Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 8, 2018

In a notable departure from its traditional sales model, publisher Cengage announced an all-you-can-read subscription model earlier this year -- setting one price for access to all of its ebooks and course materials.

Speaking to investors on Wednesday, Michael Hansen, CEO of Cengage, said that initial sales of the Cengage Unlimited subscription were “in line with expectations.” Hansen reported that more than 500,000 students had purchased an Unlimited subscription this semester, with most students opting for the shortest subscription duration of four months, which costs $119.99.

Cengage made $77.1 million in gross sales from Unlimited subscriptions this quarter, Hansen said. The publisher invested $18 million in the launch of Unlimited, which included building new technology, bolstering the sales team and marketing the product to students and faculty.

“We knew we were taking a calculated risk as the first mover,” said Hansen. But the all-access subscriptions are already “resonating with faculty and students,” he said.

Though pleased with initial sales, Hansen said Cengage “still has a lot of work” to do to educate institutions about the subscription model.

November 8, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Carleton College Week, Elizabeth Raleigh, assistant professor of sociology, examines why transracial adoption is becoming more common. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 7, 2018

Two more colleges are reporting the appearance of "It's OK to Be White" posters. The latest campuses are the University of Idaho and William Paterson University, in New Jersey. Prior to the latest reports, fliers have appeared in the last 10 days at nine American colleges and one Canadian university.

Also Tuesday, the University of Rochester reported finding dozens of anti-Semitic fliers in a printer at the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies.

November 7, 2018

The University of Wisconsin at La Crosse invited Nina Hartley, a former pornographic actress, to speak on campus last week about sexuality and adult media, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.

About 70 students attended Hartley’s talk, which Joe Gow, university chancellor, described as “essential, and gets to the heart of free expression.” Hartley spoke on campus the week following Free Speech Week, a series of events dedicated to highlighting a new UW System policy that protects free expression.

The university paid Hartley $5,000 from the chancellor’s discretionary funds, made up of interest earned on revenue from auxiliary services including dining services, parking fees and residence halls. Taxpayer dollars did not contribute to Hartley’s speaker fee.

November 7, 2018

Students at Duquesne University are demanding that administrators share more information about the death of a football player who allegedly jumped out of a campus residence hall last month.

Students and teammates of 21-year-old Marquis Jaylen Brown told WTAE in Pittsburgh they do not believe that Brown jumped from a 16th-floor window to his death in early October. The TV station reported that students gathered at one of the university fields on Monday in a walkout over Brown's death.

An investigation into Brown's death is continuing, and medical examiners are awaiting toxicology test results, WTAE reported.

Brown's friends are also calling for grief counseling for students and have asked for a university forum to address Brown's death.

November 7, 2018

The False Claims Act does not protect employees who blow the whistle on an employer from retaliation that occurs only after they have stopped working there, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in a case involving a former employee of a for-profit college.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit rejected Debbi Potts's claim that the CollegeAmerica chain of colleges (now owned by the Center for Excellence in Higher Education) retaliated against her for complaining to its accreditor, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, about alleged unethical business practices at CollegeAmerica's Cheyenne, Wyo., campus, which Potts directed. Potts asserted that the college had violated its accreditation standards and that her complaint to the accreditor was thus covered under the False Claims Act.

The appeals court ruled that "because Potts alleges that the Center retaliated against her after she resigned her employment," the False Claims Act's protections do not apply.

November 7, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Carleton College Week: Rika Anderson, assistant professor of biology, examines how life survives deep in the oceans and takes a dive into microbes and hydrothermal vents. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 6, 2018

College students increasingly are being diagnosed and treated for mental health issues, according to a new study published by the American Psychiatric Association.

The study included survey data from 155,000 students at 196 college campuses. It found that the rate of respondents being treated for mental health issues in the past year increased to 34 percent in 2017 from 19 percent in 2007, while the percentage of students with lifetime diagnoses increased to 36 percent from 22 percent. Depression and suicide risks also increased, according to the study. But the stigma of being diagnosed with a mental illness decreased, which could explain some of the increases.

November 6, 2018

A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by a for-profit college chain seeking to assure access to Title IV federal student aid money while it undertakes a financial restructuring.

Education Corporation of America filed the lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Education Department last month in the Northern District of Alabama to keep access to federal funds while it pursued a receivership plan. But Judge Abdul Kallon ruled the court did not have jurisdiction in the case.

Besides one phone call in which an Education Department official refused to offer assurance that the plan would be approved, the court found no evidence the receivership plan was ever submitted to the department.

ECA announced in September that it plans to close about a third of its campuses by the end of 2019. Confronted with declining enrollment, the chain has defaulted on payments of its debts and faces claims from multiple creditors and evictions from several campuses. It argued in the lawsuit that without the receivership in place, it may be unable to complete teach-outs of campuses slated for closure.

A spokesman for ECA said Monday that chain was considering other options after the lawsuit's dismissal but didn't provide further comment.

November 6, 2018

The Sage Colleges on Monday announced plans to combine two undergraduate institutions: Russell Sage College and Sage College of Albany. Maintaining the two colleges is confusing and does not advance the Sage mission, said a statement explaining the shift. Russell Sage is a women's college.

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The statement said in part, "The reality of two campuses poses problems for students weighing Sage as a college choice: on one hand, the fundamental distinction between the two campuses lies in the programs offered; on the other hand, one campus is coed and the other is all women. That can lead prospective male students to think certain programs are off limits to them, even though all students can major in any program available. The Troy campus was opened some years ago to male attendance and male majors, but not to male residents (except for theater). The different general education curricula by campus complicate this imbalance."

On social media, some alumnae have complained about the decision to eliminate a separate women's institution.

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