Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Marginal Colleges Damage our Immigration System

Thousands of foreign "students" are illegal aliens in disguise

A new report by the Center for Immigration Studies finds that 55 institutions, the very dregs of higher education in this country, offer extremely poor quality education, yet still have the power to admit foreign students.

Approximately 40,000 alien students are enrolled in these "compromised colleges", all of which have lost their accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), whose standards were so low that it lost its Department of Education recognition and power to accredit.

The compromised colleges, 42 of which are for-profit schools, are found in 17 states and in one territory, but are mostly concentrated in three states: California (17 institutions), Florida (11 institutions), and Virginia (8 institutions). Unlike governmental or genuine non-profit entities, the presidents of these institutions are often the owners or part-owners and the student body contains a very high percentage of foreign students, some more than 95 percent.

David North, a Center fellow and co-author of the report, wrote that many of the foreign students attending compromised colleges "sought out low-quality schools in the United States quite deliberately, as they were seeking paychecks, not valuable diplomas. They are not to be confused with anyone's idea of the 'best and the brightest.' "

Foreign students searching for a true education have often been misled by the institutions, which rake in money while supplying nominal educational services, and often charging substantial, even outrageous, fees.

Reform is possible. The report informs policymakers that, unlike many immigration issues, "No huge sums of money are needed, no massive political forces need to be challenged, and no mixed families of legal and illegal residents need to be separated, yet tens of thousands of new illegal aliens can be prevented from entering the country." The report points out that foreign students are twice as likely to remain after their visas expire as nonimmigrant visa holders generally.

The report provides multiple recommendations for Congress and the White House, as well as for the two entities that manage the foreign student admissions process: DHS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Program is a part of ICE) and the U.S. State Department. One solution is to stop granting these compromised colleges the privilege of issuing visas to their prospective students and of granting H-1B status to their potential employees.


UK: Watchdog issues guidance to help institutions address ‘pernicious’ cheating through use of sites for written-to-order papers

Universities are being urged to block certain websites and use smarter cheating detection software to crack down on students buying essays online and then passing them off as their own.

The university standards watchdog has issued new government-backed guidance to help address “contract cheating”, where thousands of students are believed to be paying hundreds of pounds at a time for written-to-order papers.

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) made a series of recommendations including providing more support for struggling students, introducing a range of assessment methods to limit cheating opportunities, blocking so-called essay-mill websites and adopting smarter software that can tell if there is a difference in style and level of ability between a student’s essays.

The proposal comes after Jo Johnson, the universities minister, called for advice to help address the problem.

Johnson welcomed the new advice, saying: “This form of cheating is unacceptable and pernicious. It not only undermines standards in our world-class universities, but devalues the hard-earned qualifications of those who don’t cheat … That is why I asked the Quality Assurance Agency to look at this issue and introduce new guidance for students and providers.”

The chief executive of the QAA, Douglas Blackstock, said: “Paying someone else to write essays is wrong and could damage their career. Education providers should take appropriate action to tackle and prevent this kind of abuse.”

Research by the QAA found that there are now more than 100 essay-mill websites in operation. The amount they charge is dependent on the complexity of the essay and tightness of deadline, but a PhD dissertation can cost as much as £6,750.

In Britain it is left to individual institutions to develop their own plagiarism policies. But the QAA said it wanted a consistent approach among higher education providers to tackle the problem. It called on universities and colleges to record incidents of this and other kinds of cheating to help build a clearer picture of the scale of the problem.

Thomas Lancaster, an associate dean at Staffordshire University and one of the UK’s leading experts on essay cheating, said the new guidance was a move in the right direction but that to truly tackle the problem a change in the law was needed.

“There are still too many people out there who are setting assessments where a student can just go online, pay a writer who might not even be a subject specialist, hand the result in and come away with a good mark,” he said.

He added: “I fully support universities reviewing their academic integrity processes to make sure they’re up to date and fair to students … But we also need to send a strong message out to the companies who are doing assessed work for students. Earlier this year, Lord Storey put forward a proposal to the House of Lords to make this activity illegal. It’s time for a renewed push to get that legislation through and to also ban the advertising for essay mills that is drawing students to use these services.”

Amatey Doku, vice-president for higher education for the National Union of Students, said that institutions and the government must look at the underlying issues behind the rise in these websites.

He said: “Students are under immense pressure. Their degrees will leave them with debt of around £50,000, which will affect them for most of their adult lives. The pressure to get the highest grades in return for this can be overwhelming. Insufficient maintenance funding also means that around 70% of students must now take on paid work alongside their studies, which can leave little time for academic work and study. It is easy to see how an essay-mill website could feel able to con students. Many websites play on the vulnerabilities and anxieties of students.”

He added: “We would urge those who are struggling to seek support through their unions and universities rather than looking to a quick fix.”

A Universities UK spokesperson said: “Universities take plagiarism and cheating extremely seriously. Submitting work written by someone else is cheating and devalues the efforts of students who work hard to achieve their degrees … Such academic misconduct is a breach of an institution’s disciplinary regulations and can result in students, in serious cases, being expelled from the university.”


America needs another Sputnik as China takes the lead in science

Sixty years ago, a shiny sphere of aluminium, magnesium and titanium, 60cm in diameter and weighing 83kg, flashed across the sky at 30,000km/h from west to east.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite, a new moonlet, a giant step for mankind. By the time Sputnik burnt up three months later, the world it had orbited 1440 times was an utterly different place.

Sputnik sparked a scientific crisis of confidence in the West, shaking post-war US technological complacency to the core, stoking triumphalist Soviet propaganda and kicking off the Cold War space race.

More than that, it prompted the greatest single investment in science ever undertaken. Following Sputnik, money and energy poured into engineering, science and technological research in an educational great leap forward that unleashed an unprecedented wave of innovation on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Today the West needs another “Sputnik moment” to shake it out of its technological lethargy. Historically, such leaps tend to follow crises, rivalry or war. The next major scientific overhaul may be prompted by a Russian cyberattack, a North Korean dictator with a nuclear warhead or environmental disaster.

But the greatest technological challenge is likely to come from China, which accounts for 20 per cent of the world’s expenditure on scientific research and development, a rate increasing just as the US is reducing such spending.

Sixty years on, it is easy to forget the astonishment and fear that greeted the news of Sputnik: the Soviet Union had not just won the race to launch a satellite, it had done so in secret.

“Sputnik triggered a period of self-appraisal rarely equalled in modern times,” wrote Wernher von Braun, the German leader of US space efforts. “Overnight, people questioned our education system, our industrial strength, our science and technology, even the moral fibre of our people.” (Braun’s use of the first person plural is notable: he had previously invented the Nazis’ V-2 rocket system.)

The weapons gap was one source of alarm but the education gap was another. In the late 1950s, the USSR was training two or three times as many scientists as the US. Moscow crowed that Sputnik (which translates as “fellow traveller on Earth”) proved how “the freed and conscious labour of the people of the new socialist society turns even the most daring of man’s dreams into reality”.

Then-US president Dwight Eisenhower was quick to appreciate that space rivalry was about more than bragging rights and ideological posturing. Only huge and sustained investment in academic capacity and scientific research would keep the West in the race, and safe.

Within a year, US congress established NASA, putting space research under a civilian umbrella and ensuring that space technology would be part of a public, shared scientific endeavour. The US National Defence Education Act poured billions of dollars into science education, providing low interest loans to maths, engineering and science students. By 1968, the National Science Foundation budget had increased to $US500 million, from $US34m a decade earlier.

In Britain, the Tory government created eight new universities, including East Anglia and Sussex, in part to close the science gap.

Within 12 years of Sputnik, the US had put a man on the moon. But in addition to the achievements of Project Apollo and the Hubble space telescope, the flood of technological innovation created a host of objects we take for granted, from cordless power tools to TV satellite dishes. More than that, the response to Sputnik laid the basis for modern academic scientific research.

Emergency is frequently the spur to science. The US National Academy of Sciences was created in 1863 at the height of the American Civil War to aid the Union’s fight against the secessionist South. In Britain, many of the most important scientific bodies, such as the Medical Research Council, emerged from the scientific demands of World War I.

The Soviet satellite suddenly circling the Earth was seen as a direct political and scientific challenge to the West. In sharp-edged doggerel, G Mennen Williams, then governor of Michigan, wrote:

Oh little Sputnik, flying high

With made-in-Moscow beep

You tell the world it’s Commie sky

And Uncle Sam’s asleep

In October 1957, America woke up overnight to a new scientific reality and immediately threw its vast resources and limitless ingenuity at the problem. Today, many countries are investing heavily in science but the Trump budget for 2018, by contrast, would cut government research spending by 17 per cent.

Donald Trump looks forward to a Mars landing but no US president of modern times has been more hostile to federal support for the sciences.

Sputnik has been compared, in its impact on US thinking, to Pearl Harbor, a moment of cataclysm that galvanised the nation through shock, wounded pride and moral outrage.

No one would welcome another such crisis, but a new Sputnik moment is long overdue and may well be triggered, not by Moscow this time, but Beijing. For decades the US led the world in the creation of scientific knowledge but China is now the second-largest performer in terms of research and development, with an investment growth rate exceeding that of the US and EU.

The steady beep given off by Sputnik sounded a warning that was clearly heard; six decades later, Uncle Sam’s asleep again.


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