Wheaton Drops Student Health Care Over Contraception Rule

More than 700 students at Wheaton College of Illinois will need to find a new health care plan on Friday, as the college will cease providing health care to students to avoid complying with a federal requirement that employers include emergency contraceptives in its coverage.

The Obama administration two years ago set a compromise on the health care law. Under that plan, religious colleges and other religious institutions need not pay for contraception, but insurance companies that cover their employees are required to provide the coverage, and the institution must fill out a form to be given an exemption. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the government could not require Wheaton to fill out such a form. But Wheaton continued to argue that the mandate violated the college's religious beliefs as its plan, no matter how indirectly, would still be allowing the use of contraception.

"The college’s concern is with its own actions in facilitating the provision of morally objectionable products on its own plans, and with its right to constitutionally protected religious liberty," Paul Chelsen, vice president for student development at Wheaton, said in a statement.

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Protest of ITT Included Just One Former Student

Higher Ed, Not Debt is a nonprofit advocacy group with a focus on for-profit colleges. It joined with the Service Employees International Union and Student Debt Action to organize a Monday protest outside the annual shareholder meeting of ITT Educational Services Inc., which owns ITT Tech, an embattled for-profit chain that is facing federal fraud charges and various other state and federal lawsuits.

Inside Higher Ed reported on the demonstration in Arlington, Va., which featured about 20 protesters. A news release Higher Ed, Not Debt distributed before the event said “former educators and ITT students” would attend. At the demonstration, an official with the group told a reporter that multiple students who had attended ITT were there.

However, only one former ITT student attended, the group later disclosed. The former student, Anthony Byrd, said he attended an ITT campus for about six weeks. Inside Higher Ed was not able to confirm those details, as Byrd refused to grant a waiver from federal student privacy rules that would have allowed ITT to release details about his time at the school.

Higher Ed, Not Debt is organized by unions and progressive groups, including the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Center for American Progress confirmed that only one former ITT student attended the event.

“Anthony Byrd was the only former ITT Tech student who was able to attend the demonstration yesterday,” the spokesman said in an email. “Many of [the] demonstrators were advocates from groups like Higher Ed, Not Debt and the SEIU, which advocate for students who were wronged by for-profit institutions like ITT Tech.”

The spokesman said many ITT Tech students are financially stressed and unable to make the trip for the protest. But he said 1,500 former students of the for-profit chain have signed a petition asking for a refund.

On Monday ITT said the protest's organizers were not providing accurate information to students or shareholders about ITT's successes.

“Organizations with ideological biases are tainted by ulterior motives, and they frequently recruit people to stage protests,” said Nicole Elam, an ITT spokeswoman, in an emailed statement. “We are helping students build better lives, secure employment and earn higher salaries. The targeted recruitment of former students as ‘spokespeople’ by these organizations also provides us no option to counter claims that may be false, without a student providing a signed release of their records.”

In renewed Obama push for higher-ed accountability, echoes of entrenched politics

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As the Obama administration reframes its pitch for accountability in higher education, the politics of getting it done remain unchanged.

Federal Scrutiny of University Technical Institute Campus

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina last week issued a subpoena to Universal Technical Institute Inc., the for-profit chain disclosed in a corporate filing. The inquiry covers a "broad range of matters" at the institute's campus in Mooresville, N.C., including its compliance with a federal rule that requires for-profits to receive less than 90 percent of their revenue from the federal government.

Pell for Prisoners Announcement Coming

The U.S. Department of Education is moving closer to an official announcement of an experiment to allow some prisoners to receive Pell Grants. On Monday Arne Duncan, the education secretary, came close to dropping the details for an experimental sites project, which would grant a limited waiver to the federal rules that prevent prisoners in state and federal prisons from receiving Pell Grants. As Inside Higher Ed reported in May, prison education programs at a handful of colleges might be eligible to participate in the experiment.

Duncan said the feds are working on an experimental sites program that would open up Pell eligibility to "incarcerated adults seeking an independent, productive life after they get out of jail," according to a transcript of the major policy speech Duncan gave at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. When asked during a phone call with reporters for more details, Duncan said, "Stay tuned." He is scheduled to appear at a Maryland prison on Friday with Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney general. The event will include a visit to Goucher College's prison education program, and a "major announcement" is planned.

The U.S. Congress banned the use of Pell Grants by prisoners in 1994. Congressional Democrats have called for the ban to be dropped. If the experimental access is successful, it could bolster the case for a full restoration. But opposition appears likely among Republicans.

A Look at the High School Biology Teacher Workforce

Biology educators occupy nearly half (44 percent) of all high school science teaching assignments -- more than double the percentage of chemistry educators, according to a new study published in BioScience. The biology education workforce increased some 50 percent between 1987 and 2007 due to biology’s “gateway” status among the high school sciences, the study says. The female proportion of the biology workforce also grew over the same period, from 39 to 61 percent. That’s more than in all other science, technology and math fields, according to the study.

At the same time, biology educators were more likely than their colleagues in other fields to teach outside the discipline. The number of biology educators with more than 20 years of teaching experience also dropped by some 20 percent between 1990 and 2007. Lead author Gregory T. Rushton, an associate professor of chemistry at Kennesaw State University, and his co-authors note that this is due in part to increasing numbers of teachers entering the workforce after careers outside education, for whom “the biologist identity may be stronger than that of teacher.”

Rushton and his colleagues propose stricter certification requirements for biology teachers and more targeted professional development. They also propose matching curricula to teachers’ expertise, as opposed to offering “a static, predetermined slate of science courses at each school.” The longitudinal study is based on the National Center for Education Statistics’ Schools and Staffing surveys from 1987 through 2007.

U of Georgia to Hire 56 New Faculty Members, Reduce Class Size

The University of Georgia is launching a $4.4 million initiative to reduce class size, it announced Monday. The university will create more than 300 new course sections in 81 majors by fall 2016, mainly through hiring dozens of new faculty members in the coming year. Georgia’s current student-faculty ratio is relatively low for a research university, at 18 to 1, but the initiative ensures that a majority of the new course sections will have fewer than 20 students each. The move builds on other recent attempts by the university to increase student-faculty interaction, including a new graduation requirement that all 27,000 undergraduates engage in experiential learning such as internships, research or study abroad.

New presidents or provosts: Cerritos Claremont Leeds Montgomery Schenectady SLCC Unity UT Washington Wayne State

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  • Sheila C. Bair, former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, in Washington, has been named president of Washington College, in Maryland.
  • Rick Caulfield, provost at the University of Alaska-Southeast, has been promoted to chancellor there.

Football conferences putting medical spotters in replay booths

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College football conferences agree that putting additional medical spotters in replay booths is a good idea, but they're debating about giving those observers the power to stop a game.

New presidents or provosts: Allied Brockport EMCC Golden Gate Hocking IIT Mansfield North Dakota Samford UMass

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  • Frances Bronet, distinguished professor and dean of the School of Architecture and Allied Arts at the University of Oregon, has been named provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Illinois Institute of Technology.


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