Episode 39: A Conversation With NASPA’s SA: Voices From the Field Podcast


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Aired March 25, 2021

Jon and Sarah are joined for a special crossover episode by Jill Creighton, host of the NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education flagship podcast, “SA: Voices from the Field.” They talk about how COVID-19 has affected student life, the impact Title IX regulations are having on campuses and the future of those regulations under the new Biden administration, and touch on a few other policy issues such as student loan forgiveness and Dreamers.

Hosts and Guests
Jill L. Creighton
Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Washington State University
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Jill L.  Creighton - Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Washington State University   - Co-host
Jill L. Creighton
Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Washington State University

 Read this episode's transcript

Jon Fansmith: Hello, and welcome to dotEDU, the higher education policy podcast from the American Council on Education. I'm your host Jon Fansmith. And on this episode, we're going to try something new and do a crossover with our colleague, Jill Creighton, from NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Jill's the host of SA: Voices from the Field, a podcast that covers a range of issues affecting student personnel administrators. And we had the opportunity to talk with Jill about a wide range of issues. Everything from how institutions are dealing with the pandemic to the implications of possible changes to Title IX. We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did, and here we go.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Welcome SA Voices listeners and also dotEDU listeners. We are thrilled to bring you a creative crossover today. I'm here joined by Jon Fansmith and Sarah Spreitzer of ACE or the American Council on Education. And for our dotEDU listeners, I'm Dr. Jill Creighton. I use she, hers pronouns. And my day job is as associate vice president and dean of students at Washington State University, which is an R1 D1, but this is my side gig where I get to spend time with all of our colleagues in NASPA, which is the professional organization supporting student affairs professionals in higher education.

We're going to be having a wonderful dialogue today that weaves in and out of policy and practice, and what's really happening with COVID-19 and really hoping that our presidents and provosts listening from the dotEDU end will benefit from learning a little bit about what the day-to-day interactions with students are like. And then for our NASPA listeners, really looking forward to kicking out on some policy things. As our NASPA members might know, I also serve on the NASPA Public Policy division. And we've been spending a lot of time looking at the U.S. Department of Education and trying to figure out what is coming down the pike, which is a little more nebulous than I think we are ready for in some ways, but we'll keep going. Again, we're here with Jon and Sarah. Jon, hello.

Jon Fansmith: Hello. How are you today?

Dr. Jill Creighton: It's sunny out. We're living the dream in that way. And Sarah, how are you?

Sarah Spreitzer: It's sadly not sunny in Washington, D.C., so we're jealous.

Jon Fansmith: It's appropriately gray and miserable here.

Dr. Jill Creighton: We're recording this on March 17th. And so looking forward to that first day of spring coming up. But in any case, there's so much for us to cover today, but I'd like to start with what is ACE for our NASPA listeners who may not be familiar.

Jon Fansmith: ACE is the American Council on Education, as I think you've already said, but we are a membership organization of college and university presidents primarily. We have about 1700 college university presidents as our members and the institutions they lead enroll, get this number wrong, but approximately 80/82% of all postsecondary students in the United States. So really wide swath of American higher education. And unlike a lot of presidential associations, we represent presidents from every sector of higher ed. So, public and private, small, large, research ones, small religious. There's a large spectrum of ACE members. And in part that's because our primary function is the umbrella group of American higher education. We work here in Washington, DC to represent higher ed before Congress and the administration. And we try to make sure that when we do, we have all of the higher ed community speaking with one voice on the same issues. Sarah, do you think I did a decent job? Are you going to fill in the gaps for me?

Sarah Spreitzer: You forgot one thing, Jon, we also include a lot of the different higher education associations within our membership, including NASPA.

Jon Fansmith: That was a huge omission on my part.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Yeah, I believe Kevin Kruger, the NASPA president sits on your advisory board. Yeah?

Jon Fansmith: Which makes my omission even worse actually. Thanks for pointing that out. We're on with you for two minutes at this point, and I've already screwed up. You could take like five on our own podcast.

Sarah Spreitzer: But I think that's why we truly are the umbrella group because not only do we represent the institutions, but also we work with all of the associations.

Dr. Jill Creighton: I think NASPA has signed on to more than a fair share of ACE statements that have gone out in lobbying spaces across higher ed, most recently with Title IX regulations, as well as some student loan borrower pieces. And there's a lot of questions I think we all have in all of those areas right now. Anything I can tell you about our end?

Jon Fansmith: Well, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think one of the things that Sarah pointed out, because we work with NASPA and other groups all the time, I think at least to us, we have the familiarity, but maybe our members don't. So if you could just give us a little bit of information on NAPSA, who you guys represent, who your members are and really where your top issues and concerns are.

Dr. Jill Creighton: NASPA represents student affairs professionals at all levels in their careers. So we have members that are undergraduate students aspiring to come into the profession. We have a pretty robust internship program for that as well as graduate students studying for a master's in higher education administration. And we go all the way up through vice-presidents of student affairs, who are typically cabinet members of the presidents that you all work with. And we're really leading all of the co-curricular and out of the classroom efforts for the general wellbeing and engagement and persistence of our students. That means a lot of different things. For example, where I work, our division is over 27 departments and over 600 employees. We're as large as the college of arts and sciences. And we also are the stewards of auxiliary dollars and student fee money. We're advising students. We are working through civic engagement and career counseling and also student behavior expectations, and most importantly, direct service for student crisis. That has been a big thing in the past year, especially. And our annual meeting is also happening next week at the same time yours is.

Jon Fansmith: So we're all under the same stress. That's great. Yeah.

Dr. Jill Creighton: That's fine.

Sarah Spreitzer: So Jill, on the last couple dotEDU podcasts, or at least, I don't know, for the last couple of months we've been talking about COVID a lot and kind of the stress on our institutions due to the pandemic, but student affairs professionals are right there in the middle of everything. Can you talk a bit about how COVID is impacting your organization and kind of any professional things that you're doing to support your members?

Dr. Jill Creighton: I think the better question is how has COVID not impacted things?

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah.

Dr. Jill Creighton: It's really permeated every way of being for student affairs professional. We are professionals who really prefer to interact directly with students in in-person contexts. That's how we build relationships. That's how we know if someone is struggling. And so we've really had to transport ourselves into what some of my good colleagues are calling the digital Dean space. And what does it mean to actually have a conversation with a student on Zoom when they may not be able to sit up in bed that day, when they may not be able to find something to eat, when they may not be able to live with a stable internet connection. Internet is an interesting question around whether that's a basic right or a basic need right now. I would certainly argue that for the way that we instruct presently, it's a fundamental need and it's a fundamental right of the human experience in 2021. And so we are doing everything from finding internet hotspots for students to building contracts with new vendors on those fronts. Finding laptops for students. We've had students that have turned in term papers that were written entirely on their phones because they don't have access to other technology. And the computer labs are closed on a lot of campuses.

One of the things that I think it's so important to always remind folks of is that our students are people first and the people first context means that there are other life responsibilities. Our students are no longer traditional. They might be living in multi-generational households. They might have K-12 siblings at home who are also really needing that bandwidth. They probably have a parent who's also working using the internet connection if they live in a household where that parent is able to work from home, which is another privilege. So I think to encapsulate everything, the pandemic has really laid bare all of the social justice concerns that we have had for decades and student affairs professionals have been talking and teaching about, but now we are in an action space where we have to address those things differently because we know who's succeeding and who's not. And there is a clear delineation for students of lower socioeconomic backgrounds, for students of color, and for international students that are just attacking the soul of education. And those students experience very differently than our students who come from more privileged backgrounds. And those students coming from those more privileged backgrounds are struggling as well. So it is been a way for us to reformulate everything that we possibly know. And if you've worked with any student affairs teams in the last year, we have built and torn down and rebuilt plans every month for the last 13 or so.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah. And that's such a great point too, about the disproportionate impact on low-income students, because we see this a lot of times when we're looking at this from the national perspective. We're looking at things like enrollment, where you see that selective institutions may actually have seen a surge in applications and their enrollment numbers haven't dropped off and maybe they've increased, but community colleges have double digit declines in enrollment. You look at the students even applying to those selective institutions, and there's a decrease in the number of students of color, first-generation students, low-income students who are doing that. It really has had this significant divide that we always knew was there to a certain extent, but it's exacerbated it. Made it more pronounced. And I think it's made it really hard for those students even see past all the other barriers to access to college, that it's even physically capable for them to get into and access college and succeed. I mean, the idea to me of writing a paper on your phone, and I'm somebody who spends a lot of time on my phone sending messages to people, the idea of writing a whole paper on it, I mean, you have to admire the unbelievable will of somebody who can do that.

Related to that a little bit too, like one of the things we've talked about, I've seen coverage about your members too in the Chronicle and other places, there are really pronounced mental health challenges that are coming up as a result of the pandemic. And that's not just that students have to deal with without on-campus resources they may have access to, but staff are dealing with. This is tremendously stressful on us as people, it's tremendously stressful on us as professionals. Maybe you could talk a little bit more, like maybe educating some of the dotEDU listeners about where the challenges are manifesting. And I'll just say, I ask about this in part, because I'm legitimately curious, but also because when we survey our presidents, mental health of staff and mental health of students are two of their top five concerns. They're right at the very top of things. Above things like long-term and short-term financial health of their institution. I'm giving you the floor again. Talk a little bit about this and how your members, their interactions with their students, what they're seeing and how they're dealing with it themselves.

Dr. Jill Creighton: 8,000 thoughts on this in a couple of different directions. And the first is that university counseling centers have been understaffed for decades and continue to be. And I don't think that we can hire ourselves out of this challenge because the collective trauma that we're experiencing as a nation is really rooted in the practice of natural disaster theory. So a lot of the work that FEMA does, for example, it's community trauma and community recovery. There's a couple of public health messaging components that are coming out of that from some private organizations that are helping us think through the pandemic as that natural disaster frame and community recovery. So I think it's so important, and I'll quote Melissa Harris-Perry poorly here, but she talks about squad care rather than individual care. And I think that messaging is so important because if we continue to send the message to Americans through an American cultural lens, that is your personal responsibility to pull yourself up and find your own support, that's just such a disservice to everyone in our communities. And so I know that often our resources aren't enough.

And also I think we feel a little bit of paralysis on how to make them enough or how to fit our structures into really dealing with that collective change in the way of living, way of being. So I think there's a couple of spaces where college presidents, especially, could be really helpful. One is looking at the resource allocation for the mental health support and care of students, faculty and staff. Faculty and staff makeup half of the university population in many cases or maybe a third. And we are all doing our best to put everything forward we have for our students. And often we do that at the price of caring for ourselves. And that is a cultural concern that I've always had about the student affairs profession. It's kind of baked in, and I think we all as a profession need to take some ownership about doing better for ourselves. That is, at the senior levels I believe that needs to happen, because only if that's captured at the senior levels, will that cultural shift permeate down to all of the team members that we work with. But again, the allocation of resources is beyond critical and that's not just individual counseling and therapy and psychiatry. That is also what proactive components are we putting out there to build community, to build opportunities for us to talk about pain and also for faculty and staff to become trained on how to be that frontline person who might receive that student's concern first. For example, Mental Health First Aid is out there, QPR, Campus Connect, a number of programs that are really designed at giving folks that emergency stop gap skill, kind of like CPR, but then built for their mental health space.

Sarah Spreitzer: It's so hard because we're still in the middle of this. And I think that most of us can hopefully see the light at the end of the tunnel, but obviously there's things that we're going to be dealing with, even if we're able to reopen campuses fully in the fall. The students that will be coming back to the campus will be very different from the students who would have come to the campus in the fall of 2020 or the students that were there in the fall of 2019. But Jill, you talked a bit about supporting the students with laptops and wifi access. And in mine and Jon's world, we've been working a lot on the COVID supplemental bills. And so we've just seen Congress pass another COVID bill, which included a third tranche of funding around $40 billion for institutions. And so it's interesting hearing you talk about like what presidents can do to help support students, because really it's about giving institutions those types of resources. Is that something that NASPA has been following closely?

Dr. Jill Creighton: Absolutely. And I think in one of the recent shows that you all did, I think that $40 billion earmark was still about 50 billion short of what higher education could actually benefit from, but those higher education relief dollars from round two that was passed in December are just now getting out to students today. And so I think it's important to acknowledge that delay, especially for semester schools, because semester schools are about six weeks away from sending students home for the academic year. Quarter schools are just about to start their final instruction term. But it's going to make a big difference for the students in both of those environments on, if they're able to receive $500, $1000, what it might be. NASPA is closely following what's going on with the higher education and COVID relief bills, because it's also deeply impacted a lot of the auxiliary units in student affairs. Anything that's self-sustaining has really, I think, taken an impact that we didn't see in 2008, because in 2008 we saw an increase of students coming to campus, which had been historically the trend in downturns of economic times. But that's not what we're seeing this year. I was wondering actually, if ACE, if you both could talk about what you're seeing with the new COVID relief bills part three and what that might mean for a potential part four even? Yeah, if you want to take it away on that.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah. And actually even pulling up on you and Sarah's points, I think one of the things that was really encouraging, particularly on the topics we're talking about right now is the last one, the one that passed in December had dedicated money for higher education institutions to be local network hubs. So to build out broadband access, to put some money behind these efforts your members are undertaking, expand access and put hotspots in parking lots and things like that, so that students get access where they otherwise wouldn't be able to. They also created a fund, I'm going to mess up the name, but the acronym is the EBB and it allows low-income individuals to get percentage of money, amount of money each month for these kinds of things. And they made Pell Grant eligibility one of the automatic criteria. So if your Pell Grant eligible, you automatically get the benefit. You don't need to apply. You don't need to do anything else. You just need to have that verified.

So there's kind of very encouragingly this recognition by Congress about not only what the problem is, but really how it works for college students, and they're moving to address that. The reconciliation bill that just passed, was just a whole lot of money. It was $40 billion, half of which goes to students. I thank you for pointing out that we still think that's far short of overall what's needed. And when you talk to people on campuses and you hear the things they've been doing just to get through, you realize how big the need is and we appreciate everything the government's doing for us, but so far it hasn't been quite up to the demands of what the need really is, but we are hopeful. I mean, you tease this out, right? There's talk in Washington already about there being another reconciliation bill. One that will be even bigger, an emergency bill that might be twice the size of the one they just passed. I think, again, sort of encouragingly, one of the things we keep hearing being talked about is this idea about broadband access as a basic need, a basic right, and the importance of building out that infrastructure, connecting institutions that are communities, connecting those communities, whether they're rural or urban, where they're most underserved by these kinds of connections. There's been institutions that have historically been underserved, like tribal colleges universities, historically black colleges and universities, and dedicating really a lot of support to them as part of any bigger highways, bridges, whatever infrastructure package. We're really, I think, optimistic about what that might look like.

In terms of money for institutions and students, we are hopeful that they will cover the remainder of what we think is needed. But that seems maybe a little bit more challenging. This one is really focused on the idea of recovery, a lot like that 2009 stimulus bill that the Obama administration did. The idea of putting money out that will go for years and build the economy back up in new ways rather than dealing with the immediate crisis. And that's a little bit harder one sometimes to make the argument about why the needs are still there, but we're going to keep pushing on it. I mean, we're helped by organizations like NASPA and other association colleagues. And doing that, I think, not to pat ourselves on the back, but we've been pretty successful so far. So, keeping our fingers crossed for the next round.

Dr. Jill Creighton: I was just going to ask, does that mean we're in for another vote-a-rama?

Jon Fansmith: At least one. I think they're in the last round, everyone's favorite. I don't know if people listening are as familiar with vote-a-rama. We've discussed how they're spelled. I think there's a dispute over spelling, vote-a-ramas, but it's the most absurd congressional ritual. Vote all night on bills they haven't read, right?

Dr. Jill Creighton: Right. Well, and for those who are not familiar, vote-a-rama is really the amendments to the reconciliation and they're voted on one at a time. And our senators and congresspeople have been up all night voting on them. But I want to give out shout out to the staffers who are really the ones that are behind the scenes and making it all happen. So for every congressional elected person that you see vote, there's dozens of people behind them who have been helping them write things or interpret things or give opinions. And so shout out to all the staffers who were up for two nights straight getting that done. For sure.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah. I think on the second reconciliation bill, there was over 700 amendments. Is that right? I mean, and not all of them are considered, but somebody has to actually write them and somebody has to actually read them. But I was going to ask Jon, in terms of mental health, do you think you ever would have been able to predict a year in which we'd have three massive bills like this passed?

Jon Fansmith: God, they're going to ask you about the impact on my mental health, which hasn't been especially great, frankly, working. The thing that I wouldn't have been able to predict is that I'd still be doing this after the last year or so. No, I think this is the key point. Like we have gotten a tremendous amount of support from the federal government. In many ways exceeded, I think, what people would have predicted would have happened. And it's because students are reaching out to their members of Congress and college presidents are reaching out to the members of Congress. And they're saying, this is the situation I'm facing and I need some help. And that really resonates.

Sarah and I talked to congressional staff all the time and there's kind of this concept about anecdotes rule on Capitol Hill that it takes one good story to sway a member to vote. And that often gets dismissed a little bit, but really that experience of hearing from somebody seeing ... Again, this idea of having to write a term paper on a phone or having to sit in the parking lot of a library at night so you can access your courses. They hear that. That resonates. And the reason there's been bipartisan support for students and institutions is because of stories like that and hearing from people. Sarah and I, we just get to sort of ride the wave of the work people are doing across the country. It's really been remarkable response we've gotten.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Well and it's not just sitting in the library parking lot, all night, right? It's sitting in a library parking lot without access to a restroom, or access to a meal. And so our students are unbelievably hardworking in this scenario. I think it's so important to acknowledge that our students are trying to do the right thing in every possible way. I think it is really easy to look at the exceptions to where COVID outbreaks have happened or people aren't following the rules, but that's not the majority story that's happening out there in higher ed. It really is those students who are just trying to make it and just trying to get by that really need our support and none more so than our Dreamers. And that's a population that has not gotten the support that they needed from sometimes federal, sometimes state, sometimes institutional. Been excluded from funding, been included for other funding, but ultimately are still a bit invisible. And I'm really hoping that this iteration of the DREAM Act will be able to be codified a little more permanently. I know, Sarah, you spend a lot of your time working through DACA and Dreamers work. What do we know now?

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah, this is actually a really important week. The House is going to be considering H.R. 6, which is the American Dream and Promise Act. And Jill, as you alluded to, Senator Durbin has reintroduced the DREAM Act of 2021. And so both pieces of legislation would make the DACA program permanent and provide a pathway to citizenship for our Dreamers. Dreamers is a much larger population than DACA. We know that there are just under 700,000 DACA recipients right now in the program, but we do know that there's over a million Dreamers that would qualify for the status. And those really are people that have been brought to the United States at a very young age, through no fault of their own, they're U.S. citizenship in every way possible, except for the actual documentation. And a lot of those people are at our schools. And I think we want to support them in the best way possible. And Jill, I know that this has been an interest of NASPA. This is actually the 20th year the DREAM Act has been introduced. And so we've been having this conversation for at least 20 years about how to help these young people. And so we're really hopeful this year will be the year. Obviously the DACA program has been upheld so far by the courts. And so folks are still able to register for DACA and renew their DACA papers, but we would like to expand the program and help those that may not fit into the rules that were put in place back in 2012.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Senator Durbin has been the champion for this bill for a long time, but it's also been bipartisanly supported for a long time. And I think there's a false narrative out in space that it is a single party concern, but it's really, really not. Sarah, can you elucidate where the support from all sides of the aisle are coming from?

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah. There's always been bipartisan support for the DREAM Act and for this population. I think the original DREAM Act was co-sponsored by Senator Hatch. The current version is co-sponsored by Senator Graham. I think the problem is when the program or the legislation becomes political. So right now the bill that's being considered by the House, I think in previous years it may have had bipartisan support, but because of some of the things that are happening on the border and concerns about illegal immigration, I think that's causing some Republicans to be a little more careful about whether or not they're going to vote for the legislation, which is upsetting.

Dr. Jill Creighton: I agree with you. I hope this is the year. It looks like it has some interesting outside forces that are playing at hand this time around, but I think that's true every time. So we'll see what comes out of that. When might we expect a vote on that?

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah. So Jill, they're actually scheduled to vote in the House on Thursday on the American Dream and Promise Act, but this is the first step in a long process. And I think that Congress is somewhat hampered because the program is still alive right now because it's a Supreme Court decision. We're waiting to see what's going to happen in a court case out of Texas. And if for some reason that judge rules that DACA is unconstitutional, that's going to force Congress to actually take action. And so I think that the House is teeing up a bill that's ready to move to the Senate, and Senator Durbin is teeing up the DREAM Act if it could be actually considered. And hopefully we will see some sort of final push for it later this year.

Dr. Jill Creighton: The other policy thing I think on every student affairs professional's mind is the new executive order that was just released on Title IX. We had a lot of questions on the NASPA side about the regulatory and sub-regulatory actions that happened that were different under the Obama era administration versus the Trump era administration and the way the rule making process came to be, because they were different versions and they had different forces of law. I like to talk about it as the law is Title IX, but the implementation of the law is the guidance and the guidance still has the force of what we're required to do, but I think it can get really confusing. So I'm wondering if first we could talk a little bit about the difference between that regulatory and sub-regulatory guidance and then also what we think the Biden era administration might be doing to untangle the web of what was codified in 2018.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah. I think you're referring to the Obama era guidance that we had that looked at Title IX and specifically at campus sexual assault. And that was just guidance. It wasn't a formal rule. There wasn't rulemaking activity around it. And so when the Trump administration came in, it was easy enough for them to kind of withdraw that guidance, which they did. And then they set about doing formal rulemaking. And so that rulemaking process, that took three full years, I think. And they did, it result in final rules. Because the rule had been finalized, the Biden administration is going to have to unravel it in a way where they ... They can't withdraw the final rule until they have a new rule to put into place. So the executive order that we saw issued last week calls on the Secretary of Education to start reviewing that final rule. And we believe that that's the first step for the Biden administration to start unraveling that.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Is it possible that we see this happen with every presidential transition in perpetuity?

Sarah Spreitzer: Oh God, I hope not. It's interesting because we've had legislative proposals around Title IX, which I don't think any of us want to do either, but it was kind of like opening Pandora's box. So once that guidance was issued, they have to do something on Title IX because of that.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Jon, you have anything you want to add there?

Jon Fansmith: No, I was actually going to touch your point about every administration doing this. It is one of the things that Congress doesn't get a whole lot done these days. And so administrations come in and they use guidance and they use regulation to do what they can't get done in legislation. We're talking about this in terms of Title IX, but it's really across the board. I mean, the Obama administration did tons of things in regulation and guidance because they were things that were important to them and they want to achieve them. And then the Trump administration came in with the idea of we're going to blow up every single thing the Obama administration did and do what we want to do.

And then Biden administration has come in, and you mentioned executive order. I think he set a record both for the first day and first month of executive orders issued. They're doing just what the two previous administrations did and that's understandable in the political sense, but it tends to be from the viewpoint of a campus that has to figure out, well, what exactly is the federal government telling me I have to do? Really, really tough. Because we have these rules that are binding, have the force of law, as of last summer, that schools have to be in compliance with. Now, that's what they're required to do, but we also know that the current administration will move as quickly as they can. Maybe not as quickly as people would like, but as quickly as they can to undo them and put something else in place. It's a really hard position. And I do think this has become the new norm in a way that's politically very understandable, but the practical implications are really, really difficult for the people on the end of it on the campus. It's a bit of a mess, honestly.

Dr. Jill Creighton: That practical piece is so important. For example, in the State of Washington, our student behavior rules are directly associated with the Administrative Procedure Act, but also our student code of conduct is codified in the Washington administrative code. So every time there's a change, we actually have to go through a full rule making process on our end. So by the time things get announced and they say, "Oh, you have 60 days to implement these." Well, guess what? Our rule making process can take half a year, if it's not an emergent component. So the ripple effect is long. And then we sit in this space where we are trying to do the best we can to be in compliance with both the federal rules and the state rules, which are very different for those periods of time.

Jon Fansmith: Right. Yeah. It's such a great example. Again, also in a lot of cases, they are rules that were put in place despite RBM and objections. ACE has filed comments on all of these regulations. We've done what we could to try and change or block some of them from coming into place, but ultimately the administration has pretty unilateral powers in this, so we see rules like Title IX that look like things we very much didn't want to you see enacted. So it's not just the difficulty of state and local and federal compliance, it's also that ultimately you're going to have to comply with something that you may strongly disagree with. The thing doesn't fit your campus. I'll go back to my previous statement, it's a mess.

Dr. Jill Creighton: It's a mess. And it's also harmful to students. At the end of the day, the cross-examination rule in particular is very harmful. We've seen it in action. It's harmful for the complainant. It's harmful for the respondent. And it's very traumatizing for those who are trying to make a decision in the case as well. And we have student members of our hearing boards all across the country who are hearing these types of testimonies. I'm looking forward to seeing what changes. Senator Patty Murray is a representative of my state and also the current chair of the Senate health committee. And I watched her do the hearing to confirm Honorable Miguel Cardona. And she was very clear in her closing statement that I am looking forward to watching you change the Title IX rules. And that was a very clear signal to expect that. But Sarah, I'm sorry, you've had a couple of thoughts here.

Sarah Spreitzer: No, that's okay. I was going to say that I just don't think it's going to happen anytime fast. Like, unfortunately I think we're going to have the Trump rule for at least a year. And I guess to Jon's point we had pushed back on the Trump administration implementing it during the pandemic. We had tried to tap the brakes to say, can you give us time to try and do this because our institutions are struggling with so much right now. But beyond Title IX, Jon made a good point about what they're going to be doing with other rules. So we've already had indications that they're going to be looking at borrower defense and gainful employment. And borrower defense is a big one for students trying to provide some relief to students who may have taken out loans and not actually received an education that's worthwhile.

Dr. Jill Creighton: That borrow defense component is something that not only affects current students, but also I would say nearly 100% of student affairs professionals. Most of the profession is employed with a master's degree or above. And also most of the profession enters what we would probably label as underemployment in terms of salary. So that Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is critical to the success of so many professionals. And I think I saw a statistic the other day that said less than 40 total loans have ever been fully, fully forgiven, and that's scary for us.

Sarah Spreitzer: I think it was less than 1% under the Trump administration. But yeah, that's Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The borrower defense has to do with students who took out loans and then their degree is completely worthless. So yes, two important programs that I think that the Biden administration can do a lot to strengthen and fix and that students could start seeing forgiveness.

Jon Fansmith: I think it's important to note borrower defense is really where, and it's supposedly for profits, it's where somebody defrauded you into signing up and took your benefits. And in that case, the government has a rule sensibly that if you were defrauded into signing over your student loans and your Pell Grant money to an institution, you shouldn't have to repay those loans and you should get your Pell Grant benefits back. Obviously, we're very much in favor of seeing that this administration has committed publicly to doing that.

But Public Service Loan Forgiveness and some of these other areas, Student Loan Forgiveness, it's a really interesting area right now because Public Service Loan Forgiveness, frankly, the Obama administration didn't do a very good job managing that program. The Trump administration were pretty openly hostile to the program itself and continue not to do a good job managing. It's not going to be easy for this administration to make that work, but it's something that a lot of people, particularly as you pointed out, your members are looking at, they're in the public service, they might've made decisions about where to live, where to work, what to do based on the idea that there's sort of a light at the end of the tunnel, and if we don't get this right, there's a lot of people who will have not just this financial impact, that's really, really important, but also all these repercussions for other decisions they made. We're going to keep working with them. The will is there, but sometimes as people probably know, in Washington, the will doesn't always provide a way. Definitely something to keep track of.

Dr. Jill Creighton: I think the last component of that, that I find really interesting is this rumor mill around double Pell Grants. What can you tell us about that?

Jon Fansmith: I think it's way more than a rumor. This is one of those things that for a long time we've known, Pell Grants, and I assume most people listening are familiar with them, but if they're not, it's a federal grant. It's the basis of federal financial aid. It's grant money. It doesn't need to be repaid. It goes to low-income students. And the amount you get is set by a relatively complicated formula that's determined by how much money Congress wants to spend in a year and a formula that determines how needy a student is. So the most needy students get the largest possible award. And it phases out over various factors. Right now, the maximum Pell award is about $6,500. And that pays for about a third of tuition and fees at four-year public colleges in this country at this point. When Pell was created, it paid for almost 80% of tuition and fees at a four-year public institution back in 1975. It is clearly declined in terms of its purchasing power and its value. And that's not because somebody is oppositional to it. Pell is generally really bipartisan. People like Pell, but simply every year you go through a process where Congress has to figure out how much money do we have and how much are we going to put towards X, Y, and Z. And sometimes that decision is really something as difficult as, do we fund pandemic research or cancer research, or do we do a significant increase in Pell Grants? It's not to say they're making bad choices, they're making tough choices. But what they haven't done is done enough on Pell Grants.

And so a lot of organizations, ACE is leading in the higher education association with their colleagues, with NASPA, to push hard for doubling the Pell Grant. To get it back up to a level of support that would enable students to really meaningfully take advantage of educational opportunities to access the schools of their choice. It would functionally, if it was doubled, be about $13,000. It would make cost of attendance at community colleges essentially free for low income students. I mean, that's the kind of thing that could have huge repercussions for society. And I think it's gaining momentum now because people are beginning to understand what the pandemic has taught us. It's not people like me who can work from home, who had economic stability during this pandemic. There's a huge population of people who with a little additional post-secondary education, can weather these economic storms better, can produce and boost our economy in a million different ways, and are deserving of this kind of support. It's expensive. Doing this will cost Congress $400 billion, maybe more, depending on some estimates, that's not small amount of money by any one standard, but what you get back forward is so incredible, and it will touch millions upon millions of students. It'll open the doors of college at all levels to people who would never have considered it. And it makes it achievable without debts or other things that may dissuade people from going after college education in the first place.

So, it's huge. We have sent a letter out. It's going to show up probably by the time this has aired, I don't want to make promises. That will have over a thousand organizations, institutions that signed on saying we support doubling the Pell Grant. It is broad spread and support. Luckily, we have an administration that included as a campaign promise. So we plan to hold them to that promise and push as hard as we can to help them get Congress to do the right thing here. More than a rumor, I hope, and I'm knocking wood, crossing my fingers, doing all that. We're going to push like hell to get it to happen.

Dr. Jill Creighton: 400 billion doesn't even sound like a real number. So it's fascinating to wrap one's head around that a bit.

Jon Fansmith: We spent the last year talking about bills in the trillion. 400 billion actually seems really affordable right now.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Well, is there anything else I can share with you all about the student affairs side of the house before we head into our break?

Sarah Spreitzer: I'd love to know, are you guys doing anything to prepare your student affairs professionals for the fall? Do you think that there are things that are going to shift after a year of the pandemic?

Dr. Jill Creighton: I think a lot of the sessions that I'm seeing at annual conference, and I think this episode will come out right as annual conference finishes, but there's so many sessions that are focused on, what are we doing differently? And then what does it mean to return? I know that I'm in contact with a lot of other deans of students throughout the nation, and we're all talking about, what does it mean to bring back students, for example, into densified residence halls? We did not see the transmission of COVID that we thought might happen if we had densified residence halls. And so we're able to make decisions based on the data that we do have that shows that having a roommate may be safe. And so with vaccinations coming, with the data set that we gathered this year, I think we're going to be in better shape for the fall in terms of return to a "normal environment." But that normal environment will never exist anymore because our juniors are going to be the only ones on campus who remembered what it was like in the before time, as I call it. Our freshmen and sophomores may have never set foot on our campuses. And if they did, they didn't have a normal experience. There are students that have never left their high school bedrooms and maybe coming at age 20 with a bit of an arrested development around that young adulthood and independence.

So thinking a lot about what that sophomore and junior experience are going to be is really important in addition to traditionally welcoming our first year students. And I know a lot of us are still focused on hybridizing or de-densifying where it's appropriate and safe. I know there's conversations at the CDC right now about three feet versus six feet of distance in classrooms. That makes a huge difference for how everyone plans for instruction in the fall. And so a lot of it is wait and see and plan for all scenarios. So in that way, it feels a lot like last summer, just with much better data to help us make decisions.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah, I saw that CDC was supposedly coming out with additional guidance for institutions of higher education. So hopefully that will be sooner rather than later, so that folks can use it in their fall planning.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Welcome back for, I think what is somewhat of our infamous lightening round at this point in time. I've been told a couple of times that I should adjust my questions, but maybe for season five, we'll get there. But we've got Jon and Sarah playing our seven questions in 90 seconds. Here we go. Number one, if you are a conference keynote speaker, what would your entrance music be?

Sarah Spreitzer: Mine would be probably something depressing like Morrissey or the Smiths.

Jon Fansmith: Oh, Jump Around by House of Pain.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Tone setting. Number two, when you were five years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Sarah Spreitzer: Archaeologist.

Jon Fansmith: Sadly, a lawyer.

Dr. Jill Creighton: You're a lawyer adjacent. Number three, who is your most influential professional mentor?

Jon Fansmith: Oh, this is such a cliché, but Terry Hartle, who is my boss right now. Promise I'm not sucking up. He's just been incredibly helpful to me.

Sarah Spreitzer: I'll go above Jon and say Ted Mitchell.

Jon Fansmith: Oh, trumping me with Terry's boss. All right.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Ted Mitchell being the current CEO and president of ACE. Former under secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. I see-

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah, little more prestigious than Terry, who will never listen to this.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Number four, who's your favorite author, personal or professional?

Jon Fansmith: I've always loved Albert Camus actually. I would say that's probably my favorite author.

Sarah Spreitzer: And I'd say E. M. Forster or Carolyn Keene who wrote all the Nancy Drew mysteries.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Number five, what is your essential higher education read?

Jon Fansmith: I love the idea that it would be something long form. I am so short of time that my essential read is inside writing the Chronicle every morning.

Sarah Spreitzer: I'd say POLITICO Morning Education.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Number six, the podcast you've spent the most hours listening to in the last year?

Jon Fansmith: Jordan and Jesse, Go, I just find it funny.

Sarah Spreitzer: I mean, obviously, what about dotEDU, Jon?

Jon Fansmith: I mean, right. dotEDU, I'm sorry, dotEDU.

Sarah Spreitzer: I can't believe that's not on the list.

Jon Fansmith: Which I also find very funny.

Sarah Spreitzer: And I would take My Favorite Murder or dotEDU, either one.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Oh, I got a Murderino in the house.

Jon Fansmith: Sarah takes advantage of hearing my bad answers that they give better ones. I feel like this is unfair.

Dr. Jill Creighton: And finally, number seven, any shout outs you'd like to give, personal or professional?

Jon Fansmith: I will give a shout out to my wife and kids because about once every 10 episodes of ours, they actually listen to my podcast. So maybe this will be the one that hits.

Sarah Spreitzer: And I would say my mom, because she's actually the only one I know who listens to this.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Thank you both so much for playing lightning round, you have made it through. You did great.

Jon Fansmith: Are we allowed to send directions? Like for the record afterwards of creating podcasts?

Dr. Jill Creighton: Yeah, just send me a cyclical, we'll throw it on. If folks would like to connect with you after the show, how might they be able to find you?

Jon Fansmith: You can find contact information and pictures of us and all the other stuff at ACE website, www.acenet.edu. And that has contacts for email and phone contact and all that other stuff. We really actually do welcome people reaching out, not just about the podcast, but about things that are affecting their campus or just concerned about in the higher ed space. Encourage people who are listening to do that.

Dr. Jill Creighton: Thank you so much, Sarah and Jon, for sharing your voice with us today. NASPA listeners, please check out dotEDU, especially if you are policy curious, it's a great space to hear from some of our national experts. And then also I'll throw a teaser out there. Jon, I need to know if you ever got your flip-flops.

Jon Fansmith: No. And that's particularly disappointing because Ted even lowered the bar to sending me virtual flip-flops, which honestly just seems like a picture of flip-flops. So if he can't even live up to that promise, I've got some doubts about his leadership ability, I got to say.

Dr. Jill Creighton: So if you want to know what we're chatting about, please go check out some of their most recent episodes of dotEDU to learn about the mystery of flip-flops. Thank you so much, both of you for sharing your voice with us today.

Jon Fansmith: Well, thanks for having us.

Sarah Spreitzer: Thanks, Jill.

Jon Fansmith: To listen to earlier episodes, then subscribe to dotEDU. You can find us on Apple podcast, Stitcher, Google podcast, and wherever you get your podcasts. For show notes and links to resources mentioned in the episode, you can go to our website at A-C-E-N-E-T.edu/podcast. And you can also use our email podcast at A-C-E-N-E-T.edu, for suggestions, for upcoming shows or guests you'd like to see, or just thoughts on how we're doing. Before we go, I'd like to thank Carly O'Connell, Laurie Arnston, Audrey Hamilton and Malcolm Moore for the exceptional producers of dotEDU and make us sound as good as we do every episode. And finally, I'd like to thank you for listening.

About the Podcast

​Each episode of dotEDU presents a deep dive into a major public policy issue impacting college campuses and students across the country. Hosts from ACE are joined by guest experts to lead you through thought-provoking conversations on topics such as campus free speech, diversity in admissions, college costs and affordability, and more. Find all episodes of the podcast at the dotEDU page.

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