Study: Many Endowments Change Spending Policies

A new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research (abstract available here) finds that college and university endowments change their policies on spending rates regularly -- a finding that was not expected. "Given the long-term and relatively static nature of the investment problem faced by the typical educational institution, existing theoretical models of endowment management predict that the permanent portion of the stated spending policy should be highly stable," the report says. But based on an analysis of more than 800 college and university endowments from 2003 through 2011, the study found that half of the endowments changed spending policies at least once, and a quarter did so every year.


Making It Easier to Identify Sex Offenders on Campus

Florida, like many states, has a searchable registry of sex offenders. But for the first time, the registry offers a higher education search, so users can find out if there are sex offenders enrolled at or working at specific colleges and universities, The Sun Sentinel reported. In almost all of the cases, the offenders are students. One Florida college, Edison State College, is currently considering a complete ban on the enrollment of sex offenders, The Naples Daily News reported.

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A Bonus Year for Rutgers President

Robert Barchi's first year as president of Rutgers University has had plenty of controversy: athletics scandals, questions about athletics spending, criticism from the Newark campus that his focus is too much on the flagship campus, and a remark (that Barchi said was intended as a joke) that offended some minority scholars. An article in The Star-Ledger said that while Barchi has won praise for managing the merger of the University of Medicine and Dentistry into Rutgers, and for the move to the Big 10 athletics conference, "[b]y all accounts, Rutgers President Robert Barchi had a difficult freshman year." The newspaper also reported that the board recently awarded him a $90,000 bonus out of the $97,500 he could have received -- and that Barchi donated the money back to the university. A letter to Barchi from the Rutgers board chair said: "We are delighted with the progress Rutgers has seen this past year, and we thank you for your dedication and leadership."

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More Pressure on Westfield State Board to Oust Dobelle

Pressure is growing on the board of Westfield State University to remove Evan Dobelle as president. Dobelle has been accused of lavish and inappropriate spending on travel and personal items. Richard Freeland, commission of higher education in Massachusetts said Friday that it was "highly questionable" that Dobelle remain in office, The Boston Globe reported. While Dobelle has defended his record, and said that he is reimbursed the state for inappropriate expenses, Freeland said that the record shows Dobelle to have engaged in "repeated examples of inappropriate behavior," and that "it would be hard to overstate the damage that has been done to the reputation of our public colleges and universities." A spokesman for Dobelle said that the Freeland statements "were evidence of a well coordinated public relations attack to mask political agendas."



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Will 'U.S. News' Ignore the ABA?

Some law school deans thought recent communication from U.S. News & World report indicated that the magazine's rankings were about to ignore the recommendations of the American Bar Association. It turns out that U.S. News is preserving that option, but hasn't decided what to do. At issue is one of the recommendations of a special ABA panel that last month proposed numerous changes in legal education. One of the focuses of the ABA panel was the widespread criticism that law school is too expensive and that, at many law schools, spending that forces up tuition rates may not be improving the student experience. The panel specifically cited the impact of U.S. News including spending (expenditures per student) in its methodology. "This encourages law schools to increase expenditures for purpose of affecting ranking, without reference to impact on value delivered or educational outcomes, and thus promotes continued increase in the price of law school education." The panel urged U.S. News to stop including the measure in its methodology.

As a result, some law deans were disturbed to get this year's information request from U.S. News, with the same expenditure questions as in years past. One unnamed dean wrote on the blog Brian Leiter's Law School Reports: "While the decision to rank schools according to how much they spend has always been corrosive, perverse, and misleading, it is particularly disturbing to see U.S. News continue to do so in light of the above and in light of the urgent need for law schools to hold down costs and limit expenditures in order to minimize student debt."

Robert Morse, who directs the rankings at U.S. News, via e-mail confirmed that the questions were being asked but he said it was inaccurate to say that the information will be used in the next rankings. But he said that the rankings operation "has not made a determination at this time if there will be any change in the upcoming best law schools  ranking methodology."


Essay on the way deans must 'sell' tenure candidates

Martin H. Krieger explains why deans trying to "sell" a tenure candidate to a president may be trusted as much as someone on a car lot.

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Moody's: Big-Time Sports Pose Growing Financial Risks

Moody’s issued a report last week warning universities of the risks associated with big-time sports and urging caution for those seeking to escalate into elite levels of competition. Focusing on institutions in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I, the report acknowledges that while big-time sports can boost brand recognition, donor support and student applications, that’s accompanied by growing “financial and reputational risks that require careful oversight.” Those risks include budgetary strain (nine in 10 athletic programs are not self-sustaining and require growing subsidies diverted from other university operations), public scrutiny when scandals hit, depleted debt capacity caused by capital investment in athletic facilities, and uncertain future costs as concussion treatment and the amateur model continue to be challenged.

In June, Moody’s downgraded the NCAA’s credit outlook to negative, citing a major lawsuit angling for athletes to be paid. “Increased public discourse about the best interest of student-athletes combined with highly publicized litigation could destabilize the current intercollegiate athletic system and negatively impact the NCAA and its member universities,” the Moody’s report said.

Colleges consider whether e-cigarettes are covered by bans on smoking

Colleges are trying to decide whether e-cigarettes should be banned as part of campus tobacco-free policies.


Documentary by Frederick Wiseman portrays UC-Berkeley in fall 2010

New documentary by Frederick Wiseman offers a meditation on the role of public higher education.

Purdue President Says He Regrets Recent Speech

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels has apologized for giving a speech this week at the fund-raiser for a conservative think tank in Minnesota. Daniels was the Republican governor of Indiana before becoming Purdue's president and he vowed to avoid partisan political activity in his new job. So some on campus were bothered by the appearance and an editorial in The Journal and Courier said that his Purdue role "will continue to be questioned and pulled down whenever he steps, however innocently, onto political turf." In a letter to the editor of the newspaper, Daniels stressed that the speech itself was not partisan. But he said that the editorial was correct, and that he should not have accepted the invitation, even if he didn't break any university rules in doing so. "[F]acts and rules aren’t the determining factor here. Perceptions, and understandable misperceptions, matter even more," he wrote. On reflection, this invitation should have fallen on that side of the line. I accept the validity of the criticism and will try to avoid similar judgment errors in the future."


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