Court: Some Pennsylvania Professors Must Have Background Checks

Faculty members at Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities teaching introductory, 100-level courses must complete criminal background and child abuse clearance checks, according to a state court. The decision reverses -- in part -- a suspension of such checks imposed in September, after the Association of Pennsylvania State College and Universities Faculties challenged the State System of Higher Education’s new policy requiring all faculty members to complete them. That policy resulted from a change in state law, which was later amended to apply to only educators teaching minors. But the university system sought to keep the broader background check policy applying to all faculty members it already had adopted. The faculty union was successful in part, Penn Live reported, in that the recent decision says faculty members teaching upper-level courses, in which legal minors are less likely to be enrolled, do not have to submit to such checks. The policy can’t be applied universally until an arbiter or the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (or both) decide whether the university system has the managerial right to impose the requirement, according to Penn Live. The faculty union responded by asking the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to reconsider the lower court's decision. 

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New NCAA rules allow athletes to interact more freely with professional sports

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New NCAA rules allow basketball players to enter the draft multiple times and let baseball players hire agents.

Warrior-Scholar Project Continues Expansion

The Warrior-Scholar Program hosts academic boot camps for veterans of the U.S. military to help them make the transition to college. Teams of student veterans run the two-week sessions, which are taught by university professors and graduate students.

The program started at Yale University four years ago. It now has expanded to 12 universities, having added the University of Arizona for this year's summer sessions. More than 200 veterans are slated to participate this year. The host institutions are: the Universities of Arizona, Chicago, Michigan, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Oklahoma and Southern California; and Cornell, Georgetown, Harvard, Syracuse and Yale Universities; and Vassar College.

"Post-9/11 veterans have an immense degree of untapped potential to succeed in higher education institutions and to progress on to successful careers. Yet college can be a significant challenge, even when the GI Bill and other sources of funding are helping pay tuition," said Sidney Ellington, the program's executive director, in a written statement. "To tap that potential and reduce obstacles to success, our boot camps address veterans’ misperceptions about college and build their confidence through an intense academic reorientation."

Tracking States on Transfer

Nationwide, just 14 percent of students who first enroll at a community college transfer and eventually earn a four-year degree within a six-year period, according to a new report from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Fund and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The three groups recently announced a partnership to push for smoother transfer pathways. They used data from the clearinghouse to break down transfer and graduation numbers in more detail than had previously been available. The groups found that even states with the best record on transfer see one in five community college students earning a four-year degree within six years. States at the back of the pack have transfer and graduation rates that are in the single digits.

"This report enables us, for the first time, to see in which states colleges are supporting students in this journey so we can figure out what works and enable students everywhere to be successful," Davis Jenkins, a senior research associate at CCRC and co-author of the report, said in a written statement. "Greater success for more students will cut down on the waste in taxpayer money when students drop out or lose credits as they transfer."

The transfer and graduation data show that lower-income students tend to fare worse than their wealthier peers. The gap is particularly wide in California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas, among others, the report found.

The researchers also found a wide range of rates among colleges with similar characteristics and that enroll similar student populations.

"Importantly, this implies that how institutions serve transfer students matters: institutional practices that serve transfer students well can lead to better-than-expected outcomes for institutions with relatively few resources or more educationally disadvantaged students," the report said. "It also indicates that institutions could improve their transfer performance if they changed the way they serve transfer students and worked more closely with their transfer partners."

U of Cincinnati Settles for $5.3M With Family of Man Killed by Police Officer

The University of Cincinnati has agreed to a $5.3 million settlement with the family of Samuel DuBose, who was shot and killed by a university police officer in July. The officer who shot DuBose has been charged with murder in a police shooting widely seen as unwarranted. The university will pay the family $4.85 million and will also provide an education free of tuition and fees for each of DuBose's 12 children. The university's president, Santa Ono, issued an apology, saying, “I want to again express on behalf of the University of Cincinnati community our deepest sadness and regrets at the heartbreaking loss of the life of Samuel DuBose. This agreement is also part of the healing process not only for the family but also for our university and Cincinnati communities."

Gay and lesbian presidents report more acceptance than ever in months after gay marriage legalization

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Gay and lesbian presidents report more acceptance than ever with the legalization of gay marriage.

New ID requirements for federal aid may discourage some low-income students

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New online identification system for federal financial aid sacrifices ease of use for security, critics say, hurting low-income students.

Pentagon Lifts Probation of U of Phoenix

The U.S. Department of Defense on Friday removed the University of Phoenix from probationary status, allowing the for-profit chain to again be eligible to participate in a tuition assistance program for active-duty members of the U.S. military.

The sanction, which the Pentagon handed down last October, was related to allegations of improper recruiting of service members. The Pentagon also cited investigations of the university by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and California's attorney general. As a result, Phoenix, which said at the time that it had fixed military-recruiting compliance issues, was barred from recruiting on military bases or enrolling students who received military tuition assistance.

"The department determined that the removal of probationary status was warranted based on the department's internal review, the university's response to the department's concerns as set forth in multiple potential noncompliance notifications including the department's letter dated Oct. 7, 2015, the active engagement and cooperation by representatives of the University of Phoenix, and other relevant materials," said a Defense Department official in a written statement.

Several Senate Republicans, including Arizona Senator John McCain, had complained about the sanction. McCain called the news last week a "victory for due process and basic fairness."

Nike, Ohio State Reach $252 Million Licensing Deal

A contract extending Nike's sponsorship deal with Ohio State University's athletics program is worth $252 million in cash and apparel over 15 years, apparently the richest in college sports, The Wall Street Journal reported. The newspaper reviewed the contract between the apparel maker and the university; the deal apparently just tops the value of a similar arrangement, valued at $250 million, between Nike and the University of Texas at Austin.

That's not a coincidence, according to the Journal. It quoted Ohio State's athletics director, Gene Smith, as saying that the university waited to negotiate its deal until it saw the value of Nike contract renewals with Texas and the University of Michigan, so that it could have the most lucrative arrangement.

The deal will bring Ohio State $112 million in sports apparel and equipment and $103 million in cash over 15 years beginning in 2018-19, according to the Journal. Some of the funds will reportedly be used for scholarships for nonathletes.

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20 Private Colleges Opt Out of Texas Campus Carry Law

Trinity University in Texas on Thursday announced that it would opt out of the state's new campus carry law, becoming the 20th private college there to do so, according to The Texas Tribune. The law, which will take effect this year, allows guns into public college classrooms and dormitories, to the consternation of many academics in Texas and elsewhere. While the law obligates public institutions, it allows private nonprofit colleges to opt out, and many of them are choosing to do so.

"The safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors is our highest priority," Danny Anderson, Trinity's president, said in the university's statement. "A weapons-free environment is the best learning environment for a residential campus like Trinity."

The Texas Tribune is keeping a running list of colleges opting out of the law.

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