Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 13, 2018

The Education Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs announced earlier this year that they would work together to notify student veterans of their eligibility for discharge of their federal student loan debt because of permanent disability.

The results of those efforts show that most eligible veterans have stopped making payments on their student loans, according to a response to a Freedom of Information Act request from veterans' organizations. The Education Department and VA determined that more than 42,000 veterans are eligible for the benefit. But of those veterans, well over half -- 25,023 borrowers -- had defaulted on their student loans as of mid-April.

Borrowers enter default on their student loans when they go more than 270 days without making a payment. That can have serious repercussions, including a hit to the borrower’s credit score, wage garnishment and the inability to access other federal student aid.

Six veterans' groups, including Veterans Education Success and Vietnam Veterans of America, sent Education Secretary Betsy DeVos a letter last week urging her to make loan forgiveness automatic for any veteran who qualifies. Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat and the ranking member on the Senate education committee, has also repeatedly called for automatically discharging those loans.

The Republican tax law passed last year removed any federal tax liability for permanent disability discharge. But the Education Department argued in its response to the FOIA request that it was still concerned about state tax liabilities that would arise from automatic loan discharge. 

November 13, 2018

Much has been written about the explosion of racial tensions at the University of Missouri at Columbia in 2015 -- and whether officials there have learned from what happened. The American Council on Education weighs in today with a report on the turmoil and its aftermath, "Speaking Truth and Acting With Integrity." The report reviews the history of the tensions and offers suggestions for how college leaders can respond when facing fast-changing situations like the one that developed at Mizzou.

November 13, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Kelsey Lucca, postdoctoral researcher in psychology at the University of Washington, explores how we can learn what infants do and do not know. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 12, 2018

Charles Meyrick, an assistant professor of business and economics at Housatonic Community College, is reportedly on leave after giving a Nazi salute during a recent meeting of faculty members and administrators from the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities. Some at the meeting said that Meyrick appeared agitated -- possibly about a plan to consolidate the system into a single college -- and held his salute for five or 10 minutes, according to the Hartford Courant. Meyrick reportedly put his hand down after campus police arrived.

A college system spokesperson told the Courant that Meyrick is on paid leave pending an investigation into the incident. “The reports of a faculty member’s outburst at a meeting last week, including the use of a Nazi salute, which required campus police to respond are appalling and unacceptable,” Mark Ojakian, system president, said in a statement Friday. Meyrick did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

November 12, 2018

Two men were shot, one of them fatally, after a homecoming event Friday night at Voorhees College, in South Carolina. A statement from the college said that the men were not affiliated with the college. The campus has been placed on lockdown.

This is the third shooting with fatalities involving higher education in eight days. Students were among those killed in a mass shooting in a bar in California, and a student and professor were killed in a yoga studio in Florida.

November 12, 2018

Jeffrey S. Vitter (right) will step down as chancellor of the University of Mississippi on Jan. 3, the state higher education board announced Friday. No reason was given, and Vitter has not commented, leading to much speculation about why he is leaving after only three years in office, and with relatively little time between the announcement and his departure. He succeeded Dan Jones, who was forced out by the state board. The departure of Jones prompted much outcry and student protests, but responses to Vitter's departure have been muted, although many have noted the impact of another transition.

November 12, 2018

Two students were arrested after a fight broke out at Lincoln University on Friday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. A campus police officer was assaulted while trying to break up the fight, which occurred while students were waiting in line for a late-night dance. The officer used pepper spray to control the crowd and 15 students were sent to the hospital for treatment. All have been released.

The university has canceled all parties and "has pledged to bring students and administrators together to address concerns and develop procedures to prevent such incidents in the future," according to a statement in the Inquirer.

November 12, 2018

A report released today by the Campaign for College Opportunity examines the growing population of Latinx people in California and their academic achievement.

According to the report, only 18 percent of Latinx adults in California have a college degree, compared to 34 percent of black people, 52 percent of white people and 62 percent of Asians in the state. Nine in 10 of the state's Latinx freshmen are enrolled in one of the state's public colleges, with 45 percent of them choosing the community college system. Forty-two percent of Latinx students attend California State University System institutions.

Latinx students' transfer rates from community colleges to universities are also improving, according to the report, with 67 percent of students transferring to a Cal State institution in 2016 compared to 57 percent in 2010.

The report also found that graduation rates improved by 11 percentage points for Latinx students in the Cal State system. And the time it took Latinx freshmen at University of California institutions to graduate decreased; only 38 percent of the Latinx students who entered college in the fall of 2000 graduated on time, or within four years, compared to almost half of the Latinx students who entered in the fall of 2010.

November 12, 2018

Northern Michigan University reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice after four students accused the university of discrimination, the Detroit News reported.

In 2013, a student told another student that she had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and that her doctors were concerned that she was at risk for suicide. She filed a complaint when the university threatened to “dis-enroll” her and required her to undergo psychological examination and sign an agreement that prohibited her from discussing suicidal thoughts with other students.

The Justice Department found three other students with similar complaints. The settlement will require that the university pay $173,500 in damages to the four students and create a new antidiscrimination act/nondiscrimination policy. Derek Hall, chief marketing officer for the university, told the Detroit News that a new policy is already underway.

November 12, 2018

Graduate assistants at Georgetown University voted 555 to 108 to form a union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the university and the union announced in a joint statement Friday. Approximately 1,100 students were eligible to vote. The American Arbitration Association conducted the election, as part of an agreement between Georgetown and the union to hold an election outside of National Labor Relations Board channels. Graduate students at other institutions have asked for similar election agreements in recent years, since the future of a major 2016 NLRB decision in favor of graduate student unions on private campuses is uncertain under a Trump-era board.

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