Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Tuesday overturned a lower court's ruling that could have forced the University of Chicago to turn over invaluable Persian antiquities to a group of people suing Iran. Chicago has the antiquities on a long-term loan and has pledged to return them to Iran, but was temporarily blocked from doing so by a suit by American victims of a terrorist attack in Israel, who sued to recover Iranian assets in the United States after winning a finding that Iran was responsible for the attack. The appeals court ruled that the plaintiffs' approach (and the lower court's ruling) failed to recognize the protections the United States grants to the property of foreign countries. The University of Chicago and museum groups have worried that the lower court's ruling, if upheld, would discourage countries from allowing any objects of value to travel to the United States for any reason -- potentially limiting intellectually valuable scholarship or art exhibits.
EverFi Inc., a company that offers schools and colleges online programs on financial literacy, student loan management and other subjects, is today announcing that it has acquired Outside the Classroom, which operates AlcoholEdu, an online program for college students that has become a popular tool for colleges to use to discourage alcohol abuse. (EverFi's CEO, Tom Davidson, previously served on the board of Inside Higher Ed.)
An analysis in USA Today finds that the real value of an athletic scholarship for a single year is $120,000 for men's basketball -- more than four times the median value reported by colleges and universities at the top level of collegiate play. USA Today calculates that value as including such goods and services as coaching; academic counseling; strength and conditioning consulting; help in dealing with reporters, medical insurance and treatment; game tickets; and future earnings potential due to a college education. The article also quotes some experts questioning the newspaper's approach to the issue.
The Fiesta Bowl terminated its president with cause Tuesday, after an independent investigation revealed that officials from the marquee college football bowl game directed more than $46,000 in improper campaign contributions to local politicians and gave themselves and state officials supportive of the bowl “excessive compensation” and “inappropriate gifts.” The investigation also uncovered a “conspiracy to conceal” this behavior from the bowl’s board of directors and state officials. Duane Woods, chairman of the Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors, responded in a statement: “The actions undertaken and orchestrated by John Junker [the bowl game's president and chief executive officer] and others are shocking and completely unacceptable. Their actions, unfortunately, have tainted the stellar reputation that the Fiesta Bowl has worked so hard to maintain for more than 40 years.”
The Independent Special Committee, which undertook the investigation, offered a series of recommendations to “address and prevent future improprieties,” which the bowl’s board recently approved. Woods added: “Clearly, the board placed too much trust in a single executive without proper oversight.… We also plan to share the lessons learned from this experience with other bowls around the country and the [Bowl Championship Series] and seek further input on our reforms.”
The Apollo Group on Tuesday announced a quarterly loss and enrollment declines at the University of Phoenix that were largely attributable to changes in the for-profit institution's policies aimed at ensuring that more of the students it enrolls can succeed academically. The company's announcement of its second quarter results drove down its stock price, Bloomberg reported. Apollo saw enrollment of new students in University of Phoenix degree programs fall by 45 percent from a year ago, and said its policy of requiring new students with few academic credits to enroll in a free orientation program to see if they are cut out for college-level work had suppressed enrollments in the short term but put it "on a path of more consistently delivering high quality growth" in the future. Phoenix, as the biggest and most visible player in the for-profit higher education sector, has been under intense scrutiny amid discussion of increased federal regulation, and it has put in place a series of changes (including changing how it compensates recruiters), its officials have said, to try to lead the industry in a new direction.
Just days after being introduced, a bill that would bar community and state colleges in Florida from awarding tenure to faculty members was approved, 8 to 4, by a House of Representatives subcommittee on Tuesday. Faculty groups and several college presidents have come out against the bill, but a representative of the Associated Industries of Florida, a business lobby, endorsed the legislation. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Representative Erik Fresen, a Republican who chairs the K-20 Competitiveness Subcommittee, said that tenure makes it difficult for colleges to adjust to meet student demand in certain fields. "Oftentimes, the colleges cannot respond in time because of these 'handcuff' situations," he said.
Amid recommendations that all registered nurses be required to attain bachelor’s-level nursing degrees, the American Association of Community Colleges defends associate-level schools of nursing in its latest policy brief. Released Tuesday, the brief argues that these two-year programs have their place alongside bachelor’s-level schools of nursing, “because they contribute individually to collectively building a strong nursing workforce.” It notes that “the majority of the nation’s new R.N.'s are educated in associate-level schools of nursing” and that these programs “provide the nation its greatest number of minority R.N.'s” and “educate the majority of R.N.'s in rural settings.” Furthermore, the brief asserts that health care employers are “equally likely to hire” R.N.'s prepared in associate-level and in bachelor’s-level schools of nursing.
Faculty members at Essex County College have voted no confidence, 101 to 6, in Edythe Abdullah, who is in her first year as president, The Star-Ledger reported. The resolution adopted called her "unresponsive, indecisive, untimely and an untrustworthy administrator." Much of the anger, the newspaper reported, came from Abdullah's push for more of a role in evaluating candidates for tenure, delaying the process for those professors up for promotion this year. Abdullah told the Star-Ledger, "Maybe I’ve gotten off to a rocky start in doing that. Maybe there have been some mistakes. Maybe I don’t understand the political culture enough here to have as smooth a start as I would have liked."
The U.S. Education Department announced Tuesday that it is fining Virginia Tech $55,000 for violations of federal laws in the university's response to the mass killings that took place there on April 16, 2007. The fine focuses on the university's failure to immediately warn students of the danger -- after the university learned of the first shooting. Virginia Tech officials have maintained that they acted based on the best information they had at the time, and that they did not realize the potential for the killings that would take place later in the day.