Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 29, 2018

Saint Louis University on Tuesday announced a $50 million gift from Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield. The gift is the largest in the university's history and will support the creation of a research institute.

View other colleges' largest gifts at Inside Higher Ed's fund-raising database.

August 29, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Babson College Week: Lauren Beitelspacher, assistant professor in the marketing division at Babson College, looks into how people think about the environmental impact of products they buy. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 28, 2018

Bob Jones University is reducing its staff levels by about 50 employees over the next year as it seeks to bring its budget into line.

The 2,500-student evangelical university in Greenville, S.C., reported expense overages of $4.5 million last year, The Greenville News reported. That’s about 6.5 percent of the university’s annual budget.

Faculty members in overstaffed programs have been told their contracts will not be renewed after the academic year ends in May. Some are in the fine arts program, Dan Turner, the director of bands at the university, told The Greenville News. He went on to say several Christian institutions are facing pressures and that “This is not a shock to anybody who has been paying attention.”

Officials attributed the budget gap to higher health-care costs and increased demand for scholarships.

August 28, 2018

Michigan State University’s student newspaper has published the entire censored version of MSU’s summer 2018 alumni magazine, weeks after interim president John Engler spiked it.

The original version included a striking, mostly black-and-white cover image of a woman wearing vivid teal lipstick in support of survivors of Larry Nassar. The replacement image was a plain green message vowing that the university would be “stronger, safer and more competitive than ever before.”

A former U.S. gymnastics team doctor and onetime MSU associate professor, Nassar is serving life in prison after pleading guilty to multiple counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. His victims and their supporters have taken to wearing teal to show solidarity, but the Detroit Free Press reported in June that Engler scrapped a version of the magazine that tackled the abuse case head-on. Sources told the Free Press that Engler saw the planned image of the woman, among others, and said, "Get that teal shit out of here."

The State, the student newspaper, said it had obtained the manuscript from "someone close" to Engler's office.

The original magazine chronicled the history of Nassar’s abuse, as well as topics of gender inequality, the psychological effect of sexual abuse and “a culture of silence,” the newspaper reported Friday. Contributors wrote of being sexually harassed by medical professionals, among other issues.

The approved alumni magazine covered housing, an expansion of MSU’s College of Music building, a medical mission to Iraq and the university’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, which is scheduled to become fully operational in 2022.

Writing in the original version of the magazine, journalist and fiction writer Louise Knott Ahern said Nassar’s survivors “deserve to have alumni stand with them and demand answers.” She asked why the university didn’t realize that “normal operations needed to stop immediately” once the full scope of Nassar’s crimes became apparent.

“No more solicitation calls,” she wrote. “No more cheerful Facebook posts. No more business as usual at Board of Trustees meetings. On behalf of survivors, we must demand to know: How did MSU get this so, so wrong?”

MSU fired Nassar in September 2016.

August 28, 2018

The student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said he was stepping down from the agency Monday in a resignation letter that sharply criticized the Trump administration.

Seth Frotman, who was also an assistant director at CFPB, told acting director Mick Mulvaney that under his leadership "the bureau has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting."

Frotman wrote that changes under the Trump administration have undercut enforcement efforts at CFPB, undermined the agency's independence and protected bad actors in the private sector from government scrutiny.

The letter reinforces many complaints from outside consumer advocates regarding the dismantling of the agency's work by Mulvaney, also the director of the Office of Management and Budget, since he was appointed on an acting basis last year. Kathy Kraninger, President Trump's nominee to lead the agency, has no experience in consumer protection.

The Education Department last year ended two information-sharing agreements with CFPB to monitor student loan complaints, accusing the agency of overreaching its jurisdiction. And last month Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed a new, more restrictive borrower-defense rule for student loan borrowers who were misled or defrauded by their institutions. DeVos also said earlier this year that only the federal government, and not state regulators, has the authority to oversee the federal student loan program.

Frotman wrote that CFPB staff were blocked from commenting on the implications of those moves for borrowers. And it said that the bureau's leadership had blocked the release of a report last year on large banks charging students on college campuses "legally dubious account fees." 

"At every turn, your political appointees have silenced warnings by those of us tasked with standing up for servicemembers and students," he wrote.

Under former director Richard Cordray, who resigned last year before a run for Ohio governor, CFPB made a name for itself in student loan enforcement by securing settlements on behalf of borrowers and filing lawsuits including a case against Navient, the largest servicer of federal and private student loans.

In response to the Frotman resignation later, CFPB told NPR in a statement, "The bureau does not comment on specific personnel matters. We hope that all of our departing employees find fulfillment in other pursuits and we thank them for their service."

Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat and ranking member on the House Education and the Workforce committee, in a statement Monday called for hearings on CFPB's "sudden withdrawal from its necessary role in protecting students and student loan borrowers from predatory companies.”

August 28, 2018

Tenured and tenure-track faculty members went on strike at Ferris State University Monday. But a state judge ordered them to return to work today. Generally, public employees in Michigan are barred from striking. Points of contention in contract negotiations include salaries and benefits.

August 28, 2018

Robert Morris University announced a new scholarship program Monday tying expenses including tuition, fees, room and board to the average cost of attendance at Pennsylvania’s flagship public universities -- and undercutting their average price.

The program will be available for students admitted to the main campuses of the University of Pittsburgh or Penn State and who are also accepted to Robert Morris, a private college outside Pittsburgh. Robert Morris promises to match those students’ cost of attendance on its campus against the average cost of attendance at Pitt or Penn State, then add an additional $3,000 in annual scholarships.

A student attending Penn State or Pitt main campuses can expect to pay an average of $34,018 for tuition, fees, room, board, books and other expenses, according to Robert Morris. That means under the new Robert Morris program, called Public Price Match Plus, that student would pay $31,018 before federal, state or other forms of external aid.

Freshmen enrolling in the fall of 2019 will be eligible for the program, provided they can show they were accepted to Penn State or Pitt’s main campus. The program is only open to Pennsylvania residents who live on the Robert Morris campus in Moon Township, Pa. Scholarships will be renewable for students maintaining a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, and award amounts will be recalculated each year.

The program in some ways echoes other pricing programs tried in recent years by universities hoping to get more attention from students who otherwise might gravitate toward public flagships. Oglethorpe University in Atlanta last week unveiled a non-need-based scholarship connecting tuition to prices at flagship universities across the country. The University of Maine in Orono has in recent years run a similar program aiming to enroll new students from out of state.

Robert Morris’s program is different from other efforts in several ways, notably that it is based on total cost of attendance and because it specifically aims for rates coming in below its flagship competition.

August 28, 2018

After complaints over its handling of sexual assault cases, Texas A&M University has overhauled its policies, making punishments for rape and other sexual misconduct much stricter.

Earlier this month, the institution announced 11 changes around its Title IX policies. Title IX of the Education of the Amendments of 1972 is the federal law barring gender discrimination.

Officials, in an attempt to make the sanctions for sexual misconduct more consistent, approved a “matrix” that determines whether a student will be put on probation, given a warning, suspended or expelled based on the violation. For instance, any student found to be responsible for a violent sex offense, or nonconsensual sex, will be suspended for at least a year.

“We believe that these actions will not only contribute to continual improvement at our university in safety, processes, transparency, fairness and accountability, but will also set a new standard nationally for how Title IX investigations are managed,” President Michael K. Young said in a statement.

In June, Young ordered that the university review its Title IX procedures after a tweet from a student went viral -- the student accused the institution of allowing a varsity swimmer to return to the men’s swimming and diving team after he was found to have sexually assaulted her. The swimmer had been suspended for a semester, the survivor said.

The university will also hire new employees to deal with Title IX cases, including investigators and a deputy Title IX coordinator. The process for reporting will be streamlined to try to minimize the number of times that students will need to recount trauma to officials, with survivors reporting to a single case manager. Counselors who will handle these cases will now be available at multiple areas on campus.

Whether an accused student will be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities, including athletics, now falls to the dean of students, not a coach, team or club -- this includes while a case is still be investigated. A decision on whether a student is eligible for extracurriculars now comes when a determination on the case is made, not after the student returns from a suspension.

August 28, 2018

The electronics company Foxconn on Monday announced a $100 million gift to the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The gift will create the Foxconn Institute for Research in Science and Technology, which will operate throughout the state, in particular working with Foxconn facilities in Wisconsin.

August 28, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Babson College Week, Jennifer Bailey, an assistant professor of technology and operations management there, examines how resource management can be key to keeping new companies alive. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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