Continuing its campaign against federal efforts to dramatically toughen oversight over for-profit colleges, an advocacy group on Wednesday sued the U.S. Government Accountability Office, accusing Congress's investigative arm of producing a "negligently written, biased and distorted report that foreseeably caused substantial financial injury" to the industry. The lawsuit by the Coalition for Educational Success, which accuses the GAO of engaging in "professional malpractice," stems from the highly publicized report by the agency last July that became the centerpiece of Senator Tom Harkin's investigation into the commercial college sector. GAO later released a revised version of the report that softened some of its findings (though not its underlying conclusions, Harkin and GAO officials insisted). The lawsuit against GAO follows a series of other steps that the coalition and associations of career colleges have taken to challenge the aggressive reviews that both Harkin and the Education Department have undertaken in the last 18 months.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Harold Raveché, who resigned last year as president of Stevens Institute of Technology, has agreed to pay off more than $721,000 in low-interest loans from the institute that were part of a dispute over compensation and governance that led to a lawsuit against Stevens by New Jersey's attorney general, The Star-Ledger reported. The suit, since settled, questioned the oversight by the Stevens board of the then-president. While he lived in a university-owned home, the loans were given to allow him to buy two vacation homes.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday unveiled a 2012 budget proposal that would cut spending on New York's public colleges by 10 percent as part of an overall plan to eliminate a $10 billion deficit without raising taxes. Cuomo's plan, which would also impose a 10 percent cut on state aid to private colleges, also calls for giving the State University of New York System at least some of the increased autonomy and flexibility it has sought in recent years. Leaders at SUNY and the City University of New York were measured in their responses to the governor's plan, praising the new governor for confronting the state's financial problems head-on but expressing concern about the cuts and "how they will impact our ability to provide a quality experience and education for our students," as SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher phrased it.
Some families and financial aid administrators are reporting technological troubles with the online version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and Education Department officials have told the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators that they are working on the problem, NASFAA reports. The scope and degree of the problems are unclear; a few financial aid officers have reported significant problems, but the aid directors' group says it has had few reports so far.
Southwestern University's board has voted to keep the institution's name, ending a period of study and debate over whether the name was sufficiently reflective of the university's identity. "The research showed that Southwestern University is not well known among prospective students − those who live within Texas and particularly those who live outside Texas − and that most people do not associate the name 'Southwestern University' with a private liberal arts institution," said a statement from the board, which also called for a "visibility campaign" to promote Southwestern. In a December interview with The Austin American-Statesman, Jake Schrum, the president of the university, explained the need to consider a name change this way: "Looking at our name and thinking about a national liberal arts college of real quality — is that a disconnect? The name Southwestern University sounds like a regional public university. It's that whole thing of having to explain so much that the quality of what we're doing here and the type of institution we are — not that we're wanting to become, but that we are — is lost in the shuffle." But the idea of a name change didn't catch on with students -- and angered some alumni.
Students at the University of California at Irvine are protesting an apparent criminal investigation by a local district attorney into an incident last year in which some students heckled repeatedly during a campus talk by Israel's ambassador to the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported. While some students continue to defend the heckling, others at Irvine who said that the heckling was wrong argue that the university's punishment of the group found to have organized the disruption was sufficient.
Members of two national associations of student affairs professionals in higher education -- ACPA: College Student Educators International and NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education -- are voting this spring on whether the two groups will merge. Leaders of the two groups negotiated for a long time about the merger plan, and have argued generally that there are enough commonalities of interest and potential economies of scale that a merger makes sense. But a group with NASPA has now formed to argue against the merger. On a website called "NASPA, Yes! Consolidation, No!," the group argues that a merger would "complicate governance," eliminate choices for student affairs professionals, and create "a monstrous annual conference." A spokeswoman for NASPA said that the organization was not responding to the members who created the website. Statements from both organizations' leaders about the planned merger may be found here.
Thirteen percent of public high school biology teachers advocate creationism or intelligent design for at least an hour of time, according to a national study by two Pennsylvania State University professors. A majority of high school teachers are cautious about endorsing evolutionary theory as the clear scientific consensus position, the professors found.