Monday, April 20, 2015

NY Times wants help for students of predatory schools

The New York Times ran a very strong editorial criticizing for-profit schools for their predatory practices and supporting debt relief for the students who have been victimized by what the editors called :crooked schools." It is reprinted below in its entirety:

State attorneys general have long served on the front lines of the struggle to control and discipline predatory for-profit colleges that saddle students with crippling debt while granting them useless degrees, or no degrees at all. On April 9, nine of them who know firsthand how people can be deceived and bled dry sent a letter to the Department of Education, asking it to provide restitution — and help fix the problem — by forgiving the federal student loans of people harmed by crooked schools. The letter makes a strong case for prompt action.

The problem of for-profit schools received national exposure last year when Corinthian Colleges, one of the nation’s largest operators of for-profit colleges and trade schools, collapsed in the midst of a federal investigation. The company agreed to shut down or sell about 100 campuses. Earlier this week, the Department of Education fined Corinthian $30 million for misrepresenting job placement rates in one of the chains it owns, saying that the company had “violated students’ and taxpayers’ trust.”

Corinthian was already facing a lawsuit brought by the California attorney general, Kamala Harris, who accused the company of a host of wrongs, including lying to students and investors about job placement programs. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau subsequently sued Corinthian on grounds that it had “lured tens of thousands of students to take out private loans to cover expensive tuition costs by advertising bogus job prospects and career services.”

The idea of forgiving these loans altogether gained traction when a group of former Corinthian students refused to repay their loans, which they claimed were often the product of a predatory private lending scheme. The group, part of an organization called the Debt Collective, noted that the Department of Education had broad authority to forgive debt in cases where schools had committed wrongdoing. The department could then force the offending schools to reimburse the government.

In December, 13 Senate Democrats urged the department to immediately forgive loans for Corinthian borrowers covered by lawsuits filed at the federal or state levels. In the April 9 letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, state attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Washington lent their voices to the forgiveness campaign, urging the department to “immediately relieve borrowers of the obligation to repay federal student loans that were incurred as a result of violations of state law by Corinthian Colleges, Inc.”

The letter said: “These cases against Corinthian have unmasked a school that relentlessly pursued potential students — including veterans, single parents, and first-time higher education seekers — promising jobs and high earnings, and preying on their hopes in an effort to secure federal funds.” The complaint from the attorneys general went beyond Corinthian to a systemwide problem: “Our greatest concern comes from certain large, predatory for-profit schools that are actively undermining our federal loan programs, depriving students of the education they promise and that the students deserve. These institutions seem to exist largely to capture federal loan dollars and aggressively market their programs to veterans and low-income Americans.”

  The attorneys general promised to help the federal government recoup loan balances from schools that violated state laws or benefited from unlawful deception. Over the last 20 years, the Department of Education has received only a handful of requests from borrowers seeking to escape repayment on grounds of wrongdoing by schools. Evaluating many such requests will be difficult. But the evidence shows that such a system is needed and that relief is long overdue.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New Study: unionization pays off for community college instructors

A recently released study found that "being represented by a union pays big financial dividends for full-time instructors at community colleges." 
Peter Schmidt writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education reports:
Depending on the size, location, and public-financing sources of their institution, unionized full-time instructors earn from about 5 to 50 percent more in pay and benefits than do their nonunionized peers at similar community colleges, says a paper summarizing the study’s results.
"The differences are stunning," says Stephen G. Katsinas, a professor of higher education at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa who is one of the study’s three co-authors.
Among the forces influencing how much community colleges pay their instructors, "collective bargaining, in itself, matters," says Mr. Katsinas, who plans to present the study’s findings in New York on Sunday, at an annual conference held by the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions.
Other research on the impact of collective bargaining on faculty pay has struggled to quantify how much differences in instructors’ earnings were attributable to unionization versus other contributing factors, such as differences in institutional size or in the regions that colleges served.
Mr. Katsinas and other scholars reached conclusions similar to the new study’s in a 2006 analysis of community-college data, but that effort was hampered by a reliance on outdated data on where unions existed. It also failed to take into account 113 institutions — among them, large community-college districts such as Miami-Dade — that could not be factored into an analysis of community colleges under the classification scheme used by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
The new analysis uses a modified classification scheme to factor in the previously excluded institutions, which include community colleges that either offer four-year degrees or are offshoots of four-year public institutions, as well as public baccalaureate colleges that primarily offer associate degrees. It uses federal data on faculty earnings from the 2010-11 academic year, the last for which the Education Department collected information on benefits.
"There are amazing differences in monetary compensation of full-time faculty across the landscape of community colleges when geography, collective bargaining, and local appropriations are all accounted for," the new study concludes.
On average, it found, unionized full-time faculty members annually received pay and benefits amounting to about $95,000 at community colleges that received a significant share of their funds from local governments and about $77,000 at community colleges that lacked such a local source of financial support. Nonunionized faculty members received less than $68,000 in pay and benefits, on average, regardless of where their community college derived its tax revenue.
The size of the community college where a faculty member worked and the type of community it served also made a big difference.
At the top of the pile, full-time faculty members at suburban, multicampus, locally financed community colleges annually earned an average of nearly $106,000 in pay and benefits. At the bottom, such faculty members at small, rural, locally financed community colleges earned total compensations averaging just over $61,000.
The other authors of the new study were Nathaniel J. Bray, an associate professor of higher-education administration at the University of Alabama, and Barry R. Mayhall, a doctoral student in higher education at Alabama and a mathematics instructor at Snead State Community College, in Boaz, Ala. The paper on their findings will be released after next week’s conference.

Peter Schmidt writes about affirmative action, academic labor, and issues related to academic freedom. Contact him at

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bobby Kennedy's speech on the assassination of Dr. King

Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated today, April 4th, 1968 in Memphis Tennessee.

Dr. King went to Memphis to support the right of public employees', Memphis' sanitation workers', right to engage in collective bargaining, the same right that Governor Walker and the Republican legislation eliminated in Wisconsin!

Robert Kennedy, the U.S. Attorney General, was in Indianapolis about to give a speech in an inner city neighborhood when King's murder occurred. Here is his announcement. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated 68 days later.  

Friday, April 3, 2015

Dr. King: "I've been to the mountain top"

Forty-seven years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. returned to Memphis to stand with sanitation workers striking for union recognition, the very same rights Governor Walker and the Wisconsin Republican legislature eliminated in 2010. That evening, April 3rd, Dr. King delivered his famous "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech in a church packed with union members and their supporters. The following day he was murdered!