Quick Takes: VCU Investigates Degree, Social Networking for Loans, Creationist Institute Isn't Giving Up, Latest Enrollment Data, Academics Protest Gaza Blockade, Emphasis on Career Ed, Yale Provost Oxford-Bound, Wiley Adds Titles From Key

June 4, 2008
  • Virginia Commonwealth University is investigating whether it awarded a bachelor's degree to Rodney Monroe, Richmond's chief of police, even though he lacked enough credits. The university issued a statement last month indicating that it was investigating allegations that a degree had been awarded inappropriately, but that statement did not identify the recipient. Monroe is about to take over as police chief in Charlotte, N.C. and anonymous notes sent to the Charlotte and Richmond media -- and to Virginia Commonwealth's accreditor -- prompted reports about the inquiry in The Charlotte Observer and The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Monroe has denied any wrongdoing and many officials in both areas are backing him, and denouncing the anonymous tipster. The anonymous tip -- from someone who identified himself to the newspapers as Harry Potter -- said that Monroe did not meet the requirement that he earn at least 30 credits at the university, and that he earned only 6. The Observer article noted that in a feature article about Monroe receiving the degree last year, the Richmond paper said that he took only two courses at the university.
  • The latest in social networking: student loans. GreenNote formally launches today with the goal of matching students who need loans with people who know them and are willing to lend. And the Associated Press noted that other new businesses seek to use similar approaches but match students with anonymous lenders.
  • The Institute for Creation Research isn't accepting defeat. Its bid to award online master's degrees in science education from its new Texas home, which set off a major controversy, was rejected by state officials, who noted that "creation science" isn't viewed as science by actual scientists, and questioned whether graduates of the program would be suitable to teach in Texas schools. Now the institute is appealing the decision of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, saying its earlier ruling amounted to "academic and religious bigotry," The Houston Chronicle reported. The real aim of the appeal, the Houston paper reported, is to set the stage for a court challenge.
  • The National Center for Education Statistics has released the latest data on enrollment and graduation rates. Four-year graduation rates continue to vary widely by sector, with private nonprofit colleges having much higher rates than other kinds of institutions.
  • A new letter from human rights and academic groups is calling for the U.S. government to take stronger steps to assure that students in Gaza are permitted by Israel to leave for education elsewhere. The letter was sent to Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, by Human Rights Watch, the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association, and the Committee for Human Rights of the American Anthropological Association. "Gaza’s students need to have access to higher education abroad," the letter says. "Opportunities in the Gaza Strip are currently quite limited. Many degrees are not at all available in the four universities there. For instance, there are no undergraduate degrees in languages other than Arabic, English, and French, and no master’s degrees in law, journalism, and information technology. Doctoral degrees are not offered at all. Israel rarely permits professors and lecturers from outside Gaza to enter to teach there."
  • The presidential candidates are paying too little attention to work force development and should focus their efforts on strengthening American competitiveness on expanding access to higher education rather than fighting illegal immigration or increasing trade restrictions, according to a survey of American adults conducted by Peter D. Hart Research for the Career College Association. The survey by the association of career-oriented, mostly for-profit colleges, which was released today, also finds that more than three in five adults believe there is low to moderate opportunity for the typical American to pursue a higher education, that options other than a four-year degree might be the best alternative for some young people, and that, when asked what are the best alternatives to four-year degrees in terms of providing career skills and knowledge, 45 percent said career colleges, 23 percent said on the job training, 17 percent said community colleges, and 11 percent said the military.
  • The University of Oxford announced Tuesday that Andrew Hamilton, provost of Yale University, has been nominated as Oxford's next vice-chancellor, the top position at the university. Hamilton's selection means that both Oxford and the University of Cambridge will be led by former Yale provosts, the latter being Alison Richard. Hamilton will be succeeding John Hood, whose plans to create an American-style board of trustees and to centralize governance offended many Oxford professors.
  • In the latest example of consolidation in the textbook market, Wiley announced that it has acquired a list of mathematics and statistics titles from Key Curriculum Press.
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