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US College Leaders See Too Much Competition Ahead

In this Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011 file picture, students attend graduation ceremonies at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
In this Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011 file picture, students attend graduation ceremonies at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

A survey of nearly 500 leaders at colleges and universities reflects other reports that found American higher education is facing challenges on many fronts.

School officials were asked to name the biggest issues their institutions would face in the next three to five years and how they would deal with them. The study was a joint effort with the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Huron Consulting Group, and was released in October.

The study identified the top six issues that the 500 leaders listed. The most common concern? Increasing competition with other educational institutions. About 62% of those questioned noted that concern.

The next most common issue? The increase in non-traditional students, meaning students who fall outside the typical 18 and 24 years olds who enter school each year. The growth of non-traditional students – mostly adults with full-time jobs -- were cited by 39% of leaders.

Two other concerns were shrinking state and federal financial support, and decreasing public trust in higher education. Officials said they were worried about political conditions around the world, too, and their effect on international students coming to the United States.

But the college and university officials said they have answers. In fact, 89% expressed confidence in their school’s ability to meet the needs of the growing number of students who are working adults.

Peter Stokes says colleges and universities have always been dealing with change. Stokes is the managing director for higher education with Huron.

After World War II, when the U.S. experience a sharp jump in the U.S. birth rate -- known as the Baby Boom -- more young people enrolled in college. Then, after the Great Recession in 2008, the birth rate dropped. Around that time, the number of working adults starting or returning to college or university began to rise.

The traditional student population will likely recover eventually, Stoke says. Until then, schools will have to adapt and increase internet-based and short-term programs to meet the needs of students who have less time and money to spend.

As for the five other issues identified in the study, only seven leaders polled felt very confident in their school’s ability to find solutions.

Louis Soares is the chief learning officer at the American Council on Education. He says that in recent years, Americans have come to think of higher education as more of a means of getting a well-paying job than as a public benefit.

In this Oct. 24, 2019, file photo students walks in front of Fraser Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kan. Americans collectively owe nearly $1.5 trillion in student loans, more than twice the total a decade ago.
In this Oct. 24, 2019, file photo students walks in front of Fraser Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kan. Americans collectively owe nearly $1.5 trillion in student loans, more than twice the total a decade ago.

This may not be surprising given the increased cost of higher education. But Soares said that this put many educational institutions in competition with one another to prove how their programs can results in better jobs.

At the same time, U.S-based companies like Amazon and Google are creating their own educational programs to compete with traditional degree programs. And countries like France, Canada and Australia are becoming more appealing to international students who would have likely looked to U.S. schools in the past.

As a result, some colleges and universities across the country have been closing. The U.S. Department of Education reports that in 2018 the number of institutions nationwide dropped to its lowest level since 1998.

Soares suggests that schools have a better chance of surviving if they work together, as Georgia Tech has, sharing new program ideas and methods with 50 other institutions. But that is not always easy.

“U.S. higher education is innovative, but the innovation tends to be small-scale,” he said.

Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, says it is important to focus on public trust and governmental support of higher education.

Pasquerella says U.S. higher education has failed to promote its own importance to society. Many people have come to think of colleges and universities as places where students waste time learning unnecessary subjects or hearing one-sided beliefs.

She says colleges and universities educate future business and political leaders who shape policies that improve conditions in communities and the nation. Major scientific and technological developments usually emerge from a college or university laboratory.

“Demonstrating the ways in which … their success is inextricably linked to the physical, emotional, economic well-being of people in the communities in which they’re located and which they seek to serve … is a first and critical step in helping to restore public confidence in higher education,” said Pasquerella.

She added that as Americans better appreciate the contributions and impact of colleges and universities, funding from state and federal governments will likely increase to previous levels.

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US Campuses Face ‘Transnational Repression’

FILE - A Homeland Security vehicle outside the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston. A citizen of China who is a student at the Berklee College of Music was convicted Jan. 25, 2024, of threatening a person who posted a flyer in support of democracy in China, authorities said.
FILE - A Homeland Security vehicle outside the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston. A citizen of China who is a student at the Berklee College of Music was convicted Jan. 25, 2024, of threatening a person who posted a flyer in support of democracy in China, authorities said.

A new report from Freedom House explains how authoritarian governments try to police and harass students on U.S. campuses.

Read a summary in Karin Fischer’s newsletter for the Chronicle of Higher Education. (January 2024)

How Does Medical School Work?

FILE - Dr. Keith Reisinger-Kindle, associate director of the OB-GYN residency program at Wright State University's medical school in Dayton, Ohio, leads a lecture of OB-GYN residents in the Wright State program, April 13, 2022.
FILE - Dr. Keith Reisinger-Kindle, associate director of the OB-GYN residency program at Wright State University's medical school in Dayton, Ohio, leads a lecture of OB-GYN residents in the Wright State program, April 13, 2022.

A medical education in the U.S. is long and frequently expensive. But with high average earnings, and the opportunity to save lives, many think it’s worth it.

Sarah Wood explains the basics of medical education for the US News & World Report. (January 2024)

Biden Cancels Federal Student Loans for Nearly 153,000 Borrowers

President Joe Biden speaks at Culver City Julian Dixon Library in Culver City, Calif., Feb. 21, 2024.
President Joe Biden speaks at Culver City Julian Dixon Library in Culver City, Calif., Feb. 21, 2024.

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that while a college degree was still a ticket to a better life, that ticket is often too expensive, as he announced he was canceling federal student loans for nearly 153,000 borrowers.

Biden, who is in the midst of a three-day campaign swing through California, made the announcement as part of a new repayment plan that offers a faster path to forgiveness, putting the spotlight on his debt cancellation efforts in his reelection campaign.

"Too many Americans are still saddled with unsustainable debt in exchange for a college degree," he said from a local library before he went on to campaign-related events. Loan relief helps the greater economy, he said, because "when people have a student debt relief, they buy homes. They start businesses, they contribute. They engage."

The administration began sending email notifications on Wednesday to some of the borrowers who will benefit from what the White House has called the SAVE program. The cancellations were originally scheduled to start in July, but last month the administration said it would be ready almost six months ahead of schedule, in February.

"Starting today, the first round of folks who are enrolled in our SAVE student loan repayment plan who have paid their loans for 10 years and borrowed $12,000 or less will have their debt cancelled," Biden posted on social media Wednesday. "That's 150,000 Americans and counting. And we're pushing to relieve more."

The first round of forgiveness from the SAVE plan will clear $1.2 billion in loans. The borrowers will get emails with a message from Biden notifying them that "all or a portion of your federal student loans will be forgiven because you qualify for early loan forgiveness under my Administration's SAVE Plan."

In his email to borrowers, Biden wrote he had heard from "countless people who have told me that relieving the burden of their student loan debt will allow them to support themselves and their families, buy their first home, start a small business, and move forward with life plans they've put on hold."

More than 7.5 million people have enrolled in the new repayment plan.

He said Wednesday that it was the kind of relief "that can be life-changing for individuals and their families."

"I'm proud to have been able to give borrowers like so many of you the relief you earned," he said, asking the crowd gathered for his speech how many had debt forgiven. Many raised their hands.

Borrowers are eligible for cancellation if they are enrolled in the SAVE plan, originally borrowed $12,000 or less to attend college and have made at least 10 years of payments. Those who took out more than $12,000 will be eligible for cancellation but on a longer timeline. For each $1,000 borrowed beyond $12,000, it adds an additional year of payments on top of 10 years.

The maximum repayment period is capped at 20 years for those with only undergraduate loans and 25 years for those with any graduate school loans.

Biden announced the new repayment plan last year alongside a separate plan to cancel up to $20,000 in loans for millions of Americans. The Supreme Court struck down his plan for widespread forgiveness, but the repayment plan has so far escaped that level of legal scrutiny. Unlike his proposal for mass cancellation — which had never been done before — the repayment plan is a twist on existing income-based plans created by Congress more than a decade ago.

Biden said he remained steadfast in his commitment to "fix our broken student loan system," working around the court's ruling to find other ways to get it done.

Academic Superstars Are Facing Accusations of Plagiarism

FILE - Harvard President Claudine Gay speaks during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, Dec. 5, 2023, in Washington. A week later, she remains under pressure regarding her response to questions about antisemitism on her campus.
FILE - Harvard President Claudine Gay speaks during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, Dec. 5, 2023, in Washington. A week later, she remains under pressure regarding her response to questions about antisemitism on her campus.

Harvard’s former president Claudine Gay resigned recently after being accused of plagiarism. Now, the work of top researchers in many fields is facing scrutiny. Anemona Hartocollis reports for The New York Times. (January 2024).

This College Student’s Acceptance Letter Came With a Marching Band

FILE - The Maryland state flag and University of Maryland flag are run across the end zone after a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Sept. 30, 2023, in College Park, Md.
FILE - The Maryland state flag and University of Maryland flag are run across the end zone after a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Sept. 30, 2023, in College Park, Md.

Alejandro Marroquin, 17, was surprised one morning by a full marching band outside his home, carrying a letter admitting him to the University of Maryland. Read the story from Emily Davies of The Washington Post. (January 2024)

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