During the faculty salon, Aysha Hidayatullah, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, and Taymiya R. Zaman, Department of History, outlined the impetus for writing and publishing their article, “Speaking for Ourselves: American Muslim Women’s Confessional Writings and the Problem of Alterity.” Saera Khan, Department of Psychology, and Rebecca Mason, Department of Philosophy, provided commentary on the article before opening up to a lively discussion with 19 people from several departments. Faculty shared some of their feedback about the event.
“I think it was great that the paper was circulated in advance so that everyone could discuss it with prior knowledge. This led to excellent participation among the participants. The respondents did well setting up good points of entry to the text.”
“I thought having two responses was effective by providing two different perspectives (from philosophy and psychology), and the speakers did a great job fielding an array of questions. A lively discussion was the result, so it is fair to say that the facilitators were effective.”
“It was an important topic. The speakers were dynamic and engaging. Reading the article ahead of time allowed us to use our time to focus on the discussion rather than going through the arguments of the article. I really liked the format. It was interesting to get responses from people from different disciplines, and see how those responses were and weren’t influenced by their disciplinary backgrounds.”
During CRASE Online Writing Challenge, 55 faculty members of all ranks and from each schools and college committed to writing at least 20 minutes a day for 14 days and participated in an online discussion group to share advice, offer support, and share progress. Facilitators from CRASE shared daily quotes, writing tips, and reminders to keep participants motivated and focused.
Over the course of two weeks, faculty wrote over 202,379 words and logged over 34,065 minutes of writing. Faculty completed a range of projects including book chapters, articles, policy briefs, conference papers, and blog posts. The challenge proved to not only foster productivity but also created a strong support network for faculty. Below are some examples of the feedback we received.
“I felt compelled to push myself to write everyday since I was accountable to a group. No one forced me to write, but I knew that I had to fill out my daily writing log. I also felt inspired by the comments the other participants wrote about their processes.”
“[I] completed two book chapters and one revise/resubmit to a top tier journal.”
“[I wrote the] first draft of this article. I’ve never written in this way (another binge writer), but I’m glad I’m doing it. I will try to continue the process until my draft is finished, but it will be hard to keep at it without the challenge. It also reminded me how much I enjoy writing.”
“This challenge far surpassed my expectations!! The support of others on a daily basis, the simple reflective discussion questions on writing to more broadly tap into why we do what we do, and a private log for personal progress all hit the mark on so many levels. And 20 minutes is almost always feasible, and a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of the project.”
“The Writing Challenge has reminded me how difficult it is to write regularly, especially when my teaching responsibilities increase at times during the semester. I’m thankful for this challenge and the support of all you online writers! I usually criticize myself for needing the structure of writing teams, writing retreats and this online challenge — I should be able to do it myself, right? But lately I’ve shifted my thinking instead to one of gratitude. It is what it is — very difficult to carve out regular writing time when you have responsibilities other than writing, and these writing communities help me carve out the time I need. Thank you!”
CRASE will be hosting another Online Writing Challenge in Fall 2016.
The USF Geospatial Analysis Lab (GsAL) partnered with CRASE to host three workshops on Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The workshops were developed and facilitated by David Saah, Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Science Director of GsAL, and Megan Danielson, GsAL Manager.
The first workshop provided an introduction to GIS resources on the USF campus and allowed participants to explore features of GIS by creating a map of earthquake risk in California. Two additional GIS Boot Camps allowed participants to develop further their skills and consider how to use GIS in their own research, teaching, and collaborations. Many faculty and staff worked on proposals for specific GIS mapping projects such as investigating unsafe public transportation to public high schools in San Francisco; migration patterns in Europe, Middle East, and North Africa; community-based ecological asset mapping; mapping urban development and arts nonprofits in West Oakland over time; and looking at voting patterns by geography. During the semester, nearly 50 people participated in the GIS Workshops. Here are some of the testimonials from our participants:
“The instruction was great–it was tailored to each of us and also gave an overview of GIS and various applications in different disciplines. It was also great to have research assistants/helpers there to provide 1-on-1 assistance.”
“Including tables and figures in my work is about as visual as my work has been. This definitely opened my eyes to how I could display information visually. It also made me think about kinds of research questions I can ask given the data sets that are available and the tools I have access to. I also see a lot of room for collaboration in this space. For example, as someone who studies workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, I see how I could collaborate with folks in politics or law to map non-discrimination policies, instances of discrimination, political attitudes, cost of discrimination, etc. ”
CRASE plans to continue its collaboration with GsAL in the 2016-2017 academic year, and we are excited to see further development of the proposals started by faculty and staff.
Huffington Post blogger and USF Assistant Professor Rick Ayers, from the Department of Teacher Education in the School of Education, led a three-hour blog writing workshop for CRASE where 14 faculty and staff from across the university developed ideas for blog posts. During this workshop, faculty brainstormed ideas, started drafting their posts, and received feedback from peers. People wrote about a range of topics including human rights education, the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag campaign, advice to junior colleagues, art and identity, educational policy, fatherhood and race, and the Trump campaign. Faculty also shared some of their feedback about the event.
“I so appreciated having dedicated time to actually write a blog. I was able to get many ideas down and begin a blog that I have been meaning to write. I really appreciated sharing the blog drafts with my partners and hearing their ideas and perspectives. They gave great advice.”
“I loved hearing what others were working on and all the issues folks wanted to address in their own blogs I appreciated hearing different examples of blogs that Rick had done or had read. I loved hearing and reading different writing styles to expand my idea of how folks can actually write a blog.”
“It was great to have a space to write in. I loved the mix of advice and real-time pressure to write. I was surprised that I wrote something pretty coherent just in the 30 minutes allocated to write silently. This helped me see how much I can do in such a short period of time.”
The major theme that emerged from the information he provided was that as president, Trump would improve student success by reforming the federal student loan program in two ways: 1) change the student loan program so as to provide more incentives for colleges and universities to enroll students who will be successful and earn enough money upon graduation to pay back their loans; and 2) to return the federal loan program to its pre-Obama status by having the loans come from private lenders, rather than the federal government.
I am a provost and a researcher of education economics. And here’s what some unintended consequences of these proposals would look like.
Incentivizing colleges to enroll successful students
First, let’s look at the proposal to change the student loan program so that rather than the federal government being the sole guarantor of publicly provided and guaranteed loans, the higher education institutions themselves would share in the costs if a student defaulted.
This idea has been floated fairly widely recently, most notably by Senator Elizabeth Warren, a politician most people would expect to have little in common with Donald Trump.
The logic behind this idea is that if colleges were at least in part responsible for making good on a defaulted student loan, they will be better incentivized to enroll only those students (or at least those carrying federally guaranteed loans) who are likely to graduate from the institution and get a job that will provide a high enough salary to enable them to pay back the loans.
While this may seem good in concept, in practice it would be very difficult to implement. And here is why:
The challenge is that it is extremely difficult for colleges to know, or even predict with much certainty, which students will achieve this level of success.
For the most part, we are talking about 17- and 18-year-olds, and it can be very difficult to know which of them will graduate and earn enough money to pay back their loans, even when universities have information about their academic background.
The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education show that 69 percent of all undergraduates in 2013 were 24 or younger. And the great majority of students applying to college for the first time are coming directly out of high school.
An unintended consequence of such a requirement would be that institutions would be more likely to shy away from enrolling students from disadvantaged families, and those whose academic preparation was weaker. Over a third of all undergraduates receive Pell Grants, the federal assistance program for students from low- and moderate-income families.
Every year, thousands of students graduate from college and go on to successful careers who, at first glance when they were graduating from high school, may have looked like risky investments.
Another impact of this proposal is that it could lead to a further deterioration of liberal arts education, as colleges may deemphasize majors that are seen as not having strong labor market prospects. Some politicians, including Governor Rick Scott of Florida and even President Obama, have questioned whether liberal arts degrees are worth the investment.
But data from the Association of American Colleges and Universities have demonstrated that over the long run liberal arts graduates earn as much as many with more technical degrees.
History of student loans
Now let’s turn to the issue of loans through private lenders. Since the passage of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which first authorized widespread student loan program, banks have played a key role in the system.
Banks originally provided all the capital, and because the loans were guaranteed by the federal government, it became a lucrative business for them. But in 1993, during the first Clinton administration, a federally originated student loan program was created. This was done as an attempt to lower the cost of borrowing to students by removing some of the banks’ profits.
Between 1993 and 2010, bank-originated and federally originated student loans coexisted, with the federal share no more than one-third of the volume. During President Obama’s first term, however, he signed legislation that removed banks from the federal student loan program entirely, shifting all of the loan origination to the federal government.
The rationale behind this legislation, signed in 2010, was to take away the profits earned by banks, and instead reinvest them in the federal Pell Grant program, which provides direct assistance to college students from low- and middle-income families.
What about disadvantaged students?
Trump’s proposal is certainly consistent with his business-based, free-market approach to government. As Clovis said in his interview, “We think it should be marketplace and market driven.”
While the question of whether the banks or the government should provide student loans may be a political one, there are large fiscal implications of shifting back to a bank-based system.
At the time the 2010 legislation passed, the Congressional Budget Office had estimated that the federal government would save almost US$10 billion per year that had been going to banks in the form of loan subsidies and fees.
That money came to be invested in funding for the Pell Grant program rather than going to bank profits.
A return to a bank lending system for student loans could potentially reduce levels of Pell Grant funding, unless Congress (along with the next president) is willing to appropriate more money.
Any reduction in Pell Grant funding would have a similar effect as Trump’s proposal: it would reduce college access and graduation rates for poorer, African-
American, Latino and Native American students. And that would lead to increased gaps in educational attainment between these groups and students from more advantaged families.
A complex system
The truth is that higher education policy is not quite as simple as it may appear to an outsider.
The interaction of federal and state policies, along with the actions of the thousands of colleges and universities that are funded by governments as well as students, creates a complex system in which it is often difficult to encourage some behaviors without creating other problems.
The high cost of college along with the high volume of student debt have received much attention from both groups in recent years. There has been an absence of detailed proposals in this arena from Trump’s campaign up until now. His slogan of “Make America Great Again” implies returning to some bygone era.
But for higher education, a return to that era would mean that fewer students are able to go to college, and poorer and racial minority students have fewer educational opportunities.