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Quick Takes: WVU Pledges to Change Degree Record-Keeping, Zimpher Is Likely SUNY Choice, Higher Ed Without Frills, Arizona State Pays $850,000 in Rape Suit, Aetna to Pay $5M for Incorrect Charges, Failed Effort in Britain, Singularity U.

February 3, 2009
  • West Virginia University on Monday announced that a review of its degrees awarded found discrepancies suggesting that up to 261 undergraduate degrees and 27 in the executive M.B.A. program may have been inappropriately awarded. The university does not plan to rescind the degrees, however, noting that the investigations did not conclusively find that the degrees were not earned -- only problems with record-keeping that could mean that. The university also released a report from the consulting arm of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, which found numerous instances in which records policies at the university were not consistent with best practices. The report recommended 29 policy changes, and the university announced that it would adopt them all. The reviews followed a scandal last year -- leading to the resignation of President Mike Garrison -- in which an investigation by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette revealed that an M.B.A. had been inappropriately awarded to Heather Bresch, the daughter of Gov. Joe Manchin. When the reports first surfaced, senior university officials denied any problems, but they were later forced to acknowledge numerous inconsistencies with university policies in the handling of Bresch's degree.
  • Nancy L. Zimpher, president of the University of Cincinnati, has emerged as the final choice to head the State University of New York, The New York Times reported. At Cincinnati, and previously as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Zimpher has championed urban universities, promoting close connections between campuses and their regions. The SUNY search, which has featured many delays and shifts, has coincided with the dramatic collapse of New York State's economy. SUNY enrolls more than 400,000 students on its 64 campuses.
  • Would significant numbers of students opt for no-frills education? Southern New Hampshire University is one of the institutions experimenting to find out. In addition to its main campus (tuition of $25,000 for classes and a full campus, including a climbing wall), it is starting low cost, minimalist branch campuses in locations such as office buildings (tuition $10,000), The Boston Globe reported.
  • To settle a suit by a former student who says she was raped by an Arizona State University football player, the institution has agreed to pay $850,000 and the Arizona Board of Regents has agreed to new procedures for handling reports of sexual harassment and violence, The Arizona Republic reported. Campus police in the case found that "non-consensual sexual intercourse" took place, but local prosecutors declined to prosecute, saying that a conviction was unlikely. University officials denied wrongdoing in handling the case, but said that they settled in the interests of avoiding legal expenses and minimizing pain to those involved. The football player denied the rape, but the lawsuit noted that he had been forced out of the university the summer prior to the rape allegations after he was found to have engaged in inappropriate sexual comments and touching and exposing himself to women, but was later allowed to return to the campus -- and to rejoin the football team -- despite not having received counseling.
  • Aetna has agreed to pay $5 million, plus interest and penalties, to students and former students who were charged too much for health insurance because of the use of outdated rates for some patient care. The agreement was announced by Andrew M. Cuomo, attorney general of New York State. More than 73,000 students at more than 200 colleges nationwide will receive payments.
  • Despite sustained and well financed efforts to attract more students of moderate means to British universities, higher education remains largely stratified by class, The Guardian reported. Analyzing data from a variety of sources, the newspaper found that 55 percent of students at the most prestigious universities come from the most affluent quartile of families. Those in the bottom quartile by wealth make up only 6 percent of enrollments at these universities.
  • Singularity University has announced its birth -- as a nontraditional Silicon Valley institution starting off with short-term programs, backed by big names in technology (including Google and NASA), and boasting of the very large ambition of addressing "humanity's grand challenges." The curriculum will focus on interdisciplinary study in 10 fields: future studies and forecasting; networks and computing systems; biotechnology and bioinformatics; nanotechnology; medicine, neuroscience and human enhancement; AI, robotics, and cognitive computing; energy and ecological systems; space and physical sciences; policy, law and ethics; and finance and entrepreneurship.
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