The U.S. Education Department published final regulations today carrying out a broad array of changes that Congress made last year made in student grant, campus crime and other programs in the Higher Education Act. The changes include guidelines for a year-round Pell Grant, increased reporting about fire safety, and the first-ever requirements governing illegal file sharing. On Wednesday, the department published final rules to carry out changes made to student loan programs in the Higher Education Opportunity Act. Among the many provisions, which were published in the Federal Register, include changing how student loan default rates are calculated, requiring colleges to disclose significantly more information about their relationships with lenders, and expanding loan cancellation to a slew of other fields. Also Wednesday, the department announced that it was seeking new suggestions for innovative student aid changes it should support through the reconstituted Experimental Sites Initiative. The program, under which the federal government eases certain red tape for experiments that ease the delivery of aid to students without increasing waste or fraud, was ended by the Bush administration last year to the consternation of the 100-plus colleges in the program. Congress extended the authority of the existing experiments through next July, but many colleges have ended their experiments, given the planned phaseout. A department spokeswoman said that the department is seeking ideas about possible experimental designs into which it would then invite colleges to participate. Suggestions are due December 18.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Well, you can't say that Sen. Lamar Alexander isn't an equal opportunity irritant to his successors as U.S. education secretary. Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who headed the federal agency during the first Bush administration, won the eternal gratitude of many college leaders by stopping Education Secretary Margaret Spellings dead in her tracks two years ago when she tried to use the federal regulatory process to bring about major changes in higher education accreditation. (Alexander argued that Spellings was trying to work around Congress, and helped pass legislation to make sure she couldn't; the secretary wasn't pleased.) On Wednesday, he took to the Senate floor to criticize Spellings' successor, Arne Duncan, on roughly similar grounds. He was unhappy that Duncan had sent a letter this week urging college presidents to get their campuses ready for a possible switch to the government's direct student loan program, even though Congress has yet to pass -- and the Senate has yet to consider -- legislation that would mandate such a switch, by ending lending through the bank-based Federal Family Education Loan Program. "The secretary's gotten a little ahead of himself," Alexander said, adding that the "Washington takeover" of the loan program -- he's not a fan of President Obama's proposal -- requires Congressional approval because "we have more than one branch of government in this town." He urged the administration to stop trying to ram through legislation that would force thousands of colleges to switch loan programs by July 1, which could result, Alexander said, in a "14 million car pileup on the interstate highways of American education," envisioning students unable to get loans because of administrative disarray in the government-run program. Administration officials have repeatedly said that colleges have found it much easier to switch loan programs than critics allege, and that they are intent on making changes that will pour tens of billions of dollars more into student aid programs.
Metropolitan Community College has announced plans to sue five other community colleges in Nebraska, in an escalating dispute over state financing of the institutions, The Omaha World-Herald reported. Metro, in Omaha, has been arguing that the state's financing formula unfairly favors colleges in rural areas. The suit is over allegations that the other colleges submitted incorrect information about tuition rates to the state, so that the formula would provide them with more money. Officials of the other colleges were quoted as saying that they were responding to Metro submitting questionable figures itself.
Two of the five finalists to become president of New Mexico State University recently left chancellorships elsewhere amid considerable controversy. One of them is Richard Herman of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who resigned amid a furor over an admissions system (no ended) that gave preferences to politically connected applicants. The other is James Oblinger of North Carolina State University, who resigned amid a debate over a highly paid position for the ex-governor's wife.
The United States is losing ground in the world economy because of declines in educational attainment, according to a new report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The report cites data showing that the United States and Germany were the only two nations in which those aged 25–34 have attained less education than their parents’ generation.
Those frustrated by the numerous errors in the new edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association will be able to get a correct version. Until now, the association has insisted that it would be wasteful to issue new editions, and it urged those who bought the book to just use an online compilation of corrections. But on Tuesday, an organizer of a boycott movement for the error-laden version announced that the association had agreed to offer corrected versions.
Congressional negotiators completed work Tuesday on a compromise spending bill that would provide $167.5 million apiece in the 2010 fiscal year to the National Endowments for the Humanities and for the Arts. The compromise legislation, which would fund the Department of the Interior and several other agencies, would give the two cultural agencies more than the $161.3 million that the Senate proposed providing, but slightly less than the $170 million that the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee would have provided.
The U.S. Education Department published final regulations Tuesday to carry out changes Congress made to federal law governing higher education accreditation. The rules, which were published in the Federal Register, deal with a wide range of issues involving the relationships between the federal government and accrediting agencies, and between the agencies and the colleges they accredit. Among them: new standards for distance education, requirements on transfer of credit policies, and plans for how colleges should "teach out" when they close campuses. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation published an analysis of an earlier version of the rules in August; the final version of the regulations released Tuesday has changed little from the proposed rules.
Southwestern College, a community college outside San Diego, has been under fire since last week's suspension of four faculty members, following a protest that criticized the administration. With professors saying that they are being punished for expressing their views, the college late Monday issued a new statement -- but that statement (while noting that one suspension has been lifted) only further angered the professors. The statement says: "Four faculty members were placed on paid administrative leave on Thursday, October 22, 2009, and three faculty members remain on paid administrative leave at this time, pending the outcome of the investigation. Please understand that no formal charges or allegations have been made against any College faculty member or employee at this time. The student rally held between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. on October 22, 2009, is not the focus of the investigation. The college is investigating safety and security issues that arose after the approved organized student rally. The college respects, values and is committed to lawful free expression and the student rally provided an opportunity for our students to voice their concerns and to underscore the challenges that all community college students, and community colleges, are experiencing. The college is committed to maintaining a safe environment for our students and staff, which is the focus of the investigation."
College officials did not respond to requests for clarifications on the statement. But Philip Lopez, an English professor who is president of the faculty union, said that the statement only added to the questions about the incident. If the college is now on record as saying that there are no charges or allegations, why is it appropriate to remove faculty members from their classes and ban them from campus, he asked. Lopez said this action violates basic due process rights. "If there are no charges, why were we placed on leave?," he asked. "Rumor? Reputation? Union-busting? Poor personal hygiene?"
Carnegie Mellon University must defend itself against charges that it fraudulently and negligently misrepresented the state of its research on microwave technology to an investor who lost millions on the work, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled Monday. The court's decision, which overturned a lower court's 2007 judgment, finds that the investor in question, Christian Bouriez, presented sufficient evidence to suggest that Carnegie Mellon's alleged misrepresentations -- about whether researchers had “proven” and “demonstrated" that their microwave technology actually worked, among other things -- were a "substantial factor" in the eventual loss of the $5 million that Bouriez invested in the project, which was later the subject of an arbitration process through which Carnegie Mellon was ordered to pay nearly $10 million to its former corporate partner. Carnegie Mellon officials did not respond to a request for comment on the appeals court's ruling Monday.