with a mentor. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, both pieces had to scramble to move online.