Federal guidance on foreign students remains same for spring

Federal guidance for enrolling international students in programs operating in hybrid or online modes due to the pandemic remains the same for the spring term, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program said. “Nonimmigrant students should continue to abide by SEVP guidance originally issued in March 2020,” said the spokeswoman, Carissa Cutrell. “The guidance enables schools and students to engage in distance learning in excess of regulatory limits due to the public health emergency generated by COVID-19.”

Early progress in developmental ed: Twice the impact in half the time

For far too long, well-intentioned efforts have diverted students’ dreams of a college education by directing them to developmental education to remediate their academic readiness. While high school graduation rates increased, droves of students failed developmental education courses because the focus was on fixing students instead of reshaping structures to support their success. About a decade ago, experts, leaders and policymakers came together to chart a new course. These early conversations led to a set of Core Principles at the heart of Strong Start to Finish.

How to return to campus safely: Test, then test again

The fall semester has been hell for most colleges — canceled classes, dorm closures, outbreaks and deaths. No one wants a repeat. But the failures and rare successes of the semester might help universities prepare for next year. Many schools plan to bring more students back for the spring semester, even though coronavirus cases in their communities continue to rise. A picture of successful campus containment has emerged: Maintain social distancing. Contact trace assiduously. Put more faith in students by calibrating restrictions properly.

Lessons from fall reopenings change colleges’ future plans

The fall semester brought nearly impossible choices for universities and colleges: Reopening for in-person classes meant risking a Covid-19 outbreak, while keeping students home paved the way for financial losses. With the fall semester winding down, there is a growing sense that next semester will be different, with schools bringing more students back to campus, increasing testing and taking advantage of lessons learned from the pandemic’s first nine months. Of 2,958 colleges and universities tracked by the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College, about 44% were primarily or fully online this fall, while 21% were hybrid, and 27% were primarily or fully in person. Another 8% did something else entirely.

Colleges are changing the status quo to make curriculum more inclusive

When administrators at Western Washington University posted the words “Enough is Enough” on the college’s homepage after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed in an encounter with police last spring, Black students at the Bellingham, Washington, institution decided that they, too, had had enough. Enough of the expressions of outrage; the statements of solidarity; the conversations about change that seemed to go nowhere. They wanted action.

What role could colleges have in distributing coronavirus vaccines?

Colleges will likely play a big role in distributing coronavirus vaccinations to their students and employees as well as the public, health experts predict. Institutions have helped research a vaccine and campuses have functioned as trial sites. Leaders of a couple of historically Black colleges also urged their students to participate in the trials, though this prompted some criticism. Although colleges and universities may serve as vaccination centers, students probably won’t be the first ones to receive the shots. 

Catholic college petition shows continued resistance to budget cuts

A group of students, employees and unions from at least 17 Catholic colleges signed a petition urging their institutions to preserve faculty and staff jobs and to not “needlessly shed” core academic programs. Coronavirus-related budget cuts have sparked several other faculty and student movements, and one prominent faculty association recently launched an investigation into seven colleges over shared governance concerns. Colleges should involve faculty members in making programmatic or budgetary changes, higher education experts say.

Report: College completion rate stays flat

The pace at which students are finishing college continues to slow, according to new data showing the six-year graduation rates of undergraduate learners who started in the fall of 2014. Slight decreases in completion rates among traditional-age and community college students drove the slowdown, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which examined rates for first-time students, including those who transferred. The pandemic has delivered a blow to undergraduate enrollment, particularly at community colleges. Completion rates could suffer if that trend continues among students who are already enrolled.

A federal judge fully reinstated DACA, but challenges remain

A federal judge reinstated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows unauthorized immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to work and study in the country. The decision by the Eastern District of New York court reverses restrictions the Trump administration placed on the program as part of its efforts to end it.  Higher education groups have said eliminating DACA would damage the sector’s reputation.

Five colleges picked to pioneer higher ed options for rural students

Education Design Lab, a nonprofit focused on improving the connections between school and work, selected five rural community colleges to create new postsecondary educational pathways. The participants are the College of Eastern Idaho; Eastern Maine Community College; Finger Lakes Community College, in New York; and Washington State Community College and Zane State College, both in Ohio.  The project aims to help the colleges find new ways to assist their students and identify educational models that expand economic opportunities in these communities. 

Kansas’ community colleges reject proposal to streamline mergers

Kansas’ community colleges are opposing a proposal that would allow the state’s two-year schools to merge with its four-year institutions without lawmakers’ approval. Current state law mandates that the legislature and the governor sign off on such arrangements. Eliminating this requirement would “give institutions the flexibility to meet the needs of students and the Kansas economy,” a board of regents advisory group wrote in a recent report. Consolidation proposals among state higher education systems haven’t slowed during the pandemic.

Is Cal State’s plan for in-person classes next fall an early indicator?

The California State University system intends to offer most classes in-person next fall. It’s likely the first institution to announce its plans. Chancellor Timothy White cited “promising progress” with coronavirus vaccines and a desire to provide students and families “as much advance notice as possible” in an announcement this week. He also pointed to the system’s extended priority application deadline of Dec. 15. The 23-campus system was among the first higher education entities to announce fall 2020 and spring 2021 plans, in both cases opting to be primarily online.

Report: Sharp pandemic recovery not likely for colleges

A pair of new reports from Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings offers prognoses for the pandemic’s impact on colleges during 2021. Enrollment volatility will persist, the ratings agencies say. Moody’s predicts net tuition revenue will decline at around 75% of private schools and 60% of publics. Along with lower auxiliary income and state funding, colleges’ budgets will remain strained. A “sharp” rebound is not likely, Moody’s analysts note, citing an uneven recovery and that state funding and net tuition revenue will likely still be suppressed in fiscal 2022.

Students unhappy with financial-aid decisions can appeal. But who does that?

Jaime Ramirez-Mendoza worked as a peer adviser while he was a student at the University of California at Davis, so he was familiar with guiding low-income students through the financial-aid process. Even so, he didn’t know until he was close to graduation himself that financial-aid decisions could be appealed. The process by which students make such requests can be mysterious, especially to first-generation students like Ramirez-Mendoza. 

The real Covid-19 enrollment crisis: Fewer low-income students went straight to college

The figure is startling. This year, 21.7 percent fewer high-school graduates went straight to college compared with 2019, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. As year-to-year changes go, that’s huge. Don’t stare only at that top-line number, though. Look at the comparisons between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. You’ll see further evidence that the pandemic has hit low-income students, especially those from urban high schools, the hardest.

‘A tremendous amount of fear’: Will major cuts threaten research universities’ work?

Flagship research universities across the country are bracing for a grim 2021, moving toward program closures and tenure-line reductions in the face of major budget shortfalls. Such steps, if realized, could mark a significant shift at institutions where it is not uncommon for tenured research scholars to teach undergraduate classes. The moves would narrow the wide scope of programs at these research universities, institutions distinguished by their breadth of instruction and scholarship. Several of the proposed cuts, including in Hawaii, Vermont, and Colorado, are in arts and sciences programs.

Colleges are canceling spring break. In its place: ‘Wellness Days’

As colleges announce their spring-semester plans, a pattern has emerged: Spring break is out, and “wellness days” are in. From a public-health standpoint, canceling spring break makes sense. The prospect that millions of young people will leave college towns and fan out across the globe — some of them meeting elsewhere to party in large groups — is clearly at odds with efforts to contain Covid-19. But asking students — and their instructors — to slog through another pandemic semester with no break at all could be detrimental to mental health, not to mention learning.

Developmental education reform improved passing rates

The statewide developmental education reform efforts in Florida have increased the number of students taking and passing general education requirements in math and English, according to a study published in this month’s Educational Researcher journal. The study compared cohorts before and after the reform was passed through the state’s Senate Bill 1720 in 2013. Cohorts after the reform were more likely to enroll in and pass introductory college-level courses in their first year of college. Black and Hispanic students saw even greater gains in passing rates than their white peers, the study found.

Connecting education to the workforce

Researchers project that 85% of the jobs that will comprise the workforce in 2030 don’t currently exist today. Developing a workforce that will not only thrive in this unknown, but also have access to the education and training that align with those needs, is top of mind for policymakers, economists and workers themselves. It is one of the reasons why federal policymakers declared, September, as National Workforce Development Month.

Tips for bringing industry certifications into degrees

To embed certifications into degree programs, colleges should get support from top administrators, align their curriculum with certification exam content and inform employers of the credentials, according to a new report. Workcred, a nonprofit aiming to improve the nation’s credentialing system, partnered with three higher education associations to create a framework for incorporating certifications into degree pathways. More four-year schools are embedding industry credentials into their programs as pressure mounts to prove they’re graduating students ready for the workforce.