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Quick Takes: Texas Loan Shortfall, Tale of a Trade School, ACLU Backs Churchill, iPhones Not to Blame, American's Choice, Missed Paychecks, Accreditors Fire Back, 61 Presidents Sign Anti-Rankings Pledge, Oxford Revises Admissions

July 23, 2007
  • A budget shortfall in Texas has led state officials to eliminate no-interest loans that thousands of students were expecting for the fall, The Dallas Morning News reported. Last year, Texas had enough money for 12,800 students, but this year there is only enough for 9,900 students.
  • An article and a series of documents in today's New York Times explore the difficulties government officials had regulating a trade school, the American Center for Career Training, even when it lost accreditation. The school's owner didn't respond to most of the questions posed by the newspaper, which found many examples of what it called "bent rules," including filling in the names of other institutions on students' aid applications.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union and its Colorado chapter have jointly written the University of Colorado Board of Regents, urging it not to fire Ward Churchill. The board meets tomorrow and is expected to fire the controversial ethnic studies professor over allegations of research misconduct, which he denies. Churchill maintains that he is being forced out because of his controversial writings about 9/11 and other topics. The ACLU letter acknowledged that Churchill's job is endangered, technically, because of the findings of misconduct. But the ACLU said that the inquiry took place in a "poisoned atmosphere" in which his 9/11 comments led many politicians to seek his ouster. "The investigation of Professor Churchill's scholarship cannot be separated from the indefensible lynch-mob furor that generated the initial calls for his termination," the ACLU wrote. "Firing Professor Churchill in these circumstances does not sent a message about academic rigor and standards of professional integrity. On the contrary, it sends a warning to the academic community that politically unpopular dissenters speak out at their peril."
  • Duke University announced Friday that iPhones were not the source of recent disruptions in wireless service -- as many believed earlier in the week. The actual problems, which relate to the deployment of a large Cisco-based wireless network, are being fixed.
  • American University on Friday named Cornelius Kerwin, its interim president, to take on the job permanently. Kerwin, who rose through the ranks at American to become provost, has been widely praised on campus for restoring progress in the wake of the scandal that led to the ouster of Benjamin Ladner as president in 2005. Ladner's lavish spending was at the center of that scandal, and Kerwin sent immediate signals that he was taking a different approach to perks. He told The Washington Post that he would be driving his own car (Ladner had a driver) and that, at least for now, he would be staying in his own house.
  • Florida A&M University, which has faced a series of financial shortfalls in recent years, is investigating why 242 employees were not paid last week, The Tallahassee Democrat reported.
  • The Council for Higher Education Accreditation is questioning the substance and implications of a new report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni attacking the accreditation system. The ACTA report, "Why Accreditation Doesn't Work and What Policymakers Can Do About It," argues that accreditation does nothing to promote quality and that Congress should end the link between accreditation and eligibility for student aid. While the CHEA response said that the ACTA study raised some legitimate questions, the accreditors blasted the study as being based on "breathtaking generalizations," for offering "little or no evidence" to back up its claims, and for failing to recognize many changes in acreditation over the last decade. The accreditors also noted that the ACTA is led by Anne D. Neal, who recently was named to the Education Department panel that reviews the performance of accreditors. The response to ACTA asked: "Can accreditors going before [the panel] expect evenhanded consideration of their efforts when at least one member of this important body has already publicly declared that accreditation is 'ineffective' and 'does nothing to ensure educational quality'?"
  • Sixty-one college and university presidents have now signed a letter pledging not to participate in the "reputational" part of the U.S. News & World Report rankings, and not to use rankings in promotional materials. The letter, being circulated by the Education Conservancy, started off in May with 12 presidents.
  • The University of Oxford is for the first time considering detailed information about the quality of applicants' high schools, The Guardian reported. British politicians have criticized Oxford for not doing enough to recruit and admit low-income students. The new system is designed to identify talent from a broader range of high schools. Officials said that in the past they were unable to distinguish between students with similar academic records -- but where one student had many educational and financial advantages and the other student achieved success despite attending a substandard high school.
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