Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 2, 2012

The University of Connecticut's student-run television station has apologized for a video that jokes about the dangers of rape and sexual assault. The station posted an apology and promised to review standards. The video (viewable at Gawker) shows a woman fleeing a man she believes will attack her. She tries various emergency response phones and doesn't get the help she needs, but hears offensive comments from the computer-generated voice on the phones. UConn students took to Facebook to organize protests against the broadcast.

February 2, 2012

Shifting state policies related to developmental education threaten to limit innovation at colleges that serve large proportions of minority students, according to a new study from the Southern Education Foundation. For example, 14 states have prohibited or limited remedial courses, or reduced state funding for them at public four-year colleges. Those policies, half of which are on the books in Southern states, have a disproportional impact on minority-serving institutions, according to the study. The foundation called for leaders of minority-serving institutions to better collaborate to help students with developmental needs, and to "unabashedly demand more from state and federal governments and indeed the entire higher education community."

February 2, 2012

A petition asking Sallie Mae to revoke the $50 quarterly "forbearance fee" that the lender imposes on borrowers who are unable to repay their student loans has gathered more than 75,000 signatures. Forbearance, when loans continue to accumulate capitalized interest although borrowers do not have to make payments, is the last resort to avoid default, and the petition protests the $50 fee as an "unemployment tax."

"As an unemployed person desperately looking for work, I need every extra dollar I have to pay for rent, electricity and groceries," wrote Stef Gray on the petition. "But Sallie Mae is preying on people like me and cashing in on the fact that we need more time to find work before we can repay our student loans."

Such fees are not uncommon on private loans, and Sallie Mae has defended them as a way to ensure that the borrower is committed to continuing to pay.

February 2, 2012

Class-action lawsuits have been filed against 12 more law schools over employment data, with 51 of their graduates accusing the schools of misrepresenting how many graduates would be able to find high-paying law jobs after earning a degree. The 12 schools -- Brooklyn Law School, California Western School of Law, Southwestern Law School, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, John Marshall Law School, Florida Coastal School of Law, and the law schools at DePaul University, Golden Gate University, Hofstra University, Union University, the University of San Francisco and Widener University -- join three that have already been sued in a similar class action

February 2, 2012

It's the cover-up that always gets you. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln is the latest college to face a bedbug problem in some dormitories -- an event that has been treated as a serious annoyance by students elsewhere, but hasn't led to scandals. As The Lincoln Journal Star reported, however, a resident assistant in one housing unit reported that when she found bedbugs, she was discouraged from telling the students, and was told to tell them that her room was being remodeled, not that it was being scrubbed for bedbugs. The university denies a cover-up, but students aren't convinced.

February 2, 2012

Pomona College dismissed 17 employees, 16 of them from the dining service, in December when they could not produce documents showing that they were legally in the United States, The New York Times reported. Some of the employees had worked for the college for many years, and their firings have angered many students and alumni. Critics argue that the colleges is failing to live up to its ideals. But college officials said that, under U.S. law, they had no choice but to act when they received a "credible complaint" that some of the employees were working illegally. That led to the request for documents, which in turn prompted the dismissals.

February 2, 2012

The arts and sciences faculty of Rutgers University at New Brunswick has voted 174 to 3 to call on the university to stop covering athletics department deficits and to let students vote on whether their fees should be used to do so, NewJersey.com reported. The vote follows a series of reports about the large deficits in the athletics program (nearly $27 million in 2010, making Rutgers one of the top money-losing universities in the country with regard to athletics). Faculty anger has been growing as the university has faced steep budget cuts. A Rutgers statement said that the university is working to bring down the deficit and that cuts would hurt Olympic sports that rely on student fees.

February 2, 2012

Indiana's Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would let public schools teach creationism in science classes, as long as the views of multiple religions on the origins of the Earth are taught there as well, the Associated Press reported. Many scientists have spoken out against the bill, as have some scholars of religion.

February 1, 2012

A senior White House education adviser took questions from college presidents Tuesday at the annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, providing a few more details on the administration's plan to make college affordable. After a panel discussion of affordability issues, which featured college presidents sharing their methods for helping students with tuition and loan repayment, Zakiya Smith tried to alleviate some of the private colleges' concerns. The administration will focus only on net price, not list price, she said, adding that officials would seek input and advice from colleges and associations.

"We know this is a shared responsibility," Smith said. "Hearing about those things gave us hope, gave us promise." Several presidents emphasized that the Race to the Top-like fund for college affordability or other maintenance of effort clauses should require that state-level financial aid, which can help students attending private colleges, be maintained as well.

February 1, 2012

One editorial board member has resigned and another may follow, after the publication in the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology questioning the link between HIV and AIDS, Nature reported. The paper's lead author is Peter Duesberg of the University of California at Berkeley, who has for years questioned that link -- much to the consternation of most AIDS scientists who believe it has been well established.

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