Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 14, 2009

Rhode Island authorities have charged John Dawson, who was fired as associate dean of continuing studies at Roger Williams University, with stalking faculty members, in connection with letters and postcards he sent them, The Providence Journal reported. Dawson, who could not be reached for comment, allegedly sent letters with various accusations, some of them including sexually explicit language, to about 40 faculty members -- sometimes trying to make it appear that the materials were sent by other faculty members. In one case, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Journal, harshly attacking state judges, and signed an administrator's name. The letter was printed.

March 13, 2009

The University of Missouri has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a football player who died during a 2005 preseason workout, the Associated Press reports. The settlement, in which the university and a group of officials admitted no wrongdoing, ends a legal battle over the death of Aaron O'Neal, 19, who collapsed during a voluntary workout in July 2005. The lawsuit alleged that university employees did not take precautions required by O'Neal's sickle cell trait. Meanwhile, the family of a 19-year-old player who died in offseason conditional drills at the University of Central Florida last year is suing the institution, the AP reported, saying that coaches and trainers ignored signs of Ereck Plancher's fatigue. University officials have repeatedly defended their response.

March 13, 2009

The chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville has asked the university's trustees to keep tuition flat for the 2009-10 academic year, citing the financial situation of students and families. Chancellor Dave Gearhart said the proposal, which would represent the first year of no tuition increase in 24 years, is contingent on state legislators supporting the governor's proposal to partially restore a $5 million budget cut imposed this year.

March 12, 2009

The 2009 federal spending bill that President Obama signed Wednesday reverses a 2007 change that led to sharp increases in costs for students who use prescription birth control. The change, which was made in 2005 deficit reduction legislation but took effect in 2007, eliminated an incentive for drug companies to offer discounted prescriptions to college clinics and other health care providers through the Medicare program, causing students to pay hundreds of dollars more a year. The American College Health Association urged that the incentive be restored, and the Associated Press reports that now that it has, pharmaceutical companies are discussing whether and how to reinstate the discounts.

March 12, 2009

The Education Department's plan to carry out state-by-state auctions among lenders for the right to originate federal student loans for parents got a little dicier Thursday, as the country's biggest lender announced that it would not participate in the auctions. Sallie Mae sent a letter to its customers informing them that the company would not bid in any of the auctions because it believes the existing setup for setting interest rates and determining who should originate so-called PLUS loans is far preferable to the system Congress enacted in 2007. Despite significant opposition from financial aid officials and lenders, especially in light of the much broader changes the Obama administration is proposing in the federal student loan programs, the Education Department announced this month that it was proceeding with the auction. Sallie Mae's decision poses a threat, though, because under the regulations, if there are not enough "qualified bids" in a particular state's auction, the existing system of Parent PLUS loans stays in effect, as the lender noted in its letter.

March 12, 2009

The University of Waterloo, in Ontario, wants to largely eliminate small classes -- those with fewer than 10 students -- for undergraduates. They are too expensive to run, officials said, when the Ontario institution needs to limit spending. So the provost has announced a new way to discourage professors from offering these courses: They will no longer be counted in the teaching load of faculty members.

March 12, 2009

Southeastern University in Washington has been told that it will lose its regional accreditation in August, and the small private institution in the nation's capital is exploring a possible merger to survive, the university announced this week. Southeastern posted on its Web site a letter in which the Middle States Commission on Higher Education said that it would strip its approval by the end of August because of the university's failure to comply with a wide range of standards governing finances, faculty, admissions, and assessment, among others. A statement by the university's president, Charlene Drew Jarvis, said the university would appeal but that it was also exploring a possible merger with GS Graduate School, which is affiliated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and educates tens of thousands of government and other employees.

March 11, 2009

President Obama has nominated Sherburne (Shere) Abbott, director of the Center for Science and Practice of Sustainability at the University of Texas at Austin, to be associate director of environment for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Abbott formerly was chief international officer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

March 11, 2009

DeVry Inc. says it has agreed to purchase a majority stake in a private higher education provider that operates three universities with a total of five campuses in Brazil. DeVry, an Illinois company whose holdings include DeVry University and Ross University, will purchase 69 percent and eventually up to 82 percent of Fanor, whose three universities educate about 10,000 students in northeastern Brazil.

March 11, 2009

In the past three years, Maryland's state university system has seen a sharp increase in the gap between the six-year black graduation rates and those of other students. The Baltimore Sun reported that the black rate is 40 percent, while the rate for all students is 65 percent. That 25-point gap is up from a 15-point gap just three years ago. System officials said that they were frustrated by the trend. In part, they said, it was because the system is recruiting more black students who are from low-income families and who may have a more difficult time, financially, staying enrolled.

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