Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 25, 2016

The University of Cincinnati has agreed to suspend a new, controversial $150-per-semester fee required of international students, WCPO News reported. The university won't charge the fee for the coming spring semester but may bring it back in some future form. The fee is smaller than those charged at some other large universities but has caused considerable anger at Cincinnati. The university says it needs the extra money to provide services to international students. But critics say some international students are on tight budgets and they already pay substantially more in tuition (because they are from out of state) than do Ohio residents.

October 25, 2016

The MIT libraries should focus on its four "pillars" -- community and relationships, discovery and use, stewardship and sustainability, and research and development -- to reimagine itself as an "open global platform," according to a preliminary report published Monday. The report is the culmination of a yearlong initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to determine "how the MIT libraries ought to evolve to best advance the creation, dissemination and preservation of knowledge; and to serve as a leader in the reinvention of research libraries," according to an announcement last October. The report, which contains the task force's recommendations, is available here.

October 25, 2016

Many Temple University students were unnerved and some were attacked Friday when a flash mob-style group of youths gathered near the campus, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. More than 150 people gathered, and some of them, for no known reason, attacked Temple students. Four of the participants -- aged 14 to 17 -- were arrested. At one point about 20 youths attacked three people, two of them Temple students, who were kicked and punched repeatedly.

October 25, 2016

Harvard University did not defame or breach a contract with a former law school student when it noted a plagiarism finding on her transcript, a federal appeals court ruled Monday. In its ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld a lower court decision dismissing a lawsuit by Megon Walker, who had alleged that the plagiarism finding should not have applied to a draft of a note she submitted to a student-run law journal. But Harvard Law School's plagiarism policy "refers to 'all work submitted,' a phrase that on its face applies to any student work for any academic or nonacademic exercise, whether in draft or final form, turned in to an instructor or student editor of an extracurricular law journal," the First Circuit wrote.

October 25, 2016

Morehouse College is facing criticism over its recent decision to require students to live on campus for at least three years. The change would require sophomores and juniors to pay the historically black college an additional $13,000 in mandatory room and board fees, in addition to the $26,700 the students already pay per year in tuition. An online petition is calling for the college's president, John Wilson, to be fired. A spokeswoman for the college told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the change was not related to finances but was an attempt to encourage more student interaction, which she said is critical to the "Morehouse mystique."

October 25, 2016

The College Promise Campaign released its first report Monday examining more than 150 Promise programs across 37 states that are offering some form of free community college.

The online database, which was assembled by a team from the University of Pennsylvania, seeks to track the characteristics of Promise programs including funding, student and institution demographics, educational interventions, and student eligibility requirements. Officials from the campaign hope the database can be used by communities and states that are designing or expanding their own types of Promise programs.

"The programs that are in the data set are very inclusive," said Laura Perna, director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania. "We've tried not to eliminate things from the online data set so folks can sift through and see if it meets their qualifications."

October 25, 2016

Education Secretary John King announced a new program Monday through the office of Federal Student Aid that will pair loan guarantee agencies with minority-serving institutions to improve graduation, retention and cohort default rates at no cost to those colleges and universities.

The pilot program will begin at the end of 2016 and could also include financial assistance to students. FSA has invited institutions to participate in the program that it found to have the capacity to improve those metrics and the staff to dedicate to the project.

The list of participating institutions has not been finalized, but the Department of Education expects 50 colleges and universities to be involved in the program at its launch and about 250 institutions to take part by 2018. Costs of the program have likewise not been finalized, the department said.

"That new initiative, I think, reflects our ongoing commitment to making sure students not only get to college but that they get through college and [that] we are providing all the necessary supports," King said in remarks to attendees at the National HBCU Week Conference in Arlington, Va., where he announced the program.

The designation "minority-serving institutions" includes historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities, and Asian American-, Native American- and Pacific Islander-serving institutions.

Guarantee agencies have come under fire recently from critics who say they are no longer fulfilling their public interest missions. A report released last month by the Century Foundation called on the Department of Education to more closely scrutinize how guarantee agencies are using their financial assets. The agencies are state or private nonprofit entities set up to administer the federal guaranteed loan program. While their core mission disappeared with the end of federally backed private student loans in 2010, they continue to collect revenue from outstanding principal on private student loans. And some agencies have begun to mix up their sources of revenue and the types of education-related programs they spend money on.

October 25, 2016

Doane University has started an admissions option under which applicants with a high school grade point average of at least 3.5 (weighted or unweighted) need not submit SAT or ACT scores. To participate, applicants must submit a graded writing sample. The university said it was starting the program as an option for anyone “who believes their performance on the ACT or SAT does not do them justice.”

October 25, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Jack Rakove, professor of history and political science at Stanford University, explores the origin of this sometimes maligned style of election. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 24, 2016

After three days, a faculty strike at 14 campuses in Pennsylvania is over. The State System of Higher Education and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties have reached tentative agreement on a new contract, the system announced.

Members of the faculty union had been working on an expired contract since June 2015.

The new contract will last until June 2018. More details about the contract have not yet been released. The system announcement said that the deal includes raises for faculty members and "important health care cost savings." Prior to the strike, union officials said the pay increases were too small, especially those for adjuncts, and that the health insurance changes would be too harmful to faculty members.

The faculty made some concessions in their health coverage, said union president Kenneth Mash, but "we were willing to do it for the quality of our students' education."

The two sides came to an agreement at around 4 p.m. Eastern Friday, although negotiators from both sides did not directly communicate with each other, said Kenn Marshall, media relations manager for the university system. Instead, they bargained through intermediaries, including Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. "I don't think this deal would have happened if it weren't for Governor Wolf," Mash said.

Further details will only be released after final approval of the deal.

The union issued a statement that said in part, "To preserve quality education, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties accepted concessions to salary and benefits in exchange for eliminating most of the 249 changes the state system proposed in June. Also for the sake of students, APSCUF agreed to a salary package that was significantly lower than that of the other unions. APSCUF will release details about concessions and rescinded items in a future statement."

"We are tremendously happy for our students," Marshall said. "Come Monday, bright and early, students will be able to return to their classes."

The photo above shows pickets this week at West Chester University.


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