Friday, October 25, 2019

Why LBJ’s Great Society Gets a Failing Grade in Improving Education

President Lyndon B. Johnson’s vision for a Great Society unleashed an army of bureaucrats on American schools but produced little or no improvements to public education in 54 years, according to a new report published by The Heritage Foundation.

The report, titled “The Not-So-Great Society,” delves into the impact of Johnson’s string of initiatives—among them Medicare, Medicaid, and various social welfare programs—on American education. Scholars from the leading think tank, as well as some outside experts, contributed to the report.

One-third of Johnson’s touted War on Poverty invaded classrooms across the United States, which, the president said in 1965, is where “your children’s lives will be shaped.”

“The federal Head Start program had as its goal—to quote Lady Bird Johnson—to ‘rescue our disadvantaged children’ [and] utterly has failed in that mission,” Lindsey Burke, director of Heritage’s Center for Education Policy, told an audience gathered Monday in Washington for the think tank’s annual President’s Club meeting.

“We have spent $240 billion on Head Start since it was launched as a small summer program in 1965,” Burke said during a panel discussion about the report. “We have seen no impact on parenting practices, children’s social and emotional wellbeing, their access to medical care, nothing. What we have today, that legacy, is a $9 billion federal jobs program, to be honest. Head Start employs 255,000 adults.”

The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act also expanded the federal government’s role in education, with the stated goal of closing the achievement gap between rich and poor students. But it hasn’t achieved that goal, Burke said.

“Since 1965 when the Great Society launched, we have seen federal education spending quadruple, and yet that achievement gap remains [the same] between poor children and the more affluent kids today, a four-year gap in learning. We have not moved the needle at all,” Burke said.

The problem hasn’t just been K-12, as 90% of all student loans to pay for college now come from the federal government.

“That means if a student defaults or if there is generous loan forgiveness, it will come directly from the taxpayers,” Burke said. “Today, a slightly lower percentage of low-income students attend college than in 1965. So, it has failed on that metric.”

Data shows that school choice policies making it easier for parents to send children to private schools have improved student performance, graduation rates, and civic engagement, said Patrick Wolf, distinguished professor of education policy at School Choice at the University of Arkansas.

Data on civic engagement measures political tolerance, political involvement, political knowledge, volunteerism in a community, and racial integration, Wolf said.

He said 56 studies showed school choice had a positive result on civic engagement, 34 studies found no difference in impact between public and private schools, and three found private schools had a negative effect.

“In summary, yes, there is evidence that school choice boosts achievement. Yes, there is a clear pattern that private school choice enhances educational attainment,” Wolf said during the panel.

“Basically, access to private schooling makes young people more, and not less, civically minded. Really, the summary is that school choice is good. It’s great for our society.”


Snowflake students at Oxford University are latest to demand clapping is banned because applause noise could trigger anxiety as they call for 'jazz hands' to be used instead

Snowflake students at Oxford University are the latest to demand that clapping should be banned because applause noise can trigger anxiety and want 'jazz hands' to be used instead.

The idea for a British sign language alternative for clapping involving the waving of hands was put forward at the student union's first meeting of the year on Tuesday.

Sabbatical Officers Roisin McCallion, Vice President for Welfare and Equal Opportunity and Ebie Edwards Cole, Chair for Oxford SU Disabilities Campaign, successfully passed the motion to mandate the encouragement of silent clapping.

They argued that alternatives to traditional clapping have been in place to aid accessibility in some organisations since 2015.

The ban on clapping would be at student union meetings and events where traditional clapping and cheering 'presents an access issue' to those with anxiety disorders.

One former student, said: 'Oxford University Student Union is always seeking to be more accommodating for students. Especially for those with accessibility issues. 'But this idea will not work and is completely ludicrous.'

The use of jazz hands - where students wave their hands in the air - is the British Sign Language expression for applause and is deemed a more inclusive gesture.

It comes after the University of Manchester Students Union passed a motion to do the same thing in September last year.

Ms McCallion said: 'The policy was proposed in order to encourage the use of British Sign Language clapping during our democratic events to make those events more accessible and inclusive for all, including people who suffer from anxiety.

'Inclusivity is one of the Students' Union's founding principles.'


Australia: Maths to be compulsory for NSW students

What if a student has no talent for maths? Will they be unfairly held back?

Maths will be compulsory for all students up until Year 12 under a back-to-basics overhaul of the NSW curriculum.

The NSW government will make maths compulsory for year 11 and 12 students under a plan to ensure school graduates have key numeracy skills.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the NSW government would begin consultation with education stakeholders over how mathematics could be incorporated from kindergarten to the end of the HSC.

“We promised to take the curriculum back to the basics and today we are taking the first steps to deliver on that commitment by prioritising maths,” Ms Berejiklian said in a statement on Thursday.

“My vision is for every child in NSW to have the necessary maths skills to succeed in life, whether that’s managing home budgets or preparing them for the jobs of the future in science, technology and engineering.”

Earlier this week an interim report into the NSW Curriculum Review was released, which signalled the start of a major shake up to the NSW curriculum.

The state government on Tuesday released the interim curriculum review headed by Professor Geoff Masters covering kindergarten to year 12.

It marks the first shake-up of the system in 30 years.

The report suggests reducing the amount of curriculum content so students can develop in-depth subject knowledge and develop the skills to apply knowledge “in the real world”.

This includes a sharper focus on maths, English and science.

It also proposes “flexible progression” for students through the public system, which would involve using levels of attainment to organise syllabuses, so students are recognised and challenged according to where they are on the learning scale.

Premier Berejiklian said the review’s emphasis on fundamentals aligned with the government’s aim to give young people the tools they need to get ahead in life after school.

“The NSW government strongly supports a back to basics approach,” she said in a statement.

“Students need to have strong foundations in maths, English and science to be prepared for the jobs of the future and for attaining lifelong skills.”


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Three Education Lawsuits Worth Watching

In the coming months, many lawsuits will make their way through state, federal, and even the U.S. Supreme Court. Three cases in particular have the potential to shape the future of religious freedom, due process, and freedom of speech in education:

Religious Freedom

This year the U.S. Supreme Court will consider Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. The case asks whether a Montana rule that forbids state scholarship dollars from going to religious schools violates the freedom of religion clauses or equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Montana’s scholarship program gives students an opportunity to attend schools their families might not otherwise be able to afford. Parents Kendra Espinoza, Jeri Anderson, and Jaime Shaefer, plaintiffs in the lawsuit, share that even with the state’s scholarship program, they struggle to send their children to Stillwater Christian School. They say the sacrifice is worthwhile because their children are thriving.

Shortly after the program began, Montana’s Department of Revenue prohibited recipients from using their scholarships at religious schools like Stillwater. The law aligns with the state’s “Blaine Amendment” which prohibits state funds from going to religious entities and means families like the Espinozas, Andersons, and Shaefers can no longer use state scholarships to give their children the education they feel is best.

Across the country, 37 states have similar laws blocking state aid from going to religious schools. If the Supreme Court strikes down Montana’s law, it could open the door to greater education options for state scholarship recipients across the nation.

“This could be the most impactful Supreme Court case since the pivotal Zelman decision in 2002 which ruled that state-level voucher programs are constitutional,” said John Schilling, President of the American Federation of Children about the Espinoza case. “This Montana case has the opportunity to definitively establish that religious schools cannot be excluded from school choice programs by virtue of their religion.”

Due Process in Education

Not all significant education lawsuits are decided at the Supreme Court. The first-of-its-kind class-action lawsuit, John Doe v. Michigan State University could shape due process in the age of #MeToo.

John Doe was a sophomore at Michigan State when he was accused of sexual assault. His complaint states that he was suspended on the word of an investigator who served as prosecutor, judge, and jury—without a hearing to confront or question his accuser.

Doe argues that Michigan State ignored due process in its pursuit to find him guilty and thereby alleviate the pressure the school faced with the Nassar scandal, Department of Education investigation, and reports alleging high levels of unredressed sexual assault on campus.

“Unfortunately, the misapplication of Title IX has reached new depths at Michigan State,” said Andrew Miltenberg, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit. “Michigan State, in trying to distract attention from its own misdeeds, is consistently and systemically using Title IX as a weapon of law against its accused students, with life-altering consequences for these young men and women.”

Whether Doe wins or loses, the case offers a word of caution to colleges and universities facing pressure to find and punish sexual assault. In their pursuit of justice, institutions of higher education must remain vigilant in upholding those processes that defend the innocent.

Free Speech in Education

A third significant case, Speech First, Inc. v. Gregory L. Fenves, questions whether University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) policies violate First Amendment speech protections.

In December 2018, the nonprofit education research organization Foundation for Individual Rights in Education released a study which found that 89.7 percent of American colleges and universities restrict protected student speech. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 61 percent of students agree that the climate on their campus prevents some people from expressing their views.

Speech First contends this is the case at UIUC. In its complaint, Speech First notes that anonymous student “bias” reports are investigated by a UIUC campus Bias Assessment Response Team (BART). These investigations may incur No Contact Directives, sanctions that prohibit students from interacting with one another, without giving students the chance to question their accusers. In addition, bias reports remain on students’ academic records, impacting their scholarship options, study abroad applications, and other academic efforts.

“On a regular basis, the University of Illinois sends a clear message to students who wish to engage in political and religious speech. There are some views that are welcome and others that are not,” said Speech First President and Founder Nicole Neilly, “Students deserve to express themselves and voice their opinions without fear of investigation or punishment – which is why these policies must be reformed.”

A win against UIUC would build on a recent victory against the bias response team at the University of Michigan and encourage the more than 230 schools with similar bias response teams to re-evaluate their policies in light of constitutional free speech protections.


Student gov trashes conservative 'coming out' event

The Student Government Association (SGA) at Texas State University has introduced a resolution to condemn a conservative group for a tabling event titled “Conservative Coming Out Day,” which allowed conservative students to "come out" and share their views on campus.

Hosted by the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) at Texas State, the event coincides with "National Coming Out Day" for individuals who have not publicly "come out" as LGBT.

The resolution accuses YCT of “homophobia,” “bias,” and “violating the shared values” of the school. The resolution also specifically says the YCT’s “continued belittlement of LGBTQIA+...make[s] it harder for LGBTQIA+ students to feel welcome on our campus.”

YCT released a statement standing by its event and noted that there were even Log Cabin Republicans in attendance. The Log Cabin Republicans is an organization that represents LGBT conservatives.

“The event in question, Conservative Coming Out Day, was a demonstration of how many conservative students are afraid to discuss their political beliefs on campus,” the statement reads. “We are proud to have invited Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) with the intent to ensure that nothing that took place could have in any way been harmful to the LGBTQIA+ community. Had any SGA members actually spoken with us prior to writing this virtue-signaling piece, they would have known that.”

In response to the SGA resolution, the YCT announced that it no longer recognizes the student government as legitimate.

“The Young Conservatives of Texas at Texas State University hereby denounces, condemns, and refuses to recognize the Texas State University Student Government as a legitimate, reasonable, and responsible organization.”

YCT President Sebastian Quaid told Campus Reform that the Texas State SGA “routinely” abuses conservative students.

“The final tipping point is when we did our annual Conservative Coming Out Day event this year with our local Log Cabin Republican President, Michael Cargill. [We were] told by the SGA that we are the reason LGBT students commit suicide,” Quaid said. “This was too is incredibly dangerous for one organization to push such rhetoric and we can no longer stand by and watch as they try to burn our school to the ground.”

Quaid also asked other students to denounce SGA. “I implore other students to denounce this ridiculous organization as well.”

According to the YCT Twitter feed, the group also faced threats for putting on the event.


Australian preschool is accused of 'manipulating' kids by encouraging them to petition for the Aboriginal flag to be raised permanently on the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Preschool staff have been accused of manipulating three-year-olds who are petitioning to have the Aboriginal flag flown permanently on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 

Children aged three to five at Kelly's Place Children's Centre in Crows Nest on Sydney's North Shore have been supporting a petition by Aboriginal activists since early this year.

They have been walking up and down station platforms and sitting outside their houses to get as many signatures as possible.

Last month the children visited the NSW state parliament and presented their signatures to Labor leader Jodi McKay who supports the idea.

More than 120,000 have signed the petition started by activist Cheree Toka - but many do not approve of children getting involved.

Respected child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said they are being used by their teachers.  'These children do not even have the cognitive ability to understand what a petition is,' he told the Daily Telegraph.

Referencing 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg's speech at the UN last month, he added: 'I think the idea of roping children into political campaigns seems to be in vogue. Children should not be used as props.'

Institute of Public Affairs executive director John Roskom agreed, saying the children are 'being manipulated by adults in positions of responsibility for the adults' own political purposes'.

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said she was 'deeply concerned' that young children were being politicised. 

A spokesman for the preschool denied that the children were being used and said the idea to support the petition came from the youngsters themselves.

He said: 'One of the children noticed there was no Aboriginal flag on the Harbour Bridge and said that was disrespectful.

'He was four-and-a-half at the time and came in and told the other children that was disrespectful.'

'They went through the process of learning who to speak to - and they achieved what they wanted. They were incredibly empowered by their abilities.'


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

University BANS 'acts of intolerance'

With Halloween approaching, college students may be thinking about what type of party they should host or what costume they should pick.

However, at Furman University, students might be restricted in their plans.

Free speech nonprofit the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) highlighted Furman’s “Acts of Intolerance” policy for its October speech code of the month.

The policy states that “an act of intolerance” can be defined “as any conduct that serves no scholarly purpose appropriate to the educational experience and demonstrates bias against others,” based on their sex, national origin, age, etc.

Under the policy, certain costumes and theme parties can “prompt additional investigation” and are discouraged by the school.

“Theme parties that encourage people to wear costumes or act in ways that reinforce stereotypes or are otherwise demeaning,” the policy lists as one item that can lead to “additional investigation.”

Additionally, “culturally offensive gestures,” vandalism, and the use of slurs can all be considered “Acts of Intolerance.”

“When an Act of Intolerance is targeted toward a specific person, it may rise to the level of discriminatory harassment. It may also constitute a hate crime for the purposes of local, state, or federal law,” the policy states.

The same student policy handbook that has the “Act of Intolerance” policy also guarantees the freedom of expression.

“Students are guaranteed freedom of inquiry and expression,” the handbook reads.

Laura Beltz, senior program officer for FIRE, told Campus Reform that the policy could stifle speech on campus.

“If you're a student and you're reading this policy and you see that you could be investigated or even punished over expression like this,” Beltz said. “[Students] may self-censor because [they’re] so concerned that any sort of subjectively controvers[ial] or offensive expression could be investigated. [You’re] going to be a lot less likely to engage in conduct that could go up to that line. So, it's a problem really either way whether they're investigating the surface expression or not and that's why they need to revise this policy to make it clear.”

Beltz also said that since Furman does promise to its students that it will respect freedom of expression, “they should be living up to that promise.”

Similarly, in 2018 at Gonzaga University, students received a campus-wide email warning them about being “culturally inappropriate” in their costumes, as reported by Campus Reform.

“Halloween has also become known for more dangerous and damaging traditions like binge drinking, sexualized or culturally inappropriate costumes, and vandalism,” the administrator and student body president wrote to students. “We urge our community to be aware of the potentially harmful impact insensitive behavior can have on fellow students, other members of the Gonzaga community, and our Logan neighbors.”

During an event, a University of Utah administrator even called cultural appropriation “the baby of racism and capitalism,” as reported by Campus Reform.

Campus Reform reached out to Furman University but did not receive a response in time for publication.


California Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law to help DACA students

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill into law that will require California Community Colleges and the California State University system to create a “Dreamer Resource Liaison” for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students on each campus.

The Dream Resource Liaisons will be tasked with “streamlining access to all available financial aid, social services, state-funded immigration legal services, internships, externships, and academic opportunities.” The new law also encourages California colleges and universities to create “Dream Resource Centers” to aid the liaisons and to “create a safe and welcoming environment” for DACA students.

"Gov. Newsom and the Democrats focus their time and efforts on useless feel-good programs for illegal aliens who do not pay their fair share of taxes."    Tweet This
Citing President Donald Trump’s threat to deport illegal immigrants, the bill states that providing these resources to DACA students is “imperative.” Under current California law, illegal immigrants already qualify for in-state tuition.

Laura Metune, the vice-chancellor of governmental relations for the California Community Colleges system, said that while she supports the new law, California’s colleges do not have adequate funding for the bill’s new mandates. Metune estimates the liaisons and resources will cost $2.9 million.

“The reality is that colleges are being mandated to implement with no new resources,” Metune said in a statement. “We hope, and will continue to encourage, colleges to identify existing funds or leverage philanthropic dollars to accomplish this work.”

According to, 19 community colleges in California currently meet the new staff requirement. With 115 total community colleges in the California system, 96 community colleges would need to hire or select a Dreamer Resource Liaison by the 2020-2021 academic year. Eighty-two community colleges in California are also currently without Dreamer resource centers. Most California State University campuses already have liaisons and resource centers for illegal immigrant students. Only four of the CSU campuses lack resource centers.

The University of California system is exempt from the law’s requirements but is encouraged to comply. A spokeswoman for the UC president’s office told that all UC campuses have liaisons and resource centers.

In a statement to Campus Reform, the College Republicans at CSU-Chico slammed Newsom for prioritizing illegal immigrants.

"Gov. Newsom and the Democrats focus their time and efforts on useless feel-good programs for illegal aliens who do not pay their fair share of taxes," the CSU College Republicans said, noting the Golden State's homeless population, which is now more than 120,000, and the state's education system, which ranks 21st in the country.


Australia: `Back to basics' plan for new NSW curriculum

The abandonment of year-denominated progress will require a lot more work from teachers and administrators.  Where will the money for that come from?

The NSW school curriculum is poised to be pared back significantly to enable a greater focus on the core subjects of English, maths and science, with the state government promising a "back to basics approach" to education.

Mandated content within the curriculum could be reduced by as much as 20 per cent, while subjects relating to health, safety or social concerns could face the chopping block, under recommendations proposed in the interim report from the NSW curriculum review to be released on Tuesday.

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the draft report, which stemmed from a review under way since May 2018, indicated "significant change" was required to be made to the curriculum. "Students need to be equipped with strong literacy and numeracy foundations to succeed in the 21st century," she said. "We want a curriculum that leaves no student behind while stimulating students who are advancing faster than others."

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said NSW "strongly supports a back to basics approach". Many of the findings from the review, led by Australian Council for Educational Research chief executive Geoff Masters, appear to mirror those made in the 2018 report into Australian school education by David Gonski.

Among more than a dozen recommendations, described as "reform directions", is a call for NSW to scrap the year-level curriculum and instead deliver learning based on each student's level of attainment.

Under such a model, students would progress through a sequence of attainment levels — most likely at different times and rates — rather than all moving in "lockstep fashion from one year-level syllabus to the next" de-pending on their age.

Such a change would have implications for the assessment and reporting of student learning, with A to E grades to be scrapped. "Rather than grading each student's performance against the same year-level syllabus expectations, information will be provided about the highest attainment level a student has achieved in each subject at any given time and the progress they are making towards the achievement of the next level, as assessed by their teacher," the report says.

"In this way, parents/carers and students will be provided with information about how a student is progressing and whether they are on track with learning expectations."

According to the report, "the crowded nature of many syllabuses, particularly in primary schools ... was described as encouraging superficial coverage of material rather than teaching for under-standing, exploring relevance and meaning, and providing opportunities for students to transfer and apply their learning".

"The review also heard wide-spread concerns about additional expectations and demands placed on schools and that further reduce time for quality teaching and learning. "A number of submissions observed that schools are fulfilling functions once the responsibility of families and other institutions in society ... particularly in relation to student mental health, wellbeing and the development of personal qualities."

From "the Australian" of 22 Oct., 2019

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Without Financial Transparency, Colleges Mislabel Research Spending as Instructional

Public colleges spend public money, but college officials are reluctant to make information about their budgets easy to understand. That aversion to transparency makes it easier to pass non-instructional expenses along to students.

Many experts have discussed the problem. But without transparency, it can be hard to show just how much so-called instruction is actually some other activity.

“The accounting habits of research universities obscure the fact that professors are hired to perform research as well as teaching and simply record the totality of their academic year salaries as expenditures for ‘Instruction,’” wrote Charles Schwartz, a professor emeritus of physics at the University of California-Berkeley.

In a 2008 report on North Carolina higher education, Andrew Gillen and Richard Vedder explained that many universities “distinguish themselves through their research, not their teaching. Thus, some ‘instructional costs’ likely include research activities, at least those funded by the institution through low teaching loads for faculty.”

But universities don’t reveal which expenditures are for actual instruction and which are for research. As a result, tuition essentially subsidizes the cost of research for professors, but students are unaware.

Faculty expenses “are the major cost driver in higher education,” according to Vance Fried, an economist at Oklahoma State University and the author of a 2011 study from the American Enterprise Institute on making colleges more efficient. Spending on faculty can be divided into instructional, research, or service. Of these, Fried says the instructional portion is the largest. Or, at least it appears to be the largest.

Thanks to an accounting convention that college administrators follow when reporting expenses, colleges lump together instructional and research spending, leaving students with the bill for activities unconnected to their education.

Nor is that bill a minor burden. Fried estimated that “perhaps 40 percent of reported instruction costs at both public and private research universities are really research costs.”

Charles Schwartz argues that it’s worse than Fried estimated. In an analysis of the University of California system, Schwartz found that instructional expenditures are double or triple the actual amount of educating students. He estimated instructional costs are actually $7,560 per student, but the UC system’s budget calculated them as $16,387 per student (with a narrow definition) or $24,200 (with a broad definition). Schwartz wasn’t low-balling the numbers, either: He included academic support, student services, and overhead in his instructional spending estimates.

Some research spending is treated differently, Schwartz noted. Currently, if academic research isn’t funded by an outside grant, it’s classified as “departmental research,” and its expenses counted as instructional. But if a professor receives outside funding, such as a grant from a nonprofit foundation, that research doesn’t count as instructional.

The problem is more pronounced at research-intensive universities. Community colleges (which engage in very little research) and teaching-focused liberal arts colleges have less distortion between research and instructional spending.

By mixing the two expenditures, college officials can argue that educating students is more expensive than it really is, which becomes an excuse to raise tuition.

It’s reasonable, after all, that students pay for their education. But it is not as reasonable that they pay for research. While a strong research record can improve a professor’s prestige in their academic specialty, the research rarely benefits undergraduates.

Students have a right to know how their tuition dollars get spent, and the public has a right to know how and what public money pays for. In an email, Schwartz said that his experience has been that higher ed leaders don’t want to touch the problem and prefer the status quo. They fear that public knowledge of how per-student costs are calculated could threaten public funding for higher ed. Regardless, “we have a moral responsibility to be much more honest about how we spend that money,” he wrote. “We need to be honest.”

“We have a moral responsibility to be much more honest about how we spend that money.”
Changing how colleges report instructional and research spending, however, is not so simple. As Schwartz noted, colleges follow accounting standards endorsed by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). The Department of Education, which publishes financial information for all schools that receive federal funds in a database called IPEDS, follows similar standards. Until NACUBO or the Department of Education direct schools to report instructional spending more accurately, it’s highly unlikely that anything will change.

An alternative approach, called Activity-Based Costing (ABC), could make it more obvious how student tuition revenue gets spent. The ABC method estimates the cost of providing a product or service rather than grouping spending by function or by department. Johnson County Community College in Kansas and the University of California system have promoted the use of ABC, but with the goal of making programs more productive rather than making the budget easier for the public to understand.

Some attention has been focused on universities’ lack of accounting transparency, but not enough. Robert Martin, a retired professor emeritus at Centre College, wrote a Martin Center report in 2009 on the “revenue-to-cost spiral” of higher ed and pointed out that “accounting standards allow administrators considerable latitude in deciding where to apply costs.” Though colleges may be non-profit entities, they still have profit-maximizing incentives like a private business. Martin argued that schools’ “creative use of accounting conventions” can mask where the money actually goes.

In his 2011 report, Vance Fried suggested that the way to lower spending was to separately fund the research and public service missions of universities—or eliminate them entirely. For public colleges with an explicit mission to provide public service and research to the people of the state who fund them, abolishing non-teaching related activities may not be feasible, but Fried’s analysis encourages colleges to be honest and open with students about how their tuition is used.

But until public colleges are more transparent about how they classify costs, researchers can only make educated guesses about why one school spends so much more than another. One thing is fairly clear, though: Research activity makes educating students more expensive.

When a public institution has more eyes watching it, its leaders tend to behave better. If the public gets better information from college officials responsible for providing an education, public trust may improve. But to build the public’s faith in state higher education, state leaders need to be more honest about how tuition and tax dollars get spent.


In Georgia, Parents Win Battle Over Transgender Bathrooms at School

Jasper, Georgia, isn’t a big town. At last count, it had about 3,800 residents. So it was a big deal when 900 squeezed into the Pickens High School auditorium determined to stop Jasper from becoming the next stop in the march for transgender bathrooms.

For the small community, the time for polite conversation was over.

The residents packed into the special school board meeting were angry. They’d already made accommodations for the two students who identified as another gender, setting up single-person restrooms for anyone who wanted them. The trouble is, these kids weren’t satisfied with that compromise.

In a fiery meeting that pit Superintendent Carlton Wilson against most of the town, moms and dads like Nathan Barfield were furious. Barfield says his two children are being made uncomfortable because a handful of students want access to any bathroom.

“Most people won’t say anything because they fear retaliation,” Barfield fumed. “[But] accommodations have already been made for transgender students. This is nothing but a political stunt to gain attention.”

A raucous applause broke out, punctuated by a series of “Amens!”

“Once you give into this, you’ll open the floodgates,” warned one mom.

In places like the U.K., where this sort of gender free-for-all is commonplace, parents are distraught about the rise in their kids’ anxiety. Some girls are staying home so they don’t have to use the bathrooms with boys. Others are risking bladder infections by not drinking.

Here in the U.S., even liberal parents are calling it a “bathroom crisis.” The Atlantic, not to be confused with a conservative magazine, is the latest to sound the alarm, publishing a long feature from George Packer headlined “When the Culture War Comes for Your Kids.”

Packer tells the story of sending his son to a public school in New York City to expose him to more diversity. There, a single girl in the second grade “had switched to using male pronouns, adopted the initial Q as a first name, and begun dressing in boys’ clothes.”

Within two years, “almost every bathroom in the school, from kindergarten through fifth grade, had become gender-neutral. Where signs had once said boys and girls, they now said students,” he writes, adding:

Kids would be conditioned to the new norm at such a young age that they would become the first cohort in history for whom gender had nothing to do with whether they sat or stood to pee. All that biology entailed—curiosity, fear, shame, aggression, pubescence, the thing between the legs—was erased or wished away.

The school didn’t inform parents of this sudden end to an age-old custom, as if there were nothing to discuss. Parents only heard about it when children started arriving home desperate to get to the bathroom after holding it in all day. Girls told their parents mortifying stories of having a boy kick open their stall door. Boys described being afraid to use the urinals.

Our son reported that his classmates, without any collective decision, had simply gone back to the old system, regardless of the new signage: Boys were using the former boys’ rooms, girls the former girls’ rooms. This return to the familiar was what politicians call a ‘commonsense solution.’ It was also kind of heartbreaking. As children, they didn’t think to challenge the new adult rules, the new adult ideas of justice. Instead, they found a way around this difficulty that the grown-ups had introduced into their lives. It was a quiet plea to be left alone.

In Jasper, the parents were fortunate. They won. Wilson saw the outpouring of opposition and reconsidered.

But despite all the Trump administration has done to put these decisions back in communities’ hands, there will always be a small army of activists who try to slip this indoctrination into your district.

When that moment comes, make sure you’re prepared. Read through Family Research Council’s “A Parent’s Guide to the Transgender Movement in Education” and make sure to watch the powerful stories from people at the Values Voter Summit who’ve suffered at the hands of this agenda.


Queer and conservative students are clashing at a religious Texas university

A group of LGBTQ students at Baylor University in Waco, Texas has begun clashing with Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a conservative student organization at the Baptist university.

The LGBTQ students, united under the Greek letters Gamma Alpha Upsilon (GAY), say that YAF has made baseless accusations that GAY is “is violent and [has] intentionally threatened or sabotaged their members/meetings” by tearing down YAF event fliers and disrupting meetings.

GAY asserts that individual members have acted independently in voicing displeasure over YAF’s conservative speakers. One GAY member also tore down some YAF event fliers last year, but yet again, GAY asserts that the student has publicly proclaimed that they acted entirely on their own.

The Dallas Observer says that last April, YAF hosted Matt Walsh, a conservative writer, for a speech entitled “The War on Reality: Why the Left Has Set Out to Redefine Life, Gender and Marriage.” YAF’s posters for the event showed the rainbow Pride flag with a communist-era hammer and sickle on it, an insinuation that the LGBTQ community is a fascist-like group.

Now, YAF has invited Ben Shapiro to speak on campus next month. Shapiro has insisted that “transgender is a mental disease,” attacked the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down laws criminalizing homosexuality and says that “the gay marriage caucus [is] … utilizing the law as a baton to club wrong-thinking religious people into acceptance of homosexuality.”

The university has reportedly arranged a meeting between leaders of GAY, YAF and an “equity officer” who specializes in mediating issues on discrimination, bias and diversity.

Vice President of GAY Anna Conner said:

“We’ve reached out several times [to YAF] asking for information regarding these events (of alleged harassment by GAY against YAF) so that we can help them feel safer and so we can identify whether these attacks care from one of our members.

Unfortunately, all of our requests were ignored and they continue to make these accusations which forced us to ask administration if they could set up a mediated meeting between the officers of the two clubs so we can settle these serious accusations.”

The conservative press has highlighted the fact that GAY is not a group officially recognized by the university, although over 3,000 people have petitioned Baylor to officially recognize the group.

In 2015, Baylor University quietly removed a rule from the student code of conduct banning “homosexual acts” as “a misuse of God’s gift.”


Monday, October 21, 2019

Progressives Pass Laws Against ‘Lunch Shaming,’ Leave Local Taxpayers to Pick Up the Tab

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and thanks to progressive Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Democratic-controlled legislature, California taxpayers are about to re-learn that lesson.

The hard way.

Last week California became one of a handful of states to pass a “no-lunch-shaming” law, barring local schools from limiting the meal selection of students with large, outstanding lunch debts. While their classmates cruised the cafeteria buffet line, these students were either limited to a basic, no-frills lunch or given a cold meal, like a sunbutter-and-jelly sandwich, fruit, and milk.

(What happened to peanut butter, you ask? Please. This is 2019.)

When Gov. Newsom signed the anti-lunch-shaming bill into law, he thanked a Napa County elementary school student named Ryan Kyote for “calling national attention to how kids at his school were shamed and singled out” by being given “a cheaper, ‘alternative’ lunch that causes them to stick out.”

Not anymore, Newsom said. California has “outlawed that practice…ensuring all students a state-funded meal of their choice.”

And as a result, the state is about to start funding a lot more meals.

The real issue isn’t student dining. It’s the debt.  According to the School Nutrition Association, 75 percent of school systems reported an outstanding debt for unpaid lunch bills last year. And while the average debt of $3,400 per school system is modest, it ranges wildly from district to district. Some have debts in excess of $800,000, and many of the districts with lunch debt in the low six figures are small and rural, with minimal budgets to begin with.

What do these lunch shaming bills do to address that problem? “Nothing,” said Katie Hanzlik, communications director for California state Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg.

Hertzberg was the prime sponsor of the bill and his spokesperson told InsideSources, “this law changes nothing about payment structures or retrieving unpaid bills.  It just changed the policy in the cafeteria.”

As for the impact of debt on local school districts? “That wasn’t the spirit of the bill. It was just to make sure children don’t go hungry.”

Except that children aren’t going hungry. Kids from low-income families don’t get a “shamed” lunch. They eat with everyone else, thanks to the generosity of the American taxpayer. The federal government already pays $14 billion a year to give free lunches to more than 20 million students every school day. And another 2 million or so kids get nearly-free lunches (students pay 40 cents).

The millions in annual unpaid lunch bills appear to come from families who are by and large financially able to pay, but simply decline to do so. One data point backing that theory is the overall trend of lunch debt since 2012. Seven years ago, the unemployment rate was double today’s and household incomes were lower. Today, incomes are up and more moms and dads are working, but the average lunch debt per district has risen by around 70 percent.

More proof this is about parents and not the ability to pay? States and municipalities who’ve passed similar no-shaming policies have seen their lunch debt soar.

When the Washington state House of Representatives passed the “Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights” in 2018, lead sponsor Rep. Strom Peterson declared, “We have the opportunity to make sure that our school districts are not stigmatizing kids, and that our state’s students are getting the nutrition they need to succeed in school.”

Less than two years later, the state’s local school districts are struggling to cover the costs of the surge in demand for “free” lunches from parents who aren’t paying. Two years ago, Evergreen Public Schools had an unpaid lunch debt of $6,500. Now it’s $85,000. In September, Takoma started the school year with about $130,000 in lunch debt. And down the road in Denver, Colo., public schools adopted the policy and lunch debt jumped from $13,000 to $356,000 in a single year.

In Pennsylvania, their 2017 anti-shaming law inspired an “exponential increase” in the size of lunch debt, and the skyrocketing costs forced the state to amend it. ‘Alternate’ meals are back.

What makes California politicians think their results will be any different?

The SNA’s Diane Pratt-Heavner says her concern is for the families on the economic borderline. “I know 40 cents doesn’t sound like much, but if you have three or four kids, five days a week, and you’re struggling to pay the rest of your bills, it adds up,” she told InsideSources.  However, she also acknowledges that a significant amount of the problem comes from parents who just don’t pay.

She’s also frustrated that schools attempting to make reasonable, good-faith efforts to both feed students and collect the revenue they need are being accused of “shaming,” which Pratt-Heavner says isn’t true. “Our members are actually working very hard to avoid the ‘shame’ aspect while also controlling food costs. People don’t realize that in most districts the food services system is supposed to be self-sufficient, not part of the general budget. They have to find a way to feed these children with the resources they have.”

Taxpayers are simply frustrated.

“What’s up with these parents, can’t they take a minute to make their kids a sack lunch?” asks Rick Futrell, a retired Vancouver, Wash. paramedic who had six kids go through area schools and whose local district is now more than $50,000 in debt.

“It seems like the parents just don’t care, and now everybody else has to pay.”


Teachers Strike in Chicago Getting Personal as Mayor Says 'There's No More Money. Period.'

An attorney representing Chicago Public Schools made a small request of union leaders who are trying to negotiate an end to the three day old strike: Spend more time negotiating and less time marching in the streets.

That brought an outraged response from union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates: “Rich white men tell black women with children in the Chicago Public Schools what to do all the time."

The lawyer, of course was making a suggestion, not trying to tell anyone what to do. But how else can the radical teachers union get all these white people to shut up and hand over the money if they don't accuse them of being racist?

The union is winning and they know it. That's why they are being relentless in their demands for more, more, and more of everything.

Chicago Tribune:

Chicago teachers union negotiations are heading into the weekend after the second day of a teachers strike ended without a contract deal.

Once again, union officials pointed to progress — particularly in getting a written counterproposal on one of their major concerns, getting more nurses, librarians, social workers, special education case managers and bilingual teachers into schools.
The city has offered to hire 250 more school nurses.

The union wants a nurse in all 520 schools. More than that, the union is demanding that new teachers and the 16,000 homeless students in the system get access to public housing. They also want smaller class sizes, more guidance counselors, more librarians, more, more, more...

Apparently, the union leaders don't read the newspapers. The city already has a budget crisis.

On Wednesday the mayor is scheduled to unveil next year’s budget and explain how City Hall will close an $838 million hole. Chicago, city of government largesse and weak will, has confronted big budget gaps before and managed them badly. Often the city has masked overspending by borrowing more money. It has raised property taxes, and still the budget hole has grown due to a massive shortfall in the pension funds for city workers, including police and firefighters.

In August Lightfoot said she “rejected” the familiar approaches of another historically large property tax increase, large-scale borrowing and short-changing city pension funds. On Wednesday, we’ll all see what she actually proposes. The fact is, about $280 million of the budget gap is attributable to a mandated additional payment into the police and fire funds — a strong-arming of the city into meeting its obligations.

If Chicago had been responsible instead of overspending while skimping on pension fund contributions, it wouldn’t be in this mess. So how is she going to close the budget gap, fully fund the pensions, and pay the teachers' union extortion all at the same time?


"The teachers’ demands are unaffordable,” said Adam Schuster, with the Illinois Policy Institute. "They’re out of line with economic reality and they’re out of line with what the tax base can afford.”

To meet CTU’s demands, the Illinois Policy Institute said the typical Chicago homeowner’s property tax bill would rise by at least $235, while Mayor Lightfoot’s offer would add $13 to the bill.

Mayor Lightfoot said if she agrees to everything the teachers want it would cost $2.5 billion per year. "That would double the cost of the CTU contract agreeing to an extra $2.5 billion in cost would be completely irresponsible,” Mayor Lightfoot said.

There is absolutely no money to be had -- not in the city or the state. It is a remarkable exercise in clout to see the teachers' union put a gun to the head of the city and hold it up for money it doesn't have who will get it from taxpayers who can't afford it.


Don’t Blame For-Profit Colleges for Debt among Black Students

The accusations don’t stand up to even simple scrutiny.
For-profit colleges take the blame for a lot of bad trends in our higher-education system. Sometimes it’s deserved. But too frequently the blame is driven by ideology and not objective analysis. And lest we assume that the blue-chip think tanks, the ones full of top-notch academics, are above this for-profit college-bashing, that is not what was on display last week at the Brookings Institution.

At an event titled “Student Loans: A Look at the Evidence,” one panelist blamed high debt burdens among black students on — you guessed it — for-profit colleges. This is not the first time we’ve seen this argument. The same claim appeared as the title of a Hechinger Institute article earlier this year. The reasoning behind the claim is that black students are more likely to attend for-profit colleges than their peers (true), and student debt is higher at for-profits than at other colleges (often true).

The problem with this argument is that it is based on reasoning alone. It tells us nothing of the magnitude of the effect of for-profit colleges on debt burdens among black students. What is needed for that task are data. And in this case the data do not show that for-profit college enrollment is a meaningful factor in explaining relatively high debt among black students.

The simplest way to see this is to compare the average debt for black college students based on whether for-profit graduates are included in the analysis. If the average debt among black students goes down when students from for-profits are excluded, then for-profit colleges are a factor contributing to black students’ relatively high debt. That is the effect we would expect to see based on the claim at the Brookings event and in the Hechinger Institute article.

The data cited in the Hechinger Institute article are publicly available through the National Center for Education Statistics, so we can conduct this simple test. The results are shown in the table below and feature three different groups of black students from the 2015–16 academic year: those who completed any type of undergraduate credential (certificate, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree); those who completed a bachelor’s degree; and those who completed a graduate or professional degree. The figures reflect average cumulative borrowing for the entire cohort across borrowers and non-borrowers.

For all three groups, the data show that average debt does indeed decline when students at for-profits are excluded. But it is only by about $1,000 at most. That is probably a much smaller effect than one would expect having read articles or attended events blaming for-profit colleges for high student debt among black students. And it is hardly worthy of a headline.

The effect of for-profit enrollment on black student debt is unexpectedly small because many black students attend private non-profit colleges where debt levels are comparable to those of students attending for-profits. Black students also tend to borrow more than their peers no matter what type of higher-education institution they attend. Therefore, black students earning degrees at for-profit colleges can have only a small effect on the overall debt levels of black graduates. Or to put a number on it, about an overall average of $1,000.

But are the experts who say it is “a factor” still technically correct, given that for-profit enrollment results in higher overall debt levels among black students, even if it is only about $1,000? Not really, at least not by the test presented here.

The data used to make the claim are taken from a survey, so there is sampling error. It turns out that the roughly $1,000 differences in the debt levels cited above are well within the margin of error for these survey data. The differences in debt are not statistically significant.

In short, the claim that for-profit colleges are a noteworthy factor for explaining high debt among black students doesn’t stand up even to simple scrutiny. There is a pattern here.

None of this is to say that the relatively high debt burdens among black students is not a serious problem. On the contrary. The issue demands serious solutions. Blaming for-profit colleges is not one of them.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Idea of a University: When Trustees Turn a College into a Commodity

Editor’s Note: This article by Randolph Bourne, a writer and public intellectual, was originally published as “The Idea of a University” in The Dial on November 22, 1917. This is the second of a Martin Center “History of Higher Ed” series where the Center will republish overlooked writings that shaped American higher education.

In September 1917, Professor J. McKeen Cattell of the psychology department and Professor Henry W.L. Dana, an assistant professor of comparative literature, were dismissed by the trustees of Columbia University. Both teachers had expressed publicly their opposition to World War I. In protest against this breach of academic freedom, Professor Charles A. Beard, a professor in the history department, resigned from the university.

Every American college and university is affected by the issue raised in Professor Beard’s dramatic resignation from Columbia as a protest against trustee autocracy. For the conditions which he found intolerable spring from a ruling conception held by university trustees and a portion of conservative public opinion as to the nature of the modern university. The methods taken at Columbia to secure the expulsion of Professors Cattell and Dana are very revealing as to the status of professors and the nature of university prestige.

The excuses, causes, and reasons given by the university authorities and the current comment of the newspapers show how frankly the American university has become a financial corporation, strictly analogous, in its motives and responses, to the corporation which is concerned in the production of industrial commodities.

Trustees who are business men, who hold positions as directors or executives in large financial or industrial corporations, carry over into the management of the university the attitudes and sensitivities learned in the corporate world. The university produces learning instead of steel or rubber, but the nature of the academic commodity has become less and less potent in ensuring for the academic workman a status materially different from that of any other kind of employee.

As directors in this corporation of learning, trustees seem to regard themselves primarily as guardians of invested capital. They manage as a sacred trust the various bequests, gifts, endowments which have been made to the university by men and women of the same orthodoxies as themselves. Their obligation is to see that the quality of the commodity which the university produces is such as to seem reputable to the class which they represent. And in order to maintain the flow of capital and the general credit of the institution they must keep the stock above par.

In the minds apparently of the trustees, and of the executives and professors who work with them, the reputation of a university is comparable to the standing of a corporation’s securities on the street, the newspapers taking the place of the stock exchange. The real offence of Professors Cattell and Dana seems to have been not so much that they were unpatriotic as that they had lowered the prestige of the university in the public mind. Neither the president nor the trustees nor the faculty committees brought forward any evidence besides epithet that either professor had, in the language of President Butler’s warning, actually “opposed or counselled opposition to the laws of the United States, or had acted, spoken, or written treason.”

What these professors had done was to associate themselves with organizations which were enjoying infamy in the irresponsible press.

No attempt was made to discover whether the newspaper accounts were true. Chatter and rumor were sufficient to convict them. Wny? Because on the stock exchange it is by rumor and prejudice that the value of securities is hit, not by evidence. When your stock is depressed by an alarming rumor, it is irrelevant whether the rumor is true or not. The mischief lies in what people think, not in the actual facts. And for this purpose newspaper chatter is authoritative. Your object then becomes not to discover the truth but to combat the rumor. If the fall in your stock is due to a suspicion of the value of your commodity, you renew your efforts to convince the public of its soundness. If it is due to an offending employee, you dismiss the employee. Having removed the cause of the prejudice, you may then expect your securities to resume their former level.

Only on such an interpretation can we explain the tendency of university authorities to rely on newspaper opinion and upon the complaints of persons whom they would not take seriously on any other question whatever. One is often amazed at the callousness of university trustees towards the indignation that follows these arbitrary dismissals of professors. But this corporate attitude naturally discounts the opinions of the non-investing public.

It is not the discontent of idealists that matters, but the vague complaints from parents that their sons are being taught irreligion and sedition within the university, complaints from business men that a professor is tainted with economic heresy, indignation of prominent alumni at the connection of the university’s name with unpopular movements.

These are the attitudes that depress the credit of the university in the investing world, and these are the attitudes that carry weight, therefore, with the university president and the trustees. Vested interests presumably receive dividends in the form of orthodox graduates. Whatever interferes with the supply of such a revenue is therefore a serious assault on the stability of the corporation.

One is often amazed at the callousness of university trustees towards the indignation that follows these arbitrary dismissals of professors.

In any such system of ideas, the professor becomes inevitably a mere employee of a company which has a standing to maintain in the corporate world. His intellectual freedom is extremely precarious, because a chance remark, or any public activity, may bring him that newspaper censure which causes the grave damage the university is likely to incur in the minds of the significant classes. An “institution of learning,” administered even on autocratic principles, might be expected to move always with the most scrupulous regard for the dignity of the teacher and for the principles of legal evidence in any cases of dismissal or censure. The professor might be expected to have a status more secure and more respected than that of the employee, holding his position from day to day, and might be expected to be dismissed only after formal charges, and after conviction on evidence which would satisfy an impersonal and judicial mind.

None of the circumstances connected with the latest expulsions at Columbia shows that any such standards prevail in our largest and wealthiest university.

They show, on the contrary, that under trustee control the American university has been degraded from its old, noble ideal of a community of scholarship to a private commercial corporation. And the situation at Columbia is merely a sharpened form of what has gone on in other colleges and universities throughout the country.

Professor Beard’s stirring gesture has raised the issue whether this reigning corporate idea of a university shall any longer prevail. If that reigning idea is making it impossible for a man of Charles Beard’s intellectual distinction, courage, and democratic idealism to serve our largest university, we have come to the time when Americans will have to choose between the current philosophy of university government and the presence in the university of independent ann vigorous minds.

If a man like Professor Beard is to be forced to cut short his academic career because the status of the college teacher is becoming intolerable, a revolution in the idea of a university cannot come too quickly.

The present agitation for at least a constitutional form of government by which control over all academic matters is turned over to the faculties is an advance. But to ensure the instructor’s freedom, both university authorities and the newspaper public must learn to distinguish between his academic functions and his private opinions and activities. He will scarcely be free as long as he is vulnerable for activities which in no way concern his academic work, or as long as he is considered to implicate the university in everything he says or does. The partisan of “academic freedom” will also want to see worked out an entirely new status for both the instructor, who is now an employee, and for the student, who is now partly ward and partly consumer. State control is no solution, so long as directorship is given to men with the current corporate attitudes.

State ownership of universities, with control vested in the “guild” of professors, is probably the ideal solution. Meanwhile what is most needed is a clear realization of the hostility between the present system of ideas which governs university control, and the functional and cooperative ideals which should govern a community devoted to learning. That hostility is almost complete, and Professor Beard has done a great service by making a dramatic issue of it at the present time.


House Democrats’ New Bill Would Drive Up College Costs Even Further

House Democrats on Tuesday introduced a bill that combines some of the worst higher education policies into one bundle.

The bill, titled the College Affordability Act, would overhaul the Higher Education Act of 1965. While that law certainly needs significant revision, this proposal would replicate, and in some cases double down on, the unwise policies that led to our current $1.6 trillion student debt crisis.

Americans simply cannot afford the College Affordability Act.

While this bill doesn’t outright cancel student debt, students would see significantly more of their loan balances forgiven under the proposed restructuring of payment plans.

The College Affordability Act would cap monthly payments and enable students to enroll in an income-based repayment plan. Students who make regular payments would then have the remainder of their loan balances forgiven after 20 years.

While some students are already enrolled in this type of plan today, tying even more payments to income and capping monthly payments would cause the bill left to taxpayers at the 20-year mark to skyrocket.

Parent borrowers would also qualify for income-based repayment under this proposal. The parent PLUS loan program is one of the most egregious drivers of tuition inflation, as parents tend to take out large loan balances.

It is simply bad policy to potentially leave taxpayers on the hook for parents who took out student loans on behalf of their adult children.

While “free college” is technically absent from this bill, make no mistake—that is the goal.

Title IV of the College Affordability Act includes a federal-state partnership called America’s College Promise. This entails a grant program to states to help eliminate the cost of community college while maintaining funding for four-year public institutions.

According to the committee’s bill summary, “This program creates the foundation and makes a down payment toward future investments in four-year debt-free college for students across the country.”

This federal-state partnership would come with a $500 million fund to ensure the implementation of best practices in the states, as well as ensure equity in higher education.

“Free” college, whether for community college students or bachelor’s degree students, will drive up college costs. The only difference is that taxpayers will get the bill—and if history is any indicator, that bill will increase every year.

Massive Increase in Who Qualifies for Aid

The bill’s proposed changes to the Pell Grant program mean additional spending and more taxpayer exposure.

The College Affordability Act would permanently index Pell Grant funding to inflation, which would increase the maximum Pell award significantly.

Additionally, the bill proposes increasing the number of eligible semesters to 14, making it possible for graduate students to use Pell Grants for tuition.

Generally speaking, graduate students have a much easier time paying off their loans than bachelor’s degree holders. The federal government should have no role in providing free money to students who would fare well in the loan market.

The College Affordability Act also proposes lifting the ban on allowing incarcerated individuals to qualify for Pell Grants. Allowing prisoners to go to college on the backs of American taxpayers would result in increased spending while millions of Americans (who do not qualify for grants) struggle to pay off their loans.

Return of Obama-Era Regulations

The College Affordability Act would reinstate the Obama-era war on for-profit colleges.

Operating under the assumption that the only bad schools in America are for-profit schools, the College Affordability Act would reestablish the “gainful employment” rule, which singled out proprietary institutions and threatens their eligibility for funding under Title IV of the Higher Education Act.

The bill also calls for a new enforcement unit within the Department of Education, which would undoubtedly be dedicated to limiting the ability of for-profit institutions to operate.

There is no doubt that some for-profit institutions are not high quality enough to make Americans comfortable sending their tax dollars to subsidize them. However, bad institutions exist across the higher education sector, including four-year nonprofit institutions.

If higher education regulations are to exist, they should certainly be sector-neutral in their application.

Wrong Direction for America

This bill comes with a price tag estimated at $400 billion. Yet it opens the door for a massive increase in the federal government’s power to regulate and fund higher education in America.

This will likely result in costs that far surpass the $400 billion of taxpayer money initially being spent.

The College Affordability Act includes absolutely no provision to drive down college costs or insulate taxpayers from students’ inability to pay off their loans. In fact, through increased access to income-based repayment, taxpayers are even more exposed.

Americans deserve a Higher Education Act reauthorization that protects their interests and addresses the root causes of the student debt crisis. The College Affordability Act does neither.


Round One—Harvard Beats Asian Americans

In a long-awaited decision, federal trial judge Allison Burroughs has ruled that, while Harvard does consider a student’s race in determining who gets in and who doesn’t (“the use of race in and of itself is admitted”), nonetheless Harvard is not breaking the law.

That outcome was not surprising, and the judge’s opinion is unlikely to change many minds or alter the case’s expected trajectory to the Supreme Court.

Judge Burroughs found that “Race is only intentionally considered as a positive attribute.” But if race is a positive attribute for favored groups, then does it not follow that it is a negative attribute for everyone else? Well, yes, she admits about 100 pages later, writing, “Race conscious admissions will always penalize to some extent groups that are not being advantaged by the process.” Sure, there is discrimination against Asian Americans, but it isn’t “undu[e]” or “disproportionate.”

Here’s a sociopolitical reality: If it’s legally accepted that racial discrimination in admissions is permissible if you do A-B-C and do not do 1-2-3, then universities will make those claims. And so Judge Burroughs explains at great length why she accepts Harvard’s assertions that its discrimination is “narrowly tailored” (A-B-C) and that she is persuaded by the school that its discrimination is not anti-Asian (vis-a-vis whites, 1-2-3) but is only pro-diversity.

I believe she’s wrong in concluding that our law permits group discrimination as long as it doesn’t hurt disfavored groups “unduly.” The Civil Rights Act in particular and the 14thAmendment weren’t written that way. But Harvard drew one of the judges who reads the Supreme Court’s dubious jurisprudence to conclude that they were.

So those who favor a colorblind society (including college admissions) will struggle on. The plaintiffs (Students for Fair Admissions) have already announced that they’ll appeal to the First Circuit. I’m ultimately hoping for a Supreme Court decision that racial discrimination in university admissions is not permissible, period.

With the overwhelming majority of Americans rejecting this unequal treatment (preferring E pluribus unum) and with a judiciary that is less and less hospitable to it (since, after all, the text of the civil rights laws prohibit schools from discriminating on the basis of race and ethnicity), and with this discrimination becoming more outdated in our increasingly multiethnic country—why should anyone expect the struggle to stop?

Defenders of racial preferences wax eloquent about the need to consider students “holistically,” the continuing role of race in our society, and the necessity of nuance and balancing in making difficult admission decisions. Certainly, there is a time and place for all that in our discourse—but there is also a time and a place for bright lines and clear rules. The rule of law, Justice Scalia famously titled one of his law review articles, is a law of rules. And there should be a clear rule here: No racial discrimination in university admissions.

Let me elaborate on the A-B-C, 1-2-3 point above. The approach the Supreme Court takes in Equal Protection Clause cases like this one is to say that racial discrimination triggers “strict scrutiny,” which means that it is allowed only if the discriminator has a really good reason for the racial discrimination (a “compelling interest”) and is using race no more than absolutely necessary in order to achieve that interest. That’s what “narrow tailoring” means.

Strict scrutiny is supposed to be a very hard standard and judges are supposed to examine claims by discriminatory institutions rigorously to see if they really are truly compelling, not mere pretexts for favoring some and disfavoring others.

In college admissions cases, the Supreme Court has ruled that there are educational benefits from having “diversity” in its student body that can be the “compelling interest” to justify racial preferences. This means that a case like Harvard’s hinges on whether the school’s use of race is “narrowly tailored.” That is to say, the question is whether it might have achieved diversity in some other way without using overt racial preferences, whether race was used too mechanically (i.e., via quotas or some sort of points system), whether the school periodically reassesses its use of race, and so forth.

My point is that, so long as the door is left open for schools to consider race if it is “narrowly tailored,” many schools will assert that they meet those requirements, no matter how stringent they may appear on their face to be. They will hire experts, and create committees, and manufacture whatever paper trail they have to in the hopes that, if they are sued, they will prevail—with the help of a well-disposed judge.

The only way, then, that the practice of racial preferences will stop is if the Supreme Court revisits its decision to recognize the “diversity” justification as “compelling” in its 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger ruling.

That’s not such a heavy lift, really.

Is it really plausible that the “educational benefits” enjoyed by white and Asian American students in random conversations they have (in or outside the classroom) with black and Latino students are so valuable—and impossible to achieve in any other way—that they justify the long list of costs of racial discrimination?

It is personally unfair, passes over better-qualified students and sets a disturbing legal, political, and moral precedent in allowing racial discrimination.

It creates resentment and is otherwise and inevitably divisive.

It stigmatizes the so-called beneficiaries in the eyes of their classmates, teachers, and themselves, as well as future employers, clients, and patients.

It mismatches African Americans and Latinos with institutions, setting them up for failure, so that not only are those discriminated against hurt but also those supposedly benefited.

It fosters a victim mindset, removes the incentive for academic excellence, and encourages separatism.

It creates pressure to discriminate in grading and graduation.

It papers over the real social problem of why so many African Americans and Latinos are academically uncompetitive.

It breeds hypocrisy within the college and a scofflaw attitude among administrators.

It compromises the academic mission of the university and lowers the overall academic quality of the student body—ultimately resulting in less-qualified graduates (doctors, lawyers, engineers, you name it).

It gets states and schools involved in unsavory activities like deciding which minorities will be favored and which ones not, and who qualifies for inclusion in those groups, increasingly untenable in our multi-racial, multiethnic society.
The answer is clearly no.

I’ll also note a good point that Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego law school and one of the two sane members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, recently made; namely, that it’s hard to see how a court can find a compelling interest in racial discrimination when a strong majority of the country rejects it.

I’ll note too that this unpopularity does not seem to matter much to many admissions offices; a recent study by the Center for Equal Opportunity found that all five of the Virginia public universities for which it had obtained admissions data discriminated against Asian Americans, just as Harvard does.

When the Harvard case finally does reach the Supreme Court, as is very likely, let us hope that it reconsiders—employing truly strict scrutiny—whether or not “diversity” is a “compelling interest” at all.

So long as the door is left open for schools to consider race if it is ‘narrowly tailored,’ many schools will assert that they meet those requirements, no matter how stringent they may appear on their face to be.

That means the justices should explore how plausible it is that university admissions officials can, with great confidence, by considering skin color and national origin, identify students who will, in random discussions inside and outside the classroom, provide white students and Asian American students with insights that are “compelling” in their “educational benefit.”

And, what’s more, those insights could not be attained in any way except (a) by these random discussions and (b) by university officials using racial discrimination in the admissions process to ensure that such students will be admitted to make them. That’s what the diversity rationale boils down to, and so what’s the evidence of this?

It’s hard to swallow that anyone really believes such nonsense. Whenever I debate this issue, within a few minutes we’re talking instead about slavery. And it’s always useful to put the shoe on the other foot in these debates: Suppose someone were to try to justify discriminating against blacks and Latinos based on this sort of social science—would it be viewed as plausible, let alone “compelling?”

Can we hope that the Harvard case will lead to a reversal of Grutter?

When the issue of racial preferences was last before the Supreme Court in the 2016 Fisher II decision, a 4-3 Supreme Court upheld such discrimination by the University of Texas. Justice Scalia had died during the term and his vacancy had not yet been filled; Justice Kagan had been recused because she had participated in the Obama administration’s decision-making about the case in the lower courts when she was solicitor general.  Disappointingly, Justice Kennedy joined the three remaining liberals, leaving Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito to dissent.

With Justice Kennedy’s retirement and the appointments of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, a 5-4 decision the other way is a realistic hope.