Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 1, 2013

It wasn't pretty, and advocates for students aren't happy with it. But after almost two years of fits and false starts, Congress on Wednesday passed legislation that would tie interest rates on federal student loans to the market and, at least in the short term, forestall hefty increases that were to hit new borrowers beginning this fall.

The legislation passed the House of Representatives by a wide margin (392-31, with 10 abstentions) after originating in the Senate, which approved it last week. The measure, when signed by President Obama, will reset interest rates on federally guaranteed loans each July based on the previous May's auction of 10-year Treasury bills. Undergraduate loans -- those that are federally subsidized as well as those that are not -- would be set at the Treasury rate plus 2.05 percentage points, while loans for graduate students would be set at 3.6 points above the Treasury rate, and loans for parents at 4.6 percentage points over the T-bill rate. The maximum rate would be capped at 8.25 percent for undergraduate loans, 9.5 percent for graduate student loans, and 10.5 percent for parent loans.

Even as both chambers overwhelmingly backed the compromise, the parties continued to bicker about whose previous versions of the bills were worse, and took credit for different parts of the compromise.

 

August 1, 2013

The University of Maryland University College -- an institution known for distance education -- has announced that it will award academic credit to those who complete six massive open online courses and who pass tests offered for those courses, CBS News DC reported. The MOOCs are introductory mathematics and science courses, and are offered by Coursera and Udacity.

 

August 1, 2013

The U.S. Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday approved a renewal of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), the federal law that governs work force training. The bill, which hasn't been updated in 15 years, would overhaul a broad range of job training programs at community colleges. The two-year sector supports the legislation. It faces an unclear future, however, in part because the U.S. House of Representatives passed a much different job training bill earlier this year.

August 1, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Kerry Clark of the University of North Florida explains why Lyme disease is becoming a threat in areas beyond the northeastern United States. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 1, 2013

A new federal law requires colleges to step up their efforts to prevent sexual assaults, including through the controversial practice of mandatory training for students. A leading provider of training in financial literacy and alcohol education and prevention, Everfi, is today releasing HAVEN, which has been used so far by 700,000 students at 180 institutions and is designed to fulfill the requirements of the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE Act).

 

August 1, 2013

Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College, at a legislative hearing in Michigan on Wednesday, referred to minority student as "dark ones," The Detroit Free Press reported. Hillsdale does not accept any federal funds and thus resists many data-gathering initiatives of government agencies. In his testimony, Arnn described a time he said state officials visited campus to see if he had enough "dark ones" enrolled. Many legislators criticized Arnn for the language.

Hillsdale released a statement later on Wednesday in which it said that Arnn was "sorry if such offense [over his language] was honestly taken." The the issue people should focus on, the statement said, was "state endorsed racism." The statement noted that Hillsdale was founded by an abolitionist in 1844 and has always barred discrimination based on "nationality, color or sex." The statement added that "[r]acial polarization is increasing rather than decreasing in our nation today," and that the solution to thise problem is to "return to the principles of the nation," such as "a colorblind Constitution."

 

August 1, 2013

The presidents of 165 universities issued a joint statement Wednesday calling on President Obama and Congress to deal with the "innovation deficit" facing the country. "Our nation’s role as the world’s innovation leader is in serious jeopardy. The combination of eroding federal investments in research and higher education, additional cuts due to sequestration, and the enormous resources other nations are pouring into these areas is creating a new kind of deficit for the United States: an innovation deficit. Closing this innovation deficit—the widening gap between needed and actual investments — must be a national imperative," says the letter. "The path for resolving appropriations, the debt limit, and a potential long-term budget agreement this fall is unclear. What should be clear is that the answer to our nation’s fiscal woes must include sustained strategic federal investments in research and student financial aid to close the innovation deficit and bolster our nation’s economic and national security for decades to come."

The letter was coordinated by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

 

July 31, 2013

The board of the St. Louis Community College District -- after a 3-3 tie vote -- will not renew the contract of Chancellor Myrtle Dorsey, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Discussion of Dorsey took place in an executive session, so the rationale of board members was not clear. But Dorsey and the district have faced widespread criticism over the handling of an incident in which a female student was attacked in a restroom and her supporters say that the college failed to respond adequately, with campus police letting the suspect go. Dorsey was hired in 2011 and her current contract goes through June 2014.

July 31, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Jeremy Grabbe of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh reveals that there are some types of brain function that improve with age. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 31, 2013

Centre College on Tuesday announced a $250 million gift -- believed to be the largest ever to a liberal arts college -- that will support merit scholarships. Starting in the fall of 2014, 40 students a year will receive what the college is calling "full ride plus" scholarships, to cover tuition, room and board, all fees and additional money to support study abroad, research or internships. The funds will be available only to students majoring in the natural sciences, computational sciences and economics.

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