Many prospective students and their families lack the information they need to make informed choices about colleges, according to a report being issued today, "Planning for College: A Consumer Approach to the Higher Education Marketplace." The report examines the kinds of decisions families make and the information they need. The report notes that there are 118 different "529" plans, which promote saving for colleges by offering tax advantages to families, and that many do not know how to compare the plans; that information about the actual prices families pay (as opposed to sticker price) remains hard to figure out; and that there is relatively little information about such factors as price based on student-faculty ratios or graduation rates. The report was produced by MassINC, a think tank in Massachusetts.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Georgia has fired an employee whose job was to monitor and report students and faculty members who violate university policy to illegally download copyrighted material. The Athens Banner-Herald reported that the official has been charged with extortion for telling a student he caught downloading that he would not report her in return for cash.
Kaplan University and the California Community Colleges system have entered into an arrangement that will allow students at the two-year institutions to take individual online courses through Kaplan at a steep discount to help them finish their associate degrees. Under the deal, which is designed in part to help students at the two-year colleges deal with reduced course availability because of budget cuts, Kaplan will offer individual courses at a 42 percent discount from what they would normally cost as part of a degree program. Students will receive textbooks and other instructional materials at no charge.
Need more evidence of the disconnect between big-time college sports and the institutions to which they are appended? The University of Southern California's football team has committed one of its football scholarships for the 2015 entering class to David Sills, a 13-year-old quarterback at a middle school in Delaware, The News-Journal of Wilmington reported. Lane Kiffin, the new coach at Southern Cal, made a similar signing of a 13-year-old last year when he was at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and that player is presumably out of luck now that Kiffin has moved on to USC. Sills told ESPN that Southern Cal has always been his "dream school." Reports that USC's admissions office is offering slots in its 2015 undergraduate class to several very talented middle school mathematicians are false.
Whether the great blizzard of 2010 was a fun adventure, a distracting annoyance or some of each all depends on where in mid-Atlantic higher education you sit.
For the Association of Community College Trustees, the timing could not have been worse. Its National Legislative Summit was scheduled to start today in Washington, with many attendees scheduled to arrive over the weekend on flights that never took off. For much of the weekend, the ACCT tried to encourage attendance, even posting photos on its Web site of association leaders shoveling snow outside the meeting hotel. But late Sunday, the association called off plans to meet this week and said it would try to reschedule for March. A majority of attendees would be unable to make it to Washington this week. Further, the announcement noted, a major goal of the meeting is for community college leaders to meet with members of Congress and government officials, many of whom will not be working in their offices today or tomorrow.
Many students in the Washington-Baltimore area got some time off from later Friday through (in some cases) today, and many weekend classes and other events were called off. Colleges generally used Web sites to let students know where they could find dining services operating. As these photographs from The Diamondback show, students at the University of Maryland at College Park held a massive snowball fight. At Shenandoah University, students built this 10-foot-plus snowman, and also volunteered in the dining halls at the cooking and cleaning jobs of employees who lived too far away to get to campus. While many students worried about finding provisions for Super Bowl parties, St. John's College announced that a ban by Annapolis authorities on vehicular travel made it impossible to get food delivered for the scheduled party to honor the completion of senior essays, and so the event planned for Sunday would need to be postponed. (All the seniors did get their essays in, however, the college reported.)
The former executive director of a foundation that encourages college enrollment says she was fired because she questioned an arrangement in which the organization pays $40,000 annually to the commissioner of higher education in Texas, Raymund Paredes, The Dallas Morning News reported. Others also question the arrangement, given that the commissioner already has a $180,000 salary for his job. But Paredes and others defend the payments from the foundation, noting that he works on its behalf and that the arrangement violates no Texas laws.
The Christian Legal Society is attracting wide support -- particularly from religious organizations -- in its U.S. Supreme Court battle over whether public colleges and universities can enforce their anti-bias rules against religious groups. In December, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving the society's chapter at the Hastings College of Law of the University of California. Hastings maintains that it is within its rights to deny recognition to groups, like the society, that engage in forms of discrimination (against gay people, for example) that the university bars. But the society maintains that enforcing such rules violates its freedom of speech and religion.
Among the religious groups that filed briefs backing the society last week are the American Islamic Congress, the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Others filing briefs on behalf of the Christian Legal Society include the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the College Republican National Committee, and 14 states. The briefs may be found here.
The deadline for groups backing Hastings to file briefs is next month.
The University of Louisville's foundation awarded a $200,000, no-bid contract to an advertising company led by a university trustee, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. James Ramsey, president of the university and its foundation, said it was "a mistake" to award the contract in this way to an advertising business. He also said that the university's foundation has started working on tighter contracting procedures -- a project that started after the newspaper made an open records request for information about contracts.
Organizers of the Secular Students of Concordia are trying to get officials of the Minnesota college to reconsider their refusal to recognize the organization, The Fargo-Moorhead Forum reported. College officials said that they could not recognize a group committed to ideals that conflict with those of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with which the college is affiliated. On the organization's Facebook group, the club says its goals are to "to organize and gather students with interest and/or belief in the secular ways of thinking," "to inform and encourage the campus community about secularism, secular values and theories, and seeing these as adequate alternatives to religion" and to "enforce a greater tolerance towards secular beliefs, both on and off campus."
The case of a first-year student at the University of Oxford, apparently admitted courtesy of a high school and testing record he didn't earn, has led to increased scrutiny of the admissions system there, Times Higher Education reported. The student in question reported 10 A-grade A-level exams, a notable accomplishment in the British system -- except that it was false. A teacher's recommendation was also forged. The Times Higher reported that the student, who has been suspended, was admitted through a program for applicants who are not sponsored by schools, and that questions have been raised by critics about whether such applicants' materials receive enough scrutiny.