Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 5, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Pushker Kharecha of Columbia University’s Earth Institute explains how a small shift in the timing of peak CO2 emissions will shape the Earth’s climate for centuries. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


November 2, 2012

Advocates of international education are ringing alarm bells about a €90 million shortfall in the Erasmus budget. Erasmus, a European Union program, provides grants for students to study or work outside their home countries in one of 33 participating nations (the 27 member states of the European Union, plus Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey). More than 231,000 students received grants in 2010-11, with the average award being a modest €250 a month. The most popular destinations were Spain, France and Germany. (Note: This article has been updated to reflect the term of the award.)

European Commission officials warn that unless something changes, its debts to national agencies in the participating countries – which distribute the money to colleges and students -- will have to be paid out of next year’s budget. This means that either fewer students will be supported or smaller grants will be given. The €90 million shortfall is out of a total budget of €450 million.

“What we’re hoping is that before the end of the year, the 27 member states, and the European Parliament, will agree to make up the shortfall,” said Dennis Abbott, a European Commission spokesman for education. “We know it’s a very, very tough world out there and that many countries are having to cut back, but we just feel that they shouldn’t be cutting back on education and they shouldn’t be cutting back where commitments have been made.”

November 2, 2012

Many colleges and universities that have Nov. 1 deadlines for early decision, early action or other admissions requests have announced extensions or flexibility in light of the impact of Hurricane Sandy. The National Association for College Admission Counseling is publishing and updating a list of these institutions, with links to details on their new deadlines.

November 2, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Thomas Morrissey of the State University of New York Plattsburgh explains the growing popularity of the young-adult dystopian novel. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


November 2, 2012

Green Mountain College has delayed a controversial plan to slaughter two oxen because local slaughterhouses have received threats from outside groups about actions that would be taken if they kill the animals, the Associated Press reported. The college prides itself on sustainability, and says that when one ox became unable to continue working, the right thing to do from an environmental perspective was to slaughter the oxen and to serve their meat in the dining hall. But animal rights groups and others have mounted online campaigns to save the oxen.

November 2, 2012

The National Student Clearinghouse is taking over management of the University of Texas at Austin's SPEEDE server, which more than 300 colleges use at no charge to process electronic transcripts and share student academic records, the two entities announced Wednesday. The clearinghouse quickly followed Thursday with another announcement making clear that it would continue to provide SPEEDE's services free, presumably in response to questions from many registrars and admissions officials about whether the much larger organization would seek to privatize, or at least monetize, its new operation. Also on Thursday, a corporate player in the e-transcript space, Parchment, announced its own collaboration to create a gateway for electronic academic records.


November 2, 2012

Graham Spanier, for years a leader in higher education as president of Pennsylvania State University, was indicted Thursday on charges of concealing information about suspected child abuse involving Jerry Sandusky, obstructing the criminal investigation of Sandusky, perjury before a grand jury and endangering the welfare of children. The charges came a year after the scandal involving Sandusky became public. While the former assistant football coach has been convicted of dozens of counts of sexual abuse of minors, Spanier is accused of failing to report Sandusky to authorities. "This is not a mistake, an oversight or a misjudgment. This was a conspiracy of silence by top officials at Penn State, working to actively conceal the truth, with total disregard to the suffering of children," said Linda Kelly, Pennsylvania's attorney general, in a statement.

Spanier was fired by Penn State shortly after the scandal broke and has been on sabbatical with the assumption he would soon return to a faculty role. The university announced Thursday that Spanier was being placed on leave, and that Penn State would have no further comment about the legal proceedings.

One of Spanier's lawyers released a statement defending the former president. "Graham Spanier has committed no crime and looks forward to the opportunity to clear his good name and well-earned national reputation for integrity. This presentment is a politically motivated frame-up of an innocent man. And if these charges ever come to trial, we will prove it."


November 2, 2012

India has a new minister in charge of higher education. M M Pallam Raju assumed control of the Ministry of Human Resources and Development on Wednesday. The former minister Kapil Sibal -- who remains in control of the telecommunications ministry -- is well-known internationally as an advocate for opening India to foreign universities. A bill that would regulate foreign branch campuses has been stalled in India’s Parliament for more than two years.

November 2, 2012

The Education Department on Thursday released final rules to make income-contingent repayment more generous and to make it easier for permanent disabled borrowers to discharge their loans. The rules, the result of negotiated rule-making sessions early this year, bring the income-contingent repayment program in line with an executive order President Obama issued in January. The new program, now officially named "Pay As You Earn," reduces monthly payments to 10 percent of a borrowers' discretionary income for borrowers in financial distress and discharge the loans after 20 years.

For borrowers who are permanently disabled, the rules take several steps to streamline the discharge process, including accepting the Social Security Administration's designation of disability and simplifying the process so that disabled borrowers must submit only one application to the Education Department, rather than separate applications to each of their loan servicers.

November 2, 2012

The University of Richmond is eliminating its men’s soccer and track and field teams to make way for a men’s lacrosse team, The Washington Post reported Thursday, for unclear reasons but with help from a $3 million endowment spearheaded by major, anonymous donors. More than 50 students competed on the two teams that are to be cut at the end of this academic year. Only eight of the students -- all men’s soccer players -- were on athletic scholarship. A task force charged with reviewing the university’s sport offerings apparently reported in April that men’s lacrosse be added without eliminating any other sports, though it would have cost $2 million. Athletes and coaches said that they hadn’t been given a proper explanation, that they were misled about the implications of adding lacrosse, and that many students would transfer because they will no longer be able to compete.

(Note: This article has been updated from an earlier version to correct an error.)


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