Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, October 15, 2010 - 3:00am

California State University has told an entrepreneurial recent graduate that he must shut his course notes website because it violates state law, the Los Angeles Times reported. Ryan Stevens' NoteUtopia.com, set up in August, was one of many new websites designed to give students a place to collaborate and share work. But Cal State officials have warned Stevens that the site violates an obscure state law that bars students from distributing course materials for commercial purposes, and have told students who use it that they risk expulsion. Stevens told the newspaper that the policy violates students' rights.

Friday, October 15, 2010 - 3:00am

Administrators at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire say they will punish a professor who sent an e-mail discouraging students there from holding a gay film festival because he decries "attempts to legitimize (homosexuals') addictions and compulsions," the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported. The student had sent an e-mail to a group of employees last month asking for faculty support in publicizing the Eau Queer Film Festival, a new event that took place last week. In reply, the newspaper said, Tom Hilton, chairman of the university's information systems department, sent what university administrators characterized as a "hurtful and condescending" reply, saying that gay people, "our fellow humans, deserve our best efforts to help them recover their lives. We only hurt them further when we choose to pretend that these walking wounded are OK the way they are, that their present injuries are the best they can hope for in life." Hilton told the Telegram Leader that he had worded his e-mail "very badly" and said that he was sorry and would cooperate if the university punishes him.

Friday, October 15, 2010 - 3:00am

Michigan's Department of Human Services has heard enough rumors that college students are abusing its equivalent of a food stamp program that it has deemed the idea "Myth No. 5" on its list of welfare program myths. But the Lansing State Journal, in an article published Thursday, quotes numerous store clerks complaining that local college students are using their "Bridge Cards" -- which are supposed to be used only for essentials -- on mixes for liquor and junk food. "They fill their carts with Red Bull, jerky, Doritos," one clerk told the newspaper. "They tell their friends, ‘Throw in whatever you want … the government’s paying for it.' ” While state officials said that as many as 18,000 college and university students were receiving food assistance at any given point in 2009-10, they called the notion of widespread abuse of Bridge Cards by students an urban legend.

Friday, October 15, 2010 - 3:00am

The College Sports Project, an initiative of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has again shed light on the academic performance of athletes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s non-scholarship Division III. Wednesday, the project, now entering its fifth year, released its latest report, which includes information on more than 83,000 athletes at 84 institutions. Among the report’s highlights, female athletes have higher grade point averages than male athletes. In addition, athletes who were recruited prior to admission had lower GPAs than athletes who were not recruited and non-athletes at their same institution; this was especially the case at “the most highly selective colleges.” As the NCAA does not gather much academic data on athletes in Division III, the overview provided by this project is one of few insights athletics watchdogs have into the little-examined division. NCAA officials have criticized the project in the past, however, arguing that its small sample size prevents it from offering an accurate picture of academic performance within the large division, which has more than 450 member institutions ranging from large state institutions to small, selective liberal arts colleges.

Friday, October 15, 2010 - 3:00am

For-profit higher education stocks plunged across the board Thursday following confirmation from the industry's biggest player that pressure from Washington and negative press would probably hurt the company's bottom line for the foreseeable future. Shares of Apollo Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, fell more than 23 percent to a 52-week low of $38.00 a share. Education Management Corp., owner of the Art Institutes and Argosy University, among other institutions, also fell about 23 percent, to $10.22 a share.

The tumble follows Apollo's late Wednesday release of earnings data for the fourth quarter of its 2010 fiscal year, which showed new enrollments ("starts," in industry lingo) falling 10 percent, to 92,000 students, and projected that new starts in the first quarter of 2011 could be down as much as 40 percent over a year ago. Phoenix had already announced plans to require a three-week orientation course for students entering with fewer than 24 college credits (it becomes mandatory on Nov. 1), and said that it would stop compensating recruiters in part based on the number of students they enrolled. But the projection that those and other changes would damage starts -- the major source of revenue growth for for-profit colleges -- and cut the company's profits in the short term led some analysts to downgrade their outlooks on the company and the sector. At the same time, some analysts praised Apollo officials for making changes that appear to emphasize student outcomes over the bottom line.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 - 3:00am

A state appeals court in Louisiana ruled narrowly Wednesday that Tulane University acted legally when it shuttered its undergraduate women's college in its post-Hurricane Katrina restructuring, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported. Tulane closed Newcomb College in 2006 citing financial woes, prompting a lawsuit in which heirs to Josephine Louise Newcomb asserted that the closure violated the terms of the endowment she gave the university. But like several previous courts, the appeals court ruled, 3 to 2, that Tulane was bound by no such condition.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 - 3:00am

Officials at the University of Wisconsin-Stout said on Wednesday that they had permanently barred two players from the men's hockey team and suspended eight others for the upcoming season for violating the university's code of conduct for athletes -- actions taken after the two barred players were charged for their roles in a fellow student's death. The university's announcement said the players had been punished for violating the code's "guidelines for behavior, both on and off the field, including actions while engaging in high risk alcohol use." It referred only obliquely to the underlying situation that prompted the suspensions: the Sept. 18 death of a Stout student, which witnesses said came about when one of the hockey players -- after an argument in a local bar -- allegedly pushed the student off his bicycle and into a wall, causing fatal head injuries.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 - 3:00am

A longtime sports agent tells Sports Illustrated this week that he made payments to several dozen football players while they were in college, in violation of National Collegiate Athletic Association rules. The "as told to" tale from Josh Luchs recounts his payments to numerous well-known and not-so-famous athletes (many of which Sports Illustrated was able to confirm), and it comes at a time when the issue of sports agents is quickly rising on the college sports agenda, amid recent controversies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Southern California, and other highly visible sports programs.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 - 3:00am

The repositories that house overflow books from the libraries at Ohio's 13 public universities are culling their print reference collections because they are running out of space, the Columbus Dispatch reported. The five repositories are working together to donate or recycle all but two print copies of reference materials statewide -- one that can be checked out and another that can be kept permanently in one of the repository, the newspaper said. Officials hope the "de-duplication" process will clear out space for other overflow books, since the state does not have money to build new repositories.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday let stand lower court rulings concluding that the University of California did not violate private Christian high schools' freedom of speech and religion by not certifying certain courses for its college preparatory requirements, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case, without comment, as is its custom.

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