Topic: In Race for Tuition-Free College, New Mexico Stakes a Claim
As universities across the United States face steep enrollment declines, New Mexico’s government is embarking on a pioneering experiment to fight that trend: tuition-free higher education for all state residents.
After President Joe Biden’s plan for universal free community college failed to gain traction in Congress, New Mexico, one of the nation’s poorest states, has emerged with perhaps the most ambitious plans as states scramble to come up with their own initiatives.
A new state law approved in a rare show of bipartisanship allocates almost 1% of the state’s budget toward covering tuition and fees at public colleges and universities, community colleges and tribal colleges. All state residents from new high school graduates to adults enrolling part-time will be eligible regardless of family income. The program is also open to immigrants regardless of their immigration status.
Some legislators and other critics question whether there should have been income caps and whether the state, newly flush with oil and gas revenue, can secure long-term funding to support the program beyond its first year. The legislation, which seeks to treat college as a public resource similar to primary and secondary education, takes effect in July.
Although nearly half the states have embraced similar initiatives that seek to cover at least some tuition expenses for some students, New Mexico’s law goes further by covering tuition and fees before other scholarships and sources of financial aid are applied, enabling students to use those other funds for expenses such as lodging, food or child care.
“The New Mexico program is very close to ideal,” said Michael Dannenberg, vice president of strategic initiatives and higher education policy at the nonprofit advocacy group Education Reform Now. Considering the state’s income levels and available resources, he added that New Mexico’s program is among the most generous in the country.
非營利倡議組織Education Reform Now策略倡議暨高教政策副總裁丹能貝格說：「新墨西哥的計畫非常貼近理想。」他表示，考量收入水準與可用資源，新墨西哥州的計畫是全美最慷慨的。
Dannenberg emphasized that New Mexico is going beyond what larger, more prosperous states like Washington and Tennessee have already done. Programs in other states often limit tuition assistance to community colleges, exclude some residents because of family income or impose conditions requiring students to work part time.
丹能貝格強調，新墨西哥州正超越華盛頓和田納西這些更大、更繁榮的州所做的事。其他州通常限制對社區大學的學費補助，因家庭收入排除一些州民，或要求學生兼職。Source article: https://udn.com/news/story/6904/6329103
Topic: Colleges Slash Budgets in the Pandemic,With ‘Nothing Off-Limits’
Ohio Wesleyan University is eliminating 18 majors. The University of Florida’s trustees last month took the first steps toward letting the school furlough faculty. The University of California, Berkeley, has paused admissions to its doctoral programs in anthropology, sociology and art history.
As it resurges across the country, the coronavirus is forcing universities large and small to make deep and possibly lasting cuts to close widening budget shortfalls. By one estimate, the pandemic has cost colleges at least $120 billion, with even Harvard University, despite its $41.9 billion endowment, reporting a $10 million deficit that has prompted belt tightening.
The persistence of the economic downturn is taking a devastating financial toll, pushing many to lay off or furlough employees, delay graduate admissions and even cut or consolidate core programs like liberal arts departments.
The University of South Florida announced last month that its College of Education would become a graduate school only, phasing out undergraduate education degrees to help close a $6.8 million budget gap. In Ohio, the University of Akron, citing the coronavirus, successfully invoked a clause in its collective-bargaining agreement in September to supersede tenure rules and lay off 97 unionized faculty members.
“We haven’t seen a budget crisis like this in a generation,” said Robert Kelchen, a Seton Hall University associate professor of higher education who has been tracking the administrative response to the pandemic. “There’s nothing off-limits at this point.”
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 as they voted to forge ahead with a proposal to merge a half-dozen small schools into two academic entities.
Source article: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/359091/web/
Topic: Remember the MOOCs? After Near-Death, They’re Booming
Sandeep Gupta, a technology manager in California, sees the economic storm caused by the coronavirus as a time “to try to future-proof your working life.” So he is taking an online course in artificial intelligence.
Dr. Robert Davidson, an emergency-room physician in Michigan, says the pandemic has cast “a glaring light on the shortcomings of our public health infrastructure.” So he is pursuing an online master’s degree in public health.
Children and college students aren’t the only ones turning to online education during the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of adults have signed up for online classes in the past two months, too — a jolt that could signal a renaissance for big online learning networks that had struggled for years.
Coursera, in which Gupta and Davidson enrolled, added 10 million new users from mid-March to mid-May, seven times the pace of new sign-ups in the previous year. Enrollments at edX and Udacity, two smaller education sites, have jumped by similar multiples.
“Crises lead to accelerations, and this is best chance ever for online learning,” said Sebastian Thrun, a co-founder and chairman of Udacity.
Coursera, Udacity and edX sprang up nearly a decade ago as high-profile university experiments known as MOOCs, for massive open online courses. They were portrayed as tech-fueled insurgents destined to disrupt the antiquated ways of traditional higher education. But few people completed courses, grappling with the same challenges now facing students forced into distance learning because of the pandemic. Screen fatigue sets in, and attention strays.
But the online ventures adapted through trial and error, gathering lessons that could provide a road map for school districts and universities pushed online. The instructional ingredients of success, the sites found, include short videos of six minutes or less, interspersed with interactive drills and tests; online forums where students share problems and suggestions; and online mentoring and tutoring.
A few top-tier universities, such as the University of Michigan and the Georgia Institute of Technology, offer some full degree programs through the online platforms.
While those academic programs are available, the online schools have tilted toward skills-focused courses that match student demand and hiring trends.
The COVID-19 effect on online learning could broaden the range of popular subjects, education experts say. But so far, training for the tech economy is where the digital-learning money lies. With more of work and everyday life moving online — some of it permanently — that will probably not change.
Source articles: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/354879/web/