Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, August 17, 2009 - 3:00am

Some for-profit colleges are increasing their own loans to students -- even students with high risks of default -- to build enrollments, the Associated Press reported. While the trend is far from universal in the sector, it is raising eyebrows from some who scrutinize for-profit higher education. The AP reports that the colleges feel that even if they are not repaid by students, they benefit from the enrollments they gain, along with the associated tuition dollars and federal aid.

Monday, August 17, 2009 - 3:00am

The board of the University of North Carolina System voted on Friday to immediately cut the pay of James Oblinger, the former chancellor of North Carolina State University, The Raleigh News & Observer reported. Oblinger resigned in June under an agreement in which he was promised to be paid his chancellor's salary ($420,000) for six months, before returning to the faculty, where he would be paid as a professor. The board, amid some disagreement but facing statewide criticism over the exit packages given to administrators, voted to cut Oblinger immediately to $173,000, which is what he will earn as a professor of food science. Oblinger quit amid an escalating public debate over his university hiring the wife of the then-governor. As he quit, Oblinger stated that he did not believe he had done anything improper, but wanted the university to focus on other issues.

Monday, August 17, 2009 - 3:00am

President Obama has a long memory about grades he didn't agree with. The president recently met with Roger Boesche, his politics professor when the future president was an undergraduate at Occidental College. Obama has praised Boesche many times, but took some time during their meeting to reiterate his complaint -- made decades ago -- about a B he received on a paper about European political thought, the Los Angeles Times reported. Obama and Boesche still disagree about the grade. Boesche told the Times that he didn't necessarily think Obama would someday be president, and that there is a lesson there for teachers at all levels: to "realize that in any class, you could have a child, a young man or woman, who could do incredibly great things in the world. So teach as well as you can."

Monday, August 17, 2009 - 3:00am

Five people were injured and five were arrested in a shooting incident early Sunday morning at Langston University, NewsOK reported. At around the same time, in another incident, there was another injury and arrest when a woman used her car to hit another person. None of the incidents apparently involved Langston students. A statement from the university said: "Langston University President JoAnn Haysbert says she is appalled and utterly disappointed by these acts of violence. 'We will pursue this to the fullest extent of the law,' President Haysbert said. 'Oklahoma law prohibits weapons and firearms from being carried on state property by unauthorized individuals.' "

Monday, August 17, 2009 - 3:00am

Rectors have joined other educators in taking to the streets in Venezuela to object to a new education law adopted last week by the parliament, The Miami Herald reported. The law makes "Bolivarian doctrine" the basis of education at all levels, a move that educators view as requiring them to indoctrinate students with the views of the ruling political party, the Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela. Rectors of the nation's universities have issued statements saying that the law effectively takes away their institutions' autonomy, and that it removes decisions over admissions from educators and gives them to the government. Rectors marched Thursday, but were prevented by riot police from reaching the parliament building. Nicolás Bianco, acting rector of the Central University of Venezuela, told a a radio interviewer that police filed teargas and plastic pellets without provocation or warning, and that as someone with a respiratory condition who was unable to breathe after the gas was fired, "I felt I was about to die."

Monday, August 17, 2009 - 3:00am

Esha Momeni, a master's student at California State University at Northridge, who was imprisoned for several weeks in Iran last year, and was then blocked from leaving the country, was able to do so last week and returned to California, the Los Angeles Times reported. Momeni was doing research for a master's thesis on women's rights in Iran when she was blocked from leaving.

Friday, August 14, 2009 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors issued a statement Thursday sharply criticizing a decision by the Yale University Press, first reported by The New York Times, to exclude from a book about the controversy over cartoon images of Muhammad the images themselves. The AAUP statement said that Yale's position effectively was: "We do not negotiate with terrorists. We just accede to their anticipated demands." The AAUP said that the issues involved are: "1) an author’s academic freedom; 2) the reputation of the press and the university; 3) the impact of these twin decisions on other university presses and publication venues; 4) the potential to encourage broader censorship of speech by faculty members or other authors."

Yale released a statement defending its actions. "As an institution deeply committed to free expression, we were inclined to publish the cartoons and other images as proposed," said the statement. "The original publication of the cartoons, however, was an occasion for violent incidents worldwide that resulted in over 200 deaths. Republication of them has repeatedly resulted in violent incidents, including as recently as 2008, some three years after their original publication and long after the images had been available on the Internet. These facts led us to consult extensively with experts in the intelligence, national security, law enforcement, and diplomatic fields, as well as leading scholars in Islamic studies and Middle East studies. All confirmed that the republication of the cartoons by the Yale University Press ran a serious risk of instigating violence, and nearly all advised that publishing other illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad in the context of this book about the Danish cartoon controversy raised similar risk. We recognize that inclusion of the cartoons would complement the book¹s text with a convenient visual reference for the reader, who otherwise would have to consult the Internet to view the images."

Friday, August 14, 2009 - 3:00am

Many colleges ban smoking on campus. Grand Rapids Community College is now going further, with campus police issuing tickets -- first with warnings and then with $30 fines -- for violations of the rules, The Grand Rapids Press reported. Some students support the new fines, saying that too many people violate the rules. But others say that the fines are not reasonable unless there is a place where smoking is permitted on campus.

Friday, August 14, 2009 - 3:00am

Cengage Learning said Thursday that it would become the first higher education publisher to let students rent as well as buy print textbooks directly from the source. Cengage said it would transform its existing online platform, known as iChapters, into a broader site that would allow students to rent print textbooks at 40 to 70 percent off retail as well as purchase print and digital texts and other materials. Publishers have been exploring a range of ways to enter the burgeoning market for renting textbooks.

Friday, August 14, 2009 - 3:00am

There are some rankings colleges love to rate highly in -- like the various magazine rankings that claim to assess quality -- and others they'd rather be left out of, like those of party schools or worst colleges. This one probably falls somewhere in between: a listing by two consumer watchdog groups that lists organizations that both lobbied the federal government and received the most money in the form of Congressionally directed earmarks. The database, which was put together using the Center for Responsive Politics's data on lobbying and the information on earmarks compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense, shows universities filling 9 of the 10 top slots, and 13 of the top 20 positions, in a list of organizations that both lobbied the government and benefited from pork barrel projects from their representatives. The University of Alabama led the way with $40.55 million in earmarks (it spent $360,000 on lobbying in 2009 and individuals contributed $138,494 to political candidates). Four of the next five slots were filled by Mississippi universities (U. of, Mississippi State, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and the University of Southern Mississippi), and one interesting recipient in the top 20 was Teach for America, which spent $509,000 on lobbying and got $2 million in earmarks. The groups' analysis suggests, however, that the universities might be bumped from their top positions in the rankings when all of the 2009 earmarks for the Pentagon are included -- even the universities with the best friends in Congress can't compete with Northrup Grumman and Raytheon when it comes to political might.

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