Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 11, 2018

A new paper examining tuition-free programs targeted at high-achieving low-income high school students found increases in students applying to and enrolling in college.

The paper was released by the National Bureau of Economic Research and was based on a study by researchers at the University of Michigan, Syracuse University and the College Board. The researchers examined what happened when low-income students with high grade point averages and scores on college entrance exams that met University of Michigan standards were encouraged to apply to the institution and offered four years of free tuition and fees upon admission. Students were not required to complete a federal financial aid package to receive the offer.

The study found that students who received the offer were more likely to attend the university, thereby increasing the number of low-income students at selective institutions. The attendance rate at Michigan is 88 percent among upper-income students, 85 percent among low-income students who received the offer and 81 percent among low-income students in the control group, according to the study.

December 11, 2018

The Department of Education will give teachers another chance to demonstrate their eligibility for the federal TEACH Grant program, according to a report by NPR.

Undergraduate and graduate students can receive the TEACH Grant if they promise to teach in a high-need field at a public school serving low-income students for four out of eight years after graduating college. But a department study released in March found that 63 percent of recipients who began teaching before July 2014 had their grants converted to loans after they failed to meet eligibility requirements or submit annual recertification documents.

The department told NPR it would allow instructors saddled with loan debt because of paperwork issues to show they had met all program requirements and have those loans canceled.

On Monday, the progressive watchdog group Public Citizen released a report finding failings in the management and oversight of the program by the Education Department. Among those findings, Public Citizen said the department had not submitted necessary reports to Congress so it could evaluate the program and that it was slow to stop collection of debts from recipients whose grants had been erroneously converted to loans.

December 11, 2018

A group of student advocates ended their six-day occupation of the Kimmel Center for Student Life at New York University after the university, according to the students, agreed to investigate the feasibility of self-operated dining services.

The students -- led by the Incarceration to Education Coalition, a student group that advocates to make NYU more inclusive for formerly incarcerated people -- requested that the university cut ties with the dining services company Aramark, which currently runs NYU’s dining halls. Aramark also coordinates dining services for private prisons.

According to a press release by the coalition, the university agreed to "create a committee that will begin investigating the financial feasibility of self-operated dining services at NYU. The university will also create a standing committee within the University Senate to address NYU’s relationship to mass incarceration." In addition, the university has agreed to support current dining employees in the event of any transition. John Beckman, a spokesman for NYU, confirmed these agreements in an email. 

December 11, 2018

A report released Tuesday by New America finds multiple cycles of federal crackdowns on fraud and abuse after Congress allowed GI Bill benefits and, later, federally guaranteed student loans to be used on correspondence programs.

The report was written by David Whitman, the chief speechwriter for former U.S. education secretary Arne Duncan. It urges caution in lifting requirements that instructors have "regular and substantive" interaction with students for programs to keep access to Title IV federal aid.

The Trump administration has said it would like to rethink existing regular-and-substantive requirements in a regulatory overhaul for higher ed rules scheduled to begin in January.

December 11, 2018

Jutendo University has become the second Japanese university to admit that its medical school discriminated against female applicants, The Mainichi reported. The university revealed that 121 women in 2017 and 2018 whose scores were sufficient in the first round of a two-tiered admissions test to go on to the second round were told that they had failed. Tokyo Medical University this year admitted to similar discrimination.

December 11, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Celene Reynolds, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of sociology at Yale University, explores how Title IX is being used to combat gender inequalities in higher education. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

December 10, 2018

Eric Sprankle, an associate professor of psychology at Minnesota State University at Mankato, drew criticism online and off last week with his tweet about the immaculate conception and consent.

Sprankle, who specializes in sexuality studies, followed up by saying that “the biblical god regularly punished disobedience. The power difference (deity vs. mortal) and the potential for violence for saying ‘no’ negates her ‘yes.’ To put someone in this position is an unethical abuse of power at best and grossly predatory at worst.”

A university spokesperson told the Star Tribune that the campus had received several complaints about Sprankle’s comments, but that the public institution respects “the rights and privileges associated with the U.S. Constitution, including in this case the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and religion.”

December 10, 2018

Following through on an earlier threat, the University of Wisconsin System last week withheld a $25,600 performance raise from Joe Gow, chancellor of the La Crosse campus. System President Ray Cross warned Gow last month that he’d exercised “poor judgment” and jeopardized his raise in inviting Nina Hartley, an adult film actress and sex educator, to speak at the campus’s inaugural free speech week. Gow said at the time that the event was held in the spirit of a new system policy on free speech, which chancellors are supposed to enforce. He also repaid the university for Hartley’s speaking fee. But the system’s Board of Regents still decided to withhold Gow’s raise during a close meeting session. They also declined to grant a raise to Beverly Kopper, the chancellor of the Whitewater campus, whose husband, Peter Hill, was removed from his advisory position and banned from campus events in a sexual harassment scandal earlier this year. All other chancellors, except one who recently received a retention bonus, received raises, according to the Journal Sentinel.

Gow said via email, “I always say to our students that leadership isn't about making money -- it’s about making a positive difference. And if you're very fortunate you might get to do things in your own particular way.” Noting that La Crosse’s enrollment and fund-raising are at record highs, and that educational quality is second only to the flagship Madison campus, Gow added, “What I’m proudest of is the fact that our staff, faculty and, most importantly, students know who I am and how dedicated I am to keeping our university so strong. That knowledge means far more to me than a pay increase, particularly right now.”

December 10, 2018

Seth Bodnar, president of the University of Montana, mistakenly referenced students’ funerals when he misused a famous John Donne line on Twitter, the Missoulian reported.

"Excited to spend time (and even play a duet) today with Barbara Ballas, who beautifully plays Main Hall’s Carillon bells every day at noon. What a treasure -- note the inscription on the bell … we know at our university for whom the bell tolls -- our students!” Bodnar tweeted Tuesday.

The university is currently facing budget cuts due to declining enrollment, and Twitter users jumped on the opportunity to make some pointed jokes.

“I do not think this reference means what you think it means,” one user replied. “Try taking an English class at UM -- unless you cut them all first!”

“That's exactly right, with all the cuts to humanities, and money pouring into athletics, the bell does indeed toll for the students,” another user tweeted.

December 10, 2018

Raynor Mullins, a retired professor of dentistry, will get $620,000 and be able to return to the University of Kentucky as part of a settlement with the institution, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Mullins sued the university last year, saying that he was fired after he publicly criticized Kentucky Republican governor Matt Bevin’s plan to roll back parts of the Medicaid expansion made under the Affordable Care Act. The settlement, reached just before Mullins’s lawsuit against the university was to proceed to trial, reportedly does not acknowledge wrongdoing by the university. Mullins alleged that the university faced political pressure to retaliate against him after he spoke out against Bevin's plan in 2016, and that he soon lost a post-retirement teaching appointment. A joint statement issued with the settlement says that both Mullins and the university “desire to resolve their disputes in a positive manner.”

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