Higher Education Quick Takes
Education Department staff members have recommended that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges -- which evaluates community colleges in California -- be permitted to operate for another year, while it works on fixing problems that the department has identified. The recommendation may be accepted or rejected next week at a meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, which advises the education secretary on which accreditors to recognize. (Such recognition is crucial as students are eligible for federal student aid only if they enroll at institutions accredited by recognized accreditors.) The department notified the accreditor in August that it was out of compliance with many rules -- and that action cheered advocates for the City College of San Francisco. In July, the accreditor said that it would strip the college of its accreditation -- a decision that has led to intense scrutiny of the accreditor's review, which has been blasted by faculty unions and others as seriously flawed.
The Education Department's staff report says that there has been enough progress at fixing problems at the accreditation agency to give it another 12 months to improve, but it outlines areas of continued lack of compliance as well. Many of the remaining issues are broad and serious. Among them: "the agency must demonstrate wide acceptance of the agency's standards, policies, procedures, and decisions to grant or deny accreditation by educators" and "the agency must demonstrate that academic personnel, as generally defined by the accrediting agency and wider higher education community, are represented on its evaluation teams" and "the agency must demonstrate that it evaluates the appropriateness of the measures of student achievement chosen by its institutions." While these issues extend beyond the controversy over the City College of San Francisco, they relate to criticisms made of the accreditor's handling of that case.
Administrators at the University of Michigan are delaying a controversial attempt at cost savings amid faculty uproar. University officials had planned to move 275 staffers from across campus into a single building on the edge of Ann Arbor to save money. But on Monday, university administrators said the move, scheduled to begin in April, would be delayed "beyond April." It is unclear if the university still intends to finish the move by next fall, its initial deadline to consolidate scores of staffers under one roof. The "shared services" plan has met with opposition from faculty concerned about losing trusted staffers. There are also questions about how much Michigan will actually save as a result. Administrators have gradually bowed to this concern since faculty began going public in recent weeks. The statement Monday from top Michigan administrators, including Provost Martha Pollack, is the clearest sign yet that faculty have been heard.
"We will bring faculty into the process immediately to evaluate the timeline and to ensure the establishment of a shared services program that is structured to meet the needs of our faculty and our students while achieving necessary cost savings," the statement said "Each school and college will work directly with its faculty so the ultimate outcome is one that provides adequate support for teaching and research."
University officials initially hoped to save $17 million using shared services but now that figure is down to as little as $2 million in the first year and $5 to $6 million per year in the near term after that. Some of that savings is offset by new costs, including $4 million to fix up the building staff are supposed to be moving to, $1 million a year to lease the building and nearly $12 million for consultant Accenture to work on shared services and other cost-saving efforts.
The University of California at Santa Barbara and local health authorities on Monday confirmed that a fourth student at the university has contracted meningitis. The outbreak at UCSB -- combined with a larger outbreak at Princeton University -- has many campus health officials concerned. Health officials in California are stepping up efforts to provide antibiotics to students who may have been exposed to meningitis and to discourage activities such as large parties that may increase the chances of the disease's spread.
Julius Nyang'oro, the former chair and former professor of African studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was indicted Monday on a felony charge of accepting $12,000 for a course he did not teach, The News & Observer reported. The charge is a lower level felony, authorities said, and unlikely even upon a conviction to lead to jail time. But the indictment is another milestone in a scandal about no-show courses -- many of them taken by athletes. Nyang'oro -- who has not commented on the allegations -- left his faculty position as the university stepped up its investigation in the classes.
A federal judge on Monday approved a plea agreement under which Anna Catalan, formerly an administrator at Santiago Canyon College, was sentenced to 21 months in jail for stealing student aid, The Orange County Register reported. Some of the money she took was for her family members or on behalf of students who didn't qualify for the federal support. But in other cases, she took money that was supposed to go to students who qualified for the aid, and she told the students that there was no money for them. Without a plea agreement, she faced up to 20 years in jail.
Local work force development organizations face numerous challenges as they seek to help employers fill some jobs that require skilled labor, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Job seekers often do not have the money, transportation or child care options to be able to pursue suggested training, the report found. And many lack the basic skills needed to participate in training programs.
The report found that in 80 percent of local areas, employers had difficulty filling "middle skilled" jobs (such as welders, truck drivers or machinists) because the positions require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. Workers often lack the support to get that training, according to the GAO. To help deal with this problem the U.S. Department of Labor recommends the use of a "career pathways" approach, which combines job training with basic skills education and support services. But little is known about how broadly that approach is being used, the report said.
An Alabama woman has been charged with murdering another after a party they both attended in Birmingham to watch the Iron Bowl football game, which Auburn University won in a stunning defeat of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. Authorities say that they are still studying why the women got into a heated argument that led to the shooting death of one of them. The Associated Press reported that the victim's sister said that her sister was accused by the shooter of not caring enough about the Alabama loss. "She said we weren't real Alabama fans because it didn't bother us that they lost. And then she started shooting," the victim's sister said.
Chile’s National Accreditation Commission has rejected the appeal of a university affiliated with the Baltimore-based for-profit education company, Laureate, after it was denied reaccreditation in October. The Universidad de Las Américas (UDLA) next plans to appeal the decision to the country’s Higher Education Council. As in the U.S., universities in Chile must be accredited in order for their students to access government-backed loans and grants.
In its report on its decision not to reaccredit UDLA, the accreditation commission cites the university’s rapid growth and unsatisfactory graduation rates. The commission’s report notes that the number of students grew by more than 36 percent in three years, from 25,272 to 34,436, while the growth in instructors has failed to keep pace: the number of full-time instructors increased only slightly, from 231 in 2010 to 235 in 2012, and the number of part-time instructors actually fell, from 177 to 164.
The accreditation report also raises concerns about the financial resources of the university, and finds that while spending on academic salaries was low, the amount spent on leases and educational and administrative services provided by companies related to Laureate was substantial. Under Chilean law, universities must be not-for-profit, but they can ally with for-profit entities like Laureate, which provide educational, administrative and real estate services at a price.
UDLA has posted various documents related to its appeal of the accreditor’s decision on its website. The university argues that the growth rate is somewhat misleading in that enrollments were temporarily depressed in 2010 (the base year used in the accreditor’s calculations) and it says that average class size has actually stayed relatively constant from 2009 (22.8 students per section) to 2013 (22.1 students per section). It also says that the amount spent on academic salaries is similar to that of peer universities in Chile.
“We remain confident that a clear and objective analysis of the facts will reveal that UDLA deserves to be reaccredited," a Laureate spokesman, Matthew Yale, said in a statement.
Northwestern University is today announcing a new effort to help prepare more students in the Chicago public schools to enroll at Northwestern or other competitive colleges, The Chicago Tribune reported. Fifty high school freshmen a year -- from the city's regular high schools -- will be selected for a special academy in which they will receive year-round tutoring, college counseling and test prep. All costs will be paid by Northwestern. Currently about 75 of Northwestern's 2,000 freshmen come from the Chicago schools. That's up from 28 five years ago, but university officials want to see significant growth in that figure.