Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 21, 2018

The recently ousted editor of The New York Review of Books is blaming university presses for his lost job. Ian Buruma left the position this week amid a furor over an article he published by a Canadian broadcaster who has been accused of sexually assaulting women. The article was immediately questioned by many who said it downplayed the accusations against the broadcaster in ways that undercut the movement to prevent sexual assault. In an interview with the Dutch publication Vrij Nederland, Buruma defended his decision to publish the article and blamed university presses for his demise. He said that the publisher "made clear to me that university publishers, whose advertisements make publication of The New York Review of Books partly possible, were threatening a boycott. They are afraid of the reactions on the campuses, where this is an inflammatory topic. Because of this, I feel forced to resign -- in fact it is a capitulation to social media and university presses."

But Peter Berkery, executive director of the Association of University Presses, told The Washington Post he knew of no boycott campaign. “I know that the NYRB was concerned that some of their advertisers might ultimately choose to make a statement through their advertising dollars, but I’m unaware of any organized effort to coordinate a boycott,” he said.

September 21, 2018

Cornell University on Thursday announced that Brian Wansink, John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing, resigned and has been removed from all teaching and research duties until that resignation takes effect at the end of the academic year. Wansink, who is accused of academic misconduct, will spend the rest of his time at Cornell cooperating with a review of his prior research, Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff said in a statement. This week, JAMA Network announced that it had retracted six articles that included Wansink as an author. Notices in two network publications said that JAMA had posted expressions of the concern about the validity of Wansink’s research in May and asked Cornell to conduct an independent evaluation. Cornell said in a response to JAMA that it did not have access to the original data and was unable to verify the studies’ validity.

Kotlikoff said in his statement that Cornell had been reviewing allegations of misconduct against Wansink for more than a year, and that a faculty committee found he had misreported research data, used problematic statistical techniques, failed to properly document and preserve research results, and engaged in “inappropriate authorship.” The findings were reviewed and upheld by the dean of the faculty, he said. Cornell "remains committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and we are reviewing our research policies to ensure we can meet this commitment.”

Wansink came under scrutiny after he published a 2016 blog post praising an unpaid researcher in his lab who “never said ‘no’” to mining data on behavior at an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet for significant results, even when initial research questions failed to produce such results. Wansink, who saw a group of other papers retracted and corrected prior to JAMA’s most recent announcement, according to Retraction Watch, has previously defended his approach and his work. “I stand by and am immensely proud of the work done here at the lab,” he told BuzzFeed News earlier this year. “The Food and Brand Lab [at Cornell] does not use ‘low-quality data’, nor does it seek to publish ‘subpar studies.’”

September 21, 2018

Harvard University has completed a record-setting fund-raising campaign, raising $9.62 billion over five years. The campaign was launched in 2013 with a goal of $6.5 billion. The campaign raised $1.3 billion for financial aid.

Check on the status of other fund-raising campaigns in Inside Higher Ed's fund-raising database.

September 21, 2018

Telemarketers from several student loan relief companies falsely represented themselves as employees of the federal government and told borrowers they could not enroll in debt-relief programs like income-based repayment on their own, the New York attorney general alleged in a lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court Thursday.

The suit also alleges that the loan-relief companies falsely told borrowers they could eliminate their student loan debt by making payments to the companies. The companies would typically charge borrowers $1,000 for those services, which are available without charge through the Department of Education.

“These companies sought to line their own pockets by taking advantage of students who were simply trying to pay for their education,” said Attorney General Barbara Underwood. “My office will continue to do everything in our power to protect students -- and all New Yorkers -- from predatory scammers.”

The lawsuit alleged the companies contact borrowers through personalized direct mail and Facebook advertisements before the telemarketers sell students on the fraudulent services. Some student borrowers missed payments on their loans because they believed they had addressed their loans through the companies.

The companies named in the suit are Debt Resolve, Inc.; Hutton Ventures, LLC; Progress Advocates, LLC; Progress Advocates Group, LLC; Student Advocates, LLC; Student Advocates Group, LLC; Student Advocates Team, LLC; Student Loan Care, LLC; and Student Loan Support LLC.

September 21, 2018

A new analysis by Gallup and Strada released today shows that students who have a good job upon graduation earn more money immediately after graduating and in the long-term scope of their careers than students who take between two and 12 months to secure a good job.

A "good job" was defined by each student, and the data was pulled from a Gallup-Strada Alumni Survey that interviewed more than 4,429 U.S. adults between 2010 and 2016. (Note: Inside Higher Ed works with Gallup on some surveys but played no role in this one.) Students who did not seek a job immediately after graduation, such as students who decided to continue their education, were excluded from the analysis.

"Forty-three percent of recent graduates who had a good job waiting for them upon graduation now earn at least $60,000 in personal income, compared with fewer than two in 10 graduates who took two to less than 12 months (18%) or one year or more (14%) to find a good job," the article read. "Additionally, more than a third (38%) of recent college graduates who took a year or more to land a good job now earn less than $24,000 in personal income."

The article doesn't control for differences in students' majors or career paths, potentially important factors, as careers in certain industries, such a technology and finance, have higher earning potential and often recruit students en masse before graduation. The article also did not break down results by race, gender or ethnicity, which can also play a role in securing employment and earning potential.

September 21, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Hilda Speicher, professor of psychology at Albertus Magnus College, determines that as time goes on, being unhitched is becoming easier. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 20, 2018

The average student loan debt last year for graduates of four-year colleges who took out loans was $28,650, according to the latest version of an annual report from the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS). The average amount was up $300, or 1 percent, from 2016.

Figures from the report were based on debt levels from college seniors who graduated from public and private colleges last year. Roughly two-thirds (65 percent) of this group took on at least some student debt.

"While student loans can be an excellent investment, there is a crisis among the millions of students who struggle to repay their loans, and they are disproportionately students of color or from low-income families," James Kvaal, the group's president, said in a written statement. "We need to invest more in student aid and in colleges to reduce students' need to borrow, and make their loans easier to repay."

Average student debt levels have increased more slowly in recent years. While its unclear why this is happening, TICAS said increases in state spending and grant aid are likely contributors to the trend.

September 20, 2018

Jay Gonzalez, the Democratic candidate for governor in Massachusetts, has proposed to tax private college endowments worth at least $1 billion to pay for various transportation and education initiatives, WBUR reported. The federal endowment tax was largely backed by Republicans, with critics saying it would be particularly damaging in Democratic-leaning states. Indeed, the Gonzalez plan -- already being opposed by private colleges in the state -- would hit nine colleges in Massachusetts.

September 20, 2018

Colorado Mountain College today announced the creation of an income-share agreement fund aimed at undocumented students and others who are not eligible to receive federal financial aid, including Dreamers, or students who are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The public, four-year institution will allow qualifying students to pay no up-front tuition in exchange for a fixed percentage of their income after graduation, for a fixed period of time. Income-share agreements, or ISAs, are being offered by a small but growing number of institutions, including Purdue University. Colorado Mountain College said its goal is to create a financial aid option for a group with limited or no other options, and to create an affordable repayment method.

The new fund to support the college's ISAs is called Fund Sueños (the Dream Fund). Private donors to the college's foundation will provide initial support, with repayments from graduates replenishing it over time.

“Our educational and social mission extends to all Coloradans,” Carrie Hauser, Colorado Mountain College's president, said in a written statement. “Fund Sueños is designed to break down persistent financial barriers for DREAMers and other students to ensure we are inclusive and accessible to everyone, modeling the democratic promise of higher education.”

The announcement drew praise from John Hickenlooper, Colorado's Democratic governor.

"DREAMers deserve the opportunity to pursue an education," Hickenlooper said in a written statement. "These students need champions like the leaders at Colorado Mountain College and its donors who continue to stitch a safety net in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform."

September 20, 2018

The Education Department received about 28,000 applications for Public Service Loan Forgiveness as of June 30 of this year but so far has approved just under 300 applications for loan discharge, according to new federal data released Wednesday.

The low number of approvals to this point is not necessarily surprising. The loan forgiveness program was established in 2007, and borrowers must make 120 qualifying monthly payments to qualify.

The majority of applications (about 70 percent) were denied because borrowers did not meet one of several program requirements such as the correct number of qualifying payments or employment at an eligible public entity or nonprofit firm. Some of the borrowers who had applications rejected could still receive forgiveness after Congress earlier this year designated $350 million for an eligibility fix for borrowers whose payments were not counted because of loan servicer errors.

Another 28 percent of applications were denied because information was missing or incomplete.

Of the 289 borrowers approved for loan forgiveness, 96 have already received full loan discharge totaling $5.52 million.

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