Ex-President Sues U of Saskatchewan Over Firing

The former president of the University of Saskatchewan has sued the institution to challenge her dismissal over a free speech issue on the campus, The StarPhoenix of Saskatoon reported.

Ilene Busch-Vishniac was fired a year ago after the controversial dismissal by the university of its public health dean for disagreeing in public with a reorganization plan pushed by Busch-Vishniac. Many academics at Saskatchewan and elsewhere criticized what they said was unwillingness by the university's leaders to hear dissent. Busch-Vishniac claims in her lawsuit that politicians and university administrators illegally interfered with the decisions of the university's board, and that the board violated its own procedures when it called an emergency meeting and fired her without cause.

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Bill Gates on College Completion

Bill Gates is among a group of rich college dropouts people often cite when questioning the value of a college degree. He isn't buying that argument.

“Although I dropped out of college and got lucky pursuing a career in software, getting a degree is a much surer path to success,” Gates wrote on Wednesday.

Gates published two blog entries encouraging more people to earn college credentials to help them get jobs. He cited data from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, which projects a shortage in the U.S. of 11 million skilled workers with college degrees over the next decade.

The blog entries included a video interview (below) with Cheryl Hyman, the chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago. Hyman, who dropped out of high school, has led an aggressive campaign to increase the urban community college system's low graduation rate, which stood at 7 percent when she arrived in 2010. It has since doubled to 14 percent.

“Cheryl and I discussed the need for colleges to create a less confusing course selection process. Students often waste time and valuable credit hours taking classes that don’t help them progress toward graduation because they don’t understand the degree requirements,” Gates wrote. “New personalized online guidance tools provide students with clear, semester-by-semester maps to graduation and a career.”

Gates also touted City Colleges' increased focus on careers, its addition of student supports and its efforts to redesign remedial math.

National U Leads Consortium on K-12 Education

National University will lead a newly formed coalition of nine universities that are seeking to expand teacher development and early childhood initiatives, the San Diego-based National announced this week. The $30 million Sanford Education Collaborative will reach into more than 2,000 schools in California, Florida, Maine, New York, South Dakota and Washington.

The project will expand on two existing programs, which were originally developed at Arizona State University. Sanford Harmony stresses positive interactions between students through exercises featuring communication, empathy, critical thinking, communication, problem solving and strengthening peer relationships. Sanford Inspire seeks to give K-12 teachers professional development tools and resources to create inspiring classroom environments. Both are named for T. Denny Sanford, a philanthropist who has helped fund them and the new university collaboration.

NLRB Office: Saint Xavier Adjuncts May Count Union Votes

A local National Labor Relations Board office decided this week that adjuncts at Saint Xavier University may count their union election votes. The count was halted four years ago after the Roman Catholic University opposed the National Education Association-affiliated union drive, saying its religious identity put it outside the board’s jurisdiction. The university’s appeal was pending before the NLRB for some time, but earlier this year the national board sent back several similar adjunct union cases to their local board offices for further consideration in light of the recent Pacific Lutheran University decision.

In that case, the national board determined that Pacific Lutheran adjuncts could form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, since their duties were not of a religious nature. The landmark decision also included new guidelines for evaluating such cases, and those guidelines were used to evaluate the Saint Xavier case anew. A spokeswoman for the university said it has two weeks to appeal, and that it is reviewing its options. Charlie McBarron, a spokesman for the Illinois Education Association, told the Chicago Sun-Times that the union believes the “desires of the voters should be known.”

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No-Cost Degrees for Anthem Employees at College for America

Anthem Inc., a national health care company, announced Tuesday that its 55,000 employees can pursue a no-cost associate or bachelor's degree at College for America, a competency-based subsidiary of Southern New Hampshire University. The new benefit is available to any Anthem employee who works 20 hours or more per week and has been employed there for at least six months. The company's tuition reimbursement plan will cover the full price of the online degrees.

Southern New Hampshire is the first of six institutions to have received approval from the U.S. Department of Education and regional accreditors for direct-assessment academic programs, a form of competency-based education that does not rely on the credit-hour standard. Students can move at their own pace in direct-assessment degree tracks -- taking as much or as little time they need to master the required competencies.

“Anthem is committed to offering its associates a robust benefits package that goes beyond salary and health benefits,” Jose Tomas, chief human resources officer at Anthem, said in a written statement. “Our partnership with College for America has proven successful for our associates who participated in the pilot program in New Hampshire, and we want to build on that success by providing opportunities for education, development and career advancement to all our associates.”

Paul LeBlanc, Southern New Hampshire's president, said thousands of Anthem employees will benefit from the partnership.

“As an employer, Anthem is building talent and the skills needed for promotion in its workforce while associates earn an accredited degree that will help them get ahead in their life and career without taking on debt,” LeBlanc said in a written statement.

Puerto Rico-based medical university looks to answer physician shortage crisis

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The country's only LCME accredited  for-profit medical school is working to increase the number of bilingual and multicultural physicians in the U.S.

21 of 24 Division I historically black colleges face possible postseason bans in 2016

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Many teams at historically black colleges and universities struggle to reach academic progress rate required by NCAA. Next year, the challenge will be even larger.

SEC Adopts Rule Barring Transfers With Violent Pasts

The Southeastern Conference will no longer allow its members to accept transfer athletes with histories of domestic and sexual violence. The new policy, adopted last week, states that any athletes who have been subject to official university disciplinary action for "serious misconduct" such as domestic abuse and sexual assault at another college are not eligible for athletically related financial aid, practice or competition at an SEC program. If an athlete is later proven to be innocent, a waiver can be granted to the student. The SEC is the first athletic conference to adopt such a rule.

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U of Alabama at Birmingham Revives Football Program

The University of Alabama at Birmingham will bring back its football program in 2016, the university announced Monday, reversing a controversial decision made in December to shut down the struggling program over its costs. “Given the broad base of support never before seen, as of today, we are taking steps to reinstate the football, rifle and bowling programs,” Ray Watts, the university's president, said in a statement. “I am forwarding documents to Conference USA and the NCAA notifying them that UAB plans to remain an FBS program and a full member of C-USA.”

Over the next five years, donors -- including alumni, students and the city of Birmingham -- have pledged to come up with the $17.2 million the university says is required to remain competitive, the Associated Press reported. UAB will maintain, but not exceed, its current level of institutional support to athletics, the university said. “To do otherwise would require us to take additional funds from our academic and health care missions, which we will not do,” Watts said.

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Oxford Hires First Female Vice Chancellor

After nearly 800 years of male leadership, the University of Oxford has its first woman leader.

Oxford announced on Thursday that Louise Richardson, the principal and vice chancellor of Scotland's St. Andrews University and a scholar of terrorism and security studies, would take the helm of the prestigious British university, serving as vice chancellor (the equivalent to an American university president).

Around 45 percent of Oxford’s undergraduates are female, according to a Guardian article.

Though Richardson is the first woman to lead Oxford, other prestigious universities in the United Kingdom have already hired female leaders.

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