Pima Community Colleges faces a possible freeze on enrolling new students using veterans' educational benefits because of concerns over whether the college is complying with rules governing those benefits, The Arizona Daily Star reported. The concerns from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the last two years have been over reporting requirements on changes in the status of students using the benefits. Colleges are required to quickly report such changes, so that colleges don't continue to receive benefits who drop out or enroll in ineligible programs. Pima has been faulted for numerous instances of failing to make such reports. Lee Lambert, chancellor of Pima, said that “the college dropped the ball. It’s not acceptable."
Kennesaw State University has agreed to restore an art installation that officials ordered removed from its art museum last month. The work dealt with the the homestead of Corra Harris (1869-1935), an author who gained unusual prominence in her era for a female writer -- and whose career took off when she penned a piece widely viewed as a apology for lynching, full of racist stereotypes. The homestead is controversial at Kennesaw because the university accepted it as a gift to preserve in 2009 -- over the objections of some faculty members. University administrators ordered the installation about Harris removed from an exhibit that was celebrating the opening of a new art museum on campus -- and that decision has been denounced as censorship by many artists and others.
A statement from the university said that the exhibit will have explanatory information, and that the university's leaders "reaffirm the administration’s full support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. Our intention is to use this entire experience as a learning and engagement opportunity for all of our stakeholders." The university statement also included a statement from Ruth Stanford, the artist and an associate professor at Georgia State University, saying that she agreed with the decision to restore the installation.
Via email, Stanford was more critical of the university. "I am happy that my work is going back in the show so that viewers can see it and form their own opinions. However, despite my best efforts I feel that KSU largely continues to control the conversation. The conversation should be about censorship, and KSU does not want to talk about that," she said.
Also via email, the university responded to Stanford, and said that the university has in fact communicated about all issues that have been raised. "We have openly communicated the university administration's perspective and articulated the rationale for the action that was taken through three different media statements. We have responded to each and every individual media inquiry that we have received since this issue first developed. Members of the museum staff also have remained in frequent and consistent communication with the artist to ensure that the line of communication has remained open," the statement said.
"Finally, campus officials have directed that the related programming that the university has pledged to conduct will address all aspects of this controversy -- beginning with the acceptance of the gift and including the present controversy."
The University of Louisville last year agreed to pay six months of salary to 175 administrators and staff members who agreed to take earlier retirement. But The Courier-Journal reported that three administrators got a full year's pay. The newspaper noted that all were close to President James Ramsey and all agreed to pledge not to “disparage, demean or impugn the university or its senior leadership.” Some administrators who didn't get the extra pay are raising questions about why the agreements were needed, and why they resulted in much more pay for those three officials. Ramsey declined to comment on the agreements.
Officials at the University of Southern Maine and Southern Oregon University have announced retrenchment plans, in response to state budget cuts, that eliminate faculty jobs and academic programs -- and that are controversial.
At the University of Southern Maine, President Theodora Kalikow on Friday announced a plan to eliminate majors in American and New England studies, geosciences and recreational and leisure studies plus an arts and humanities major at the university's Lewiston-Auburn College. The plan would eliminate the jobs of 20-30 faculty members and 10-20 staff members. The Morning Sentinel reported that many faculty members are opposing the cuts and questioning the process by which the plan was developed.
Southern Oregon University will eliminate its physics department as part of a plan to cut 25 faculty positions, Ashland Daily Tidings reported. Officials said that they hoped to find a way to reinstate physics, linked more closely to regional hiring needs.
The Association of Art Museum Directors has taken the unusual step of adopting sanctions against Randolph College and its Maier Museum of Art. The group took the action because the college recently sold a masterpiece of American painting, the 1912 work "Men of the Docks," by George Bellows, for $25.5 million in funds for the endowment. Art ethics codes require that museums sell art only to build up collections, not for general financial support for institutions. Under the sanctions, members of the art museum association will stop collaborating with the Maier Museum of Art on exhibitions, either by borrowing or lending work.The News & Advance reported that four museums are expected to cancel plans to borrow works from the Randolph museum. College officials have defended the sale as crucial to the college's long-term financial health.
The University of Tennessee can't ban the Knoxville campus's annual "Sex Week," the system president has told state legislators, the Associated Press reported. The week, similar to those at other campuses, features a range of events, and Republican legislators have threatened to punish the university financially because of the program. In particular, lawmakers have objected to a panel discussion on pornography and a contraception scavenger hunt. Joe DiPietro, the system president, said in a letter to lawmakers that the First Amendment protects the event, and that the university can't ban it. Further, DiPietro said that he worried that “the attention focused on this matter by the General Assembly is quickly reaching a point that will cause greater harm and damage to the long-term interests of the university than any programming that may occur as result of Sex Week.”
The more expensive a purchase, the more important it is to be a smart consumer. Many Americans value labeling and rankings from food (nutrition labels) to appliances (energy ratings) to vehicles (gas mileage and crash safety) to health plans (Obamacare’s bronze, silver, gold, and platinum). Yet for one of the most expensive purchases a person will ever make – a college education – there is a dearth of reliable and meaningful comparable information.
In August, President Obama directed the U.S. Department of Education to develop a federal college ratings system with two goals: (1) to serve as a college search tool for students and (2) to function as an accountability measure for institutions of higher education.
Under the president’s proposal, ratings will be available for consumer use in 2015, and by 2018, they would be tied to the colleges’ receipt of federal student aid. Many colleges and universities have been protesting ever since, especially about the accountability goal.
But improving the information imbalance about higher education outcomes is a key step toward improving graduation rates and slowing the rise in student loan debt. Although accountability mechanisms are a complex issue that may well take somewhat longer than 2018 to develop, student advocates agree on the following: We must move forward now with the multifactor rating information that higher education consumers desperately need. Furthermore, the administration’s rating system should provide comparable data on several factors relevant to college choice so that students can choose which are most important to them, rather than imposing the government’s judgment about which handful of factors should be combined into a single institutional rating.
As we evaluate the case for federal consumer ratings, let’s first set aside the 15 percent of college students who attend the most selective institutions and enjoy generally very high graduation rates. They may feel well-served by rankings like Barron’s and U.S. News, which emphasize reputation, financial resources, and admissions selectivity.
But for the 85 percent of students who attend non- or less-selective institutions, the institution they choose has far greater consequences. For these “post-traditional” students, college choice could mean the difference between dropping out with an unmanageable debt load or graduating with a degree and moving on to a satisfying career.
To share a real example, consider three Philadelphia universities: a suburban private, a Catholic private, and an urban state. These institutions are all within 30 miles, enroll students with similar academic characteristics, and serve similar percentages of Pell-eligible students. If you are a local, low-income student of color who wants to attend college close to home, how should you decide where to go?
What if you knew that the suburban private school’s graduation rate for underrepresented minority students (31 percent) scored much lower than the Catholic private (54 percent) and urban state school (61 percent)? Or that the urban state and private Catholic schools have lower net prices for low-income students? Would that affect your choice? (Thanks to Education Trust’s College Results Online for these great data.)
A rating system with multiple measures (rather than a single one) could greatly help this student. Armed with facts about comparable graduation rates, admissions criteria, and net prices, she can investigate her options further, ask informed questions, and ultimately make a stronger decision about which institution is the best fit for her
A ratings system designed for the 85 percent of students going to less-selective institutions will help students get the information most important to them. Many consumer rating schemas include multiple measures. Car buyers can compare fuel efficiency, price and safety ratings as well as more subjective ratings of comfort or “driver experience” from a variety of sources. Some buy Honda Civics for gas mileage and safety, others choose more expensive options for luxury features or handling.
Similarly, prospective college students need to know not just about accessibility/selectivity (average GPA, SAT/ACT scores), but also about affordability (net price by income tier, average student loan debt, ability to repay loans) and accountability (graduation rates by race and by income). The information should be sortable by location (to aid place-bound students) and by institution type (two-year, four-year, public, private) for students to compare side by side.
The data to fuel the rating system are for the most part already available, although some are in need of improvement. As is now widely acknowledged, we must change the federal calculation of graduation rates as soon as possible to account for part-time and transfer students, and we must collect and report institutional Pell Grant recipient graduation rates as part of the federal data system (IPEDS). Over the long term, we should also find a valid way to assess work force outcomes for students.
But let’s not delay a ratings system that will serve students any further. Once the system is up and running, we can turn to the more complex and politically difficult question of how to use federal financial aid dollars to incentivize better institutional outcomes.
Carrie Warick is director of partnerships and policy at the National College Access Network, which advocates on behalf of low-income and underrepresented students.
Marietta College, a private institution in Ohio, is eliminating 20 full-time positions to deal with a budget shortfall, The Marietta Times reported. College officials said that they needed to make cuts to be able to make investments needed to promote the college's long-term sustainability.