Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, July 8, 2016 - 3:00am

An investment adviser in Texas, who says he has no connection or gripe with Texas Tech University, has asked U.S. News & World Report to investigate discrepancies in the number of applications the university reports. In an email to the rankings operation, Parker Binion said that he compared the number of applications the university reported to the state (15,063) and to the Common Data Set (23,010). The latter figure is used by U.S. News in its rankings and in indicating how difficult it is to get into a college. Based on the number of applications reported to the state, the university's admissions rate is a not terribly competitive 88 percent. Based on the figures used by U.S. News, the figure is 63 percent.

Robert Morse, who leads the rankings division of U.S. News, said via email that he has reached out to Texas Tech about the discrepancy. U.S. News has been criticized in the past for using a loose definition of applications, similar to that of the Common Data Set, which is "completely actionable applications." Some colleges only count an application that has actually been completed. In the era of online applications, many high school students start and never finish applications. So colleges that only count full applications make themselves look less competitive than other institutions.

A spokesman for Texas Tech said that the university believed that it filled out all reports accurately, but that definitions sometimes differ for different agencies. The spokesman also said that the gap between the two figures from Texas Tech was large enough that officials would review it.

UPDATE: On Friday morning, the Texas Tech spokesman said that the university now believed that the number reported to the state was too low, due both to an "overly restrictive" definition of application and errors caused by software. A new number has not been determined yet.

Friday, July 8, 2016 - 3:00am

Minot State University has agreed to a series of policy changes, with reporting requirements, to resolve a finding by the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights that the university violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. While numerous procedural problems were identified, the most prominent finding, as summarized by the department's press release, was this: "OCR found that the university failed to process a complaint brought by a former student (Student A) who reported that during her time at the school, she had been sexually assaulted for over two years by one of her professors. Despite the serious nature of the complaint, OCR determined that Minot State did not take any steps to address the effects of the hostile environment to which the student reported she had been subjected."

UPDATE: Minot State officials said Friday morning that the professor about whom Student A filed a complaint has not been employed by the university since August 2013.

 

Friday, July 8, 2016 - 3:00am

The Higher Learning Commission announced Thursday it would defer action on a proposed merger agreement from Apollo Education Group -- the parent company of the University of Phoenix.

HLC notified Apollo that it would defer action until the U.S. Department of Education provides a written response regarding the agreement, according to a corporate filing. The regional accreditor will reconsider the merger within 30 days. If the department hasn't responded, HLC can also take up the matter in November.

Apollo is in the process of going private. In May, shareholders agreed to sell the company for $1.14 billion. That sale is subject to review by HLC and the department.

Friday, July 8, 2016 - 3:00am

State and local government spending on prisons and jails increased by 89 percent between 1990 and 2013, while state and local appropriations for higher education remained flat, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Education. During that same time period, 46 states reduced higher education spending per full-time-equivalent student, the department found. On average, the report said state and local higher education funding per student fell by 28 percent while per capita spending on corrections increased by 44 percent.

“Budgets reflect our values, and the trends revealed in this analysis are a reflection of our nation’s priorities that should be revisited,” U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr. said in a written statement.

Friday, July 8, 2016 - 4:31am

A Republican state senator is threatening to punish the University of Wisconsin at Madison through the budget process because a lecturer assigned a reading that involves the choices gay men make about sex partners and contains a reference to oral sex between gay men, the Associated Press reported. Steve Nass, the legislator, is vice chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. He sent the reading to Madison administrators and to members of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents. “Since students at UW Madison are required to read this offensive material it is only appropriate that as leaders of the system you also read this offensive essay and respond with your thoughts on its educational value,” Nass wrote. “Is this what the people of Wisconsin should expect when paying taxes and tuition to support the UW System?”

The reading is not generally required of Madison students, but only of those in one sociology course, Problems of American Racial and Ethnic Minorities, which deals in part with issues of sexuality and racism, and in which students are warned in advance that some material may make them uncomfortable. Pamela Oliver, chair of the sociology department, issued a statement defending the lecturer's course. “Taken within the context of the course, the material appropriately pushes boundaries in order to spark discussion,” she wrote. “Among adult college students, analyzing how people talk about sexuality is considered appropriate material.”

Friday, July 8, 2016 - 3:00am

The president of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, in Germany, announced plans to rewrite a 150 million euro (about $166 million) gift agreement that critics say gives a donor too much control over faculty appointments and publishing decisions at the university's Institute of Molecular Biology, Science reported. President Georg Krausch acknowledged that the agreement with the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation includes problematic language granting the foundation veto power over faculty hires -- which, he said, it never used -- and requiring the university to get the foundation's consent prior to the release of publications. Krausch said the university will work with the foundation to revise the language. A spokesperson for the foundation said it will continue to support basic research and give “maximum freedom” to researchers, and that it is waiting to hear what changes the university will propose.

Friday, July 8, 2016 - 3:00am

The commissioners of the five wealthiest National Collegiate Athletic Association conferences announced Thursday that they had agreed on a new proposal that would lessen time demands on college athletes. The so-called Power Five conferences -- the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12 and the Southeastern Conference -- were set to vote on similar rule changes at the NCAA's annual meeting in January, but the proposals were tabled, frustrating many of the athletes in attendance.

The new proposal is more expansive than what was discussed earlier this year. Once adopted, travel days will no longer be counted as days off; coaches must provide 14 additional days off, either during or outside the season; coaches must allow for an 8-hour block of free time at any time between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.; and there must be at least seven days of recovery time during the postseason.

The results of a national survey of 30,000 Division I athletes, released by the NCAA in January, found that many athletes want to spend less time on athletics. More than 40 percent of football and basketball players said they wanted an additional day off per week beyond the one they have now, and most athletes indicated they would appreciate two weeks off at the end of a season.

According to data also released by the NCAA in January, as part of its ongoing GOALS study, football players in the Football Bowl Subdivision -- the association’s most competitive level -- report spending 42 hours per week on their sport. Two-thirds of Division I athletes reported spending as much or more time on athletics during the off-season as during the season. Nearly one in three FBS football players said their sport prevented them from enrolling in a course they wanted to take.

Soccer players, swimmers and divers reported spending the least amount of time on their sports, though at 29 hours, even they still surpassed the amount of required athletic activity allowed by the NCAA. Subsequent NCAA surveys have shown even more support among both athletes and coaches for lessening time demands.

"We believe we have found the right balance between helping students participate in sports while also providing them with more downtime," the commissioners of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC said in a joint statement. "Different sports have different demands and we think the concepts we've agreed to will help tens of thousands of students achieve more balance as they pursue their academic and athletic commitments."

Last month, the Ivy League's athletic directors adopted similar rules aimed at lessening time demands.

Friday, July 8, 2016 - 3:00am

Someone spray painted "Black Lives Matter" on a Confederate memorial at the University of Texas at Austin late Wednesday or early Thursday, amid reports of fatal police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. Photos spread on social media (above right). The Dallas Morning News reported that most of the paint was removed by 10:45 a.m.

Friday, July 8, 2016 - 3:00am

A new report from the National Association of College and University Business Officers indicates a wave of retirements could be coming among chief business officers in the next several years.

Almost 44 percent of chief business officers expect their next career move to be retirement, according to the NACUBO National Profile of Higher Education Chief Business Officers, a report issued every three years that was released Thursday. The portion expecting retirement to be their next career move was 43.6 percent, up from 39.6 percent in 2013 and 39.8 percent in 2010. Of those planning to retire, 10 percent said they would like to do so in less than a year, and another 34 percent said they planned to retire in one to three years. Meanwhile, 37 percent of chief business officers said their institutions do not have any succession plans in place.

The survey of 713 business leaders found chief business officers are predominantly white males and average 56 years old. Typical salaries were reported between $150,000 and $300,000, depending on institution type, and the report found business officers' responsibilities stretch far beyond budgeting and accounting, with nearly a third saying strategic thinking and decision making is the second most important part of their job after managing financial resources.

Friday, July 8, 2016 - 3:00am

A government audit of Scotland’s universities found that Scottish undergraduates are finding it “more difficult” to get into universities, the BBC reported. The number of applications has grown more quickly than the number of funded places available for students from Scotland and other European Union countries, who are entitled to free tuition. Applications have increased by 23 percent since 2010, while the number of admission offers by universities has increased by 9 percent. The percentage of Scottish applicants who failed to receive an offer from any Scottish university rose to 19 percent in 2015, up from 15 percent in 2010.

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