Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 4, 2014

George Washington University has opted not to move ahead with building a campus in China. Under the leadership of the university’s former business school dean and vice president for China operations, Doug Guthrie, the university had explored the possibility of seeking approval from the Chinese Ministry of Education to develop a campus in partnership with the University of International Business and Economics, in Beijing. (Only five Western universities, including Duke, Kean and New York Universities, in the U.S., have such approval.). Guthrie was fired from his administrative posts in August for budget overages.

“The university did not have a formal plan to build a campus in China,” the university’s provost, Steven Lerman, said in a statement. “We had been looking at a variety of options, and with the help of a faculty advisory group, we decided instead to enhance existing partnerships such as our new Confucius Institute and study abroad programs."

In an interview, Guthrie said he believed the administration’s decision to be a result of pushback from the Faculty Senate. “It’s fully within the right of the administration and the faculty to decide what direction they want to go, but my hope is that universities will go as deep into relationships with China as they can,” said Guthrie, who’s now a professor of international business and management at George Washington. “That was always my vision.”

The decision not to build a China campus was first reported by the student newspaper, The GW Hatchet

February 4, 2014

The academic publisher Cengage Learning on Monday announced it had struck a deal with its creditors that will enable the company to complete its restructuring process. The company filed for bankruptcy protection last July. The agreement would eliminate $4 billion of Cengage's remaining debt -- which totals about $5.8 billion -- and the company would receive financing for an additional $1.75 billion to $2 billion. The plan has yet to be approved by the bankruptcy court, but it has attracted support from "all of Cengage Learning’s most significant creditors," CEO Michael Hansen said in a statement.

February 4, 2014

Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee burnished his credentials as a higher education governor Monday night by promising in his State of the State speech to make two years of a community or technical college education free to graduating high school seniors in the state.

Haslam, whose state has aggressively overhauled its postsecondary system under both him and his predecessor, Phil Bredesen, proposed using lottery reserve funds to create an endowment to cover the tuition and fees of high school graduates who attend a community college or one of the state's colleges of applied technology. He called it the "Tennessee Promise."

"It is a promise that we have an ability to make," he said in a prepared text of his remarks. "Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future, priceless."

The governor's 2014-15 budget proposal also calls for expanding the Degree Compass program developed at Austin Peay State University to help students navigate academic paths and creating a data system to help colleges identify adults who are likely to return to college and earn a degree.

February 4, 2014

Continuing its focus on problems with the servicing of private student loans, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Monday released an analysis of its voluntary request for information from the private student loan industry. The bureau was especially interested in information about how loan servicers process the payments of borrowers seeking to pay down their debt ahead of schedule. The CFPB has said it’s concerned that some loan servicers apply prepayments in a way that maximizes their profits but makes the cost of the loan more expensive for borrowers.

In its report, the CFPB found that servicers varied in how they apply prepayments to student loans. Some were able to accept a borrower’s instructions through their online payment platform, while others were did not accept such instructions for certain types of loans. The bureau did not release the names of which entities responded to its request for information.

Rohit Chopra, the bureau's assistant director and student loan ombudsman, vaguely alluded to potential compliance issues in Monday’s report. He noted that it is illegal for companies to charge student loan borrowers a penalty for making early payments on their debt and said that one way for some servicers to ensure compliance with that requirement would be to automatically direct prepayments to a borrower’s loan with the highest interest rate first. In analyzing the servicers' prepayment policies--all of which were submitted voluntarily -- the CFPB did not check to see whether the policies were complying with the law. However, prepayment issues on private student loans could become a focus of the agency's efforts when it officially begins its supervision of large student loan servicers in March. 

February 4, 2014

Long Beach City College is taking advantage of a new California law authorizing it to offer tiered tuition -- charging more in the winter and summer for some high demand courses. An article in The Los Angles Times finds that there are clearly students willing to pay more, in many cases because the regular, less expensive versions are full, semester after semester. At the same time, the article finds continued concerns about the idea of providing some access based on ability to pay more. "It creates two types of students: those who can pay and those who cannot. And it's unfair to the students who have to feed families and are unemployed," said Andrea Donado, student representative on the Long Beach Community College District board.

February 4, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Adam Gordon of the State University of New York at Albany discusses a common behavioral pattern found in living things from honey bees to humans. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 3, 2014

Weekend shootings of students in off-campus apartments stunned two Michigan universities. Two Michigan State University students were shot Friday night, and one of them died Saturday morning, The Lansing State Journal reported. The shootings took place at the students' off-campus apartment, in a complex that primarily serves students. Authorities are looking for the man they believe is the shooter.

Ferris State University announced that local police have arrested a man in the shooting of a student who was shot in an off-campus apartment early Saturday. The student was treated and released from a local hospital.

February 3, 2014

A survey by Fidelity of parents who are already saving for college for their children found that 60 percent have a goal of saving more in 2014 than they did in 2013. Including those parents, 88 percent said that they plan to save at least as much as they did in 2013. Of the majority of such parents who have a specific target for savings, the average is $405 per month.

 

February 3, 2014

Students and others at Memorial University, in Canada, are angry over one question on an assignment for computer science students, CBC News reported. They were asked to determine whether a rape victim, especially after being mocked online, would be likely to kill herself. Critics say that there was no need to use such an example for the computer science course. The professor did not respond to the network or Inside Higher Ed.

 

February 3, 2014

Women in Harvard University's business school have been treated inappropriately for decades, Dean Nitin Nohria told an alumni gathering last week, according to Business Insider. Nohria personally apologized for the mistreatment, saying that women at the business school were "disrespected, left out, and unloved by the school. I'm sorry on behalf of the business school." Among the pledges he made: to double (to 20 percent) the share of female protagonists in the case studies that are a key part of the M.B.A. curriculum. The apology came after an article in September in The New York Times detailed the negative experiences of many female students, and the business school's attempts (with mixed success) to promote a more hospitable environment.

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