Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, December 9, 2010 - 3:00am

Four former athletes at the University of Toledo will plead guilty to charges related to fixing the outcome of football and men's basketball games, The Toledo Blade reported. The allegations concern a two-year period starting in December 2004.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Five Columbia University students were arrested Tuesday on charges of selling drugs to fellow students, and a prosecutor said that one of the students said he was using some of the profits to pay for his tuition, Bloomberg reported.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 3:00am

A new study out today reinforces the impression left by other recent surveys of the country's economic landscape: tight state budgets are going to put a squeeze on public colleges and many other state-financed entities. The newest analysis, released today by the National Conference of State Legislatures, follows other recent assessments of the state budget environment by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The big-picture view of the legislators' report, consistent with the others, is that state revenues in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 fiscal years are expected to turn up somewhat over this year, but those increases will leave most states well short of where they were in 2008 -- with overall general fund spending $42 billion less than in that year. And unlike the last two years, most states will be unable to plug those holes with billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds, even though the rising costs that those federal monies were meant to mitigate -- especially in increased Medicaid payments -- show no signs of abating. With many new governors having won their jobs in part with pledges of "no new taxes," and continuing pressure on colleges to keep tuition increases to a minimum, the political choices for state leaders will be difficult, said Daniel J. Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis at the state-college association.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has revised a number of passages in a highly critical report on the recruiting tactics of for-profit colleges, generally in ways that make the colleges look better, The Washington Post reported. Republican defenders of the colleges say that the changes -- relating to what for-profit representatives told investigators posing as students -- raise questions about the entire report. GAO offiicals say that the changes concern a relatively small number of interactions and don't change the larger conclusions of the study.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Kaplan Higher Education announced Tuesday that it is eliminating 770 positions, about 5 percent of its work force. Jeff Conlon, president and CEO of Kaplan Higher Education, said: "Our enrollments have slowed recently, as they have at other proprietary schools. More importantly, we have made a strategic decision to become more selective in the students we enroll, focusing on students who are most likely to thrive in a rigorous academic environment and meet their financial obligations. These factors have led to a shift in our personnel needs."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Two professors are suing West Virginia University over misconduct allegations they face in relation to a scandal over a degree improperly awarded to the daughter of the then-governor, The National Law Journal reported. The professors had been assigned the task of figuring out whether Heather Bresch earned an M.B.A. at the university; their suit says that they found she didn't, but that the university retroactively awarded one anyway -- only to then charge them with misconduct over the way she received the degree. The university has not responded to the suit.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Lane Community College has called off a non-credit course called "What Is Islam?" amid concerns about the instructor, The Eugene Register-Guard reported. The instructor, Barry Sommer, heads a local chapter of a group that has been criticized as anti-Islam -- a characterization he disputes. Mary Spilde, president at Lane, said that no contract was ever signed for Sommer to teach the course and that she does not think the action raises free speech issues. "We certainly value intellectual inquiry and freedom of speech but we also want to make sure, when LCC is involved, that we are doing it in an appropriate way to provide a productive and effective learning environment," she said. "We are not going to be pressured by any group on any side of this issue when we make a decision."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 3:00am

Harvard University on Monday announced that the size of the Harvard Corporation, the university's governing board, will increase to 13 from 7. Further, the board will start using committees -- on finance and on facilities -- instead of simply meeting as a committee of the whole. Those committees in turn may include some people who are not members of the corporation. The changes are somewhat radical for Harvard, which has had the same structure for the corporation since 1650. But board committees and larger boards are standard in private higher education. By way of comparison, Yale University's governing board has 19 members, and the Stanford University board has 35 members. Data from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges show that the average board size for private doctoral institutions is 38. As Harvard experienced significant budget cuts the past two years, following sharp drops in its endowment value, critics have questioned whether the small board in place was sufficiently engaged with various university constituencies.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 3:00am

Lisa Howe, former women's soccer coach at Belmont University, initially did not speak out in public after reports surfaced that she was pressured to resign once the institution learned that she was a lesbian and that Howe and her partner are planning to have a baby. But after the university's board chair spoke out, she is responding. The board chair, Marty Dickens, told The Tennessean, in regard to the treatment of Howe: "We expect people to commit themselves to high moral and ethical standards within a Christian context." On Monday evening, through a lawyer, Howe issued a statement in which she said: “No one wants their private family life made public or likes to think that people are talking about them, but I feel like I need to explain just a little about myself, for I have always held my head high and will continue to do so. I believe I am a good, moral person, who cares for others. Those and other basic Christian tenets are important to me, to how I live my life, including as a coach, and to what I want to teach my child as he or she grows up. I have never intentionally detracted from the goodness or holiness inherent in any person or institution, and I do my best not to judge people based on personal characteristics such as race, gender, religion, ability, or sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 3:00am

Controversy continues to swirl around the partnership between a for-profit online course provider and Arkansas State University, where faculty voted last week for a moratorium on any new programs with the company. In a 19-10 vote, the university’s Faculty Senate approved a resolution that calls on Arkansas State to hold off on developing any further programs with Academic Partnerships, LLC, a company formerly known as Higher Ed Holdings. Before moving forward, a faculty committee should review the existing relationship, which has created a “fundamental shift in the nature of faculty roles and relationships, manner of instruction and the nature of the institution itself,” the resolution states. Administrators’ ties to the company have prompted conflict of interest charges, leading an interim chancellor and the former system president to distance themselves from the company and the university, respectively.

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