Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with a borrower whose student loans were discharged in bankruptcy without his having proven that the payments were an "undue hardship" on him, as bankruptcy law typically requires. In its unanimous, narrow ruling in the unusual case, United Student Aid Funds v. Espinosa, the court found that a bankruptcy judge was wrong to have released Francisco Espinosa from his debt without ensuring that he met the undue hardship requirement -- but that the guarantee agency seeking to collect the loans was given a chance to object, and did not in due time.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 3:00am

A National Collegiate Athletic Association appeals committee upheld a sweeping records vacation penalty against the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa on Tuesday. The university was found last summer to have committed major rules violations in 16 sports, including football. More than 200 athletes abused a university textbook distribution program, getting free books for non-athletes and non-academic swag for themselves from the student bookstore. Alabama officials unsuccessfully argued that the penalty being levied against them was too harsh. The NCAA decision comes a day after a records vacation penalty was upheld for violations committed by the men’s basketball program at the University of Memphis.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 3:00am

A commission formed with the sweeping charge of transforming the University of California to face harsh budget realities laid out a series of areas for consideration Tuesday, suggesting the university should contemplate a tiered fee structure across its various campuses and the creation of three-year degrees. The draft documents released Tuesday by the UC Commission on the Future do not contain concrete recommendations, but rather potential areas worthy of exploration. The commission has five working groups, which will examine the size of the university; its curriculum; issues of access and affordability; and strategies for funding and research.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 3:00am

With demand for higher education far outpacing capacity in India, the role of standardized tests has increased as has obsession over doing well, The New York Times reported. The article looks at the range of tests students take and the evidence -- include a recent suicide -- of the pressure they create.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 3:00am

In the wake of a revealing investigation into major academic improprieties committed by the men’s basketball program at the State University of New York at Binghamton, the system’s chancellor took steps to prevent such abuses at other SUNY institutions on Tuesday. Nancy L. Zimpher said at a Board of Trustees meeting that the system will appoint an “athletic oversight officer” who will report only to her and the board. Zimpher also said she will “regularly convene campus presidents, athletic directors and [faculty athletics representatives] to discuss cross system interests, guidelines and benchmarks.” She added that the system “will use the principles and guidelines developed from those meetings to hold presidents accountable for campus activities.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 3:00am

The American Federation of Teachers released a report Tuesday on steps colleges should take to diversify their faculties. The report reviews data on the lack of racial and ethnic diversity on most faculties, and discusses ways to recruit more diverse pools and to retain minority professors.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 3:00am

President Obama has nominated Carl Wieman, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2001, as associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Wieman, who teaches at the University of British Columbia and the University of Colorado at Boulder, is a leading proponent of reforming science education.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 3:00am

The Association of American Publishers is reporting a slow start to 2010 for university presses. Across all kinds of publishers, book sales were down 0.7 percent in January, compared to the previous January. But for university presses, the declines were 8.6 percent for hardcover books, 9.4 percent for paperbacks. The higher education category (which includes textbooks) was up by 7.9 percent.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 3:00am

Everyone has a bracket these days. Stuart Rojstaczer, a former Duke University professor who documents and campaigns against grade inflation, unveiled a bracket in which he selected athletic conference members that have made it tough to earn an A. Among the colleges that make his "Sweet 16" are Boston University, Hampden-Sydney College, Florida International University and Reed College.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 3:00am

The Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences on Monday sued its former president, Karen Pletz, accusing her of submitting fraudulent expense forms, The Kansas City Star reported. A statement from the university says that as much as 70 percent of the expenses Pletz filed were false -- ranging from lunch at McDonald's to expensive dinners. Pletz has not responded, but news of her dismissal in December stunned Kansas City educators and business leaders, who at the time widely praised her.

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