Courts Force Education Department to Forgive $150 Million in Student Loans

The Department of Education will begin forgiving $150 million worth of student loan debt for those attending for-profit colleges that closed while students were still enrolled. Officials say that around 15,000 former students’ debts will be excused. The loans are being forgiven after a federal judge ruled that Education Secretary Betsy Devos was unlawfully delaying an Obama-era policy known as “borrower defense to repayment”.

Last year the Department of Education rolled back two Obama administration regulations aimed to protect students and hold for-profit colleges more accountable. One, the “borrower defense to repayment” was intended to go in place in July, and is designed to make it easier for students who said they were defrauded by their schools to get their loans potentially forgiven. The courts have ruled that Devos’ attempts to repeal the regulations are illegal. The Education Department will begin notifying former students today that it is forgiving around $150 million in student loan debt, over half of which will be cancelled for students who attended the now closed Corinthian Colleges.


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University of Mississippi Resigns

University of Mississippi President to Resign, Other Major Schools also Seeing Recent Turnover

Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter announced on Monday that he will resign from his post at this end of this calendar year. Vitter became chancellor of the school in January of 2016 after serving as provost and executive vice chancellor at Kansas. Some students were surprised to hear about Vitter’s resignation. Sophomore Zoe Thaw said, “I feel like he did a great job while he was here, and I don’t know why he would be stepping down.”

Recently, another negative spotlight on Ole Miss may have contributed to Vitter’s resignation. In September Ed Meek, a Mississippi graduate and media entrepreneur, posted a Facebook rant complaining of lower enrollment, deteriorating property values and pictures of two African American women with racial undertones. Though Chancellor Vitter immediately condemned the post, it’s apparent the controversy has something to do with Vitter stepping down. Others (Conservative Donors) cite the university becoming exceptionally divided under a progressive Vitter—with his pushing to remove the flag of the state, encouraging the prohibition of playing Dixie at football, a debacle with the selection of a new mascot, and other issues which they believe is causing athletics, enrollment and public image of the school to suffer.

Mississippi isn’t the only school that is facing major recent changes in leadership. In the past month Maryland, South Carolina, Colorado State, the Tennessee System, and South Florida all have presidents and chancellors who are either retiring or resigning. Two weeks ago, Maryland’s President Dr. Wallace D. Loh announced he will be leaving the university in June of 2019 after a college football player died during practice. Loh’s administration was found to be partially responsible for an athletic department that allowed players to be abused for years. Loh said, “I have accepted that responsibility.” Colorado State’s President Tony Frank has announced his resignation for next summer saying, “it’s now time for the next step in our university’s trajectory, and that will require the articulation of a new vision for Colorado State.”

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Female Athletic Directors Almost Double Since 1990, Still Lag at D-I Programs

New research from Higher Education Publications, Inc. indicates that the number of women in college athletic director positions has almost doubled since 1990.  Our analysis tracked athletic director data dating back to 1990 and found that the rate of female ADs has grown from 11% to 19.5% overall at NCAA colleges and universities in the United States.

Based on college administrator data from the HigherEd Direct Database, the report examined athletic directors in Divisions I, II, and III from 1990 until July of 2018. Currently, 200 of the 1022—or just over 19% of institutions listed, have female athletic directors.


More specifically, the number and percentage of female ADs currently at Division I, II, and III schools are:

  • Division I: 39 of 339 or 12%
  • Division II: 41 of 286 or 14%
  • Division III: 120 of 397 or 30%

In the so-called “Power Five Conferences” of the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12, and SEC, the numbers are lower with only five of the 65 athletic departments (7.6 %) being run by women—North Carolina State, Pitt, Penn State, Virginia and Washington. According to Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, one reason is the stereotype of football and the culture of the programs that surround it. Barbour said, “There is this notion that because women, in general, don’t play football, how would you administer or supervise it?”

Another obstacle inhibiting female athletic directors is the fact that the college administrators doing the hiring–chancellors and presidents–are disproportionately male as well. According to a previous report, presently only 16 of the 115 major research universities (schools such as Stanford, Michigan and Clemson) have female presidents. And According to the American Council on Education, 30% of all colleges and universities in the U.S. have female presidents (up from 9.5% in 1986).

Though slow, over the past two decades, the growth and progress made in the overall amount of female college presidents and athletic ADs is increasing, and many believe that the nature of hiring at the once male dominated position(s) is changing. Three of the top 15 schools in the final 2017 Associated Press football poll had female athletic directors. The ACC especially has made strides in hiring female ADs. Most Recently, UVA offered the top job to Carla Williams, making her the third female director in the conference after Pittsburg and NC State.

With as the number of sports fans and female athletes continuing to grow, the changing of perceptions and growing female representation in athletic programs will continue to follow, though it won’t be easy. Patti Phillips, CEO of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA) says, “The athletics world is realizing that women as athletic directors are doing a pretty good job and that they are very positive leaders who develop good programs,” she says. “… A woman’s voice in the department of athletics needs to be heard.”

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College Basketball

Undrafted Basketball Players Could Return to College Under New NCAA Rules

In response to federal investigations into several prominent college basketball programs last fall, the NCAA has announced new rules regarding men’s basketball and student athletes. Two of the most significant changes include allowing student athletes to participate in the NBA draft and return to college if undrafted, and requiring Division I schools to pay for tuition, fees and books for both men and women’s basketball players who left school and returned later to attain their degree.

Other noteworthy rule changes include:

  • Elite college players may be represented by an agent, who is certified by the NCAA, to help them make more informed decisions about turning pro.
  • High school basketball student-athletes can make more college campus visits, paid for by colleges, beginning as soon as the summer before their junior school year.
  • As a term of employment, school presidents and athletics staff will be personally accountable for their sports programs following the rules, including full cooperation in the investigations and infractions process.
  • Those schools who break rules face stronger penalties, including longer suspensions, playoff bans, and recruiting restrictions.

The new rules come on the heels of a Condoleezza Rice-led commission aimed at cleaning up college basketball. The NCAA notes the changes are intended “to promote integrity in the game, strengthen accountability and prioritize the interests of student-athletes over every other factor.” The changes will have to be approved by the NBA Players Union and be drafted into the league’s collective bargaining agreement. Officials for the NCAA acknowledge that this week’s announcement is only the start.


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New Report Shows DeVos Restored Controversial Accreditor Despite Staff Opposition

An internal draft report that was forced to be released by a lawsuit last week, shows that Betsy DeVos’s own staff at the Department of Education condemned the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) for once again failing to meet federal standards required for accreditation–with 57 of 93 standard criteria failing. The report goes on to recommend ACICS’s status as an accreditor be terminated. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Eric Kelderman, “For the second time in less than two years, officials at the U.S. Department of Education have recommended against approving a controversial accrediting agency that primarily oversees for-profit colleges.”

However, in April Secretary DeVos signed an official order reviving recognition of the disputed accrediting body. According an article by Erica Green in the The New York Times, “Education Secretary Betsy Devos disregarded a scathing review by her own staff this spring when she reinstated the watchdog body that had accredited two scandal-scarred for-profit universities whose bankruptcies left tens of thousands of students with worthless degrees and mountains of debt, a new report has revealed.”

Historically a for-profit accreditor, ACICS has fought for its accreditation reinstatement since the Obama administration eliminated its recognition in 2016 after reporting that the accreditor had failed to meet 21 of the 60 necessary criteria—citing “pervasive compliance problems” with schools which attained accreditation under the council. According to previous education secretary John King, ACICS “routinely failed to adequately police schools under its oversight,” including ITT Tech, The Corinthian Colleges, and other for-profit institutions.

DeVos’s order this spring to temporarily recognize ACICS came on the heels of a federal district judge’s ruling that previous secretary, John King, failed to consider key evidence and used a flawed process in removing ACICS accreditation. However, according to Alex Elson of the National Student Legal Defense Network, which sued to release the report, “Clearly she was well aware that ACICS was getting worse, not better, and has been working to help them anyway.” The report noted that ACICS had failed to demonstrate its evaluation of school compliance with federal student loan aid laws as well as documentation that they failed to implement graduate rate standards for schools, reforms that were promised this year.

A statement from the Education Department’s Frank Brogan called the report “an incomplete, pre-decisional document that may include errors of fact or omissions on the part of staff analysts.” While temporary, with restored recognition more than 100 colleges under ACICS will again be eligible to receive federal student aid. The department’s announcement does not entirely reverse the Obama era ban but allows ACICS continued recognition for an additional 6 months while the department “conducts a further review of ACICS’s 2016 petition for recognition.”

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Student Loans

Student Loan Debt Tops $1.5 Trillion Mark

According to the United States Federal Reserve, outstanding student loan debt has reached an all-time high of $1.52 trillion—up in the last ten years from $619 billion—an increase of over 145%. The new number surpasses all auto and credit card debts held by Americans and sees no signs of slowing.

A few reasons for increased student debt rates:

  • Slower repayment when compared to credit card and car loans
  • Constant cycle of new borrowers
  • Stagnant wages
  • Federal and State funding decreases causing higher tuition rates/fees

Currently, over half of student loan borrowers leaving school owe at least $20,000. That’s double, up from 25 percent in the last decade. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a study that analyzed borrowers who began repaying loans from 2002 to 2014 and looked at their repayment status through 2016. The data suggests that:

  • At least 40 percent of borrowers owe over $30,000.
  • Thirty percent of student loan borrowers are behind their loan balances after five years in repayment.
  • 50 percent of student loan borrowers are over 34 when they start repaying their loans.
  • 60 percent of those who cannot reduce their balances are delinquent.

The CFPB’s report also indicated growth in awareness among private companies who offer incentives to employees with student debt. Employers are increasingly helping their employees who borrowed by offering repayment assistance and other programs designed to help those in debt. Additionally, programs like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness plan allow borrowers employed in government and non-profit sectors to cancel debts after 10 years of non-delinquent payments. However, with student debts increasingly exceeding incomes, it’s a wonder if many repayments are even feasible.

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Earth Day 2018

In celebration of Earth Day, Higher Education Publications, Inc. is offering a 15% discount on all purchases of HigherEd Direct for the week of April 22nd-April 28th. Simply type the word: Earth in our coupon code section. Click here to take advantage!

Small College Struggle

Small College Struggles Continue: Update

Last March we wrote on how a growing number of small liberal arts colleges were facing major financial challenges with the risk of shuttering operations. Since last spring, the number of small private school closures has grown to include: St. Gregory’s University, Grace University, Concordia College, Marygrove College, Atlantic Union College, and Moody Bible Institute.

These small schools share specific traits: high tuition, minimal endowments, religious affiliations and locations in rural or suburban areas.  Roughly one-third of the small private colleges rated by Moody’s Investors Service generated operating deficits in 2017, an increase from 20 percent in 2013.

Today’s students continue to shy away from expensive liberal arts schools that leave them in debt and are considering larger, public universities.  Moody’s recently released a report about college closures and said the amount of colleges closing in 2017-18 is expected to triple with small colleges the most at risk.

Increased tuition has forced many students to think more about value.  In recent years, larger schools have been able to offer better rates of financial aid and lower tuition.  With fewer students choosing smaller, more expensive universities, revenue from tuition has fallen.  Bigger schools have bigger endowments, allowing for flexibility.  Smaller, private schools don’t always have the assurance of large endowments to fall back on.  When budgets are stretched, the first thing to go are specialized programs and facilities.  Eventually smaller schools may be forced to lay off faculty and staff, thus decreasing overall value in the eyes of potential students.

Last year, due to ‘financial challenges’ St. Joseph’s College announced that it would cease operations at the end of its spring semester.  The school lost $4 to $5 million each year in revenue since 2012.  Board Chairman Benedict Sponseller said the school took out a large mortgage in hopes of increasing enrollment. When enrollment did not increase, St. Joseph’s began to spend its endowment, around $24 million in 2015, to stop the bleeding. It did not work.

St. Joseph’s is not alone as St. Gregory’s University hoped a $12.5 million loan from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation – through the US Department of Agriculture – would keep it from closing. Despite de-annexing from the city of Shawnee to qualify, the loan was denied. Board Chairman of St. Josephs, Rev. Don Wolf said, “”Without this component in the financial plan, the ability to sustain the university at this point is not possible.” The university suspended operations in the fall.

Dowling College, St. Catharine College, and Marian Court College are among others who have shut their doors in recent years.  David Warren, head of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, says small schools must understand their own value and cut costs to survive.  With larger schools offering what today’s students want- generous financial aid, access to urban areas, and numerous school programs backed by large endowments – small liberal arts schools have a lot of value to make up.

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College administrator Turnover

College Administrator Data/Turnover Rates: 2016-Present

New data from Higher Education Publications, Inc. indicates that top-level positions at colleges and universities are experiencing some of the highest employee turnover compared to other administrators. Our analysis tracked administrator data at accredited colleges and universities in the United States and found that presidents, chancellors and provosts were three of the top four positions with the highest turnover rates in the last 18 months.

Noted are the top ten turnover percentages for college administrators tracked in the HEP, Inc. database since October 2016.

  1. Dean/Directors of Education 22%
  2. Provosts 21%
  3. President’s/Chancellors 18%
  4. Dean of Business 18%
  5. Dean of Art and Science 18%
  6. Director of Institutional Advancement 17%
  7. Dean/Director of Nursing 16%
  8. Dean/Director of Math/Science 16%
  9. Director of Admissions 15.5%
  10. Chief of Student Affairs 14%

*Positions listed require a minimum of 350 reported administrator counts to be included.

  • The average turnover rate of 124 different administrator positions tracked by HEP Inc. was 12%.
  • Of the 3,893 provosts listed in The Higher Education Directory in 2017, 808 or 21% are new as of April 2018.
  • Presidents and Chancellors are third on the list with a total of 840 out of 4,717, or 18% being new.
  • Rounding out the bottom of the list with the lowest percentage turnover are deans/directors of government relations, at 6%.

When compared to other administrators, the cause for such high-level turnover can be linked to many diverse issues such as growing financial, faculty, Board and political pressures. Also, traditionally colleges and universities have made leadership selections from within, minimizing risk. According to the American Council on Education, 60 percent of current presidents at doctoral-granting universities were once provosts prior to accepting presidency. However, another study released by ACE found that only 30 percent of provosts planned to pursue presidency. As a result, traditionally qualified presidents are becoming harder to find, thus creating a higher risk of turnover through a limited supply of conventional talent. In order to increase the likelihood of a long, successful tenure, presidents must develop an acute understanding of the complex issues that lead to involuntary turnover and act accordingly.

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Controversial For-Profit Accrediting Body Restored by Devos

Education Secretary Betsy Devos has signed an official order retaining the status of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as a federally recognized accrediting agency.  Citing a “flawed” decision-making process, Devos’ order comes on the heels of a federal district judge’s ruling that previous secretary, John King, failed to consider key evidence and used a flawed process before removing the recognition of ACICS in 2016.

ACICS, a historically for-profit accreditor, has fought for its accreditation reinstatement since the Obama administration eliminated its recognition in 2016.  King removed ACICS’s recognition after citing “pervasive compliance” problems with schools that had attained accreditation under the council. Shuttered schools such as ITT Tech, The Corinthian Colleges, and other for-profit institutions “routinely failed to adequately police schools under its oversight,” according the Education Department. However, in March a federal court found that ACICS’s 36,000 pages petitioning for recognition had not been entirely examined by Education Department officials in leu of revoking ACICS’s status.

While temporary, with restored recognition more than 100 colleges under ACICS will again be eligible to receive federal student aid. The department’s announcement does not entirely reverse the Obama era ban but allows ACICS continued recognition for an additional 12 months while the department “conducts a further review of ACICS’s 2016 petition for recognition.” Devos also said she would review the 2016 documents and allow ACICS to submit further information to prove its future compliance. According to the order, ACICS must file written submission and “provided additional evidence that is relevant to these issues” by May 30th.  The Education Department will respond to said submission by July 30th.


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March Madness Success Boosts College Applications, Awareness, and Revenue

The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament is set to begin a little less than a month from now and a successful run can pump up more than a school’s spirit. According to a study of past tournament wins by Moody’s Investor Service, schools that were successful in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament directly correlated with a surge in student applications. “Enhanced demand can result in increased applications, higher net tuition revenue and greater fundraising,” the New York ratings agency said in their report.

Following the University of Connecticut’s two national championship wins in 2011 and 2015, applications at the school increased 27 and 35 percent in those respective years. In 2011 Virginia Commonwealth University was able to reach the final four as a double-digit seed, becoming only the third team in history to do so. As media coverage and homepage visits to the school’s website grew, so too did VCU’s freshman application numbers—by more than 15 percent from the previous year. Back in 2010, Butler saw a 43 percent boost in applications after a loss to Duke in the national championship game.

Long term, being consistent in the NCAA tournament can benefit schools beyond applications. Gonzaga University first made an unlikely run in 1999, when it advanced to the Elite Eight. Since then, the school has made the tournament eleven times, including the national championship game last year vs. North Carolina. In that time, Gonzaga’s enrollment has nearly doubled, undergraduate applications have grown 300 percent, and the school’s endowment has multiplied to $212 million. Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh said, “I think it’s fair to say there have been many initiatives…and the success of the basketball program has played a significant role in our ability to raise funds.” Over the past two decades, Gonzaga has also worked to increase financial aid, update infrastructure, and develop new programs for an evolving workforce. “Basketball has certainly been a major factor these 20 years in terms of people’s awareness of the university. We’ve certainly not missed the opportunity to capitalize on the success of the team and the appearance they’ve had on the national stage,” McCulloh said.

While Moody’s report identifies that the increase in applications may be temporary, it notes: “the publicity provided by the tournament can reach more potential students than a university might otherwise have the resources to pursue.” According to a report by economists Devin and Jaren Pope titled “Understanding College Applications Decisions: Why College Sports Success Matters,” the awareness provided by a sports victory to out-of-state students can be significant financially. For VCU the results of a final four run directly impacted enrollments and tuition revenue. In 2008, 92 percent of freshman were from Virginia. In 2012, in-state enrollment rates had decreased to 85 percent. Based on VCU’s 2012 admission’s rates, out-of-state students added an additional $3.4 million in tuition revenue.

In Gonzaga’s case, making the tournament helped spark the beginning of the university’s long-running success and branding. And as schools face the reality of seeking new solutions to funding shortages, a Cinderella run in March Madness may not be the complete answer, but it can certainly help.

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Higher Ed Sexual Assault

DeVos Sued over Sexual Assault Policy in Higher Ed

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is being sued by several civil rights organizations about how her agency is investigating sexual assaults on college campuses. This past fall, the Education Department dropped Obama-era policies and issued new rules on how colleges deal with sexual assault and harassment claims. The new instructions now require that universities use higher standards of evidence to proceed with campus judicial action in the case of an allegation.

Civil rights advocacy groups argue that previous Obama-era guidelines offered critical protections for survivors of sexual assault and that the new rules, under DeVos, create a system which discourages sexual violence and assault victims from using the campus process to come forward “leading to further reductions in reports of sexual violence and assault.” According to Stacy Malone, the executive director of the Victim Rights Law Center, “They (survivors) fear they are no longer able to get a fair shake.” The actual lawsuit alleges a “Myriad of statements and actions by the Department’s leadership reveal a discriminatory viewpoint. Thus, not only does the Department’s 2017 Title IX policy fail to meet the reasoned decision and other requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, it also violates the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee. Plaintiffs therefore respectfully request that the 2017 Title IX policy be vacated.”

Secretary DeVos announced the changes to Title IX in September, saying the previous system “lacked basic elements of due process and failed to ensure fundamental fairness.” She continued with, “There’ve been too many students wronged in a well-intentioned attempt to ensure that this issue is not swept under the rug and not in back rooms of schools any longer.” The Department of Education said it plans to enact the new guidelines after a public comment period.

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