Modesto Junior College has settled a lawsuit with a student who was forbidden from handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day in September. Army veteran Robert Van Tuinen had argued that administrators violated his First Amendment rights. Video captured campus officials telling Van Tuinen to book a “free speech area,” which would take at least three days. As part of the settlement, the college will revise its policies to allow free speech in open areas across campus and will pay Van Tuinen $50,000.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Cambridge's Regent House (the governing board, made up largely of academics) has approved a controversial endowed chair to honor Stephen Hawking, Times Higher Education reported. The controversy is not over honoring Hawking, but because the size of the endowment will support a salary nearly double that paid to other professors. Further, the terms of the gift specify that the salary must be "equal to or greater than the average salary and benefits" for other professors "of similar years of service, or rank" in the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics. Critics objected to the salary provisions, and the chair was approved by a margin of 746 to 606.
Bob Jones University has faced considerable criticism for its announcement this month that it had ended a contract with an outside group to investigate how the university has responded when students have reported sex abuse. The university was vague about why it ended the study, and many noted that abuse victims who shared their stories with the investigators would feel betrayed. But the university has now announced that based on additional discussions with the investigators, they have been rehired to finish their work.
Men of color attending community colleges are less likely to obtain an associate degree than are white males, despite being the most engaged in and out of the classroom, a new report finds. In "Aspirations to Achievement: Men of Color and Community Colleges," the Center for Community College Student Engagement reveals that even though black and Latino students at two-year institutions show more interest than their white peers in obtaining an associate degree or certificate, only 5 percent actually accomplish that goal within three years, compared to 32 percent for white students.
One of the reasons the gap might exist, the authors of the report say, is because of what they call stereotype threat. That’s the “fear of fulfilling a negative stereotype,” and it can be triggered unintentionally. That fear can affect a student’s performance in the classroom. Recommendations to help close the gap, they say, start with institutions first acknowledging the issue, because not enough of them are looking at how systemic disparities can affect a student of color’s educational experience. The report offers tools for leaders at these colleges to conduct focus groups, and questions to help guide campus-based and community-based discussions on issues such as aspiration, achievement and equity.
“Grappling with these disparities is a task for virtually every community college,” said Kay McClenney, the director of Center for Community College Student Engagement, in a press release. “Campus conversations and actions must address at least three factors: substantially different levels of college readiness across racial and ethnic groups, the demonstrated effects of stereotype threat on performance in higher education, and continuing impacts of structural racism evident in systems throughout American society,” she said.
Santa Clara University has announced that it is standing by a decision announced last year to end employee health coverage for elective abortions, Bay Area News Group reported. University officials have said that they are trying to uphold Roman Catholic teachings. But many faculty members have objected, saying that they were hired with the university knowing that they didn't necessarily embrace Catholic teachings, and that the university was sending a message that it does not value the diversity on its faculty.
A total of 370 colleges and universities met the federal definition of "Hispanic-serving institution" in 2012-13, up from 356 the previous year, Excelencia in Education said in its annual analysis of the fast-growing sector of higher education. The group reported that about 60 percent of all Latino students were enrolled in such institutions, and that the colleges and universities were heavily concentrated geographically, with more than 80 percent of them located in five states.
The University of Michigan is under federal investigation for its handling of a rape allegation against a former football player, The Los Angeles Times reported. The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights will examine the university’s Title IX grievance procedures and determine whether Michigan responded appropriately to complaints, reports and incidents of sexual violence. The athlete, Brandon Gibbons, was expelled in December for sexual misconduct, but the incident in question allegedly occurred in November 2009. Gibbons was arrested but no charges were filed.
Sallie Mae’s loan servicing operations will soon be housed in a separate business entity called Navient, the company announced Tuesday.
As it first disclosed last year, Sallie Mae--formally known as SLM Corp.-- is in the process of splitting up into two distinct companies: Navient and Sallie Mae.
Navient, starting this fall, will service most of Sallie Mae’ existing private student loan portfolio and also assume responsibility for Sallie Mae’s contract with the U.S. Department of Education to manage the payments of federal student loan borrowers.
The company’s consumer banking business will continue under the name Sallie Mae and will originate new private student loans and service those loans.
Sallie Mae is the largest servicer of the federal government’s portfolio of direct student loans, with some 5.7 million accounts.
The Education Department also issued guidance Tuesday about the changes, which will begin to affect borrowers this fall. The department described the impact on federal student loan borrowers as “minimal.”
Federal borrowers whose accounts are currently managed by Sallie Mae will be able to contact Navient at the same phone numbers and mailing address, but they will need to log on to their accounts at a new website. In addition, borrowers will have to write checks using the new name and change any online bill paying services. A borrower who has set up automatic debiting from a bank, however, no action will be required, the department said.
Sallie Mae said in a statement that those borrowers would receive this spring and summer “personalized information about their account and any changes needed to ensure a smooth transition.”
The company’s split comes as its student loan servicing practices have come under scrutiny from federal regulators, several members of Congress and consumer advocates. Sallie Mae is facing multiple inquiries over how it applied the loan payments of military servicemembers, who are entitled to special borrower benefits.
Sallie Mae has disclosed to investors that it set aside $70 million, as of the end of 2013, to cover the “expected compliance remediation” relating to those inquiries.
Consumer advocates, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a Democrat, have also complained that the Education Department is too lax in its oversight of how Sallie Mae services federal loans.
A group of state attorneys general, led by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, are also probing the company’s debt collection, loan servicing and other practices.
Rutgers University, already the most prolific subsidizer of sports of all Division I public institutions, gave its athletics department nearly $47 million in 2012-13, USA Today reported, a 67.9 percent increase over the 2011-12 subsidy of $27.9 million. Rutgers athletics is $79 million in the red, but officials say that the university’s move to the Big Ten Conference will generate close to $200 million over its first 12 years as a member. The most recent subsidies make up 59.9 percent of the athletics department’s total allocations, and total more than the entire operating revenues at all but 53 of Division I’s 228 public sports programs.