A report released today by the Data Quality Campaign assesses progress in state efforts to use longitudinal student-level data to gauge and improve students' progress through the educational system. The report concludes that states have made significant progress in building data systems (with a big financial and policy push from the Obama administration) but far less headway in using the data to change educational practices.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The Maricopa Community College District's board has authorized Chancellor Rufus Glasper to carry out a series of efficiency moves, The Arizona Republic reported. Among the possible shifts: increases in class sizes, greater reliance on adjunct faculty members, outsourcing of landscaping and a new information technology fee. The consultants who developed the options said that they could save the district up to $48 million a year.
The Institute for International Education has created an emergency grants fund to help students from Haiti on campuses in the United States. Colleges may nominate up to five students for awards of up to $2,000 to those who are facing financial hardships because of the devastation caused by the earthquake. Details and nomination forms may be found here.
Negotiators involved in this week's final round of negotiated rule making on revisions to the U.S. Department of Education's regulations on the disbursal of federal financial aid funds said late Thursday they wouldn't be putting much more effort in trying to reach agreement on the most contentious proposal being debated. In draft form, the rule requires that debt repayments be no more than 8 percent of the annual salaries of recent graduates of programs that prepare students for "gainful employment." The panel attempted to make progress on the issue Thursday morning, but differences seemed too large to bridge. Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said federal and non-federal negotiators agreed they "probably won't get finished" with working out all the concerns over the proposed rule. The group, he added, would instead focus on trying to reach agreement on revisions to all the other rules under consideration and then return to discussion of the debt-to-income ratio Friday if time permits.
Agreement on much-debated rules on incentive compensation for recruiters seemed "close enough," Hartle said, that negotiators agreed to continue discussion Friday. Negotiators would have to reach consensus on the full package of 14 rules for them to be adopted without further revision by the department. Without an agreement on the debt-to-income ratio, or any other issue, the department would be free to make further changes to any and all rules, though it's likely officials wouldn't substantively edit any rules on which the panel reached agreement.
Rutgers University police have arrested six members of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, charging them with beating at least three pledges for seven consecutive nights, The Star-Ledger reported. The university and the sorority's national organization immediately suspended the Rutgers chapter.
The Maryland Higher Education Commission has declined to revisit its decision barring the University of Maryland University College from offering its community college leadership training program to Maryland residents, The Baltimore Sun reported. The commission acted at the request of Morgan State University, a historically black institution that argued that the UMUC program would duplicate one at Morgan State that the state was obligated to protect. UMUC officials argued that since their program is online -- and can be offered to those outside the state -- the decision didn't reflect the nature of distance education.
In public, advocates for black colleges have been fairly unanimous in speaking out against a plan by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to merge his state's three public historically black universities into one institution. But The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported Wednesday that the president of Jackson State University -- who has criticized the governor's ideas -- has drawn up detailed plans for a merger and has been discussing them with some lawmakers. Ronald Mason Jr., the president, told the newspaper that his plans were not intended for public review. Mason's proposal, like the governor's, would merge Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University into Jackson State. On Wednesday at Jackson State, students met to discuss Mason's now public view, and were sharply critical of it. When he addressed the group by phone from Washington, he was booed several times, the Clarion-Ledger reported and some students said that they felt betrayed. But Mason argued that the interests of the students would be better met by a stronger unified institution than by three institutions without enough money.
Craven Community College has removed from public view artwork that depicts a popular instructor smoking a cigar (as he frequently does), The New Bern Sun-Journal reported. Officials at the North Carolina community college said that they feared the artwork was inconsistent with the college's stance against smoking.
The Baylor College of Medicine has decided to remain independent, abandoning consideration of a renewed affiliation with Baylor University, The Houston Chronicle reported. The medical college, facing severe financial difficulties, attempted a merger with Rice University, but those negotiations ended amid significant faculty opposition at Rice. Many faculty at the medical school were nervous about the idea, floated after the end of the Rice talks, to join forces with Baylor University. Medical college officials said Wednesday that they believed they had a strategy to deal with the financial issues as a free-standing institution.
As part of the negotiated rule making process under way this week in Washington, the U.S. Department of Education released a revised draft of regulations intended to determine whether vocational programs and most offerings at for-profit institutions prepare graduates for "gainful employment." In a plan first released this month and discussed on Monday, the department proposed that it would require that students' annual debt repayment load not exceed 8 percent of their average incomes. Several panelists had questioned the department's statutory authority to introduce a debt-to-income ratio and others voiced concerns about the new administrative burdens the proposals would create for institutions. Department officials decided to keep the 8 percent rule in place, one telling the panel that the department would never suggest a regulation that "we don’t think we have the legal authority to do." The department did, though, offer a bit of a concession, proposing that it would take on many of the responsibilities of calculating and carrying out the rule.
Also back on the table Wednesday was the issue of incentive pay for admissions and financial aid officers, which -- though it seemed to progress Tuesday -- again lagged with Elaine Neely, of Kaplan Higher Education, and Margaret Reiter, a consumer advocate, delivering suggestions for greatly differing revisions. Both issues will likely surface again Thursday, as panelists aim to reach agreement on all 14 of the rules related to the federal financial aid program under reconsideration by midday Friday.