The House of Representatives education committee said Thursday that it would hold a hearing next week to examine how regional accrediting agencies define the "credit hour" as they judge the academic quality and rigor of the institutions they accredit. The issue was raised in audits of three accrediting agencies that the Education Department's Office of Inspector General released in the last six months, amid concerns that the agencies are setting too lax a standard for the amount of time students spend on course work to earn academic credit. No details were available on the hearing before the House Education and Labor Committee, other than that it would be held on June 17.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Rutgers University is calling off raises scheduled to go into effect over the next few weeks for just about all employees, The Star-Ledger reported. The university is citing looming budget cuts from the state, and invoking a provision in its union contracts that says that the university isn't obligated to pay raises if there is not money available to cover payroll. Rutgers is heavily unionized and union leaders are talking about challenging the decision. They note that the budget cuts are not surprises and argue that the university can find ways to meet its contract obligations.
Teach for America may be far less successful than its publicity suggests, according to a policy brief from the Education and the Public Interest Center and the Education Policy Research Unit. The report reviews evidence about the effectiveness of Teach for America teachers -- generally graduates of elite colleges who have received some training, but nothing resembling formal teacher education. The study found that the Teach for America teachers do better than other uncredentialed teachers (in terms of the impact on their students' test scores), but that they don't do better than teachers who have been credentialed. Teach for America teachers improve if they stay in the field long enough to earn credentials, but that's not the norm, the report says.
Tony Atwater announced Wednesday that he is stepping down as president of Indiana University of Pennsylvania to take a senior position at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, The Indiana Gazette reported. While Atwater did not take questions from reporters, the move follows a series of disputes with faculty leaders, who have questioned his priorities and management style.
LAS VEGAS -- First it was the National Association of Trade and Technical Schools. Then the Career College Association. Now, amid increasing debate about how to better reflect what its members herald as their embrace of innovation and independence from government, the primary lobbying group for for-profit higher education has a new name: the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. The group, which will be known as APSCU (not to be confused with APLU, the acronym for the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, the new name for the major association of public research universities), announced the change after a vote of its board at the start of its annual meeting, which began here Wednesday.
Marquette University announced Wednesday that it has reached a "mutually acceptable resolution” with Jodi O’Brien, a scholar who was offered the job of dean of arts and sciences, only to have the offer rescinded -- a move that has angered many faculty members. O'Brien is a lesbian and some of her writing is about lesbian sexuality -- facts about which she was frank during the interview process. Marquette declined to reveal details of the settlement. But a statement from the Rev. Robert A. Wild, the president, said: “We deeply regret the upset and unwanted attention that we caused this outstanding teacher and scholar, and we are grateful for the graciousness with which she has handled this matter in the weeks since the decision was announced.” Father Wild said his decision to rescind the contract reflected his judgment for the university on issues arising from aspects of O’Brien’s writings as they pertained to the university’s mission and identity. “To be sure, the university recognizes that, as is true of many judgment calls, different individuals and institutions could reasonably reach a different conclusion, even in the context of leadership positions,” he added.
O'Brien issued her own statement Wednesday night: "Throughout the recent settlement talks my intent has been to be responsive and respectful to the members of the Marquette community and the Milwaukee area residents who have shown such tremendous support for me. I have received hundreds of messages, including many from local Catholics, expressing dismay at the university's decision to suddenly cancel my hire. This support has inspired me to work toward an agreement that acknowledges the pain and damage to the Marquette community as well as to myself. I accepted the position of dean with the sense of a mandate to cultivate mutual understanding and respect among the many different voices that make up the Marquette community and the local and regional environments. Hopefully this work will be carried out through the terms of the resolution. I appreciate the responsiveness of the Marquette representatives to suggestions regarding a legacy of community betterment, including research and education regarding issues of gender and sexuality. I look forward to watching that progress unfold."
Wayne State University announced Wednesday that it will maintain its Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award, to honor journalists, despite the controversy over anti-Israel statements that led Thomas -- a Wayne State alumna -- to retire, The Detroit Free Press reported. A university statement said that Wayne State "strongly condemns" her "wholly inappropriate comments" but that the controversy shouldn't detract from her "many years of exemplary service."
At California State University at Los Angeles, budget cuts have the library closing at 8 every night, leaving many students without their preferred space to study. So, with finals week approaching, students created their own library. The Los Angeles Times reported that they set up tables for laptops, a copy machine and printer, and a coffee machine at a gathering spot outside the library. The "People's Library" has been available until midnight -- and students say it is both serving a practical need and drawing attention to the need for more money for the library budget. University officials initially expressed worries about safety issues, but then helped students with electrical cords and other matters.
The National Federation of the Blind is expanding its challenge to the Law School Admissions Council's online system for law school admissions, with a suit against the council and four California law schools that use its applications. The suit charges that the system is not accessible to blind applicants, and thus violates both state and federal anti-bias laws. The Law School Admissions Council has said in the past that its members do not discriminate against blind applicants and want the admissions system to be as functional as possible for all groups, but that some of the changes sought by the blind advocacy group are complicated to carry out.
Dr. Pamela M. Jolicoeur, president of Concordia College in Minnesota, died Wednesday after suffering a stroke. She was 65, and had led the college since 2004, following a 32-year career at California Lutheran University. At Concordia, she helped to complete a $100 million capital campaign, and encouraged new programs in the sciences, business and global education. A university statement about her accomplishments may be found here.