Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, July 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Access Group, a nonprofit organization composed of nearly 200 law schools, has released a new student loan calculator for law school. The free tool is aimed at helping students determine the cost of law school and the federal student loan repayment options they may qualify for after graduation.

“You can go ahead and find out which school might be best for you and which repayment plan might be best for you,” said Cynthia Cassity, Access Group's vice president of marketing and strategic engagement. “It’s important with the amount of debt out there.”

The tool contains data on the cost of certain law schools and the living expenses of certain cities, said Libby Rosenberg, director of marketing for Access Group. “In a previous version of the calculator, a lot of that information was not necessarily at people’s fingertips,” she said. “So we decided that we could gather that information and prepopulate that data for the user.”

Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, a nonprofit that seeks to make entry to the legal profession more fair and affordable, said he believes the tool is appealing but potentially misleading. “It’s underestimating debt,” he said. “It’s showing the ease of repayment based on just a single year. But tuition continues to increase. So does the cost of living.”

Colleges have been required to display net price calculators -- which prospective students can use to estimate how much they will pay after federal or institutional grants -- as part of the Higher Education Act reauthorization in 2008. But law schools have not been subjected to this mandate, although law school debt can be more severe.

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 3:00am

An ex-professor of anatomy at New York Institute of Technology who was accused of videotaping students in a campus bathroom with a hidden camera was found dead in his apartment late last week in an apparent suicide, the New York Daily News reported. Jackie Conrad, the professor, had been arrested a week earlier on unlawful surveillance charges, after a woman using the bathroom saw a pen with a blinking light sticking out from a ceiling tile and reported it to authorities. Conrad admitted to placing the camera, according to a criminal complaint. The university said that Conrad was no longer an employee after his arrest.

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 3:00am

General Assembly, the largest coding and skills boot-camp provider, has laid off 50 employees, which is roughly 7 percent of the New York City-based company's work force, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. Jake Schwartz, the company's CEO and cofounder, told the newspaper that the layoffs were to make sure “we are completely self-sustainable and ready to control our own destiny for as long as it takes.”

Access to venture capital recently has tightened for many start-ups, the WSJ reported. General Assembly reportedly brought in $70 million in revenue last year. The company plans to make an announcement soon about new strategic investments, Schwartz said, while it seeks to continue growing a relatively new corporate training program.

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 3:00am

A faculty report about the climate at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley describes a pervasive “culture of fear” exacerbated by poor campus communication, according to The Monitor. The 23-page report, produced by the campus Faculty Senate, outlines the enduring difficulties of merging Texas’s former Pan-American and Brownsville campuses, including a “number of major issues that interfered with the ability of faculty and staff to perform their responsibilities efficiently.” Rio Grande Valley enrolled its first students in fall 2015.

Among concerns raised are a lack of administrative communication with faculty, staff and students, compensation, and impeded efficiency. “I’m not aware of any culture of fear,” President Guy Bailey told The Monitor, attributing faculty worries to the ongoing transition from two institutions to one.

“The first semester was fraught with significant glitches such as payroll errors, flawed advising processes and commencement exercises that were lacking in both pomp and circumstance,” reads the report, which also alleges that department chairs have in some cases suppressed discussion of potentially contentious subjects. “The second semester was smoother on the surface; however, major issues continued to permeate the campuses, which need to be addressed if [Rio Grande Valley] is to flourish and succeed.”

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Bentley University’s adjunct faculty union reached a tentative contract agreement with the institution just three days before a planned protest over stalled negotiations. The four-year deal includes increases in per-class pay, more consistency in teaching assignments from semester to semester, a professional development fund and assurances of academic freedom. The contract describes an additional process for reporting workplace conflicts and violations.

“We are pleased to have this settled so we can all move forward,” the university said in a statement. Bentley adjuncts are affiliated with Service Employees International Union and had been planning a protest for Monday to coincide with the 40th anniversary celebration of the university's Center for Business Ethics. Campus adjuncts voted to form a union in early 2015 and said negotiations were taking too long.

“Negotiations like these are never easy, but both faculty and the administration remained committed to the process,” said Summar Sparks, a bargaining team leader and adjunct professor in expository writing, said in a separate statement. “After Friday’s marathon mediation session, I’m glad we were able to reach an agreement that we can bring back to our colleagues for a vote.”

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Students may no longer apply to the Master’s International program with ties to the Peace Corps on any campus, The Keene Sentinel reported. The corps reportedly has outgrown its goals for the program and will be retiring it. Master’s International was created to pair graduate students “holding advanced sector-specific training and skills with relevant Peace Corps volunteer opportunities,” Emily Webb, corps spokesperson, told the Sentinel. Now, however, she said, the corps is attracting “remarkable numbers of highly qualified [applicants] and has created in-country trainings for volunteers that are far more robust and focused than they were in 1987,” when Master’s International began.

The corps has partnered with more than 90 U.S. academic institutions as part of the program, allowing students to pair their master’s degrees with relevant service. The program’s end won’t affect currently enrolled students or those who enroll by September.

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 4:02am

Today on the Academic Minute, Jonathan Wynn, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, discusses how more performances and less concrete can lead to fewer problems for cities. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, July 22, 2016 - 3:00am

The University of Michigan's Board of Regents chairman and his wife are rescinding a $3 million gift toward a new multicultural center because their names would go on the structure, raising worries the only building on campus named for an African-American was being replaced.

Chairman Mark Bernstein and his wife, Rachel Bendit, will withdraw the gift, originally announced in April. University of Michigan protocols called for the building to be renamed Bernstein-Bendit Hall. But the university's current multicultural center, named for newspaper founder and equal rights activist William Monroe Trotter, is the only building on Michigan's Ann Arbor campus named for an African-American. The center would still have been called the Trotter Center, but many objected to having the name taken off of the building, according to the Detroit Free Press.

"We spent time with faculty, students, staff and alumni who shared with us their sense of loss and who expressed their fear that the only African-American name on a building at U-M would be diminished or erased," the newspaper quoted Bernstein, who is chair and managing partner of a Michigan law firm, as saying. "There are hundreds of buildings on this campus, and only one, Trotter, honors the name of an African-American. This is wrong. … We did not want to silence Trotter -- this one, lonely African-American voice on our campus. This was, of course, not our intention, but it could have been the result."

The new building is planned to total about 20,000 square feet and open in 2018 at a cost of $10 million. Its construction was included in demands from the university's Black Student Union during 2014 protests -- the university's current center has been criticized as being run-down and located away from Michigan's core campus, while the new facility is planned for a more central location. A Michigan spokesman said the project will move forward, although sources of replacement funding are unclear. The Trotter Center's name is now set to remain as it is today.

Friday, July 22, 2016 - 4:20am

The board of the Vermont State Colleges on Thursday approved a concept proposal to combine the administrations of Johnson State College and Lyndon State College, The Burlington Free Press reported. A more detailed proposal may now be presented in September to carry out the idea. Officials stressed that the two state colleges would maintain separate identities.

Friday, July 22, 2016 - 3:00am

A new paper from the Community College Research Center at Teachers College at Columbia University examines the use of integrated planning and advising for student success initiatives, or iPASS, at six colleges. iPASS is a type of reform that uses technology to redesign advising and student support services.

Three of the six colleges using iPASS made significant steps in transforming their student support delivery in the 18 months the study took place, while the other three were unable to change their structures, behaviors and attitudes simultaneously, according to the paper.

The findings "underscore the fact that the type of change lauded and encouraged by today's policy makers, grant makers and reformers is not simple. They also remind stakeholders that change can occur in absence of deep transformation, but to achieve the desired results, it is necessary to look beyond structural redesign to a broader, more culturally and behaviorally oriented notion of reform."


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