Tag Archives: Colleges and Universities

Angry students protest against university reforms

Jan Petter Myklebust 05 March 2015 University World News Global Edition Issue 357

Academics and students across the country called for a national day of action on March 4 as part of widespread protests against government plans for university reforms. In response, the government has backed down on some of its proposed changes and postponed others until 2018. Academics and students across the country called for a national day of action on March 4 as part of widespread protests against government plans for university reforms.

As previously reported in University World News, the Netherlands government last year introduced a bill that would convert student grants into loans from 1 January 2015, freeing up €1 billion (US$1.1 billion) from the state higher education budget.

Under the plans, an estimated €200 million to €300 million a year would be allocated as grants to students whose families earned less than €46,000 a year. The remainder would be ploughed back into the higher education system to improve its quality.

The Dutch National Union of Students and the European Students’ Union condemned the move, claiming that under the new system students would accumulate greater debts, or have to work during their studies, hence risk prolonging the time to graduation.

Under the proposed changes, students would start to repay their study loans once they earned more than the minimum wage. The loan, which would have a fixed interest rate, would be repaid over 35 years.

Protest action

Student unions and an organisation of students and staff called ‘The New University’ (for a democratic university) took part in the national day of action while a group occupied one of the University of Amsterdam’s buildings.

In an open letter published by openDemocracy – “a digital commons not a magazine” – academics from Amsterdam and Leiden universities said the Netherlands was “a mere 10 years behind the UK but seems eager to catch up”.

“Twin pressures of authoritarianism from above and neo-liberalism from below make it necessary to develop the democratic alternative put forward by the movement for a new university,” the academics wrote.

“The structural similarities [between the Netherlands and the UK] are striking: in 1999, the Labour government of Tony Blair introduced tuition for university education at the moderate level of £1,000. Within little more than a decade, undergraduate tuition had exploded to nine times its original level. This is privatisation in all but name.

“Thanks to the students and their protests we are now in a political moment where these questions are on the public agenda, where what seemed utopian and unrealistic two weeks ago has become a real possibility.”

Academics and students have called for “fully-elected and accountable university boards”, a roll-back of cuts to the humanities, cancellation of a proposal they say would jeopardise the jobs of dozens of teachers in the humanities, and of mergers of subjects and disciplines “in attempts save money”.

The student and staff occupation of the university building started on 13 February, disrupting the work of several hundred students and staff who work or take classes there.

The occupation was endorsed in a website calling for national and international support for the student demands. The action has received the backing of European academics, members of parliament and trade unions.

Court order ignored

Initial response from the university was to take the occupying staff and students to court and demand they leave or pay a fine of up to €100,000 a day. The court subsequently ordered the students to leave and pay €1,000 in fines per day for any prolonged occupation.

After the students ignored the court order, police evicted the occupiers, leading to 46 arrests. The following day students occupied another building, the academic senate house, and at the time of reporting were still there.

Several stakeholders met the students and tried to persuade them to stop the protests. They included the president of the university’s executive board, the mayor of Amsterdam, the police chief and parliamentarian Jasper van Dijk

Education Minister Jet Bussemaker met a delegation of students to discuss the protests. Bussemaker said in a television interview that she was against the trend of “rendement [efficiency and production] thinking” in higher education.

Attracting broad attention

Professor Hans de Wit of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences told University World News that it was interesting how a still relatively small but gradually expanding protest by students was attracting broad attention in politics and the media.

“This cannot be explained only by the reference to the student protest movement and occupation of the Maagdenhuis [Senate House] in 1969,” De Wit said.

“It is a manifestation of a broad discontent with the focus on rendement thinking in Dutch higher education and the lack of democracy since 1997 with the abolition of student participation on university boards, and with the boards and deans being appointed by external supervisors. In this it reflects the increasing discontent in Dutch society with politics and privatisation, which also explains the broad attention to the protests.”

Meanwhile, the government has backed down on some of its proposed changes and postponed others until 2018, while the University of Amsterdam has announced that it will allow one student representative to join the university’s executive board.

University World News

Rise of the income contingent loan

Geoff Maslen 06 March 2015 University World News Global Edition Issue 357

A little more than 25 years ago, an Australian economist called Bruce Chapman devised a brilliant scheme that allowed the federal government to impose tuition fees on the nation’s university students without them having to pay a cent upfront. Now that scheme is being adopted by countries around the globe. A little more than 25 years ago, an Australian economist called Bruce Chapman devised a brilliant scheme that allowed the federal government to impose tuition fees on the nation’s university students without them having to pay a cent upfront.

What became known around the world as the Higher Education Contribution Scheme, or HECS, now called an Income Contingent Loan programme, took some of the heat out of an increasingly angry debate over making students pay for their degrees. Up until that time, the cost of going to university in Australia was minimal.

The fact that students could defer paying tuition fees until they graduated, and then only if their annual income reached a certain level, silenced the critics who had argued fees would deter the most disadvantaged students and lead even those better off into eventual penury.

Today, as Professor Chapman points out in a feature in this edition of University World News, at least eight countries are using variations of income contingent loans to make higher education more accessible to the young and old. Even the US Congress is considering a bill to introduce an income contingent loan scheme there.

Chapman goes further: he says such loan systems could be adopted in other fields, ranging from recompensing poor countries for skilled migrant emigration and legal aid for civil disputes, to a profit-contingent loan arrangement for R&D for small and medium enterprises, or covering the payment of low-level criminal fines, or out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

Plans by the Netherlands government to adopt a similar system to cover university fees, however, have generated widespread student and academic protests – as University World News correspondent Jan Petter Myklebust reports in a News article in this edition.

There is one catch to a deferred repayment system, however: the amount that current and former Australian students owe the government is nearing A$30 billion (US$24 billion) and it seems likely that 20% of that huge sum will never be repaid. That is because many graduates will never reach the income threshold at which a tax surcharge begins to apply – currently around A$53,000 a year – others will die while yet others may leave Australia and never return.

Chapman back in the news

Now Chapman is back in the news with a suggestion that could help the deeply unpopular conservative government of Tony Abbott break a deadlock in the Australian Senate preventing the introduction of a deregulated fee system for universities.

A majority of senators have refused to pass a bill that would give vice-chancellors the freedom to fix their own fees, which are currently set by the government.

Deregulation as proposed by the government has led to fears that the top eight research-intensive universities could impose charges far above those of lesser institutions. They, in turn, would be forced to offer cheaper tuition to attract students and this could eventually end up costing them money and even send some into bankruptcy.

Under the Chapman proposal, universities could still set their own fees but they would face a “levy” if they raised the charge above a fixed sum. That is, their government grants would be cut by the amount they overcharged students.

In a submission to a Senate inquiry into the bill, Chapman notes that after HECS was introduced in Australia in 1989, fees charged by universities increased from effectively zero to around A$3,000 (US$2,350) a year in 2015, yet there was no impact on student demand and enrolments actually increased after HECS was instituted.

But he says that when New Zealand introduced its version of HECS in 1991, universities were allowed to set whatever prices they wanted. A later government was then forced to impose price caps after eight years because the charges had increased by at least 300% for arts, and much more in other fields.

Likewise, when the UK government allowed price caps to increase from £3,000 a year per full-time student to £9,000 a year in 2011, 95% of the universities had raised their tuition charges to the highest level.

“My view is that there is no clear economic justification for public sector universities to be allowed the use of a government instrument such as HECS to raise substantial revenue, in a situation in which this can lead to unjustifiably high fees,” Chapman says in the submission.

“An informed guess is that if Australian universities were to charge the sort of prices that I believe many of them could under the planned fee deregulation, the revenues received would in many cases far exceed the costs of teaching.”

Instead, under the new levy proposal, universities would still set their own fees but if the price imposed exceeded a government-set figure, there would be a reduction in the overall government grant to the institution. And, to ensure the control over price-fixing worked, the cut in grants would become increasingly more severe the higher the charge imposed.

“It is essentially a conditional market-based reform, very similar to proposals... provided to the UK government on fee deregulation in 2010,” Chapman says.

“Importantly, the sort of policy approach suggested would retain the benefits that deregulation seeks to achieve: the ability of our higher education institutions to offer quality services for students in a differentiated higher education system, and one in which institutions can pursue their own strategies to attract and retain students.”

He then concludes: “Critically, though, policies such as this scheme, if designed well, have a real potential to limit price rises to socially reasonable and fair levels.”

The National Tertiary Education Union, however, disputes Chapman’s claims about the effectiveness of a levy. In a submission to a Senate inquiry, the union says the proposed ‘tax on fee increases’ will not only fail to achieve its stated objective of taking the heat out of excessive fee increases, but that it will add unnecessary complexity to the funding system, “making it ripe for manipulation and gaming”.

University World News

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."


Smart Ways to Save Money on a U.S. Bachelors Degree

The cost of a U.S. Bachelors ranges from $10k a year at community colleges to $55k a year at expensive institutions. As the cost of college sky rockets, students and parents are looking more closely at value versus investment. Here are three ideas that both domestic and international students can do to reduce the cost of earning a U.S Bachelor's degree:

1. Many U.S. colleges and universities offer online courses that you can take from home in your first or second semester. If you can take a few courses without being on campus in your first year, go for it. For international students, this means staying at home with your parents while taking U.S classes. It is a great idea and can save you significant dollars. You save on boarding and lodging while earning a U.S degree. Can't beat that!

2. Many international students don't know about community colleges or they have a bad impression about community colleges.  Even after you enroll in a 4-year university, you can still take some courses at a community college and have them transferred. This will also save you some money.

3.  Some universities have campuses around the world that offer the same degree as they do in the U.S. See if a campus is less expensive and take a few courses at that campus. This has multiple benefits. In your resume you can say that you have lived and experienced different cultures and countries. This is invaluable. Also, you earn the same degree for a lower cost. And you may be able to select a country that is closer to your home country, making travel back and forth less expensive.


Ten Commandments for a Good College Essay

Vector image of the Nobel prize medal, annotatedImage via Wikipedia

How to write a good college essay:

Writing  a college essay is hard work. In fact, it is probably one of the most difficult assignments that students will encounter in their educational career. Staring at a blank page with nothing to say or not knowing what to say is a sinking feeling. Essays require many iterations; they should be reviewed by people from different backgrounds and age groups. Getting your friend to review your essay is not a great idea! First, the Admission Officer in all likelihood is older than your friend and second, most of your friends will not want to hurt your feelings. There are extensive resources on how to write a good essay. A few are listed at the end of this article. Just as how it is important to know how to write a good essay, it is equally important to know what not to do.

Ten Commandments for Writing a Good College Essay:

  1. Thou shall not lie by passing off someone else’s work as yours. You can always ask someone to review your essay and give you ideas. But if someone else is writing your essay for you, well then, that is a bad idea.
  2. Thou shall not use words that would require the reader to use a dictionary.
  3. Thou shall not tell stories that are not true simply because they sound impressive.
  4. Thou shall adhere to the length recommended by the university. If the university requests a two page essay, writing five will not put you on top of the heap.
  5. Thou shall not list every award you won since you were in elementary school.
  6. Thou shall not elaborate on how you are 100% confident about winning the Nobel Prize.
  7. Thou shall not whine about what a tough life you have had.
  8. Thou shall be truthful about your goals and accomplishments.
  9. Thou shall not cut and paste.
  10. Thou shall not commit spelling and grammatical errors.

Below are some great resources for how to write a good college essay:





 It is hard work, but if you do the work, you will be proud of yourself and you would have an important skill!

Dr. Uma G. Gupta is the CEO and Founder of PlanetGPA.com

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