Higher Education Quick Takes
Tough financial problems and limited enrollments have led a number of seminaries in recent years to merge or collaborate in new ways. On Thursday, two seminaries that had been in discussions of a possible merger announced that they were calling off the talks. The two seminaries are the Meadville Lombard Theological School, a Unitarian Universalist seminary in Chicago, and Andover Newton Theological School, an American Baptist and United Church of Christ seminary outside of Boston. Meadville Lombard issued a statement in which officials said that the institution was stronger financially now than when the merger talks started, and so was well positioned as an independent institution. The statement attributed the end of the talks to "issues related to governance and finances." Andover Newton's statement cited "institutional complexities that rendered partnership infeasible at this time." At the same time, Andover Newton noted that it is moving ahead with plans for Hebrew College to share its campus and cooperate on many programs -- while the two institutions maintain their separate faiths.
The National Association of Scholars, which advocates for a traditional curriculum and against what it sees as political correctness, marked Earth Day by releasing a critique of campus sustainability movements. The association's statement stresses that stewardship of the environment is a worthy goal, but suggests that in the name of sustainability, many colleges are promoting some political views over others, questioning progress, and endorsing a wide range of leftist ideas. Many campuses are marking the day with efforts to promote sustainability. Colby College, for instance, will complete the process of dumping bottled water, consistent with a student-led "Take Back the Tap" campaign.
Antonio Calvo, a Spanish lecturer at Princeton University, killed himself this month, a few days after being told he was losing his job, setting off many questions over how he was treated, The New York Times reported. Many of his students have raised questions about how he was treated, questioning why the university no longer wanted him to teach there. The Times reported, however, that some graduate students whom he had supervised urged the university not to renew his appointment. They complained about his management style and harsh comments he made about them.
The U.S. Education Department said on Tuesday that the draft student loan default rates it published in February contained incorrect data that inflated the rates. The department said it had incorrectly included some defaulted loans that should not have been counted, and that without those loans the three-year cohort rates for all sectors would have been lower.
The board of Metropolitan State College of Denver said Thursday that it would put off until next year its plan to seek legislation that would change its name to Denver State University, after the private nonprofit University of Denver expressed opposition to the idea, The Denver Post reported. Metro State officials argue that the name change is necessary to reflect the 24,000-student institution's mission and its centrality in the city of Denver. But "[t]he change would interfere with Denver University's essential communication with its many constituents," University of Denver Chancellor Robert Coombe said in a letter to legislators Monday, according to The Post.
The Coalition for Educational Success, a lobbying group made up of for-profit colleges, announced Thursday that it was working to formulate "standards of responsible conduct" by which its member institutions would have to abide. The coalition includes more than 20 institutions that enroll 350,000 students, and has been at the forefront of the pushback against proposed federal gainful employment regulations.
Very few details were available Thursday about the standards, which are still being formulated and will be released within 90 days, said Penny Lee, managing director of the coalition. They would include more disclosure to prospective students on tuition costs, student debt and job placement, as well as guidelines for financial aid, enrollment and career placement, as well as a way to enforce the regulations. The standards will be compiled by two former governors, Thomas Kean, a Republican who led New Jersey for two terms in the 1980s, and Ed Rendell, who was Pennsylvania's Democratic governor from 2002 until January of this year, as well as "probably another four or five individuals from a variety of different aspects of higher education," Lee said.
Lee said the effort was intended in part to dispel criticism about for-profit colleges. "What we are trying to show and demonstrate is that this sector is a sector that plays a critical role, not only in education, but in the workforce and economy of this country," she said. The standards were described in vague terms, but Campus Progress, a liberal group, has already criticized the effort. "[I]f the Wall Street collapse taught us anything, it is that self-policing is at best ineffective, and at worst disastrous," the group said in a release.
The embattled president of Florida's Edison State College will suggest today that trustees cut his comparatively large annual compensation of $832,000 by more than 20 percent, with a promise to use the savings to fund scholarships for students, The News-Press reported. The cut would lower Kenneth Walker's total compensation in 2011-12 to $653,173, from $832,125.
The University of Wisconsin Pain & Policy Studies Group has decided to stop taking money from the drug industry, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Over the last decade, it has taken in about $2.5 million from the industry. The decision to stop taking the money followed another article in the Journal Sentinel on criticism of the research center's findings supporting "controversial uses of narcotic painkillers" at a time that it was receiving the funds.
The National Research Council on Thursday released the corrected versions of its rankings of doctoral programs, including factors that had been recalculated based on various errors or omissions. The NRC website features links to the new and old versions. Most of the changes involve the subcategories being corrected, with relatively modest shifts in the overall categories. This article details the changes released on Thursday and this one details the generally skeptical reaction with which the NRC methodology has been greeted. The corrections released Thursday do not address the larger methodological issues cited by many critics.