The National Association for College Admission Counseling has named the members of a panel studying the use of agents -- paid in part on commission -- to recruit international students. The practice has been deeply controversial within the association, and its leaders hope the panel can point to principles that can guide colleges. The panel includes some college admissions leaders whose colleges use the agents, and others who do not. NACAC officials said that they wanted a range of views represented on the committee.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Indian lawmakers are considering another round of changes in legislation -- closely watched by universities in the United States and other countries -- that would allow non-Indian universities to open degree-granting campuses in India, Indian Express reported. Some of the changes would make it easier for prominent institutions, by allowing those deemed "reputed" to bypass some of the regulatory processes being created. Other changes may be challenging for some institutions' plans. For example, one change would require Indian officials to make sure that the addition of foreign institutions does not exacerbate inequities between rural and urban areas, given the concentration of universities today in urban areas. Many foreign institutions are likely to want to be in urban areas as well, but the bill would encourage the government to give preference to institutions locating in rural, less developed parts of the country.
Illinois State University allows five nonprofit groups in the state to be counted as employees of the university, gaining them access to the state's pension system for university employees, The Chicago Tribune reported. The university defends the practice as a way to help the groups (which include several education-related associations and the Special Olympics), and says that the policy doesn't cost the state money. The university doesn't pay these employees and the organizations make contributions to the pension fund. But others say that those payments don't cover costs for all employees, and that the practice is inappropriate at a time of concern about the financial stability of the pension system.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- which pioneered the idea of making course materials free online -- today announced a major expansion of the idea, with the creation of MITx, which will provide for interaction among students, assessment and the awarding of certificates of completion to students who have no connection to MIT.
MIT is also starting a major initiative -- led by Provost L. Rafael Reif -- to study online teaching and learning.
The first course through MITx is expected this spring. While the institute will not charge for the courses, it will charge what it calls "a modest fee" for the assessment that would lead to a credential. The credential will be awarded by MITx and will not constitute MIT credit. The university also plans to continue MIT OpenCourseWare, the program through which it makes course materials available online.
An FAQ from MIT offers more details on the new program.
While MIT has been widely praised for OpenCourseWare, much of the attention in the last year from the "open" educational movement has shifted to programs like the Khan Academy (through which there is direct instruction provided, if not yet assessment) and an initiative at Stanford University that makes courses available -- courses for which some German universities are providing academic credit. The new initiative would appear to provide some of the features (instruction such as offered by Khan, and certification that some are creating for the Stanford courses) that have been lacking in OpenCourseWare.
Tea Party organizers and others are gathering petitions for a statewide vote in California to repeal the state's Dream Act, which authorizes students who do not have the legal right to reside in the United States to receive state financial aid, The Los Angeles Times reported. It is unclear whether the organizers will be able to gather enough signatures to get their proposal on the ballot. Polls have shown that 55 percent of state residents oppose the law that gave the students aid eligibility, but the outcome of California ballot measures is difficult to predict.
A new study released by the Community College Research Center found that performance-based funding policies lead to greater use of data by colleges in institutional planning. Performance-based funding also encourages academic improvements and better student services. However, the policies can create unintended consequences, such as compliance costs, narrowing of institutional missions and grade inflation, the study found.
Riley Westmoreland, student government president at Samford University, doesn't need to worry about access to the university president. The Birmingham News reported that the university's president is Andrew Westmoreland, her father. And he has a tradition of regularly inviting the student government president to dine with his family.
Ugandan higher education authorities recently authorized the Virtual University of Uganda to begin offering fully online programs, the first such programs in the region. The university has created an open access virtual library and a course management system through Moodle. Instruction will be in English, but there are plans to expand to French as well.
The U.S. Justice Department announced Friday that it did not see antitrust problems with the Designated Suppliers Program, an effort of the Worker Rights Consortium to assure that employees at factories that produce collegiate apparel receive basic rights and fair treatment. Some have expressed fears that colleges that agree to participate in the program might be found in violation of antitrust laws. But a statement from the Justice Department noted that no college is forced to participate. Further, the Justice Department noted that the program may create new competition among colleges and companies that abide by the conditions of the program.