Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 1, 2018

A repeal of the Obama administration's gainful-employment rule would cost $4.7 billion over 10 years, according to an Education Department cost analysis, Politico reported this week.

Much of that spending would be driven by Pell Grants that would otherwise be denied to programs -- most of them at for-profit institutions -- that would fail to meet accountability standards if the rule was left in place. One in 10 vocational programs assessed under the rule last year failed the gainful-employment standards; of the failing programs, 98 percent were at for-profits.

The Education Department has not yet released a proposed overhaul of the Obama regulation. But multiple news outlets have reported that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos plans to eliminate the rule and, in its place, offer more data on program-level outcomes at all higher ed institutions.

August 1, 2018

Since taking office, President Trump has not appointed anyone to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and his failure to do so has alarmed scientists, since the head of that office has traditionally played a key role (in Democratic and Republican administrations alike) in advising presidents. The Washington Post reported that he has now made a choice for the position: Kelvin Droegemeier from the University of Oklahoma, who is an expert in extreme weather and who previously served as secretary of science and technology in Oklahoma.

August 1, 2018

A handful of Vanderbilt University students, faculty and staff received an email Monday evening containing the N-word and promoting white supremacy. The email, disguised as a Listserv command, asked readers to respond or click on an embedded link. The university is working to identify the sender and warned recipients against clicking any links or responding to the email.

The Vanderbilt University chapter of the NAACP posted a screenshot of the email to its twitter account.

"The white nationalist email blast that was sent out to many Black Students tonight is yet ANOTHER reprehensible display of how racism and hatred is ingrained into Vanderbilt culture," the group tweeted alongside the photo.

In a statement published Tuesday morning, Susan Wente, the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Tina Smith, the interim vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, called the email “abhorrent and antithetical to our values as a university community.”

“The fact that the communication was NOT an official Vanderbilt University email or correspondence does not diminish the pain that it has caused to members of the Vanderbilt community,” the statement read.

The screenshot has circulated around student Twitter circles, and many students have tacked on comments criticizing the racial atmosphere on Vanderbilt's campus.

"Friendly reminder that it is possible to graduate from @VanderbiltU without taking a single class that explicitly talks about race," one user tweeted.

"This was sent to so many listservs, including one I moderate, and @VanderbiltU I hope we find out who did this immediately," another wrote. "Today and every day #BLACKLIVESMATTER and white supremacy can fuck off from our organizations and communities."

August 1, 2018

Baldwin Wallace University officials announced Monday they would remove the names of a former professor and playwright from theaters in the Kleist Center for Performing Arts after past students accused the men of sexual misconduct.

William Allman, now deceased, taught at Baldwin Wallace for 41 years until his retirement in 1998. John Patrick, also deceased, was a playwright and a good friend of Allman’s. He frequently visited campus throughout Allman’s tenure. The Allman Theatre will be renamed the Black Box Theatre, and the John Patrick Theatre will be called the Mainstage Theatre “for the foreseeable future,” Dan Karp, a spokesman for the university, wrote in an email.

“We are deeply sorry for any harm that may have been caused by this misconduct,” the college said in a statement from the office of the president. “No matter how much time has passed, the correct choice is to remove their names from the theatres now.”

August 1, 2018

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos this week issued an extension for her department's decision on whether to fully restore federal recognition of a troubled accreditor that the Obama administration had sought to terminate.

The department had until July 30 to review additional documents submitted by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools after a federal judge blocked the accreditor's termination and sent the case back to the department for a final decision. DeVos extended the timeline for a decision to Sept. 4.

An internal Education Department staff analysis released in June found that ACICS fell short of meeting 57 out of 93 federal standards. The department said those findings won't be incorporated into a final decision on the agency.

August 1, 2018

Students who don’t play traditional instruments will soon be welcomed at Berklee College of Music.

The college announced Tuesday that it will begin accepting students who perform electronic music using digital tools such as laptops, turntables and samplers.

Starting in the fall semester of 2019, students will have the option to make electronic digital instruments their principal instruments as they study at the college. Students previously had to use a traditional principal instrument such as the piano or the violin.

The change in policy is being made in recognition of the “central role that computers play in all types of music making,” the announcement said.

“This new initiative is going to have a huge effect on the field of music education,” said Michael Bierylo, chair of electronic production and design at Berklee. “We’ll now have the opportunity to study and teach an important way that artists are currently exploring music.”

August 1, 2018

President Trump on Tuesday signed into law an update to the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which will give states more authority to determine their own goals for the $1.2 billion federal grant program.

The passage of the Perkins legislation is the rare example of Republicans and Democrats reaching agreement on higher ed legislation.

“By enacting it into law, we will continue to prepare students for today’s constantly shifting job market, and we will help employers find the workers they need to compete,” Trump said in a statement.

Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Senate education committee, said the bill would help workers get the skills needed to fill jobs in a growing economy.

“At a time when our economy is booming, what I hear most often from Tennessee employers is that they need more skilled workers. The Perkins CTE Act funds the programs that help train those skilled workers -- for example, a high school student wanting to become a computer coder, or an adult going back to school to learn about commercial construction.”

Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat and ranking member on the committee, said the Perkins update would help ensure students get training that matches the needs of their local economies while improving accountability.

Although the House passed a Perkins reauthorization more than a year ago, Senate negotiations remained stalled until Republicans and Democrats cobbled together a deal in June. The White House and business groups made passing a Perkins update this year a priority, and the Senate quickly approved the bill before the House did so as well.

Some work-force training groups have praised the passage of the legislation while urging that legislative language be crafted carefully to avoid having states either set low performance targets or become overburdened with administrative requirements.

“The resources provided through this law will assist states and local public education providers in their efforts to ensure both secondary and postsecondary learners have the skills and experiences that will provide a pathway to the middle class, while also meeting the needs of large and small employers across the nation,” said the Association for Career and Technical Education and Advance CTE in a joint statement. “As we turn our attention from policymaking to implementation, there is much work to be done to ensure the intent and aspirations of this law are fully realized.”

August 1, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of American University Week, Tricia Bacon, assistant professor at American's School of Public Affairs, examines how terrorist groups with allies can come back from the dead. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


July 31, 2018

Catholic University announced Monday that it has revoked the honorary degree awarded to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the subject of complaints that he sexually abused a minor. A statement from the university said that "in light of these events," the university is revoking the honorary degree awarded in 2006. This is the first time the university has revoked an honorary degree. In his career, Cardinal McCarrick served at various points as assistant chaplain, dean of students and director of development at the university. He also served several terms as a member of the board.

July 31, 2018

Monday was the day that various groups filed briefs in the lawsuit charging that Harvard University discriminates against Asian-American applicants. Most of the briefs were fairly predictable, with many prominent colleges and higher education associations lining up behind Harvard. One brief is a little different in that it seeks to show that many Asians back Harvard (of course, many do not). But among those joining a brief backing the university by various student organizations were the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association, the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Women’s Association, the Harvard Asian-American Brotherhood, the Harvard Vietnamese Association, the Harvard-Radcliffe Chinese Students Association, the Harvard Korean Association, the Harvard Japan Society, the Harvard South Asian Association and the Task Force on Asian and Pacific American Studies at Harvard College.



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