Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 3:00am

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday defended the Obama administration’s proposed college ratings system to several Republican lawmakers, who criticized the plan. Testifying before the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the department’s budget, Duncan said that the college ratings system was needed to provide students with better information and to provide more accountability for taxpayer money. The department’s 2015 fiscal year budget request seeks $10 million to help develop the ratings system.

 “I question whether this is the best use of taxpayer dollars and whether higher education resources could be better-focused on federal student aid or other established programs,” said Representative Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, a Republican.

Representative David Joyce, an Ohio Republican, cited a December poll that found a majority of college presidents doubted the administration’s proposal would be effective in making college more affordable.

Duncan reiterated that the administration’s goal in creating a ratings system is to make sure that federal student aid money is well-spent. “Taxpayers spend 150 billion each year in grants and loans,” he said. “Virtually all of that is based on inputs. Almost none of that is based on outcomes.” Department officials have previously said they plan to produce a draft outline of the ratings system by the end of this spring.

Separately, Duncan also sidestepped a question about whether college athletes should have the right to unionize. Echoing the remarks he made in an interview last month prior to a preliminary ruling in favor of Northwestern football players, Duncan said Tuesday he was concerned that athletic coaches’ salaries do not provide the proper incentives for academic performance. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 3:00am
A new survey has found that male students outperformed their female counterparts on financial literacy aptitude questions but reported behavior that was less financially responsible overall.  The results of the survey of 65,000 first-year students at four-year institutions were released in a report on Tuesday. The report, which was funded by Ever Fi and Higher One, calls for more robust financial literacy education programs. 
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 3:00am

South Carolina officials have determined that South Carolina State University diverted $6.5 million in funds intended for low-income families to deal with cash flow issues, The State reported. A state report characterized the shift in funds not as fraud but as "a pattern of mismanagement." The university issued a statement asserting that it had changed its policies so this diversion of funds would not continue.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Victor Albert of the State University of New York at Buffalo, discusses his work looking deeply into the ancient origins of this Amborella and sequencing its genome in order to better understand how life has developed on Earth. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 3:00am

A day after the American Association of Community Colleges said it would not have anything to say about hiring a Bill Clinton impersonator to appear at the annual meeting, the association is apologizing and blaming the comedian.

The performance stunned and angered many attendees, many of whom walked out of the event. Many considered the jokes sexist, vulgar and inappropriate for a gathering of community college leaders.

Late Monday, the AACC sent this message to attendeeds: "Politicos Brigade comedian Tim Watters, a well-known Bill Clinton impersonator, performed in the final minutes of the opening session of the 94th Annual Convention. Mr. Watters has been on 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,' HBO's 'Real Time with Bill Maher,' and Comedy Central’s 'Win Ben Stein’s Money,' among other shows. The addition of a comedian was intended to entertain our attendees. Unfortunately, the comedian’s humor was not appropriate and it was not successful. AACC vetted the content planned for the performance, but unfortunately the comedian changed this original content without AACC's knowledge. AACC would never purposely offend any member of our association and the comedian in no way reflects the sentiment of the association's leadership."

Dustin Gold, who runs Politicos Brigade, disputed the AACC statement. He said that 10 jokes were provided to the AACC in advance, and that the AACC vetoed only two jokes and that those jokes were not used. He also said that AACC had the right to ask for the entire script in advance and didn't do so. In an email, Gold said: "Tim has been doing this for over 20 years, and has performed for countless Fortune 500s at thousands of events, and has run into several situations where the wrong type of entertainment was chosen for the attending crowd. As we all know, politics is a touchy subject and some audiences are just not the right fit for this type of entertainment. We apologize if anyone was offended, but I am confident that Tim provided the services he was hired to provide."

AACC did not respond to a request for comment on Gold's email.

 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 4:29am

Frances Chan, a junior at Yale University, says that she was ordered by health officials to gain weight or to risk being asked to leave, The New Haven Register reported. Chan is 5'2" and weighs 92 pounds. She says that Yale officials feared she had an eating disorder when she really just has always been thin. She ate junk food and ice cream to try to gain weight, but with little success. Yale officials said that they could not discuss her case because of federal privacy requirements.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 3:00am

The Project on Fair Representation, the legal team that has brought many legal challenges to the consideration of race, is looking for new plaintiffs. On Monday, the project announced that it has created three websites to invite people to indicate that they feel they have been the victims of discrimination in admissions. The sites seek plaintiffs against Harvard University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Officials with the project have in the past said that affirmative action hurts Asian applicants, an argument that appears related to the photos on the home page of each website.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 3:00am

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representative on Wednesday unveiled their response to the Republican 2015 fiscal year budget released last week by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

The plan by Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, would, among other things, authorize a student loan debt refinancing program and expanded loan repayment options.

The budget does not include any details about how those programs would be structured, but it would require them to not increase the deficit over the next 5 or 10  years. Both House budget proposals are largely symbolic political documents aimed at rallying voters in an election year, especially since Congress in December already agreed to top-line spending levels for the fiscal year that begins this October 1.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is set to testify before the House appropriations panel to discuss the administration’s budget proposal on Tuesday. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 3:00am

A newly formed coalition of 20 states is trying to create joint data standards and data sharing agreements for non-degree credentials, like industry certifications. While demand is high for these credentials, data is scarce on whether students are able to meet industry-specified competencies. The Workforce Credentials Coalition, which held its first meeting at the New America Foundation on Monday, wants to change that by developing a unified data framework between colleges and employers. Community college systems in California and North Carolina are leading the work.

Also this week, the Workforce Data Quality Campaign released a new report that describes states and schools that have worked to broker data-sharing agreements with certification bodies and licensing agencies. The goal of those efforts is to improve non-degree programs and to reduce confusion about the different types of credentials.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 3:00am

Inside Higher Ed is today releasing a free compilation of articles -- in print-on-demand format -- about the drive to increase the number of Americans with college credentials. The articles reflect challenges faced by colleges, and some of the key strategies they are adopting. Download the booklet here.

This booklet is part of a series of such compilations that Inside Higher Ed is publishing on a range of topics.

On Monday, April 28, at 2 p.m. Eastern, Inside Higher Ed editors Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman will conduct a free webinar to talk about the issues raised in the booklet's articles. To register for the webinar, please click here.

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