weekly digest and other news from the New England Board of Higher Education
June 24, 2020
"Think about swimming or sailing or kayaking ... Indeed, many rural campuses have their own ponds, often not used in the past for student activities. ... Imagine food service delivery carts driving around a campus. ... Materials used in courses could be open-access resources so students wouldn’t need to buy books in a store or online."
Before coronavirus, many feared that more and more small colleges would go out of business, falling victim to overreliance on tuition, fewer traditional college-age students with changing preferences, and stale business models. Indeed, several small New England colleges have already merged or closed. Then came COVID-19 and widespread shutdowns, casting doubt on how and when students would dare physically congregate on reopened campuses. On top of that, entered a wave of protests highlighting anger, centuries in the making, at the lack of equality in the U.S. Through it all, the economy tanked. Strangely enough, however, those small colleges that began the crises already on the edge, have a few qualities that may help them respond effectively to COVID-19 in ways that many larger institutions cannot. Author and former Southern Vermont College President Karen Gross explains.
Keisha Venson Sheedy, an innovation analyst at Southern New Hampshire University, shares the story of the leader of a Black women’s student group who was not able to complete her undergraduate degree. She soon discovered that "being a student leader, and what you’ve undeniably learned, just doesn’t matter that much unless you’ve also graduated." She asks, "Has higher education told us that only those who do the work to finish the degree get to breathe freely?"
More from The New England Journal of Higher Education
Higher education's death has been exaggerated long before COVID-19, as shifting student preferences and soaring costs made the "industry" seem economically unsustainable. Historian and former professor George McCully, founder and CEO of the Catalogue for Philanthropy, examines the future of higher ed, reminding readers of the distinction between education and training.
NEBHE Senior Fellow Charles F. Desmond, who is CEO of the parent-centered children’s saving account initiative called Inversant and past chair of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, reflects on America's entrenched, systemic and institutionalized racism in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd and resulting mass protests. Recently awarded the MLK Living Legacy Award by the University of Massachusetts Boston Student Chapter of the NAACP, Desmond writes: "In these challenging and uncertain times, I turn to Abraham Lincoln who said, 'It is a sin to be silent when it is your duty to protest.'"
With fear of the coronavirus shutting down all but essential businesses in March, NEJHE has invited economists and other experts on “employability” to weigh in on how COVID-19 will affect 2020’s college grads. In this installment, economist Nicole Smith of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce notes how forces such as the "digital divide" and the impact of economic "scarring" will shape graduates' approach to a tough job market.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is currently collecting data for the 2019–20 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:20), which is designed to provide both national and state-level financial aid data. This will enable researchers, policymakers, and other higher education stakeholders to generate state-representative undergraduate financial aid estimates and compare aid programs at the state level. NEBHE supports NPSAS:20, which will help fill important gaps in the postsecondary education data landscape, and encourages institutions to participate if selected for the study.
Read the latest from NEJHE's DC Shuttle, featuring national news drawn from our friends at the New England Council.
NEJHE's Comings and Goings highlights key appointments and job changes in New England higher education and beyond.
Robert E.Johnson leaving UMass Dartmouth for Western New England University
More than half of surveyed adults agree that spread of coronavirus has affected their perception of the need for additional education and training, according to a new survey by NEBHE and its Premier Partner, the enrollment management firm Maguire Associates. NEBHE and Maguire asked New Englanders over age 25 without bachelor's degrees about education, training and the economy ... and, given the times, COVID-19. About one in four respondents stated they were more likely to pursue a bachelor’s degree as a result of the coronavirus and 41% agreed they would be more likely to pursue short-term training.
NEBHE Issues Statement on Racism
We stand with the leaders, faculty, staff and students from New England higher education in opposing racism and racial violence in all forms. We unite with Black communities and allies across the region--parents, students, teachers, leaders, policymakers and others--in calling for a just and equitable society.
Education is fundamental to creating that society. We pledge to redouble our efforts as an organization and to work with institutions, colleagues and partners across the region to bring issues of inequity to the forefront and to promote opportunity, equity, diversity, inclusion and a resolve for change. Everyone deserves to live, work and learn without barriers--seen and unseen--and without fear.
News Around NEBHE
An op-ed by Suresh V. Garimella in Scientific American posits a way to address the twin crises roiling America now: the coronavirus pandemic and pervasive racism. His solution: nurture the talent for science and technology among underrepresented students across the U.S. In 1988, NEBHE published "Equity and Pluralism: Full Participation of Blacks and Hispanics in New England Higher Education." The report of NEBHE’s Task Force on Black and Hispanic Student Enrollment and Retention in New England offers 20 major recommendations to ensure greater participation and success among blacks and Hispanics in New England higher education and the educated workforce. The work laid the groundwork for subsequent NEBHE science mentoring and networking programs for underserved New England populations.

NEBHE hosted a webinar on the New England economy, which continues to reel from the effects of COVID-19. Jobs have been lost at a rate not seen since the Great Depression, particularly in the service and hospitality industries. Some economists believe that these losses will be temporary, but others project that the new normal will usher in an era of increased automation and hybridization of jobs, and that some jobs will be lost forever.
New England is home to a large number of fast-growing, high-skill industries with jobs that require a postsecondary credential. Effective models of education and training need to be created to meet labor market demands, overcome employer-reported skills shortages and satisfy workers’ desire for additional training. Consequently, the region’s businesses need to make upskilling programs available to employees to improve skills matching, retention and work productivity. The successful implementation of upskilling programs will require greater collaboration and alignment between New England’s educators and employers.
In a webinar sponsored by NEBHE, two college admissions officers give school counselors, parents and prospective students insight into what’s happening on their campuses, and why it’s taking some time to provide answers in this year of COVID-19.
Tracking Coronavirus
NEBHE's Tracking Coronavirus web resource features an easy-to-use visual showing institutions' COVID-19 responses including current status of campus closures and shifts to online operations, as well as i nfo on refund strategies for students' room and board charges and commencement statuses. The page also features: COVID-19 News; Governmental Responses, Guidance & Advocacy; Distance Education Resources & Compliance; Institutional Finance Information; and Admissions and Enrollment Information. Please s hare updates from your institution at: cpeyser@nebhe.org .
NEJHE NewsBlast is a summary of NEJHE content and other news around NEBHE prepared weekly by NEJHE Executive Editor John O. Harney and emailed every Wednesday to opinion leaders and practitioners. When responding to NEJHE content, please make sure that your remarks are relevant, courteous and engaging. Individuals are responsible for their comments, which do not represent the opinions of the New England Board of Higher Education. We urge commenters to briefly note their occupational or other interest in the topic at hand. Please refrain from offensive language, personal attacks and distasteful comments or they may be deleted. Comments may not appear immediately. Thank you for staying engaged.
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