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This occasional roundup of student movement stories is put together by Isabelle Nastasia, a CUNY undergrad, New York Students Rising organizer, and friend of this site. 

Featured Campus of the Day: Emory University

As American as … Compromise – Emory website (Trigger warning: this is super racist.)

Controversy Over Wagners Column – Emory Wheel

Emory President Holds Up Three-Fifth Compromise as Noble and Honorable  – Salon

Emory President Praises Three-Fifths Compromise as a “Pragmatic Solution” – Gawker

Faculty Censure Wagner, Consider Voting No Confidence – Emory Wheel

Important perspectives on education injustice:

Conservatives Declare War on College – Salon

Truth and Justice Report – Colorado Progressive Coalition

Universities Overtake Prisons in Gov. Walker’s Budget – JS Online (Maxwell Love of United Council of UW Students says “Before you start patting the Governor on the back: we lost $350 million and [UW students] get back $100 million…”)

Why Do Black and Latino Youth Struggle in School? – Colorlines

Sallie Mae Sells Interest – ZACKS

The Revolution Will Not be Televised: Deconstructing the News Briefing on Higher Ed Funding – Restructuring Public Higher Ed

Student Loans Unable to Refinanced – TIME

Free Education – McGill Daily (MOOCs are a growing part of the education crisis in Quebec as well in the U.S.)

College Students Struggle to Complete Education – The Knight News

Deferred Cooper Union Applicants Feel Like Collateral in Board’s Beef with Art School – Village Voice

Another Dark Day for Indiana’s Public Schools – Journal Gazette

Whether we are occupying buildings or writing bills,  we are students taking action!

CCSF Students Occupy Conlan Hall – Golden Gates Express (ABC Local covered this as well.)

Students, Faculty Call for Leadership Overhaul of Wilberforce – Springfield News

Speech to the University Regents – Student Union of Michigan

The New Deal for Students – USSA

Steps forward on the policy-change front:

Denver Takes Bold Step Towards Eliminating its School-to-Prison Pipeline – Colorlines

DMW releasing Drivers Licenses to Many Immigrants – WRAL (Colorlines tells us why they are still problematic for many DREAMers, here)

No Salary Increase for UC – Changing Universities

Bookstore punts Adidas Gear From Shelves – The Santa Clara

Essays on student movement-building and radical organizing strategy:

Charging Through the Archway of History: Immigrants and African Americans Unite to Transform of Labor and the Power of Community – Portside

Hidden in Plain Sight – Free University NYC (Commissioned by Tidal 4 – Occupy Theory. This piece is a collaboration between myself, Manissa McCleave Maharawal, Conor Tomas Reed and Zoltan Gluck–faculty and students at CUNY.)

Developing Militant the Lefts Minstrel Show and How College Educated Revolutionaries of All Colors Keep the Working Class Shucking and Jiving – Fire Next Time

What is a Strike?  –  IDS News

This, from the front page of today’s New York Times, is a really strong piece, and really worth reading. I may find time to say more about it after the Christmas break, but for now I’ll just cut and paste what I said about it on Facebook a moment ago…

One thing stuck out powerfully for me in this story is that making students jump through hoops sucks.

Too often recently, administrators and legislators have justified increased tuition by bumping up financial aid concurrently. But even when those hikes are commensurate — and they often aren’t, and they rarely are in the long term — more tuition plus a new financial aid system amounts to a new hoop. Students of means, students with educated parents, are generally good at navigating hoops. Students at greater risk often aren’t. So poor students fall through the cracks.

Predictably. Inevitably.

Three weeks ago for-profit college giant Kaplan announced it was closing thirteen campuses. Yesterday the Apollo Group, owner of Phoenix University, announced even larger cuts.

With Phoenix enrollment falling nearly 14% in the latest quarter, the company plans to close 115 of its 227 locations throughout the country.

Although the “campuses” facing closure are mostly among Phoenix’s smaller locations, the retrenchment reflects a dramatic reversal for Apollo and the industry as a whole. Apollo profits are down more than half from a year ago, and Phoenix enrollment has declined by more than 70,000 students from its peak.

As I noted when reporting on the Kaplan closures, for-profit students represent a bit more than a tenth of the students enrolled in American higher ed institutions, but they account for a quarter of student-loan borrowers and half of student loan defaults. Because the vast majority of for-profit college revenue comes government-backed student loans, these defaults are a significant drain on taxpayer money.

The government has been slow to regulate for-profit colleges as the scope of their malfeasance has become clear, but the regulatory pace has been picking up in recent months. At least as important, students are wising up about for-profits’ defects, and abandoning the schools in droves.

That’s good news, for them and for the rest of us.

This is really welcome news.

For-profit higher ed behemoth Kaplan, which is owned by the Washington Post, announced last week that it is closing thirteen of its seventy campuses nationwide. Nine will shut down completely, and another four will be folded into nearby locations.

Even better news is the reason for the shutdowns — three of the campuses were apparently just stripped of their accreditation, and thus their students’ eligibility for federal loans.

Loan defaults at for-profit colleges are ridiculously common, with three-year defaults standing at 22.7% in newly-released figures, more than twice the rate of public colleges.

Put another way, for-profit students represented a bit more than a tenth of the students in the cohort, a quarter of the borrowers, and half the defaults. And this is public money — as the Post itself acknowledges, nearly 90% of Kaplan higher ed revenue comes from federally guaranteed student loans.

For-profit colleges are a huge fraud on the nation’s students and taxpayers, but because of their parent companies’ lobbying clout regulation has been slow and lax. New rules implemented during the Obama administration have been far less aggressive than I’d like, but even in their weakened form they’re proving sharp enough to have an effect. As the Chronicle of Higher Education notes, “of the colleges that would not meet the new standards, 160 are for-profit, 35 are public, and 23 are private.”

In its most recent annual report Kaplan’s higher ed division showed a $500 million decline in revenue, a 74% drop in profits, and a loss of 25,000 students. Here’s to more of the same, and better, in coming years.

Every year the delegates to the United States Student Association’s National Student Congress must approve the Association’s campaigns for the year — establishing priorities for what the group will work on between then and the next Congress. Voter work and federal higher ed policy are locked in as perennials by USSA’s governing documents, but everything else is up for grabs.

This year seven of thirteen proposed campaigns made it through the delegates’ first round of vetting, but in the second round attention quickly focused on just three. Two of them — student loan forgiveness and support for the DREAM Act — had been approved unanimously in the first round, and drew little criticism in the second.

The third, “Legislating Shared Governance,” was where things got interesting.

Crafted by activists from Wisconsin, a state where students have a statutory right to participate in college governance, the proposal called on the Association to craft a national analysis of “campus and statewide conditions of student rights … abuses of student rights … and prospects for reform.” It further directed USSA to devote resources to defending and expanding students’ rights in campus governance, to create organizing materials and conference workshops in aid of such campaigns, to support legal action by students in defense of their rights, and finally to

“through its member campuses and statewide student associations, conduct a campus, statewide, and national grassroots and lobbying campaign to ensure state legislatures and university administrations codify these rights in state law and university policy.”

In the second round of debate a motion was made to select the DREAM Act and loan forgiveness plans — and only them — as USSA campaigns for the coming year. The shared governance proposal was offered and rejected as a third campaign in an amendment to that motion, but as debate continued it became clear that the DREAM/loan-forgiveness combo couldn’t win the plenary’s support without it.

And so, after several hours of debate and more than a few off-the-floor negotiating sessions, the amendment was offered again, and accepted.

Why was there so much disagreement? Mostly, I think, because while USSA’s officers and staff do a lot of non-electoral organizing work (and training), the Association’s official campaigns have in recent years primarily been federal legislative advocacy projects, and this isn’t that.

But as folks from Occupy to the DREAMers to USSA’s own partner the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) have been demonstrating in recent months, there’s a lot happening around youth and student organizing right now that’s only peripherally (if at all) connected to legislative lobbying. This is a movement moment, and it’s going to be fascinating to see what USSA makes of it in the coming year.

About This Blog

n7772graysmall is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

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