Higher Education Issues to Watch
For more information: AAUW Fact Sheets and Position Papers on Affirmative Action, Athletics, Education, Managed Care Reform, Reproductive Rights, and Social Security Reform.
Video of the Research Launch: "Deeper in Debt: Women and Student Loans"
A report released by AAUW titled Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success details the financial barriers women face in accessing higher education.
11 Projects That Will Inspire You to Fight Gender Stereotypes - College students from 11 colleges came up with innovative ways to fight sexism and racism on campus this spring. The schools each earned a 2014-15 AAUW Campus Action Project grant, sponsored by Pantene, to launch their projects in the spring semester.
Updated: January 18, 2018
- The Biggest Problem for State Higher-Ed Policy? Federal Higher-Ed Policy - The big question mark for states will be the impact of the recently enacted overhaul of federal taxes, which could also change the amount of revenue that many states collect, the association said. Another recent report, from the National Association of State Budget Officers, lays out some of the complexities and possible outcomes for states as a result of the new tax law. In addition, Congress is set to consider a major overhaul of the nation’s primary law governing higher education, and colleges have big concerns about President Trump’s decision to end the protected status for people who were brought into the United States illegally as children — the program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
- One-third of nation's best high school students don't finish college - The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce estimated that one-third of nation’s top-performing high school students do not obtain a college degree, though nearly all of these students attempt college. However, top-scoring students tend to graduate at a rate of more than 80% when attending a selective institution, according to the center.
- It’s Hard to Study if You’re Hungry - An estimated half of all college students struggle with food insecurity, even at elite flagship universities like the University of California, Berkeley, and selective private schools like Northwestern University. Former foster youth, L.G.B.T. students and students of color are at substantially increased risk. Food insecurity is strongly linked to lower graduation rates. The first federal briefing on college food insecurity took place just last month, and Gov. Jerry Brown of California is the only state leader to put substantial funding toward the problem, with a $7.5 million investment.
- Unprepared and Confused - A new study says students don't feel confident they can find a job or succeed when they land one. The report from Gallup and Strada Education Network, the former loan guarantor turned nonprofit, represents one of the most comprehensive compilations of students opinions’ on this subject -- and the results are “disappointing,” representatives from the organizations say.
- Who is the typical college student? You might be surprised - College students are often more than 24 years of age, working at least part time and enrolled in non-selective schools, reports The Wall Street Journal. Also, a larger share are nonwhite, with the most dramatic gains over the past 20 years coming among Hispanic students. Pulling from the most recent demographic and education data, the WJS constructs the profile of the typical college student and highlights the diverse backgrounds of a growing share of degree seekers. The international student population also soared as institutions look abroad for full-paying learners to bolster their finances. Liberal arts and humanities, much maligned by politicians, remain the most popular degree programs for many college students. Rounding out the top three are business and health-related programs. But few students pay full freight, receiving need- or merit-based grants from their institutions. Nearly 85% of students at private, nonprofit undergraduate programs colleges receive aid from their schools.
- The state of graduate student employee unions - Momentum to organize among graduate student workers is growing despite opposition. Graduate students and research assistants at many private colleges and universities are organizing for higher wages. A new EPI report reviews the context for graduate student organizing and argues that they should be able to unionize. Colleges and universities are increasingly relying on graduate teaching assistants and contingent faculty, who play an integral role in producing research and providing quality education. And yet the pay graduate teaching and research assistants receive rarely rises to the level of a living wage.
- Female professors get more grief from students, study finds - 'Students wouldn’t take no as an answer … I always suspected that gender could play a role' Research from Eastern Washington University has found that women working in education are more often requested to give extensions, boost grades and be more lenient when it comes to classroom policy. "I always found it odd that students would sometimes have emotional responses to me simply enforcing my own policy, and I always wondered why that was," said Amani El-Alayli, a psychology professor at Eastern Washington University and the study's lead author.
- Few Details on Tougher Borrower-Relief Standards - Department of Education officials said they do not have any estimates of how many borrowers would clear new, tougher standards proposed for claims of loan relief when a student is defrauded or misled by their college. The department’s proposed language would require a student borrower to demonstrate clear and convincing evidence that their college intended to deceive them or had a reckless disregard for the truth in making claims about job-placement rates, credit transferability and other outcomes.
- Kansas Counties Help Residents Pay Student Debt - These towns will help pay off your student loan debt if you move there. College graduates crippled by burdensome student loan debt might want to consider moving to Kansas.
- A new way emerges to cover college tuition. But is it a better way? - Income share agreements, commonly called ISAs, have generated a lot of buzz since Purdue University introduced its program in 2016. As adoption of the model expands, it could shift financial aid beyond loans and grants. But some student advocates worry that the concept does nothing to make college more affordable and could prove just as harmful as any other form of debts.
- Gov. Cuomo proposes measures to fight burden of student debt - The Democratic governor says his proposed reforms build on the Excelsior Scholarship, which makes New York's public universities tuition-free for middle class families. Cuomo proposes creating a student loan ombudsman in the state Department of Financial Services to help resolve student complaints, educate borrowers and assist students in default.
- Study details participation in, benefits of college courses in high school - More and more high schools across the country now offer some college-credit courses, with data from the National Center for Education Statistics showing that 82 percent of schools offer such programs. And nearly half of students participate in those Advanced Placement classes, according to the NCES. The study showed that of the 2011 graduates who went on to college, participants in acceleration programs were almost three times as likely as nonparticipants to go on to their second year of college. College completion rates have become a concern to education officials recently as they have declined slightly in recent years.
- Cuomo proposes a Campus Food pantry safety net - Gov. Cuomo’s proposal involves a handful of different pieces, including a ban on shaming students who do not have the money to buy a school lunch. Additionally, Gov. Cuomo’s proposal would require the establishment of food pantries on all SUNY and CUNY campuses through a $1 million state investment, along with an estimated $7 million in capital funds to help schools continue to serve breakfast to students even after the first class of a school day has begun.
- Business Schools Now Teaching #MeToo, N.F.L. Protests and Trump - An M.B.A. education is no longer just about finance, marketing, accounting and economics. As topics like sexual harassment dominate the national conversation and chief executives weigh in on the ethical and social issues of the day, business schools around the country are hastily reshaping their curriculums with case studies ripped straight from the headlines. Some millennials are prioritizing social and environmental responsibility. Students also realize that as leaders of increasingly diverse work forces, they will need to understand their employees’ perspectives on national debates, and how corporate decisions affect them.
- Women Are Majority of New Medical Students - For the first time ever, women make up a majority (50.7 percent) of those enrolling in medical school, according to new data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. This fall, the number of new female medical students increased by 3.2 percent, while the number of new male students declined by 0.3 percent.
- Women Are Invited to Give Fewer Talks Than Men at Top U.S. Universities - It’s not because they turn down talks more often, or because there aren’t enough women to invite. Colloquium talks, where academics are invited to discuss their research, give speakers a chance to publicize their work, build collaborations with new colleagues, and boost their reputations. The talks can lead to promotions or job offers. They are big opportunities. But as Hebl’s student Christine Nittrouer eventually found, they are opportunities that are predominantly extended to men.
- Free SUNY tuition: No enrollment growth yet - Expectations that free SUNY tuition might lead to a surge in enrollment this fall didn’t materialize, records show. In fact, enrollment at the 64 SUNY campuses fell 1 percent from 2016 to this fall because the number of students at the state’s 30 community colleges continued to drop. Overall, SUNY enrollment was 431,855 for the fall semester, about 4,300 fewer than last year. At the 29 four-year campuses, enrollment grew a mere 1.2 percent, or up about 2,600 students, the records showed.
- N.Y. Governor Vetoes Scholarship Aid for For-Profits - Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have extended the state’s tuition-free scholarships to for-profit institutions, allowing them to participate in the Enhanced Tuition Award that the legislature adopted earlier this year.
- Mental health is a growing challenge on campus, and people of color are most negatively affected - According to national data, one in 12 students has a suicide plan. Despite the fact that students are seeking mental health services in record numbers, there is still a discrepancy between the number of individuals who need the services and those who are getting them. Additional data in the USA Today article says two-thirds of students who are struggling don't seek help.
- State Attorneys General Sue Education Department Over Loan Forgiveness Delays - States claim the department refused to process loan discharge applications, which one attorney general says totals nearly 100,000, before pursuing collections. Attorneys general from New York, California and other states filed a lawsuit alleging the U.S. Department of Education unlawfully pursued collecting loan payments from former students of now defunct Corinthian Colleges Inc.
- Growing Number of Borrowers Are in Default - The U.S. Department of Education this week released new federal loan data showing that 4.6 million student loan borrowers were in default as of Sept. 30, an increase from the 2.2 million who were in default four years earlier. Roughly 298,000 borrowers entered into default during the quarter that ended in September, the department said, with 274,000 defaulting for the first time.
- Gains for Female Students in M.B.A. Programs - M.B.A. programs, in which male students have long been in the majority, are making progress in enrolling greater numbers of women, according to a new report by the Forté Foundation, which works with business schools to promote gender equity. A new report from the foundation found that its members have reached an average of 37.4 percent female enrollment in M.B.A. programs, up from 33.4 percent five years ago. Five years ago, the foundation had only two members that had reached 40 percent female enrollment. Today 17 business schools have enrollments that are at least 40 percent.
- GOP Pushes Ahead on Higher Ed Act - Republicans on House education committee -- with little patience for complaints over rushed process -- advanced out of committee an expansive update to law governing federal aid programs.
- 31 House Republicans side with grad students on tuition tax - After students across the country staged walkouts to protest the proposal last week, 31 Republican House members -- who all voted for the bill to pass -- have asked party leaders to leave it out of the final version. About 145,000 graduate students don't have to pay for tuition because their college has waived the cost. Currently, the award is not taxed as income as long as the student teaches or does research for the school. But a provision in the House bill would change that, adding the amount of tuition to the student's taxable income.
- What You Need to Know About the House Higher Education Act (HEA) Bill - Though the bill has some positive elements, its net result would shift even more responsibility on to students and off of institutions. Just as striking, the bill does not make any serious attempt to solve the real problems with the American higher education system. Continued cuts and greater burdens on students will not correct for decades of declining state support, unacceptable equity problems, and a host of other issues that hold back our system of colleges and universities—and the students they educate—from reaching their full potential.
- Why Do So Many Americans Drop Out of College? - How America's higher education system became one big dropout factory. . Just 56 percent of students who embark on a bachelor's degree program finish within six years, according to a 2011 Harvard study titled Pathways to Prosperity. Just 29 percent of those who seek an associate's degree obtain it within three years. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, just 46 percent of Americans complete college once they start, worst among the 18 countries it tracks.
- New Report on College Credit in High School - A new report from the College Board identifies four factors to create strong college credit in high school programs. The four factors the group identified are program quality and accountability, value for time and dollars invested, equity and access, and transparency around credit transfer.
- For black students, a college degree means long-term debt - African-American students who started college in 2003-04 typically owed 113 percent of their student loan 12 years later, according to the most recent data from the US Department of Education analyzed by the Center for American Progress. By contrast, white borrowers had paid down their debt and owed only 65 percent of the original amount, and Hispanic borrowers had knocked down their debt to 83 percent of the initial loan.
- Nontraditional students gaining steam in higher ed discussions - A new higher education advocacy group — Higher Learning Advocates — has emerged to specifically focus on nontraditional students and federal education policies addressing them. Among some of the concerns cited by the group at its first public event is tuition affordability for older students that don't qualify for scholarship, but are working full-time and raising families — recommending federal financial aid standards to address that. With federal statistics showing 75% of U.S. college students did not begin their higher education directly out of high school and nearly half of them are over 25, with the number expected to grow, nontraditional student advocates argue institutions ought to reconsider their business models to be more flexible.
- 50-State Student Debt Landscape - The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a 50-state report analyzing over 50,000 student debt complaints. As a group, student loan borrowers hold more than 1.4 trillion dollars of debt. We know that women take on larger student loans than do men. And because of the gender pay gap, they have less disposable income with which to repay their loans after graduation, requiring more time to pay back their student debt. As a result, women hold nearly two-thirds of the outstanding student debt in the United States.
- The Student Loan Default Crisis for Borrowers with Children - Attending college as a parent can be a daunting affair: It’s hard to find enough hours in the day for work, family, and school. Now, new data show another challenge for student-parents: repaying their federal loans. New analyses from the Center for American Progress show that almost half of student-parents who began college in the 2003-04 school year and borrowed a federal loan for their undergraduate education defaulted within 12 years of enrolling. That’s double the rate of borrowers without children. Combined with low completion rates, these figures demonstrate how much our higher education system struggles to serve those who need extra assistance.
- Student loan debt can cost jobs - Few people realize that the loans they take out to pay for their education could eventually derail their careers. But in 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts. Another state, South Dakota, suspends driver’s licenses, making it nearly impossible for people to get to work. As debt levels rise, creditors are taking increasingly tough actions to chase people who fall behind on student loans. Going after professional licenses stands out as especially punitive. Firefighters, nurses, teachers, lawyers, massage therapists, barbers, psychologists and real estate brokers have all had their credentials suspended or revoked.
- Report finds higher ed is failing students with disabilities - Stony Brook University Chief Diversity Officer Lee Bitsoi recently said students with disabilities should be a huge focus for higher ed administrators, as they often fall through the cracks of conversations. But Beacon College President George Hagerty, whose institution exists primarily to ensure the success of these students, says that while these students have individual "islands of challenge" which are unique to their individual experiences, the types of supports these students need are the same types administrators should be employing to shore up the success of any students. Things like assistance with organizing workloads, immersing themselves in new environments and developing the types of soft skills — like easily communicating with others and thinking critically on the spot — are not only key to their feeling comfortable throughout the university experience, but also necessary to their ability to do well in the workforce and beyond. And these are the same types of skills which institutions should be working to impart for first-generation students and others who may not have someone readily available to walk them through the higher ed process.
- Poverty Is Largely Invisible Among College Students - Since 2008, my team’s research on how students finance college has revealed that the main barrier to degree completion isn’t tuition; it’s having a place to sleep and enough food to eat. The best estimates suggest that food insecurity affects as many as 1 in 2 college students—much higher than the rate in the general population. Just as many struggle with housing insecurity, and a significant number (14 percent at community colleges) are homeless. This is a largely invisible problem. Stereotypes of Ramen-noodle diets and couch-surfing partiers prevent us from seeing it. They trick us into thinking that food insecurity is a rite of passage, that hunger and even homelessness among our students is normal. But it is time to admit that we have a serious problem in higher education.
- Helping college students with kids succeed - The number of single mothers in college more than doubled between the 1999-2000 and 2011-12 academic years, to almost 2.1 million students—or 11 percent of all undergrads—as of 2012, according to a new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). That may come as a surprise to administrators, as most higher ed institutions do not ask if students have children—even though they could find out via routine student surveys, says co-author Barbara Gault, IWPR’s vice president and executive director. Colleges must be aware of this group to accurately allocate resources toward families’ needs. Community colleges, which have the biggest concentration of single student mothers, should pay particular attention to this faction of students.
- The Disappearing American Grad Student - The dearth of Americans is even more pronounced in hot STEM fields like computer science, which serve as talent pipelines for the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft: About 64 percent of doctoral candidates and almost 68 percent in master’s programs last year were international students, according to an annual survey of American and Canadian universities by the Computing Research Association. In comparison, only about 9 percent of undergraduates in computer science were international students (perhaps, deans posit, because families are nervous about sending offspring who are barely adults across the ocean to study). Many factors contribute to the gap, but a major one is the booming job market in technology. For the most part, Americans don’t see the need for an advanced degree when there are so many professional opportunities waiting for them. For some, the price is just too high when they have so much student debt already.
- Why Notre Dame Reversed Course on Contraception - The Catholic university is caught between accommodating a diverse community and defending what it sees as religious freedom. Although the administration claims it reversed course out of respect for the diversity of its community, it’s not clear why it wouldn’t have taken faculty and student objections into account years ago. Meanwhile, religious-freedom advocates see the university’s move as a setback for their cause, because it potentially casts doubt on the sincerity and depth of moral objections to birth control.
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