Category Archives: Higher.Education

Proposed bill could merge colleges and universities

Source: Natalie Pate, Statesman Journal, February 18, 2017

… Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, wants a stronger connection between community colleges and universities to improve student performance. Senate Bill 8 would allow community colleges and public universities to merge into one institution. … Courtney said the bill would provide more options for students at a lower cost. … Should the bill pass, community colleges and public universities interested in merging would submit a proposal to Higher Education Coordinating Commission for approval. If the commission approves the merger, the commission would submit a report on the merger to the Legislature. The institutions submitting a proposal for the merger would have to explain how the combined institution would address things such as financial and legal procedures, the transfer of employees, combining a budget, and what academic programs would be offered. … Similar mergers have happened across the country, such as the merger between Georgia State University, one of the state’s four research institutions, and Georgia Perimeter College, a two-year institution. However, Cannon said, to his knowledge, this would be unprecedented in Oregon. …

Justice blasts plan to privatize Lewisburg osteopathic school

Source: Jake Jarvis, Charleston Gazette-Mail, February 14, 2017

Gov. Jim Justice on Tuesday denounced a plan to privatize the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, the state’s third medical school located in Justice’s own Greenbrier County. The governor’s statement came after Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, introduced a bill last week that would transfer ownership of the Lewisburg school to a not-for-profit corporation in July of 2018. … Blair previously told the Gazette-Mail that he thought allowing the school to become a private institution would allow the institution to grow faster than it currently is, but it’s status as a public institution has no bearing on how many students the school accepts each year. That number is dictated by the college’s accreditors. Allowing the school to go private would trim about $7.4 million from the state’s budget. … When asked if Justice would veto Blair’s bill should it be ultimately approved by both houses of the Legislature, his Press Secretary Grant Herring said that allowing the college to privatize was the “last thing” the governor wanted to do.

Why low-income borrowers should avoid for-profit colleges

Source: Jillian Berman, MarketWatch, February 8, 2017

Student loans are meant to be an engine for economic mobility, providing students who can’t afford a college education the opportunity to get one. But new data suggest student debt can actually exacerbate inequality if a borrower chooses the wrong school. Five years after beginning to repay their student loans, typical low-income borrowers have repaid none of their original balance, whereas the typical borrower from a higher income family has repaid about 19%, according to a working paper distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research Monday. The paper, authored by three staffers affiliated with the Treasury Department, matches tax data with information in the Department of Education’s Student Loan Data System on borrowers who entered repayment between 2004 and 2009. One of the main reasons for the difference: their diverging employment outcomes. About 12% of students from families earning less than $30,000 are unemployed five years after leaving school and another 36% are working, but earning less than $25,000. Just 8% of students from families earning $75,000 to $100,000 are unemployed and 27% are working, but earning less than $25,000. … The paper isn’t the first to expose the challenges borrowers from low-income families face paying for college and repaying student loans. A well-documented body of research indicates that white, wealthier borrowers rely less on student debt to finance college and when they do, they’re more successful at paying it back. But the study adds some nuance into why that may be: Low-income borrowers tend to be crowded into schools where they struggle to graduate and get decent-paying jobs. …

FSA Scraps Sodexo After Student Complaints

Source: Raghava Lakshminarayana and Rebekah Sherry, The Stony Brook Press, January 27, 2017

The Faculty Student Association (FSA) announced the commencement of a bidding process that could prematurely end current campus food supplier Sodexo’s five year contract with the University. Stony Brook University students received the announcement via email by new Executive Director of the FSA, Nadeem Siddiqui, on Jan. 9. “Unfortunately, our partner (Sodexo) continued to fall short of expectations as demonstrated by quality assurance reports and customer satisfaction data,” the email said. A quick scroll through the Stony Brook Dining Feedback page shows pictures by students of raw meat in burgers, sandwiches served without buns and strongly worded student complaints. There are a few posts about liking and even commending campus vendors for producing quality food, but the majority of posts are complaints. The decision to hold a new bidding process comes only three years after the university’s last bidding process that ended with leaving their previous dining partner, Lackman, Jason Mazza, former member of Stony Brook Student Voices, said. … Four companies were considered in the last bidding process: Bon Appetit, Sodexo, Aramark and Compass (the company that bought Lackman). Mele said these companies are almost guaranteed to reapply. …

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Food workers union reaches contract agreement with Sodexo
Source: Michaela Kilgallen, Stony Brook Statesman, October 4, 2016

After months of bargaining, Sodexo and the union representing Campus Dining workers have reached a contract agreement. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union Local 1102 ratified the contract at a membership meeting on Sept. 29 after an emergency contract negotiation the day before. … In the contract, workers will receive an 8 percent pay increase. Local 1102 also fought to keep union health insurance as opposed to Sodexo insurance, Brunet said. “The university and the union will continue to work together to ensure the ongoing satisfaction of all members of the Stony Brook University campus community,” Sodexo Director of Operations Support Deborah McMahon said in a letter to The Statesman. …

Contract negotiations stall between Sodexo and food workers union
Source: Michaela Kilgallen, Stony Brook Statesman, September 25, 2016

Stony Brook’s food service provider Sodexo and the workers’ union Local 1102 RWDSU will be entering an emergency contract negotiation on Sept. 28 in a final attempt to come to an agreement before the end of the month. … The two groups met on Sept. 15. at the Student Activities Center, where Sodexo withdrew its demands to move all campus dining employees from union health insurance to Sodexo insurance. Brunet said the premiums and deductibles associated with Sodexo insurance would be too high for many employees to afford on $12.74 per hour wages. … In the current medical system, the provider — in this case Sodexo — gives monthly payments to the Local 1102 Health Fund, which provides employees with health care. The current monthly rate per employee is $871. Although Sodexo is no longer demanding a system change, the food service company is still pushing for lower medical rates. The union was told that they are looking to lower healthcare contributions by $500,000. Sodexo is also seeking 401(k) changes to increase the number of hours per week employees must work to earn retirement benefits. The current number is 20 hours per week, but Sodexo is aiming to increase this number to 30. The union’s concern is that Sodexo would give employees fewer shifts in order to keep them under 30 hours. …

The $48 fix: Reclaiming California’s MASTER PLAN for Higher Education

Source: Reclaim California Higher Education, January 2017

California’s commitment to its world-acclaimed system of public higher education has declined dramatically since 2000, at tremendous loss to California’s people, economy and future prospects. … The 1960 Master Plan treated education as a public good, provided at low-cost or no-cost to all California students, yielding a wider social and economic benefit. But since 2000, higher education has been treated as a commodity to be
sold to consumers for their private gain. … Coincident with the state’s privatization experiment, student debt at California’s public universities has exploded. In 2015, more than half of UC and CSU seniors graduated with more than a diploma: they also carried $1.3 billion in student debt. Total debt accumulated by the state’s public university students since 2004: $12 billion. The damage has been system-wide … The privatization experiment has failed. The harm to a generation of hard-working, high-aiming young people is proven. It’s time to return to what works: the proven Master Plan for higher education in California. California, with its own resources, can afford to restore top-quality, accessible, affordable college and university opportunity to every qualified student. In fact, Californians can afford nothing less.

Senators Push For Mass Student Loan Forgiveness Before Trump Takes Office

Source: Molly Hensley-Clancy, Buzzfeed News, December 19, 2016

Democratic senators are urging the Education Department to rush through tens of thousands of requests for student loan relief in the final weeks of the Obama administration, saying the government should race to clear the debts of students who were defrauded by for-profit colleges before the Trump team takes over. … Illinois senator Dick Durbin says he has repeatedly urged education secretary John King to make debt relief a top priority in the final weeks of his term. “We don’t know how committed the next administration will be to providing federal student loan relief to students defrauded by for-profit colleges,” he said, “but we know that right now there are thousands of students out there who are eligible for this relief under the law and have not gotten it yet.” But no matter how quickly the Education Department moves through the claims from students who say they were defrauded — 80,000 of which have been submitted so far — most are likely to be left on the table when Donald Trump takes office. While much of the Obama administration’s late-term legacy is built on easily-overturned regulatory actions and executive orders, its debt forgiveness efforts are on even shakier foundations. The Education Department chose to prioritize so-called borrower defense claims from for-profit college students who say they were defrauded, but Trump’s administration can simply choose not to deal with them. … The Education Department has approved debt relief for more than 15,000 former students at Corinthian Colleges, who it determined had been defrauded by the for-profit college chain. But it has so far resisted calls from Durbin and other Democrats, like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, to move more agressively, by automatically forgiving such loans without requiring students to submit claims. …

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For-Profit College Ordered To Forgive $24 Million In Student Loans
Source: Molly Hensley-Clancy, Buzzfeed News, September 12, 2016

A large for-profit college company, Bridgepoint Education, has been ordered to forgive $23.5 million in private student loans after lying to students about how much the loans would cost. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Monday that Bridgepoint Education, a publicly traded company in San Diego that owns two universities, had run an illegal lending scheme, encouraging students to fill the gaps in their education funding with costly private loans that the school falsely promised would cost only $25 a month. In reality, the CFPB says, the loans were much more expensive. Bridgepoint, which owns Ashford University in California and University of the Rockies in Colorado, will have to refund all payments made by students on the private loans — about $5 million in refunds and $18 million in discharged debt — in addition to paying an $8 million penalty. … Federal rules say that for-profit colleges can get only 90% of their revenue from federal student loans, a provision meant to keep for-profit colleges from becoming too reliant on taxpayer money. … The Justice Department is also looking into this lending scheme at Bridgepoint. The department said in July that it was investigating whether the company had overstated the amount of money it got from private loan programs, violating the 90/10 rule. …

California continues to bet on public-private partnerships. Will it pay off?

Source: Adam Ashton, Merced Sun-Star, November 20, 2016

In the rolling greens of a defunct county golf course next to California’s youngest public college, tractors turned earth earlier this month for a long-awaited project that would double UC Merced’s footprint at an unprecedented pace. The heavy equipment on campus these days is breaking new ground in another way, too. It’s a sign of the University of California’s biggest-yet experiment with a construction project drawing substantially on private funding, committing the campus to a 39-year deal with a single developer that ultimately costs more than $3.6 billion. Known as UC Merced 2020, the project is distinct in its scale and its long-term contract with an international developer called Plenary Group. Plenary stands to earn about $1.77 billion over time for its role designing, constructing and maintaining the new buildings. … That contract adds UC Merced to a small but growing list of public agencies in California that are turning to the private sector for help with projects that otherwise might wait indefinitely for state funding. The roster includes a new city hall complex in Long Beach and a tunnel off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Each likely will tie up public finances for decades. At UC Merced, the university expects to pay about $103 million a year from 2020 to 2055 for an upcoming growth spurt. It’s so expensive that the 12-year-old university might not be able to afford another development until it pays off the current expansion. … At UC Merced, Plenary is putting up almost $600 million of its own funding for initial construction, which helped clear the way for the expansive project favored by the campus’s chancellor, Dorothy Leland. Campus leaders also were won over by the prospect of quickly building expensive structures, and by a commitment to keep them well-maintained through the life of the contract, Feitelberg said. …

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UC Merced Closing In On Execution Of Massive P3
Source: Kyle Glazier, Bond Buyer, June 23, 2016

The University of California, Merced, is closing in on formal execution of a $1.1 billion public-private partnership to nearly double the physical capacity of the campus by 2020. The university announced earlier this month that Plenary Properties Merced (PPM) was the winning bidder for the school’s next major phase of campus development, which the UC Board of Regents gave conceptual approval to last November. … Fitch Ratings earlier this month cited the UC Merced project as a primary example of how colleges and universities are increasingly finding P3s an attractive option for financing their campus infrastructure. College campuses provide public services that can generate revenues attractive to private investors, the rating agency pointed out, also noting that large flagship universities with strong credit ratings are less likely to go the P3 route because they have ready access to low-cost borrowing through traditional muni market access. …

UC Merced Picks Company For $1.14 Billion Expansion
Source: Inside Higher Ed, June 16, 2016

The University of California, Merced, is moving forward on a $1.14 billion campus expansion plan designed to use a public-private partnership to allow the newest campus in the University of California System to grow by 3,300 students. UC Merced on Wednesday named international investor and infrastructure developer the Plenary Group as the lead developer on a project to increase the size of its campus by 2020. The plan calls for new facilities to be built within a 219-acre site currently supporting the existing campus. Under the public-private partnership, private companies will design and build new facilities, then operate them over a 39-year contract. Funding will include private financing from the developer, money from UC Merced and up to $600 million in revenue bonds issued by the University of California Board of Regents….

Many For-Profit College Graduates Earn Less Than Minimum Wage

Source: Shahien Nasiripour, Bloomberg, November 17, 2016

About a third of recent for-profit college graduates attended career-training programs whose typical graduate annually earns less than the federal minimum wage, new federal data show. Vocational programs, common at community colleges and for-profit schools, are meant to help graduates land well-paying jobs. But of Americans who graduated from such programs at for-profits from 2008 to 2012, some 32 percent attended programs in which a typical graduate made less than $14,500—what a full-time worker making the federal minimum wage would earn—in 2014, even as they incurred student debt, federal officials said. Just 14 percent of those from public schools’ vocational programs, by contrast, graduated from programs whose typical graduates made so little. That data led officials to declare Thursday that public schools provide far better value for students and the taxpayers who subsidize their studies. … In a prepared statement, Steve Gunderson, who leads Career Education Colleges & Universities, the for-profit college trade group, called it “absolutely absurd to compare totally different fields of study and suggest that programs traditionally taught in public institutions have higher incomes than programs taught in proprietary colleges.” But the new federal data threaten to intensify pressure on for-profit colleges, whose enrollment and share prices dropped sharply during the Obama administration amid government investigations and lawsuits alleging fraud. Recent research has found that Americans who attended for-profit colleges were, on average, worse off for having enrolled—a finding the industry rejects.

Students petition to remove Aramark services from campus

Source: Paul Cobler, Daily Texan, October 27, 2016

About 5,000 UT students have signed an online petition in one week calling on the university to cancel its food services contract with Aramark due to animal abuse concerns. The petition, created by public relations senior Zoe Wright, cites cruelty toward poultry raised on Aramark factory farms through a rapid growth process, improper slaughtering procedures and inhumane living conditions as reasons for UT to cancel its contract with the company.  Wright, a campus outreach intern for animal rights group The Humane League, created the petition as a part of a national campaign against Aramark on college campuses. … Aramark currently provides food services for University Unions Catering at UT and is one of the largest supply companies in the country.  Taylor Ford, The Humane League’s Corporate Campaign Manager, said The Humane League seeks to have the largest impact possible when addressing animal rights, and Aramark is the first target of their campaign. … Aramark established an animal welfare policy with the Humane Society of the United States that included poultry and egg treatment in August, the same month The Humane League’s campaign began. According to a press release, Aramark will address various animal welfare issues, including those cited in Wright’s petition. …

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UT hired company accused of human rights violation
Source: Megan Strickland, Daily Texan, March 21, 2012

Outsourcing labor for dining venues formerly run by Texas Athletics allowed the department to profit more than $3 million last year. But reports from human rights groups indicate an unseen human labor cost may be tacked onto the price of food and drinks bought at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

In 2011, 11 universities and athletics departments across the nation ended their contracts with Sodexo Services, a French-based company with 125,000 employees in North America serving 9.3 million meals each day to take in $8 billion in revenue annually, according to the company’s website. Sodexo Services is currently responsible for concessions at all UT athletic events, except for dining at the University of Texas Club at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. UT has a separate contract with Sodexo and paid the company $926,122.62 in the 2011 fiscal year, according to a report of University purchases to the State Comptroller’s office.,,,

Op-ed: Why we should kick Aramark off campus

Source: Jamie Berger, The Daily Tarheel, October 10, 2016

When I graduated from UNC three years ago, I was proud to have helped build a strong relationship between socially conscious students and Carolina Dining Services. As a representative from the student group FLO (Fair, Local, Organic) Food, I met with CDS, including several employees from Aramark, UNC’s dining service provider, on a regular basis for several semesters. Together, we worked to add healthier, more sustainable food options to the dining halls. Our collaboration also led to the dramatic expansion of the on-campus farmers’ market, which continues to be an enormously popular event. That’s why it saddens me, perhaps more than any other student past or present, to say that I’m now joining a growing movement of students and alumni across the country urging our universities’ administrators to kick Aramark off campus. … Currently, Aramark does not have a single policy in place to protect the chickens in its supply chain. As a result, chickens endure endless agony on Aramark’s supplier farms. Birds on these farms are confined inside filthy, windowless sheds and forced to stand atop accumulated waste that burns their eyes and lungs with ammonia fumes. The barren environment offers them few opportunities to engage in natural behaviors. … An even crueler fate awaits the animals who survive this abuse. At the slaughterhouse, they’re thrown upside down into metal shackles, electrocuted, slit at the throat, and then scalded in hot water. Many birds endure this entire process while still alive and able to feel pain. No animal deserves this torture. Chickens are intelligent and sensitive; they have individual personalities just like dogs and cats. They can learn their names, form close bonds with their family members and human companions, and can even perform simple arithmetic. …