These Christian Colleges Are Taking On Today’s Hot-Button Social Issues - Forbes

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An organization of Christian colleges has shown a willingness to tackle social issues, often taking ... [+] stances that differ from those of some notorious evangelical leaders. getty A group of Christian colleges is pursuing an agenda of pressing social issues, including immigration, criminal justice, and racial/ethnic diversity. It’s an ambitious set of policies, and it’s noteworthy because the stance of these colleges is in marked contrast to the ultra-conservative narrative associated with the evangelical church’s recent embrace of the right-wing, nationalist politics of Donald Trump. The colleges are members of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), an organization comprised of about 180 institutions worldwide, with approximately 140 in the U.S. Representing 37 different Protestant denominations, CCCU schools enroll over 500,000 students. You can view the full member list here. All CCCU schools have missions defined as Christ-centered, rooted in the hi

Pandemic is just the latest blow for small colleges - The Boston Globe

Pandemic is just the latest blow for small colleges - The Boston Globe


Pandemic is just the latest blow for small colleges - The Boston Globe

Posted: 02 Dec 2020 12:00 AM PST

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Last month accreditors cited Benjamin Franklin for its shaky finances and gave it two years to correct its problems or risk losing accreditation, a blow that could force closure.

"It has accelerated impacts that we . . . thought we had a longer period of time in order to figure out," said Jed Nosal, the chairman of the school's board.

Over the past several years, many small private colleges have grappled to overcome a declining number of college-age students and soaring tuitions that became unaffordable for many students. Mount Ida College, Newbury College, and a handful of other small institutions across New England shut their doors amid insurmountable financial challenges.

The pandemic has dramatically intensified those pressures. Fewer students and their families have the means to cover tuition. Doubts about the value of remote learning have prompted some to put off college temporarily. And international enrollment has plummeted.

"The higher education model is [in] crisis, and we are also in a consolidation era that started pre-COVID, so with COVID, that consolidation is going to accelerate," said Rick Beyer, a higher education consultant with the firm AGB Consulting who works with small colleges to develop new business models.

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In New England, the loss of small colleges can have profound consequences. They are the economic and social lifeblood of some towns and rural hamlets, such as New London, N.H., home to Colby-Sawyer College, and Poultney, Vt., where Green Mountain College closed last year.

And some small colleges play crucial roles in the higher education ecosystem. At Benjamin Franklin, the majority of the approximately 525 students are young men of color, a group underserved by many other institutions, according to Aisha Francis, chief executive of the college. In a year that has shone a spotlight on systemic racism, she said, preserving institutions that primarily serve students of color should be a top priority.

Benjamin Franklin's leaders have spoken frankly about the school's financial problems.

"The stark reality we face has been brought on by years of flat revenue, increased expenses, and the reliance on one-time funds to make up persistent and systemic shortfalls," they wrote in a letter to faculty and staff recently. "Our challenges are not due to a short-term downturn but rather a business model that must change."

But the school is adamant that its mission is critically important. The college was founded in 1908 with a bequest from the estate of Benjamin Franklin, who believed that "good apprentices are likely to make good citizens." The college offers degrees in practical disciplines, including automotive technology, cybersecurity, HVAC technology, and electrical engineering. Tuition is around $8,500 per semester — far less than the price of many private colleges — and nearly all students receive financial aid.

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"We are the quintessential public charity, we actually provide incredible high quality and necessary service at below cost or at a loss," Nosal said.

When the pandemic hit, the school was able to pivot quickly because of its small size. It transitioned almost 300 courses online in two weeks, and modified some degree programs to give students more flexibility during the pandemic. It has also provided students with Wi-Fi hot spots, free laptops, increased health and wellness support, and continued emergency food services.

Meanwhile, the institution is wrestling with how to reduce its losses without having an impact on its students.

"They're stretched, even with everything that we're able to provide," Nosal said.

A merger with nearby Wentworth Institute of Technology recently fell through after the deal became public. Nosal said the prospect of finding a viable merger partner has become more difficult during the pandemic because other schools had to focus all their attention and resources on keeping their campuses open.

Instead, the college is moving to a property it purchased in Roxbury's Nubian Square. It recently received a $1 million gift from the Hamilton Company Charitable Foundation, contingent upon the school carrying out its plan to remain independent and relocate to 1011 Harrison Ave. Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh has vowed to help support that plan.

Benjamin Franklin is also exploring a novel type of partnership that some peer institutions have begun to form in the past few years — consortia of smaller colleges that band together to pool resources and offer courses jointly.

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The school recently joined a partnership of colleges that was founded at Lasell College in Newton. Janet Holmgren, a consultant who previously served as the president of Mills College and Princeton vice provost, helped start that group. The schools are focused on finding ways to preserve their unique identities while pooling resources and sharing costs, she said.

Experts say it will be crucial for schools like Benjamin Franklin to have a strong business plan coming out of the pandemic.

The switch to online has only renewed the debate over the cost of college, and whether it is worth it. Institutions like Southern New Hampshire University have honed an online model at a fraction of the cost of in-person education, and during the pandemic many more families are questioning whether the high costs of a traditional campus experience are worth it.

"The mindset is changing," said Joseph Chillo, the former president of Newbury College in Brookline who oversaw its closure in 2019. "Institutions have to understand the stressors and the challenges that their students and families are going through, and how [so] do you begin to think through the business model?"


Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.

ICE: International Students Whose Courses Are All Online This Fall Must Leave U.S. - WBUR

Posted: 07 Jul 2020 12:00 AM PDT

Colleges and universities continue grappling with plans to reopen for the fall 2020 semester, with some schools opting to have classes go fully online given the ever-evolving nature of the coronavirus pandemic and continued public health concerns.

But new guidance released this week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may change those reopening plans.

ICE, which oversees the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), announced Monday that the agency is walking back exemptions issued in the spring which allowed international students on F-1 and M-1 visas to temporarily circumvent federal regulations around online studies.

"Due to COVID-19, SEVP instituted a temporary exemption regarding online courses for the spring and summer semesters. This policy permitted nonimmigrant students to take more online courses than normally permitted by federal regulation to maintain their nonimmigrant status during the COVID-19 emergency," the press release said.

Instead of maintaining the exemption into the fall semester, ICE will no longer permit international students studying with an F-1 or M-1 visa to remain in the U.S. if their course load for the fall is fully online.

According to the notice, the U.S. Department of State will not issue visas for students abroad who had planned to attend a school in the fall that is utilizing a fully online model, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will not allow students attending those schools to enter the country.

For international students already in the U.S. who are enrolled in such programs, ICE says they must either "depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status."

Harvard is one such school, and that poses a problem for its 8,800 students on F-1 visas.

Simge Topalogu is a Turkish-born psychology student at Harvard University. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Simge Topalogu is a Turkish-born psychology student at Harvard University. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Simge Topaloğlu — a third-year Harvard doctoral student in psychology — found out about the new rule in a group chat with other international students on Monday.

"When this was first shared... I just thought someone had misinterpreted it," Topaloğlu said. "But then I read the statement, and I couldn't believe my eyes."

If she's forced to return home to Istanbul, Topaloğlu will face late-night classes and the prospect of learning, teaching and conducting research while living with an elderly relative with a serious medical condition.

In a statement, Harvard's president Lawrence Bacow called the new rule "a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem," and pledged to fight to defend international students and their education.

Even at schools pursuing a hybrid model in the fall, international students have cause for worry.

Smit Kiri is seeking a master's degree in data science from Northeastern University. Kiri was born in Gujarat, India, and has asthma. He said the new policy presents international students like him with an impossible choice.

"I just feel that it's really unfair — that we have to risk our lives and go to the university even if we are, you know, at a higher risk of contracting the virus… or dying from it," he said.

NotablyICE gave no indication as to when this rule will go into effect or whether there will be a grace period, and some colleges and universities are urging international students not to make decisions on their plans for the fall until more is known about the ICE policy.

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, says the new guidance  puts universities and colleges in the difficult position of choosing between what's best for public health and what's best for their international students.

"Why [ICE] made this decision now — four to six weeks before many schools start classes — is unclear, but what it has done is throw a lot of people's lives into confusion and put a ton of uncertainty on colleges' plans moving forward," he said.

Reichlin-Melnick said it's difficult to know the scope of the impact, since some universities and colleges may choose to alter their learning plan for the fall as a result of this new guidance. He said the rule is likely to be challenged in court.

According to the SEVP, there are nearly 77,000 international students in Massachusetts.

"All of this will of course be of a major benefit to Canada and other countries that have long competed with the United States for foreign students," he said. "And the downsides, of course, will be huge for local economies, for universities and for America's really powerful position as a world leader in education."

Gov. Charlie Baker was asked during a press conference Tuesday about the decision from ICE. He said the pandemic has created a situation where the rules governing safe travel are constantly changing.

"People ought to make the decisions they need to make at the time they need to make them with the best information they have," Baker said. "I think this one was a little premature."

Man Arrested Inside Tom Brady's Brookline Mansion Held Without Bail - Yahoo News

Posted: 07 Dec 2020 02:45 PM PST

National Review

China Forces Hundreds of Thousands of Uyghurs to Work in Xinjiang Cotton Fields: Report

China forces hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Tibetans to pick cotton in fields of Xinjiang Province, according to a new report from the non-partisan think tank Center for Global Policy.Around 85 percent of China's raw cotton supply, and 20 percent of the world's supply, comes from Xinjiang. Swedish clothing company H&M severed ties with its Xinjiang supplier in September over forced labor accusations.There is "strong evidence that the production of the majority of Xinjiang's cotton involves a coercive, state-run program targeting ethnic minority groups," the CGP report concludes.The report, based on Chinese government documents and media reports, was authored by Dr. Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Zenz has written extensive reports on the Chinese government's reeducation camps for Uyghurs and other minorities, as well as China's program of forced sterilization for Uyghur women.At least 570,000 people from three Uyghur regions alone were mobilized for forced labor in cotton fields in 2018, Zenz writes. However, "Xinjiang's total labor transfer of ethnic minorities into cotton picking likely exceeds that figure by several hundred thousand."Around 70 percent of Xinjiang cotton is hand-picked, including nearly all of its high-quality cotton mainly sourced from Uyghur regions. Policy documents and media reports reviewed by Zenz indicate that the forced labor programs are justified by alleviating alleged "backwards" Uyghur attitudes toward work."Since cotton picking is hard work, state propaganda accounts of mobilizing pickers have the overarching theme of overcoming workers' reticence to participate in the scheme," Zenz writes. "This is unilaterally ascribed to two main factors: their outdated and backward employment views, which are said to cause minorities to be stuck in their traditional ways of making a living; and an ingrained laziness and lack of work discipline, even a lack of valuing work."The U.S. has banned some, but not all, imports of cotton and textiles from Xinjiang. The Senate is considering passing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would ban the import of any products made with forced labor in Xinjiang. Multinational corporations including Apple, Coca-Cola, and Nike, and pro-business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are reportedly lobbying to water down the legislation.

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