Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 9, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Ann Gordon, associate professor of political science at Chapman University, examines if the country's emergency preparedness could use a tune-up. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 8, 2016

Rebecca Blank, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, on Monday apologized for the way the university responded to an incident last month when two fans at a football game wore costumes and had props depicting the lynching of President Obama (at right). Authorities at the time asked the two fans to stop using the noose, and the fans complied, but many said the university should have done more.

At a Faculty Senate meeting Monday, Blank said the university would have new rules in place before the next football game. Further, she said action had been taken about the incident, hinting that this action involved the fans who brought the noose, although she did not say that explicitly. “I’m limited in how much I can say today, but can announce that we’ve indefinitely revoked the season tickets of a pair of individuals related to this situation,” she said. “We took this action because the person using the tickets brought a prohibited item into the stadium and failed to follow the direction of our event staff.”

Blank also apologized.

“I am personally very sorry for the hurt that this incident and our response to it has caused. I have heard from students, faculty and community members who are dissatisfied with our response, and I understand why,” she said. “A noose is a symbol of some of the worst forms of racial hatred and intimidation in our country’s history. We understand this and we should have communicated this more forcefully from the beginning. A noose displayed in this fashion has no place in Camp Randall.” (Camp Randall is the football stadium.)

November 8, 2016

In an opinion piece alleging that Laureate Education may have been spared from the Obama administration's crackdown on for-profit higher education because of its ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, The Wall Street Journal's editorial board noted that information about Laureate's Walden University is missing in the relatively new federal College Scorecard.

"Laureate is also a rare major for-profit college in the U.S. that has been spared from President Obama’s war on the industry," the article said. "Laureate may have an impeccable compliance record and provide a world-class education. But it’s hard to know since the Obama administration’s College Scorecard doesn’t include a graduation rate for Laureate’s largest U.S. college, the online Walden University, which makes up the majority of its U.S. enrollment."

Walden's graduation rate is not included in the U.S. Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) because of a mundane reason: the federal database's graduation rate tracks only first-time, full-time undergraduates, and Walden lacks enough students who fit that profile to generate a meaningful rate. The Journal editorial itself mentions Walden's first-time, full-time issue, citing a department spokesperson.

The university is heavily tilted toward graduate students, who comprise more than 80 percent of Walden's overall enrollment. And roughly 85 percent of the university's undergraduates are at least 25 years old, meaning many likely are not first-time college students. That's partially because Walden's undergraduate academic programs until recently were focused on degree completion for returning college students.

The Education Department's College Navigator, the companion to the College Scorecard, explains Walden's lack of a federal graduation rate. "Data reported in the IPEDS Graduation Rate survey is based on a cohort of first-time, full-time undergraduates," a footnote in the entry says. "Undergraduate students enrolled at Walden University do not typically fall into this group."

November 8, 2016

Among Americans, those who are Hindu are the most likely (77 percent) to have a college degree, according to new data from Pew Research. They are followed by Unitarian Universalists (67 percent), and Jews and Anglicans (both 59 percent). The following table from Pew shows the data for all religious groups (and atheists).

November 8, 2016

A federal jury on Monday said that Rolling Stone and one of its writers must pay a former University of Virginia associate dean $3 million for defamation, The New York Times reported. The ruling came in a suit was brought by Nicole Eramo, an administrator who was in charge of handling sexual violence cases in the period covered by a now discredited article about an alleged gang rape at Virginia. On Friday, the jury found that Eramo had been defamed, but a subsequent hearing and deliberations led to Monday's award.

November 8, 2016

San Jacinto College, a community college in Texas, announced Monday that it is dropping four intercollegiate athletic teams: men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, and men’s soccer. The college will keep its baseball and softball teams.

College officials cited the expenses associated with the eliminated teams, which involve about 150 students. Annual spending is about $2.6 million, and athletics facilities currently require about $25 million in renovations.

November 8, 2016

The Vassar College faculty has approved a plan to shrink the teaching load to four classes per year, from five, while adding a new student supervisory requirement. The plan, referred to as 2-2-1, also includes cutting the number of units students need to graduate. The vote was 135 in favor and 40 opposed, with one abstention. Though it passed by a relatively wide margin, with faculty proponents emphasizing a renewed commitment to one-on-one interaction with students, the plan has been controversial and remains so, to some. “My fear that Vassar's bad example could start a trend” among selective colleges, Donald Foster, Jean Webster Professor of Dramatic Literature, said via email.

November 8, 2016

The Houston College of Law, formerly known as the South Texas College of Law, has a new name: South Texas College of Law Houston. The law school announced its new name Monday, shortly after a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction ordering the Houston College of Law to stop using that name, citing potential confusion with the University of Houston Law Center, which sought the injunction. The University of Houston Law Center noted issues beyond the name -- such as a similar color for the logos -- that could lead to confusion. The South Texas College of Law Houston also said it planned to change the color used in the logo, away from a red similar to the University of Houston's, and to instead use navy.

November 8, 2016

We're hearing from many readers who are experiencing anxiety over the elections. We'll let you know the impact of the results on higher ed tomorrow. We don't really have a cure for your nervousness today, so, perhaps you could use a distraction. Can you identify the campuses below for which we have grabbed fall scenes from social media? Answers are at the end. Some of the photos are a week or so old, so the colors have changed since these images were shot. And if you don't want to guess, enjoy the photos. (And while colleges in New England and rural areas may seem to be obvious choices for this compilation, some of the locales may surprise.)

A.

B.

C.

D.

E.

F.

G.

H.

I.

Answers:

A. Whitman College

B. University of Iowa

C. Tufts University

D. Holyoke Community College

E. University of the South

F. Hunter College of City University of New York

G. Paul Smith's College

H. Case Western Reserve University

I. University of Connecticut

November 8, 2016

U.S. Education Secretary John King Jr. last week affirmed an administrative judge's March ruling that relieved now-defunct Decker College of a $31.6 million repayment the Education Department demanded the for-profit institution make in 2005. The administrative judge had ruled that the department based its finding at that time on misinformation provided by Decker's accreditor, the Council on Occupational Education, which Decker officials have argued helped push the college into bankruptcy and ultimately destroy it. The Federal Student Aid office -- part of King's own department -- appealed the administrative judge's ruling to the secretary.

King's affirmation letter was unusually frank and expansive in explaining why he rejected his own agency's appeal. The department's decision is also likely to clear the way for a lawsuit -- which has been stayed pending resolution of this situation -- in which Decker is suing the accrediting council over its misrepresentations. (Note: This item has been updated from an earlier version to correct some errors.)

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