Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, July 31, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Neel Smith, professor of classics at the College of the Holy Cross, discusses his work studying classical material using modern methods. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 3:00am

The White House is hosting a meeting today on the growing boot camp and coding academy space, which offers short-term training programs to students. Other alternative providers, such as online course platforms, also are on the agenda, said several invitees.

The meeting is expected to include a discussion of how these entities might partner with traditional colleges. The U.S. Department of Education is considering an experimental sites project to allow federal aid to flow to a limited group of boot camps and MOOC providers that partner with accredited colleges. The experiment would also include a new quality control process, perhaps managed by an existing or new accreditor.

Pairings between colleges and boot camps have already begun. For example, Galvanize, a technology-focused academy with six campuses, announced a partnership with the University of New Haven last October to offer an accredited master's degree in big data.

Coding academies and boot camps will graduate an estimated 16,000 students this year.

Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 3:00am

Conservative websites on Wednesday spent time mocking a "bias-free language guide" at the University of New Hampshire, which isn't new, but that somehow captured attention this week. The guide features suggestions on how to avoid words or phrases that might offend. Many recommendations will strike people as common sense. For example, the guide recommends using "black" or "African-American" instead of "negro" or "negroid." But some of the suggestions are being attacked as excessively politically correct -- the guide suggests using "U.S. citizen" or "resident of the U.S." instead of "American" because "North Americans often use 'American,' which usually, depending on the context, fails to recognize South America."

As discussion of the document spread, the university's president issued a statement noting that UNH never forced anyone to follow these guidelines, which were strictly recommendations for those seeking to avoid causing offense. "While individuals on our campus have every right to express themselves, I want to make it absolutely clear that the views expressed in this guide are not the policy of the University of New Hampshire," said President Mark Huddleston. "I am troubled by many things in the language guide, especially the suggestion that the use of the term ‘American’ is misplaced or offensive. The only UNH policy on speech is that it is free and unfettered on our campuses. It is ironic that what was probably a well-meaning effort to be ‘sensitive’ proves offensive to many people, myself included."

Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 3:00am

Apollo Education Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, disclosed in a corporate filing Wednesday that they received a civil investigative demand from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

According to the filing, that "demand" relates to an investigation to look into allegations of "deceptive or unfair acts or practices in or affecting commerce in the advertising, marketing or sale of secondary or postsecondary educational products or services or educational accreditation products or services."

It requires Apollo to provide the federal agency with a broad range of documents and information about Phoenix, relating to the for-profit's chain's marketing, recruiting, enrollment, financial aid, tuition and fees, academic programs, academic advising, student retention, billing and debt collection, complaints, accreditations, training, military recruitment, and other matters. The request covers 2011 to the present.

Representatives from the company declined to comment and referred to the statement in the filing, saying: "Apollo is evaluating the demand and intends to cooperate fully with the FTC."

This is the most recent action taken by the agency against a for-profit institution since it charged the Georgia-based, online Ashworth College with misrepresenting the training and credentials students could earn, as well as whether credits from Ashworth would transfer to other institutions.

More than a year ago, DeVry Education Group received a similar demand from the FTC relating to the "advertising, marketing or sale of secondary or postsecondary educational products or services or educational accreditation products or services by DeVry Group during the past five years."

That investigation has been ongoing.

"The University of Phoenix investigation is important because of the national reach of the organization and because of the documents requested by the FTC," said Elizabeth Baylor, an associate director of postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress.

Those documents, including ones related to military recruitment, are important because a 2014 report from the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions -- or HELP -- committee found that Phoenix received the most GI Bill funds of any institution, totaling $750 million over four years, said Baylor, who also served as a senior investigator on the HELP committee under former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin.

Documents released by that committee after the end of its investigation into for-profit institutions also included an internal Phoenix email in which the company estimated "shockingly high" lifetime default rates for its students, Baylor said.

"This type of finding shows that the FTC plans to examine the practices of University of Phoenix might well be warranted," she said.

Phoenix has struggled in recent years as enrollment and revenue has plummeted. Most recently Apollo Group announced it was laying off approximately 600 employees, who were mostly "enrollment counselors."

Earlier this month the company announced they would revamp the admissions policy to become a more selective institution.

Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 3:00am

Cases of the mumps have broken out on two different campuses, health officials reported this week. Fifty cases of the mumps have been reported in Champaign county in Illinois and most of them are linked to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, The Chicago Tribune reported Monday. At the University of Missouri, six students have been confirmed with cases of the mumps and four more cases are being tested for the illness, The Columbia Tribune reported. The Illinois campus and Ohio State University had similar outbreaks in 2014.

Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 4:13am

The Eindhoven University of Technology, in the Netherlands, has fired a Russian postdoc in computer science, Ivan Agafonov, after Dutch officials warned the university that he was spying for Russia, Science Insider reported. He has since left the Netherlands.


Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Megan Gilligan, professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University, delves directly into this understudied topic. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 3:00am

We're not saying such a world exists. But the comedians Key & Peele imagined such a place, where SportsCenter would be replaced with another show altogether ….

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 4:15am

The University of Akron announced a few weeks ago that it would eliminate more than 200 jobs to deal with a budget deficit. As employees losing their jobs were notified this week, it has become clear that the university is eliminating its university press. All employees of the press are among those having their jobs killed, Northeast Ohio Media Group reported. "We have essentially been shut down," said Thomas Bacher, director of the press. "Another blow against culture by a short-sighted administration. It's sad that the university values beans over brains." The press is a small one with a focus on Ohio-related topics, and it also publishes some poetry.

The university layoffs also include all employees of Akron's multicultural center, although the university says that other offices will support the programming offered by the center.

Faculty members have been complaining that the university is refusing to consider cuts to the football program, which loses money and attracts few fans to watch its games.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 3:00am

Educational technology giant Blackboard is exploring a sale, according to anonymous sources who spoke to Reuters. The company, which develops the learning management system Learn and a host of other products, is reportedly seeking a deal of around $3 billion. Blackboard was a publicly traded company from 2004 to 2011, when it was bought by the private equity firm Providence Equity Partners for about $1.64 billion. 

"Blackboard, like many successful players in the technology industry, has become subject of sale rumors," a spokesperson for the company said. "Although we are transparent in our communications about the Blackboard business and direction when appropriate, it is our policy not to comment on rumors or speculation."


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