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Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, named by Hillary Clinton as her running mate, is a moderate Democrat who has been supportive of spending on higher education both in the Senate and as governor of Virginia.
The focus of his time in the Senate has not been on education issues, but he has periodically been involved in them.
Technical education. In 2014, he was a co-founder of the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus and he has been involved in events designed to draw attention to the value of technical education at the secondary and postsecondary levels. His interest in technical education is longstanding. Kaine took a year off while at law school at Harvard University to run a technical school founded by Jesuit missionaries in Honduras. More recently in Congress, he has pushed support for apprenticeship programs.
Student debt. Kaine has spoken out at several events this year about the impact of rising debt levels of students. In The Huffington Post, he said that "student debt is placing a massive burden on our college students and graduates." But asked about the plan of Senator Bernie Sanders to make public higher education free, Kaine said he was concerned by the lack of an income test. (Subsequently, Clinton adopted many parts of the Sanders plan, but she kept her earlier stated idea of an income test.) "We need to give careful consideration, particularly on the fiscal front, to whether there should be some type of income test with respect to free access to college," Kaine said. "Richer Americans, or even Americans like myself who have a plan to help their children with the cost of college, perhaps shouldn’t have free access to college or get the same degree of help when there are so many young people who have worked hard but simply can’t afford the cost of higher education and their parents do not have the financial means to help. Those are the students who we should focus on helping."
Virginia Tech aftermath. In 2008, as governor of Virginia, Kaine signed into law a series of bills introduced in response to the previous year's mass murder at Virginia Tech. Among the measures were requirements that public colleges establish threat assessment teams and emergency plans, that public and private colleges be allowed to request complete mental health records held on its students from their time at previous institutions, that public colleges establish procedures to release educational records to the parents of dependent students, and that public colleges establish procedures for notifying parents of students who receive mental health treatment at the institution's student health or counseling center "when there exists a substantial likelihood that the student will, in the near future, cause serious physical harm to himself or others as evidenced by recent behavior or any other relevant information or suffer serious harm due to his lack of capacity to protect himself or to provide for his basic human needs."
Also as governor, Kaine successfully pushed for a $2 billion bond package for facilities at public colleges and universities.
Kaine has periodically taught at the University of Richmond. He first started teaching there -- part time, in the law school -- in 1987. He left that position when he was elected to public office six years later. But he has continued to teach periodically in the law school and Richmond's Jepson School of Leadership Studies. He last taught a course there in 2013 and also regularly participates in events there.
Kaine's wife, Anne Holton, is Virginia's secretary of education. Prior to assuming that position, she was the program director for Great Expectations, a program of the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education that helps youth in foster care gain access to higher education.
The Obama administration this morning released its latest proposal on how colleges that offer distance education programs to students in other states should be regulated.
The rule requires distance education providers to follow state laws governing how they become authorized to offer courses and programs to students in states other than where they are located. A university in Illinois that wishes to enroll students residing in Wisconsin in its online programs, for example, has to apply to the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board and pay a fee to be approved.
In what observers called a “significant” departure from previous drafts, however, the proposed rule does not require states to conduct an “active review” of out-of-state colleges -- a provision that was in previous drafts that many distance education groups criticized for placing an undue burden on states but consumer protection groups argued was important to prevent fraudulent colleges from taking advantage of students.
The U.S. Department of Education will accept public comment on the rule, which will be published in the Federal Register on Monday, until Aug. 24.
This latest and final attempt from the Obama administration to settle the issue of state authorization follows about six years of on-again, off-again rule making, during which variations of the rule have been proposed, vacated by a federal court, sent to a negotiating committee and put on ice. The department in 2014 paused work on the rule after multiple sessions of negotiated rule making failed to provide a consensus, but surprisingly restarted its efforts last month.
The department is hurrying to finalize the rule before the next administration takes over. To do so, it faces a deadline at the end of October. If the department issues the final rule before then, it will go into effect July 1, 2017.
In the announcement, the department described the lack of federal regulations governing distance education providers that enroll out-of-state students as a “loophole.” It highlighted provisions that require colleges to document how they handle student complaints and inform students about any negative changes to their distance education accreditation status.
Still, the rule does not take as hard a line on state laws governing oversight of out-of-state colleges as previous versions have.
During the rule-making sessions in 2014, the “active review” provision was one of the central points of contention, said Russell Poulin, director of policy and analysis for the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies. He and several others participating in the sessions argued against the provision, saying the federal government was effectively requiring states to change their laws.
“That was the main sticking point,” Poulin said in an interview. “[The department] just wouldn’t budge on that, and if they had, we would have come to consensus.”
A department official, speaking on background, confirmed that the proposed rule does not require states to review out-of-state colleges. If a state has regulations in place concerning how colleges become authorized to operate in it -- and most do -- colleges have to comply with them; if not, they don’t have to.
“This is a significant change,” Poulin said in an interview.
Since the proposed rule no longer contains that provision, the department has inserted language elsewhere in the rule in an effort to protect consumer rights.
Many critics have said the process of receiving approval in all 50 states is too onerous, particularly for small colleges that may only have a small online student population. The rule therefore recognizes organizations such as the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, known as SARA, which grants member institutions the authority to offer programs to students in all of its member states (presently 40 states and the District of Columbia).
Marshall A. Hill, executive director of SARA’s national council, said he was not surprised to see the proposed rule acknowledge reciprocity agreements, but noted that the department’s announcement specified “as long as the agreement does not prevent a state from enforcing its own consumer laws” -- language not seen in previous versions of the rule.
The rule also requires colleges to notify students if their professional programs meet state certification or licensure requirements.
Robert Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and former Education Department official, said the rule “doesn’t go as far as it might,” but he added that it “does take important steps forward in terms of consumer protection.”
The department official said the language in the rule is purposely broad at this point, and that the department does not wish to be “too prescriptive” before the public comment period. In the announcement, the department said it expects to issue the finalized rule before the end of the year.
The board of the Vermont State Colleges on Thursday approved a concept proposal to combine the administrations of Johnson State College and Lyndon State College, The Burlington Free Press reported. A more detailed proposal may now be presented in September to carry out the idea. Officials stressed that the two state colleges would maintain separate identities.
EverFi, a company that provides colleges with online training programs on issues such as financial literacy and sexual assault prevention, on Wednesday announced the purchase of LawRoom. LawRoom provides compliance education and includes a higher education division, CampusClarity, that provides training programs for new students.
As students prepare to return to school for the coming academic year, there are 65,000 high school seniors who lack a clear path to college because they are undocumented. While undocumented students have access to K-12 public education, their options abruptly become scarce when they turn 18: in addition to the barriers that many low-income students face, these students must navigate a higher education system that excludes them, either explicitly or de facto.
One glaring obstacle is that undocumented students are ineligible for federal financial aid. Another is that access to public institutions, usually the most affordable option, varies by state. While some states offer resident tuition and state financial aid, others prohibit undocumented students from enrolling altogether. Other states fall in the middle of the spectrum, providing in-state rates to students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals at some public universities. (A federal administrative policy implemented in 2012, DACA provides Social Security Numbers and the eligibility to work and drive to individuals who arrived in the United States as children and meet certain age and education requirements. However, it does not provide a path to citizenship. Since its implementation, roughly 700,000 undocumented youth and young adults have received DACA status.)
Given this landscape, private colleges and universities have an opportunity to be key players in promoting higher education access for undocumented students nationwide. Most, though not all, selective private institutions already accept undocumented or “DACAmented” students, but as of now, information and resources for undocumented applicants are difficult to find. So difficult, in fact, that students have taken the issue into their own hands: a group of undergraduates at Harvard University started a nonprofit, Higher Dreams, to serve as a “comprehensive resource” for undocumented applicants interested in applying to private colleges and universities. Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca, a student from California, created the DREAMer’s Roadmap app to help undocumented students find scholarships for college.
Meanwhile, institutions themselves should do their part and take a far more deliberate approach: there is a great difference between accepting students and making college truly accessible. If they are serious about their stated commitments to access, opportunity, and diversity, they should recognize their potential to make a difference. They should anticipate and welcome applications from undocumented students, actively make an effort to understand their circumstances and specific needs, and adopt policies that follow through on meeting those needs.
Colleges can take several steps. First, they can educate admissions staff so that potential applicants who are undocumented will receive accurate information. Better yet, they can hire or designate a staff person to specialize in working with undocumented students. Unfortunately, that is not the norm; many admissions personnel, though well meaning, are not equipped to answer questions from undocumented applicants. Staff education is a basic and important place to start.
Another key to increasing access is changing admissions and financial-aid policies to reflect the reality of undocumented students’ lives. Many independent colleges count them as international applicants -- a highly competitive pool. Accepted students are often charged international tuition rates, which are prohibitively high even for middle-income families, and they are only eligible for competitive merit scholarships. Implicit in this policy is the idea that undocumented students are more aptly compared to international students than to American citizens, which is patently inaccurate. Having attended American high schools and spent a significant, formative part of their lives in the United States, they should be considered within that context, not judged alongside international applicants whose experiences are virtually incomparable.
Experiential similarities and moral arguments aside, students with DACA work and have Social Security numbers -- like their American peers, and unlike international students. With or without DACA, they pay taxes. The only practical difference between them and their citizen peers, then, from an admissions perspective, is their lack of access to federal aid or loans. Admissions and financial-aid policies should reflect that reality and consider undocumented students as domestic applicants, eligible for aid based on demonstrated need.
Finally, institutions should publicize their commitment to working with undocumented students, who too often go unacknowledged. If a college or university already accepts undocumented students, it should shift from a don’t ask, don’t tell mentality to one of active inclusion. Some institutions have dedicated admissions pages specifically for undocumented students that include FAQs, resources and contacts. Publicizing such information is a small but meaningful act: it provides targeted support, which undocumented students so rarely get, and makes a statement that they are truly welcome.
In essence, it is simply not enough for colleges and universities to accept undocumented students tacitly and passively. It is not enough to accept undocumented students but then charge exorbitant tuition. If an institution welcomes undocumented students in principle by allowing them to apply, then those students deserve the same level of targeted support that American citizens receive when it comes to the application process and financial aid -- not to mention student services once in college.
Some institutions are already leading the way. Oberlin College, for example, encourages undocumented students to apply, counts them as domestic applicants and provides need-based aid. Emory University recently adopted the same policy for students with DACA. (The state of Georgia, meanwhile, legally blocks undocumented students from enrolling in its top five state schools, so Emory has made a statement by providing an alternative option.) Tufts University “proactively and openly” recruits and provides aid for undocumented students, with or without DACA, and Swarthmore College rolled out a similar policy this spring, arguing that as a campus that values “different viewpoints, identities and histories among our students,” it invites all students, regardless of citizenship status, to apply.
The intentional nature of these policies and the tangible changes to the institutions’ recruitment and financial-aid strategies are what make their statements more than just lip service. Many more institutions should follow suit.
Lily McKeage is a recent graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and program director at YES Scholars in New York City.