Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 12, 2009

The Education Department's plan to carry out state-by-state auctions among lenders for the right to originate federal student loans for parents got a little dicier Thursday, as the country's biggest lender announced that it would not participate in the auctions. Sallie Mae sent a letter to its customers informing them that the company would not bid in any of the auctions because it believes the existing setup for setting interest rates and determining who should originate so-called PLUS loans is far preferable to the system Congress enacted in 2007. Despite significant opposition from financial aid officials and lenders, especially in light of the much broader changes the Obama administration is proposing in the federal student loan programs, the Education Department announced this month that it was proceeding with the auction. Sallie Mae's decision poses a threat, though, because under the regulations, if there are not enough "qualified bids" in a particular state's auction, the existing system of Parent PLUS loans stays in effect, as the lender noted in its letter.

March 11, 2009

President Obama has nominated Sherburne (Shere) Abbott, director of the Center for Science and Practice of Sustainability at the University of Texas at Austin, to be associate director of environment for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Abbott formerly was chief international officer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

March 11, 2009

DeVry Inc. says it has agreed to purchase a majority stake in a private higher education provider that operates three universities with a total of five campuses in Brazil. DeVry, an Illinois company whose holdings include DeVry University and Ross University, will purchase 69 percent and eventually up to 82 percent of Fanor, whose three universities educate about 10,000 students in northeastern Brazil.

March 11, 2009

In the past three years, Maryland's state university system has seen a sharp increase in the gap between the six-year black graduation rates and those of other students. The Baltimore Sun reported that the black rate is 40 percent, while the rate for all students is 65 percent. That 25-point gap is up from a 15-point gap just three years ago. System officials said that they were frustrated by the trend. In part, they said, it was because the system is recruiting more black students who are from low-income families and who may have a more difficult time, financially, staying enrolled.

March 10, 2009

Female college students may be drinking excessively based on a false assumption. A study published in this month's Psychology of Addictive Behaviors finds that many female students drink on the assumption that male students will find them more attractive. But scholars who polled male and female students found that, in a variety of situations, the women overestimate how much the men want them to drink -- generally by one and one half drinks.

March 10, 2009

Robert Gallucci, dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, has been named as the next president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The foundation is best known for its fellows program (commonly called the "genius awards," although the foundation doesn't promote that phrase). Many academics have won those awards, but higher education has also received significant support from the fund through other grant programs. In 2006, the foundation started a five-year, $50 million effort to support studies on how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn and engage in civil life.

March 10, 2009

Florida and Connecticut officials are investigating the closure of the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, a nationwide for-profit education chain, The Palm Beach Post reported. School officials blamed the closure on the tightening private loan market for students, but state officials are wondering whether students were admitted (and required to pay tuition bills) at a point when the school was already planning to shut down. One employee of a Florida branch of the school told the Palm Beach newspaper about an abrupt end to the program: "They had the students come in, sit down, and said, 'You're graduating tonight.' Isn't there a law where there have to be exams taken? They didn't take any finals."

March 10, 2009

States need to take specific steps during the recession to assure access to higher education, says a statement released Tuesday by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. The policies endorsed by the center include: admitting all eligible students, using pre-recession admissions criteria; barring practices -- such as moving up application deadlines -- that may discourage the enrollment of disadvantaged students; adopting budgets that do not disproportionately hurt institutions that serve many disadvantaged students; seeking budget plans for states that do not cut higher education more than other units of state government.

March 10, 2009

Citing financial difficulties, Quinnipiac University, in Connecticut, will eliminate its men’s golf, men’s outdoor track and women’s volleyball teams at the end of the academic year. Jack McDonald, athletic director, said in an internal memo, “A variety of scenarios were explored to continue to provide gender-equitable and competitive opportunities for the greatest number of male and female student-athletes in these fiscally challenging times.” Quinnipiac is a Division I institution and a member of the Northeast Conference, but it does not field a football team.

March 9, 2009

A vehicle owned by a University of California at Los Angeles researcher was firebombed on Saturday, and underground animal rights groups have taken responsibility for the attack. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block condemned the attack, part of a series against the university's researchers. "The actions of extremists who use violent and illegal tactics are utterly reprehensible and beyond contempt," he said in a statement. "UCLA police continue to work with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to bring to justice those responsible for such unconscionable acts, and I encourage anyone with information to come forward." The Animal Liberation Front press office posted a message for the researcher: "We will come for you when you least expect it and do a lot more damage than to your property. Wherever you go and whatever you do we'll be watching you as long as you continue to do your disgusting experiments on monkeys."

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