Category Archives: Applying to US Universities

Still at a Disadvantage

By Jake New, March 6

Throwing another wrench into the belief that higher education is the great equalizer, a new paper suggests that African-American graduates from elite institutions do only as well in getting jobs as white candidates from less-selective institutions.

The study, published in the journal Social Forces, shows that while a degree from an elite university improves all applicants’ chances at finding a well-paid job, the ease with which those jobs are obtained is not equal for black and white students even when they both graduate from an institution such as Harvard University. A white candidate with a degree from a highly selective university, the paper suggests, receives an employer response for every six résumés he or she submits. A black candidate receives a response for every eight.

White candidates with degrees from less-selective universities can expect to get a response every 9 résumés, while equally qualified black candidates need to submit 15.

“Most people would expect that if you could overcome social disadvantages and make it to Harvard against all odds, you’d be pretty set no matter what, but this experiment finds that there are still gaps,” said S. Michael Gaddis, the author of the paper and the Robert Wood Foundation Scholar in Health Policy at the University of Michigan. “Once you get out, you still have to deal with other human beings who have preconceived notions and misguided stereotypes about why you were able to go to this college.”

The paper is based on the results of an experiment Gaddis conducted in which he created more than 1,000 fake job applicants and applied to jobs online. The fictional candidates graduated from either highly selective institutions (Harvard University, Stanford University and Duke University) or less selective state universities (the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of California at Riverside and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). They all had similarly high grade point averages.

Gaddis gave the candidates names that were likely to signal to potential employers what their races were -- black male applicants were named Jalen, Lamar and DaQuan; black female applicants were named Nia, Ebony and Shanice; white male applicants were named Caleb, Charlie and Ronny; and white female applicants were named Aubrey, Erica and Lesly.

White job applicants with a degree from an elite university had the highest response rate at 18 percent. Black candidates with a degree from an elite university had a response rate of 13 percent, with white candidates holding a degree from a less-selective university following closely at nearly 12 percent. Black applicants with a degree from a less-selective institution had a response rate of less than 7 percent.

Black graduates at elite colleges not only had a response rate similar to that of white graduates from less-selective institutions, but the employers who responded to black applicants were often offering jobs with less prestige and with salaries that trailed those of white candidates by an average of $3,000. “Education apparently has its limits, because even a Harvard degree cannot make DaQuan as enticing as Charlie to employers,” Gaddis wrote.

While the experiment could not measure the odds of applicants landing a job after getting an initial response, Gaddis said, gaps this large at just the first step of the process demonstrate that “a bachelor's degree, even one from an elite institution, cannot fully counteract the importance of race in the labor market.” How welcoming a company is to diverse applicants once they meet and interview them means little if they can’t even get in the front door.

“It’s quite possible that these differences are not suggesting that employers are going about trying not to hire black applicants, but there is something going on this lower level,” Gaddis said. “I hope that maybe this research will make people stop and think about what processes we are using when hiring.”

Killing All State Support

By Scott Jaschik, March 6

Arizona has a reputation for frugality with regard to state support for higher education, but a deal reached this week between Governor Doug Ducey and legislative leaders is leaving educators in the state stunned. The agreement would completely eliminate state support for the three largest community college districts in the state -- while also imposing deep cuts on the public universities.

Ducey, a Republican, reached the deal with the Republican-controlled Legislature. Ducey had already proposed significant cuts for higher education. For example, he had proposed cutting about $10 million from the three community college districts. But the final deal would cut an additional $9 million, to eliminate all state funds. Small community college districts would continue to receive money, but the large districts that would now have no state funds include the mammoth Maricopa and Pima districts.

While the plan has not received formal legislative approval, those opposing the budget deal face a difficult challenge in that legislative leaders and the governor have united behind it.

The theory (long since abandoned in practice in many states) of community college funding has been that a third of operating funds come from the state, a third from local governments and a third from students in the form of tuition.

With state support for public higher education dwindling generally, experts on community colleges have for several years been lamenting the reality of states (including Arizona) where the share of state support for community colleges is in the single digits. But until now they haven't been talking about zero state support.

The specific plan in Arizona would disqualify community colleges for state funds if they are in counties with more than 350,000 residents. That covers the large counties that are home to the Pima and Maricopa districts, and also covers Central Arizona College, where President Doris Helmich toldThe Casa Grande Dispatch that the idea that her college could lose all state funds was "shocking, absolutely shocking."

Lee D. Lambert, chancellor of Pima Community College, issued this statement: “We know that the state is in a difficult financial position, but we are extremely disappointed that the governor's proposed budget seeks to compensate for a state revenue shortfall by withdrawing all support for the Pima and Maricopa community college systems, as well as reducing funding to other institutions of higher learning within Arizona. These proposed cuts to our funding will do irreparable damage to PCC in the near term, especially at a time when operational costs are rising, and the overall impact of such a precipitous reduction is impossible to calculate. We are working hard to anticipate and mitigate the damage as the budget process unfolds.”

Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for Governor Ducey, defended the cuts, telling The Arizona Republic that the budget plan "protects taxpayers."

Added Scarpinato: "We can't spend money we don't have, and the governor is committed to protecting taxpayers by balancing the budget. This is a values-based budget that puts the state on a stable fiscal path."

Public higher education leaders -- at community colleges and universities alike -- have long ceased to rely on the state for covering much operating support. But the move to zero it out for community colleges has left many stunned. Arizona is a fast-growing state, so community colleges and universities all face pressure to educate more students.

While universities were not zeroed out in the budget deal, they also saw what was already a planned cut turn into a larger one. The governor originally wanted to cut their budgets by $75 million, but the new deal would cut state appropriation by $104 million, or 14 percent of their state support.

Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, sent alumni an e-mail Thursday in which he said the new plan makes education a "low priority in Arizona," The Arizona Republic noted. The newspaper said that the e-mail marked a "change in tone" for Crow, who has been "largely measured" in speaking about the governor's budget plans.

An editorial in The State Press, the student newspaper at Arizona State, denounced the cuts. Arizona State will take a disproportionate cut under the plan because the reductions are based on enrollment, and the editorial said this means that the university will "essentially be decapitated." The editorial also noted that the elimination of state funds to community colleges will affect the universities because so many students start their higher education at two-year institutions and then go on to transfer.

The editorial said the antispending views of Republicans need to be challenged. "After campaigning on a promise to run the state like a business, Ducey has failed to enact one of the basic concepts of economics: making wise investments to ensure a stable and profitable future. Ducey and Arizona Republicans have made an all but official declaration that the education of future generations is less important than the feelings of millionaires on tax day."

Who’s Next? Who Isn’t?

March 6, 2015 By Ry Rivard

Sweet Briar College’s sudden decision to close may cause other struggling private colleges to do the same by creating a new paradigm for when a college should call it quits. That’s the fear of Richard Ekman, the head of the Council of Independent Colleges, which represents many small private colleges across the country. He worries Sweet Briar's decision will influence other trustees. "My hope is that it will not,” Ekman said. “My hope is that trustees at most colleges will look at the possibility of trying other things. There are plenty of examples of colleges that have tried things and it's worked for them.” Sweet Briar, a well-known 700-student women’s college in rural Virginia, announced this week it will close after the spring semester. The decision is designed to prevent a death spiral that some struggling colleges have fallen into, stranding students and waylaying faculty. Sweet Briar Discussion on 'This Week' Hear from the president of Sweet Briar and other colleges on This Week @ Inside Higher Ed, our weekly news podcast. Click here to receive an e-mail alert when the podcast is published. Sweet Briar’s closure raises twin questions for the leaders of struggling private colleges: Should a college with some resources -- like Sweet Briar and its $85 million endowment -- fight to the bitter end? Or should some of the colleges exit gracefully before they are forced to close their doors by creditors and red ink-stained balance sheets? Ekman cautioned colleges against using short-term results -- lower enrollment, for instance -- to decide they cannot last. “I don’t think the trends are destiny,” he said. “I think it’s too easy to extrapolate from the trend of a few years to say this is the way it’ll always be.” He said challenged colleges are trying new programs -- some of these programs, he said, may not be so good, but there are a lot of options. There does not yet seem to be a solid metric to tell college leaders -- not to mention the public, including the college’s students -- when a college should call it quits. Colleges that talk openly of closing could turn away students, destabilizing the very revenue source they would need to stay open. This may be why some college presidents facing uphill battles remain publicly optimistic. But because the conversations about the future are so often done in secret, a final decision can end up being a shock. The Department of Education does actually have a metric designed to predict when a college might be in trouble. Yet the system failed to detect Sweet Briar’s troubles -- not the first time the department’s financial responsibility score has not seemed to jibe with reality. The department had no outstanding issues, findings or concerns regarding Sweet Briar’s most recent audited financial statements, according to a department official who requested customary anonymity. Small-college presidents across the country now seem to be facing existential questions caused by Sweet Briar’s end. They tend to be drawing attention to the ways that they are not like Sweet Briar and saying they have no intention to close. The president of Hollins University, another women’s college in Virginia, tried to make the point this week that her college is “very different” from Sweet Briar -- that the closing of one college does not require the closing of others. Hollins, which has about 580 undergraduates, also launched an effort to enroll Sweet Briar’s students. Lynn Pasquerella, the president of Mount Holyoke College, e-mailed her campus this week with a statement and a fact sheet comparing Mount Holyoke to Sweet Briar. Her point, she said, was that the two women’s colleges are “quite different.” Indeed, Mount Holyoke has about three times as many students, is more selective, does better in rankings, enrolls students with better academic credentials and has a $714 million endowment. But the point may just as well be that she even had to make that point. “The fact that the number of women's colleges has declined nationally is undeniable, and we must always be aware of such trends and our own status,” Pasquerella wrote. By no means are such statements coming just from women's colleges. Steven Bahls, the president of Augustana College in Illinois, sent his Board of Trustees a note comparing and contrasting their college with Sweet Briar: Augustana has a larger endowment, is not rural and admits both men and women, among other things. He said the e-mail was in response to questions from trustees. Bahls said he did not want to second-guess Sweet Briar, but he would not want to preemptively call it a day and close Augustana until every resource was exhausted. "I don’t think it’s irresponsible to say, ‘We’re going to spend the last dollar before we close,'" he said. Even though Sweet Briar had an $85 million endowment, Bahls and others have noted that much of the money was restricted, meaning it could not be spent on general operating costs. Sweet Briar expected to run about a $2 million deficit this year, it told its credit rating agency, Standard and Poor’s. The president of Northland College in Wisconsin riffed on Sweet Briar’s president, who lamented in an interview that Sweet Briar was “30 minutes from a Starbucks.” Well, said Northland President Michael A. Miller, Northland is 90 minutes from a Starbucks. Instead, there are a half dozen other coffee shops and restaurants in Ashland, the 8,000-person town Northland occupies near Lake Superior. “We can no longer sit idly, waiting for students to arrive,” Miller said in a letter sent to Inside Higher Ed. He said the college has to try new things, like an evolving curriculum and efforts to diversify its sources of money. “I can’t lie,” he said, of his 550-student college. “I’d rather have 800 students -- the number we had in the heyday of the 1990s -- but we’re not there yet, and may never be. In the last five years, we’ve worked to evolve our curriculum, take inventory of our natural assets, build our pillars of strength and stay relevant.”

Jews Need Not Apply?

Jews Need Not Apply?

March 3, 2015


A University of California at Los Angeles student was nearly denied a position on the student government’s judicial board last month after student representatives questioned whether her ties to the Jewish community were a conflict of interest.

The sophomore candidate, Rachel Beyda, originally failed to win the majority she needed to serve. She was later unanimously approved for the position, after a faculty member intervened. The votes came after an interview with the student, in which she was asked, “Given that you’re a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”

Critics have said that they are stunned that being Jewish and active in the Jewish community could be cited as a reason to reject a candidate for a student government position.

A video distributed by a pro-Israel group (embedded here) shows the questioning. While this video only shows highlights, a review of a video of the entire meeting suggests that these clips are an accurate reflection of what was said.


During the meeting, the council members frequently agreed that Beyda is a qualified candidate, but several students said they were concerned about her affiliations with Jewish groups on campus. Beyda is the president-elect of a Jewish sorority, Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi, and a member of Hillel at UCLA.

“It’s not her fault that she’s a part of a community, that’s fine,” Fabienne Roth, a general representative on the council, said. “But she’s part of a community that is, like, very invested in [the Undergraduate Students Association] and in very specific outcomes that judicial boards make decisions on every year. And I can’t separate those two from being not together.”

During a 30-minute discussion about Beyda, three other students said they were similarly concerned. Avinoam Baral, the council’s president, interjected numerous times to say that the members’ comments were inappropriate. “What I’m seeing right now is someone potentially being denied a position because they’re Jewish,” he said. “I see no other reason. She’s a great candidate, obviously. And she’s fantastic. And so, I’m extremely disappointed right now.”

In an op-ed published two days after the meeting, the editorial board of UCLA’s student newspaper, The Daily Bruin, questioned why Beyda’s religion was relevant to her role on the judicial board.

While the council has recently voted on resolutions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the judicial board is not involved in those types of decisions. Instead, the board reviews the actions of the officers and funding bodies of the students association. Last November, the judicial board did decide a conflict of interest case brought against two students who were accused of committing ethical violations by voting on a divestment resolution after taking part in educational trips to Israel with certain pro-Israel groups.

But, the Bruin editorial board argued, “the extent of Beyda’s involvement in Jewish community groups is irrelevant to her ability” to be an effective judge even in those kinds of cases.

“Suggesting otherwise implies that any person with any kind of community identity cannot make objective decisions on the board,” the board wrote. “If Beyda cannot make decisions about issues that affect her community, can a Muslim student in the Muslim Student Association or a black student in the Afrikan Student Union do so?”

Since the meeting, the council’s questioning of Beyda has been denounced by Jewish groups on campus and nationally,including the Anti-Defamation League. In open letter, 12 other organizations -- including the Israeli-American Council, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity -- called on UCLA to “condemn this incident publicly.”

The letter, written by pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, urged the university to require the four council members to undergo antibias training or be asked to resign. The members released a public apology on Feb. 20.

“The discussion was overtly anti-Semitic, stereotyping Beyda's political affiliations based on her ethnicity and resurrecting the traditional anti-Semitic canard of divided loyalty,” the StandWithUs letter stated. “These council members, elected to represent the entire student body, instead demonstrated unabashed discrimination against Jews.”

Last week, Gene Block, chancellor of UCLA, released a statement, saying he was “troubled by recent incidents of bias” on campus. Along with the students association’s questioning of Beyda, posters have recently appeared around campus that label a pro-Palestine student group as a terrorist organization.

"These disturbing episodes are very different, but they both are rooted in stereotypes and assumptions," Block stated. "Political debate can stir passionate disagreements. The views of others may make us uncomfortable. That may be unavoidable. But to assume that every member of a group can’t be impartial or is motivated by hatred is intellectually and morally unacceptable. When hurtful stereotypes -- of any group -- are wielded to delegitimize others, we are all debased.”

Changes to Sex Assault Bill

Changes to Sex Assault Bill

February 27, 2015


WASHINGTON -- The bipartisan group of U.S. senators thathas been pushing legislation to curb campus sexual assaults is making some changes to their proposal as they look to advance the measure in the new Congress.

The sponsors of the legislation, who now include five Democrats and five Republicans, on Thursday unveiled a newversion of their bill aimed at holding colleges more accountable for addressing sexual violence.

Those lawmakers said at a press conference that the revised proposal was a response to feedback from victims of sexual assault, advocates for the rights of accused students, law enforcement and college and university administrators.

“We have listened,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat who is leading the effort. “Today’s bill is much stronger for it. We have improved it. We have made changesbased on suggestions we have heard.”

McCaskill said the legislation would strengthen the rights of accused students, which critics have said are undermined by the bill.

“We are very focused on making sure there’s also due process,” she said.

A new provision in the bill would require colleges to notify both the victim and accused student within 24 hours of a college’s decision to move ahead with a disciplinary hearing for an allegation of sexual misconduct. The legislation also now describes students accused of sexual assault as “accused students” instead of “assailants.”

Joe Cohn, the legislative policy director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, called some of those changes "an incremental step in the right direction."

But, he said, the proposal "still doesn't come anywhere close to striking a balance" between the rights of the complainant and the rights of the accused.

Elsewhere in the legislation are tweaks that appear to address some of the concerns colleges and universities have expressed about the bill.

The new draft, for instance, clarifies which law enforcement agencies colleges must sign an agreement to combat sexual assault with, as well as the role of the adviser that colleges would have to assign to a student making a complaint of sexual assault.

The legislation would now require colleges to anonymously survey their students about the prevalence of sexual assault once every two years instead of annually. The results of those surveys at each institution would be published online.

But much of the legislation, including requiring more sexual assault training on campuses, remains unchanged from when it was first announced last summer.

Colleges would still face stiffer financial penalties for mishandling sexual violence cases under the Clery Act and the gender equity law known as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The bill would allow the Department of Education to impose a fine as high as 1 percent of a college’s operating budget.

However, the proposal now calls for the revenue collected from those enhanced penalties to be used for a new grant program to help colleges to combat sexual assault rather than flowing back to the Department of Education office responsible for enforcement.

Some colleges and universities had argued that allowing revenue from penalties to flow directly back to the Department of Education might create a “bounty mind-set.”

Since the legislation was first unveiled last summer, some universities, like the State University of New York System, have embraced the proposal and adopted procedures that, in some cases, mirror the legislation. Other groups, such as the American Council on Education, said they were concerned that the proposal was too “heavy-handed” toward institutions.

Governors, state legislatures and individual institutions have also proposed and enacted new policies to deal with sexual assault in recent months.

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a Democrat, said that colleges and universities have been “taking some steps in the right direction” to address sexual assaults.

“There have been some reforms,” he said. “But there is so much work still to be done.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, though, continued to take a harsher tone against how colleges are performing on the issue.

“The reason why schools are failing is that they do not take this crime seriously,” she said, adding that one-third of students found responsible for sexual violence by a college are not expelled from the institution.

The Senators cosponsoring the legislation said Thursday that they were optimistic they would be able to pass a version of the bill in the new Congress.

Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, the leading Republican cosponsor of the bill, said he discussed the bill with Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who chairs the Senate education committee and was interested in bringing the bill before that panel.

“This may not be the perfect piece of legislation that he may agree to,” Heller said, adding that “at the end of the day it may look a little different than what we have.”

McCaskill said in an interview that she, too, had spoken with Alexander about advancing the bill, and, in particular, the added requirements on colleges.

“We are open to his suggestions on how we can make it less burdensome,” she said.

In a statement provided by his office, Alexander said that he wanted to “ensure that regulations on colleges are effective for students.” He has made reducing federal requirements on colleges a priority as he works on a rewrite of the Higher Education Act.

“I look forward to working with Senators McCaskill, Heller and others to examine the best steps the federal government and our colleges and universities can take to help create a safe environment for students,” he said.