Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider an appeal of a ruling by New York State's highest court upholding the use of eminent domain to obtain certain properties for a new Columbia University campus in West Harlem. The Supreme Court's refusal to consider the case ends years of legal fights over Columbia's expansion plans.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 3:00am

A new study of students at the University of Northern Iowa and Southeastern Oklahoma University has found that about one-third of students said that they had been untruthful on faculty evaluations they submit at the end of courses, The Des Moines Register reported. While students admitted to fudging the truth both to bolster professors they liked and to bring down those they disliked, the latter kind of fabrication was more common.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 3:00am

Colorado State University has created a new panel to consider the admission of some athletes and musicians of "exceptional talent" who don't meet regular admissions criteria. While the new committee will not just focus on admitting athletes, The Coloradoan reported that the impetus for creating the panel was a dispute over eight athletes who had been denied admission through the standard process. After the athletic director appealed, all of the athletes were admitted.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 3:00am

A federal judge has ruled that Martin Gaskell, an astronomer formerly at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, has the right to sue the University of Kentucky over a job offer he didn't get after search committee members focused on his criticism of evolutionary theory, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. Gaskell was the leading candidate for the job before discussion on the search committee turned to his views on evolution, according to court documents. Gaskell says he lost the job due to illegal religious discrimination because of his religious views as a Christian. But university officials have argued that one's views on evolution are relevant in hiring for scientific positions.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON – Things stayed mostly cordial Friday during a Q&A session between a top Education Department official, at times on the defensive, and a roomful of for-profit college officials, investors and advocates.

On the final day of a symposium sponsored by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities here, James Kvaal, the relatively new deputy undersecretary of education, made a brief speech before fielding questions regarding the Obama administration's "gainful employment" rules, accusations of hostility against for-profit colleges, and complaints of unfair expectations. Kvaal took no detours from the administration's public stances -- expressing an appreciation both for the important role for-profit institutions play and, “at the same time,” for the added responsibility they bear to ensure that their graduates achieve gainful employment, especially when riddled with debt.

Kvaal disputed an assertion that the Obama administration is hostile toward the for-profit sector. When asked why for-profits face an “apples-to-apples comparison” to other institutions when they serve a disproportionate number of low-income and non-traditional students, Kvaal maintained that they cannot be excepted from quality standards and could serve students better.

When Kvaal said he thought the program integrity rules -- the regulations unrelated to gainful employment -- were “pretty clear across the board,” several people snickered or shook their heads. Kvall then urged them to submit questions or comments so the department can clarify any uncertainty. In his opening speech, Kvaal said that not all for-profit institutions are bad, and that the sector is important because of its diversity of programs and institutions, capacity for innovation and growth, and services for non-traditional students.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 3:00am

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education will shut its doors next July, 12 years after it was founded to prod and improve higher education from the "outside looking in," the group's founders said. In an editorial in the latest issue of the center's publication, National CrossTalk, Patrick M. Callan, the center's president, and James B. Hunt Jr., the head of its board and former governor of North Carolina, said that the center was never intended to "be a permanent institution." Callan and Hunt cited as the center's primary achievements the creation and institutionalization of the "Measuring Up" report, which is taking a hiatus after a decade of grading states on the performance of their higher education systems, and National CrossTalk, and a five-state experiment with student learning outcomes.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 3:00am

A panel that oversees the names of buildings at Eastern Illinois University has rejected the idea of renaming Douglas Hall, which is named for Stephen Douglas, the senator who debated Lincoln and who advocated the rights of individual states to keep slavery, The Journal Gazette and Times-Courier reported. The Faculty Senate at the university urged that the name be changed, arguing that Douglas was not worthy of being honored with a building at a state university. Critics of the faculty proposal said that Douglas should not be judged by today's standards, although faculty members noted that many of his contemporaries viewed his as an ardent defender of slavery, to the detriment not only of slaves but of the United States.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 3:00am

Bennie Wilcox, former dean of law at Kaplan University, was convicted Friday of sending threatening e-mail messages to various Kaplan officials, Bloomberg reported. The e-mails were sent under other names, but prosecutors charged Wilcox sent them. He has denied the charges and has maintained that he was framed in retaliation for being a whistle blower in a suit charging Kaplan with various violations of federal student aid rules.

Friday, December 10, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Phoenix on Thursday published its third annual report on the academic outcomes of its students. Inside Higher Ed articles on earlier iterations of the report examined the strengths and flaws of the university's approach; this year's report shows little change in the institution's graduation rates, and compares its students' performance on tests of information literacy and academic proficiency to students at peer institutions. Phoenix's report remains unusual, in both for-profit and traditional higher education, for its straightforwardness and high visibility.

Friday, December 10, 2010 - 3:00am

Sister Marie E. Thornton, a nun who formerly was the top financial officer at Iona College, has been charged with embezzling $1.2 million from the college by allegedly turning in false invoices and submitting credit card bills for personal expenses, The Journal News reported. She was known on campus as "Sister Susie" and surrendered to authorities Thursday. The New York Post is having a field day with the story (its headline is "Take the $$ & nun" and lead sentence is "Talk about a really bad habit.") The newspaper also noted that she entered a plea of not guilty and that her lawyer said: "We think the case will be resolved in a manner fair to all the parties involved."

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