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Federal Lawmakers Begin New Push for Student-Outcomes Data

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 15, 2017 - 10:20am
The effort seeks to repeal a ban on tracking the educational and employment outcomes of college students that enacted as part of the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
Categories: Higher Education News

Staff Selfies with Secretary DeVos

U.S. Department of Education Blog - May 15, 2017 - 10:10am

As new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been settling in to her new job, she has been meeting ED career staff and learning about their contributions to the agency.  Several quick-fingered staffers have snapped fun, informal photos and selfies with ED’s new leader, and Inside ED has collected several of their smiling photos here.

Carolyn Dempster of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer shows off her one-handed selfie skills with DeVos.


Gerardo Romero of Federal Student Aid (FSA) smiles with the Secretary.

ED’s interns have gotten in photos with DeVos, including Trent Allen of the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE).


Lawrence Lanwehr (shaking hands) and Keith Wilson of FSA were pleased to greet DeVos on her tour of Union Center Plaza.


Jason Cottrell of OPE got to show off his University of Virginia tie in his photo with the secretary.


This group photo features (L-R) Jennifer Myers of the Office of Management (OM), Wanda Davis of OM, C.J. Hair-Jones of OM, Karolyn Cook, the secretary, Joshua Hoover of the Office of Communications and Outreach, and Denise Carter of OM.


OM’s Myers also snapped a one-on-one photo with DeVos.


Christopher McCormick of OPE (in orange tie at left) got to chat with the secretary with quite a crowd looking on!


FSA’s Farzad Aidun matched smiles with DeVos at UCP.

Jim Mould (left) and Cynthia Dorfman (second from left) of OCO, along with other LBJ-based employees, greet the secretary on the fifth floor.


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The post Staff Selfies with Secretary DeVos appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Chance’s Greatest Lesson: Be Steadfast

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 15, 2017 - 2:59am
Growing up in Atlanta, Chance Wren learned independence and the power of faith and family. Would that foundation be enough to carry him through college up north?  
Categories: Higher Education News

The States Where Campus Free-Speech Bills Are Being Born: A Rundown

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 15, 2017 - 2:55am
A new crop of such legislation is making its way through statehouses across the country, in response to high-profile, controversial speakers.
Categories: Higher Education News

What Should a College President Do in Year One?

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 15, 2017 - 2:55am
New leaders should arrive with a clear set of intentions and an eagerness to build relationships, according to recommendations by the Aspen Institute.
Categories: Higher Education News

At Liberty U., Trump Aligns with ‘Outsider’ Evangelicals

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 13, 2017 - 1:44pm
The president’s commencement address solidifies a partnership with Jerry Falwell Jr., the university’s president and an outspoken Trump supporter.
Categories: Higher Education News

Faculty and Students Assail Texas A&M President’s Criticism of Professor

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 12, 2017 - 10:34am
The professor's advocates said they were "deeply alarmed and saddened" by the president's "incredibly irresponsible" decision to not support him.
Categories: Higher Education News

Texas Southern U. Cancels Commencement Speech Over Protest Concerns

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 12, 2017 - 10:08am
The historically black college in Houston scrubbed an address by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, after a petition demanded he be blocked from speaking.
Categories: Higher Education News

Important Information about the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

U.S. Department of Education Blog - May 12, 2017 - 9:09am

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) on fafsa.gov and StudentLoans.gov will be unavailable until extra security protections can be added. While we are working to resolve these issues as quickly as possible, students, families, and borrowers should plan for the tool to be offline until the start of the next FAFSA season.

In the interim, please continue to complete the FAFSA or apply for income-driven repayment by manually providing your tax information.

Here’s what you should know:

1. You can still submit the FAFSA online at fafsa.gov.
  • You will need to manually provide your 2015 tax information in order to complete the FAFSA.
  • DO NOT use 2016 tax information. We recently changed the FAFSA process and now require earlier tax information. For more information: StudentAid.gov/fafsa-changes.
  • If your financial situation has changed since 2015, you should complete the FAFSA using the information it requires (2015 tax info), then contact your school’s financial aid office to discuss your circumstances. The financial aid office can make updates to your FAFSA information if appropriate.
  • If you don’t have a copy of your 2015 tax return, access the tax software you used to prepare the return or contact your tax preparer to obtain a copy.
  • If you still can’t access your return, you can get a summary of a previously filed tax return, called a tax transcript, at irs.gov/transcript.

If you are using your 2015 income tax return to manually enter information on your FAFSA, the FAFSA instructions provide guidance on which line number to reference depending on the IRS tax form you filed. That information is also provided in the table below. For more specific guidance on each item, visit fafsa.gov/help.htm. If you’re using a tax transcript, there won’t be line numbers to reference, so read each question carefully.

2015 Income Tax Item 1040 1040A 1040EZ Adjusted gross income (AGI) Line 37 Line 21 Line 4 Income tax Line 56 minus line 46 Line 28 minus line 36 Line 10 Exemptions 6d 6d See details. Wages earned from working Line 7*

*Unless you are self-employed. See details. Line 7 Line 1 Education credits Line 50 Line 33 N/A IRA deductions and payments to self-employed SEP, SIMPLE, Keogh, and other qualified plans Line 28 + Line 32 Line 17 N/A Tax-exempt interest income Line 8b Line 8b N/A Untaxed portions of IRA distributions Line 15a minus line 15b

Exclude rollovers Line 11a minus line 11b

Exclude rollovers N/A Untaxed portions of pensions Line 16a minus line 16b

Exclude rollovers Line 12a minus line 12b

Exclude rollovers N/A Untaxed portions of health savings accounts Line 25 N/A N/A Form W-2 Item Boxes Payments to tax-deferred pension and retirement savings plans Boxes 12a through 12d, codes D, E, F, G, H and S

Don’t include amounts reported in code DD (employer contributions toward employee health benefits) 2. You can still apply for and recertify your income-driven payments on StudentLoans.gov.

  • While the IRS Data Retrieval Tool is unavailable, there is an additional step you may need to take to apply for or recertify your income-driven payments.
  • After you complete and submit the online income-driven repayment application on StudentLoans.gov, you’ll be instructed to submit income documentation to your federal loan servicer.
  • Valid income documentation may include a copy of your tax return, copies of pay stubs, or other acceptable forms of documentation explained online in the application process.
  • The easiest way to submit documentation to your servicer is to log in to your servicer’s website and upload the documentation in your online account.
  • If you need to recertify your income-driven payments, start the process early! Your servicer will inform you of your recertification deadline. Make sure you submit any documentation required by that deadline. If you don’t, your payments will increase, often significantly.
Frequently Asked Questions:

When will the IRS Data Retrieval Tool be available?

Students, families, and borrowers should plan for the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to be offline until the start of the next FAFSA season.

Do not wait until the tool is available to fill out your FAFSA; you can enter your tax information manually on fafsa.gov. Do not wait to apply for an income-driven repayment plan, or recertify your income-driven payments; you can provide documentation of your tax information in place of using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.


What if I don’t have a copy of my 2015 tax return?

If you don’t have a copy of your 2015 tax return, access the tax software you used to prepare the return or contact your tax preparer to obtain a copy.

If you still can’t access your return, you can get a summary of a previously filed tax return, called a tax transcript, at www.irs.gov/transcript. If you’re applying for or recertifying for an income-driven repayment plan, you can use your transcript as documentation of your income.


Will my FAFSA deadline be extended?

You need to ask your school’s financial aid office how they will handle upcoming deadlines.

That said, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool being down does not prevent you from filling out the FAFSA. Regardless of how your school decides to handle any upcoming FAFSA deadlines, we highly recommend submitting your FAFSA as soon as possible to avoid financial aid issues and delays.


Will my deadline to recertify my income-driven repayment plan be extended?

No. You should still recertify your income-driven repayment plan by the deadline listed in communications you receive from your federal student loan servicer. We recommend starting the process as soon as you get your recertification notice to avoid any issues.

Contact your servicer if you have questions or need help. If you need to locate contact information for your servicer, visit StudentAid.gov/login.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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The post Important Information about the IRS Data Retrieval Tool appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

U. of California President’s Office Faces New Scrutiny After Scathing Audit

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 12, 2017 - 2:55am
The governor is withholding $50 million from the university until it fixes problems, and the Board of Regents is hiring a consultant to review allegations that the office interfered with survey responses.
Categories: Higher Education News

Trump’s Liberty U. Commencement Speech Will Pair Anti-Establishment Brands

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 12, 2017 - 2:55am
Jerry Falwell Jr., whose evangelical university prides itself on bucking higher-ed norms, finds common ground with a president who revels outside the mainstream.
Categories: Higher Education News

Women Who Broke the Glass Ceiling in College Sports Tell How They Did It

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 12, 2017 - 2:55am
As athletics administration diversifies, some women are exploring how to strengthen the pipeline to leadership.
Categories: Higher Education News

After Death at Penn State: What Can a President Do to Change Campus Culture?

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 12, 2017 - 2:55am
Presidents who have lived through painful experiences like the death of a student say that solutions to binge-drinking are hard to find and that campus leadership is critical.
Categories: Higher Education News

A Year After Controversy Toppled Its Divisive President, Mount St. Mary’s Forges Ahead

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 12, 2017 - 2:44am
After Simon P. Newman compared struggling freshmen to bunnies who should be drowned, the Roman Catholic college was thrust into a weeks-long spotlight. Its new leader has tried to steady the ship.
Categories: Higher Education News

Bethune-Cookman U. Says Only 20 Students Protested DeVos’s Speech

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 11, 2017 - 3:36pm
Videos show a large portion of the 374 graduating students standing and turning their backs as the education secretary began to speak.
Categories: Higher Education News

Demonstration by Grad-Student Union at Yale Furthers Tensions Over Hunger Strike

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 11, 2017 - 1:13pm
The university wants the hunger strike to end, but graduate students blocked three major intersections on Thursday to further pressure administrators.
Categories: Higher Education News

Texas A&M President Calls Professor’s Remarks ‘Disturbing’

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 11, 2017 - 1:09pm
The professor, whose 2012 remarks about the killing of white people were highlighted by a conservative commentator, is now receiving hate mail and death threats.
Categories: Higher Education News

Oh, What’s in a Name? – Definitions of Distance Ed

WCET Frontiers Blog - May 11, 2017 - 9:58am

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

And by name, I mean definition. And by definition, I mean the definition of distance education.

There are a myriad of definitions for “distance education,” “distance education course,” and” distance education program.” Various agencies, which require reports from colleges and universities on the numbers/types of distance education courses, have somewhat different perspectives on what “counts” as distance ed.

Over the last few weeks I chatted with a few of our WCET friends about their thoughts on the variety of definitions and what, if anything, they would recommend changing.


We’ve come a long way from what distance ed used to be: correspondence courses where one could learn new information through the mail. This has rapidly shifted, says Tony Bates in a recent blog post, from text-based LMS’s, and with “more synchronous approaches either replacing or being combined with asynchronous learning (another definition of ‘blended’), and the increasing use of streamed audio and video.” He is currently conducting a survey pilot on online or distance ed courses and programs at Canadian postsecondary institutions, where he discovered there is very little general agreement on terms such as distance education, online courses, blended course, hybrid courses, etc.

Last week, we released our analysis of the most recent distance education enrollment counts from IPEDS, the U.S. Department of Education’s series of surveys.  IPEDS defines distance education as “education that uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated for the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously. Technologies used for instruction may include the following: Internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcasts, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite or wireless communication devices; audio conferencing; and video cassette, DVDs and CD-ROMs, if the cassette, DVDs, and CD-ROMs are used in a course in conjunction with the technologies listed above.”

This definition is consistent with the Code of Federal Regulations, and some of the accrediting agencies build on that definition. Putting aside that the definitions, like those used by other entities, may be slightly outdated for today’s technologies.

Definitions of distance education courses are more diverse. It seems the biggest difference between these definitions is the amount of the course delivered via some sort of distance technology. The amount varies from 100%, to 75%, 50%, etc. Some do not give a set percentage.

Institutions are required to report to various agencies, such as their accreditors, on the programs and courses. These staff report different data to different agencies due to the variety of definitions or pick one definition and report it to everyone.


I sent the following questions to be mulled over by a few, select higher education experts.

  • What is your opinion of distance education definitions from IPEDS, accrediting agencies, states, and institutions?
  • What works and does not work for you regarding those definitions?
  • How would you improve the definition?

Marshall Hill, Executive Director, National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), told me that it is unfortunate that such variations exist. There are different perspectives that led to the variety of definitions, but he feels we should be able to agree upon a single definition. He advised that while it is important for a set standard, it’s also important to allow for flexibility so institutions can be innovative in the realm of distance education and serve their students in unique ways.

Marshall brought up a specific area that needed improvement (saying that the definitions today don’t seem to match the reality of what is happening in education): blended or hybrid courses (which I anecdotally believe are becoming more and more popular). As Tony Bates said in his blog post, the “terminology often struggles to keep up with the reality of what is happening…”

Jon Becker, Director of Learning Innovation and Online Academic Programs & Associate Professor, Educational Leadership with Virginia Commonwealth University’s ALT Lab, took a practical approach to his recommendations. Jon concentrated on how students would schedule and attend courses and chose place and time as classifiers. Courses are fully or partially online (based on whether a student is ever physically in the class location) and the course is either synchronous or asynchronous. This creates a grid, which categorizes courses:

Synchronous Asynchronous

Ever face-to-face

A B Fully online C D

Jill Buban, Senior Director of Research & Innovation with the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), mentioned that there has been a buzz on this topic at recent higher education conferences. Distance education as a term still depicts the overall variety of offerings that can fall under that umbrella, as a field, we use these various offering definitions interchangeably (i.e. blended, online, hybrid, etc.). There is a lack of unified terminology that we can all use, and the clarity is needed. Jill and I discussed how she has noticed that recent accreditation standards (which have the same requirements for outcomes for face-to-face and online classes) are starting to make institutions push the envelope a bit. It’s easier to have all students (whether face-to-face or online) use the same digital tools and platforms rather than having different tools based on location. This is bringing digital learning, a phrase that is also causing a buzz in higher ed, to all types of distance education courses and programs.

Ken Sauer, Senior Associate Commissioner and Chief Academic Officer Indiana Commission for Higher Education, has examined this issue extensively and provided excellent the background information to me on this topic. Ken explained the major complications affecting higher education administrators due to the definition quandary. He was motivated to conduct research in this area when he compared lists of distance education programs in Indiana to the list of programs with their regional accrediting agency; they were different. Ken recommends a definition of distance education programs based on the percentage of the course which is online versus in a physical location. One of his major considerations: assessment of distance education and how proctored exams impact whether a course is deemed fully online.

Based on his research and conversations with multiple individuals, organizations, and institutions, Ken has developed a set of recommendations in this area to begin the conversation toward developing a common definition of distance education. These will be released shortly, and WCET is excited to be involved in that conversation. Watch for more information on Ken’s research and recommendations.

What’s our Focus? What’s our Goal?

Near the end of our conversation Marshall Hill centered this entire debate for me: our focus here should be on how to best serve students. Colleges and universities should not decide how to deliver education based on what they need to report, but rather what will best meet their student’s needs. And then we (meaning accreditors, government agencies, policy geeks, etc.) should figure out how to count that. Not the other way around.

Closing thoughts

Ken’s question about assessments is important. If a class is 100% online but requires face-to-face, proctored exams, then does that change the percentage?

Jon provided a wonderful quote that he used on the cover letter for his application for his current job:

“… If formal schooling had existed in the U.S. when Gutenberg invented the printing press, would there have been lots of discussion and hand-wringing about the inevitable move towards print-based learning? Would formal learning organizations have created new units and positions around print-based learning? …I begin wondering if, someday, we will look back upon the present time and laugh at the idea that we used terms like “online learning” and/or “hybrid courses.””

Should we differentiate between distance education and other types of education? Is education simply… education whether you are physically in a classroom or not?

It turns out, my Shakespearian inspiration is not quite apt in this case. Can we use a blanket term like “distance education” to refer to the assorted forms of distance education that exist (or will it even exist in the future)?

What would or wouldn’t you change about the various definitions of distance education out there? Let me know in the comments or tweet us @wcet_info!




Lindsey Downs
Manager, Communications – WCET





Photo Reference: Ad published in The Practical Druggist and Review of Reviews, volume 35, number 2, February 1917. Photo from https://nyamcenterforhistory.org/tag/pharmacy/

People Esteem Community Colleges but Question How Well Higher Ed Serves Students

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 11, 2017 - 2:55am
A new poll shows that many Americans think higher education needs to change, even as they recognize that it is good for society at large.
Categories: Higher Education News

Florida Moves to Slash Funds for Remedial Education, and College Leaders Protest

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 11, 2017 - 2:55am
Enrollments in remedial classes plunged after the state made them optional for most students. Lawmakers now see that as evidence that the courses need less money, but educators say that’s the wrong conclusion.
Categories: Higher Education News


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