Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 3:00am

The student newspaper at John Brown University is being criticized by Hindu groups for publishing a column that attacked yoga because of its links to Hinduism. The op-ed in Threefold Online noted with concern the increasing popularity of yoga in the United States.

"As I have been thinking of all the arguments and reasons why yoga is not as beneficial as we’ve been led to believe, it all keeps coming back to the fact that yoga has its roots in the worship of demonic Hindu gods," the column said. "I believe that while yoga may offer some benefits, those benefits have hidden, demonic strings attached. I spoke to one of our chapel speakers years ago about this. He was a Dalit 'untouchable' from India who had become a Christian. His view is that yoga is the beautiful face that the very ugly religion of Hinduism uses to sell itself to Americans."

Rajan Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, has called for the paper and the university to apologize.

The editor-in-chief of the paper has published a piece saying that the column does not necessarily reflect the views of the newspaper or the university.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 3:00am

Pearson, the education company and publisher, on Tuesday confirmed it laid off 68 employees in its higher education division on March 12. The company, which is in the middle of a transition from print to digital products, has in its past two annual earnings reports warned about stagnant or falling profits as it completes its restructuring process.

A person with knowledge of the layoffs, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said many of those laid off were editors, designers and publishers.

"The demand for learning tools that take advantage of data and analytics to improve outcomes is accelerating," a Pearson spokesman said in a statement. "In light of this, we are re-imagining how to take our trusted brands beyond print."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 3:00am

The Drexel University student who died of meningitis last week had been in contact with Princeton University students the week before and had the same strain that has been present there, Philly.com reported. Officials said that the death suggests the possibility that the strain is still present at Princeton.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 3:00am

Sallie Mae, under scrutiny from consumer advocates and several lawmakers for how it manages payments for federal student loan borrowers, released new data Tuesday touting the performance of those loans.

The company said that 9.3 percent of the federal direct loans it services were enrolled in an income-based repayment plan at the end of 2013, compared with the previously-released 7.7 percent national rate for all such loans. In addition, Sallie Mae said that the federal loans it serviced were less likely to be in forbearance, comparing the company’s 9.4 percent rate of forbearance with the 11.1 percent rate for all federal direct loan borrowers.

The Education Department has not released such detailed data on how federal direct loan borrowers fare under each of the different loan servicers it hires. Some consumer advocates have charged that loan servicers aren’t doing enough to help struggling borrowers enroll in income-based repayment plans, which allow borrowers to cap their payments as a percentage of their income. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a Democrat, has specifically called out Sallie Mae’s practices.

Sallie Mae’s release of its data comes as the department is negotiating the renewal of the loan servicing contracts it has with Sallie Mae and the three other main servicers of federal loans.

Under the current contract, the department assigns each of those companies a performance score based on how well, relative to the others, they are keeping borrowers out of default and satisfying different stakeholders. The scores determine how many new loans the department assigns to the companies. Last year, Sallie Mae received the lowest overall score and is therefore receiving the smallest share of new federal loans to manage on behalf of the department. The company performed the second best on the default metrics, but it received the lowest customer satisfaction scores from surveys of students, college financial aid officers, and Education Department employees.

The company’s chief executive officer, John F. Remondi, told investors last year that he is pushing for the department’s allocation methodology to more heavily weight the default metrics.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 4:24am

Goucher College sent the parents of 60 rejected applicants the email that was supposed to be sent to parents of admitted applicants, confusing many of the families, The Baltimore Sun reported. Human error was responsible for the emails saying that the applicants' "offer of admission was mailed today, but I wanted to let you know the good news now, so that your family can celebrate tonight." The college realized the error when it was contacted by applicants who reported getting rejected while their parents were being told they had been admitted. The college has apologized, and is now doing an additional review of the 60 applicants to see if some could be admitted.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 4:26am

T.J. Arant resigned Tuesday as president of Friends University, in Kansas, The Wichita Eagle reported. Arant has been president since 2011. Arant was not available for comment. John Lewis, the board chair, said: “We held different visions about what we wanted to achieve in the next two decades. It is important that we achieve agreement about that, and that we were not going to be able to do that. So we decided mutually that the best course is to part company.”


Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 3:00am

Students, faculty members and administrators at some institutions that are members of the law library consortium NELLCO will soon be able to read The New York Times for free, the media organization announced on Wednesday.

As part of the deal, participating institutions will subsidize one-year subscriptions to the Times's digital products. The institutions can choose to renew the agreement on an annual basis. NELLCO has 122 members worldwide, but the deal only applies to U.S. institutions. About one-third of NELLCO's U.S. members have signed up so far, which means more than 26,000 law students may take advantage of the offer.

Representatives from the Times did not disclose the price tag, but described the deal as the largest ever signed -- even when compared to similar agreements with corporations and nonprofits. 

"I feel like we’re at a point where we’re meeting a different level of demand," said Hannah Yang,  executive director for education and corporate marketing at the Times. "Not only do we have the content to meet that kind of demand -- we also have the technology."

This article has been updated to clarify that institutions will subsidize the subscriptions.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 3:00am

Okay, the rest of you have some catching up to do: Tom Panettiere has now won Inside Higher Ed's monthly Cartoon Caption Contest twice.

Today we publish the latest installment of our monthly cartoon contest -- we encourage you to suggest the most creative or humorous captions you can think of. (Or just read the submissions of your peers.)

We also encourage you to vote for your favorite from among the three finalists chosen by our judges from among the submissions for last month's cartoon.

And we congratulate Panettiere, associate director of financial aid and scholarships at the State University of New York at Purchase, whose caption for January's drawing -- "Wonder if our bus is stuck in one of those Chris Christie traffic studies?" -- won an overwhelming majority of your votes. He also won November's contest.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 4:27am

The drowning deaths of six students, apparently from hazing, have set off a debate at Portugal's universities, The New York Times reported. Hazing in Portugal is not associated with fraternities, but is a rite of passage for new students. Critics say that the recent deaths show that the traditions have gotten out of control, but many students support hazing and are rallying to preserve it.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Dae Kwak, associate professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, discusses the psychological impact fantasy sports advertising has on even experienced players. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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