U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, a key member of the Senate Democratic leadership, on Tuesday called for a number of reforms of federal laws that involve for-profit higher education, saying that they should share in the default risks of their students -- costs that are currently assumed by the taxpayers. “While responsible for-profit colleges offer a valuable alternative to students, there are too many schools taking advantage of students and making money hand over fist,” Durbin said at a forum he held in Chicago. “Some for-profit colleges are spending a quarter of their revenues on marketing and recruiting, and up to 90 percent of those revenues come from federal funding. We need to consider whether it is wise for companies to profit so handsomely on federal funding when the results don’t match the investment. And we need Congressional action to rein in abuses and ensure that taxpayer dollars are being wisely spent.” Durbin also proposed that accreditation rules be changed so that for-profit colleges can't obtain accreditation by purchasing accredited nonprofit colleges. And he said the for-profit colleges should be required to release more information about "real costs," job placement rates and other factors.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Southern Mississippi is planning to cut 29 faculty jobs -- including those of 14 tenured professors -- as various academic units are eliminated or reduced to deal with state budget cuts, The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., reported. Anita Davis, president of the Faculty Senate, said: "It's sad. These are some of our most-respected people on campus."
A former postdoctoral researcher at Washington State University fabricated and falsified data in a journal article and has been barred from participation in federal research projects for three years, the Office of Research Integrity at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday. The announcement in the Federal Register involved researcher Hung-Shu Chang, a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and an article in the journal Endocrinology.
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation has announced that it will conduct an audit of its scholarship program, following reports of repeated violations of its rules by one member, The Dallas Morning News reported. The Morning News revealed recently that Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat, gave 23 scholarships to four of her relatives and two children of a top aide -- violating the foundation's anti-nepotism rules and requirements that scholarship recipients live in the districts of the members awarding the funds.
A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the legality of a Florida law that bars state employees from using state funds to travel to countries on the U.S. government's list of "State Sponsors of Terrorism." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit rejected a challenge by faculty members from several public universities in Florida, who argued that the state statute conflicts with federal law and intrudes on the federal government's power to control foreign affairs. But the appeals panel, in partially overturning a lower court's split ruling, backed the state's right to determine how its own funds for education (and non-state funds administered at state expense) are spent, including on academic travel.
A Brooklyn College alumnus has ended plans for a bequest because of his anger over a reading assignment for first-year students, The New York Daily News reported. The book in question is How Does It Feel to Be a Problem, by Moustafa Bayoumi, who teaches at the college. The book looks at the experiences of Arab-Americans, post 9/11. Bruce Kesler, the alumnus, told the Daily News: ""That book was a poor and insulting choice. I'm sure Brooklyn College is still a great avenue for education, but I don't think that I should send it any more money." The National Association of Scholars, which has drawn attention to what it considers politicized reading assignments for freshman orientation programs, recently wrote critically about the book. A statement from the college said it was "regrettable that Mr. Bruce Kesler misunderstands the intentions of the Common Reader experience and the broader context of this selection."
The U.S. Justice Department has sued Maricopa County Community College District, charging it with illegal discrimination by requiring non-citizens to produce more work authorization documents than are required, the Associated Press reported. U.S. citizens have not faced the additional requirements. A district spokesman declined to comment on the suit.
New Jersey's low-income students will see their state grants for higher education cut by 8 percent this year, even as they face higher tuition rates, The Star-Ledger reported. The state increased funding for the grants program by 18 percent, but the number of eligible students surged, so the additional funds were not enough to keep the grant size even with last year's level.
A judge in British Columbia has lifted an injunction that blocked the University of Victoria from moving ahead with its rabbit control plan, but the rabbits may be safe from being killed, The Globe and Mail reported. The judge ruled that the animal rights activists who won the injunction earlier, lacked standing to sue the university over its plan to deal with some 2,000 wild rabbits on the campus by trapping and relocating some of them, killing some of them, and sterilizing others. The controversy has prompted so many offers to take some of the rabbits, university officials said, that if everyone who has offered to do so follows through, no bunnies will be killed.
The University of California system's retirement fund faces a shortfall of $20 billion, according to a study released Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported. A committee that produced the study offered a number of recommendations for closing the gap, including raising the retirement age for new employees, increasing the contributions made by both the university and its employees, and reducing benefits. Faculty members worry that some of the changes could make employment at the university less attractive for some of the academic talent they would like to recruit. Mark G. Yudof, the system president, recently sent a letter to all employees in which he said some changes are essential. "If we do nothing, in four years, the university will be spending more on retirement programs each year than we do on classroom instruction," he said.