Thursday, April 27, 2017

Oversight of the Federal Role in Higher Education Finance Appears to Be in Flux by Jonathan D. Glater  

Earlier this month, the new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, issued a memorandum withdrawing two Obama-era memoranda that, among other things, had directed the attention of the Education Department to attend to the quality of student loan servicing.  It is not entirely clear yet what the effect of the policy change will be.

But the Department is not the only player.  The deadline expired on Monday for comments requested by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on the need for the agency to gather information from student loan servicers, the businesses that manage loans made through the Education Department’s Direct Loan program. 

The independent CFPB, created by legislation passed in the wake of the financial crisis, proposed that it collect information including data on loan volume, types of loans serviced, repayment plans used by borrowers, loan status (for example, in school, in repayment, in deferment, in forbearance), and borrower defaults.  (In the interest of disclosure, your author signed onto a letter supporting the CFPB in its effort.)

Perhaps to bolster the argument for additional data collection, the CFPB today released a supervisory report describing unfair and deceptive practices identified in an investigation of student loan servicers.

The CFPB’s authority to gather information is not unlimited and sailing has not been smooth.  A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dealt the agency a setback last week by ruling that it did not properly support a demand for information from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, which accredits for-profit colleges.  

The CFPB’s “civil investigative demand,” which is unrelated to the proposed data collection from servicers, had asked for information related to “unlawful acts and practices in connection with accrediting for-profit colleges.” In the view of the judges, this was just too broad; the agency did not “state adequately the unlawful conduct under investigation or the applicable law.”

The full opinion, which is narrower than the lower court decision that it affirmed, is here.  The appellate panel left open the possibility that the CFPB could revise its demand for information and try again.

These are potentially difficult times for would-be aggressive regulators of business conduct, as Gary Rivlin of The New York Times recently warned.  The CFPB may not get much support from the Trump Administration. 

The combination of changes in policy at the Education Department, investigative initiatives at the CFPB, and resistance from businesses, suggests that student loans, and specifically student loan servicing, will continue to be a hot topic.

April 27, 2017 in Higher education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Whither – Wither? - Public Service Loan Forgiveness By Jonathan D. Glater


It comes as no surprise that some of the most important jobs public-spirited graduates want to pursue do not offer high salaries.  To make these careers feasible for indebted students, Congress in 2007 approved the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, or PSLF, which provides for forgiveness of student debts of those who make payments on their loans for ten years and work for a qualifying public interest employer.

The trouble is, according to a lawsuit filed in December, the Education Department may be tinkering with the definition of qualifying employer.

The ten-year period will end this fall for early adopters, and now some of those student borrowers who counted on forgiveness say they have been told that they are no longer eligible after all.  Last week, The New York Times ran a disheartening story about disavowals of forgiveness by the Department.

The subject started to get coverage after the American Bar Association filed a lawsuit against the Department in December on behalf of the students who were first told they could benefit from forgiveness, then were told later that they could not. 

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., is worth watching.  Changes to PSLF, codified at 20 U.S.C. §1087e(m), could have an impact on the lives of millions of students who rely on its availability when they make hard decisions about all aspects of their lives.  Consider how the possibility of loan forgiveness influences choices about careers to pursue, retirement saving, major personal investments, marriage, children, and where to live. 

No wonder the apparent decision by the Department to move the goalposts resulted in litigation.

According to the complaint filed by the American Bar Association (“ABA”) challenging the Department’s apparent decision that some student borrowers’ employment did not qualify them for forgiveness, some borrowers’ loan balances actually grew while they worked in what they thought were eligible public interest jobs.  They used an income-dependent repayment plan and their payments did not make a dent in the principal.

The student borrowers believed that they would benefit from loan forgiveness because they filed “employment certification forms” and received confirmation that their employment qualified. 

Then, after years of making payments, they received notice that their employment did not qualify – and that this finding applied retroactively, such that payments they had already made would not count toward the ten-year requirement.  The law does not specify an appeals process, the ABA notes.

Why is the ABA suing the Department?  Well, “high caliber employees” will leave or may not work for the organization if such employment does not qualify for loan forgiveness, according to the complaint. 

The Department’s answer asserted that the Department had “ultimate authority to review” actions taken by the company that serviced the loans, suggesting that the Department considered no prior finding of eligibility for forgiveness to be binding.  The Department’s response suggests also that perhaps the servicing entity did not have authority to make the eligibility findings that it had.

Further, the Department “does not make a final decision on whether a borrower has been employed by a qualified organization until the borrower submits an application for loan forgiveness,” suggesting that any interim confirmation of eligibility for PSLF is meaningless.

While the outcome matters greatly to students, the battle is also significant because it implicates the larger question of the extent to which the federal government will subsidize accessibility of higher education.  Loan forgiveness to students in repayment reduces the cost of college, it just does so ex post rather than ex ante as a scholarship would. 

Critics of PSLF warn of the program’s potential cost, at least implying that this subsidy is dangerous because of its expense.  And perhaps a debate over national willingness to put higher education within reach of students ready to work in the public interest is one we should have.

In such a debate, we should take note of the distributive effects of PSLF:  students with higher debts, often students who had less in the way of financial resources to begin with, are the ones who will be most affected by restrictions on the availability of forgiveness.  The forgiveness program constituted a legislative effort to turn indebtedness into an incentive to go into fields that otherwise students might view as unaffordable.

But regardless, those students who have acted in reliance on PSLF deserve to have the promise of the 2007 legislation honored.  They are, after all, working in the public interest.

April 10, 2017 in Higher education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Will Accepting GRE Scores Improve Law Schools' Assessment of Candidates? by Jonathan D. Glater

Harvard Law School’s readiness to accept the GRE in place of the LSAT raises a host of important questions – most importantly, what will the effect be? 

In explaining the move, Jessica Soban, assistant dean and chief admissions officer, told The New York Times that it would “encourage more students in the United States and internationally from a greater degree of disciplines to apply,” and the law school’s dean, Martha Minow, suggested that the law school would be able to admit a more diverse class as a result.

Whether such goals are realized will depend on numbers other than GRE scores.  The results matter, because other law schools likely will follow the lead of Harvard and the University of Arizona, which announced the same move last year.

Many more students take the GRE each year than take the LSAT: 584,677 worldwide, including 326,957 United States citizens, in the 2015-2016 cycle, according to Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the GRE.  In contrast, 84,771 people took the LSAT (and 56,500 applied to law school) in roughly the same period, according to the Law School Admission Council (“LSAC”), which administers the LSAT. 

The larger pool of potential applicants could indeed produce greater racial and ethnic diversity at law schools.  According to ETS, 55 percent of the U.S. citizens taking the GRE were white, 6 percent were Asian American, 7 percent were African American, 3 percent were Mexican American, and 4 percent were classified as “other Hispanic,” a category excluding Puerto Rican citizens, who accounted for 1 percent.

In contrast, about 61 percent of law school applicants were white, 15 percent were Asian American, 15 percent were African American, and 13 percent were Latino.  (I did not find precisely analogous data, so please note that these percentages reflect two different sets of numbers:  GRE test takers who are U.S. citizens, on the one hand, and law school applicants, on the other.)

Average GRE scores of different racial and ethnic groups vary across the population of U.S. citizens who took the test, according to ETS.  White and Asian American test takers earned higher average scores than black, Mexican American or “other Hispanic” test takers.  White test takers tended to score higher on the verbal reasoning component of the exam and Asian American test takers tended to score higher on quantitative reasoning. 

As with the LSAT, on which LSAC reports similar patterns, if admissions processes at relatively more selective institutions continue to weigh test scores heavily, the greater size of the pool may have less of an effect on student diversity at law schools.  The selection process, committed to a particular definition of merit, may get in the way.

Just how important is the LSAT, or GRE, for that matter, in predicting who will do well in law school?  To ask that question is to raise another, which is, how good should it be in order to play the powerful role in admissions decisions that it does.  According to an ETS report for the University of Arizona last year, “scores for all GRE subtests, individually or composited, are both highly reliable and valid for use in law school admissions.”

The study was based on a sample of 78 people, and took into account GRE, LSAT, undergraduate GPA and first term law school GPA.  The study did not capture how students did in the second and third years of law school. 

The ETS study presented the data in different ways but the most intuitive may be this:  54 percent of students in the top third of GRE composite scores had a first semester law school GPA in the top third of their class, while 23 percent were in the bottom third.  Of students in the bottom third of GRE scores, 48 percent were in the bottom third of their law school class and 16 percent were in the top third.  That means that 52 percent – more than half – of the students in the bottom one-third on the GRE did not land in the bottom one-third of their law school class.

To put that finding in context, the studies mentioned in the report for the University of Arizona found that the GRE verbal and quantitative sections “almost always predicted graduate [school] grade point average (GGPA) in general and first year GGPA at least as strongly as [undergraduate] GPA.” 

A recent study, available here, suggests that the LSAT itself is not a great predictor of law school performance.  While an LSAT score is a statistically significant predictor of law school GPA (twice as accurate in the first year than overall), the effect is not overwhelming. Each additional LSAT point predicts an increase in law school GPA of 0.016 – a bigger deal, the bigger the LSAT score difference between two applicants, but nonetheless a “modest” effect “compared to how heavily schools weight LSAT scores.”

So both tests predict law school performance, but to a limited degree. 

Where should this leave us?  Frankly, uncertain.  The tests do not predict a lot.  The ETS report for the University of Arizona does not look beyond the first semester of law school.  Average performance on both LSAT and GRE appears to vary with the race of the test-taker. 

Law schools have been using an imperfect tool and two are now moving toward incorporation of a complementary but also imperfect tool.  While predictions are always risky, especially about the future, it seems highly likely that results of adoption of the GRE will be imperfect, too.

March 22, 2017 in Higher education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Community College Drops What Advocates Called a "Blacks Only" Course


A few days ago the New York Civil Rights Coalition sent a letter to Moraine Valley Community College to

call your immediate attention, and to request your formal response, to the Chicago Tribune August 4th  piece, and in other media, about a college course at Moraine Valley Community College reportedly exclusively for black (African-American) students.

Especially concerning to us are quotes attributed to college publications and officials that explain and seemingly justify the racial restrictions on enrollment in the required college course, “College: Changes, Challenges, Choice.” According to published reports and the Chicago Tribune piece, a catalog of course listings Note specifies that registration to a section of the aforementioned course is “limited to African-American students.” The piece quotes the college’s assistant director of communications, Jessica Crotty, as explaining that the course, which meets for 8 weeks, is required to be taken by students in their first year. The catalog describes the course as one that “provides [the student] an opportunity to assess your purpose for college, assess your study strategies, set college and career goals, examine your values and decision-making skills, and develop an appreciation for diversity.”

In explaining and, arguably, defending racial restrictions on some sections of the course, Ms. Crotty is quoted as saying: “Sometimes we set aside sections for specific populations, including veterans and older students.” (Emphasis added). Ms. Crotty added, and I quote: “Students feel comfortable and are more likely to open up because they’re with other students who are like them.” (Emphasis added),

I find it strange indeed that a course that purports to guide and develop students’ “appreciation for diversity” employs racial separatism and segregation as acceptable and effective means for teaching that “appreciation” for diversity. Most shockingly, I find it incredible and disingenuous on the part of any educational institution and/or higher education official to equate offering courses in racially restrictive ways to that of clustering students in focus groups that are not themselves categories prohibited by law or regulation.

Worse, we are shocked and appalled by the notion that racial segregation can be argued for, much less justified, on the premise that statistical data or “social science evidence” may exist somewhere that allegedly supports the college’s policy and/or practice of restricting or conditioning enrollment in a course of study in any academic program by race or skin color. Such argumentation obscures and defies everything we know about the wrong-headedness of classifying and treating students differently by reason of their “race”, and separating them by race and/or skin color in the academy.

Separation or segregation by race defies state and federal laws, and Supreme Court decisions that prohibit differential treatment of black students or of other students because of their skin color or groupings that are premised and justified by stereotypes about their racial group.

Tell me, please, that these media reports are errant.

Tell me, please, that Moraine Valley Community College is not actually segregating students in academic courses by race and/or skin color, in ways that separate them from their peers of other skin colors and in ways that bar any student from enrolling in a course designated for students of a particular race only.

In explicit terms, it is not sufficient for the college to offer psychobabble rationalizations for reprehensible racial classifications and legally and morally suspect groupings. We find it especially abhorrent for a college to project and invoke the bogus argument that any principled or singular objection to classes and courses for blacks only is itself a manifestation of [whites’ and others’] hostility or racism towards blacks. That’s racial and sheer idiocy. Rather, the grouping of black students in a course designated only for “them” is the practice of racism; it is the same as the college decreeing that sections of a course will be restricted to students who are “white/Caucasian,” and, therein, justified in the guise that students of a certain skin color supposedly feel more comfortable in discussing sensitive matters with peers of ‘”their own kind.”

Classes for “whites only” and/or classes for “blacks only” are one and the same—sheer racism. Such racial restrictions violate every tenet of equal protection under the law, and of academic integrity—notably the open pursuit of knowledge. I need not recount here or remind you what the federal and state laws require and prohibit. Indeed, Moraine Valley Community College’s web site and mission statements make clear that its leadership and trustees are keenly aware of the legal framework and guidelines for avoiding discriminatory policies and practices: “It is the policy of Moraine Valley Community College not to discriminate on the basis of race, color…” or “conduct in its educational programs, activities or employment practices” discrimination based on race, color.  Thus, we cannot abide the alibis and excuses offered by any official or spokesperson for a community college for registering students—or barring students’ registering or enrollment to any academic offering—on the basis of any student’s race or skin color.

The mocking of the law and the sheer arrogance implicit in decision-making based on race and skin color “differences” are at hand. Any policy or effort that restricts enrollment to a college course on such objectionable and prohibited racial grounds—is profoundly obvious and disturbing. Such racial discrimination raises troubling and substantial questions about the college’s commitment to state and federal law—indeed to the rule of law—and to its commitment to the open pursuit of knowledge which is a fundamental of the academic experience and mission. To defy the law and regulations and academic principles in such a flagrant fashion suggests the lowering if not outright abandonment of rigorous standards of the college’s accreditation. That is why we are addressing this open letter to the college’s president and to the president of the Higher Learning Commission, the college’s accrediting authority. We are also copying this letter to the Chair of the Board of Trustees, because it is our belief that the trustees share responsibility for upholding the law and for fulfilling the college’s academic mission without compromise with fads and racist shenanigans.     

With confidence, we are of the opinion that a self-respecting board of trustees and Higher Learning Commission will promptly recognize and act on their duty to intervene and to correct any violations of law and public policy and to remedy any diminution of academic standards. The imposition of any racial qualification or restriction on any student, of any race, to enroll in any college course because of his/her race or skin color, cannot stand. The objection to such race-based restrictions must by definition take exception to any purported rationalization that the affected or excluded racial group will not contest the racial classification. Likewise, we are not impressed with the argument that the affected minority group or the excluded members of other racial groups may “opt” to enroll in alternate courses that do not have the racial restrictions.

Let us be clear; racial segregation as offered or practiced by a community college is objectionable on legal and educational grounds. That there are some blacks, and whites, who advocate such restrictions on course enrollment, matters not the least bit to us. In our view, racial restrictions and qualifications for a course are improper classifications and are evidence of discrimination per se, in purpose and effect. As my mentor, Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, the social psychologist, observed while he was alive—in objecting to the then fashion of separatist fads that were sweeping some college campuses, commented:

“In 1954 [when the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed enforced segregation in public education] it would have been the consensus in the black and white liberal communities that white racism would have gained its greatest triumph had it been able to persuade its black victims that segregation was not only acceptable but desirable in itself, and that the justification for this separatism was color alone.’

Segregation by race then and today is not acceptable; and it is not desirable.

Higher education leaders should express the strongest opposition and outrage over this latest fad and manifestation of racism—that of stereotyping, steering, and segregating students by their “race” and/or skin color into separate courses and classrooms.

If these reports that I have described to you have any ring of truth to them, we urge you to rethink and remove all racial restrictions and qualifications for course-taking at Moraine Valley Community College, forthwith.

The College President, Sylvia Jenkins, immediately recanted, indicating that the "decision has been made to remove all racial restrictions and qualifications for course-taking at Moraine Valley Community College."  If winning were only that easy in other instances.



August 11, 2016 in Higher education, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Second Circuit Restores Class Certification Claim For Former Students Of Failed Vocational School Chain

The Second Circuit recently reversed the dismissal of a class action lawsuit by former students of a chain of cosmetology schools, even though the Department of Education (DOE) had discharged the student loans of the named plaintiffs, because the issue was likely to reoccur with other plaintiffs in the class. The Second Circuit held in Salazar v. King, Sec. of Education, No. 15-832 (2nd Cir. May 12, 2016), that the suit was not moot under an exception for “inherently transitory” class action claims that related back to the complaint's filing. Plaintiffs had alleged in the suit that the beauty school chain, Wilfred American Educational Corporation, fraudulently certified students' eligibility for federal student loans by telling the government that students without a GED or high school diploma had an “ability to benefit” from the program, which the Education Department required to certify eligibility for federal student loans. Wilfred did this by certifying that its students had passed an approved ATB test when they had not. Wilfred, which got nearly 90% of its revenue from student loan payments, eventually closed, leaving many of its attendees without the ability to complete their training. The U.S. government nevertheless required Wilfred students to repay their federal student loans for some years afterwards, some through tax refund seizures and wage garnishments. The Wilfred plaintiffs were never told that their student loans could be discharged by the Education Department if the school falsely certified their eligibility. The Second Circuit reversed the district court's finding that the DOE's actions were unreviewable under the agency discretion doctrine. The opinion is available here.

May 12, 2016 in Cases, Higher education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bankrupting Higher Education

Matthew Bruckner has posted his new paper, Bankrupting Higher Education, to ssrn.  He offers this abstract:

Many colleges and universities are in financial distress but lack an essential tool for responding to financial distress used by for-profit businesses: bankruptcy reorganization. This Article makes two primary contributions to the nascent literature on college bankruptcies by, first, unpacking the differences among the three primary governance structures of institutions of higher education, and, second, by considering the implications of those differences for determining whether and under what circumstances institutions of higher education should be allowed to reorganize in bankruptcy. This Article concludes that bankruptcy reorganization is the most necessary for for-profit colleges and least necessary for public colleges, but ultimately concludes that all colleges be allowed to reorganize in chapter 11.

March 29, 2016 in Higher education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Georgia Rejects In-state Tuition for Deferred Action Immigrants

The Georgia Supreme Court in Olvera v. Univ. Sys. of Georgia's Bd. of Regents, No. S15G1130, 2016 WL 369382, at *2 (Ga. Feb. 1, 2016), rejected a challenge to the state university system policy of denying in-state tuition to immigrant students who are lawfully in the country pursuant to President Obama's "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program" (DACA).  The students "filed a declaratory judgment action against the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents and its members in their official capacities (collectively, the Board) seeking a declaration that they are entitled to in-state tuition at schools in the University System of Georgia." The trial court,  however, dismissed the challenge, holding that the Board was entitled to sovereign immunity in the case.  The Court of Appeals affirmed, as did the Georgia Supreme Court.  In other words, the court did not rule on the merits of the case, but rather rejected plaintiffs' ability to challenge the policy--at least a challenge directed at the Board of Regents.  In its final paragraph, the court wrote:
[o]ur decision today does not mean that citizens aggrieved by the unlawful conduct of public officers are without recourse. It means only that they must seek relief against such officers in their individual capacities. In some cases, qualified official immunity may limit the availability of such relief, but sovereign immunity generally will pose no bar.
Nonetheless, the decision was a major setback for plaintiffs who sought not just to challenge the actions of particular state officers, but the policy itself.  As to the policy, the dourt offered this summary of the arguments:

Continue reading

February 11, 2016 in Higher education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Scholarship: Engle on Mandatory Reporting of Campus Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence

Prof. Jill C. Engle (Penn State) has posted Mandatory Reporting of Campus Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence: Moving to a Victim-Centric Protocol that Comports with Federal Law on ssrn. Thanks to CrimProf Blog for the tip. Excerpted from the introduction:

Interest in getting campus reactions to [sexual assault] "right" is at an elevated level nationwide in the wake of certain high profile allegations of sexual violence at numerous colleges, including Columbia, Vanderbilt, Yale, Florida State, and the University of Virginia. This Article describes the legal and social landscape of mandatory reporting and the attendant challenges, along with the policies and practices that colleges should adopt for faculty reporting to comply with federal law while still remaining sensitive to victim needs. 


November 2, 2015 in Higher education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

OCR's Dismissal of Asian Americans' Claim of Discrimination Against Harvard Is Much Ado About Nothing

Yesterday, a number of major new outlets, from the Wall Street Journal and the AP to the Bloomberg and US News & World Report, published stories on the fact that the Office for Civil Rights dismissed the complaint that Asian Americans recently filed against Harvard.  The complaint alleged that Harvard systematically discriminates against them in the admissions process.  The substance of the complaint and the prestige of the university against which it was filed are both significant.  See my prior post on the complaint.  That OCR dismissed the complaint, however, is not.  

After filing the complaint, the plaintiffs had also filed a lawsuit in federal court.  The federal court's jurisdiction exceeds and can preempt that of OCR's.  Thus, even if OCR had left the complaint open, the final word would have belonged to the federal court.  That OCR, which has a rapidly growing case load, would choose to avoid devoting resources to this complex case makes perfect sense.  This not a substantive judgement on the merits of the complaint, as some headlines would leave readers to believe, but just good stewardship of federal dollars.  Moreover, if there are issues the federal court does not address, the plaintiffs will be free to revive their complaint with OCR.

July 8, 2015 in Discrimination, Higher education, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What Happened to the "Public" University?

Yesterday's Los Angles Times offered a pretty bleak picture of the state of public higher education. The overall trend is a sharp increase in tuition since 2008 and a decrease in public funding for universities.  In nine states, tuition has increased by more than 50%.  The increase in Arizona is a whopping 83.6%.  Only ten states managed to keep tuition growth below 15%, which would have amounted to an arguably reasonable set of annual increases (just over 2% a year during a time of non-existent inflation).  The California Budget Project goes back further in time a traces the spending on prisons versus universities, finding that in 1980-81 California corrections accounted for 2.9% of the state budget and the state's university systems 9.6%. By 2014-2015, the proportions were reversed -- corrections were 9% of the state budget and the universities down to 5.1%. 

The LA Times article does a good job of explaining the politics that is producing this result. But regardless of why it is happening, this declining state support and sharp increase in the cost of attendance also begs the question of how many of our state universities can be fairly characterized as "public" and how long they will continue to be?

June 16, 2015 in Higher education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Aaron Taylor's Response to "Why I Defaulted on My Loans"

This weekend the New York published an opinion piece by Lee Siegel in which he says he was confronted with the choice of  "giv[ing] up what had become my vocation (in my case, being a writer) and [taking] a job that I didn't want in order to repay the huge debt I had accumulated in college and graduate school.  Or I could take what I had been led to believe was both the morally and legally reprehensible step of defaulting on my loans, which was the only way I could survive without wasting my life in a job that had nothing to do with my particular usefulness to society."  He "chose life" and defaulted on his loans.  He, of course, then goes on to further support his choice.

Aaron Taylor offers this response:

I recently authored a post lamenting the effects of misinformation on the decision making and outlook of student loan debtors.  My premise was that most of the commentary on student loans betokens a fundamental misunderstanding of the student loan system, particularly, the scope and extent of income-based repayment options.  This misinformation is especially dangerous because much of it is peddled by individuals who position themselves as experts and publications that are viewed as trustworthy.


Continue reading

June 8, 2015 in Higher education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Education Department to Fund Study on Efficacy of Online Community College Courses

The Department of Education reportedly plans to fund a $1.6 million study to review the effectiveness of online community education, following a number of smaller studies that have found that some students are less likely to complete or to do well in online courses. Last year, the Public Policy Institute of California's study of online community college courses found that student success rates in online courses are between 11 and 14 percentage points lower than in traditional courses. The PPIC's study was noteworthy as California has the nation's largest postsecondary education system. Some good news in the PPIC study found that students who take at least some online courses were more likely than those who take only traditional courses to earn an associate’s degree or to transfer to a four-year institution. More data is available in a 2013 study at Columbia University, Teachers College, Di Xu & Shanna Smith Jaggars, Examining the Effectiveness of Online Learning Within a Community College System: An Instrumental Variable Approach.

June 4, 2015 in Higher education, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Legal Constraints on Private Student Lenders

Mary C. Nicoletta's student note, Proposed Legal Constraints on Private Student Lenders, 68 Vand. L. Rev. 225 (Jan. 2015), is now available on westlaw.  She offers this summary:

This Note considers regulatory methods for curbing the high and variable interest rates offered by private student lenders. Part II examines the mechanics of private student loans, describes existing regulations that govern private student lenders, and identifies recent disputes about government-lender relationships. Part III considers a number of methods for addressing high-cost student lending and draws upon the authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its regulations governing other types of lending. Part IV proposes, in the short term, instituting enhanced disclosure for high-cost loans and incentivizing lender-school partnerships to help students find low-cost options before they commit to borrowing. In the long term, Part IV argues that lenders should be required to consider a student's projected ability to repay an educational loan before lending. Using ability-to-repay as a prerequisite could decrease overborrowing and default rates and allow students to enter the job market with debt loads that they realistically can repay. As described in Part III, this framework, along with a qualified-loan safe harbor for consumer-friendly mortgages, was implemented for mortgage lenders following the recent financial crisis. Part IV thus proposes that regulators formulate and test an ability-to-repay calculation and a qualified-loan structure that would provide students similar protections as mortgagors currently receive.

February 4, 2015 in Higher education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

White Like Me: The Negative Impact of the Diversity Rationale on White Identity Formation

Osamudia James' new article, White Like Me: The Negative Impact of the Diversity Rationale on White Identity Formation, 89 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 425 (2014), is now available on westlaw.  She calls into serious question the diversity project that our education systems have pursued over the past decade or two.  In teaching Grutter v. Bollinger, I always press students to distinguish affirmative action from diversity, suggesting that what Grutter sanctioned is not affirmative action.  Rather, Grutter sanctioned the educational benefits of diversity that flow primarily to whites, in this instance. Ironically, however, I have failed to note that, in doing so, Grutter leaves the call for affirmative action completely unanswered, if not silenced.  Yet, Grutter left liberals and civil rights advocates with a strong sense of victory, and institutions pursuing diversity with a strong sense of righteousness.  In that respect, one could read Grutter as a sleight of hand.  For those who struggle with those and similar issues in their scholarship or want to take classroom discussions to the next level, Professor James' article is a must read.
Her abstract summarizes the article as follows:
In several cases addressing the constitutionality of affirmative action admissions policies, the Supreme Court has recognized a compelling state interest in schools with diverse student populations. According to the Court and affirmative action proponents, the pursuit of diversity does not only benefit minority students who gain expanded access to elite institutions through affirmative action. Rather, diversity also benefits white students who grow through encounters with minority students, it contributes to social and intellectual life on campus, and it serves society at large by aiding the development of citizens equipped for employment and citizenship in an increasingly diverse country.

Continue reading

January 20, 2015 in Higher education, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Stetson University's Conference on Law and Higher Education Will Focus on Title IX in February

Title IX compliance will be a critical topic at Stetson University’s National Conference on Law and Higher Education Feb. 12-16, 2015, in Orlando, Florida. From the announcement:

Stetson’s definitive annual conference, now in its 36th year, will bring national leading experts in higher education to Orlando to discuss critical developments in higher education law and policy, particulary in Title IX compliance in the wake of campus rape and sexual assault scandals. Conference participants will participate in rigorous boot camps, workshops, intensive sessions and collaboration with peers and experts. “Every educator in America should be concerned with making college and university campuses safer learning environments, and protecting the campus community from sexual predators. Anyone who works in higher education can benefit from this year’s conference, focused on developing the tools to respond,” said conference chair and Professor of Law Peter F. Lake. Professor Lake is the Charles A. Dana Chair and director of Stetson’s Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy. For more information, call 727-562-7793 or email

December 29, 2014 in Conferences, Higher education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Should Admissions Be Colorblind?

This from the Economic Policy Institute:

On Friday, December 5, at 10:00 a.m. ET, the Economic Policy Institute will host a debate between noted scholars on affirmative action in American higher education, featuring Georgetown University Law Professor Sheryll Cashin and Richard Rothstein, a research associate at EPI. They will be joined by American University Law Professor Lia Epperson, and Catharine Bond Hill, president of Vassar College. 

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November 24, 2014 in Higher education, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Continuing Desegregation of Maryland's Higher Education System and Its Impact on HBCUs

Last year, the district court in Maryland found the state's higher education system in violation of longstanding desegregation precedent.  The state had duplicated several programs in the state that had led to the further racial stratification and segregation in the system.  See here for me earlier post on the case.

The National Bar Association is sponsoring a panel on the continuing developments and issues in the case this Friday.  Participants include Jay Augustine, Adjunct Professor, Southern University Law Center; John Brittain, Professor of Law, David A. Clarke School of Law, University of the District of Columbia; Dr. Ronald Mason, President, Southern University System, and Danielle R. Holley-Walker, Dean & Professor of Law, Howard University School of Law.  Southern University Law Center is hosting the discussion.  Contact Professor Tracie Woods,         (225) 771-4680, for more information.


October 27, 2014 in Higher education, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ten Percent of Females at University of Oregon Indicate They Have Been Raped

In a survey of 982 females at the University of Oregon, ten percent indicate having been raped during their time at the school.  Very few, however, reported the incident to a university official.  I can't say anything more than that those numbers are mind boggling, and the fact the University of Oregon was not on the Department of Education's list of 55 universities and colleges to investigate suggests that there was a flaw in the Department's identification method or Oregon's numbers are not as egregious as other schools.  I tend toward the latter explanation, which is even more disturbing.  More here.

October 2, 2014 in Gender, Higher education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Accountability Versus Access in Higher Education

Twinette Johnson's new article, Going Back to the Drawing Board: Re-Entrenching the Higher Education Act to Restore Its Historical Policy of Access, 45 Tol. L. Rev. 545 (2014), is now in print and available electronically.  She offers this summary in her abstract:

This article explores both the historical entrenchment of the Higher Education Act (“HEA” or “the Act”) and ongoing attempts to retrench it. In it, I argue that Congress should return the HEA to its historical roots and enact reauthorizing legislation that will set the course for re-entrenching the Act and its historical policy. This re-entrenching will properly set the focus of the Act on providing widespread higher education access by creating and implementing new pathways (funding and otherwise) to that access.  

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September 4, 2014 in Higher education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Religious Colleges Receive Title IX Exemptions to Discriminate Against Transgender Students

The Department of Education recently exempted three colleges from Title IX's provision prohibiting discrimination against transgender and gender-nonconforming students. George Fox University (Oregon), Simpson University (California), and Spring Arbor University (Michigan), The exemptions come just three months after the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights issued a guidance letter to colleges on sexual violence that included transgender students as a protected group under Title IX. The colleges were controlled by a religious organization, a ED spokesperson told the Huffington Post yesterday, and Title IX exempts such organizations from compliance if admitting a student or allowing a student to remain at their institutions would be inconsistent with their religious tenets. While all three colleges requested exemptions from admissions and accomodations for transgender students, one of the schools, Spring Arbor, was also granted permission to discipline students for same-sex "activity," extramarital sex, single parent pregnancies, and having abortions. Professor Kristine E. Newhall (UMass Amherst) told the Huffington Post that the concern is not the statutory exemption, but Education Department's lack of clear criteria "about what a school must meet to show [that it is] controlled by a religious organization." Read more here.

July 29, 2014 in Federal policy, Gender, Higher education | Permalink | Comments (0)