Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 13, 2016

The University of Minnesota has announced it will remove a question from applications about whether applicants have been convicted of felonies. Student groups and the Obama administration have been urging colleges to reconsider such questions.

A statement from Robert McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, said, "After careful consideration of all evidence and research, we concluded that admitting convicted felons doesn't represent a threat to the university, because these individuals are self-reporting and have served their time. Also, the university is concerned with the effect of completed applications from underrepresented minority populations. It remains in the best interest of the university, its academic integrity and security, to continue to ask applicants about previous sexual offenses and academic misconduct."

December 13, 2016

City College of San Francisco can't meet state requirements for proving that it educated 16,000 students online in recent years, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. As a result, the college must repay nearly $39 million to the state. Repaying those funds would be difficult for the college at any time, but may be particularly difficulty now as the institution is facing a severe financial crisis due to falling enrollment. No fraud is suspected in the case, officials said. Rather, the college just didn't have required record keeping and tracking in place.

December 13, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education last week announced the seven companies it awarded new contracts for the collection of debt from federal financial aid. The seven companies, listed below, were selected from 48 bids, according to the publication insideARM.

Last year the department said five debt-collection companies had misrepresented borrowers in an attempt to get loans out of default. None of those five companies were awarded new contracts. The seven that did are Financial Management Systems Investment Corp., GC Services Limited Partnership, Premiere Credit of North America, the CBE Group, Transworld Systems, Value Recovery Holding and Windham Professionals.

December 13, 2016

Amherst College announced that it has suspended the activities of the men's cross-country team after the discovery that the team had a tradition of exchanging racist, sexist and homophobic email messages and social media posts. The college confirmed that this has been a tradition for several years and is part of how new members are taught team culture. "The messages are appalling. They are not only vulgar, they are cruel and hateful. No attempt to rationalize them will change that. My reaction is one of profound sadness, disappointment and anger," said a statement from Biddy Martin, president of the college.

December 13, 2016

Teenagers' use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco declined in 2016 to rates that are at their lowest since the 1990s, a national study by the University of Michigan has found. The study is of high school students but is an indicator of the patterns of drug and alcohol use of those who will soon enter higher education. The researchers cautioned that while they view most of the trends as positive, marijuana use remains high for high school seniors, and has held steady as the rates of use for other drugs have dropped. Details of the study may be found here.

December 13, 2016

In an expected move, John King Jr., the U.S. secretary of education, on Monday made the Education Department's final decision to terminate its recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). The council is a national accreditor that oversees 245 institutions, many of them for-profits, which enroll roughly 600,000 students and collectively received $4.76 billion in federal aid last year.

ACICS had accredited many Corinthian College locations as well as ITT Technical Institute. King, citing "pervasive compliance" problems, followed through on a federal panel's decision to nix the council for failing to protect students and taxpayers from fraudulent and underperforming colleges. The council had appealed that decision, which the department backed previously and confirmed with King's decision this week. In a written statement, ACICS said it would "immediately file litigation seeking injunctive and other relief through the courts."

The colleges accredited by the council have 18 months to find a new accreditor or risk losing access to federal aid. Many have been scrambling to be accredited by other agencies, particularly by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.

In the meantime, the department on Monday said it was adding new conditions for ACICS-accredited colleges to remain aid eligible. Those measures include monitoring, transparency, oversight and accountability requirements. The department said the conditions "establish triggers tied directly to milestones in the accreditation process to ensure that institutions not on track to receive accreditation from a federally recognized accrediting agency within 18 months are subject to progressively stronger student and taxpayer protections."

Council-accredited colleges have 10 days to agree to the new conditions or they will no longer be able to receive federal aid. The colleges must submit teach-out plans as part of the department's terms.

December 13, 2016

In a letter to U.S. Senate leaders last week, banking industry groups called for the creation of a bipartisan board to govern the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The industry groups said a D.C. Circuit Court ruling that a president could remove the CFPB director at will made the status of the agency uncertain without action by Congress.

"The current single-director structure leads to regulatory uncertainty for consumers, industry and the economy," the groups wrote. "In contrast, a Senate-confirmed, bipartisan board or commission will provide a balanced and deliberative approach to supervision, regulation and enforcement over financial institutions that is more in keeping with other financial regulators."

The letter was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and incoming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat. It was signed by the leaders of the Consumer Bankers Association, the Credit Union National Association, the Independent Community Bankers of America and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.

The CFPB was established under the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010 and began operations the next year. It has recently begun to play a significant oversight role in the for-profit and student loan servicing sectors. The agency has also sought to investigate how accreditors approve for-profit colleges, an effort that was blocked by a D.C. District Court judge. The CFPB is appealing that ruling.

December 13, 2016

A coalition of academic and research library associations on Monday signed on to an effort to preserve electronic journals promoted by the Keepers Registry, a preservation initiative supported by the International Centre for the Registration of Serial Publications, EDINA, a data center at the University of Edinburgh, and the higher education IT organization Jisc. The International Alliance of Research Library Associations, which includes associations in Australia, Canada, Europe and the U.S., said in a statement that it endorsed "Working Together to Ensure the Future of the Digital Scholarly Record," a statement published in August that outlines the steps libraries and publishers should take to preserve electronic scholarly journals. The statement urges those stakeholders to join preservation initiatives and raise awareness about the issue, among other recommendations.

December 13, 2016

Advocates for women in science in New Zealand are criticizing Chris Kelly, chancellor of Massey University -- and some are demanding his ouster -- over comments he made about female veterinarians, The New Zealand Herald reported. Kelly made the comments in an interview with Rural News in which he described how veterinary enrollments are now dominated by women. Here's what he said: "The problem is one woman graduate is equivalent to two-fifths of a full-time equivalent vet throughout her life because she gets married and has a family, which is normal." Kelly has since apologized, but many say that the attitude reflected in his quote is one that works against women in many science fields.

December 13, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, F. Chris Curran, assistant professor of public policy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, explores why there’s a need to focus on early science learning. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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