Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 17, 2016

Washington Senator Patty Murray will stay on as the ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Senate Democrats announced Wednesday.

Murray worked with committee chairman Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act last year. The K-12 education law replaced the unpopular No Child Left Behind Act and scaled back requirements for some standardized tests in schools.

The two lawmakers are known for their history of cooperation on the committee to pass legislation and are expected to tackle a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act at some point in the next Congress. Murray was also named to the position of assistant Democratic leader in the party's Senate leadership.

In a statement, Murray pledged to continue working with Republicans but said she would oppose any divisive policies offered by President-elect Donald Trump.

“I look forward to continuing my work as the top Democrat on this committee that focuses on so many of the critical issues facing families and communities across the country. We were able to take some important steps forward on this committee in recent years to help students, workers and families -- and I am ready to get to work with any Republican who is willing to work with us to build on that progress and move our country in the right direction," Murray said. "But I am also ready to fight back as hard as I can, every step of the way, if Republicans choose to embrace the darker elements of President-elect Trump’s campaign and focus on dividing our country, taking away access to care for women and families, undermining communities’ rights and protections, hurting students and workers, or dragging us backwards.”

November 17, 2016

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police forces maintained by private colleges are not subject to open records requests, The Indianapolis Star reported. The ruling came in a suit by ESPN, which sought records from the University of Notre Dame related to charges and investigations involving athletes. While the ruling favors Notre Dame and other private institutions, lawmakers may revisit the relevant law next year.

November 17, 2016

Leading critics and supporters of the for-profit college industry gathered on a panel at the Cato Institute Wednesday to discuss the sector's future of under President-elect Donald Trump. The six panelists agreed on one point: nobody really knows what to expect, given Trump’s unpredictability.

It’s certainly a possibility that Trump will be inclined to roll back regulations that have been imposed on the beleaguered industry, said Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and Eric Juhlin, CEO at the Center for Excellence in Higher Education. However, they agreed that a total deregulation of the industry was unlikely. It’s also possible that the U.S. Congress will make many of the significant policy decisions concerning the for-profit industry, agreed Nassirian and Ben Miller, senior director of postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress.

The panelists could not say with certainty who Trump’s pick for education secretary will be, although it’s likely that the position will go to someone with more K-12 policy experience than higher education experience, said Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute.

The panelists were less willing to agree on the Obama’s administration legacy with the for-profit industry. The Education Department under Obama will be known for its disproportionate focus on regulating for-profits, said McCluskey. But Robert Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who previously played a prominent role in the department's crackdown on the industry, thought differently: history will show that the for-profit industry shot itself in the foot, he said.

November 17, 2016

Many presidents try to build support for new strategic plans. But Rebecca Bergman, president of Gustavus Adolphus, has gone farther than most -- Bergman and her husband have pledged $4 million to the college to help carry out various parts of the plan. Details of the gift may be found here.

November 17, 2016

Southern University "lacked institutional control when it failed to monitor its eligibility certification process, did not properly apply financial aid rules and did not comply with academic performance penalties," the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Wednesday.

The association said that several errors occurred when the university attempted to transfer its academic records from an "outdated system to a new system," and that the athletic department did a poor job of record keeping. The mistakes led to 218 athletes across all of the university's sport programs being improperly certified. The university had also previously been placed on probation for not meeting the NCAA's academic performance benchmarks, a sanction that required the university to reduce its amount of in-season playing and practice times. "Because of turnover at the university, especially in the compliance office, the university did not communicate the restrictions to the coaches, and the penalties were not completed," the NCAA stated.

Southern University also exceeded scholarship limits in five sports when it failed to properly apply financial aid rules to tuition waivers provided by the state of Louisiana to college athletes.

The NCAA placed the university on probation for five years and will vacate records of games in which athletes participated while ineligible. The NCAA also accepted the university’s self-imposed penalties of a $5,000 fine and scholarship reductions across several programs, including women's soccer, softball, baseball, men's and women's basketball, and football.

November 17, 2016

The number of scientific papers with authors from more than one country increased by 16 percent between 2012 and 2015, according to data from the Nature Index, which tracks national and institutional author affiliations across 68 natural science journals. The number of papers with co-authors from more than one country increased from 21,460 in 2012 to 24,951 in 2015, with the growth in international collaborations being especially strong in the life sciences.

November 17, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Lewis Davis, professor of economics at Union College, examines whether individualistic societies are richer or poorer than collectivist ones. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 16, 2016

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. urged university leaders Tuesday to be sure that students do not feel harassed or intimidated in the wake of a divisive election that has left "many of our students feeling vulnerable." He spoke in Austin Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

King said that all students, regardless of race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation or gender identity, deserve to be treated with respect. Higher education leaders need to send "a clear message" that campuses will not tolerate harassment, that "diversity is a value" and that they will "respond aggressively to places where safety is violated," he said.

In remarks that appeared related to this year's election results, King noted that the Morrill Act, which created the land-grant system, was signed into law by President Lincoln, but had been vetoed by President Buchanan (at right) in the previous administration. Of the Buchanan veto, he said that "our democracy does not always produce leaders with the right judgment."

November 16, 2016

Neurosurgeon and former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson said Monday that he wouldn't accept a position in a Donald Trump cabinet.

Carson, who had been rumored as a potential pick for secretary of education or secretary of health and human services, does not feel he has the proper government experience to run a federal agency, according to a spokesman.

“He has no interest in a cabinet position, or any position in the administration,” the adviser, Armstrong Williams, told Politico.

Carson launched a bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination last year before all but officially dropping out in March. Later, Trump announced that Carson would play a major role advising his campaign on education issues.

Despite his medical background, Carson is a creationist who has said the theory of evolution was inspired by the devil. He has also said that, if he were president, the Department of Education would monitor university campuses for "extreme political bias."

November 16, 2016

The number of postsecondary institutions in the United States declined by 1.8 percent from 2014-15 to 2015-16, with all of the decline occurring in the for-profit sector of higher education, new federal data show. The data, contained in an annual report from the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, show that the number of U.S. institutions that award federal financial aid declined from 7,151 to 7,021. The number of public institutions actually increased by one from 2014-15 to 2015-16, while the number of private nonprofit colleges grew from 1,827 to 1,859. The number of for-profit institutions fell from 3,360 to 3,197.

The same report shows that the number of degrees and other credentials conferred by American postsecondary institutions grew by 1.2 percent from 2013-14 to 2014-15, from 4.525 million to 4.581 million. Public institutions accounted for a disproportionate share of the increase -- roughly 3 percent -- while there was a more modest rise at private nonprofit institutions (2.6 percent) and a sizable drop at for-profit colleges. 

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