Author Archive

COVID Crises Causing Collapse of College Majors, Grad Schools… and Main Street Businesses in College Towns

October 27, 2020 Leave a comment

The NYTimes Shawn Hubler describes the devastating impact of COVID on college campuses across the country in “Colleges Slash Budgets in the Pandemic with “Nothing Off Limits“, her article that appeared in today’s newspaper. But as a key paragraph in the article notes, many colleges were already on shaky ground:

Even before the pandemic, colleges and universities were grappling with a growing financial crisis, brought on by years of shrinking state support, declining enrollment, and student concerns with skyrocketing tuition and burdensome debt. Now the coronavirus has amplified the financial trouble systemwide, though elite, well-endowed colleges seem sure to weather it with far less pain.

“We have been in aggressive recession management for 12 years — probably more than 12 years,” Daniel Greenstein, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, told his board of governors this month as they voted to forge ahead with a proposal to merge a half-dozen small schools into two academic entities.

Under-enrolled and underfunded state colleges are taking the biggest hits because they typically enroll students who do not have the resources to attend a private college and lack endowments that might make it possible to backfill lost tuition income or the added burdens that colleges are assuming during the pandemic. As Ms. Hubler notes:

The American Council on Education and other higher education organizations estimated that the virus would cost institutions more than $120 billion in increased student aid, lost housing fees, forgone sports revenue, public health measures, learning technology and other adjustments.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, liberal arts programs and colleges that serve low income students are suffering the most.

Most of the suspensions are in social sciences and humanities programs where the universities — rather than outside funders such as corporations, foundations and the federal government — typically underwrite the multiyear financial aid packages offered to doctoral students. University officials say the suspensions are necessary to ensure their strapped budgets can continue supporting students already in Ph.D. pipelines….

As it is, the pandemic has had an outsize impact on less affluent students: A survey of 292 private, nonprofit schools released this month by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities reported a nearly 8 percent decrease in enrollment among students who receive federal Pell Grants.

And in the aggregate, these budget cuts have resulted in the loss of roughly 300,000 jobs— from administrators to janitors and far too many professors! And the cuts will have a ripple effect beyond the employment of those on campus. In Hanover NH where I live, the partial closure of Dartmouth’s campus has resulted in the closure of several restaurants and small businesses who depended on college students, weekend visits from parents and alumni, and college employees to keep them afloat. And I know that the threatened closure of one of Vermont’s small campuses sent shock waves through the community it would impact.

We DO need institutions that provide opportunities for learning…. one of the questions that will face us in the coming years is whether those institutions should be traditional colleges or some new form of learning.

AOC’s Rejoinder to POTUS’s Taunt is Perfect

October 27, 2020 Leave a comment

NYS Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC as she is known by her supporters, headline writers, and adversaries, showed her political savvy and wit with a rejoinder to taunting by the President. As reported in today’s The Hill, At a recent rally in central PA the POTUS insinuated that AOC never went to college by mockingly asking if she really attended. Here’s is her adept response:

“I could say yes, but who cares?” she tweeted. “Plenty of people without college degrees could run this country better than Trump ever has.”

Ocasio-Cortez said she has hired people without degrees “who have done incredible, effective, & strategic work.”

“The more college costs soar, the more degrees become a measure [of] privilege than competence,” she tweeted. “Our country would be better off if we made public colleges tuition-free & cancelled student loan debt.”

Some politicians would ignore the public taunting and others might post their transcripts on line and dare the President to do the same. But AOC’s response was better. It not only dismissed the POTUS’s bogus charge but also appealed to the majority of voters who didn’t have the privilege of having their parents pay for college and the thousands of students who are saddled with debt. A trifecta!

Voting Rights and School Desegregation Inseparable in the South

October 26, 2020 Leave a comment

Today’s New York Times features a long article by Nicolas Casey that describes a half century of fighting in Sumter County GA over a fundamental question:

Should a school district that was 70 percent Black be governed by a board that was 70 percent white?

Mr. Casey’s article manages to be both discouraging and heartening.

The article was discouraging because of the fact that despite court decisions in the middle of the 20th century that provided rights for blacks to govern the schools their children attend by dragging their feet and using gerrymander voting maps the whites in Sumter County prevented the integration of schools. Worse, one court decision— Shelby County vs. Holder— effectively rescinded those rights and enabled the newly elected white board members to create a charter school named for a Confederate soldier that was almost completely white.

The article was heartening because despite the odds stacked against them the blacks in Sumter County persisted and, at least for now, there is good news for the black majority in that county:

This year, Judge Louis Sands of Georgia’s Middle District federal court ordered a new voting map to be drawn and voted on in November

The map, produced by Mr. Grofman, the university professor appointed by the court, signified a major reversal of the last one: Four of its seven seats would be in places where African-Americans were more than 60 percent of the population. It was the kind of map Mr. Wright, the head of the local N.A.A.C.P. branch, had long sought.

But, as is all too often the case in the the fight to integrate schools, the victory may be short lived:

The new map won’t permanently settle the matter. Next year, after the 2020 census, Georgia’s legislature will approve maps for its 159 counties based on the new data.

“It took years for this case to be won,” said Sean J. Young, the legal director of the Georgia American Civil Liberties Union. “And there’s nothing to stop them from drawing the same discriminatory map all over again.”

It was “only” 66 years ago that Brown v. Board of Education ended “separate but equal” schools… and “only” 157 years ago that the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. My heart goes out to the generations of blacks who have struggled in the decades since both of these landmark cases to get what was promised to them.