Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 16, 2019

In the U.S. higher education system, the so-called regulatory triad of the Education Department, accreditors and the states decide what institutions qualify to receive federal student aid. But the department didn’t reserve a seat for states in a negotiated rule-making process that began Tuesday, which could significantly overhaul the rules governing college accreditors.

A debate between negotiators reached an impasse on its first day over how many state representatives to add to the process. Christopher Madaio, an assistant attorney general from the Maryland attorney general’s office, and David Tandberg, vice president of policy research and strategic initiatives at State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, both asked for spots on the panel of negotiators.

In negotiated rule making, representatives from a broad range of interest groups are asked to reach consensus on changes to federal regulations. But college representatives opposed the addition of a seat for state attorneys general.

“I think it would be very desirable to have a state voice [in] the deliberations,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education. “I am not sure that the state attorneys general are that voice, because they do not authorize the institutions.”

Ernest McNealy, president of Allen University, said lawsuits filed by the Maryland attorney general’s office against colleges in the state could create conflicts in the process.

But Robyn Smith, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and another negotiator, said the process would benefit from the inclusion of an attorney general slot as well as a seat for state higher ed agencies.

“Yes, there are conflicts,” she said. “That is inherent in this process.”

January 16, 2019

Today on the Academic Minute, Matthew Wallenstein, professor in the department of soil and crop sciences at Colorado State University, determines how wasted food can help repair degraded soil. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 15, 2019

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology removed a Russian billionaire from its Board of Trustees after the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on him and his company last April as part of a move to penalize Russian oligarchs accused of advancing Russia’s “malign activities,” Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty reported.

MIT elected Viktor Vekselberg to its Board of Trustees in 2013, but a spokeswoman for the university told the publication it “suspended” his participation on the board last year.

"In April 2018, as a result of [the Treasury Department] adding Mr. Vekselberg to its specially designated nationals list, MIT reviewed its legal obligations and suspended Mr. Vekselberg's Corporation membership,” the MIT spokeswoman, Kimberly Allen, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty via email.

As president of the Skolkovo Foundation, Vekselberg oversaw the brokering of a deal with MIT to help develop a science and technology-focused university, the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, outside Moscow. MIT was reportedly paid $300 million for its involvement in the project. Allen said MIT’s collaboration with Skoltech is continuing.

January 15, 2019

James Watson (right) has long been considered among the most influential of 20th-century scientists for co-discovering the structure of DNA in 1953. He spent much of his career at the noted Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Over the last decade or so, Watson started sharing his views that black people are less intelligent than others, as well as views on women and other groups, that have outraged many. As his views became more bigoted, Cold Spring Harbor has cut ties to him and taken away some of his past honors. Some thought Watson would renounce some of his past statements in a documentary that aired this month, but he stood by them.

That prompted a new statement by the laboratory, which said in part, "The laboratory has taken additional steps, including revoking his honorary titles of chancellor emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus, and honorary trustee. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory acknowledges and appreciates Dr. Watson’s substantial scientific legacy, including his role as founding director of the Human Genome Project and his critical leadership in the development of research and education at the laboratory during his prior tenure as director and president. Nonetheless, the statements he made in the documentary are completely and utterly incompatible with our mission, values, and policies, and require the severing of any remaining vestiges of his involvement." The statement also said that the laboratory "unequivocally rejects the unsubstantiated and reckless personal opinions Dr. James D. Watson expressed on the subject of ethnicity and genetics … Watson’s statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science."

January 15, 2019

During the ongoing federal government shutdown that began Dec. 21, the National Science Foundation, one of several affected agencies, has stopped awarding scientific research grants. Over the same period through Jan. 12 last year, NSF handed out $107 million in grants, according to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

The group is keeping a tally of the grants awarded last year over the same time covered by the shutdown to show its effects on science funding in the U.S.

The shutdown, already the longest in U.S. history, entered in twenty-fourth day Monday.

January 15, 2019

Career Education Colleges and Universities on Tuesday released results from a survey the for-profit college trade group conducted with Gallup, the polling organization, of the alumni satisfaction of 3,203 graduates of nine of CECU's member campuses. The sample sought to be a cross section of the size, region and sector reflected across the group's roughly 500 member campuses.

The survey found that respondents on average earned about 60 percent more in personal income than they did before attending college. CECU member institution alumni also are more likely to have a job related to their certificate or degree program than their peers from a national comparative sample, according to the survey. Respondents also were more likely to have a full-time job than their peers, and to be employed within six months of graduation.

January 15, 2019

An institution with large adult and online enrollments that calls itself the largest nonprofit independent college in Michigan is consolidating campuses as it tries to position itself for the future.

Baker College is closing a campus in Flint Township and relocating its operations to Owosso, about 30 miles to the west. The college is also moving campuses in Allen Park, Auburn Hills and Clinton Township into a new flagship campus in the Detroit area, MLive reported.

“Brick-and-mortar campuses are not obsolete but evolving,” a representative from the college wrote in a statement to MLive. “By consolidating Flint with Owosso, and the metro Detroit campuses into a proposed central location, we will be able to combine resources and student bodies resulting in a more focused, streamlined enterprise for the next century.”

The closing locations will continue offering courses through August 2020, according to ABC12. Baker currently lists eight campuses in Michigan, plus affiliated locations offering culinary training and training for automotive and diesel mechanics.

Baker traces its history in Flint to the founding of Baker Business University in 1911. The institution has been through numerous significant changes over the course of its life, including mergers and acquisitions, transitioning to nonprofit status, campus relocations, and growth in online education.

January 15, 2019

The first day of the rule-making process the Education Department was set to begin Monday was nixed because of a Washington-area snowstorm.

The Office of Personnel and Management announced that federal offices would be closed Monday after the snowstorm hit the area over the weekend.

The negotiated rule-making process scheduled for this week will begin at noon on Tuesday, an Education Department spokeswoman said. The main rule-making committee, which is focused on accreditation and innovation, will meet just two days instead of three as originally scheduled. Subcommittees meeting about distance learning, TEACH grants and rules for faith-based institutions will be unaffected.

January 15, 2019

Today on the Academic Minute, Doug Challenger, professor of sociology at Franklin Pierce University, looks into how religious thought is trending across the globe. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 14, 2019

John Engler (right), interim president of Michigan State University, is under fire for comments he made about some of the scores of victims of Larry Nassar, the former university employee now in jail for abusing them. In an interview with The Detroit News, he contrasted those who have received public attention with those who have not. "You’ve got people, they are hanging on and this has been … there are a lot of people who are touched by this, survivors who haven’t been in the spotlight," he said. "In some ways they have been able to deal with this better than the ones who’ve been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition. And it’s ending. It’s almost done."

When a Michigan State trustee criticized Engler on Twitter, a student asked why she wasn't pushing for Engler's removal.

Michigan State did not respond to a request for comment on Engler's comments.

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