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A White House proposal to merge the Departments of Education and Labor has reignited a long-running debate about whether the worker training and education functions of the federal bureaucracy should be distinct or part of the same operation -- and whether there might be better ways to create a more coherent system for educating and training Americans. The proposal is part of a broader plan to overhaul much of the federal government released by the Trump administration Thursday.
The White House said the new agency, dubbed the Department of Education and the Workforce, would better align postsecondary education programs with the needs of the work force.
It’s likely to face steep odds of advancing in Congress, which must approve any such reorganization. Democratic lawmakers were quick to blast the announcement as unrealistic and a coded plan to cut government investments.
Former federal officials and experts on education and training, however, disagreed over whether folding the departments into a single agency could produce better results.
Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, said such a reorganization was long overdue. When the Education Department was created in 1980, he said, the relationship between educational attainment and the economy was "very weak." Now the opposite is true, and a college education is seen as key to a good-paying job.
“We’ve moved away from a world in which 70 percent of jobs didn’t require any postsecondary education or training,” he said. “The real world has made these connections, but we’ve not aligned these systems at all.”
Carnevale, a former Labor Department official in the Clinton administration, said combining the two departments would force a culture change at the new Education Department with a stronger emphasis on connecting education to jobs.
“If you want to change missions, you change institutional structures,” he said.
But Mary Alice McCarthy, director of the Center on Education and Skills with the Education Policy Program at New America, said the Trump administration was trying to reinvent the wheel with its proposed reorganization.
“This is focusing on the wrong problem,” she said.
Much of the existing overlap between the two agencies involves grant programs dealing with short-term training designed to get individuals into the labor force quickly. McCarthy said the White House would do better to make sure officials at the existing Labor and Education Departments are coordinating various programs well, rather than moving desks between agencies.
The Obama administration in 2014 conducted a review by Vice President Joe Biden’s office of all federal job-training programs and acted on recommendations to streamline and improve the effectiveness of those programs.
“We are not duplicating services, but we could be coordinating them better. On that point there’s no doubt about it,” McCarthy said. “But that isn’t a matter of where the offices are located.”
McCarthy also said that, more fundamentally, the work-force training and higher education programs managed by the federal government are focused on different people at different times in their lives.
“Our work-force development programs are designed to get people in the labor market as quickly as possible,” she said. “That is not the purpose of our higher education system. The way this administration talks about it, these are all programs doing the same thing, and they’re not.”
David Longenacker, interim president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and a former high-ranking official in the Education Department under President Clinton, said it may make sense to move some functions between either the Education or Labor Department and consolidate similar missions. But he said there are many responsibilities at both agencies that wouldn’t make sense in a single agency, such as civil rights and Title IX enforcement or oversight of workplace safety.
“You can’t ignore the other things that either one of those agencies do that don’t really fit compatibly together,” he said. “There’s a need for both of these departments.”
Some college officials perceived the White House plan as an effort to undermine investments in traditional higher education.
“This is an attempt to reduce higher education to work-force development at the expense of a liberal arts education,” said Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos backed the plan in a statement and said it fulfilled a campaign promise by President Trump to reduce the federal footprint in education and make the government more efficient and effective.
“Today’s bold reform proposal takes a big step toward fulfilling that promise. Artificial barriers between education and workforce programs have existed for far too long,” she said. “We must reform our 20th century federal agencies to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
“This proposal will make the federal government more responsive to the full range of needs faced by American students, workers, and schools. I urge Congress to work with the Administration to make this proposal a reality.”
Lawmakers Weigh In
Reactions to the plan on Capitol Hill Thursday broke down fairly predictably along partisan lines.
“I think it’s always wise to look for greater efficiency in how our government operates and will study the proposal carefully,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Senate education committee.
Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, said the administration had wasted energy on an unrealistic, unhelpful and futile reorganization plan for the sake of a new talking point.
“Democrats and Republicans in Congress have rejected President Trump’s proposals to drastically gut investments in education, health care and workers -- and he should expect the same result for this latest attempt to make government work worse for the people it serves,” she said.
The top Republican and Democrat on the House education committee also took the expected views.
At the American Enterprise Institute, Rick Hess and Amy Cummings argued that there is plenty that can be cut from the two departments and real benefits in streamlining programs.
“But big savings require making major cuts to programs -- and the administration hasn’t had any success on that count,” they wrote. “Just a few months ago, in fact, it agreed to bust the longstanding budget caps and sign off on a dramatic expansion of federal spending. And, even among the shrinking ranks of fiscal hawks, there’s not much appetite for trimming big-dollar education programs like Title I and Pell Grants.”
If the administration combined the department without major cuts, the reorganization would consist of “rearranging the patio furniture,” they said.
But the proposal earned skepticism even among advocates for federal support of career training. Kermit Kaleba, director of federal policy at the National Skills Coalition, said stronger alignment of the mission of federal programs is a laudable goal.
“Mashing agencies together is the intellectual shortcut when you don’t have better ideas,” he said in a tweet. “It’s like proposing massive budget cuts to increase ‘efficiency.’”Editorial Tags: Career/Tech EducationJob trainingAd Keyword: Department of EducationIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Merging Cabinet DepartmentsTrending order: 1
Big racial and sectoral gaps in student loan default rates mostly persist even after controlling for wealth and income
Federal data released last year revealed a student-loan default crisis among borrowers who are black or who attended for-profit colleges, with roughly half of both groups defaulting within 12 years after first enrolling in college.
Borrowers often default on modest loan balances, according to the data. And researchers subsequently showed that, as aggregate default rates continue to rise between 12 and 20 years after borrowers begin repaying their loans, up to 40 percent of students who took out loans in 2004 may default by 2023.
A newly released study digs deeper into the numbers and attempts to identify factors that could explain the crisis-level default rates among black borrowers and for-profit students.
After controlling for student and family background characteristics, including measures of income and parental wealth and support, the new research from the Brookings Institution still found big gaps between the default rates of black and white borrowers, and between those who attended for-profits versus other types of colleges.
The federal data show that 17 percent of all students who entered college in 2004, and 28 percent of those who took on student loans, defaulted by 2016, according to the study. Among black borrowers, 48.7 percent defaulted, compared to 21.4 percent of white, non-Hispanic borrowers. Roughly 35 percent of Hispanic borrowers defaulted.
Half of the gap between black and white borrowers disappears (from 28 to 14 percentage points) when controlling for borrower characteristics, such as parental educational levels and home ownership.
Even after controlling for measures such as loan amounts, grade point average, whether the student earned a credential, job status, income and income-to-debt ratios, the black-white gap remained a “large and statistically significant” 11 percentage points, according to the study, which was conducted by Judith Scott-Clayton, a senior fellow with Brookings and associate professor of economics and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College.
The family background controls reduced the default gap between Hispanic and white borrowers by 80 percent, the study found.
Students who attended for-profits were almost four times as likely to default as were their peers who attended community college (47 percent compared to 13 percent), according to the federal data. Among borrowers, that gap was 52 percent versus 26 percent.
As with the racial gap, the new study found that the high for-profit default rate was not fully explained by measures of employment and earnings, or other borrower characteristics.
“Entering a for-profit is associated with a 10-point higher rate of default even after accounting for everything else in the model,” the study said.
Scott-Clayton said in an interview that she was surprised by the study’s findings, particularly the persistent gap between borrowers who attended for-profits versus other institutions.
“I would’ve expected that what happens after college would explain more of the defaults,” she said.
The earnings and employment data used in the study were self-reported, incomplete and has other limitations, said Scott-Clayton.
“Better data on earnings, employment and other post-college circumstances might explain more of the gap,” the study said.
Scott-Clayton mentioned several other measures that could be used to learn more about default gaps, including the timing and trajectory of students’ college enrollment, data on other types of debt borrowers held and the health of borrowers or their single-parent status.
She and other researchers have stressed that many factors related to wealth no doubt play a role in the high default rates among black borrowers.
“We see racial gaps in a lot of areas of life,” said Scott-Clayton.
One way to further study the racial default gap, she said, might be to look at borrowers’ relative access to support systems. For example, differences in loan counseling or loan servicing could play a role.
“Even if the black-white gap in default could be fully explained by family income and wealth, this would not make it any less problematic for black borrowers who cannot change their family background,” the study said.
When a student loan enters default, the full balance becomes due, the study said, and borrowers lose access to deferment and forbearance options. Fees of up to one-quarter of the balance can be tacked on as well. And it can be harder to access credit or rent an apartment after a student loan default.
Yet the study found that most borrowers who defaulted were able to resolve at least one default (54 percent) within 12 years. In addition, 14 percent of borrowers who defaulted later returned to college.
To attempt to understand the racial and sectoral loan default gaps, the study suggested further research with higher-quality measures of income and other postcollege financial factors.
“The better we can understand what drives these stark gaps, the better policy makers can target their efforts to reduce defaults,” the study concluded.Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: DiversityFinancial aidFor-profit collegesImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Default RatesTrending order: 2
Gauging how students feel on campus is often the job of annual campus climate surveys, but a research and development unit at the University of California, Los Angeles, wants to change that.
The unit, called BruinX and based in UCLA's office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, recently developed and beta tested an app that will send a notification to students' smartphones every two weeks to ask them what they're thinking, how they're feeling and what they're experiencing on campus. The questions are simple and students are provided with multiple-choice responses as well as an option to write in short answers.
Jonathan Feingold, a research fellow at BruinX, hopes the app will provide a more complete picture of UCLA's campus climate.
"A standard way that you measure climate is through surveys that go out maybe once every three years, four years, 18 years, depending on the unit or the institution. There’s benefit to those surveys … but they’re also flat in all sorts of ways," Feingold said. "They’re a single snapshot -- it’s one look and it doesn't really give you a granular sense of what might be going on over the course of a year."
The app, called BruinXperience, was years in the making. Its design is partly based on research that shows that people are more accurate when asked what they're feeling in the moment.
"If you ask people about diet, and you ask people to tell you, ‘What did you eat in the past week? Just go day by day,’ they’re likely to get it quite wrong," Feingold said. "But if you ask someone, ‘What did you eat in the last half hour?’ they’ll remember what they ate in the last half hour … It's really good to ask people how they are feeling now, as opposed to remember how they might have been feeling even in the relatively near past.”
After two beta tests to work out the technical kinks, the app is set to launch campuswide this fall. All undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to participate after downloading the app from Apple's App Store or Google Play. Registration requires a valid UCLA student ID, and students will be asked to provide demographic information, such as gender, race, sexual orientation and campus living arrangement. In addition to responding to survey prompts every two weeks, students can log in and submit information whenever they'd like.
The beta tests did not yield enough data to run any analysis, but BruinX plans to eventually use the data gathered to measure how identity influences students' feelings of community over the course of a year, and how those feelings change in conjunction with local, national and global events.
Maintaining a high response rate tops BruinX's list of priorities. To do so, they will use part of a recent grant from the Lumina Foundation to create marketing campaigns and incentive structures that will keep students responding. "Obviously there won’t be 100 percent participation, but still, [we hope] that for a sufficient number of students this becomes a part of their normal mode of operations and they just use it consistently," Feingold said.
Assuming a successful rollout in the fall, BruinX plans to expand the app to include UCLA faculty and staff.DiversityEditorial Tags: Student lifeTechnologyImage Source: UCLAImage Caption: UCLA's new mobile app, BruinXperience, asks students about campus climate.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: University of California, Los Angeles
The controversial sale of Westminster Choir College took another step forward Thursday, with Rider University trustees signing a purchase and sale agreement calling for the choir college in Princeton, N.J., to be transferred to a new owner by July 2019.
Under the agreement, Westminster -- which has been part of Rider since a merger in the early 1990s -- will be transferred to entities set up by a company based in China, Kaiwen Education. Kaiwen agreed in February to buy Westminster for $40 million and operate it as a nonprofit. That agreement ratcheted up concerns from already unhappy faculty members and alumni who worried the for-profit buyer does not have the experience or commitment needed to operate a top-tier music college.
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Several details released Thursday about the newly signed purchase agreement are related to faculty and alumni concerns. But parties opposed to the sale, including some who are suing to block it, remained staunchly opposed to the deal, which cannot close until the lawsuits are resolved. So the situation will continue to play out in the courts.
The new agreement includes a commitment from the buyer to operate Westminster at its current campus for at least 10 years. It also says the buyer will “substantially maintain” current academic offerings for at least five years.
Additionally, Kaiwen will offer “employment and comparable benefits” to Westminster’s full-time faculty, “priority adjuncts” and full- and part-time staff members. A total of 33 full-time faculty members, 26 priority and preferred adjuncts, and 50 administrators and support staff will be offered employment. The buyer also committed to continuing student aid.
Kaiwen agreed to spend $16 million over a five-year period after the deal closes for working capital and capital expenditures. The $40 million purchase price is subject to adjustments before the deal closes.
“This contract sets the foundation for a process that creates opportunities for Westminster to evolve into a renewed institution with a strong future,” Robert S. Schimek, who chairs Rider’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “This includes plans to broaden and expand Westminster far beyond what Rider is able to do, and attract more international students to the Choir College, Conservatory and Continuing Education.”
The new agreement left groups opposed to the sale unmoved. The Rider chapter of the American Association of University Professors blasted Thursday's agreement, questioning whether the buyer intends to run the choir college beyond the newly agreed-upon five-year mark and arguing that the sale price appears to be in flux and at risk of heading downward.
“All available evidence, including a detailed analysis by Rider Business College faculty, demonstrates that Kaiwen’s finances are precarious,” said Joel Phillips, professor of composition and music theory at the college and AAUP spokesperson, in a statement. “Taken together with its complete lack of experience in higher education it’s hard to imagine a less suitable partner to invest in and continue Westminster Choir College’s legacy.”
The AAUP plans to continue to oppose the deal.
Rider moved in 2017 to sell Westminster after faculty members, students and alumni resisted the idea of relocating the choir college from its longtime campus in Princeton to Rider’s main campus seven miles away in Lawrenceville, N.J. Rider leaders pursued changes because they felt the need to improve their budget situation and inject cash into the university.
The planned sale has already prompted multiple lawsuits. Princeton Theological Seminary sued in New Jersey Superior Court, arguing that the proposed sale would not comply with the original intent of the donor who gave land for Westminster’s Princeton campus and that the donor wanted the campus to go to the seminary if the choir college didn’t fulfill its obligations. Students, parents, donors and alumni are also suing the university in federal court.
Rider is trying to “steal the bounty” of a charitable gift it received 30 years ago, said Bruce Afran, a lawyer for the Westminster Foundation, one of the groups suing Rider in federal court. The courts and New Jersey’s attorney general are unlikely to allow the sale to go forward, Afran argued.
“It actually makes the lawsuit more compelling than ever,” Afran said of the new sale agreement. “There is a century-old school that now is living with a five-year life span under this proposal.”
Kaiwen has established a nonprofit corporation in New Jersey, Westminster Choir College Acquisition Corp., to operate the college after the sale. The acquisition corporation will change its name to Westminster Choir College after the deal is complete.
Two for-profit companies tracing their ownership to Kaiwen are also involved in the deal: Beijing Wenhuaxuexin Education Investment Limited Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Kaiwen Education, and Princeton Westminster International LLC, a subsidiary of Beijing Wenhuaxuexin Education. They would operate two branches of Westminster, the Westminster Conservatory and Westminster Continuing Education.
For the next year, Rider plans to continue running Westminster, the conservatory and the continuing education operation. The university plans to coordinate student recruitment with Kaiwen.
“Kaiwen Education’s mission is to sustain and grow Westminster Choir College’s reputation as a world-class institution, while maintaining it as an artistically pre-eminent, academically rigorous and fiscally sound institution,” said Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Rider’s president, in a statement. “It is our hope that the entire Westminster community can come together to help bring this process to a successful conclusion so the legacy of Westminster can carry on far into the future.”
Rider chose Kaiwen to acquire Westminster after reaching out to 281 different parties. It received 13 formal proposals of interest and five proposals that included interest in keeping Westminster in Princeton.
No educational institutions from the United States expressed interest in running Westminster in Princeton, according to Rider. One U.S. educational institution was interested in moving Westminster to its campus but decided against moving forward after a due-diligence period.Partnerships With Nonprofit CollegesEditorial Tags: MergersImage Source: Westminster Choir CollegeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
- Lynn University is starting a bachelor's program in cybersecurity.
- Northern Virginia Community College, in collaboration with Amazon Web Services, is starting a cloud computing concentration in an information services technology associate degree program.
- Oakland University is starting a Ph.D. in nursing.
- Purdue University is starting an online master of science in education program.
- Tufts University is starting an online master's in global business administration.
Editorial Tags: New academic programsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Lynn UniversityOakland UniversityPurdue University-Main CampusTufts University