Higher Education Quick Takes
More than 8,500 Change.org members have signed an online petition addressed to the chairman of the Washington Post Company, Donald Graham, calling for a freeze on all Kaplan University admissions until the online university changes how it attracts its students. Shannon Croteau, a mother of three and a former Kaplan student, led the petition drive along with a group of other former students. "They told me they were accredited the same as Ivy League schools were," Croteau said. "They lie and cheat. It has ruined me." The petition title says: "Tell Kaplan and The Washington Post to Stop Cashing In On Low-Income Students." The group is asking for Kaplan to "end unethical business practices," which it deems predatory. The petition also cites the GAO report that investigated 16 for-profit universities and is at the center of debate over whether to regulate the for-profit education sector, and calls for the Washington Post to stop denying "wrong-doing."
Ron Lori, Kaplan Higher Education senior vice president of communications, responded that Kaplan has forgiven Croteau's financial obligations to the university and invited her to return to complete her degree, but she declined. Lori added that he believes few of the Change.org petitioners are former Kaplan students.
This item has been updated to add Kaplan University's response.
The University of California at Irvine is apologizing that one of its dining halls served chicken and waffles on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, advertising it as an "MLK Holiday Special," the Los Angeles Times reported. The menu was planned at the last minute and was not intended to offend, but was not in the "best taste," a spokeswoman said. A member of the Black Student Union lodged a complaint about the menu.
Utah State University has agreed to settle a lawsuit by the parents of a freshman who died from consuming vodka in a hazing incident in 2008, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The parents never sought money, but agreed to drop the suit in return for what they said they wanted from the litigation: pledges by the university to improve oversight and guidance of the Greek system to prevent such tragedies.
The U.S. Naval Academy and Bruce Fleming, an English professor, have reached an agreement to end a complaint by Fleming that he was denied raises after he wrote an op-ed criticizing the admissions policies at Annapolis, The Washington Post reported. While details of the agreement were not released, an announcement about a federal investigation said that it had "uncovered evidence indicating that USNA illegally denied the employee a merit pay increase because of his public statements." The Fleming op-ed said that Annapolis was using a differential admissions system in which minority applicants were admitted with substantially lower academic credentials than required for white applicants.
A broad coalition of student, consumer and minority groups on Wednesday exhorted President Obama to issue a "strong and enforceable" rule aimed at ensuring that vocational programs prepare their students for "gainful employment." The letter from 38 groups cites a series of practices in which "some" career education programs have deceptively recruited students, inflated and falsely reported job placement statistics, and buried students in debt, and urges the administration not to back away from its tough but "common sense" regulation. "We will support you every step of the way," they write, a nod to the intense lobbying in which opponents of the rule have engaged.
The signatories to the letter include higher education associations like the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, unions like the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors, and consumer groups such as the National Consumer Law Center and Public Citizen. But it may be most notable for the large number of minority advocacy groups represented, since advocates for for-profit colleges have lined up numerous minority lawmakers and business groups to laud the institutions' success in educating black and Latino students. Signers of Wednesday's letter include the League of United Latin American Citizens, the NAACP, and the National Council of La Raza.
Thirteen University of Iowa football players are hospitalized with a muscle disorder following off-season workouts, a university official confirmed Wednesday. Tom Moore, a university spokesman, told ESPN that the athletes have rhabdomyolysis, “stress-induced muscle syndrome that can damage cells and cause kidney failure in severe cases.” Though the cause of the disorder has yet to be determined, a university physician noted that “the common denominator is they had all participated in strenuous exercise, which commonly brings on the disorder in otherwise healthy young people.” Fred Mims, associate athletics director, explained: "We have an excellent medical staff and training staff who will do due diligence to look at what did transpire and make sure we can avoid this in the future. I'm quite sure they'll have safeguards in place to make sure people aren't harmed."
Intel Corp. plans to establish a series of science and technology centers on American university campuses over five years, ultimately pouring $100 million directly into academic research, the company announced Wednesday. The first of the centers, at Stanford University, will focus on visual computing experiences for consumers and professionals, the computer company said. Such corporate support for research is not uncommon, but the size and scope of this announcement is.
Louisiana's Board of Regents has identified more than 450 academic programs at the state's public universities that will have to defend themselves against potential elimination because of low enrollments, The Advocate of Baton Rouge reported. The regents said the larger number of programs targeted -- the board has cut a total of 245 programs the last two years -- was necessary if Louisiana's public universities are to remain efficient and focused as the state faces continuing budget cuts. Programs will have until February to argue that they should be consolidated or continued instead of cut, the Advocate reported; a final report is due in April.
Legislation proposed in Massachusetts would require much greater disclosure of financial assets by the state’s “private non-profit colleges and universities and their employees or consultants,” according to Fenton, an organization that creates campaigns for causes, including this legislation. Capital market investments, consultant fees, and real estate investments are some of the types of financial disclosures the bill would mandate. State Sen. Patricia Jehlen, who helped introduce the legislation, said her support came from reading a Tellus foundations report (pdf) released last year documenting massive losses taken by six Massachusetts university endowments from risky investments that went sour during the financial crisis. She said that because university investments are tied up with the “enormous public subsidies these institutions are granted, … the public has a right to know more.” Richard Doherty, the president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, sharply disagreed: “The premise of the bill is that private colleges are not fulfilling their charitable not-for-profit mission,” he said. “When people say things that are untrue, we’re going to be opposed to that.” The bill currently has the support of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is upset about layoffs that followed the endowments' losses at some universities.